Pros: Very transparent and true to life sounding headphones. Great bass, mids and treble. Outstanding all round headphones.
Cons: A bit on the heavy side and comfort could be an issue for some (though I found them just fine in this area).
The Audez’e LCD-X:
Well after a few weeks with these great headphones, I think I’m ready to post my review of them. I was an original owner of the LCD-2 R1 when they were released many moons ago…so suffice it to say that I’ve been a big fan of Audeze and their products ever since.
Gear used for my evaluations:
Cambridge Audio CDP via SPDIF or iMac Apple Lossless via USB --> Byrston Audio BDA-2 DAC --> HeadAmp GS-X MK2 [Fully balanced front to back]
iPad - FiiO E11 (a minimalistic approach to my portable rig)
Some of my favourite reference CDs like Jazz at the Pawnshop, Patricia Barber’s Companion and Modern Cool, Rush’s Moving Pictures and Fly By Night, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, Tool’s Lateralus, Mahler’s 3rd Symphony..
How do they perform?
With each Audeze headphone, I’ve found a good progression in sound quality improvements. From the LCD-2 R1 to R2 and then subsequently to the LCD-3s (you can read my thoughts in the wikis I wrote here on Head-Fi). After my time with them, I feel that the LCD-X offers a very solid improvement over the LCD-2 R2 (as was the LCD-3). However when comparing the LCD-3s to the LCD-X, I feel that there are certainly areas that the LCD-X have improved things even further.
The new LCD-X has a brand new transducer (with the Fazor: a wave-guide that sits on top and is part of the transducer) that offers an improved phase response by helping better control the sound wave flow in the headphones and in turn, this gives an improved sense of clarity, separation and imaging over previous Audeze headphones. To clarify, the new transducer has a thinner diaphragm over the LCD-2s, but the LCD-3’s Lotus transducer is the thinnest currently offered.
I’ve heard some describe the LCD-X as “brighter” headphones or the HD600s next to the HD650s of the LCD-3s. I generally do not agree with this as the contrast between the two Sennheiser headphones are quite a bit more with regards to “brighter” vs. “laid back”. But, one area of improvement that the LCD-X offer is in the treble region. Their portrayal of the upper mids/treble seems more “true to life” and closer to reference than even the LCD-3s; while never being bright or fatiguing and never without any hint of sibilance. Maybe this gives them the impression of being brighter, but if I compare the frequency charts from Audeze and even innerfidelity.com, the LCD-X certainly do not measure as having more forward treble.
Along with this improved and cleaner sounding treble, the instrumental separation has also improved. This in turn gives the LCD-X a very fast sound where details are very well portrayed and make them come alive. In turn, due to this improved separation and clarity, the sound staging has also kicked up a notch. I found one of the best area’s of improvements of the LCD-3s over the LCD-2s was with regards to sound staging (width, depth and separation). Well, it looks like the LCD-X has continued trend. Of all the dynamic headphones that I’ve owned/heard, these are now one of the best in that regard. No, they are not the HD800s with regards to super expansive imaging, but they are now even better than the beyer T1s, HE-6s, and TH-900s (headphones that I hold in high regard in this aspect).
Back to the LCD-3s, I still feel that their mids are amongst the very best I’ve heard and while the LCD-X perform very strongly here, the LCD-3s come out on top to my ears. With regards to bass presentation, depth, impact, detail and layering, without a doubt, the LCD-3 and LCD-X are the two best dynamic headphones that I’ve heard that can offer bass so true to life, so clean and quick that they leave me smiling every time I put them on. I find that the LCD-3s are the slightly “more musical” headphones with bass that lingers a bit longer, mids that are lush and inviting and an overall laid back presentation that just feel like putting on a favourite pair of slippers; while the LCD-Xs offer a closer to reference presentation with slightly taughter bass and treble and imaging that is better defined. A real tough call between these two fantastic headphones no doubt.
With regards to comfort, I find the LCD-X quite good. They are slightly heavier (although only by 50g) than the LCD-3s, but on my head, I’d be very hard pressed to tell them apart. Both offer the softer, more plush ear pads and I can use them for hours comfortably. Don’t get me wrong, they are not as comfortable as my HD800s or SR009s, but I have no complaints here.
Unlike the LCD-2s which played very nicely with many different amps that I had on hand, I found that the LCD-3s were quite a bit pickier and both headphones really responded well to at least 1.5-2W of power from a full sized desktop amp. The advantage with the LCD-X is that they sound surprisingly good out of my FiiO Kilamanjaro portable headphone amp. Now, they (LCD-X) still sound best through my main rig, but I find their outstanding efficiency really appealing as one can really take them on the go and not have to carry a 10lbs headphone amplifier. They certainly aren't portable headphones like my KEF M500s due to their size and heft, but like the M500s sound great right out of my iPad or portable headphone amp.
So I know the final question that many people will ask, which is the better headphone? And I’m not sure I can flat out answer that in a simple statment. All I can say is that it depends. First off, musical preferences play a big part in terms of which I’d recommend. If someone already owns a pair of HD800s or T1s and wants a complimentary pair of headphones and listens to mostly rock, jazz, and metal; then I’d say go with the LCD-3s. But if someone is looking for a better “all round” performer that also includes acoustic and classical music, then I’d recommend the LCD-X. Both are in my top five headphones of all time and don’t think there is a wrong choice here between the two. But if I had to pick my personal preference for what I valued most, I would have to agree with my friend Jude and go with the LCD-X (by a hair).