Audeze LCD-XC

The Closed-Off Professional

Pros: Great Build Quality
Decent sound with a balanced cable
OK Imaging

Cons: Accessories/cable
Sound without a balanced cable
Almost everything without a balanced cable

LCD-XC Front.jpg


Up for review today is the famous Audeze LCD-XC 2021. The XC is the closed-back version of the X, which I also had on hand during this review and they meet the needs of the professional when compared to the higher-end LCD-2/3/4 lines, which are the Enthusiast level. They have “Ultra-Thin Uniforce™ diaphragms, Fazor waveguides, and powerful neodymium magnets to deliver extremely accurate and detailed sound. The sophisticated planar magnetic drivers achieve a high efficiency with low impedance.” So…yeah, there ya go – they’re Planars. But, how do they sound?

Side Note: I didn’t like these until I hooked them up to a balanced cable – it completely changed the sound coming out of them, so PLEASE use a balanced cable – that’s the first time I’ve ever had to write that in a review.

Accessories/Earpads/Eartips (2/10):

Meh. They came with…nothing really. Literally, there was a cable in the box. The ear pads are pretty nice though – comfy. They CAME with ear pads, but every over-ear should do that. Yes, I’m grasping at straws – I literally cannot give more than 2 points here because all it came with are decent ear pads and a foam-padded cardboard box.

Cable (2/10):

The stock cable sucks. I’m just going to be blunt here. The Sennheiser HD600 has a nicer cable and it’s ~$300. The 6.35mm cable included with this is tangly, has memory retention, and feels cheaper than the $20 cable I got off amazon. Also, based upon how much changing the cable from the stock to a 4.4mm balanced improved the sound, I can honestly say this is the first stock cable that I really think made the headphone worse – to the point of wanting to throw it away. At least it came with a cable…that’s the only positive thing I have to say about it. Replace immediately.

LCD-XC Side 2.jpg

Build Quality/Comfort (10/10):

Redemption, thy name is build quality. These are built like a tank – they make the much lighter JM Audio XTC-C feel like toys. There are no creaks or cheaper feeling parts – all of the budget for these headphones went into build quality. The Carbon fiber ear cups are amazing and hard to scuff – really just a brilliantly engineered headphone – other than the weight.

Comfort is good – if a little heavy. No fit issues for me, though the clamp might be a bit much for some people. Isolation is really good, I can’t even really hear MYSELF talk, let alone anyone else. That’s pretty amazing.


I don’t have any other closed-back full-size headphones on my desk at the moment to compare these to directly, so I’m having to go off memory. That said, I haven’t listened to another closed-back that sounds like these anyway, so it doesn’t really matter. I am powering these through Tidal HiFi at 45-50/100 volume on the stock unbalanced 6.35mm connection on low gain with the tube off from my Cocktail Audio HA500H DAC/AMP.

Side Note: Powering these from my Shanling M6 Ultra through a 4.4mm cable completely changed how these sound. There’s more bass, less sharpness, and better overall sound – completely different sounding headphones. Definitely get a balanced cable, either 4-pin XLR for a desktop or 4.4mm for a DAP or DAC/AMP (the Truthear SHIO is great for phones and has a 4.4mm.) This literally took these headphones from a dislike for me to a mostly-like – I’ve never encountered that before.

Looking at the Frequency Response Graph below from Crinacle, the LCD-X have almost no sub-bass, and muted mid-bass. The mids are pretty neutral until you hit the high-mids at which point there are some odd peaks and dips throughout the rest of the frequency band. I’ll be honest, this graph doesn’t really match up with what I hear below anyway, so it’s not that useful.


Lows (8/20):

I am starting off with the Mid-bass/Sub-bass test – I’m using David Guetta’s “I’m Good (Blue).” The bass drums in the intro have an OK impact, with a little extra reverb, but nothing offensive. The sub-bass is present, but definitely not strong – it definitely won’t be winning any awards for bass quantity. Also, I have to mention that the mids/highs on this song are painfully sharp/metallic for me, which is very uncommon as this song typically makes every headphone sound good, which is why I only test bass with it – so that’s odd. I’d take the XTC-C over the LCD-XC any day of the week on this song.

Up next is Demon Hunter’s “I Am A Stone,” which I use to test whether the bass is too strong and overwhelms the mids. Obviously, the bass won’t be too strong here and it’s not. It’s still there in the background, barely, but it most certainly doesn’t overwhelm the mids. The mids sound much better here than on the previous song – these are definitely not for bassheads, or even just people who like some bass in their songs (me.) Also, the metallic sound remains, but the detail is good and the soundstage is surprisingly large. I have to keep turning these down because they’re a bit painful for me.

Mids (12/20):

Weaving The Fate’s “The Fall” is a test song for guitars and vocals. The intro guitars actually sound really good. The distorted guitars don’t, they come across as very thin and metallic. The soundstage is pretty large for a closed back, but I can’t shake the feeling of thinness and tinniness. There’s just no body here. The vocals are fine, but they blur into the rest of the song far more than I’m used to on IEMs costing ¼ or ½ as much. The Sony MDR-Z1R and Sennheiser HD820 are both better and the XTC-C is significantly better from memory.

Staind’s “Something to Remind You” has clean electric guitars and wonderful vocals – this song tests the vocal quality and background noise. The clean guitars in the intro sound good once more, though I’m still getting that metallic sound. The vocals sound good, if a little flat. These are unsurprisingly the studio monitors of the closed-back world. I personally prefer a more fun sound with a bit more bass and a more 3D presentation. That said, this is probably one of the best songs for the LCD-XC.

To test classical instruments in the mids, I’m using The Piano Guys’ “Code Name Vivaldi.” The strings sound pretty good on the LCD-XC. I think classical is really where the LCD-XC shines more than anywhere else. The pianos sound wonderful and the bass instruments come across clearly and the detail here is very good. These are literally the full-size closed-back version of the Letshuoer EJ07 that I reviewed yesterday. It’s a bit surprising to hear very similar sound in both considering the size difference, though the LCD obviously has a bigger soundstage and better imaging.

Highs (10/20):

To test sibilance on headphones I use Panic! At The Disco’s “High Hopes. Sharper “S” sibilance is apparent if you listen for it in this song. The song itself is pretty rough also and comes across as sharp overall. I’ve never had the intro trumpets sound sharp before on headphones, so that’s new, and not great. The LCD-XC is better than quite a few headphones on the sibilance test, but worse than some as well, slightly above average here.

The first highs test song I’ll be using is Dream Theater’s “The Alien,” which I use to test and see if the cymbals/high-hats/snare can be clearly heard and distinguished from the rest of the music. Nope. I can hardly tell there are any cymbals or high-hats in this song at all – at least in the intro, it gets better during the guitar solo. Well below average. At least the guitar solo sounds good and the bass drums are decent.

Michelle McLaughlin’s “Across The Burren” is another of my favorite highs/sharpness test songs as it can easily sound painful on some headphones. The piano presentation is solid and definitely above average with no real sharpness on the high notes or the lower chords. This makes sense with how muted the treble is on these headphones. If you hate bass and treble, these will be good closed-backs for you in this price range.

Soundstage/Instrument Separation/Imaging (7/10):

I use MGMT’s “Time to Pretend” to test soundstage, instrument separation, and imaging. The soundstage, instrument separation, and imaging are all pretty decent here. That said, the synths in the intro at 0:18 are ROUGH – I had to immediately turn it down. These are some of the most confusing headphones I’ve ever listened to and the LCD-X is far more to my taste than the closed-back version as I don’t have any of the complaints that I do here with the weird sharpness throughout my entire test playlist.


The only comparisons that matter besides multiple better-sounding cheaper IEMs (Final A5000, Truthear HEXA) are the JM Audio XTC-C, and to some extent the Focal Celestee. They’re the only closed-back full-size headphones even close to the price of the LCD-XC that I’ve heard. I’d take both of them over the LCD-XC. Now, both of those are significantly bassier headphones, so if you hate bass, don’t even consider them. The LCD-XC is the closest I’ve heard to studio tuning with very light bass. All three have good detail and decent soundstage considering they’re closed-backs. The XTC-C is the lightest followed closely by the Celestee – the build quality is the worst on the XTC-C though as it’s a small boutique company. The build quality is the best on the Celestee, followed closely by the Celestee. I’d rank all three by sound quality with the XTC-C as #1, followed by the Celestee, and #3 are the LCD-XC. At least the LCD-XC sounds decent with The Strokes and Franz Ferdinand. BTW, I’ll take the LCD-X over these also – though balanced cables narrow the gap.

LCD-XC Side.jpg


I’m confused by the LCD-XC since I’ve seen really good reviews of these. I don’t like them a ton, though a balanced connection makes them far better – I still have IEMs under $300 and under $100 I’d prefer over these. Sure, the soundstage/imaging isn’t as good on the IEMs, but the overall sound is better and more well-rounded. That said, I don’t know of very many cheaper full-size closed-back that you can get that will sound better than this. So, if you want the Audeze build quality, brand name, and carbon fiber cups over the JM Audio XTC-C, and you hate bass while needing a closed-back, then these are the headphones for you. Otherwise, get the XTC-C (better sound) or Celestee (better looks/build quality.) Please get a balanced cable though, I cannot stress enough how much this changes the sound quality – also a laid-back, warmer DAC/AMP will help as well.

Headphone Scoring (v3):
Accessories / Earpads / Eartips (10 pts):2​
Cable (10 pts):2​
Build Quality/ Design / Comfort (10 pts):10​
Lows (20 pts):8​
Mids (20 pts):12​
Highs (20 pts):10​
Soundstage / Instrument Separation / Imaging (10 pts):7​

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