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Audeze LCD-X
Planar Magnetic — Made in USA

Intro   Specs   Performance   Usage   Compared   Recommendations   More

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Audeze LCD-X Headphones

Audeze LCD-X Headphones (¼" and 4-pin balanced XLR plugs, 20 Ω, 21.6 oz./612g as shown, about $1,700). bigger.

 

September 2014     Audeze reviews   headphones   tube amps   audio  all reviews

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Introduction         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Usage   Compared   Recommendations   More

Adorama pays top dollar for your used gear.

B&H Photo - Video - Pro Audio

These Audeze LCD-X headphones are big heavy headphones intended for use with your iPhone, iPod or iPad directly. They have a back-of hall sound, for those who prefer smoothness over detail. Their bass response is completely uncolored and extends smoothly and without distortion at any level to below 10 Hz.

Compared to most headphones, these sound distant, more muffled, duller and less exciting. They have no peaks, and indeed sound as if there's a big, wide midrange and high dip. The bass is deep, uncolored and unboosted.

These are very comfortable. Just don't expect to move around while you're wearing them; they will fall off.

The Audeze LCD-X are a more efficient and lower-impedance version of the Audeze LCD-3, which lacked the efficiency to work well with portable players.

While the LCD-3 are the world's best dynamic (moving conductor) headphones, they weren't sensitive enough on their own and usually required a separate amplifier for best results, at least with classical music. These LCD-X are intended for use with portable devices with no additional amplifier needed.

What sets the Audeze headphones apart are their complete lack of resonance or response peaks in the critical upper midrange (3 kc ~ 10 kc) that plague just about every other dynamic headphone. With the LCD-X, music sounds uncannily like the original performance, minus the glare and artifacts added by just about every other dynamic headphone or loudspeaker that clue our brains into knowing it's just a recording.

While most people think nothing of blowing several thousand dollars on 8k/4k/3D/OLED/HD/plasma/flat panel TVs every other year as they obsolete each other or stop working, serious audio equipment, especially passive transducers like loudspeakers and headphones, last for decades and decades with no need for service — and sound great doing it.

Even if you don't love the sound, these come in a virtually indestructible waterproof Pelican-style case so you can get these to and from your gigs undamaged. Optional are super suede earpads instead of leather.

These are real headphones for serious listening. They have no remote iPod control, and come with two cables: one for the usual professional ¼" headphone jacks, and the second with a 4-pin XLR plug for balanced use, as well as an adapter for portable 3.5mm jacks. Honestly these would have been best if they simply terminated in a 3.5mm plug since that's why you buy these instead of the LCD-3, but they're probably trying to impress impressionable audiophiles (I've never seen any pro gear with balanced outputs).

The leather is super soft and comfortable for all day and all night enjoyment.

 

Terminology

Unlike most dynamic headphones that glue a coil of wire to a cone and then pass a current through that wire while it's suspended in a magnetic field, these LCD-X are more specifically planar magnetic. The LCD-X's conductors instead are zig-zagged across the entire face of a large diaphragm, and this entire diaphragm rests inside a large flat magnet structure. Therefore, the entire diaphragm is driven directly and evenly by the forces on these conductors, and gives many of the same advantages of electrostatic headphones without needing any of the big and finicky high-voltage sources and amplifiers.

Electrostatic technology is completely different than any dynamic or planar magnetic driver like the LCD-X. Electrostatic drivers use no current, and instead place a static electric charge on a virtually weightless diaphragm which rests between two perforated stators. A very high audio voltage is applied across the two stators, and the sound is generated instead by the attraction and repulsion of the static charge on the diaphragm in response to the voltage gradients across the stators. Electrostatic headphones usually sound even better than these LCD-X, however they are delicate and require special dedicated high-voltage amplifiers.

 

Specifications         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Usage   Compared   Recommendations   More

 

Type

Audeze LCD-X Headphones

Driver, Audeze LCD-X Headphones. bigger.

Around-the-ear planar magnetic.

 

Housing

Solid black anodized aluminum.

 

Earpads

Sloped earpads.

Specially designed acoustically shaped foam inserts deliver the right amount of firmness and acoustical balance.

Premium lambskin or leather-free super suede covers.

 

Cables and Connectors

Comes with two flat, straight sets of cables.

Each has one plug, which splits into two female mini-XLR plugs to attach to the sockets on each earpiece. The cables remind me of Stax' cables, but narrower.

Each cable is 2.5 meters (8 feet) long.

Each ends with two female 4-pin mini-XLRs to attach to the earpieces.

One (part number ADZ6SE) has a ¼" plug for most uses.

The other (part number ADZ6B4) has a 4-pin XLR plug for balanced use.

The cables are built with what appear to be hand-soldered professional studio-quality plugs and connectors, not molded-on plastic like from Ultrasone and Beyer.

The LCD-X also comes with an excellent Audeze-branded ¼" to 3.5mm adapter cable, which appears to be a rebranded Grado Mini Adapter Cable.

 

Magnetics

High-grade Neodymium magnets.

Proprietary self-closing magnetic design.

The magnetic structure is claimed to be acoustically transparent (just like grill cloth).

 

Diaphragm

2.5mm peak-to-peak diaphragm excursion.

39.8 cm2 (6.17 square inch) active diaphragm area.

 

Frequency Response

5 Hz ~ 20 kHz, unqualified.

"Usable high-frequency extension:" 50 kHz.

Driver pairs are matched to within ±½ dB.

 

Sensitivity

95 dB at 1 mW.

My math tells me that 141 mV makes 1 mW into 20 Ω, so 1 V input ought to return 112.0 dB SPL.

Driver pairs are matched to within ±½ dB.

 

Impedance

Rated 20 Ω, purely resistive.

 

THD

< 1%, no level or frequency specified.

 

Recommended Amplifier Power

1 to 4 watts into 20 Ω.

I calculate 1 to 4 W into 20 Ω is 4.5 to 8.9 volts. 4.5 to 8.9 volts into 8 Ω is 2.5 to 10 W, meaning you can pair these with a loudspeaker power amplifier rated at about 2.5 to 10 W into 8 Ω — but why? If you're going through that effort, get the 45 Ω LCD-3 or use Stax.

The whole point of the LCD-X is to be used with portable devices.

 

Power Handling

15 watts for 200 mS.

I calculate 15 W into 20 Ω is 17.3 volts. 17.3 V into 8 Ω is 37 W, meaning you can hit these with the full output that a loudspeaker power amplifier rated at about 37 W into 8 Ω can belt out for 1/5 of a second at a time.

 

Maximum Output

> 130 dB SPL at 15 W input.

 

Weight

21.575 oz./611.6g, measured without cord, in solid black anodized aluminium.

Rated at 600 g (21.2 oz).

 

Performance         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Usage   Compared   Recommendations   More

 

Sound

The LCD-X have a back-of-hall sound. In other words, they are warm and smooth, not crisp and detailed. Personally I'm usually on stage or sitting in the first few rows, so I prefer a brighter sound than the LCD-X, but if you usually prefer sitting in the back of the hall, you'll love these Audeze. It is not bright or etched as are most traditional headphones, with their midrange and low treble peaks and resonances.

Nothing is boosted or hyped in the LCD-X. If you prefer jacked bass, tweaked treble or squawky midrange, you won't be impressed by the LCD-X. Personally, I find these too dull and reserved for my taste.

The LCD-X err pleasantly on the side of distance. If you prefer brighter, closer and clearer, an ordinary set of headphones like the Sony MDR-7506 are better for professional monitoring where you want to hear what's wrong while you're still producing the music and have a chance to fix it. These LCD-X are for enjoying what's right in a recording after it's done — not for hearing what's wrong while you still can fix it.

The LCD-X always sound nice, soft and warm. Compared to most ordinary headphones, they sound electrostatic-like — until you compare them to real electrostatic headphones.

There is little variation in sound with changes in position on my head.

Unlike with electrostatic headphones or the LCD-3, the sound doesn't change much if you hold your hands over the outside of the headphones! Sound comes out of the back of the headphones, and if it bounces back it can interfere with the direct sound.

 

Bass

The LCD-X have completely natural bass. It's not boosted or bumped-up as in many ordinary headphones. Headphones that boost the deep bass like the Audio-Technica ATH-M50, Velodyne vPulse or Sony MDR-V6 will have more entertaining, but less accurate, bass.

The bass of the LCD-X is never boomy or boosted, but it's not as much fun as headphones like the Edition 8 which do boost it.

Even plugged into my iPhone 5S, the LCD-X can just about deafen me at 10 Hz with no audible distortion or distress — something no conventional dynamic headphone can do. The LCD-X' bass response is smooth and solid to well below 10 cycles.

 

Sensitivity

Here's another very good thing: the LCD-X have plenty of sensitivity to be enjoyed plugged directly into an iPod, iPad or iPhone. All you need is the included 3.5mm adapter.

While most headphones only need an iPad level control set to 1/2 for movie sound, I usually have it around 3/4 on my iPad with the LCD-X. I never need more gain than I have, so all is good.

With movies on an iPad, the sound is big and natural. There's no deep-bass boost, but no Altec A7-style presence boost either.

The LCD-X are plenty sensitive with an iPod, even for classical music recorded correctly. If you want to listen to bad music, like 0 dBFS sine waves, avoid the top gain setting. Drop the gain a click from maximum; with these 20 Ω headphones there is some clipping from an iPod at 0 dBFS at full gain. That's the limitations of the drive current of the iPod or iPhone; not the headphones.

With proper Hi-Fi gear like a Benchmark DAC1 HDR, Adcom GTP-500 II or Woo WA7, of course there is more than enough output and sensitivity to deafen yourself quickly.

 

Isolation

These are open headphones, but they do offer a little bit of high-frequency muffling. It's more of a slight muffling of the outside world than any significant isolation.

What's weird with their half-isolating design is when an outside sound suddenly comes through and suddenly breaks the magic.

 

Leakage

These are open headphones, and everyone will hear you if they are close to you and you have them cranked up. Use these alone.

As an advantage, if you sit these on your desk and turn them up, they can replace small speakers!

If you keep them quiet and have a reasonable spouse, they probably won't be bothered at night, but you'll probably prefer isolating headphones for that.

 

Ergonomics

These are big and very comfortable headphones to enjoy for many uninterrupted hours at a time.

They are heavy and clumsy when you're not wearing them. It's not fun putting them on, but once they're there, they stay. They are designed for fantastic sound quality, not mobility. If you want to walk around the studio with them on, they will fall off if you move too fast. These are not for wearing around in public; they don't clamp to your head that tightly.

The swivels all have stops to limit their angles of motion, so their cord's don't tangle. Likewise, you can't rotate the cups that much if you want to listen with only one ear, or share with someone else at the same time.

They don't fold for travel.

The angled earcup connectors make it easy to put them on correctly in the dark.

Better than electrostatic headphones, the LCD-X doesn't care as it's moved around your head; there isn't any popping since there's nothing to short out.

The harp is a little harder and smaller than I'd expect, and it's still comfortable.

Thank goodness there are very solid click stops on the harp. Is it just me, or don't you hate other headphones that always readjust themselves every time you put them on? With the LCD-X, they stay as you left them.

I'd prefer a coiled cord; the LCD-X have straight cords.

 

Waterproof Case

I love the tough waterproof road case. Every expensive set of headphones ought to come with a solid road case as do the LCD-X.

Oddly, the waterproof case requires that the earpieces be readjusted all the way up and that one one removes the cords from the earpieces to fit it in. The cords easily fit in the case once removed.

The big latches on the LCD-X case are very easy to use.

Save the closed-cell foam piece that goes inside the earpieces. It keeps the earpads from getting squished against each other while in the case.

 

Usage         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Usage   Compared   Recommendations   More

 

Levels

Probably because the LCD-X have such smooth and reserved sound as well as practically unlimited output levels, they often sound better played louder. Crank it up and see what happens.

It's easy to damage your hearing. If your ears start ringing or buzzing, even if long after you've been listening, cool it for a while.

 

Amplifiers

They sound great run from an iPad, iPhone or iPod touch. That's the whole reason for these lower impedance LCD-X over the less sensitive LCD-3.

While Apple's devices have great low-source-impedance headphone outputs, I can't vouch for off-brands like Samsung, HTC or other mobile rubbish.

While plenty sensitive to be plugged directly into an iPod, the LCD-X do sound a little better when driven from the Benchmark DAC1 HDR — but if you're going to use an external amp, use the LCD-3 instead.

 

Plugs, Cables and Adapters

The LCD-X comes with separate cables for standard professional ¼" and balanced 4-pin XLR plugs.

I wouldn't waste money on any different cables — if you want better sound, man-up and get real headphones like more delicate Stax SR-007 or SR-009 instead.

 

Compared         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Usage   Recommendations   More

 

Compared to the LCD-3

The sound is similar. Both are reserved and sound more like you're out in the lobby as the orchestra plays than actually being on the podium.

These LCD-X weigh 21.575 oz. (611.6g), and the wooden LCD-3 weigh 19.155 oz. (543.0 g).

These LCD-X are rated for 95 dB SPL at 1 mW, while the LCD-3 are only rated for 91 dB at 1 mW.

But as I'm sure you all know, the LCD-3 are 45 Ω while these LCD-X are 20 Ω, so the same voltage leads to more watts.

Therefore, these LCD-X should make 112.0 dB SPL. at 1 volt while the LCD-3 only make 104.5 dB SPL at 1 V

In other words, these LCD-X will seem 7.5 dB more sensitive than the LCD-3.

 

Compared to the Ultrasone Edition 8

While the LCD-3 sounded better than the Ultrasone Edition 8, I prefer the sound of the Edition 8 to these LCD-X.

The Edition 8 sounds brighter and clearer. The Edition 8 has more presence, which also helps get the sound out of your head and keep it airy.

The bass of the Edition 8 is less solid than the LCD-X.

The Edition 8 is less smooth than the LCD-X.

The Edition 8 needs extra pressure against your head for extra bass response.

While Edition 8's bass rolls off below 40 cycles and is distorted below 30 cycles, the LCD-X is strong, solid and undistorted to below 10 cycles per second.

The Edition 8 are lighter, more comfortable, isolate much better and have none of the leakage of the open LCD-X.

The Edition 8 sound better. The LCD-X sound band-limited by comparison. When swapping back and forth, the LCD-X have more solid bass and are smoother, while the Edition 8 have more detail and are much more fun to listen to.

I compared these both plugged directly into an iPhone 5S, as well as with a Benchmark DAC-1 HDR.

 

Compared to the reference Stax SR-007 Omega MK2.

The Stax SR-007 Omega MK2 sound far better than the LCD-X.

The Omega are about the same size as the LCD-X, but much lighter than the Audeze. The Stax don't need all the magnetics of the LCD-X. You can see through the mostly optically transparent drivers of the Stax, but not the Audeze.

The thin, supple earpad leather is very similar between them, and so is the huge size of the comfy leather pads.

The SR-007 Mk 2 are wider band and much higher fidelity.

The Stax are lighter weight and have less pressure on your head.

The SR-007 are cleaner, clearer more detailed and sweeter.

The LCD-X sounds worse when swapped back. Compared to the Stax electrostatic, the LCD-X are more nasal, constricted and band limited on top. The LCD-X lack's the sweet top end of the Stax, which makes perfect sense as the Stax diaphragm is measured in micrograms while the LCD-X diaphragm is much heavier and has electrical conductors glued to it. The Stax are also without any resonances or peaked response.

Electrostats win again - but the Stax are more delicate than the LCD-X and require a high-voltage amplifier.

 

Compared to Chinese Copies

I haven't bothered to audition any of the Chinese planar-magnetic copies. Why would I? As I covered above, cost isn't an issue with audio equipment if you're serious about enjoying your music, as opposed to preferring to buy new equipment all the time.

 

Recommendations         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Usage   Compared   Recommendations   More

The Audeze LCD-X are big, clumsy headphones for the truly affected. These are intended for portable use, but do you really want to lug these things around? I prefer the sound of the Ultrasone Edition 8, which are far more portable than these big things.

For use with an external amplifier, the LCD-3 sound even better. Don't buy the LCD-X if you intend to use a dedicated amplifier; get the LCD-3 or just step straight up to Stax.

If you lose the 3.5mm adapter, replace it with use the Grado Mini Adapter Cable. Don't use an adapter plug; the combined length of plug and adapter make a great lever for breaking the connector off inside your portable player.

I wouldn't use these for mixing or mastering. These are so smooth and reserved that you'll be tricked into making harsh, forward mixes and masters.

The LCD-X are good for mastering and mixing bass, for which they extremely neural. Get the bass to sound good on the LCD-X, and it's going to sound awesome on anything.

The LCD-X likewise aren't great for monitoring recordings, because they don't highlight defects. If you're monitoring recordings for defects, lesser headphones like the Sony MDR-7506, Sony MDR-V6 and Audio-Technica ATH-M50 emphasize what's wrong. The LCD-X lets us enjoy what's right. Monitor on the Sony MDR-7506 for defects, mix and master on the DT-880 for its clarity and neutrality, and when you get home and want to enjoy your work, it's the LCD-3 or Stax to make it sound fantastic.

Of course the whole point of these LCD-X are their complete lack of peaks and boosts and boom. Other headphones sound better and more exciting beacuse of what they emphasize, while the point of the LCD-X is a complete lack of emphasis or boost. To my ears, they err on the side of excluding detail.

I'd get them at B&H for $1,700. This free website's biggest source of support is when you use that or any of these links to approved sources when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live — otherwise I receive nothing for my efforts. Thanks for your support! Ken.

 

More         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Usage   Compared   Recommendations   More

Audeze' LCD-X page.

Audeze' website.

How to Afford Anything.

Is It Worth It.

 

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