An argument that arouses so much passion amongst audiophiles is the comparison between headphones and speakers that has now reached, we believe, the point of no return. If we could quote a famous historical figure we would say that now the die has been cast. The development and time spent by major companies in high-end products for personal audio, have meant that a good part of audiophiles changed their buying habits in favour of the world of headphones.
We aren’t referring only to the gold and almost exclusive market of electrostatic and dynamics headphones, but also to that which features an array of buyers of ortodynamic headphones with magnetic-planar technology. It is these headphones that have enabled them to surpass —whispered at first and then almost announced quietly— most speakers available on the market today. We refer in particular to the sonic qualities and to the scalability in terms of performance of headphones that have revolutionized the market, not only in terms of sales but also in regard to the whole new range of equipment dedicated to them, such as amplifiers and high-end DACs. In this regard, about a year ago we had the opportunity to try and review one of the best ortodynamic headphones on the market, the Audeze LCD-3. The company that produces it was founded by Alex Rosson and Shankar Shivasamudram a little over four years ago and it’s amazing to think of the success they have had in the world of high-end headphones in such little time. Both founders, who had begun to work together and emerge as leaders especially in the field of the speakers, soon realized how high the costs of entry into that market would be. So they decided to leave the speakers market and devote themselves to headphones. The first serious debut in this new field came with a headset call LCD-2, which was sold at around $ 1,000. The commercial success of the LCD-2 was such that many items were purchased by several connoisseurs of high-end headphones. About a year later, Audeze sought to raise the stakes by launching the LCD-3, one of the most musical headphones ever made but also quite expensive. The LCD-3 is quickly becoming the new favourite of many fans gathering a significant amount of positive reviews including the one given by us at HDPhonic. Not content with this great commercial success, Audeze has seen fit to improve even further the performance level of their headphones by developing a new technology called Fazor. All Audeze models have been updated with this new technology including one of the latest: the LCD-X the object of our test.
The design of Audeze headphones has always been particularly attractive. Both for the generous dimensions and that retro look that is very old school radio engineer. The headset is also equipped with the classic hard case typical of all Audeze models and two cables to connect it in unbalanced and balanced mode. Although the outward appearance generally looks like previous models, the LCD-X is characterized by a different materials from the more familiar outdoor pavilions made in zebrawood which have typically been fitted on the flagship LCD-3. Those mounted on the X are in fact made of anodized aluminum, with the possibility to choose the rings that cover the outside of the earpads in black or grey. The customer can also choose the type of interior padding of the earpad which comes in black lambskin leather, or microsuede with a soft finish. As with all other models made by Audeze, inside the earpads there is a special addition of foam which provides the right amount of stability and balance. As they say don’t fix what isn’t broken, in fact at Audeze they have chosen not to make too many changes, giving the LCD-X many elements common to previous models such as planar neodymium transducers that use the magnetic field generated by a conductor through which an electric current, that drives the diaphragm, passes. As with the LCD-3, when the current passes through the conductors, the magnetic field created by the current flow interacts with the isodynamic field created by the permanent magnets, inducing both the conductors and the diaphragm to move. The real news, however, is that Audeze has put a new transducer on the LCD-X that is made of an even lighter and thinner material, named Fazor. With this new technology it has been possible to maximize the flow of sound in the headphones thereby not only improving the stereo image and the transients speed, but above all making the response more linear with a greater extension of the middle and high frequencies. Audeze argues that the new Fazor drivers permit the performance of the frequency response of the LCD-X to go far beyond the range of human hearing, ranging from 5 Hz to 50 kHz. Unfortunately, in the absence of a pair of animals able to perceive these frequency extremes, we have to trust Audeze’s specs as well as our hearing, which fortunately is still doing his duty very well.
Often when reviewing an audio product it can be extremely challenging because when one listens to music, it’s difficult to describe the intensity of the human emotional experience, especially if you try to put down the size of a three-dimensional sound experience on a two-dimensional page. As always, before any critical listening, the LCD-X was left burning in for at least 200 hours in our studio. In addition to this test, we wanted to use two amps of the highest level such as the Bryston BHA-1 and the McIntosh MHA100, that we reviewed here some weeks ago. In addition, we wanted to use only high-resolution tracks from different genres and different dynamic ranges in order to allow the headset to express its full potential. Finally, we used customised balanced cables by AirTech and Double Helix Cables. In this way, during the first few minutes of listening, we realized that the LCD-X is a headphone of the highest level that therefore requires a sound chain of the same level to ensure that it can be properly evaluated in a manner very similar to that which a high-end traditional stereo system would require. Our test started by connecting the headphone in balanced mode to the BHA-1. Despite the excellent construction materials, we noticed a defect common to all Audeze models which is the weight felt on the neck from the very beginning and the slight sense of occlusion that fortunately disappears almost immediately. Apart from this venial fault that you can easily get used to, we immediately heard the ease with which the LCD-X is driven by the Bryston amp. When comparing the sound output in both unbalanced and balanced mode, we found that the maximum yield is obtained by driving the headphones in balanced mode. In this way, the LCD-X expresses a very balanced tone that makes you realize why it has become one of the favorite headphones used by audio professionals and some of the most famous mastering engineers who use it as a second reference.
The stereo image is very good and is definitely better than the LCD-3 that we tried a few months ago. This is also thanks to the implementation of the new Fazor technology. In our opinion, the LCD-X combines the best of the timbre of two products such as the Sennheiser HD 650 and the HD 800 headphones which we have used for a very long time in our reference and critical listening sessions for audio mastering. The LCD-X is characterized by highs decidedly more refined and less plastic than those expressed by the HD 800. Audeze manages to give a more natural rendition of the sound message by returning high-frequencies that sound less grainy than the Sennheiser HD 650. The reproductive realism of instruments is really impressive. We heard perfectly a clear distinction of levels of macro and micro dynamics in complex passages. The mids return an absolute realism of voices and the bass, while having a deep extension, is fast and accurate. To be honest the LCD-X has found an execellent sonic partner in Bryston BHA-1. Indeed the combined yield of the two products allows you to have a very accurate picture of the timbre of the source you’re listening to with all the pros and cons that come with it. It should be emphasized that the LCD-X needs a proper break-in period to sound great, while the replacement of the stock cable with a customised one definitely improves the yield on the mids thereby further elevating the already remarkable performance. Of course the Audeze headset doesn’t have the same headstage as the HD 800, but the use of the Fazor technology helps to reduce the gap. When driving the LCD-X with the McIntosh MHA100 we heard that the stereo image becomes slightly more three-dimensional. The thrust at low frequencies is less pronounced because the headset is controlled with less authority than the Bryston which manages to slightly improve the lows thus ensuring a better and more precise articulation of transients compared to the McIntosh. With the latter, the mid and high frequencies gain more clarity even at high sound pressure levels, while the yield is always great with voices.
We at HDPhonic already sensed some time ago what was going to happen sooner or later. We refer to the surpassing of high-end headphones over traditional stereo systems. Moreover, in order for a traditional stereo system to achieve the same yield as a headset such as the LCD-X, you must spend quite a substantial sum, not to mention the investment on the acoustic treatment of your listening room. The continuing efforts of the design team have enabled Audeze orthodynamic headphones to succeed with an overall better performance than those of dynamics ones. The bottom end of the LCD-X is in fact deeper and sounds more accurate than any other open-back dynamic headphones that we’ve listened to, while remaining faithful to the character of the timbre of instruments that reproduce low frequencies, adding a considerable realism to medium and high frequencies. As all previous models made by Audeze, the LCD-X happens to give each recording a greater sense of naturalness, both in terms of their frequency response which is more extended and flat and for the fact that they are more easily driven, thus attracting an ever wider array of fans. The LCD-X distinguishes itself by the construction quality and materials used embracing both the philosophy of the luxury object and a precision listening instrument. In conclusion we can say that, if anyone is looking for a serious listening experience on headphones, the Audeze LCD-X is definitely a must for us, a headset that has become our new reference.
Honestly I didn’t know what to expect from the LCD-X, as I was not entirely enthusiastic about the test held with the LCD-3, and having only occasionally listened with the X in other locations. This time, after 17 years of professional use of headphones, I had to change my mind in a pleasant and major way. Of course we aren’t at the levels of the HD 800 as regards the headstage, lightness and comfort and if we have to be picky, the headphone still show some light mid-bass coloration typical of the Audeze sound. By the way the new drivers with Fazor technology really made the LCD-X fly, definitely making it more neutral and linear when compared to the LCD-3, giving me the feeling of having two full-range speakers attached to my ears. Even in balanced mode the Bryston BHA-1 and the LCD-X with the Complement4 cable by Double Helix Cables proved to be a great combo, linearizing as much as possible the overall tonal response. The translation of sound and instruments is fantastic and allows me to work much faster and more accurate than other ortodynamic headphones which I find slightly more euphonious sounding than the LCD-X. The moment I finished my listening tests I looked at my faithful HD 650 and HD 800 almost with embarrassment asking myself why I had waited so long to try an orthodynamic headset, given that the two dynamics made by Sennheiser have demonstrated they are inferior in some ways to the LCD-X. I really appreciate the direction in which Audeze is heading with new headphones and the type of technology used, also taking into count the suggestions made by its own customers and their opinions. In this way, the LCD-X has definitely marked the step into the world of high-end headphones becoming a new reference and a working tool not only for me. Well done Audeze!
- Sound quality 
- Bang for the buck 
- Measures 
- Build quality 
- Versatility 
- Overall rating
- 1. The sound quality comes out at very high levels
- 2. The price level is high but to gain a better results you have to pay at least two or three times its price
- 3. The measures reported very good results on different parameters
- 4. The build quality is top-notch and the aesthetic is rather eye-catching
- 5. Versatility is wide-ranging and the headset is very easily driven