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Testing Ground

Audeze LCD-GX: a multi-function high-fidelity headset for casual listening

By Alban Amouroux |

Audeze is the specialist in planar magnetic transducer headphones. This technology is different from that found in normal headsets and aims for both speed and accuracy. In a range of products that runs from €500 to around €4,500, the LCD-GX is among the most accessible. In particular, it is the most interesting model, with an unprecedented double function: high-fidelity sound, and gaming.

While it is not uncommon to find very close links between professional headphones for studio use and models designed for home Hi-Fi listening, gaming is another category altogether, with its own immersive, powerful headphones, equipped with microphones allowing the user to converse with their opponents. Or to comment on their gameplay when live-streaming, an activity that has become widespread in the gaming community. Audeze has taken an interest in gamers, and is offering them a multi-functional headset that they can use at any time of the day.

Planar magnetic technology is used here, as with all the LCD reference headphones offered by Audeze. Conventional transducers consist of a membrane and a suspension, the whole assembly being connected to a coil moving in the air gap of a magnet. The planar transducer uses a flat, ultra-thin diaphragm traversed by an electric conductor. This reacts to the multiple neodymium magnets aligned in front and behind, to vibrate the diaphragm. These vibrations contribute to sound reproduction.

Features

Price: Manufacturer's website
Impedance: 20 ohms
Sensitivity : 100dB SPL / 1MW @ 1kHz
Frequency response: 10Hz - 50kHz
Transducer: 103mm planar magnetic
Cables included: 1x 2m TRS jack 6.35 mm asymmetrical cable, 1x 2.5 m TRS jack 3.5 mm asymmetrical cable with built-in gooseneck mic
Accessories: hard carrying case
Weight: 490 g

Overview of the LCD-GX

Audeze LCD-GX headphones are clearly designed for sedentary use. That’s a function of their size, first and foremost. Between uses, they can be set down on a nice stand that is supplied to be installed near the amplifier. The fact that it is an open headphone also makes it suitable for indoor use. It is circumauricular (surrounding the ears), but despite its encompassing shape, it does not prevent sound leakage.

At almost 500 grams, the LCD-GX is one of the heavier headphones. The headband is made of a simple leather strip. But the auricles are so strong that the headband serves mainly for balance: the support on the user's head is very light and not an encumbrance. You forget all about it. These large auricles made of memory foam pads ensure a firm hold. It may seem at first too closed-in for customers who are used to lighter headphones. Sometimes it will take a little getting used to.

The LCD-GX has the characteristic Audeze appearance. The magnesium shells, painted black, are covered with a two-part metal grid which displays the brand's initial. One of these two parts is red, the special colour of the LCD-GX. The headband is attached to the ear cups via strong arches which end in the headband adjustment bars. The latter are equipped with different adjustment notches with an exemplary, firm hold: the headband has no chance of coming loose.

The very flexible leather headband is located below the hoop which is made of a thin strip of metal to ensure free movement. This means that the headset can be twisted in literally any direction. This LCD-GX effectively combines rigidity and agility to make you forget about its hefty weight.

How the LCD-GX works

The planar magnetic technology is based here on 103 mm transducers. This explains the large size of the ear cups which house them. However, it is the pads in particular that make an impression. Thanks to their thickness, they keep the ears away from the transducers to improve the sound image. What's more, they are angled, being thinner towards the front than at the back. All this helps to improve the width of the soundstage, in conjunction with the open construction of the headphone.

With this type of headphones, the impedance is low, at only 20 ohms. This makes it easy to pair with any headphone output, whether it's a DAP, a built-in Hi-Fi amplifier or a dedicated headphone amp. Be careful, however, about the applied power, which must remain low. Audeze advises against exceeding 500 MW at the risk of damaging the highly sensitive planar transducers.

Audeze supplies the LCD-GX in a reinforced and waterproof carrying case. As the headphones do not fold, one can easily imagine the size of this case. It is not meant to be carried around every day, but it has the merit of offering 100% protection. The case has a slot for both cables. There is the Hi-Fi line with 4-pin mini XLR jacks whose conductors are twisted and end in a 6.35 jack socket. The gaming version has a microphone attached to the left XLR connector. Mounted on a gooseneck, it is flexible. The simpler cable incorporates a mic mute button and is paired with a 3.5 mm mini-jack.

Listening

The LCD-GX has been connected to the very practical and efficient little USB DAC Pro-Ject S2 which plays the role of a headphone amp. Connected to a Mac mini, we simply used the Qobuz desktop application. The first listening session allows us to identify the sound signature of these headphones so that we can summarise the main qualities that jump out at the ears: fine restitution and a wide sound image. Without being actually projected, the scene unfolds in a wide rectangle that crosses the head, as it were. This means that there is height not only at the centre, as with most headphones, but also outwards. On Street Life by the Crusaders in 24/192, it is particularly palpable, with violins that seem to escape from the stage to offer a broad playing space in which the vocals and instruments enjoy a lot of air and room relative to one another.

The headphones are restrained as far as the bass is concerned, especially when listening at low volume. However, you might see in this a certain false modesty. It seems to be fairly linear across the entire spectrum, so no radical changes in bass are to be expected. On the contrary. The fully-loaded techno track North Star by Tales of Us is a real pleasure with low frequencies reproduced as they should be: the grain, the presence and the roundness offer a rare realism. The bass remains well grounded and that is what is needed. The recent reissue of the hits from the Fine Young Cannibals allows a rediscovery of these very 80's tracks with pleasant percussion support on songs whose original recordings were not exactly exemplary in terms of the treatment of lower frequencies. The LCD-GX showcases the remaster's restoration of balance.

Listening to classical music highlights the qualities of this Audeze headset. For example, the finale of Symphony No. 6 "Pathétique" by Tchaikovsky, played by by the Berlin Philarmoniker reaches a true high point on the LCD-GX. The orchestra spans the full width of the stage with strings that never become aggressive, giving way to powerful crescendos. The level differences throughout the recording are not erased, but they are negotiated well, making for truly relaxing listening. Even current pop tracks which can quickly become tiring, such as Don't Start Now by Dua Lipa, go very well with the LCD-GX which offers above-average analysis capability, even at comfortable sound levels. Everything is well separated, the voice remaining soft and precise, even among the other instruments. The electro notes broaden the stage by participating in this feeling of space which would make the headphones almost seem to disappear, were they not so physically massive.

The Pros :
Mixed usage Hi-Fi/gaming
Exemplary construction
Quality connectors and cables
Breadth of soundstage
Analysis capability
Sense of fullness

The Cons :
Heavy
Doesn't do bad recordings any favours



Conclusion

The LCD-GX is an exceptional product in more ways than one. It is first and foremost a set of Hi-Fi headphones that can also handle gaming where necessary: not the other way around. Moreover, we tested it during a video conference, and it is also suitable for this kind of use, thanks to its well-made microphone. This makes it a headset that you can plug into your computer, directly or via a USB DAC, and which you can use all day. To work, to play and then to relax by making use of your Qobuz subscription. It is a headphone with a fairly smooth restitution. Some may find it lacks warmth, others may find it biting. With the LCD-GX, nothing is out of place, everything is where it should be. Without favouring any particular frequency register, Audeze has designed an all-terrain headset that is comfortable with all types of music. Its wide soundstage allows you to easily immerse yourself in music or video games, and enjoy the smallest details of quality recordings. A prestigious, pleasant, relaxed product that accommodates reasonable sound levels without ever allowing fatigue to set in. This is not so common and in part justifies its premium price.