Unlike the LCD-3, I was able to audition the new “X” roughly a week after it was released. Even better, I was able to get a unit home for a review. Exciting times and though I was hoping for an XC review as well, I figured I’d write a SHORT impression on what I have right now.
The Audeze LCD-X is priced between the 2 and the 3 and it marks a new direction that Audez’e is going… it seems. Based on a new driver that’s thinner and lighter than the predecessors, the X is the most sensitive headphone yet in the modern planar market. At 96dB/mW sensitivity (the LCD-3 is 91dB/mW), not only does an iPod drive the X to good loudness level sufficiently, but also the über high-end yet low powered Altmann Tera player does. Before, listening to headphones on the Altmann Tera was limited to the likes of the Koss Portapro and Sennheiser PX100s. With the LCD-X however, I can listen to a big planar headphone directly from the Tera’s LOW GAIN output and not even at maximum volume level. Of course the bass doesn’t hit as hard as if I was using ALO’s Studio Six, but the point here is that the X is extremely easy to drive.
About the sound, this is the part where I mean what I said about Audez’e’s new direction. The first thing you notice is that the sound has less bass body than the two or the three, while improving on the bass detail (even compared to the 3). It’s a flatter and more linear sound. Things sound cleaner especially on the mids and the bass section. The pace is faster, snappier, more nimble, quicker. I don’t think anybody has ever said that the 2 or the 3 sounds slow, but the X makes them sound slow.
I think the X is in a different class than the 2 and really shouldn’t be compared to it. To the 3, on the other hand, the comparison is more relevant. The comparison between the two is similar to comparing the Sennheiser HD600 and the HD650, the two veteran headphones that the majority of you can relate to. Just like how one would compare the 600 to the 650, the 3 now sounds slower and “bassier”. Yes, who ever thought that the 3 one day would be the slow one?
Personally, just like I like the 650 better than the 600, I still prefer the 3 far more than the X. But that doesn’t matter because so far, from the impressions I’ve gathered, people’s impressions have been sort of 50-50. I remember Jude saying him liking the X better than the 3. And not only Jude, but a lot of the enthusiasts who stopped by my store as well. They liked the fact that the bass is clearer due to the body being less. Yet I’m not talking about a thin monitoring sound here. Just like how I can’t listen to a bass-light, weightless sound, the X still maintains a good weight on the sound while not being as bassy as the 3. It’s a terrific execution, that I haven’t really heard in any headphones. How can reducing the bass body on a non-basshead headphone (LCD-3) end up with a headphone that’s far more neutral yet still feels planted? I suppose the HD600 is a good analogy here, except that the X’s drivers are far ahead of the 600’s class.
I think the pricing on the X, which is merely $246 less than the 3, reflects how close and how comparable the two are. The fact that the 3 is still the flagship of the line up sorts of agrees with my preference that I still enjoy the three more. But the choice is a good one and I can imagine the X gaining a solid fan base. I can also imagine, for some reason, the X strongly cannibalising the 2’s market. People are spending more and more on headphones, and I think people initially looking at the 2 should now consider, strongly, the X.