Towards the end of March 2021, Audeze announced that their popular LCD-X and LCD-XC headphones are now built with several improvements and refinements. Today, we are going to check out one of these headphones – the Audeze LCD-X 2021 version. The LCD-X is a planar magnetic headphone with an open back design. It’s one of the company’s most popular headphones and used to be Audeze’s flagship. In this review, let’s take a closer look at the LCD-X and I’ll share with you some of my subjective evaluation as a result of using this headphone for more than a month. Stick around and check out my Audeze LCD-X review below.
Audeze LCD-X (2021) Planar Magnetic Open-Back Headphone Review
The LCD-X has been in the market since 2013 (more or less). And since then, the LCD-X series has gone through several iterations and improvements. In the latest version of the LCD-X, most people call it the “LCD-X 2021”, the thin film used for the diaphragms have been revised and improved. The film is now thinner and the chemical composition used in creating those films changed as well.
Audeze has also implemented a newly optimized magnetic circuit that “offers the sonic excellence Audeze’s users have known for many years”. They also modified the LCD earpad material to get a better seal around the ears on differently shaped heads for a more consistent sonic experience. The company also mentioned that they made refinements on the headbands. Although I’m not exactly sure what changes were made since the headphone looks quite similar to the previous version.
According to the company, all LCD-Xs produced from November 23, 2020, and all LCD-XCs produced since November 9, 2020, have these improvements. Audeze also shared the start dates and serials for the new configuration:
- 11/23/20 LCD-XC Leather-Free S/N: 8523710
- 11/9/20 LCD-XC Leather S/N: 8523700
- 11/23/20 LCD-X Leather-Free S/N: 7527615
- 11/23/20 LCD-X Leather S/N: 7527600
The Audeze LCD-X is part of the company’s LCD reference headphones. It’s generally targeted towards music creators/producers or mastering engineers. But it’s also popular with audiophiles thanks to its overall neutral tonality and technical abilities. It’s primarily designed to be transparent with excellent transient response and accuracy. It also offers great detail and will let you hear the music as the producer/mixer intended it.
Below are the specifications of the LCD-X planar magnetic open-back headphone, 2021 version.
Audeze LCD-X (2021) Specifications
|Transducer type||Planar Magnetic|
|Magnetic structure||Proprietary magnet array|
|Magnet type||Neodymium N50|
|Transducer size||106 mm|
|Maximum power handling||5W RMS|
|Frequency response||10Hz – 50kHz|
|THD||<0.1% @ 100dB|
|Sensitivity||103 dB/1mW (at Drum Reference Point)|
|Minimum power requirement||>100mW|
|Recommended power level||>250mW|
Latest pricing and availability:
Audeze LCD-X (2021) is available on Amazon.com here.
Packaging and Closer Look
Audeze ships the LCD-X in two different packages. The one that I got here is the Creator’s package or Creator’s Edition. It comes with an “economy” travel case and has a generous amount of foam padding inside. The package also includes a 1.9m single-ended 1/4” to dual 4-pin mini-XLR cable, a user guide, and a warranty card.
The travel case, despite being an “economy” one, is quite sturdy and will protect the headphone. But I don’t think it’s water-proof and I haven’t subjected the case to any form of abuse. I’m pretty sure it won’t stand a chance if ever it gets run over by a car. But for transporting the headphone from one place to another, it’s pretty much serviceable.
Creator Package vs Premium
There’s also the Premium package, which is $500 more than the creator’s package. While there is no difference in the headphone themselves, you get more accessories with the Premium package. With the premium package, you get the Audeze’s LCD professional travel case; and aside from the single-ended cable, a balanced cable terminated to a 4-pin XLR cable is included. There’s also a 1/4″ to 1/8″ stereo adapter included in the package.
The Audeze LCD-X features the company’s Fazor technology, where the thin film diaphragm is “sandwiched” between two magnets with “Fazors” on top. According to the company, Fazors are like guides for sound, maneuvering the sound waves out of the drivers in an even and smooth way without interfering with each other.
Each Fazor element is placed just outside the magnets that drive the diaphragm, allowing the sound waves out in a more even and parallel direction, reducing interference and diffraction, or scattering of sound waves. That’s also one reason why this headphone is heavy since there’s a lot of magnets inside.
Audeze is also using a very (very) thin layer of film for the diaphragm. How thin you might ask? It’s about 0.5 microns, which’s 1/10th of the thickness of a red blood cell! They need it to be so thin and lightweight so that it can move back and forth very fast, about 20,000 times a second. Audeze says that if the diaphragm can move faster and change direction faster, this also means it can produce a more transparent, detailed, and accurate sound.
I’m not exactly sure what Audeze changed or improved on the headband section, but it’s somewhat similar to the LCD-GX. Although, the headband uses a (premium) leather material compared to the GX. If you need to replace the headband or change the ear pads, the headband section can be removed easily. It uses a standard Phillips screw, which is very common and easy to work with.
The headband is adjustable and there are grooves/stoppers on the yoke rods. There is also a certain amount of resistance when you adjust the steel suspension up or down. While the headband design is quite comfortable on the head, I think Audeze can still improve in this area. They could use a lighter yet strong material or perhaps reduce the amount of metal on the headband section.
Thick Soft Pads!
I love the smell of newly opened Audeze headphones! The new earpads are very comfortable, plush, and feels soft. Looking closely at it, you can tell that the pads are premium, made with carefully selected materials. I’m not sure what pads were used on the previous version of the LCD-X, but above, you can see the difference between the earpads used on the LCD-X 2021 and the LCD-GX.
The pads on the LCD-X look shinier, while the pads on the GX look flat or has a matte finish. If I am not mistaken, the GX uses faux leather, while the LCD-X has real leather. The smell is quite different as well. There’s also a difference in the foam used. Both foams are soft, but when you press the pads on the LCD-X, the foam bounces back right away. Meanwhile, on the GX, when you press the pads, the foam slowly goes back.
Audeze uses a 4-pin mini-XLR termination on their LCD headphones. The plugs have locks on them, so they don’t get disconnected even if accidentally pulled. The creator’s package comes with a single-ended (unbalanced) cable, but the headphone itself is balanced-cable ready. Like I mentioned earlier, the premium package comes with a balanced cable.
Overall Build Quality and Comfort
When it comes to built quality, the LCD-X (2021) is built like a tank. The driver portion, and even the yokes and the arm are very sturdy and robust. The faceplate on each driver also feels very solid and stable, despite having cutouts. Honestly, since the headphone themselves is well-built, the first thing that would probably break here are the cables. I’m not saying that the cables are not of quality, but the wires are the only thing that is susceptible to damage.
Thanks to the large soft earpads and wide headband, the LCD-X is comfortable to wear. It sits nicely on my head and the pads properly seal the surrounding of my ears. Clamping force is sufficient, but not too strong; at least for the unit that I have. Sorry, I don’t wear glasses, so I’m not sure how it would work out for people who wear glasses.
While the LCD-X is generally comfortable to wear; I am not comfortable wearing it for hours. Usually, within an hour, I have to remove and rest my head a couple of times or more. The weight is there and at ~612g it does feel heavy. I can feel the strain on my neck after several minutes of use. Since the pads are made of real leather, it also gets warm after several minutes. And sometimes it gets uncomfortable, especially on a hot and humid day.
Audeze LCD-X Subjective Listening Experience
I’ve been using the LCD-X (2021) for more than a month now. Not really every day, but frequently during these past few weeks. When I first listened to it, my initial reaction was “oh it’s dark”! My ears were a bit used to the more brighter and energetic sound of the Campfire Audio Solaris and Andromeda. The LCD-GX is also not as dark as the LCD-X.
Aside from having a less energetic tonality and somewhat dark characteristic, the LCD-X is also very neutral; perhaps across the entire spectrum. I don’t think that one part of the frequency is elevated over the other. And despite having a dark tonality, I can tell that the LCD-X is very (very) clean and perhaps distortion-free.
To my ears, the bass goes deep with excellent control and it sounds like it’s consistent from the lower frequency up to the lower mids. The bass is clean, fast, and hard-hitting. It also sounds full and rich, perhaps due to the large driver and good seal around the ear.
I ran the “bass shaker quality” track several times and it is very noticeable that the bass it can produce has much better control, reverberation, and texture compared to the other headphones I used.
I don’t hear any amount of sibilance or harsh and spiky treble on the LCD-X. Perhaps it’s a little bit recessed or laid-back making it not harsh to the ears. Treble fatigue won’t be an issue, especially if you plan to use it for a longer session.
When it comes to midrange, especially the vocals part, it doesn’t sound forward-leaning nor laid back. Although, it feels intimate and very clean and clear. The artist’s voice feels and sounds very natural, without being over-powering over-emphasized, nor sounded like being shrouded by the (musical) instruments.
LCD-X vs LCD-GX
The LCD-X (2021) doesn’t have a very wide sound stage. The height or width is not very far off, unlike when compared to the LCD-GX. The GX has a wider sound stage, most probably because it’s a gaming headphone. However, the LCD-X has excellent imaging, layering, and instrument separation. Well, if the target market of the LCD-X is generally music produces, these are the qualities that should be present in a headphone used in this kind of work.
Compared to the LCD-X, the LCD-GX’s bass sound a bit anemic or lacking in substance. While it can go deep, it doesn’t sound as rich and controlled as the bass on the LCD-X. The texture and level of detail simply aren’t present on the GX.
The LCD-GX does sound “brighter” than the LCD-X and has more presence on the treble region. However, when I was testing the Luxury & Precision P6 DAP, surprisingly, I found that Metallica “sounds better” with the GX compared to the LCD-X (when paired with the P6). I’m not sure what’s going on there and I’m pretty sure that’s just my personal preference. But with the combo of the P6 + LCD-GX + Metallica sounds great. While the LCD-X is an efficient headphone and can be driven by a portable digital audio player (DAP); I would prefer to use the LCD-X together with the Schiit Jotunheim most of the time.
Audeze LCD-X vs MrSpeakers Ether Flow
Aside from the LCD-GX, I have the Ether Flow to compare the LCD-X with. But my Ether Flow is more than 4 years old now. I don’t think its driver is damaged or has degraded (yet). But somehow, after listening to the LCD-X, I realized that the level of detail, clarity, and richness in texture on the LCD-X is simply on a different level. Or perhaps, to say the least, one (or two) notch higher.
Both the Ether Flow and LCD-X don’t have a very wide sound stage when compared to the LCD-GX. But both sound noticeably richer and fuller than the GX. The Ether Flow has a decent amount of energy and has a better presence on the treble region compared to the LCD-X. Nevertheless, to my ears, the LCD-X sounds sonically better and technically more accurate compared to the Ether Flow, despite being slightly darker-sounding.
Right now, when it comes to sound quality, I’d pick the LCD-X over the Ether Flow. However, if comfort is the priority, the Ether Flow is much comfortable to wear and is noticeably lighter than the LCD-X.
That’s all for now, and will probably update this as I explore more.
Price and Availability
The Audeze LCD-X (2021) planar magnetic open-back headphone is now available. It comes with a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $1,199 for the creator package and $1,699 for the premium package. For most headphones, Audeze offers a three-year warranty for the drivers and one year for the rest of the parts, and this begins from the original date of retail purchase.
Note that if you are buying from Amazon, according to Audeze, the only Authorized Amazon sellers to date in the US are as follows: Audeze (or Audeze LLC), Gramophone, Listen Up, Audio Advice, World Wide Stereo, Audio46, Headphones Inc, Adorama, Zorro Sound, and Huppins – Onecall.
Latest pricing and availability:
Audeze LCD-X (2021) is available on Amazon.com here
Audeze LCD-X (2021) Review Conclusion – It Could Use a Different Name
I wasn’t able to audition the previous version(s) of the LCD-X headphone. But this new LCD-X (2021) definitely stands out and I would say fit my preference for an all-purpose headphone. That’s why I think Audeze should have given this a different name, perhaps LCD-X2, just to differentiate it from its predecessors.
Built-quality-wise, there’s no denying that the LCD-X is built like a tank. It feels very sturdy and solid on hand. I like the all-black color theme and its “low-profile” approach. It doesn’t scream or stand out, but the sound it produces certainly stands out. On the flip side, it is on the heavy side and the soft leather earpads can be hot on the ear especially during long listening sessions.
I’m not a fan of EQ, and that’s another thing that I like about the LCD-X. You don’t need to EQ it at all. Although there are times that I wish there was a bit more presence on the treble region so that it won’t sound (too) dark on certain music tracks. The LCD-X is also easy to drive, but I recommend you pair it with a good DAC/AMP to make it really shine.
Who is the Audeze LCD-X (2021) For?
At the end of the day, many of you might be asking who is this headphone for? Would it fit your taste or preference? Well, if you don’t like dark or somewhat dark-sounding headphones, this one is not for you. Like I mentioned above, it’s a bit on the dark side, with a bit of rolled off or recessed, but non-fatiguing, treble. You’re always welcome to try the “dark-side”, who knows, it might be an acquired taste for you.
However, if you’re looking for an open back headphone that offers a great level of detail across the spectrum; stellar clarity and transparency; neutral-sounding; deep lush fast and well-controlled bass; captivating mids, well you might find the LCD-X (2021) to your liking.