The newest edition to Audeze’s Reference line-up is smaller and more affordable than any Audeze headphone that has come before it. The LCD-1 is $399, foldable, and looks very different from the original LCD-1 that debuted in 2009. Let’s see what Audeze has learned after 10 years in the headphone business, in the Audeze LCD-1 Review.
Audeze LCD-1 Review
Though the name pays tribute to the headphone that started it all for Audeze, the new LCD-1 departs significantly from some of Audeze’s familiar design conventions. Gone are the mammoth earcups and neck soreness typical of the LCD series. Instead, the earcups on the LCD-1 are so small they almost look like on-ears. But I’ll get into that later.
The LCD-1 uses a combination of memory foam and genuine lambskin for the headband and earcups, which are both very comfortable. The headphones themselves are made of plastic, which feels less premium than the LCD-2 or LCD-X, but much lighter.
The 3.5mm cable is cloth braided, and comes with a 1/4″ adapter. The cable connects to the headphones via two interchangeable 3.5mm ports, which means you don’t have to sort out left from right when plugging the cable in. I have no idea how Audeze accomplished that, but bravo.
The box includes a small carrying case that fits the folded LCD-1 perfectly. I can’t get over how portable these are, especially considering that other LCD models come with a suitcase-sized flight case.
The LCD-1 uses 90mm planar magnetic drivers; significantly smaller than other LCD-series drivers. The reduction in size does have an impact on the sound, which I’ll get to below.
The impedance is only 16 ohms, but I would still recommend using an amp. Standard listening volume for me was about 75% of max going straight into my iPhone. So bypassing an amp is possible, but not ideal.
I know I keep saying it, but the LCD-1 are so much smaller and lighter than any other LCD headphone, it’s almost comical. But the LCD-1 still seems small compared to even a normal-sized over-ear. If the earcups were any smaller, they’d be on-ears. If your ears are larger than average, the LCD-1 might actually rest on the pads themselves instead of between them. Luckily, the LCD-1 was perfect for my head. I anticipate no neck soreness here.
While it may be tempting to think of the LCD-1 as the “LCD-X Jr.”, that’s not quite accurate. The reduction in driver size gives the LCD-1 a very forward and energetic sound signature all of its own.
The LCD-1 brings strong bass presence, but not as strong as its older brothers. It has more bass than the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro, but less than the Sennheiser HD 660 S (two slightly more expensive open-back competitors I had on hand). The LCD-1 is tight, bubbly, and grippy in the low-end, but missing the ultra-low chunk I’ve come to expect from Audeze. The leanness of the build quality is reflected in the sound profile.
The midrange is front and center on the LCD-1. Vocals are forward with an up-close, intimate presentation. Imaging in this range is superb, but I wouldn’t call it neutral. The LCD-1 has more midrange presence than the Hifiman HE5se; about in line with the HD 660 S and the DT 1990. But what sets the LCD-1 apart is how close everything feels. There isn’t much spaciousness… it’s more like everything has been zoomed in. Vocals panned left and right sound like singers sitting on either shoulder, whispering right into your ear. And it doesn’t feel overcrowded, or untastefully boosted the way certain intimate IEMs can feel. Audeze strikes a remarkable balance here.
The high end is a bit rolled off, though not as much as the HD 660 S. In fact, listening to the LCD-1 in isolation gives the impression of a perfectly balanced high-end. It’s only after jumping to Beyerdynamic or Hifiman that the LCD-1 reveals itself as a warmer sounding headphone. It’s really only the ultra-high sparkle that is missing; if you prefer a warmer character overall, you won’t be missing a thing on the LCD-1.
Let me be clear here: the soundstage is great, but it isn’t expansive or wide. It is deep, detailed, and layered. But that feeling of sonic closeness stops the LCD-1 from giving you the “look around the room with your ears” feeling that wide soundstages will give you. Instead it feels like you can look up and down, left and right, and see all the details a few inches from your nose.
What the hell am I talking about?
The LCD-1 sounds great, and competes with reference headphones $100-$200 above it’s own price point. It’s a middle-ground between the low punch of the 660 S, and the high sparkle of the 1990. It trades an expansive soundstage for some incredibly revealing details that get up close and personal. If you need reference headphones that are 1) neutral yet exciting 2) a little in-your-face and 3) comfortable and portable, the LCD-1 are a great buy.
Pros- Balanced yet energetic sound, great imaging and detail
Cons- Soundstage isn’t very wide, slight high-end rolloff.
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