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  • Reviews

    Audeze LCD-XC HeadphonesAugust is Headphone Month at Hifi Pig andso where better to start this series of reviewsthan with what must surely be one of the mostexpensive and talked about pair of cans on themarket today

    Price: 1.500

    http://hifipig.com

  • You cant explore the world of headphonestoo far without coming across the Califor-nian manufacturer Audeze sooner or later asthey seem to be just everywhere. Id been speakingto Jonathan Scull who handles the Audeze PR in theUS for a good while on social media and finallymanaged to get hold of a pair of their LCD-XC head-phones whilst at Munich High-End earlier this year.The 1500 (1799 USD) Audeze arrived in a wellpadded, moulded plastic carrying case that looks allbut bombproof and is a neat solution for transportingthe headphones from place to place. Along with theheadphones theres a useful quarter inch to minijackadaptor that I think thoughtful addition to the pack.The 2.5m cable attaches to each of the cans via amini XLR jack with a rugged quarter inch jack onthe amp end I believe a number of aftermarket al-ternatives are available for those looking to explorethis particular route. Overall this packaging reallydoes it for me as it is both practical and attractive inan industrial kind of way it certainly screams high-end. If you are buying these headphones youll alsoget a wood care kit, some warranty documents in thebox, plus you can also send away to Audeze and theywill supply you with a personalised frequency re-sponse graph for your new headphones.

    The LCD-XC are the second to top price-wise of theAudeze hierarchy and are the companies only closedback design. Like the HifiMan HE560s the Audezeare a planar magnetic design and they have a 38.9cmsq diaphragm. However, they are a heavy headphone

    tipping the scales at 650g which is considerablyheavier than any of the headphones we have in forreview. Appearance-wise the LCD-XC are BIG and,despite their luxurious Bubinga wood cups and lambskin earpads, their looks will certainly divide opin-ion I think they look pretty cool and have a retrosort of vibe about them. Needless to say at this pricepoint the Audeze headphones are for serious head-phone enthusiasts and whilst their closed-back de-sign certainly isolates you from the world and it fromyour music, Im not sure Id personally feel comfort-able hopping on the bus with them strapped to myhead but if you do Im sure youll get both the oddwhat the hell gawp as well as a few admiringglances. That said I did wear them pretty much non-stop for the ten hour train journey from Munich toParis and despite their weight I found them fairlycomfortable for the whole journey.The cans themselves are big and cover the whole ofmy ears and the earpads are very thick and very com-fortable indeed with no sense of them rubbing, itch-ing or becoming sweaty. The earpads are thicker atthe back than they are at the front in the same waythe HifiMan HE 560s areonly more so. They pressfairly tightly onto your head and to some extent yourface, but they do move around a bit when you shakeyour head about. The headband adjusts fairly simplyto the correct size and is pretty comfortable giventheir weight, though not as comfortable as some ofthe other headphones we have reviewed.

    Reviews

    The first thing thatgrabs you about theAudeze is the size ofthe sound, the secondis that you arecompletely isolatedfrom the outside worldand all you hear is themusic.

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  • The LCD-XC are 20ohms and have a sensitivity of95dB and seemed to be easy to drive, though I optedto use my reference headphone amp over the outputon the reference preamp. With the little HiSoundStudio portable player and our sons iPod they wentloud enough, but there seemed to be a little missingand Id suggest a good quality portable headphoneamplifier to be the order of the day whether at homeor on the go.The SoundThe first thing that grabs you about the Audeze isthe size of the sound, the second is that you are com-pletely isolated from the outside world and all youhear is the music. Theres certainly a good impres-sion of the soundstage and out-the-head feeling andinstruments sit within the mix as they should withfabulous separation and space. Id suggest the sound-staging is better than the Final Hope VIs which sur-prised me given the Audezes closed back design andI can only put this down to the fact the actual drivers

    are a way from your ears whatever, its pretty im-pressive.There seems to be a greater weight to the music withthese phones across the frequency range and pop-ping on David Crosbys Croz theres simply moredetail than with any of the other phones we have infor test. Drums have dynamism with the toms beingprecise and hard hitting, whilst bass kick hits andthen stops with no overhang. Bass guitar is tight,

    punchy and plays along with the drums to creategreat rhythm.Sonically on this kind of music its really hard tofault the Audeze LCD-XC and its difficult not toperhaps suggest that these are the best headphonesIve ever heardbut then that would make for apretty short review and theres an awful lot ofphones Ive yet to experience.Despite how gorgeously the Audeze phones play thelikes of David Crosby I found myself pulling loadsof harder edged rock from the virtual shelf. Therejust a feeling that the Audeze bring a dynamic feel tothis kind of music that really makes itrock. I knowthis is petty vague but, apart from the weight of thephones, you can forget to some extent youre wear-ing headphones at all. The grunge sounds of BushsEverything Zen is visceral and raw and this isdown to the way the LCD-XCs do dynamics. If youlike rock then youre gonna really enjoy these head-phones, just be careful about the headbanging asyoull end up with a severe case of HeadbangersNeck.Fleetwood Macs Songbird is one of the tracks Iuse to listen to how a bit of new kit puts out the feelof a rooms space as its recorded on a large stage inan empty hall and with the Audeze you get a reallygood sense of the space. Its not as pronounced aswith good loudspeakers, but then it was never goingto be. When the dry kick of The Chain (the nexttune on the record) comes in it sounds correct andwhen the rhythm section gets going theres speedand control displayed that drives the beat otherheadphones weve reviewed have speed and control,but I can honestly say its a notch above both the Hi-fiMan HE 560s and the Sennheiser HD800s with theAudeze in place.On electronic music the bass lines are deep, whilst allthe little intricate noises and effects come throughand then theres the kick drum which gets me tothinking perhaps the bass is a little over done onthese headphones. I toyed with this concept a goodwhile and came to the conclusion after listening toloads of tunes that its not over done, its just power-ful and the phones are capable of giving a greatsense of what they are actually playing across thefrequencies there just seems to be more of every-thing.ComfortThese are heavy headphones and you do know youare wearing them, particularly when sat typing I

    Reviews

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  • 24Copyright 2014 Hifi Pig

    found as I lean forward to look at the keyboardwhich led to a little neck ache, but theyre also prettycomfortable all-round when sat in your armchair.The headband is well padded and comfortable overlong periods (though not as comfortable as the Hifi-Mans nor perhaps the Sennheisers mentioned) andwhilst the cans are big and do press onto your face abit you get used to it.For long periods of listening I found the earpadswere very comfortable with no irritation as with theHifiMan HE 560s, but they were certainly less com-

    fortable than the Sennheiser HD800s over longer pe-riods. As with most things you lose with one thingand gain with another.Conclusion1500 is in most peoples book a good chunk tothrow down on a pair of headphones and yet the Au-deze seem to be selling very well, so clearly there arepeople out there who can justify this kind of expendi-ture.This is both an audiophile product and a luxe productand when thinking about them you need to keep thisin mind. The fit and finish is very good and theresthe attention to little details that set them apart fromthe competition.I suppose the question that needs to be asked is doesthe extra expenditure bring you a suitable increase inperceived sound quality and whilst Id suggest thattheres the dreaded law of diminishing returns com-ing in to play here, these are none the less a very,very good headphone indeed.Theres something almost unfathomable about theAudeze LCD-XCs that stands them apart from thecrowd. Yes they do stonking basslines with aplomb,but they also manage to temper this with being ableto be subtle where required. No one area of the music

    stands out and to me they seem almost perfectly bal-anced, giving a wonderfully musical experience.If headphones are your only source and you want thebest then you ought to audition these immediately! Ifyou dont have this kind of money to splurge thenthere are alternatives for you (look out for lots of re-views in the days to come), but be aware you may bemissing out on that nth degree of magic.Stuart SmithSound 9.25Comfort 8.00Fit and finish 9.00Value 8.00Overall 8.56Recommended for those wanting a nocompromise headphone listening experience.

    And now Linettes thoughts on the Audeze LCD-XCheadphones.

    I had been itching to get my hands on (and earsin) these headphones since we picked them up atMunich. They very much seem to be the audi-ophile flavour of the month and I wanted to find outfor myself if they lived up to the hype.They have a very different look to them than mostheadphones with their Bubinga wood cups and blacklambskin earpads, they look like they mean seriousbusiness, especially as they come in a very robustruggedized carry caseresembles something that

    Reviews

    Yes they do stonkingbasslines with aplomb,but they also manageto temper this withbeing able to be subtlewhere required.

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  • Ironman might use to take his butties to work.There is a definite air of manliness about them.Picking them up it was a case of whoa, these areREALLY heavy! (650g according to the Audezewebsite)I had visions of developing a neck like an F1 driverif I wore them for any length of timesurely thesewere headphones for big, beefy men, not a delicateflower like myself!Putting them on for the first time made me realisethat although they weigh a lot for a pair of head-phones, they are actually perfectly balanced and ex-tremely comfortable.Its kind of like having your head firmly hugged.The leather earpads are exceptionally soft and proba-bly the most comfortable I have ever felt on a pair ofphones. They sit nicely around the ears with nolobe crush or hard bits digging into you, plus theheadband is well padded and caused no discomfortand I could leave my glasses on without them beingpushed into the side of my head..I was impressed!It felt like sinking into your favourite, soft leatherarmchair..cocooning is probably a good word todescribe them.and I hadnt even turned the tuneson yet!

    So enough about how these feel, how do they sound?First impressions were great and I spent quite a bit oftime listening to tunes from my laptop, particularlymemorable was a stream of Carl Cox DJing at Spacein Ibiza ..I scribbled down the notes feels like anightclub on my head which just about says it all!On goes Hardfloors Once again back. This is mygo to track to test out a system, its especially tricky

    with deep sub bass, swirling 303s and skippy topend. It is a track that has the possibility to makethings sound terrible if they are not up to the job.With the Audeze the bass was dynamic and interest-ing, not just a splodge of soundgreat definition andthat proper in the music feeling.I really love Rudimental, their album Home gets alot of play here, I have a lot of respect for a dance actthat can play and sing live and have a real horn sec-tion.This is uplifting music, hands in the air time and Igot a big case of goosebumps listening to tracks likeFeel the love and Right Here. With the Audeze I

    got a sense of just wanting to sit and listen and notactually do anything else.I do love a bit of disco so appropriately Lost in mu-sic by Sister Sledge went on next. Driving bass,funky guitar and breathy, sweet vocals all soundedperfect. The sound stage with the Audeze is big and3 dimensional and I get the feeling that I am reallyhearing what I should be hearingthis almost asgood as listening to the main system to my ears.Still feeling the Nile Rogers vibe I put on GetLucky from Daft Punk. Again, funky and crystalclear Ive heard this tune many, many times butIm hearing things in the backing vocals that Ihavent heard ever beforefantastic detail.A bit of Gil Scott Heron and his Ghetto Style al-bum next and once again Im struck by the depth andclarity Im getting from the music, there is a real

    Reviews

    So have theseheadphones got it all?Well crafted, comfortableand incredibly engagingto listen toand thentheres the elephant inthe room the price.

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  • 27Copyright 2014 Hifi Pig

    sense of where each of the artists is playing or sing-ing in the soundstage and little nuances in the back-ing vocals and from the drums that I havent heardbrought out so well before.So have these headphones got it all? Well crafted,comfortable and incredibly engaging to listentoand then theres the elephant in the roomthe price.At around 1800 US$, and retailing around 1500 inthe UK, these are not cheap headphones by anystretch of the imagination.But have a think about it. Would you balk at spend-ing over a grand and a half on a pair of loudspeak-ers? Probably not. Probably, if you are an audiophile,you would be happy to spend quite a bit more thanthat.But what if you have a love of listening to your fa-vourite music, on your great hifi.and you haveneighbours who just dont share your enthusiasm?Short of becoming the vilified Neighbour FromHell what options do you have?And I guess this is where exceptional sounding, in-

    credibly well-made, expensive headphones come in.I wouldnt use these to walk about in, or go joggingin, they really arent made for that (for a start theIronman Lunchbox would be a bit inconvenient tocart about) I would wear them to sit down, chill outand get lost in music. Perfect playback of your tunes,from your desktop system or from your main hifi,even when you cant crank up the volume using yourspeakers.The Audeze LCD-XC certainly live up to the hype.Linette SmithSound 9/10Comfort 9/10Fit and finish 9/10Value 8/10Overall 8.75/10Highly recommended as an exceptionally wellmade extremely comfortable, enjoyable to listento headphone, for those wanting an alternative tousing loudspeakers in the home or who want thebest from a desktop system.

    Reviews

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