Audeze LCD-1 review: timeless planar headphones

If you start to be interested in the world of personal sound, then the amount of information necessary for assimilation can go crazy. Because there are a lot of types of these very headphones. At the same time, there are headphones that, without a second thought, can be called modern, but there are those, looking at which you involuntarily ask yourself: does time exist at all?

The heroes of today’s review are just like that. And several moments are connected with this very timelessness. It all started with the company itself.

Audeze has an interesting history: the first pair of headphones was released in 2009. It was the LCD-2 model. The company developed the LCD-1, but only something went wrong and they did not go on sale. Ten years later, a model with the same name finally appeared. The founders do not directly say whether they are related to the LCD-1. It is likely that this is just a name to fill in the gap and answer the question: if there is a second model, where is the first?

Another point is the type of headphones itself. They are magneto-planar. This technology was invented more than forty years ago, but never found the opportunity to become mainstream. As a result, the stores were filled with dynamic headphones with light inserts of compact “fittings”. The first ones are inexpensive to manufacture, but at the same time not very reliable in terms of sound transmission – the reproduced frequencies can “lag” when played. This often applies to the bottom. The second ones work out the sound much faster, but it’s just quite difficult to swing the bass in them. Because of this, many manufacturers come to the combination of “fittings” and “dynamics”.

I won’t talk about electrostatic ones at all – this is a very specific, narrow and insanely expensive topic.

But back to the “planars”. They are believed to sound better than conventional dynamic headphones: the sound is more balanced and detailed. But there is a problem with such models: the price is justified by the cost and the time spent on the development of these headphones.

Technology, in fact, began to revive more than ten years ago. And the responsibility for this is primarily assigned to Audeze. The company is pushing hard on its headphones, making them more affordable. And the LCD-1 is just such a model. But first things first.

Design and equipment

Everything is stylish here. Box:

Cover:

Headphones themselves:

The main material is plastic. But it doesn’t feel like something cheap. And this is good, since such headphones are quite expensive.

The ear cushions and headband are made of memory foam. She is covered with the skin of a lamb. On the official website, it says so directly: “genuine lamb leather.”

The headphones are not very heavy – 250 grams. However, they are relatively compact and fold easily. True, they won’t fit into a pocket, but while traveling, they will definitely take up less space in a suitcase or in a backpack.

They also have a detachable wire braided fabric.

“Wait, what? Are they wired? ” – you ask. Yes, wired. There are no bluetooth, noisy devices, FM-radio, they cannot call, send faxes, there are no all these newfangled youth pieces. They’re just headphones with a 3.5mm jack. By the way, he detaches, clinging to each cup with exactly the same “jack”. You can connect it however you like, but the right side of the mix will always be on the right and the left on the left. Actually, this is one of the facts of timelessness.

The wire is nice, it somehow miraculously manages not to get tangled. But there is a small problem with it: length. It is very large for portable headphones – two meters. Yes, I didn’t make a mistake: for portable ones, which I’ll tell you about below.

The grille on the ear cups is a signature family feature of the open Audeze, which makes these headphones easily recognizable regardless of price point.

Convenience: Audeze LCS-1

The headphones sit nicely, but after a while there is a feeling of increased pressure in the head – a slightly palpable ringing appears in the ears. And then it dawned on me that I don’t really understand why these headphones are called open, because the tight fit to the ears is a feeling of pressure, the materials of the ear pads are all from closed ones.

Probably, it will help me to replace the complete ear pads with third-party velor, if there were any. My personal Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro has similar ear pads. Fortunately, these “Odisi” have them easily replaced:

There is only one problem: I could not find any spare pair in other stores. Hope to be available soon.

In general, the headphones turned out to be very comfortable – the ears do not sweat from the skin of the lamb, they easily fit into the ear pads, and with active and swinging playing the instruments they do not fall off, confidently holding onto the head.

I am specifically talking about playing with these headphones. Because music, from the point of view of its creators, is very demanding on sound. And, unfortunately, no modern wireless technologies can help here. First of all, I’m talking about delays: you pull the string, and the sound is delayed. At the initial level of the musician, minimal delays are still tolerable, but for professionals this is crazy.

Secondly, sound quality and detail are important – you have to hear every finger movement on the strings to improve your playing and find new, more accurate ways of sound production.

Device

LCD-1, despite its compactness, received large planar emitters with a diagonal of 90 mm. They were created using the company’s own developments, such as a diaphragm called Uniforce. Very thin aluminum lines are applied to it. On either side of the diaphragm is the Fluxor magnetic system.

The headphones also use Fazor stator gratings, which are necessary for the controlled magnetic field generated by Fluxor. As a result, depending on the incoming current, this whole system attracts or does not in any way affect the metal lines applied to the diaphragm, which makes it vibrate. And this already leads to the fact that the headphones sound.

All this clever design is necessary for detail, as much as possible reduction of unnecessary harmonics, and also for a relatively flat frequency response.

Sound: Audeze LCS-1

It’s not for nothing that I called LCD-1 portable headphones. The fact is that such a label can be hung on them due to the low impedance, which, according to the passport, is 16 ohms with a sensitivity of 99 dB / 1 mW. That is, such headphones will rock your smartphone without any problems, regardless of its model.

Here are some other technical information:

Maximum input power5W RMS
Sound pressure level> 120 dB
Range10 Hz – 50 kHz
Harmonic distortion factor<0.1% @ 100 dB

I listened to the headphones simply by plugging them into the computer, then connected them to the iPhone, through the Schiit amplifier, and after that I turned towards my Motu M2 sound card.

These headphones will not be understandable for bass lovers. It is not smooth here in a modern way, so it may not seem enough to someone. Because of this, the “planars” have the impression that they are weak at the bottom. I don’t think so, and during my days with the Audeze LCD-1 I came to the conclusion that more bass is not needed – it is transmitted very accurately.

The sound on the computer and the amplifier didn’t really suit me. But with an iPhone and a sound card – the top. There was a clear lack of low end on the computer, the amplifier added unnecessary harmonics and mixed the sound into something mushy if a lot of instruments were playing at the same time, or, on the contrary, there was too much free space like some kind of fast jazz.

With my Motu M2, the headphones sound neutral, with a sufficient amount of bass, and with an iPhone, it’s straightforward, and without using any equalizers. I listened to various sources: mp3, streaming services, FLAC, and also tested it on my own mixes.

The groove that appeared with the iPhone is primarily associated with more bass.

With headphones, you can hear many of the mixes. For example, the Mixer has modulation applied to the bass, which makes it sound wider than usual. Somewhere you will hear the movement of your fingers along the strings. Often, songs are built on such great nuances that only a select few can hear. And I dare say it is very pleasant to belong to this circle.

Conclusion: Should you buy Audeze LCS-1?

These headphones fascinated me. For several days now I have been listening to them, then my personal Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro, not understanding which of them I like more. And I wanted to keep both pairs for myself – LCD-1s are too cool.

It just so happens that these are the cheapest full-size Audeze headphones. LCD-1 are officially sold for $399. You can look for discounts with this link. And at least it says that these headphones are far from the entry level.

They will appeal to people with a passion for music, who, for example, want to hear Matthew Bellamy’s teeth clattering on Muse’s Black Holes and Revelations, or the subtle movement of his fingers along the strings. They will appeal to those listeners who want to understand how each of the played notes of the same pitch differs. They will be appreciated by musicians for accurate sound reproduction depending on their articulation.

These Audezes are definitely not for those who like bass that overshadows all other frequencies. Well, simply because this very excessive bass is not here. Lovers of a wide stage will not appreciate these headphones either – they sound rather narrow.

At the same time, LCD-1s are not very pretentious to the sound source – low impedance allows you to listen to music on a smartphone, taking headphones with you. And it turns out that these Audeze are suitable for music lovers who want to listen to music on the road without disturbing others. True, they, like me, will be discouraged by the excessive cable length, which somehow I want to reduce from two meters to an acceptable 1.2.

By the way, they will soon start selling Audeze Penrose – wireless headphones for gaming with minimal audio latency, uh, I’m also waiting, waiting, waiting. Well, Mobius was an attempt to create a kind of platform for 3D sound based on magneto-planar headphones. While playing the game, you clearly understand the sound picture: a door creaked behind, a shot far ahead, but someone quietly sneaks up and it’s time to shoot. But it only works with a PC, requires configuration, requires BELIEVE in what is happening, and I’m not surprised that after trying it, Audeze decided to simplify the accessory for games as much as possible: they forgot about Mobius.

Well, Audeze Penrose is a completely different story. The headphones will be available in two versions: the first for the Xbox One, Xbox Series X | S and PC, the second for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, PC and Mac. 100mm planars, minimum latency, studio quality microphone, $ 250 cheaper than Mobius and much easier to understand for a wider audience. I will be testing with PS5. I think that with these headphones a lot of money will be made in Audeze, God bless us all. 

When LCD-1 was formed in the editorial office, it was time for great audiophilia. We wrote these texts in parallel with Ilya and did not share our impressions. We listened in turn on different sources – I was surprised how great they sound with an iPhone, even when paired with Apple Music. The musical picture unfolds easily, freely and you immediately think about perversions – I even got the AudioQuest DragonFly out of the storage box, it got even better with amplification. And this is the essence of any Audeze headphones: you can seriously pump the sound of your smartphone, but if you want to move on, try subscribing to TIDAL, install Vox and get FLAC, try some little pribluda like DragonFly. You can upgrade your laptop or computer. Either way, you can move on with these headphones!

There is only one thing that worries me now. Before the pandemic, beautiful headphones for SOUND were sometimes bought by people, far from this very sound – a person accidentally entered a music store, listened to a dozen different models and the purity, lightness, airiness of LCD-1 performance could help with the choice faster than the words of the consultant. But in the current conditions, people may be looking for something else: headphones with noise canceling, without a cable, with a microphone, so that it is more convenient to sit at zoom conferences and skype meetings. The pandemic dictates its own rules, and now there is no time for big headphones. That’s all right.

I think so. If you were looking for a review of the LCD-1 on the net and were already convinced that you would buy this model for your music and pleasure – do it, get a charge of positive vibrations. But don’t try to use Audeze as a universal tool, such a number will definitely not work.

7.7 Total Score
Impressive

If you were looking for a review of the LCD-1 on the net and were already convinced that you would buy this model for your music and pleasure - do it, get a charge of positive vibrations. But don't try to use Audeze as a universal tool, such a number will definitely not work.

Build, Design & Comfort
8
Performance
8
Speed & Dynamics
7.5
Stage & Imaging
6
Timbre
7.5
Default Tuning
8.5
Tuning with Reveal + Plugin
9
PROS
  • Compact.
  • Light and perfect for mobile.
  • Glass clear and neutral sound, with live bass reproduction.
CONS
  • The bass rolls off early and the soundscape is not as fine-meshed and refined as the reference.
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