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Closed back or not, this is my favorite Audeze headphone

A Review On: Audez'e LCD-XC

Audez'e LCD-XC

Rated # 53 in Over-Ear
See all 8 reviews
Review Details:
Audio Quality
Comfort
Design
Value
Purchased on:
Price paid: $1,799.00
podeschi
Posted · 20555 Views · 4 Comments

Pros: beautiful artisan build quality; amazingly open, extended, spacious; balanced across FR and dynamic; pinpoint imaging; tight tight tight extended bass

Cons: somewhat heavy right at top of skull

Disclaimer -- Like many on this site I am super picky, but even more so when it comes to headphones.  Unlike audiophile speakers, I find there are very few headphones that I like.  Although I have Magico S5 speakers driven by a Constellation Centaur amp (or Air Tight ATM-2 tube amp), there are many speakers I have owned or would be happy owning (e.g., Magnepan).  A few years ago I auditioned every flagship headphone in one day at ALO Audio in Portland.  Only one had the musical and balanced sound that my ears liked (Beyerdynamic T1) - TO MY EARS...HD800 had incredible soundstage and comfort but sounded too bright and etchy, Denon was extended but too tubby, Grado was wonderfully dynamic but not coherent enough, etc.  Across multiple amps and sources, the T1 was what I kept coming back to as fast, dynamic, organized, musical, balanced, etc.  So I bought it (adding to my existing HD 650 which I still love but always wish was less veiled), and have been happy ever since, using the Bryston BHA-1, Beyerdynamic A1, and Pathos Aurium with Mullard NOS 6922 tubes.  I needed a second pair of headphones for a vacation home/work so was going to buy another pair of T1s but my local audio Guru, Kurt Doslu at Echo Audio told me he fell in love with new Audeze cans and picked them up as a line.  His ears and my ears are simpatico, so I was surprised because I listened to the LCD-2s a couple years ago and while they had a lovely midrange, they sounded shut in and dark to me. 

 

I took my T1s to Echo Audio this past week, and while the shop was pretty empty due to a snow storm, I auditioned the LCD-3, LCD-X, and LCD-XC and compared all to my T1s.  My T1s were the most comfortable to wear, and had the prettiest, easiest to listen to fully extended musical sound, but the new LCD line brought something new to the game that I ultimately had to have.  I was ready to buy any of the three, or simply purchase another T1.  My impressions below, which I will update after extended listening.  I listened to these primarily through the Pathos Aurium head amp with full gain since this will be the primary amp I use and had just done extended listening through the T1s through it.

 

- LCD-3:  Beautiful wood trim, comfortable on the skull, and like all three wonderfully comfortable and soft ear pads.  Very accurate bass.  Unlike many cans and speakers, the LCD-3s don't add an artificial bump in the bass or mid-bass.  Incredibly spacious and with solid imaging.  Really good reverb and decay (but not as good as T1s).  As with all Audeze cans, they were more dynamic and meaty than the T1s which surprised me due to architecture differences).  Immediately though, I felt like 70 percent of what I was hearing was the midrange.  While it was lovely, it was too much midrange for me, which took away some sparkle and balance I was looking for.  Just a tad too midrangey for my ears.

 

- LCD-X:  Something elegant about black on black monochromatic look.  Most comfortable of the three Audeze cans on the head.  More balanced across the spectrum than LCD-3 with more air.  Of the three I believed the X cans had the most bass.  For me, too much bass, and some of it undefined as when listening to deep bass guitar lines, being able to hear the different notes versus just a lot of low end energy.  But, probably of the three, the most fun to listen to when using digital sources and those recordings where you wished there was an equalization option to increase the bottom few octaves.

 

- LCD-XC:  Wow beautiful wood and build quality, but wow big and heavier.  I didn't feel a clamping effect but did feel the weight of these on my head.  Not a big deal but I can see where some people would punt due to weight.  When I put my T1s back on they felt like feathers in comparison.  But, the beauty and size observations immediately disappeared when I listened to the music.  I was expecting a more shut in constricted sound versus open back but these sounded even more open and equally spacious.  More air and high end extension perceived versus the other two Audeze.  Better balance through bass-midrange-treble, with the treble extended but smooth and never irritating, and the bass extended but really well defined and textured. The soundstage wasn't as wide as the 3 or the X, but I believe I heard better imaging and a higher soundstage.  The sound was one click more inside my head than the other two but still projected really well compared to most every other can I have auditioned.  I forgot I was listening to a closed back phone. 

 

I bought the LCD-XC on the spot.  The fact it has noise isolation and little leakage is a great bonus.

4 Comments:

Thanks for the review! Curious, how do you find the LCD-XC compare to the best IEMs you've heard? Also, how did these work with the Hugo as compared to the Pathos amps? Good to know Kurt has these - I'll be heading to hear these soon - I live in Salem, OR.
One other question... you mentioned leakage being low. By that did you mean folks nearby you would not hear much of what you're listening to even at reasonably loud levels? This is a very important aspect for me as my wife would prefer not to hear a distracting and tinny version of what I'm listening to nearby! Thanks again.
Partly based on your aural observations, I took the plunge and purchased the LCD-XC's to add to my headphone collection. All I can say is "Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you!" I have had about a month to "break them in", so to speak. They are absolutely a thrill, both to visually behold and to listen to. I find the bass to be fairly well extended, but more importantly, tightly controlled and accurate, with NO unpleasant boominess. In a like manner, the highs are also well controlled and detailed, never shrill or piercing to my ears, and the midrange is to die for! The soundstage is open and believable, with positioning of voices and instruments much better placed than with my other headphones. I will be getting a Geek Soul Tube DAC/Headphone amp due to arrive in late Spring 2015, and can hardly wait to use my Audeze to run it through it's paces!  I plan to continually upgrade and improve my audio system as monetary funds allow, but I strongly suspect these darlings will be an integral part of it for some time to come. Thanks again for pointing me in the proper direction!
Haven't updated in way too long.  Congrats to those who have picked up the Audeze cans.  Since then I have bought the ALO Studio Six (now my best headphone amp; besting the Pathos).  I have also purchased the Audeze LCD-X.  After long listening sessions, I think the LCD-X with the right amp has the best sound of all the headphones I have (soundstage, presence, coherence, definition).  The XC is more useful (closed, private) and for some reason with lesser amps more refined/articulate.  I will do more comparisons, but both the X and XC are winners in my book, and if someone wants less leakage and reduction of outside ambient noise, the XC is still the no brainer best in class for closed style cans in this price range.  I am currently doing shoot outs with my amps (bryston, pathos, studio six, beyer A1, sugden, hugo).  Interesting callout, the Hugo drives them all really well, and I could live just with it and any of my headphones.  The HD650 sounds awesome on it and the Bryston.  The LCD-X is the top of the mountain with the ALO Studio Six.  I am finding cables and usb-spdif is impacting sound as well.  
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