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Manufacturer: Audeze LLC.
Price (in Poland): 6.450 PLN

10725 Ellis Ave, Unit E
Fountain Valley, CA 92708


Product delivered for test by:

t's been already almost 2 years since I received Audeze LCD-3 for a review and ever since I've considered them the best pair of cans I had a chance to listen to in my system. Me getting these headphones for a review was a result of a few factors. First of all other planar-magnetic cans, HiFiMAN's had dragged me into headphone world which any of „regular” dynamic cans couldn't really have done before that. Secondly after reading some reviews of LCD-3 I just thought „it might be IT for me”. As ridiculous as it might sound I trust my instincts a lot when it comes to audio equipment. Back then we had no distributor in Poland, so I had to ask manufacturer for a review sample. This took a long while but as it turned out LCD-3 were really worth waiting for! These Audeze cans were exactly what I'd expected them to be – outstanding performance combined with beautiful fit and finish. They were not that perfect – they were quite heavy and they required a powerful, high performance amplifier to drive them properly. OK, the latter feature can't be really called a weakness, it is rather some sort of a rule in a high-end world – one wants high-end performance one has to build a system of high-end devices. Ever since that review LCD-3 have been my private reference I compared all other cans to. Even though I reviewed some very good headphones Audeze still remained in my system not only as a reference device but also as my personal favorite.

At that time Audeze offered two models – LCD-2 and LCD-3 – both were so good, so appreciated by a very demanding fast growing market for cans that Audeze had to focus on their production and building a distribution network. But they obviously realized that even such a huge success wouldn't last forever. So they worked on some improvements to existing designs and on some new ones too. Finally last year they presented 2 novelties. First of them was a model called LCD-X, that landed between LCD-2 and 3 on Audeze's portfolio. The design was similar to previous ones – an open back design – but at the same time more durable one, with aluminum (instead of wooden) capsule housing. Wood might be more elegant, nicer looking but especially over some time of usage it is more susceptible to damages. Another, even more important change, was higher sensitivity and change of impedance which made these cans much easier to drive. Last but not least with this model Audeze introduced a technology called FAZOR (introduced at the same time also to older models) which in fact are an acoustic wave-guides assemblies attached to the magnets. They help guide and manage the flow of sound in the headphone. The result is, as claimed by manufacturer, improved phase response, greater frequency extension, smoother frequency response, and remarkable 3D holographic imaging.

At the same time Audeze presented also another new model called LCD-XC, where „C” stands for „closed back”. All the Audeze, and planar-magnetic cans fans were very excited – that was to be the first closed-back model of that type. Until this moment all manufacturers – HiFiMAN, Audeze, Oppo – delivered only open back designs. Surely open back design has its advantages but there is one thing that in some situations might be considered a flaw – part of the sound „escapes” outside so if there are any other people close by they are forced to listen with us. Closed back designs are used mostly in studios – one might say that it is a design originally intended for professional use. But since music fans started to listen more and more music in public spaces such designs that significantly limit „sound leakage” became more and more popular especially that they also offer a better isolation from outside world, hence better sound perception. Obviously using them at home also brings some advantages – one can listen to the music without disturbing other family members. It takes one look to realize that it is rather unlikely to use Audeze outside. Not only do these cost quite a lot but also are quite large an heavy which makes them rather useless for outdoor usage.

But still even having these cons in mind ever since I learned about that model, even before I read first reviews, I was somehow convinced that I should be interested in this particular Audeze novelty. Again it took a while to get a review sample – this time reason was different, I'd approached manufacturer asking for them but got a response that they were just finalizing an agreement with a Polish distributor. The lucky company chosen was a headphone specialist, Warsaw based AudioMagic. Even when the deal was made it still took a while as Polish headphone fans waited so long for availability of this brand in Poland that their demand had to be satisfied first. So in fact my first contact with LCD-XC happened during HighEnd show in Munich. They were driven by a new Bakoon headphone amp. Obviously exhibition is not the best possible place to assess any audio product but still what I heard there only confirmed that these were fantastic cans, another Audeze's great achievement. All I could do was to wait (impatiently) for my review sample.

Recordings used during test (a selection)

  • Renaud Garcia-Fons, Arcoluz, ENJ94782, CD/FLAC.
  • Isao Suzuki, Blow up, Three Blind Mice B000682FAE, CD/FLAC.
  • Whitesnake, Starkers in Tokyo, EMI Music B00000IGV9, CD/FLAC.
  • Miles Davis, Tutu: Original Recording Remastered 2011 Deluxe Edition, Warner 081227976873, CD/FLAC.
  • AC/DC, Live, EPIC E2 90553, LP.
  • Rodrigo y Gabriela, 11:11, EMI Music Poland 5651702, CD/FLAC.
  • Wycliff Gordon, Dreams of New Orleans, Chesky B0090PX4U4, CD/FLAC.
  • The Ray Brown Trio, Soular energy, Concord/Pure Audiophile PA-002 (2), LP.
  • Might As Well: Persuasions Sing Grateful Dead, Arista B0000YLNN, CD/FLAC.
  • TREME, soundtrack, Season 1, HBO 0602527508450, CD/FLAC.
  • Lee Ritenour, Rhythm sessions, Concord Records CRE 33709-02, CD/FLAC.
  • Kermit Ruffins, Livin' a Treme life, Basin Street B001T46TVU, CD/FLAC.
  • Pink Floyd, Wish you were here, EMI/EMI Records Japan TOCP-53808, CD/FLAC.
  • Dead Can Dance, Spiritchaser, 4AD/Mobile Fidelity MOFI 2-002, 180 g LP.
  • Miles Davis, Sketches of Spain, Columbia PC8271, LP.
  • Dire Straits, Communique, Vertigo 800 052-2, LP.
  • Carlos Santana, Shaman, Arista 74321959382, CD/FLAC.
  • John Lee Hooker, The best of friends, pointblank 7243 8 46424 26 VPBCD49, CD/FLAC.
  • Buddy Guy, Blues singer, Silvertone 01241-41843-2, CD/FLAC.
  • Muddy Waters & The Rolling Stones, Live At The Checkerboard Lounge, Chicago 1981, Eagle Rock Entertainment B0085KGHI6, CD/FLAC.
Japanese CD editions are available from

As I already mentioned new Audeze models brought also a new technology (implemented at the same time in older models) - FAZOR. There is a picture on Audeze's web page that presents exactly what this solution is about. If you look at it you will find something that might seem small, insignificant – just an acoustic wave-guides assemblies attached to the magnets that are supposed to „guide” soundwaves. In Munich I had a chance to listen to a new version (including FAZOR) of LCD-3 and even considering their open back design combined with exhibition's „treats” (ambient noise and so on) I still thought they sounded different from my older version – more precise and bit brighter. Now, being already during or after extensive listening sessions of both new models (not only LCD-XC but also LCD-X) in my own system, both utilizing FAZOR technology (although are were no versions without it so there is no comparison) I can easily say that this „small” trick introduced a large, and clearly positive change to the sound. Both models while offering most of fantastic advantages of (older) LCD-3 bring more clarity, precision, and much less of this „dark sound signature” Audeze was famous for. For me LCD-3 (with proper amplifier) never sounded too dark, I always said that most of those who complained about this feature were simply „spoiled” with overly bright sound of most „regular” dynamic cans. Anyway – the moment I started to listen to LCD-XC I thought: nobody would complain about Audeze's dark sound anymore!

Let me first, before I get to the point (being the sound), give you an impression of the design itself. Despite LCD-XC being a closed back design (which can be easily spotted as they have „full” ear cups) they simply look as any Audeze product, at least for anybody who had contact with their products before. Same headband finished with a very nice lamb skin, ear cups mounted in the same way, same mini-XLR input sockets in both cups, same lamb skin ear pads (you might chose leather-free ones but after having LCD-X with these I would recommend sticking to leather ones). These cans are also large and heavy – to call things by their names, because of full, wooden ear cups this is the heaviest Audeze model and one of the heaviest on the market. This is the „cost” of closed back design, but on the other hand this is what makes this model so special – as far as I know this is the only currently manufactured planar-magnetic model of its kind regardless the brand (there was a closed back model of electrostatic earphones - STAX-4070, but already discontinued).
Size of ear cups matters! – there should be enough space inside even for quite large ears, which obviously effects comfort of usage and a quality of what one hears. Also the pressure these cans implement on one's ears/head seems fairly adjusted – tide, but not too tide to cause any discomfort even during longer listening sessions. As I mentioned, these are quite heavy cans but somehow it didn't bother me at all, not even after few hours of listening. This is obviously the top closed back model in Audeze portfolio and only second from the top to the LCD-3 considering its price. Low impedance (20 Ω), and higher than in older models, more „amplifier-friendly” sensitivity of 95 dB allow user to drive these headphones with almost anything including mobile devices (smartphones, DAPs and so on). I can't imagine someone walking down the street with these on, but using very well designed travel case and one of the high performance DAPs (from HiFiMan or Astell&Kern for example) I can easily imagine taking these for a business trip, or holiday to have top quality sound with me. Yup, once again - that's an advantage of closed back design – you can use them anywhere without disturbing other people.

I have to mention the system LCD-XC played with because in this particular case it wasn't really mine own. For the past few months thanks to Mr Wojtek Szemis I've been using a fantastic headphone amplifier - Sugden Masterclass HA-4, plus at the time of this review I had also another great representative of class A devices - M2Tech Marley (I've had it also for more then a month before this test so I knew its sound also very well). It so happened that I also had in for reviews (also already for a few weeks) two high performance sources, a digital one from Ayon: CD-T + Stratos (CD transport and D/A Converter), and analogue one: Transrotor Apollon with 12 inch SME 5012, ZYX Premium Omega cartridge and Phasemation EA-1 II phonostage. Knowing already how good both these sources were I couldn't skip the chance of using them for this test.
That's still not all. Audeze distributor, AudioMagic, delivered LCD-XC not only with a stock cable but also with an alternative, a damn good one, from a Polish manufacturer, well known among headphone fans, Forza AudioWorks. Cables from this Warsaw based, young company, not only are beautifully made, solid but they usually offer also a much better performance than stock cables (and it goes for all cans I had a chance to listen to), while being offered in reasonable prices (see HERE). Long story short – I ensured LCD-XC had the best possible accompanying system so I felt entitled to expect, even demand absolute top performance of them.

I started this review with mentioning that I'd been using LCD-3 for almost 2 years now, which means simply that I am an Audeze fan. Obviously I was curious whether Audeze was really able to offer something new/exciting/better after ingenious LCD-3. Being in audio business for a while now taught me that „better” was always possible, and this case was no different. Well... it seems that I've already declared that „better” is the case. Just let me remind you that I compared the reviewed model with LCD-3 but without FAZOR (or any other improvements that Audeze might have introduced during these 2 years). So yes, I will stick with this initial declaration - LCD-XC compared directly to my version of LCD-3 surpassed those in term of sound quality and I liked them better too (it's not always so obvious, at least in my case). A much better (although not perfect) isolation from an outside world was one thing, but already mentioned improvements in terms of precision, clarity, and general impression of a brighter, or rather less „dark” presentation were also obvious (please notice „brighter” not „bright”!). These were still (like LCD-3) cans that offered fantastic bass performance – powerful, taut, fast, with a real slam (as for cans of course), beautifully defined and extremely well differentiated.

To evaluate this part of range I always use (among other things) recordings of double bass. When well recorded it offers an amazing, wide dynamic and sound range, and a wonderful timbre. And when I started to listen to bass I simply couldn't stop – more and more recordings came in - Ray Brown, Isao Suzuki, Renaud Garcia-Fons, and any other with significant presence of this instrument I could think of. LCD-XC offered a wonderful insight into every string pluck, usually fast, strong, energetic, supported with a huge soundboard (supported in right proportions) which provided also a wonderful decay. Abundance of detail, ability to differentiate even tiniest sounds, impressive richness of each sound turned each good recording (like Soular energy for example) into a special, spectacular experience, adding something more than most cans – a feeling of participation in a live event.

Double bass isn't the only instrument that makes such a great impression via LCD-XC. If you have a chance check out some nice percussion recordings. You'll find out how fast each strike is, how powerful, you will realize how flexible membranes of drums are (or how well you can actually hear that), how good is a differentiation between drums, how you can not only hear but also feel a bass drum. LCD-3's performance was amazing in this regards and XC, in my opinion, do that also amazingly well, although in a bit different way. They are capable of going down as deep as LCD-3 although the lowest bass doesn't have same weight as when delivered by flagship model. On the other hand though XC seem to offer faster, tauter bass. So when stick hits a drum it's more about speed, about interaction between stick and membrane than about slam itself. What followed was a great pace&rhythm which allowed me to enjoy a lot my favorite music – blues, rock, but also for example Marcus Miller's electric bass guitar. So when I started with this kind of music I simply couldn't stop, it sounded too good to stop. It's not everyday that I get headphones that really rock and truly feel the blues.
Bit more about percussion – cymbals, well differentiated, sounded powerful, rich and they really “shone” and sparkled bit more than I remembered from LCD-3 sessions. Whether it was about powerful sticks hitting cymbals, or a “jumping” hi-hat, or brushes gently touching cymbals – presentation each time sounded very convincing, very accurate. Yes, I admit that HD800 driven by Bakoon HPA-21 conveyed these elements in an even more convincing way, but, in my opinion of course, it was the only real advantage of this setup, as for everything else I definitely preferred Audeze.

What makes these Audeze cans so special is amazingly balanced, coherent sound throughout the whole range. These are definitely not headphones with „U” shaped range, with impressive extremes and lean or shy midrange. I loved bass and treble performance but it was extremely well balanced with rich, colorful midrange. Even closer to the truth would be stating that it is the midrange that substantiates the sound of these cans. It's what all Audeze cans do in a very special way – they offer amazingly dense, creamy but at the same time lively and detailed mids. Maybe, just maybe LCD-XC are not that palpably dense as LCD-2 and 3, but it's not a significant difference. And it is debatable whether it actually is a question of “density” or it's about more sparkling, shining treble that lifts part of the attention from lower midrange (where it is focused when listening to LCD 2 or 3) up. Does it really matter? Midrange might not be that rich but it is more lively, faster which makes LCD-XC's presentation different rather than better/worse, and surely also very attractive. They convey a very palpable, accurate image of all acoustic instruments.
I'll get back to vocals in a minute but first I have to mention how amazing violin, viola and cello sounded – rich, detailed, with wonderfully displayed texture and timbre – one could “see” fingers traveling along strings, one could easily, without any effort hear proper share of “wood”. Violins sounded very sweet, smooth to “cry” just moments later or even sound pretty harsh, aggressive if necessary and they did it all in equally convincing way. But what I found most compelling about this presentation was already mentioned proper share of “wood” in the sound. Same ability of smooth, even creamy sound on one hand and harsh and aggressive when needed was what made also brass instruments sound so good, so realistic – trumpets, trombones, saxophones – it was just pure pleasure to listen to nice recordings of these instruments including many “old” jazz masters.

Vocals... Even if LCD-XC's midrange was not that dense, rich as of LCD-3, vocals still sounded more real, more convincing than when delivered via almost all cans I'd ever listened to. These headphones offer amazing, detailed insight into each voice, its timbre, texture, pitch and so, plus they convey all the emotions in a very expressive way. In most cases one can hear vocal from up close which combined with this very convincing expressiveness creates a feeling of close contact between listener and vocalist and as result the involvement of a listener in the world created by music seems to be natural, easy. To find out how capable the LCD-XC are when it comes to vocal presentation one should listen to some quality a capella recordings, in my case it was one of records of The Persuassions. There are five, so different and yet so harmonious voices. LCD-XC allowed me to follow each and every one of them, dive into smallest details, nuances and yet enjoy the “big picture”, the amazing harmony. Audeze proved to be very analytic and yet tremendously musical cans. This could be their shortest characteristic – they combine these two major features that come together so randomly as headphones (like other elements of audio systems) are usually either musical or analytic. After this experience I started to believe news I read somewhere that some people use these cans even in recording and mastering studio. I bet LCD-XC can do very well there too, and all of us can enjoy a lot music that is made using these brilliant cans.

Last but not least a feature that had surprised me once before when I reviewed another closed-back headphones – FAD Pandora Hope VI – amazing spacing. I mean as for headphones, obviously, as such space or soundstage is not really comparable to what pair of stereo speakers in a room can create. Still, it is a natural feature of planar magnetic headphones – they offer a spacial presentation that takes place not only inside listener head but it spreads outside it. Soundstage is not only quite big left to right and front to back but also presented in an orderly way. It is one of the reason why from my very first contact with cans made in this technology I fell in love with them. But LCD-XC is a closed-back design, which usually means much bigger limitations in terms of spacial presentation. Honestly – I don't know if I should believe my own ears or maybe my enthusiasm for these cans carried me a bit away but I have to say that comparing them to LCD-3 I did not notice any limitation to the size of the soundstage or to its three-dimensionality. The above mentioned Pandora Hope VI had surprised with this aspect of the presentation too, when I'd reviewed them, but they still could quite match LCD-3. This time I couldn't really tell the difference. I also compared head-to-head Pandoras with LCD-XC – after all these are both closed-back design, although the former are “regular” dynamic cans and the latter are planar magnetic. The price difference is quite significant – Japanese headphones cost not much more than 50% of what one has to pay for Audeze, but does it mean that American cans are twice as good? As we all know it doesn't work this way in audio world. We, audiophiles, pay a lot for a slightly better performance. This case is no different – twice a price doesn't mean double performance. Audeze LCD-XC are, no doubt, better headphones, offering truly high end performance, but is it worth paying 3 thousand PLN more? That's a question each individual potential buyer has to answer himself. Audeze have more to offer in almost any aspect one might consider – bigger space, more powerful, bit faster bass and slightly more vibrant treble. I think that midrange performance is the most similar part of performance, although FAD's midrange when it comes to density, richness of this part of the range is closer to LCD-2 than XC. Both cans are very musical, Audeze are more analytic though. FADs are lighter but probably still to heavy to carry them on on the street so advantage is not that significant. Audeze is sure more luxury product – they look better and are bit more comfortable (despite larger weight). So I'd say that if money is no issue or if the ultimate performance is of biggest importance you should buy yourself Audeze LCD-XC (or LCD-3). If you can't spare that much give Pandora Hope VI a chance.


Well, let me be honest with you – I would love to have my own LCD-XC – they would immediately become my private closed back reference or maybe even the all-round reference as I liked them better than my LCD-3 (the older, non-FAZOR version I have!). I need to think about it for a while but it is quite possible that rather sooner than later you'll see LCD-XC in my reference system. I loved them also for practical reasons – as a closed design they isolate listener from environment pretty well and the environment from listening to somebody's music as well. They are probably not the best in these particular aspects but good enough. When it comes to performance these cans combine amazing musicality with quite an analytic approach to sound presentation so there is a pretty good chance they could convince both – those who only care about music and those who love to analyze sound. They offer outstanding (for cans in general, not only for closed designs) spacing and imaging, deep, taut, fast bass that creates a very coherent whole with smooth and very expressive midrange (although not as rich as offered by LCD-3) and sparkling, open, vibrant treble that offers a better insight in this part of range than LCD-3. LCD-XC are quite easy to drive so can be used even with DAPs although they really shine when driven by top quality amplifier with signal delivered by a high-end source. Manufacturer recommends output power of 1-4 W which is something that no DAP (at least none I know) can deliver and that's why to get these cans to perform at their best you need to drive them with a really good amplifier. Audeze LCD-XC are not just a piece of equipment I could live with but I would love to live with them and their high-end performance!

Audeze LCD-XC is (as for today) the only closed-back planar magnetic model on the market (at least as far as I know). Considering that its price isn't much lower than Audeze's flagship's, LCD-3's one could easily call XC the closed-back flagship. A heart of Audeze cans is a planar magnetic transducer – a thin foil with imprinted circuit (coil) spread across the surface of a thin-film substrate that moves in magnetic field between magnet arrays. Planar magnetic diaphragms are thin and lightweight compared to much heavier moving-coil or dome diaphragms found in “dynamic” drivers. Since the force created by the magnetic field is distributed across most of the diaphragm surface, the planar magnetic diaphragm moves faster and with far greater accuracy to the input signal thus delivering wide frequency response and low distortion.
A new solution presented with new models – LCD-X and LCD-XC and subsequently used also for new edition of LCD-2 and 3 is called FAZOR. These are acoustic wave-guides assemblies attached to the magnets that help to guide and manage the flow of sound in the headphone. The result is improved phase response, greater frequency extension, smoother frequency response, and remarkable 3D holographic imaging.

LCD-XC is the heaviest unit even among already heavy Audeze models. Credit for that goes surely mostly to full, wooden ear cups. Except for these elements all the rest is the same or very similar to everything we've seen before in Audeze cans. They sport a wide, comfortable headband with a luxury lambskin on it (although there are three versions one can chose from), thick, finished with lambskin, ear pads that sport a certain angle which makes them fit any head even better than “regular-shaped” pads. There are also the same mini-XLR sockets on both ear cups that are also angled towards front. Large mass of these cans forced manufacturer to use quite some “clamp” these put on a head but, at least I a feel it, it's not too big. Together with cans user receives two 2,5m long cables, one with 4-pin XLR plug, other with large jack. For the review I received XC with a cable made by a Polish manufacturer – Forza Audioworks, who's products have been already appreciated by many satisfied customers not only in Poland but in many other countries. As any Audeze cans one can order them with a very nice wooden display case, or less beautiful but more practical ruggedized travel case. These are beautifully made, very solid headphones.

Technical specification (according to manufacturer):

Type: closed, circumaural
Transducer type: Planar magnetic
Impedance: 20 Ω
Frequency range: 5 – 22 000 Hz
Maximum power: 15 W (for 200 ms)
Optimal power: 1-4 W
THD: < 1%
SPL: >130 dB
Sensitivity: 95 dB/1 mW
Cable length: 2,5 m

Polish distributor:

ul. Sienna 61
00-820 Warszawa