Review written by Anthony Nguyen (@Antdroid)
Check out our most recent Audeze LCD-GX review by Chrono
I’ll be the first to admit that when I first saw the launch of the Audeze LCD-GX headphone/headset, I was quite skeptical. This was a $899 open-back headphone, made for gamers, with a red and black trim and a giant boom mic. It almost felt like it was a money grab to me, especially after they already had just released the Audeze Mobius at the time, which I was an early adopter for. But time went by and I started hearing some good feedback for it. I was also impressed that they got the weight down to a more manageable and wearable weight, something that I feel is the biggest flaw of the Audeze LCD series lineup. I can’t wear any of them for more than a 30 minutes without physical pain! At least until this one came out….
I’ve used a few lightweight Audeze headphones in the past – mainly the Audeze Mobius, the Audeze Sine and of course, the iSine series, which aren’t really over-ear headphones. For the most part, I’ve tried the LCD series with the most recent being the LCD-X and none of them were anywhere near comfortable for me to use for any period of time, no matter how nice they may have sounded.
Anyway, with this pandemic occurring, I had a strange idea of wondering how using an over-ear headphone would work for conference and video calls. I actually started using my Hifiman Arya and ZMF Verite with Audeze boom mic cable for work. But an opportunity arose, and Headphones.com allowed me to borrow the Audeze LCD-GX to try out and so here I am, writing a short review on this “gaming headset.”
The LCD-GX comes with both a normal set of cables as well as the all-new headset cable that is basically a normal detachable headphone cable with a boom-style microphone that comes off of one of the 4-pin XLR connectors that goes into the left cup. This cable turns a normal headphone into a headset that can be used for gaming communication, or in my case, conference calls.
In my quick experience using them for a couple calls, I had mixed opinions from other colleagues on the line. Some said I sounded fine, and others said I sounded a little distant and cutting in and out. It seems like the microphone needs to be pretty close to your mouth to be most effective and doesn’t necessarily pick up your voice if it isn’t in direct line of your voice.
In addition to the cables, the set comes with a large hard-shell carrying case that is similar to a Pelican travel case, and is padded with foam that’s been cut-out to fit the headphone and accessories.
The actual headphone itself sports a more modern look similar to their LCD-4z and LCD-MX4 or the more budget-friendly LCD-1 with a grill style that is more raised and beveled and is integrated directly into the cup structure, unlike the other traditional LCD models with a fastened and flatter plate. Behind the external grill is a popping red colored thick screen that sort of reminds me of drawer liner, at least from how it looks. The red contrasts with the black exterior pretty nicely, and I think it looks a lot better in-person than in the promotional video, which I thought was rather cheesy.
The GX features a single-sided planar magnet array which is 106mm, which is on the larger-side of drivers. The headphone’s impedance is 20 Ohms and sensitivity is at 100 dB/mW at 1KHz. This makes this planar a bit easier to drive than some others in Audeze’s lineup as well as others that I’ve owned myself in the past, including my current Hifiman Arya, which requires a noticeable amount of additional turn on the dial to get to the same listening volumes.
One of the benefits of going with a single-sided array is the weight is kept down to about 460g listed weight. I found that this is one of the few Audeze headphones that I’ve been able to wear comfortable for more than just 20-30 minutes. Most of the LCD series is closer too 600-700 grams so this significant reduction in weight is welcomed, although it still weighs considerably more than my Arya.
I was taken aback when I first put on the GX and turned on some music. I honestly didn’t know what to expect as I hadn’t read too much about these and only heard some brief impressions from owners. But I was rather surprised at what I heard. I felt like this is what I was expecting the LCD-X to sound like, at least in tonality. It does feel a little less technical than the bright/neutral LCD-X, but this GX has a nice balanced sound that still sounds like an Audeze, but with a more neutral tilt. It still has a warmer sound signature, but no where thick and sometimes dark sounding as some of the others in the LCD series (sans X) that I’ve tried, and this aligns a lot closer to my preferences.
When I first listened to the GX, I was listening to it with Alison Kruss & Union Station’s Lonely Runs Both Ways record, which for those who don’t know, is a bluegrass album that borders pop music. Maybe I was listening to them a little louder than my normal listening, but I found that there was a bit of ringing when listening to this song as it does accentuate the lower treble area with an abundance of harmonic energy from all the various stringed instruments. When listening to this at my normal listening volumes, roughly 65-70dB, this ringing isn’t present, and I actually find that the GX plays this song quite well.
The bass is generally flat, but with the small dip in the lower treble, as is present in many LCD headphones, the general low end does sound a bit warmer, though nowhere as thick and slammy as other LCD iterations.
For example, in Beach House’s Lemon Glow, the basslines in this song can be quite heavy and pounding, however it seems like the GX takes this on with a bit more subtle hit, and while it’s not as tame as say my Hifiman Arya in this aspect, it does lack some of that authority in the other LCD headphones. That’s not to say that bass is light or missing or anything. Subbass reaches low and the bass response is in-line with how I prefer and it’s the slightly above neutral sounding warmth is a benefit.
The mid-range is typical Audeze sounding, though perhaps a little less thickened and more lean, but again, not as lean as your standard Hifiman, and actually probably matches some of that in it’s tonality. I enjoyed the fact that males and female vocals seemed in-line with each other and neither seemed to song tonally inaccurate.
When it comes to treble, I mentioned previously that the GX is still a little darker than neutral, but only a shade bit. I find this may actually be the best tuned LCD that I’ve tried and have enough memory of to really provide a true opinion on. I actually do like the Sine’s signature a lot as well, and I found it fit more in the Hifiman series than it did the Audeze’s but with this GX added to the collection and the recent LCD-1, I am seeing some slight, subtle changes to perhaps the Audeze house sound.
I never did use this headphone for gaming, and I admit that I don’t game as much as I once did in my younger days. I did however find imaging and instrument separation to be good and comparable to other headphones in this price range and what I’d expect from Audeze. The soundstage wasn’t exceptionally wide, but it didn’t sound closed in, or intimate either. I think it’s a good listening width and depth was present and did not sound flat.
Resolution on these were surprisingly good for what I would normally and stereotypically consider a gaming headset to have, which to me have been the Razer, SteelSeries, and Turtle Beach variety. This is a vast improvement over the Mobius with a larger sound, a cleaner sound, and improvements across the board. And despite it being heavier than the Mobius, I find the GX is more comfortable to wear for longer sessions which may be due to the larger cup size and the suspension headband with larger surface area.
All in all, the GX is a really solid headphone at it’s price class. I don’t think it’s better than the more expensive LCDs, but I would take it over the LCDX for both comfort and tonality, with perhaps a small drop-off in technical performance and resolution.
I’ll still take my Arya over the GX though, as I find the Arya signature and soundstage to best the GX for my preferences, as well as resolution that exceeds it. Where the GX wins is the low end performance, which adds a little more emphasis than the Arya does.
I feel like the GX just made the LCD2 obsolete here. For a little bit more money, you get a better sounding headphone, a headset adapter, significantly less weight and comfort, and equal or better performance overall. This is perhaps the biggest surprise in the Audeze lineup.
-Anthony Nguyen (@Antdroid)