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Audeze LCD-X Over Ear Open Back Headphone Review

Robbo99999

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I really think you should listen to more headphones without seeing measurements, even if just borrowed /swapped with friends. Don't limit yourself to those close to Harman as stock. This isn't the same as electronics. They don't sit on your ears.

Edit You'll also rule out the hd800(S) coming up, which would also be a shame.
I don't think there's a massive amount of value in listening to lots & lots of headphones at stock because their frequency response varies so much from one model to the next that I think it would be like finding a needle in a haystack in terms of finding one that matches your HRTF. I think there's value in trying a few respected examples from certain types of headphone though, and I think there's value in EQ and experimenting with EQ to try to find something that matches closer to your HRTF and therefore closer to what reference speakers would sound like to you.

I have 3 quite different headphones that I've based my experience on, two open backs (AKG K702 & Sennheiser HD600) and a closed back (NAD HP50), which is a pretty good selection in terms of the two open backed headphones being quite different experiences even when EQ'd to the same curve, and then you've got the contrast of a closed back headphone that has really quite low bass distortion as well as great bass extension, and I've experimented with different EQ's on all of them....and I keep coming back to the Harman Curve for all of them, yet they all offer different experiences which is the main learning point that headphones do not sound the same even when EQ'd to the same frequency response.....they have very similar tonality but differ "spatially" and have different amounts of clarity overall and sometimes different amounts of clarity in specific sections like bass or treble. AKG K702 has been the best experience so far with fantastic imaging and a speaker-like feel rather than the "in-your-head" feel of HD600, so K702 is my favourite headphone now, all EQ'd to Harman Curve like I've said. I compare the sound of my headphones to my Harman Curve Room EQ'd JBL 308p Mkii speakers, so I do have a reference to compare against if you will.

I think the main gap for me to try in future would be a planar headphone, but really I'm super happy with the K702 after my experiences I've outlined.

EDIT: and to answer your question I definitely wouldn't rule out the Sennheiser HD800S, I mean I'm not gonna try it because it's too expensive, but it doesn't deserve to be ruled out because it has a fantastic reputation amoungst some experienced people here & elsewhere and has some great qualities, plus the frequency response is relatively easily fixed because it doesn't have massive deviations (unlike the headphone in this review), here you can see it can be brought back into line quite easily:
https://www.dropbox.com/s/zsp3jucy5lsty0m/Sennheiser HD800S.pdf?dl=0
 
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Jimbob54

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I don't think there's a massive amount of value in listening to lots & lots of headphones at stock because their frequency response varies so much from one model to the next that I think it would be like finding a needle in a haystack in terms of finding one that matches your HRTF. I think there's value in trying a few respected examples from certain types of headphone though, and I think there's value in EQ and experimenting with EQ to try to find something that matches closer to your HRTF and therefore closer to what reference speakers would sound like to you.

I have 3 quite different headphones that I've based my experience on, two open backs (AKG K702 & Sennheiser HD600) and a closed back (NAD HP50), which is a pretty good selection in terms of the two open backed headphones being quite different experiences even when EQ'd to the same curve, and then you've got the contrast of a closed back headphone that has really quite low bass distortion as well as great bass extension, and I've experimented with different EQ's on all of them....and I keep coming back to the Harman Curve for all of them, yet they all offer different experiences which is the main learning point that headphones do not sound the same even when EQ'd to the same frequency response.....they have very similar tonality but differ "spatially" and have different amounts of clarity overall and sometimes different amounts of clarity in specific sections like bass or treble. AKG K702 has been the best experience so far with fantastic imaging and a speaker-like feel rather than the "in-your-head" feel of HD600, so K702 is my favourite headphone now, all EQ'd to Harman Curve like I've said. I compare the sound of my headphones to my Harman Curve Room EQ'd JBL 308p Mkii speakers, so I do have a reference to compare against if you will.

I think the main gap for me to try in future would be a planar headphone, but really I'm super happy with the K702 after my experiences I've outlined.

EDIT: and to answer your question I definitely wouldn't rule out the Sennheiser HD800S, I mean I'm not gonna try it because it's too expensive, but it doesn't deserve to be ruled out because it has a fantastic reputation amoungst some experienced people here & elsewhere and has some great qualities, plus the frequency response is relatively easily fixed because it doesn't have massive deviations (unlike the headphone in this review), here you can see it can be brought back into line quite easily:
https://www.dropbox.com/s/zsp3jucy5lsty0m/Sennheiser HD800S.pdf?dl=0

I would suggest the FR "defects" of the 800 aren't too different in magnitude (or real world effect) to the LCD X. And you are right, EQ those 2 cans to the same target and you will still have a very different experience with each. Based on what I have seen here, the Hifiman Ananda might be a good planar for you to look at- well regarded and good FR- but not cheap!

EDIT- OK the LCD X whomping 3.5k dip shits all over the 800S 6k peak (and even the older HD800 fairly huge 6k peak). Barely a pimple in comparison. Im still going to stick to my guns and say you should try some EQ Audeze if you get chance.
 
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3125b

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OK the LCD X whomping 3.5k dip shits all over the 800S 6k peak (and even the older HD800 fairly huge 6k peak). Barely a pimple in comparison
Well, that's one ... very visual way to put it. Now I can't unread it :)
The FR of the LCD-X is very unusual indeed, almost like an antithesis to the Harman target, I can't imagine it sounding very pleasant with most kinds of music. The HE-35X I own, wich is also very far off the Harman target (though in a different way), doesn't work too well for me personally with anything but some kinds of electronic music.
 

Degru

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CSDs of all kinds are super complex to understand and produce. Be very careful in looking at them. People fall in love with the prettiness of the 3-D graph. The value is not there.


This is easy to run but getting meaningful results is fleeting. Reason is that the frequency response of the headphones varies a ton and that makes the 32-tone amplitudes all over the place. As such, you can't compare one headphone to another. We don't have that problem with electronics because frequency response is ruler flat.

I have spent days running different distortion tests. Acoustic products are very different animals and hard to characterize this way.
I think it is still useful to have the measurements. Possibly put them under some second "at your own risk" section after the main review. Having a more complete data set is worth more than trying to simplify headphone performance down to one or two graphs for the masses. The extra data may not give useful info to the inexperienced, but it can give a better idea of what the headphone is doing for those who can interpret it.
 

Blujackaal

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Bit odd how all LCD line up need EQ just to sound fantastic?. Is this just a planar tech issues or they just don't put effort to tune them.
 

Robbo99999

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I would suggest the FR "defects" of the 800 aren't too different in magnitude (or real world effect) to the LCD X. And you are right, EQ those 2 cans to the same target and you will still have a very different experience with each. Based on what I have seen here, the Hifiman Ananda might be a good planar for you to look at- well regarded and good FR- but not cheap!

EDIT- OK the LCD X whomping 3.5k dip shits all over the 800S 6k peak (and even the older HD800 fairly huge 6k peak). Barely a pimple in comparison. Im still going to stick to my guns and say you should try some EQ Audeze if you get chance.
That Ananda is too expensive, if at some point in the future I become serious about trying a planar I'll be looking through Oratory's frequency response graphs to find one that's not too outrageous that can be efficiently EQ'd and I'd correlate that with measurements for distortion (& other stuff) on for example diyaudioheaven and check at other review sites that it doesn't have any dealbreaker flaws (like manufacturing defects or something), then I'd go ahead & order it & try it out. I'd also try to find some pointers in reviews that point to imaging, openness....because I know I like that speaker-like quality in the K702 that I have, so any planar headphone would have to have the same or better spatial qualities whilst adding the positive benefits of planar to that. I've learned I can't skimp on that spatial speaker-like quality.
 

Degru

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Bit odd how all LCD line up need EQ just to sound fantastic?. Is this just a planar tech issues or they just don't put effort to tune them.
Their tuning just kinda sucks. There are certainly other planars out there with fantastic tonality (including Audeze's own Sine closed back) so it's not a tech issue. Of the big boy LCD's, the LCD2C is probably the most pleasant sounding one subjectively. It measures pretty close to the others, but manages to sound merely laid back instead of dark and oppressive from my experience. I just wish they didn't use crappy pleather on the pads and headband that decays after 2 years..
 

FrantzM

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Broken product? Bad design?
I had a LCD2,I did like it’s bass reproduction. In those days, I didn't care about EQ, it wasn't something for "real" audiophiles :facepalm: ... I came in a few weeks to fiund myself wanting for more, in the other part of the spectrum... HiFiMan, first the 400, then the HE560 and finally the HE6 provided what I was yearning for, even without EQ.. With EQ? Different ball game :D.. I like what I hear with the Harman Curve... Discovered EQ through ASR , by the way.
Thanks ASR People! I am enjoying my headphones and am letting go of a bit of Audeze fixation, I did regret until this review, selling the LCD-2...no longer.
 
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phrwn

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If headphones now need to be used with manufacturer-provided EQ, will we see active DSP headphones soon? Or is it already a thing with those true wireless earbuds.

I remember Creative SXFi comes with preinstalled EQ for different headphones...
I think it's happening with some Bluetooth headphones. I recall a Zeos video on the new wireless Grado's. He said they have built in DSP which elevated them to the best Grado's he's ever heard. With it switched off they were abysmal. He reckoned built-in DSP is the future of headphones. (No comment on Zeos here, just remembered it in relation to your question).
 

Jimbob54

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I think it's happening with some Bluetooth headphones. I recall a Zeos video on the new wireless Grado's. He said they have built in DSP which elevated them to the best Grado's he's ever heard. With it switched off they were abysmal. He reckoned built-in DSP is the future of headphones. (No comment on Zeos here, just remembered it in relation to your question).

For wired cans, I would far rather them build and ship them as close as they can to the sound they want and suggest EQ or build plugins like audeze. I wouldnt want a world where bluetooth hp became synonymous with "better".
 

FrantzM

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let's not think or make of DSP, a panacea, Poor design or drivers will not be cured by any amount of DSP... Get the fundamental right.
 

majingotan

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I'd also try to find some pointers in reviews that point to imaging, openness....because I know I like that speaker-like quality in the K702 that I have, so any planar headphone would have to have the same or better spatial qualities whilst adding the positive benefits of planar to that. I've learned I can't skimp on that spatial speaker-like quality.

Headphones don’t image nor have openness like speakers. Why not EQ a planar like how would K702 stock would sound like then you’ll have similar spatial perception of the imaging and openness that you prefer. Even this LCD-X should have a similar spatial perception if EQed to K702’s stock EQ. My CA Andromeda IEM is tuned to have a dip at 4KHz (anti-harman target ) which contributes to that openness spatial perception you perceive with K702
 

maverickronin

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For wired cans, I would far rather them build and ship them as close as they can to the sound they want and suggest EQ or build plugins like audeze. I wouldnt want a world where bluetooth hp became synonymous with "better".

And "passives" have a huge reliability advantage too. A pair of headphones doesn't just sit on you desk like a pair of active studio monitors. They get put on, taken off, and occasionally knocked around or dropped.

Plus once the likely custom sized lithium cell is worn out you'll probably be over a barrel.

10 years or so ago now Jerry Harvey had a prototype IEM with DSP crossover from a dedicated 6 channel DAC/amp but he got in patent fight with UE. UE won and have completely sat on the idea while JHA only shipped a handful of their pre-orders before they got C&D-ed.

That would probably be a little easier to repair since it's at least bigger.
 

pwjazz

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While I applaud Amir considering adopting a headphone measurement rig to round out what ASR is capable of, given the number of other headphone measurement sources available (mentioned in the thread) I would prefer products measured where others are lacking. ie Speakers and amplifiers. I would prefer to somehow see a consistent DSP/room correction assessment method deployed, if practicable.

I strongly agree. Unlike the other ASR content, from which I learn a lot, I learned literally nothing about the LCD-X that I didn't already know from other sources, and in particular the single frequency distortion measurements at only a single SPL aren't very useful.
 

Helicopter

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I strongly agree. Unlike the other ASR content, from which I learn a lot, I learned literally nothing about the LCD-X that I didn't already know from other sources, and in particular the single frequency distortion measurements at only a single SPL aren't very useful.
I learned a lot, and if the headphone reviews are easy, they seem like a good use of some time, especially for the important models like this, Hd800s, Clear.

Is there a better way to visualize harmonics than a single frequency?
 

martin900

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Could it be the Audeze is meant to be used with a PEQ? I know ROON already has Audeze EQ presets built in.
By the way, regarding Hifiman, their planars have 2-3 year lifespan (lackluster QC) so make sure you have good warranty.
 

Degru

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And "passives" have a huge reliability advantage too. A pair of headphones doesn't just sit on you desk like a pair of active studio monitors. They get put on, taken off, and occasionally knocked around or dropped.

Plus once the likely custom sized lithium cell is worn out you'll probably be over a barrel.

10 years or so ago now Jerry Harvey had a prototype IEM with DSP crossover from a dedicated 6 channel DAC/amp but he got in patent fight with UE. UE won and have completely sat on the idea while JHA only shipped a handful of their pre-orders before they got C&D-ed.

That would probably be a little easier to repair since it's at least bigger.
How did they win? Using DSP crossovers on multiple drivers is hardly a new idea.. just smaller in this case.
 

maverickronin

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How did they win? Using DSP crossovers on multiple drivers is hardly a new idea.. just smaller in this case.

I don't really know all the details but I think it had something to do with leaving and/or being forced out of Ultimate Ears (which he founded) to start JHA instead.
 

Helicopter

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I don't really know all the details but I think it had something to do with leaving and/or being forced out of Ultimate Ears (which he founded) to start JHA instead.
Makes sense. He could have had individual contractual onligations that went way beyond patent law.
 

Blake Klondike

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"As for speed, it seems people confuse lack of bass with speed. Yes, if you take away the bass notes, the sound is flatter and seems to linger less. But that is just a frequency response error, not any kind of speed thing. "- amirm

Amen, this.

Does the idea of "speed" for headphones even mean anything, or is it just a parameter the magazines made up so they could add a paragraph to their reviews?
 
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