2009: Audeze becomes A Thing. 2013: Audeze introduces its LCD-X open-back, over-ear headphones. 2022: Audeze’s policy of continuous refinement ensures the LCD-X remain among the most compelling, if not exactly convenient, headphones you can buy. Throughout: Audeze is evangelistic about planar magnetic transducer technology.
You may think the world is not exactly crying out for big, expensive, hard-wired headphones that leak sound outwards almost as readily as they deliver it to the wearer’s ears. But if that’s the case, it seems pretty certain you’ve never had the Audeze LCD-X Experience…
The Audeze LCD-X are a high-efficiency, low-impedance pair of headphones, and consequently can be driven by pretty much any source with a headphone output. But just because they can, that doesn’t mean they should - after all, these are expensive headphones and it’s important you hear where your money’s gone. Treat them correctly, and you’ll discover that in spades.
In every aspect of music reproduction - from soundstaging to dynamism, from tonality to frequency integration, the LCD-X are never less than mighty impressive. And when talk turns to their areas of particular expertise - detail retrieval, insight, transient response, responsiveness, basic and fundamental fidelity - they’re so accomplished they can satisfy even the most demanding listener.
Some headphones can deliver the sound of an instrument such as a piano or acoustic guitar - but the Audeze LCD-X are so eloquent, so dynamically adept and so forensically insightful they can make the instrument seem present as a physical object rather than just describe the sound it makes. They allow singers of all levels of competence complete expression, describing their emotion and attitude every bit as fully as their technique. They reach deep down into the bottom of the frequency range and high into the top with apparent effortlessness, and unify all this information into a coherent and convincing whole. And they do all this without sounding in any way forced, or dispassionate, or analytical for the sake of it. They’re a beautifully musical and engaging listen, no matter the sort of music you like to listen to nor the storage format from where it’s sourced.
Audeze reckons the LCD-X are ideal for use in recording studios and mastering suites - and sure, the solidity of their soundstaging, their clarity and their tonal faithfulness certainly lend themselves to professional use. But the rest of us, too, deserve these headphones in our lives.
In sonic terms, there are no downsides worthy of description to Audeze LCD-X ownership. But when it comes to living with them on a day-to-day basis, well, it’s fair to say certain concessions will need to be made.
First of all - and there’s no polite way of asking this - how big is your head? These are substantial headphones - the planar magnetic transducer alone is 106mm, and when you take each transducer’s Neodymium N50 magnets and Fazor waveguides into account too it becomes obvious they need a big earcup to contain them. This, in turn, needs a big earpad to fit over the wearer’s ear… and so if you’re blessed with a head that’s on the petite side, there’s no two ways about it. The Audeze LCD-X will swamp you as surely as if you’d attempted to wear a duvet as a hat.
And at 612g, these are undeniably heavy headphones. The careful headband and hanger arrangement mitigates this weight a little, but there’s no getting around it: the Audeze LCD-X are getting on for twice as heavy as some headphones we’ve described as ‘quite heavy’ on this site. The generous amount of padding each earcup enjoys seems designed to ensure your head heats up pretty rapidly, too.
There’s no arguing with quality of construction on display here, though - and the sheer number of exposed screw-heads makes it obvious the LCD-X can be easily serviced or upgraded should the need arise. Our sample features leather on the earpads and the headband, but a leather-free alternative is available too.
Connecting to a source of music is via a 1.9m cable with a 6.3mm unbalanced plug at one end and dual four-pin mini-XLR connections at the other - both earcups need wiring. If you want to spend £1699 rather than the £1149 of our sample, you can get an additional balanced four-pin XLR to dual four-pin mini-XLR cable, a 6.3mm-to-3.5mm adapter, and a carry-case that’s seemingly built to survive a medium-sized detonation.
‘Big’ is not automatically ‘clever’ - and neither is ‘heavy’, for that matter. But let there be no doubt: the Audeze LCD-X have it where it counts, and have it in considerable quantity.
Nick Drake Pink Moon
The sparer and smaller-scale it is, the more the LCD-X seem to lap it up - and Nick Drake’s combination of quiet, matter-of-fact singing, exquisite guitar-playing and insistence on peculiar tunings are given almost fanatical expression here. If you’ve ever heard this recording sound more articulate, you’re fortunate indeed.
Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders & London Symphony Orchestra Promises
As a demonstration of the way the Audeze describe and control a soundstage, this exquisite recording takes some beating. The empty silences of the room that result from the LSO biding its time are given just as much prominence as its actual inputs, and as a result you could easily be right there.
Warren Zevon Gorilla, You’re a Desperado
Sarcastic and smart-arsed was always Warren Zevon’s stock-in-trade, and the midrange resolution of the LCD-X is such that each sneer and every put-down is handed over with startling immediacy. And the ensemble of West Coast virtuosos seldom sounded smoother or more eloquent, either.
You buy these headphones because you want insight. Insight into the densest mix, into the characteristics of the room some musicians are assembled in, into the emotional state of a performer at the time of performance. You buy them because you realise knowledge is power.