Review: Audeze LCD-1 headphones – planars that don’t break the bank
How do these stack up to the company’s more expensive offerings?
If you’re familiar with Audeze, you’ll know that its flagship planar driver headphones can set you back thousands of dollars, so when we heard there was a new, relatively low-cost version coming out, the $400 LCD-1, we were immediately interested.
I mean the company has a long history of creating headphones for professional audio engineers and musicians, so to listen to one of their first created-for-home-use devices? I’m all in on that.
So, with that pedigree, just how much sound quality does $399 get you?
So, what’s it all about?
The Audeze LCD-1’s are made around the company’s 90mm planar magnetic drivers, which enables them to make the headphones more portable while still keeping audio quality intact. That portability extends to a foldable design, and Audeze includes a carrying case to keep your expensive headphones protected away from home.
They’re lightweight at 250g, and there’s plenty of padding on the pleather earcups, which adds up to personal comfort for the listener. Well, unless you’ve got big ears, in which case you kind of have to squish your ears into the cups when you first put them on.
The build quality is pretty good, with some flex when twisted between my hands but not enough that I felt the headband would crack at any point. You get a 2m sleeved cable with a 3.5mm jack, and an adapter to use with 6.35mm ports. Oh, and don’t worry about which way you plug the cable into the headphones, as they can figure out which one is left or right and adjust accordingly.
So, how do the Audeze LCD-1’s sound?
Okay, the first thing you need to know about any headphones using planar drivers, is that they scale incredibly well when giving them additional power. You’ll be fine with your laptop headphone jack, but if you want more power maybe something like the Helm AAAMP we recently looked at would be a good addition. Certainly using High gain instead of Low gain on the Schiit Magni Heresy we were using for most of our listening made a huge difference in how well the LCD-1’s reproduced sound.
The LCD-1’s are a new direction for Audeze, who has been known for a ‘dark’ sound signature. Dark in this case means a bigger boost to the low frequencies, so you get rich bass but kind of hidden highs. The LCD-1’s are warmer, with a small boost to that range, but the rest of the range is still very easy to pick up.
Throw on tracks you’ve heard a million times and you’ll hear new details that you’ve not noticed before. Heck, you might even notice how badly some tracks are mastered, they’re that good at picking out detail.
So, should I buy them?
If all you’ve heard in your life are muddy dynamic headphones from companies such as Bose, Beats or the ilk, absolutely put the Audeze LCD-1’s on your list for consideration. They’re fantastic for giving you the clarity needed to analyze your favorite tracks, and when paired with a quality amp, there’s plenty of boom for the bassheads out there. Just be warned – you won’t want to go back to dynamics.
They’re not perfect, but then not many headphones are even close to that, and all cost multiples of a thousand bucks. For $399, Audeze has created a monster for rocking out in.
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