Pros: they look awesome, good well balanced sound with no treble or bass roll off
Cons: not the best at this price; Aude'ze charged a 15% restocking fee to return them, and they may be selling returned headphones as new
I have an odd history with these headphones, which I'll explain in detail so no one is misled by my rating. If after reading it, you think the rating is unfair please let me know in a comment.
My first headphones were in the sub $500 range, and I have always wanted to own one "best" headphone so that I could stop wondering if my music could sound better. I went around my city investigating options. In doing so, I listened to the LCD XC at a store where they sounded amazing. Great bass, mids and treble. I was really impressed. However, that store didn't have inventory. After that experience, I wrote an earlier review on head-fi giving these five stars, which people didn’t like because it was based on only five minutes of use (see comments below) and so I took that review down.
I spent the next week debating whether I should buy them. Eventually I saw them new at another retailer and pulled the trigger. I took them home and they were ultimately good, clearly better than anything in the sub-$500 range that I used to listen to.
Now here's the first disclosure. I primarily listen to all of my headphones from my portable MP3 player and my laptop. I used the MP3 player when trying the LCD XCs at the first store and these two items are what I use 99% of the time. I have a large receiver with a 300 ohm high powered headphone jack, but I don't notice enough of a difference in the quality of the music to use that instead of my portable items. Please keep in mind that Audeze's website claims the headphones are easy to drive, they have low impedance, and I confirmed in speaking to their tech support that they were designed to be driven by things like Ipods (although that person also said they will sound a little better if powered by a high-end amp/dac). So if this kills the credibility of my review then stop here and move onto a more helpful review, but I'll go on for others who might be interested in what happened next.
I still had a nagging feeling that there was a better headphone out there. I noticed that Sennheiser had a no questions asked 30 day money back guaranty on the HD800s – and I decided to order them, planning to return them if I didn’t like them. Long story short, after four days with the HD800 and the LDC XC, it became clear that based on my personal tastes, I would never use the XC if the HD800s were available. That's why I deducted 1/2 star from the LCD XC. If a headphone isn't the best in its price range, it can't get five stars. That being said, there is no way I would give this less than 4 1/2 stars on sound, and it is entirely possible that based on your tastes you would prefer this over the HD800. The LCD XC did magic with a few songs and performed excellently on all. It's like a Rolls Royce vs. Bentley thing. Both are excellent but you may have a preference. The fact that the HD800 is open back may also have made this an unfair comparison.
Now let me explain why I took another 1/2 star off. When I realized that I would never use the LCD XC, I went back and forth a bit over what to do, wondering if I could just leave them on the shelf as a decoration, ultimately deciding there was no point to keeping them. I planned to try the retailer, and if that didn't work, then I would sell them on Ebay. I called the retailer and asked if I could please return them, since I had only used them for a few days. He said he would only give me store credit. Then I tried the Audeze corporate headquarters to see if they could take them back. At first their manager said there is nothing she can do because it's the retailer's decision. I asked her why Audeze doesn't have Sennheiser's satisfaction guaranteed policy and she said that Audeze does have such a policy. She said if I had purchased from the Audeze website, then I could return them in 30 days with a 15% restocking fee. I then asked why it should be any different if I buy from an authorized retailer and she kindly agreed. She spoke with the retailer who matched the Audeze company policy. I gladly paid the 15% restocking fee (a total of about $300 due to tax). I'm very happy to pay only $300 to unload these because had I sold them on Ebay there would be a 10-15% Ebay/Paypal fee, I would have to ship them and I would have to deal with a potentially dishonest buyer. So thank you to Audeze for accommodating me.
But that leaves the question of why Audeze charges a 15% restocking fee if you don't like their headphone. On the one hand I can understand how it's designed to deter looky loos who buy stuff, try them out and return them. But then again, if you are operating in the $2,000 to $3,000 headphone space, that should be a cost of doing business. You should not charge this much for a headphone unless you are confident enough in your product that you will let people try them out for free, like Sennheiser does. For that reason, I felt these should lose half a star.
Finally, the reason why I tool another 1/2 star off. Those in the headphone community know that you can easily pick up a open-box Sennheiser HD800 (see Sennheiser's own website or Crutchfield), or Hifiman HE-6 (these are harder to find but you can get them from authorized retailers) for a huge (20-25% or so) discount. These have been fully inspected by the factory and come with a warranty. However, I have never seen such offers with Aude'ze headphones. Which raises the question of what Aude'ze does with all the headphones that are returned to them, and implies that they sell them as new. Now I want to be clear that I could not confirm this inference and so I may be completely wrong, and Aude'ze may not be selling returned headphones as new headphones. If anyone has an answer please post it in the comment. But from what I can see that seems to be the case.
One note about comfort. I'm not at all a super muscular, but my average neck is strong enough to easily support this for hours and hours of listening without any annoyance. They're clearly heavier than the HD800, which feel like a feather, but the extra weight really wasn't an issue with me.
Finally, on those beautiful looks. As you can see in the pictures this is a very attractive headphone. This could be the nicest looking headphone made today. In general, all of Audeze's headphones are these huge wooden monsters that look impressive (and do not underestimate how big this is, this is much bigger than your average over the ear headphones, which are already big). However, you should consider whether that's something you want because it will definitely bring attention to you if you wear these anywhere in public.
I hope this was helpful to readers.
Edit: I just discovered that I need to credit this headphone for its efficiency. I could get this to put out ear thumping bass, screeching (in a good way) treble and solid mids with my cell phone (a Note 2) and my laptop (a Realtek 269 DAC + 2.3 W amplifier). I didn't see much of a benefit by moving to my receiver's powerful jack. That's apparently a major engineering feat in a planar magnetic, that I did not appreciate, so adding 1/2 star.