The Audeze LCD-1 circumaural, open headphones are designed for monitoring or hi-fi enjoyment on the move and rely on planar-magnetic drivers, which is typical of Audeze. And even better, they are cheaper than all their Audeze siblings. Although they form the lower end of the manufacturer’s LCD series, they are intended to be equipped with tonal transparency and a largely flat frequency response just like the rest of the LCD series. Let’s see if they get the job done.
Clear and yet impressive
Even if the accessories of the LCD-1 don’t look that impressive at first glance, they are still convincing when unpacked: besides the headphones themselves, only the detachable cable with jack adapter and a transport case are included in the package. But a second glance reveals that the gold-plated contacts and leads, enclosed in a fabric sheath, are a testament to the quality throughout. As is typical for Audeze, both ear cups are fed the audio signal separately by means of two plugs. In the case of the LCD-1, however, the manufacturer does not rely on a mini XLR version but uses stereo mini jack plugs instead. What surprised me was that there was no documentation included with the headphones; neither a Quick Start Guide nor a data sheet.
Structure, design and quality of workmanship
The transport case is securely closed by a zip, has a shell sufficiently strong for daily protection, is lined on the inside with a kind of soft felt, and offers a net compartment in which cables and adapters can be stored. A protective flap covered with soft synthetic fur prevents the headphones from rubbing against the edge of the case during transport and protects them from being damaged. The outside of the case is covered with a stylish and elaborately finished fabric. A carrying strap made of robust woven fabric rounds off the really good impression that this case makes.
The headphones themselves are black with silver accents throughout. This makes their appearance appear robust and serious. The workmanship of all parts of this US-manufactured device is impeccable. The joints and headband mechanism are service-friendly thanks to screwed connections. When compared to other headphones in the LCD range, the combination of these materials – plastic, metal and leatherette – reflects the lower retail price of this model. However, this does not detract from the style of the LCD-1, but helps the headphones to create a harmonious overall visual image.
Technology just like the big ones
Even though the price of the LCD-1 is at the lower end of the Audeze LCD range, the technology of those higher-end products is used. The wafer-thin Uniforce diaphragms of their planar magnetic drivers are made to vibrate using Fluxor magnets. Phase problems are prevented in the ear cups by a special design of the inner grills (a feature that Audeze calls the “Fazor Wave Guides”).
These headphones have an audio transmission range which is specified by the manufacturer as ranging from 10 to 50,000 Hz, which corresponds to that of the more expensive LCD headphones LCD-X and LCD-XC. We measured a impedance of 13.8 ohms, which is lower than that of these two models. In contrast, their effective maximum sound pressure level of 95.62 dB SPL is comparable. Due to the combination of low impedance and a respectable maximum sound pressure level, the LCD-1 open back is even better suited than its sister models for use with lower-powered headphone outputs, such as those typical of smartphones and tablets etc.
On the road with LCD-1
The handling of these Audeze headphones is exemplary. The foldable LCD-1 has rotating and swivelling ear cups, and its headband adjustment is subtly graduated but smoothly running. The fit of these headphones and their adaptation to the shape of the head is close to perfect and their wearing comfort is excellent for several reasons: the largely plastic construction results in a low weight of only 251 g without cables, which means that they do not require very high contact pressure. On the other hand, the ear pads with their memory foam nestle nicely against both your ear and your head. In addition, the ear pads and headband are covered with soft lamb’s leather, which makes wearing these headphones very comfortable. Even lengthy listening sessions will not be a problem. However, the LCD-1’s oval, rather narrow ear cups are less suitable for those with larger ears. The cable length of 1.95 m should easily suffice for the majority of “serious” uses on the road, but the cable is much too long for mobile use and for placing under clothing. As a little extra, Audeze has designed the jack plugs to be plugged into the ear cups in stereo. The corresponding jacks, however, only pick up the signal that is “right” for them – i.e. left or right. This eliminates the need for a left-right designation on the exchange cable. No matter how the plugs are plugged into the LCD-1, stereo assignment is always consistent.
In the end, it’s the sound that counts
The playback quality of the LCD-1 is so good that, at low playback volume, I had to listen twice to check whether I was listening to sound from the headphones or whether it was sound from the field monitors in front of me. This was partly because the depth of audio material reproduced by the LCD-1 is extremely differentiated. But don’t worry: this detailed sound was also effective at higher volumes.
The sound of these headphones is transparent throughout and – typical for their open construction – rather tame in the bass. Sub-basses are perceptible but subdued. The lower mids are also represented rather discreetly. This leads to the remaining mid-range being closer to the front. The trebles are finely resolved without being harsh or hissing. The LCD-1 presents a very solid stereo stage that lacks a bit of foundation due to its conservative bass at the centre. Instead, vocals and other midrange instruments that are deflected into the stereo centre are in the foreground. For these reasons, the LCD-1 should undoubtedly serve as an aid for analysis of midrange signals and vocal productions.
I’m less convinced by their performance in transient imaging: they reproduce steep signal peaks more smoothly than I expected. Nevertheless, the LCD-1 proves how strong it is in terms of dynamic reproduction when listening to classical productions. The signal dynamics are reproduced in the overall sound with the same fine resolution as mid and treble details. Users may have to get used to the “smooth” sound of these Audeze headphones to appreciate their strengths. Due to the downright flat frequency response, these headphones are particularly suitable for use when mixing or as a hi-fi device for enjoying classical and jazz music, as well as listening to sophisticated voice productions with a richly detailed sound.
The open, planar-magnetic Audeze LCD-1 are the cheapest headphones from the LCD range from this American manufacturer at the time of testing. They convince with a compact, but high-quality package and very good workmanship. The sound of the LCD-1 provides the user with what one might expect from open headphones: its reproduction conveys an open, detailed sound stage with good depth gradation and fine overall dynamics. Due to its unobtrusive bass performance, the mids are clearly in the foreground. Therefore, these headphones are good for assessing mixes in which vocals, guitars and keyboard instruments play a major role. Hi-fi enthusiasts will most appreciate their rather flat frequency response when listening to jazz and classical music.
The price/performance ratio of the Audeze LCD-1 is perfectly fine by me. As the portable little sister of the LCD range, they really do their job well. If you are looking for portable planar-magnetic driven open headphones with good workmanship, pleasant handling and high wearing comfort, the Audeze LCD-1 should definitely be on your shopping list.
- Ear couplingOver-ear
- Transducer principleplanar-magnetic
- Frequency response (headphones)10 - 50.000 Hz
- Impedance13,8 ohms
- Sound pressure level (SPL)95,62 dB
- Pressure averaged from big and small head611 g
- Weight with cable305 g
- Weight without cable251 g
- Cable length195 cm
What's in the box
- Removable cable
- 6.35mm stereo jack
- Travel case