Audeze with an X-factor?
PROS: Excellent build quality, highly attractive design, very musical headphone with a high engagement factor, good bass performance for an open back, sparkly and resolving treble tuning which manages to be non-fatiguing in long sessions, excellent technical performance for the price – detail retrieval, separation, layering as well as a nice wide and open soundstage.
CONS: Recessed upper-midrange (1.5-5kHz region), heavy 612g of weight can be troublesome for some, I would’ve liked if Audeze offered choice of stock cable in the Creator Package itself than ask for $500 extra for the Premium Package because a lot of audiophiles prefer a balanced cable than a 1/4″ termination.
The product was provided to me free of charge for the review in exchange for my honest opinion.
About Audeze LCD-X 2021.
Audeze is a high-end audio headphone manufacturer based in Costa Mesa, CA. Established in 2009, they have grown from a garage based startup to one of the most innovative audio companies in the past few years. LCD-X was first introduced in 2013. Today, the updated LCD-X, more commonly referred to as LCD-X 2021, leverages patented Audeze technologies, including Ultra-Thin Uniforce™ diaphragms, Fazor waveguides, and powerful neodymium magnets to deliver extremely accurate and detailed sound. The sophisticated planar magnetic drivers achieve high efficiency with low impedance, such that LCD-X can deliver great sound from nearly any device with a headphone output. Audeze also lowered the weight for increased comfort. It features a suspension headband for even weight distribution, and highly-cushioned premium ear pads for support.
It is offered in two package options –
- Creator Package which comes with the standard single-ended 1/4″ braided OCC copper cable and Audeze’s economy travel case.
- Premium Package which comes with both a 4-pin balanced XLR and single-ended 1/4″ braided OCC Copper cable, a 1/4″ to 1/8″ stereo adapter, and their premium travel case for the toughest protection.
- Style – Over-ear, open-back
- Transducer type – Planar Magnetic
- Magnetic structure – Proprietary magnet array
- Phase management – Fazor
- Magnet type – Neodymium N50
- Diaphragm type – Ultra-Thin Uniforce
- Transducer size – 106 mm
- Maximum SPL – >130dB
- Frequency response 10Hz – 50kHz
- THD – <0.1% @ 100 dB SPL
- Sensitivity – 103 dB/1 mW (at Drum Reference Point)
- Impedance – 20Ω
- Max power handling – 5W RMS
- Min recommended power – > 100mW
- Recommended power level – >250mW
- Cable – 1.9m (6.8ft) length, Single ended 1/4″ (6.3mm) termination
- Wire material – 20 AWG high-purity OCC audio-grade copper
- Weight – 612g
LCD-X 2021 Updates.
Audeze say that the critical thin film they use for their diaphragms has been revised and improved. “From the original thicker film we started with, to the much thinner
film we started using a few years ago – even the chemical composition has morphed
over time”, says their rep on Head-fi. The updated LCD-X 2021 has new ear pads as well as refined and newly optimised magnetic circuits. They modified the ear pad material to get a better seal around the ears on differently shaped heads for a more consistent sonic experience.
Build Quality and Design.
For me, Audeze headphones have always had an eye catching high end boutique design and are built link tanks, with LCD-X 2021 being no different! The ear cups, grill, headband and headband adjusters are all made of metal, while the ear pads and suspension are made of high quality leather – which are extremely comfortable, breathe quite well and don’t feel sticky even on hot days. I do have some minor complaints though. Even though I love the headband adjustment design, the adjustment mechanism isn’t the smoothest and the 612g weight is substantial for you to always be aware of them sitting on your head.
Cable – Audeze include a very nice premium 20 AWG high-purity OCC cable that has a 1/4″ jack and mini-XLR connectors. It is 1.9m (6.8 feet) long, tangle-free and non-microphonic, that works perfectly with desktop setups. The downside is that it isn’t a balanced cable and audiophiles who want to use it with a DAP or desktop amp with balanced ports either need to buy the $1700 Premium package which includes a 4-pin XLR balanced cable and 1/4″ to 3.5mm adapters or invest in buying a 3rd party cable. The $500 up-charge for the Premium package is a little too steep in my opinion and I would rather recommend buying a nice balanced cable from a cable manufacturer instead, some of which can be had for as low as $40-50.
Case – LCD-X 2021 comes in a really nice heavy duty hard shell case which fits the headphones as well as the cable really well in a stable foam cut out inside. I’m really impressed with Audeze including their Economy LCD Travel Case even in their cheaper priced Creator Package option. The Premium package however comes with the Premium LCD Travel Case.
Fit and Comfort.
LCD-X fits really well with ear cups that encompass the whole ear and ear pads that are extremely well padded for the ear to not touch the driver assembly and remain comfortable for hours. Even though this now weighs 50 grams lighter than the previous iteration, its 612 grams weight can still feel heavy after a couple of hours of usage, but I do find the suspension head strap and cushy ear pads distributing the weight better than the previous iteration. Now if Audeze somehow manage to reduce LCD-X’s weight by a couple of 100 grams, it will be a big time win for them!