Audeze LCD-X was originally released back in 2013, and has since then it has been the best-selling Audeze LCD series headphones. It went through a couple of changes, but the 2021 version, that we’re reviewing today is a complete revamp.
What’s changed you’ll probably ask. Well, compared to the original LCD-X…basically everything has changed. The headband is now this suspension type, which is way better when it comes to ergonomics. Additionally, the magnets array has been reworked to reduce the weight of the headphone, while maintaining the highest possible quality. Additionally, the newest version is tuned differently, and it’s meant to eliminate the flaws of the original LCD-X, its uneven midrange performance. Nonetheless, instead of comparing it to the original LCD-X, I’ll be focusing more on the headphone itself, and how does it stand its ground in 2021.
Audeze has always been a great company when it comes to packaging, and it’s no different here. Now, the creators edition comes with an “economy case”, instead of plain white cardboard that you’ll find in the LCD2 Classic for example. This is a winner. While the case isn’t as premium or durable as the original Peli cases, it still provides brilliant protection and I’d choose it over the display box every time of day. It is well-padded and looks good with its minimalistic design.
Apart from the case, you’re not getting too many accessories, which is easy to understand having in mind the price of the new LCD-X. The only additional thing honestly is the cable, which is of great quality. It’s one of the best stock cables I’ve used in a while, providing a tangle-free, comfortable and sturdy experience. Other than that, you’re getting a warranty card and a manual. You’re not getting a lot of stuff, but what you’re getting is very high-quality and actually makes a difference. Brilliant.
Design and Build
Let’s get into the build quality and design. I have to admit, I’ve always been a huge fan of Audeze when it comes to these two things, and it’s no different with the new X. First of all, the design is industrial, elegant, and quite pro-looking. While the older versions of the LCD-X could have looked better thanks to the different, more glossy, and polished materials used, I definitely prefer the new version thanks to its weight reduction. The new suspension strap is looking great and it distributes the weight of the headphones very well, thus I’d really love Audeze to offer a carbon-fiber headband in the LCD-X as well. Not that the current aluminum headband doesn’t do its job…quite the opposite actually. It just would be a nice touch of refinement. You’re also getting that signature, legendary “A” on the grills, which is essential for any LCD series Audeze, and it simply looks stunning. I’m glad they haven’t changed it.
Now into the build quality. The LCD-X 2021 is everything you could expect from Audeze. It’s very robust, elegant, and definitely premium-feeling. The whole construction is metal, and the majority of it is painted in matte-black, which gives the headphones that stealthy and industrial look. The suspension style headband is one of the best changes Audeze has ever implemented in their products, as it distributes the weight of the headphones much better than the original one. Also, it isn’t as prone to create hot spots on the top of your head after wearing them for a while, and since it is still a heavy headphone at 612g, it’s a very important aspect of the design.
Last but definitely not least – you can choose between leather and leather-free earpads. Mine pair is leather, and I could tell that right away because of…the smell. It is definitely the best smelling pair of headphones in my collection. Of course, it is not as important as many other things when it comes to headphones, but it’s definitely a welcome treat to have. Who doesn’t like the smell of quality leather?
Audeze is and has always been all about planar-magnetic technology, hence every single pair of headphones in the LCD line uses that kind of a driver. Over the last few years, they’ve improved their technology and implemented some great technologies, such as the Fazor for example.
The driver that sits in the newest LCD-X has been revamped with a new magnet array to provide the highest possible quality while maintaining a lower weight to the design. I can definitely say that they succeeded, as I actually think that the LCD-X 2021 is a better headphone than its predecessor. The driver rates at 20ohms and 103dB sensitivity, which makes it fairly easy to drive. You can plug them into a basic amplifier such as JDSLabs Atom+, Schiit Magni, or basically any Topping/SMSL there is and you’ll get them to sing. You don’t need any more power than the amplifiers I just mentioned, and having in mind that some of them are around $100, this is definitely a good thing to have.
So, the original LCD-X wasn’t really a comfortable pair of headphones, mainly because of its weight and headband construction. Luckily, the 2021 version gets both of these things right. It is still a rather heavy headphone, but the overall design and the weight distribution are spot-on, as this is the most comfortable heavy pair of headphones I’ve used. Actually, I have absolutely no problems with wearing them for a few hours without fatigue.
The suspension-style headband works like a charm, and the earpads are big and soft, providing a superb feeling and great weight distribution. Also, the weight was taken away from the drivers themselves, which improves the weight distribution to the point of feeling just right.
Being around 100g lighter than the HEDDphone, you could expect the LCD-X to be on a similar level when it comes to ergonomics, but it is very far from the truth. The HEDDphone is far more fatiguing to wear over longer periods of time, mainly because of its headband construction. Audeze, you made it.
At the beginning of this review, I stated that the LCD-X 2021 has been greatly improved when it comes to its tuning compared to the original LCD-X. See, the original one was a great headphone in many ways, but it had one, major problem – the midrange. It just sounded off and unnatural, and its pleasant overall tone couldn’t have saved it.
Nonetheless, I’m happy to report that the LCD-X 2021 is a totally different headphone when it comes to its midrange performance. But more on that later.
Let’s start with the bass, shall we? It’s an Audeze headphone at the end of the day, so you’d be expecting a great bass response…and you’ll definitely get it here.
The low frequencies are both big and well-controlled, to the point that this is one of the (if not THE) best bass performances I’ve ever heard in this price range. Have in mind though, that it’s not your typical planar magnetic bass, it has a slam and body that is more reminiscent of a good dynamic driver pair of headphones. Another thing worth mentioning is that the bass extension is excellent, easily reaching 20hz. Having all that in mind, I must note that the bass performance on the new LCD-X 2021 is simply brilliant.
As I said before, the midrange is where the new LCD-X differs the most when compared to the original LCD-X. It is one of the most neutral and natural sounding mid in all of LCD series to date. The original one was warm, dark, and a bit veiled in the midsection, which is not the case in the 2021 version at all.
Thanks to that change, we now get a much better sense of openness, better definition, and more natural vocal presentation. It actually reminds me a bit of the LCD-4, which was brighter and more accurate sounding than its predecessor – the LCD-3.
You’re still getting that Audeze-house-sound in some way, as the whole sound is thick and really saturated, but now it is tuned more accurately and simply better, which helps with detail reproduction and a better sense of resolution.
Let’s get into the treble. The LCD-X 2021 has a slightly warm and delicate treble performance, but it does this without sacrificing the technical capabilities. The treble extension is spot-on, resulting in very coherent and detailed high frequencies that are never sibilant or exaggerated. This is one of the most known aspects of a typical Audeze sound, and I’m really glad that it’s present in their newest iteration of LCD-X. Honestly, this is one of the best treble presentations you could get – really detailed and natural sounding, yet not too extreme nor piercing. It could have never been achieved with a dynamic driver, as you really need that typical planar resolution and highly-textured sound to achieve that kind of treble response.
Last but definitely not least is the soundstage. Audeze has always been known for its pretty accurate, yet rather intimate staging capabilities, and it’s no different with the X 2021. While focusing solely on its size, the X 2021 is definitely nowhere close to the biggest staging headphones on the market, even around its price bracket, like HD800s or the Arya. The LCD-X 2021 has a rather medium-small soundstage, that’s still highly accurate and lifelike sounding. It is more of a presentation type, and it’s always been that way. Some people would find the staging of something like HD800s exaggerated, too big, and unnatural, and that would be totally fine. Different soundstage sizes suit different music genres better, and the LCD-X is a brilliant staging pair of headphones for genres like jazz or acoustic music. If you’re listening to a vocalist with a single acoustic guitar in the track, you don’t really want those acres of space around them, as it would not sound really convincing nor natural.
What matters though is that the imaging and separation are splendid, of course, what you should expect from a $1000+ pair of open-back headphones. While its soundstage presentation will surely not fit everybody, I can’t rate it anything less than terrific.
Another thing worth noting is that the LCD-X 2021 isn’t really a demanding pair of headphones when it comes to amplification. It sounds just about right with my JDSLabs Atom Amp+ and XIAudio Broadway S, and an additional power that comes with the SMSL SH-9 or the LittleDot MK III SE doesn’t really change them that much. For sure, they do scale quite well with better equipment, but you don’t have to spend big to get them going.
Vs Final D8000 Pro
This comparison isn’t 100% fair as the price difference ($1199 vs $4299) is huge, but both are regarded as pretty “high-end” when it comes to headphones, so let’s do it anyway.
While the technical performance is vastly different, their tuning is really different, and that makes this comparison really interesting.
First things first though – the D8000 Pro is better at detail retrieval, it has even better imaging and the overall quality is higher, but you definitely could expect that.
The LCD-X 2021 is a rather relaxing and pleasingly tuned headphone though, compared to that lightning-fast and superbly extreme sound of the D8000 Pro. Having all that in mind, I actually use them just about as often, and that should show you a bigger picture. Listening to the LCD-X 2021 after the Final flagship is an adventure into a more calming and romantic sound, with a sacrifice to its raw technical performance.
What’s probably the most interesting – I find the LCD-X 2021 more comfortable, even though they are definitely heavier. However, they simply hug your head and are more pleasing to the touch, while the D8000 Pro has a higher clamping force and their earpads are nowhere as comfy and plush as the ones in LCD-X.
Okay, this is probably the most interesting comparison here. Both the HEDDphone and the LCD-X 2021 are big, heavy, and marvelously detailed. They do trade some blows though, even though the HEDD is $1999 compared to the LCD $1199. What’s even more impressive, is that I called the HEDD the best high-end value in the headphones world, which shows how good the LCD-X 2021 is.
Let’s start with the detail retrieval – surprisingly, they are just about the same in this regard. Both are flawlessly detailed both in micro and macro scale, providing a very crisp and high-fidelity sound. Where they do differ is in the specific frequencies.
Long story short – the LCD-X 2021 has a better bass presentation in my opinion. It’s punchy, crisp, fast, and very detailed. The HEDDphone’s bass isn’t bad in any way, don’t get me wrong, but it does sound a little bit mushy and not too dynamic from time to time. With the X 2021, the bass is always just as it should be.
The midrange is quite similar here, as both sound natural, lush and their resolution is terrific. The HEDD tends to have a little bit more body in the upper-midrange section, so if you’re a fan of those shiny, forward-sounding female vocals, that could be your deciding factor.
The treble is probably where the biggest difference starts to show. While the LCD-X 2021 sounds soft and very pleasing in the upper frequencies, the HEDDphone is shinier, more forward, and crispier sounding. It’s not harsh or unpleasant sounding though, as the resolution of the entire HEDDphone is better than the LCD-X 2021, thanks to that wonderful AMT driver. Having in mind the price difference, I must admit that both the LCD-X and the HEDDphone are very, very impressive, and you can’t go wrong with either.
Comparing the 2019 fazor version of the LCD3 to the new LCD-X 2021 shows us one thing – Audeze is really stepping up their game. What has once been their flagship headphone, is now struggling in comparison to their new, more budget-friendly planar LCD headphone.
Actually, I’d say that the X 2021 is superior to the LCD3 in many regards. It’s faster, more detailed, crispier, and better tuned.
While the LCD3 is still a great pair of headphones for people that like that warm, dark, and very lush sound signature, the LCD-X is simply better in technical capabilities, and its tuning is more universal and neutral. Of course, the LCD3 is a true craftsmanship gem, feeling more luxurious and definitely more expensive than its younger brother, but it sacrifices those factors for comfort. The suspension strap type of headband found in the LCD-X is much more comfortable and better at weight distribution, giving us a more enjoyable and more comfortable feel. You can’t really go wrong with having both, but if you’d have to choose one, I’d definitely recommend the LCD-X 2021. It is much more universal, has better technicalities, and what’s the most important – it’s way cheaper. Great job Audeze.
In comparison to the Final D8000 Pro, I said, that the price difference is quite big so it’s not entirely fair. Well, it’s not always the case, and this one confirms that just perfectly. The Crosszone flagship, the CZ-1 is 2x more expensive than the LCD-X 2021 at $2500. Yet, it is by far the worse of the two, being completely destroyed in every single aspect of the sound.
The bass in the LCD-X 2021 is much more coherent, better controlled, riched, and more detailed. The midrange is just miles ahead, as the CZ-1 has this weird reverberation to it, that simply doesn’t sound right. Treble, once again, is way better in the LCD-X 2021 thanks to its resolution, energy, and detail, which the CZ-1 lacks in comparison.
The Audeze LCD-X 2021 is a universal, detailed yet pleasant-sounding pair of headphones, and at $1199 it is a no-brainer when compared to the $2500 CZ-1. It’s so much better, costing so much less, that it actually makes me question the existence of the latter.
Audeze has created a monster of a headphone with the new LCD-X 2021. It does just about everything right, with its great packaging, excellent and industrial build to a highly detailed and pleasant sound performance. We don’t yet have a recommendation list here at Ear Fidelity, but if we did, the LCD-X 2021 would have been one of the easiest headphones to put on it.
At the $1199 asking price for the creator package, it is frighteningly close to being the perfect headphone for the money. Can’t think of any +/- $1000 pair of headphones that I could recommend with such ease. Fantastic job.
Gear used during this review for the sake of comparison and as an accompanying equipment:
- Headphones – Hifiman HE1000se, Final D8000 Pro, HEDDphone, Audeze LCD3, Crosszone CZ-1
- Sources– SMSL SU-9 + SH-9, JDSLabs Atom + stack, Little Dot MK III SE, XIAudio Broadway S, Ayon HA-3, Transrotor Alto TMD + Phasemation PP-200