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Audeze LCD-1 Review

An audio odyssey

Christopher Coke Posted:
Category:
Hardware Reviews 0

Audeze is one of the legendary brands in the audiophile world. It’s known for its exquisite planar magnetic headphones which usually carry an exquisitely high price tag. Today, we’re looking at the LCD-1, the company’s latest and most accessible music headphone yet, but with solid low-end and tons of detail, you might just find this to be a good all-arounder to take with you throughout the day. Let’s take a closer look and find out what makes this headphone tick.

Specifications

  • Current Price: $399 (Audeze, Amazon)
  • Style: Over-ear, open-circumaural
  • Transducer type: Planar Magnetic
  • Magnetic structure: Single-sided Fluxor™ magnet array
  • Phase management: Fazor
  • Magnet type: Neodymium N50
  • Diaphragm type: Ultra-thin Uniforce™
  • Transducer size: 90 mm
  • Maximum power handling: 5W RMS
  • Maximum SPL: >120dB
  • Frequency response: 10Hz - 50KHz
  • THD: <0.1% @ 100dB
  • Impedance: 16 ohms
  • Sensitivity: 99 dB/1mW (at Drum Reference Point)
  • Ear Pads: Memory foam, genuine lambskin leather
  • Weight: 250g

The LCD-1 isn’t the first Audeze headphone we’ve reviewed here at MMORPG. Back in 2018, we looked at the Mobius, an innovative gaming headset with full 3D motion tracking. Later in 2019, the company partnered with HyperX and we enjoyed reviewed the Cloud Orbit S, which was similar to the Mobius but wired only and substantially cheaper. Those reviews were eye-opening in more ways than one, but acted as my personal introduction to a brand I would continue to head about in the upper echelon of headphone manufacturers ever since. That’s surprising, because many of their headphones sell for well over $1000. What, then, is the story with the LCD-1, which comes to market at “only” $399. 

While I put that in quotes, we should make no mistake that $399 is both very expensive for a consumer-grade headphone but also on the low-end of what Audeze currently offers. It’s a tight-rope act Audeze has to perform, balancing out features and quality while not also eating into the marketshare of its more expensive siblings. Thankfully, Audeze has pulled off that balancing act very well.

I’ve never tried one of Audeze’s more expensive headphones, but unboxing the LCD-1, there’s no sense that this is Audeze’s “cheap headphone.” In fact, the experience feels delightfully premium. The headphones come in a nice two-part box that opens to reveal a cardboard envelope with a welcome letter and credit card-like Certificate of Authenticity. Under that is a very nice semi-hardback case. The inside is trimmed in a velvety material to keep the headphones safe and also features a mesh pocket to hold the six-foot braided cable. The entire unboxing experience feels very high-end and fitting with the still-high cost of these headphones. 

The cans themselves are made mostly of plastic but feel resilient.There’s no creaking when putting them on or adjusting them. The ear cups are also hinged for easy storage and rotate to lay flat around your neck. They also offer a decent amount of flex, so should be a good fit for small to large heads. The earcups use memory foam cushions trimmed in lambskin leather to better isolate sound and bring up bass frequencies. The same is true of the headband. Combined with the low 250g weight, the LCD-1 avoided hotspots on the top of my head, which is often a problem for me with heavier headsets.

When it comes to comfort, these headphones are real winners. The grip force is just enough to create a comfortable seal without causing soreness over time. The use of durable plastics also allowed the weight to remain low enough that I could almost forget I was wearing them if it wasn’t for the pleasant warmness around my ears. The earcups are on the smaller side, so if you have big ears, you might find them to be a touch small. I wouldn’t recommend wearing these outdoors on a hot day, but even in a warm room with a single small fan, they didn’t cause me to sweat.

This is because the LCD-1s use an open-back design, which allows sound (and warm air) to escape out the back of the earcups. While this may make them a hard sell if you don’t want other people to hear what you’re listening to, it’s great for improving the perception of space in what you’re listening to. This also makes them a good fit for gaming over a traditional closed-back headphone. 

When it comes to sound, the LCD-1s are wonderfully controlled and offer a lot of dynamic range. You’ll be able to cleanly here fine, quiet details and in a second swap to loud, driving guitars and percussive drums. In games, it’s the quiet before the storm, the ambient noise before the boss pull when the action finally explodes. This makes them a lot of fun, first of all, but also speaks to the clarity of Audeze’s planar magnetic drivers. 

Planar Magnetics are still an uncommon driver type in mainstream headphones, but are renowned for their ability to deliver powerful, tight sound while still maintaining fine detail. The drivers Audeze used here are big, 90mm units with ultra-thin Uniforce diaphragms. This pairs with the Fluxor magnets, allowing for that high dynamic range without fear of distortion even at high volume levels. 

Audeze has tuned these drivers for a studio reference sound. They don’t overly color what you’re listening to and present it the way the sound engineer intended it to be heard. Planar Magnetics are known for their bass response, and I would describe these are full and controlled. Sub-bass rumble is there but it doesn’t hit in a visceral way like other planars might. Instead, it provides a thick, tight bedrock for the music and game sounds to lay on top of.  

For my listening tests, I tried the LCD-1s connected straight to my Note 20 Ultra with a 3.5mm adapter, as well as connected to a dedicated DAC/amp, the Xduoo XD-05 Plus. Listening to Coheed and Cambria’s In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3, the squealing, wah-driven guitars might sound sibilant on headphones with less high-end detail, but they came through perfectly clear and sharp as intended. The chunky rhythm guitar definitely shook the headphones a bit, which surprised me since it’s not a bass-heavy song. 

Later, listening to Eminen’s Sing for the Moment, the layering capability of the headphones really showed through. The opening strings, clean guitar, and bass were all pristine. In the verse, the lingering guitar extended through the soundscape, giving a great sense of distance and further showed that while these cans might not be bass bangers like some others, it’s definitely enough for even hip hop, lending kick drums a nice thump.

For gaming connected to my PC, I loved them in Battlefield V. The planars were excellent in the cacophony of sound of shattering glass and exploding grenades. Even through all of the clatter and bombast, I could still make out footsteps well enough to catch enemies making their way up the stairwell. In World of Warcraft, the soundstage made the trip from Elwynn Forest to Stormwind very atmospheric.

Finally, a note on power. The LCD-1s can sound great connected to most devices. With an impedance of 16 ohms and a sensitivity of 99 dB/1mW, they’re not hard to run, but definitely sound their best with a strong source behind them. Connected to my amp, the sound seemed to tighten up and the dynamic range improved. Even a modest amp will offer improved response, but isn’t a requirement to enjoy these headphones

Final Thoughts

For $399, the Audeze LCD-1 won't be for everybody, but they remain a stellar pair of headphones. If you're looking to step up your audio, be that music, gaming, or anything in between, this is an excellent way to do it. 

The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for the purpose of review. 

9.0Amazing
Pros
  • Lightweight and comfortable
  • Very good sound stage
  • Solid bass with lots of detail
  • Well priced against Audeze's wider catalog
  • Moderately easy to drive but respond well to power
Cons
  • Still quite expensive
  • Open-back design allows sound bleed, in and out


GameByNight

Christopher Coke

Chris cut his teeth on MMOs in the late 90s with text-based MUDs. He’s written about video games for many different sites but has made MMORPG his home since 2013. Today, he acts as Hardware and Technology Editor, lead tech reviewer, and continues to love and write about games every chance he gets. Follow him on Twitter: @GameByNight