We have covered a few Audeze products and technologies recently, be it with the review of the LCD-2 Classic that prompted us to work on a new setup dedicated to over/on-ear headphones, which debuts today, a primer on the use of CNTs for the company's first electrostatic headphones, and, more recently, a review of the impressive Euclid planar magnetic IEMs competing with many closed headphones. But how competitive is it really? Thanks again to Audeze, we can now find out whether at the same price point, the money is better spent on closed-back over-ear phones courtesy this review sample of the LCD-XC arranged from the company for TechPowerUp!
As with the more popular LCD-X open-back headphones, the LCD-X is Audeze's bread and butter for mixing engineers and recording studios, to be used as monitoring headphones. These are thus part of the Audeze LCD Reference series, and I thought the photos above quite fitting as such. There have been a couple of major updates to the LCD-X and -XC late last year, so much so that I am referring to the review sample as the LCD-XC (2021) to distinguish it from previous iterations. This review also goes over the use of Embody's Immerse Virtual Studio, which formed the backbone for Audeze Reveal+ 2.0 we saw put to good use with the LCD-2 Classic. The two items together promise to be a formidable combination for studio monitoring and taking the room used out of the equation to provide a high-quality studio environment wherever you go. We will see how well these expectations are met in this review which begins with a look at the headphone specifications in the table below.
Three years for the drivers, one year for the rest
Packaging and Accessories
The Audeze LCD-XC is not a brand-new release, having been announced in 2013 for ~$1799. It is now 2021, and Audeze has been continually updating the LCD-XC, so much so that the current offering is quite different from launch. There is still a Premium package SKU at $1799, but Audeze has since put out a Creator's Package which comes heavily discounted. In fact, it costs less to get the Creator's Package and buy the missing accessories, including what I am told is a very nice case, than to get the Premium package, so the latter is clearly for Audeze supporters only, and everyone is encouraged to get the Creator's Pack instead. This is what I have here, and it arrived in a large cardboard box directly from Audeze since the company operates a web shop as well. The tape mentions as much, and a fragile-marked sticker on the side may well help prevent courier shenanigans. Open the box and you see some fantastic protection for the product box itself, including a total of eight shaped, thick foam pieces in the corners keeping it safe from any damage done to the outer packaging. There is also a foam wrap over the product box for further protection.
The case that ships with the latest LCD-XC Creator's Pack is the same as for the LCD-2 Classic, which has in turn been updated to have the Audeze logo. I have a B-stock case here because the logo application isn't perfect, so I am glad Audeze recognized it as such and set it aside as B-stock rather than ship it out to retail customers. This economy travel case is still a hard case and looks and feels premium, too. I would rather there be no Audeze logo at all for when this is used in public, but it is easy enough to tape over, and you can just as much lock this with the latch on the front. The corners are reinforced as well, and four support pads at the bottom prevent scratches to the underside of the case. There are four other pads on another side should you place the case vertically more than horizontally, although this is close to a cube in geometry. The handle is large and comfortable to use, the hinges on the back are complementary in size and support, and the case is not uncomfortable to carry around at all overall. Open the box and you see more foam than you could even want in there. There are egg-crate style foam sheets at the top, and a thick foam block fills in the bulk of the box that has precise cutouts for the headphones and accessories.
Audeze includes a set of two keys for the case, which now truly makes this a fantastic storage and carry solution. The paperwork includes a card with the serial number of the unit you have and confirms the personal inspection, accompanied by an actual signature of the person having done it. Present also is a more generic reminder to see if there are any applicable downloads or user manuals on the Audeze website, where we see an outdated but still relevant LCD user guide in multiple languages, a warranty policy, and a couple of service guides for self-replacement of the ear pads and headband if you happen to have newer ones on hand. That's all fine and dandy, but this is also how you find out about Audeze Reveal+, which we covered before. The provided cable is seen here, too, and it comes inside a plastic bag similar to the keys. Before we move on, let me point out that a cylindrical piece of foam has been put between the earcups of the headphones as it arrives in the case, which keeps them in place with applied inward and outward pressure without any possibility of damage in transit. The horizontal pressure marks on this foam piece also confirm the use of Audeze's Fazor waveguides on the LCD-XC, which were absent on the LCD-2 Classic.