Welcome back to Golden Ears, our column focused on the world of high-end audio and what makes it special to the people who love it. Today, we’re looking at the Audeze LCD-GX Gaming Headset, a Golden Ears gaming headset if ever there was one. Coming in at $899, this may be the highest-end gaming headset on the market. What exactly makes this headset worth just shy of $1000 when so many can be had for a fraction of the price? Let’s take a closer look and find out.
- Current Price: $899 (Amazon)
- Style: Over-ear, open-back
- Transducer type: Planar Magnetic
- Magnetic structure: Single Fluxor™ magnet array
- Phase management: Non-Fazor
- Magnet type: Neodymium N50
- Diaphragm type: Ultra-thin Uniforce™
- Transducer size: 106 mm
- Maximum power handling: 5W RMS
- Maximum SPL: >130dB
- Frequency response: 10Hz - 50kHz
- THD: <0.1% @ 100dB
- Impedance: 20 ohms
- Sensitivity: 100 dB/1mW (at Drum Reference Point)
- Minimum power requirement: >100mW
- Recommended power level:>250mW
- Weight: 454g
- Audeze LCD-GX Headphone
- Professional Travel Case
- 8ft long cable with Microphone (1/8" TRRS connector)
- LCD series standard cable without Microphone (1/4” TRS connector)
- Audio adaptor - OMTP to CTIA (Reverses the mic and ground connection)
- Splitter (1/8" TRRS to dual 1/8” TRS connectors for audio and microphone)
- User guides, Warranty cards
Overview and First Impressions
Audeze isn't like most audio companies. Unlike Bose or Sony, Audeze is a small company that specializes in making boutique, high-end planar magnetic headphones. They don’t come cheap. With the bulk of its line-up made right here in America, it’s headphones range from $299 to just under $4000. As you might imagine, Audeze doesn’t usually target your average gamer with prices like that and instead focuses on the audio enthusiast with a heaping helping of disposable income. At the same time, it’s products — even the cheaper ones — are widely regarded as some of the absolute best you can buy across each price tier. It’s a company that pushes innovation in fundamental areas, such as its Uniforce drivers or Fazor wave-guiding technology, or delivering world first products like the iSINE 10, the first-ever IEMs to incorporate planar magnetic drivers. Audeze has products across the spectrum of “expensive” to “super expensive” but lives and breathes the air of a TOTL brand.
That isn’t to say Audeze hasn’t targeted gamers in the past. In December, we reviewed its Penrose wireless gaming headset (that would be the $299 option above) and found it to be one of the best-sounding headsets we’d tried. Back in 2018, it released the Mobius gaming headset ($399), the first to our knowledge to incorporate full 360-degree head tracking with Waves Nx technology. So what makes the LCD-GX so special that it warrants more than double the price of the Mobius?
The first thing to know is that this is a very different headset from the Mobius or Penrose. In fact, it’s much closer to the company’s high-end audiophile headphones than either of its gaming headsets or even the LCD-1 I reviewed back in September. It’s in the name: LCD. That’s the line of Audeze’s most popular headphones — the ones that go all the way up to $3995 — and you can see the relationship with only a passing glance.
The LCD-GX are big, all-encompassing headphones. The earcups are circular and feature big open backs with woven red metal behind grilles formed into Audeze’s “A” logo. It’s not audacious branding, and if you didn’t know it was Audeze, you would just think it was a cool design. The cups are made of metal. The yokes are made of metal. The adjustment bands, you guessed it, metal. It features a floating headband design made of leather punched with holes for breathability. The cushions are also big and plush and feel exactly as luxurious as you would hope at this price point. The design here is impeccable in both comfort and robustness and should anything break, virtually everything appears to be user-replaceable.
Inside the earcups is Audeze’s patented driver system. Like the company’s higher-end audiophile sets, the LCD-GX features a single-sided Fluxor magnet array and ultra-thin Uniforce Drivers. You can read more about it here, but the short version is that Audeze has taken the traditional planar magnetic driver system — a thin diaphragm traced with a conductor that’s held in a magnetic field — and customized it to reduce distortion and improve clarity. It does this by varying the thickness of the conductor based upon the strength of the magnetic field, leveling out (or unifying) the amount of force applied to each part of the diaphragm. The magnets have also been customized to deliver a much stronger magnetic field compared to traditional magnet array, allowing the headphones to deliver a greater degree of control over how that driver is moved, providing more detail to the listener.
The drivers themselves are also massive. At 106mm, they tower above most drivers found in gaming headsets. This allows them to deliver a huge sound with full, deep bass with crispy detail across the entire frequency range. Combined with the open-backs, they also deliver a spacious soundstage that is absolutely perfect for gaming but enhances all listening.
Speaking of gaming, what about that? That’s what we’re here for after all with this gaming headset. Included in the box — which is a full-on pelican case with custom foam cut-outs — are two cables. One is a standard 6.35mm ended cable perfect for connecting to an amplifier. The second adds a boom microphone to the mix for Discord or for your Zoom calls and it sounds good with nice body. . The tuning on these headphones is good for all-around listening, which I consider a very good thing. At this price, you want a headphone you can disconnect the mic from and use for any kind of entertainment and they’re simply phenomenal for that. They do have a fun tuning; bass is punched up some, but the detail and realism they deliver is simply excellent.
One important thing to note is that you don’t need an amplifier to drive these headphones. Audeze designed these to get reasonably loud even when plugged into an Xbox controller or a standard motherboard. That said, they scale very well if you have dedicated listening gear. I jumped between listening from my Xbox controller, to my desktop PC with my Schiit Asgard 3 DAC/amp, to running from the front panel of my office workstation. Only my cheap work PC had trouble running the LCD-GXs.
All of that said, these are not a headset designed for your average gamer. Hold your gasps. At $899, this is clearly a headset designed for audiophiles who also happen to be gamers, not the other way around. For folks like you and I, it wouldn’t make sense to spend this much on a headset just for gaming. If you’re already into the headphone hobby and want a “cost effective” way to break into Audeze’s upper-tier headphones, this is a good way to buy into the ecosystem.
Fit and Comfort
The LCD-GX is an exceptionally comfortable headphone. At 454 grams, you could reasonably say that they’re big and bulky (despite being trimmed down from some of Audeze’s other headphones in the LCD line) but they don’t feel it. The adjustment system and headband work wonderfully well to evenly distribute the weight of the headphone and prevent hotspots. I’ve been able to wear them for 6 hours at a stretch without any discomfort whatsoever.
The grip force and pad density also work well to make them comfortable to wear around the ears. I do wish Audeze had opted for a hybrid pad, however. The full leather cushions did trap heat and cause my skin to sweat when it got warm in my office. They do enhance bass, however, but I would be willing to EQ to reduce the trapped heat in longer summertime gaming stretches.
Listening and Use Impressions
The make or break section: how do they sound? The LCD-GX is, without question, the most realistic and immersive gaming headset I’ve ever heard. Period.
Now, the counter to that is “they’d darn well better be at that price” and you’d be right. At this price, you should expect nothing less than amazing sound, so allow me to elaborate. I tested them with single-player open-world games, competitive shooters, tons of music, Netflix, to record some sample files using the microphone. I’ve been lucky enough to listen to a number of headphones in the $500-1000 range but these are easily the best for gaming due to their detail, sense of space, and impact. They are incredibly impressive and a ton of fun.
The first time I plugged them in, I went right into my Xbox Series X controller and honestly didn’t expect much. Planars tend to require a lot of power to sound their best, but when I sat down to play Red Dead Redemption 2, I said “wow” out loud. The plains opened around me, yet Arthur’s voice was right in my ear, gravely and more detail than I’ve heard on a gaming headset. It was as if there were a real person talking right by my ear. The level of realism was completely unexpected and a big enhancement to my immersion in the game.
Those big drivers and open backs provide a wide soundstage that lets everything breathe. I highly recommend using these with a spatial solution like Dolby Atmos because it kicks the realism into high gear. The best way to describe the effect is that everything sounds right where it should. The birds in the sky sound far and vertical. The horse’s hooves thumped below me. I could track the rabbit racing away from directly in front of me straight through its arc around me through the bushes and away. I found myself stepping into the woods and just letting the camera circle around so the sounds of the forest would circle around me. The imaging and positionality is simply excellent.
This also applies to competitive games like CoD Warzone. You’ll have no trouble picking out exactly where those footsteps are coming from with the LCD-GX, even in the middle of grenade spam. The sound here is so big that the drivers never get overwhelmed and blend sources together. You’ll hear those footsteps just as clear as if it were silent. This can provide a real competitive advantage because you’ll hear the enemy coming and be able to pick them out before you can even see them.
But let’s pull back to the actual sound. The LCD-GXs have the kind of bass that planars are known for. It’s big, wide, and full. At the same time, there’s lots of detail within. The bass response is fast and punchy, so explosions and gunshots have the appropriate amount of slam and resonance to make them sound real and energetic. This also lends music a wide low-end that makes music sound big. NF’s “My Stress” never sounded so big and the thump of the kick drum punches right through. Tom MacDonald’s “Church” has bass you can feel the vibration in.
Vocals are intimate. Like Arthur in Red Dead Redemption 2, human voices stand front and center and come through with pristine clarity. You can hear the rasp in male voices like Brandon Hart or the almost liquid quality of Adele. For Discord, the voices of your friends will come forward over the mix of your game so you’ll have no trouble keeping up with the conversation.
The detail these reveal is next level, even compared to something like the Anandas. This is the first headphone I’ve heard that makes certain poorly produced tracks hard to listen to. If an artist is using a low-quality sample (like the snare in Brandon Hart’s “Dealing With”) you’ll hear the quality difference. Thankfully, when it comes to gaming, that’s usually not an issue.
Turning to the microphone, I was honestly very impressed. It’s substantially better than most gaming headsets. It isn’t the best at rejecting background noise but has a full-bodied, natural sound most gaming headsets lack. In a pinch, you could use it for streaming. As always, however, if a desktop mic is an option, that will still deliver the best results.
At $899, the Audeze LCD-GX isn’t going to be for most normal gamers. Frankly, there are great headsets you can buy multiples of at this point. But, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t in love with these headphones. They’re not only the best gaming headset I’ve ever heard, they might be the best headphone period. If you’re an audiophile looking for a headset that won’t make you compromise on quality, whether you’re playing a game, listening to music, or binging Netflix, this headset will deliver. No, it’s not designed for the masses, but it’s hard to imagine anyone in those masses being less than blown away by what it delivers. This is a “wow” headset if ever there was one.The product described in this article was sent on loan for evaluation purposes.