For two or more people sharing a small apartment, a traditional stereo system may not be the best option. First, space limitations constrain what can fit in the living room. Secondly, not everyone agrees on the same music. Third, if one member of the household wants to sleep, thin walls can do a poor job of isolating unwanted noise. For these reasons, a high quality headphone system is a wonderful option for those audiophiles seeking great sound and minimal antagonism among housemates.
If budget allows, one marvelous option to consider is Audeze’s LCD-X series headphones. Audeze offers an open-back design dubbed the LCD-X which we tested for this review. Those in confined quarters may also consider the LCD-XC which is a closed back design, sealing in the sound and sealing out unwanted external noise.
The LCD-X arrives packed into a black, foam-lined Pelican case, ready for travel and abuse while protecting the precious cargo within. For versatility, Audeze also includes two sets of headphone cables. One set is a balanced 4-pin to 2×4-pin mini XLR. The other cable is a single-ended version with 4 pins on the headphone end and a standard ¼” termination on the other.
Owners have a choice of earcup padding: either a black lambskin leather, or a non-leather microsuede. The foam underneath gives the earcups a slight slope, canting them forward when worn and projecting the sonic image forward a bit. At 1.3 pounds (600 grams) the X is hefty indeed and there’s no mistaking the weight on one’s head. Trying to wear glasses at the same time as the LCD-Xs is an uncomfortable pairing, so these aren’t the best ’phones for those far-sighted folks like me who enjoy music while working on the computer.
As with the other LCDs, bass is a strong attribute. I have not heard another open-back design that offers the depth, weight and punch that Audezes do. Percussion is portrayed marvelously, and these headphones can rock. They are capable of great delicacy as well. Vocals sound incredible through the X. They strike the right balance between capturing every nuance while avoiding stridency and sibilance.
Audeze’s LCD-2s renders the soundstage well, but as with the LCD-3, the LCD-X improves on this capability. Sounds at the far edges of the soundstage wrap out and slightly behind the center plane of my head. Instruments are layered well in the X’s presentation and it’s easy to pick them out in the mix. The X reveals a sense of the original recording space.
Pricing for the LCD-Xs is a budget commitment. An MSRP of $1,699 places it between its other open-back siblings, the LCD-2 and -3 costing $1,145 and $1,945 respectively. You will need a good amplifier to get the most out of these headphones, so that should be factored into your budget at some point. But with that and your favorite music source, you have a very musically satisfying personal sound system.
After many hours comparing the LCD-3 and LCD-X, the X won over my ears with their punchy, highly resolving and neutral nature. But if you are considering headphones in this price range, the LCD-3 and the LCD-X are both are enthusiastically recommended. -Rob Johnson