There are certain things we expect to hear when using a pair of open-backed headphones. And if an open, well-balanced and supremely detailed soundstage is what you covet from a pair of home audio over-ears, then the Audeze LCD-1s could be the for you.
We don’t see many open-back cans designed to be so easily portable, but that’s a nod to Audeze’s intention for the LCD-1s to be used in the studio as well as at home.
The company’s decades of experience making products for professional musicians and audio engineers are clearly evident in terms of build as much as sound quality.
So their foldable earcups and lightweight design – they weigh only 250g – is coupled with plenty of padding for extra comfort during long listening or producing sessions.
There’s memory foam in both the earcups and on the headband and, though not everybody’s ears will fit snugly, the LCD-1s are just tight enough to hold on without clamping the sides of your head.
Inside are Audeze’s 90mm Planar Magnetic drivers, which promise to deliver frequencies from 10Hz up to 50kHz with flawless clarity, with patented Fluxor magnets and Uniforce voice coil creating fine-tuned and (claimed) distortion-free audio.
The LCD-1s are assembled in Audeze’s factory in California, and each driver is precision-crafted by hand, which should mean a keen eye for detail and decent quality control. Certainly, if all pairs feel and sound similar to our test unit then you can be sure you’re getting your money’s worth.
Style Over-ear, open-circumaural
Max power 5W
Frequency response 10Hz - 50KHz
Impedance 16 ohms
In the box, you’ll find a travel case and 2m-long 3.5mm to dual 3.5mm cable. A 6.3mm adaptor means you can use these Audezes with just about anything with a headphone output.
We use ours with an array of sources – from plugging straight into a laptop to pairing with the Award-winning Chord Hugo 2 DAC – and the higher the quality recording you feed the LCD-1s, the higher quality they give back.
After a good bit of running in, you’ll want to afford them some decent quality files because you’ll hear each corner you cut.
Audeze evidently takes the needs of its pro customers seriously, because the LCD-1s major hugely on detail and resolution. It helps that there’s so much space to work with – an impressive amount even considering the open-back design – and instruments are placed so definitely within it.
When done well, such as Audeze has managed here, this combination of space and insight can feel like a museum of audio, allowing you to walk right up to each sound and inspect it, or just move back and take it all in as a whole.
You can do so without interruption from any annoyances, too. The presentation is tonally balanced and as open at both ends as the engineering promises. There are no coarse frequencies coming to attack, and the bass is lean and insightful.
We can have few complaints about timing either. It isn’t absolutely the most accurate we’ve heard, but the LCD-1s are certainly capable of making enough sense of both simple and complex rhythms for it not to be a worry.
Our main issue is with dynamics and punch. There is a slight lack of feeling to the performance, with drive and impetus often losing out to analytical insight. It’s entirely understandable given Audeze’s studio intentions, and there are plenty who prefer their hi-fi to show intricate details over energy.
However, the presentation is just too reserved for us to be desperate to put the LCD-1s on – it’s a more pensive listen than an outright entertaining one.
There’s a lot to be said for how the LCD-1s allow you to analyse the music. If that’s what you require of your hi-fi, then Audeze has created a pair of headphones well worth a listen – especially if you’re hoping to use them for a bit of mixing as well.
- Sound 4
- Comfort 4
- Build 5
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