Audeze (Aud-ez-e) sent over a pair of their LCD-1 headphones and I’ve been trying them out over the last week or two, and this is what I think about them…
The LCD-1’s are a pair of open-back headphones, aimed at studio users, musicians, and audiophiles alike. They include an open circumaural design, which is meant to provide an enhanced transparency and sound stage. Each can includes a 90mm over-ear Planar driver, with something Audeze are calling Ultra-thin Uniforce Diaphragms and Fluxor Magnets.
The headphones arrive in a sturdy, black, premium feel cardboard box and that premium vibe, sort of, continues with the contents too. The headphones come in a hard carry case and include a 3.5mm aux lead and quarter-inch adapter too. The headphones come wrapped in clear plastic, plus two layers of white foam within the case, which somewhat takes away from that premium experience. That being said, the case feels sturdy and there is a lovely, thick, braided aux lead that you use to plug into your audio source. You also get a signed certificate of authenticity and a letter from Audeze, which is kinda cool.
The headphones themselves have a mostly black finish to them, with the odd hint of gunmetal. Plastic casing, with metal inner headband, spongy faux leather headband, and thick memory foam earcups to each can. The headphones fold in on themselves for easy storage, each earcup can rotate by just over 90-degrees and there is a fair amount of flex across the whole thing. They are also fairly lightweight too at just 250grams.
These are traditional wired headphones. There is no Bluetooth function and there are no buttons on the headphones or the provided cable. There is just a single 3.5mm input to each can. It’s a little surreal, considering the number of headphones we test, that Audeze has brought it back to basics and it’s refreshing. However, it is a shame there is no volume control built into the headphones or in-line within the cable.
For those unaware, open-back headphones allow air to pass through the cup to the driver inside. This reduces the chance of pressure building up, thus affecting the sound. That’s good but it does come with its drawbacks, mainly being that open-back headphones are not very good at blocking out external sounds. Good for internal studio use, bad for walking around London with the taxis and buses honking all day.
Using the LCD-1’s for the first time, you instantly know these are the real deal and targetted towards more than just your average consumer. First track down, they’re warming up, as are my ears, and adjusting to the difference between these and some high street brands (although they’re still good too!) I initially thought the audio was a little flat, but no, that was just the track, and as I continued listening on, switching devices and tracks, oh BOY!
They offer a very spacious soundstage, with near on pinpoint accuracy of a crash cymbal to the left, ride cymbal to the right, and everything else in between. The strum of an acoustic guitar, you can really feel it and I love it. They offer a rich, crisp, natural sound, which really helps you get an accurate representation of the instruments and vocals used on the track. Bass? Yeh it’s present, there’s a punch from them and it’s balanced well with the other frequencies.
I’m quite enjoying listening to the difference in studio production and the quality achieved, and I’m impressed with what some local bands and engineers are producing in the UK, compared to award-winning, limitless budget artists. It’s also easy to hear the difference between high and low-res audio.
Sure, you can use these with your phone, your Ipad or your computer and it will sound good but it won’t bring out the best of the LCD-1’s. To really utilise their performance, you should really plug these into an amplifier and listen to high resolution audio files, and not your standard 48Khz, 96-bit music file. There are many ways of doing this, the old school way via the amplifier and disc/vinyl, but also streaming services are now offering hi-res or better than usual audio files. 7Digital, HDtracks, Tidal and even Amazon Music HD, offer up hi res quality for some of its content.
On your ears, the headphones are very comfortable to wear. They are over the ear, ear cups, and surround your entire ear. This helps isolate the external audio, as well as the comfort factor. There is no active noise canceling provided with these. I say on your ears, as the headband part that sits on the top of your head could be more comfortable. The headband is adjustable, so you can slide each cup up and down to find a comfy fit.
The headphones fold up well and sit snug within the carry case. There is also a small mesh area with a velcro part that will hold the cable and adapter well. The cable is long, circa 6ft, it’s thick and braided, so should stay tangle-free.
If you’re the average Joe consumer, using these on your commute or whatnot, you may find the lack of Bluetooth connectivity off-putting. Why? How many smartphones include headphones ports?
It’s not that often I try a pair of headphones and start hearing some of my favorite tracks in a new light. “But, that backing harmony wasn’t their before and that guitar lick sounds the bomb, what trickery is this!”. I can’t get enough of the LCD-1’s, they’re comfy to wear for hours upon hours and the quality is very, very good.
They currently retail for $399, so they’re not cheap and they may have outpriced themselves with the average consumer but for professionals, musicians, and alike, I don’t think you’d be disappointed and when you hit that professional level, the RRP is not bad at all.
For more info and to purchase, head over to the official Audeze LCD-1 webpage.