These are a few of my favorite things
We’re back and super excited to get right down to business because, this time, we get to knock out three of our favorite things in a single article.
- Answer your questions.
- Discuss the two legends of head-fi from a Roon partner, the Audeze LCD-2 Classic and LCD-X headphones.
- And, share a how-to for a great Roon feature that helps any Audeze headphones sound their very best.
If you’re thinking, “more headphones? How can headphones be that different… ?” You’re not alone. Many Roon subscribers have returned to headphones or explored them for the first time, thanks to Roon ARC. They’ve also asked why anyone would have multiple pairs of headphones and wondered why not get one pair that works for everything?
Well, if I were to reveal secrets, the real reason why many of us own multiple pairs of headphones is that they’re an exotic gear landscape custom-made for audio obsessives. The chase for that magic sound is reinforced and enabled by everyone involved. It’s incredible, you should try it!
A slightly more reserved answer is that headphones help us play to the strengths of our favorite music and listening environment. They can satisfy multiple listening experiences, from laid-back immersive listening to focused detail exploration and anything in between. They’re perfect for creating an ideal personalized listening space immune to room coloration, one that can be transformed tonally just by swapping out headphones and is mobile by design.
They’re unquestionably the easiest way to do all that… unless you’re willing to change or add an entire system to your listening room whenever you have the inkling to experiment with sound. And, with the release of Roon ARC, many listeners have realized that headphones are ideal complements to any Roon system. All perfect reasons to discuss and listen to two head-fi legends that just landed in the Roon Store, the Audeze LCD-2 Classic and LCD-X.
And as a bonus, we’ll show you how to use the Audeze headphone DSP plug-ins, included free in Roon, to get the best sound from any pair of Audeze monitors you decide on or already own.
LCD-2 Classic and LCD-X: the legend and the gold standard
The LCD-2 is the headphone that established Audeze’s bona fides when it was released in 2009. Since then, it has evolved and benefitted from numerous advancements in audio technology. But in doing so, some felt it had traded one type of sonic magic for another. And being the music listeners we are, many of us wished we could have both – the classic and the new LCD-2 sound. So Audeze, being the gracious folks they are, kindly obliged us. The result is the LCD-2 Classic which dials the LCD-2 back to its original tuning by adding a dash of additional sweetening and removing the Fazor phase management technology of the current LCD-2.
The LCD-X is Audeze’s studio workhorse and their most popular headphone among audio recording, mixing, and mastering professionals. Its accurate presentation provides realistic transparent playback that closely resembles the neutrality of an acoustically treated studio. The LCD-X was updated slightly in 2021, lending enhanced mid-range linearity, a restructured magnetic array, reduced weight, and fit improvements, making it an even more attractive contender in Audeze’s model lineup.
Both models are open-back planar magnetic designs that feature 106mm diaphragms! That’s a glorious four inches plus of bookshelf speaker-sized driver for each side of your head! Both models are exceptionally easy to drive. The LCD-2C has an impedance rating of 70 ohms. The LCD-X is rated at just 20 ohms and can be powered by any portable device.
Planar magnetic designs have a lot of advantages over dynamic dome drivers. They’re much more efficient and push larger volumes of air with a more fluid range of motion. Planar magnetic transducers use an ultra-thin polymer film for a highly flexible driver assembly, and the voice coil is printed directly upon it. The entire mechanism is then sandwiched between two staggered magnet arrays. Resulting in nimble dynamics, wide frequency response, lightning-fast transients, greater transparency, excellent control, immersive detail, more realistic imaging, lifelike musicality, and better sound – free of distortion and other driver-introduced artifacts. Which translates roughly to “all good and nothing bad” We’ll dig into their sound signatures more in just a moment.
Bomb-proof design and build quality
At first glance, the LCD-2C and LCD-X appear nearly identical; but upon closer examination, slight differences emerge. Both models feature an overbuilt modern black industrial design with a flash of chrome courtesy of the yokes and screw heads.
The LCD-2C utilizes crystal-infused nylon for a nearly indestructible earcup. LCD-X features understated polished black aluminum rings. Audeze logo grill guards, the standard textured matte black spring steel headband, and synthetic leather head strap are employed on both.
Audeze’s improved contoured earpads provide a perfect seal around the ear for better sound and comfort. The plush molded memory foam is covered in soft vegan leather on the Classic. The LCD-X offers buyers a choice of vegan or genuine leather.
Regarding comfort, the LCD-2C and LCD-X aren’t lightweight headphones; they’re both over a pound. But they’re not uncomfortable. The headband and strap balance the weight nicely, and the clamping pressure is reasonable. I’ve worn them for several hours over many days without any discomfort. Aside from that, it kinda feels rude to complain about headphones that sound this good being uncomfortable. They weren’t such a problem that they distracted me from enjoying the music, not for an instant. If clamping pressure and weight are a concern, give them a chance, their sound is absolutely worth it! Speaking of…
As the ancient audio texts advise: Listen ye first, then charts read.Ancient Audio Texts
Reviewing the LCD-2 Classic’s sound is somewhat challenging because they’re cleverly hypnotizing! They’re headphones for disappearing inside the music, not so much for analyzing it. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s an attractive praise-worthy trait that some reviewers have puzzlingly chosen to fault rather than recognize.
The LCD-2C shines in its balance of frequencies and classic hi-fi presentation. Bass is wonderfully rich, full-bodied, natural, and energetic. These kick plenty large on bass-heavy tracks with exceptional, smooth extension. And lows ease effortlessly into the mids like honey. My classic roots rock reggae tracks sound like they were made for these headphones.
Mids are balanced but wonderfully full and warm, enveloping the listener. Acoustic instruments are rendered with sumptuously saturated tonal color. Male and female vocals are intimate, vivid, and lifelike. Allegedly some frequency response charts say the LCD-2 Classic lacks vocal presence, but I never felt them insufficient in that area. Presence is subtle when unaltered, and the LCD-2C feels natural in this range to me. Further proving that the best measurement tool is our ears. As the ancient audio texts advise: Listen ye first, then charts read.
The LCD-2 Classic’s upper mids and treble are slightly rounded and softer sounding by design. The original LCD-2 was a warm, pleasing, laid-back headphone – and that’s the LCD-2C’s tuning target. Listeners who admire an audiophile presentation with crisp detail and abundant air may not initially gel with the LCD-2 Classic. But for relaxed immersive listening, it’s a beautiful match for most musical styles and unbeatable for some.
The soundstage is wide, close, and enveloping but with less distinct imaging. That results from LCD-2C’s ability to place the listener inside the music. It’s a supremely enjoyable headphone that hung well with my review tracks and was perfect for casual listening.
Coming from Audeze’s Reference Series, LCD-X sits at the other side of the tuning spectrum and welcomes more technical detailed inspection. As the preferred reference headphone of audio engineers and musicians, it provides the neutral yet wonderfully musical presentation necessary for creating accurate recordings. Mastering and mixing engineers rely on LCD-X to ensure tracks translate transparently to the real world. Their ability to mimic a perfectly acoustically treated studio gives recording professionals a reliable mobile reference tool and rewards close listening enthusiasts with music delivery that reflects the artist’s original creative intent.
Here again, we’re treated to decadent bass response. Some planar magnetic, open-back cans are a bit bass anemic, but Audeze isn’t your typical headphone. LCD-X delivers remarkable slam and weighty body that approaches full-size dynamic speaker drivers. It’s immense and rich but well-controlled – never flabby or bloated. Bass energy is punchy, and extension is excellent, effortlessly plumming sub-bass. This is, without question, the most satisfying bass I’ve heard from a planar magnetic design for the price.
The LCD-X’s midrange underwent mild precision adjustments in the 2021 version making it one of the most neutral and natural-sounding Audeze models to date. The re-tuning corrected mild shortcomings in the previous version but didn’t undo any of its musicality or flair. There’s still lush mids saturation, but the changes deliver better definition and balance overall with an expressive vocal presentation that doesn’t resort to excessive artificiality. Instruments are vivid, detail reproduction is precise, and resolution is pristine. Overall, the mids are shamelessly beautiful, balanced, and fully enjoyable, leaving nothing wanting.
The treble of the LCD-X is exceptional and technically capable – exhibiting a silky organic quality. Air and detail are dialed in impeccably. Sizzle and brilliance are spot-on. Some reviews I’ve seen call the LCD-X’s highs “soft.” Soft certainly wouldn’t have been the first adjective that sprung to my mind. I’d call them not overdone. That’s not a fault; they’re faithful and realistic to my ears. Pushing a tuning to create qualities in music that aren’t there doesn’t jive with the transparency needed in a reference tool like the LCD-X.
Sadly, one of the most unfortunate lasting side effects of “audiophile” tuning is its disdain for natural treble balance. This may be one of the most assiduous afflictions to assail recorded music after over-compression. The LCD-X avoids it by pegging its highs perfectly, delivering lifelike treble that’s dynamic, snappy, and articulate. Subtle details like reverb tails and natural instrument decay are wonderfully displayed and true to form.
This could be one of the best headphone treble presentations out there. It certainly is at this price point. It’s authentic and detailed with outstanding resolution and texture, yet never grainy, exaggerated, or strident. LCD-X is entirely capable of providing forensic insight into mixes or fulfilling engaged listening sessions for detail junkies.
The soundstage of the LCD-X is narrower when compared to the LCD-2C, as we’d expect from a reference headphone. The rendering is decidedly less forward. It’s still close and intimate, but where the LCD-2C places the listener directly inside the music with hard center, left, and right staging, LCD-X evokes the optimized listening depth provided by near-field desk monitors – a more convincing and true-to-life presentation. The professional capabilities of the LCD-X are overtly baked into every aspect of its character. Stereo imaging and separation are vivid and pinpoint accurate, communicating its studio pedigree and reference dependability. Those traits also mean that it suits pure detailed listening enjoyment exceptionally well.
The LCD-X easily outshines headphones several times their cost and leaves nothing wanting for listeners who admire accuracy, rich presentation, natural detail, and musical realism that perfectly balances professional applications with incisive music appreciation. They assume either role effortlessly. I’m confident in naming the LCD-X the most musically enjoyable and technically capable headphones available at this price point.
For close listening, I drove the LCD-2 Classic and LCD-X with the Roon Ready iFi NEO Stream feeding a Mytek THX AAA HPA amp with tracks from Qobuz and TIDAL.
All tracks were rendered at their native sample rates, indicated for each track below. We’ve chosen one of them for a before and after using Audeze’s integrated DSP presets in Roon – including a step-by-step so you can try them out.
Arthur Rubenstein – Chopin: Nocturne No. 19 in E Minor from Chopin: The Nocturnes on RCA Red Seal (24-bit/96 kHz PCM)
Our selection of later-era Rubenstein doesn’t coyly indicate taking a side in the quiet war over which of his periods is definitive. This performance is so utterly lyrical, assured, relaxed yet percussive and absurdly enjoyable through these headphones that the decision was essentially made for us.
Duke Ellington once said, “The piano is an orchestra…” This performance illuminates Duke’s statement brilliantly. Rubenstein’s performance of Chopin’s Nocturnes in later life is decidedly less technical but more romantic and truer to their essence of longing and melancholy.
The LCD-2 Classic delivers this piece with intoxicating luxurious beauty. Its’ lows and mid-range, combined with the staging intimacy, impart Rubenstein’s percussive left-hand attack deep in the chest as delicate right-hand motifs dance fluidly inside the body of the instrument.
When his reading of the high register becomes more insistent, the notes are crisp and textured yet sublimely controlled and passionate. This piece proves that the LCD-2C retains technical listening capabilities; notes and piano body resonance resolve distinctly, but the LCD-2C truly shines at immersive listening. Rubenstein’s performance is beguiling and effortlessly draws the listener deep inside its embrace.
Inviting the performance to inhabit the LCD-X reveals even greater spirit and ardor tucked within Rubenstein’s interpretation. The performance is no less beautiful with the added detail and transparency. It retains all its romanticism while bringing crisper resolution to subtleties.
The highs command an evener balance with the low-end and mid-frequency ranges. This piece singlehandedly dismisses claims of LCD-X being marred by soft highs. This is an exceptionally refined yet fervent listening experience. Hearing Nocturne No. 19’s final notes fade inside the body vibration of the piano is a treat. The LCD-X’s treatment of classical solo piano is simply lovely and not to be missed.
Fred Neil – I’ve Got a Secret (Didn’t We Shake Sugaree) from Fred Neil (16-bit/44 kHz PCM)
Fred Neil was an eccentric troubadour that gregariously reigned over the late 50s/early 60s Greenwich Village scene with a near-mystical presence, taking young arrivals like Bob Dylan and David Crosby under his wing. His second album Fred Neil is a stone classic containing two of his most prolific compositions, The Dolphins and Everybody’s Talkin’, but it’s his incredibly soulful revision of this Elizabeth Cotton folky that knocks us sideways and exhibits all of Neil’s most majestic superpowers.
Neil’s reverb-laden guitar, a submerged acoustic, and looping jazz bass kick the song off and are quickly joined by a silky whistled melody line. Fred’s vocals drop right into the pocket, cradled in the mother of all reverb. The others lay out reverently until Fred’s through the buttery opening chorus. A second electric leans in, pulling rubbery tremolo behind it. The snare picks up, and another acoustic guitar slides in. The track floats along on rich mids and bass with a softened but lovely high end.
The star player is Fred’s vocal, and LCD-2C’s staging pulls the listener completely inside it as he massages the plate reverb and plums bass notes from a well of smokey vibrato. It feels like we’re hearing his heavenly polished mahogany baritone from inside his head. The instrumental layering is dense and somewhat amorphous, which may not be to every taste. But the track was born for the tonal capabilities of the LCD-2C.
Its hypnotic quality meshes brilliantly with these headphones, and it’s challenging to pull away from immersive enjoyment into technical listening. Those who relish airy separation may feel they’re trading detail for the lush presentation.
Immediately we’re treated to finer details when switching to the LCD-X. The recessed acoustic hiding in the previous intro has shimmer, space, and greater clarity. The upright bass is full and rounded. Reverb tails in Fred’s vocals are clear and resolve smoothly. The effortless rhythmic flow produces a shiver when the full band drops in.
The track still presents a warming organic quality with layered richness, but everything is more distinct. The nicotine tar on Fred’s voice peeks through in places, and the guitars exhibit more nuance. Slight subtle variations on the pulsing rhythm break the surface conspicuously. The vast reverb adds excellent top end, and the snare, while still laid back, has light snap and spring resonance. The overall presentation is detailed, tonally balanced, and yet moderately classic hi-fi, probably from the outstanding mid and bass performance.
My pick between the LCD-2C and LCD-X for this one is the LCD-X. Everything I liked about the LCD-2C is still here, but the added transparency lends clarity for hearing further into the track without diminishing its captivating allure.
Roon’s Audeze DSP plug-in feature
The plug-ins from Audeze’s Reveal+ headphone software are included with Roon free of charge and are super easy to use. Our video below contains an easy step-by-step on finding and applying them in Roon. We’ll discuss their audible difference and see if they affect an artifact heard in this track.
We should clarify that the plug-ins aren’t intended to be audio correction tools. But, by using the plug-in to optimize the EQ curve of the headphones, it will reveal whether it’s caused by the LCD-2C’s default tuning.
Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers – Moanin’ from Moanin’ (24-bit/192 kHZ PCM)
Art Blakey’s 1958 return to Blue Note Records resulted in one hard bop’s archetypal classics, Moanin’. Its title track embodies the sub-genre’s funky, back-to-the-roots embrace of blues, gospel, and R&B fueled by a driving modern jazz engine room. Despite being recorded by what may be the shortest-lived Jazz Messengers lineup, the album epitomizes the form and remains essential listening for the telepathic musical interplay and soulful intensity on display from the entire ensemble.
Without the LCD-2C DSP preset plug-in:
Moanin’ bolts from the gate, setting up a classic hybrid gospel/blues call-and-response groove from writer Bobby Timmons’s percussive piano figures and the Morgan/Golson horn team. Benny Golson’s sax reed sizzles with fuzzy warmth as The Messengers lock in underneath the swinging motif.
Lee Morgan’s trumpet bars crackle with brash energy, half-valve slurs, and peppery staccato riffs, but the plosive power at the leading edge of his breaks literally pops the LCD-2C’s planar magnetic element detracting from the piece’s renowned perfection. Golson’s two choruses add strut, shuffle, and sass with a rounded body over the rhythm sections’ foundational groove. Jymie Merrit’s bass bops along with Blakey’s effortless swing as he adds tight press rolls and crash cymbal punctuation between solo choruses.
When Timmons takes his helpings, Merritt digs in on the stand-up, offering up lovely interplay. The piano is a delight, expansive with nice heft, depth, and punchy bite with someone, likely Blakey, grunting approval in the background. The bass leans in with voice-like huskiness as the rhythm section saunters with Swiss precision. The piece closes with that classic call-and-response motif, building in power before ending in a flourish of rolling piano figures. It’s an unimpeachable masterpiece that’s mildly blemished by Lee Morgan’s atomic trumpet leads.
With the LCD-2C DSP preset plug-in:
To apply Audeze’s custom presets in Roon, press the volume icon in the footer of Roon, then click DSP. Toggle on the Audeze presets on the DSP page and select the corresponding headphone model. It’s that easy; see our video below for a step-by-step.
From the go, there’s more clarity, detail, and air in the mix. Jymie Merritt’s finger can be heard tracing a bass string before playing. The rafters of Rudy Van Gelder’s studio carcasses the music with airy goodness and natural room ambiance. The plug-in opens the mix noticeably but not excessively. The staging doesn’t feel more expansive, but the foreground seems deeper – set back a few feet for more detailed study.
When Lee Morgan takes his break, the blistering lead ruffles the element again. There’s perhaps the slightest bit less grain but not much. And that’s reassuring to observe. Using the optimized plug-in adjustments tells us that the LCD-2C’s default tuning isn’t what’s causing the pop and grain.
What’s even more impressive though, is the lively top end that’s on display with the addition of the Audeze LCD-2 plug-in. Subtle details break the surface everywhere. There’s more nuance, richness, and character throughout the song. It lends the hard bop classic additional deference. Everything feels more lively and musical but not in the least bit exaggerated.
It’s a remarkable difference. The LCD-2C doesn’t suddenly become the LCD-X by adding the preset, but they’re much closer to them now. The signature warmth and mid-range richness get a resolving dash of high-end for surprisingly transformative resolution. Roon’s Audeze DSP plug-ins make these classic headphones sound even sweeter. It’s like buying the next better model just by using the DSP feature.
To conclude the artifact test, I ran another set of headphones using the same setup to demo the track. The dynamic driver phones I tested also broke up but sounded harsher with more abrasive distortion. That tells me that Audeze’s planar magnetic design’s swift responsiveness and dynamics grab the transient so quickly that it catches the lead plosive and resolves it smoothly without the crunching distortion heard in the dynamic driver design. That’s genuinely astounding.
I’m confident in naming the LCD-X the most musically enjoyable and technically capable headphones available at this price point.
The LCD-2 Classic and LCD-X are stunning headphones that cover the waterfront sonically and balance each other’s strengths perfectly: LCD-2C for immersive relaxed listening, LCD-X for hunting audio easter eggs, detail exploration, or professional transparency. Owning them both would immediately satisfy most listening desires.
Both models feature exceptional build quality, thoroughly beautiful sound, and impressive technical performance – especially at their respective price points, making them excellent choices for first-time high-end headphone buyers or those wanting to upgrade.
Additionally, Audeze is the undisputed champion of planar magnetic headphone manufacturers. Their headphones spoil listeners with nimble dynamics, wide frequency response, lightning-fast transients, greater transparency, excellent control, immersive detail, more realistic imaging, lifelike musicality, better sound, and lovely tonal balance.
They’re equally perfect for music enthusiasts and audio professionals. Their easy compatibility with reference tracks and casual listening sessions earns them my unreserved and entirely enthusiastic recommendation. The LCD-X commands a spot in my best headphones list for its all-encompassing musicality and performance.
And, if you already own a pair of Audeze headphones but don’t subscribe to Roon, trust me on this… do a free 14-day trial. Roon’s seamless integration of Audeze’s headphone presets are audio icing on top of all their other winning qualities.
The LCD-2 Classic was impressively transformed with a few mouse clicks. As a fellow music lover, I encourage you to hear what you’re missing. Roon + Audeze + all your favorite music, free for two weeks. It’s risk-free; why pass it up?!
Click here to check out the Roon Store’s full line of Audeze headphones.
And click here for a free 14-day Roon Trial!
- If you’re into classic rock or soul, pop, live recordings, singer-songwriters, or reggae, hear me when I say try these headphones. They have incredible synergy with those genres. You will thank me.
- The included stock cables are lovely, tangle-free, flexible, comfortable, and sturdy. They don’t transmit noise into the earcup, which is more than I can say for some premium cables I’ve demoed.
- The LCD-X provided for the review was the Creator Package with the standard case and cable. Both are of fine quality. Buyers concerned about the standard case and cable can put those worries away. I don’t see a risk of disappointment.
- Before letting concerns about the weight of the LCD-2C or LCD-X, please give them a listen. Given what I had read, I expected them to be very uncomfortable, but both models were totally agreeable when worn, even for long hours.
- Driver Type: Planar magnetic
- Ear Cup Design: Open back
- Phase Management: Non-fazor
- Transducer Size: 106mm
- Frequency Response: 10Hz – 50kHz
- THD: <0.1% @ 100dB
- Sensitivity: 101 dB/1mW
- Impedance: 70 Ω
- Weight: 1 lb, 2 ounces
- Materials: Steel, nylon, synthetic leather, memory foam
- Warranty period: 1-3 years
- Driver Type: Planar magnetic
- Ear Cup Design: Open back
- Phase Management: Fazor
- Transducer Size: 106mm
- Frequency Response: 10Hz – 50kHz
- THD: <0.1% @ 100dB
- Sensitivity: 103 dB/1mW
- Impedance: 20 Ω
- Weight: 1 lb, 3 ounces
- Materials: Steel, aluminum, nylon, synthetic leather, memory foam
- Warranty period: 1-3 years
What comes in the box:
- LCD-2C headphones
- Audeze LCD hard carrying case
- 1.9m 1/4″ to dual 4-pin mini-XLR cable
- Product paperwork
- 2 keys
LCD-X (varies based on Creator or Premium package type)
- LCD-X headphones
- Audeze hard carrying case
- Single-ended 1/4″ braided OCC Copper cable
- Product paperwork
- 2 keys
- LCD-X headphones
- Premium travel case
- 4-pin balanced XLR cable
- Single-ended 1/4″ braided OCC Copper cable
- 1/4″ to 1/8″ stereo adapter