Audeze LCD-1 planar-magnetic headphone review: The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth

This headphone has a wonderfully transparent, precise, neutral sound that reveals everything in a recording, and for a much lower price than most planar-magnetic cans.

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Comparison to Cleer Flow II, DALI IO-6, Focal Stellia

In addition to the LCD-1, I listened to the same tracks on the Cleer Flow II ($199.99, reviewed here and DALI IO-6 ($499, reviewed here). These dynamic headphones are in roughly the same price ballpark as the LCD-1—the Flow II is $200 less, while the IO-6 is $100 more—and I gave both of them very high marks in my reviews. In this comparison, I used them in passive mode—that is, I did not turn their power on, and I connected them to the iFi hip-dac with their included audio cable.

In all cases, the Flow II and IO-6 had slightly more pronounced bass than the LCD-1, and the IO-6 was a bit louder at the same volume setting. In fact, the bass was sometimes a bit overbalanced, especially on the Flow II, which also exhibited a hint of congestion in the low end on some tracks. And on “Collard Greens and Cornbread Strut,” the Flow II sounded slightly veiled. Also, the IO-6 had a slightly warmer, creamier sound overall.

Keep in mind that these differences were generally small and mostly evident only in a direct and immediate comparison. Overall, both headphones still sound excellent, especially if you prefer a slightly bass-forward presentation. On the other hand, the Flow II was the least comfortable to wear—the earpads are too small for my ears, and the clamping pressure on my head was too high.

Just for grins, I also pulled out the Focal Stellia ($2,999, reviewed here). Granted, it costs more than seven times as much as the LCD-1, so it’s not really a fair comparison. But it’s the best headphone I have on hand, so what the heck? As expected, the Stellia had the best sound of all the headphones I listened to for this review—gorgeously rich and detailed with the most presence and detail as well as superior dynamic range. It did have a touch more bass than the LCD-1, but not as much more as the Flow II and IO-6.

audeze lcd1 on stand Vendor-provided art.

Audiophiles will appreciate the Audeze LCD-1’s ability to lay audio recordings bare.

Bottom line

As I was listening to the LCD-1, the words that kept coming to mind were “transparent” and “precise.” The sound was very open, allowing me to listen deep into the mix. And the balance between frequency ranges was exceptionally flat, with just the right amount of bass—extending well into the subterranean depths—that never overpowered the mids or highs.

Clearly, the LCD-1 does not follow the “smiley” EQ curve that boosts the bass and treble in many consumer headphones for the sake of impact and razzle-dazzle. Some might complain about deficient bass, but I found the sound to be refreshingly neutral. In fact, I would characterize the LCD-1 as highly revealing, even unforgiving, which is just what recording engineers and many audiophiles want in a headphone.

Also, transients were never smeared, and the soundstage was nice and wide. The latter observation is probably due in no small part to the open-back design, which also offers less isolation from environmental sounds. But in my quiet room, I was surprised at the sense of isolation I felt when I put on the LCD-1.

I have only a couple of minor quibbles. The LCD-1 is very lightweight, which is great, but that comes at the expense of feeling a bit flimsy. On the sound-quality front, I was never impressed with the dynamic range. It wasn’t bad, just not quite as wide as I’ve heard from other headphones.

With a list price of $399, the Audeze LCD-1 is far less expensive than most planar-magnetic headphones. Along with its generally outstanding sound quality, that makes it a no-brainer in my book.

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At a Glance
  • The Audeze LCD-1 has a wonderfully open, clear, neutral sound, and it costs far less than most planar-magnetic headphones.

    Pros

    • Open, clean, transparent, precise sound
    • Completely neutral tonal balance
    • Wide soundstage
    • Less expensive than most PM headphones

    Cons

    • Slightly flimsy feel
    • Dynamic range a bit narrow
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