Review written by Tyler Manuel (@DarthPool)
Check out our most recent Audeze LCD-GX review by Chrono
The Audeze LCD-GX is a much “not” talked about headphones… I begin to wonder why… as it is one of the best sounding headphones, I’ve heard in its price bracket, plus it’s probably the lightest Audeze LCD headphone in the series. Then add in the versatility that the added microphone cable brings to the mix, plus the pelican style case, you have a very scalable and flexible solution for not only gaming but for music and conference calls/work from home scenarios (which at this time is a very desirable feature). The pelican case is good for taking these on the go for LAN parties or traveling on the go gaming…which to be fair, it isn’t the most portable solution, but a secure one!
- Style - Over-Ear, Open-Back
- Transducer Type - Planar Magnetic, Single Fluxor™ Magnet Array
- Magnet Type - Neodymium N50
- Diaphragm Type - Ultra-Thin Uniforce™
- Transducer Size - 106 Mm
- THD - <0.1% @ 100dB
- Impedance - 20 Ohms
- Sensitivity - 100 DB/1mW (At Drum Reference Point)
- Minimum Power Requirement - >100mW
- Recommended Power Level - >250mW
Gaming, Movies & Music
Starting off with how it was marketed, which I have to admit when I purchased these that is all I was going to use them for and now I’m kind of regretting not using these more heavily in my rotation of other aspects of my Audio life!
Right off the bat, gaming with the LCD-GX is very FUN! I wouldn’t say it’s the best for “competitive” play…but, it does the job and is better than most gaming headphones that I’ve tried. It excels at single-player games, providing an immersive experience that is hard to compete with. Not to say it isn’t good for FPS games or multi-player, it is very good for this, but usually, these games' focus on treble for accuracy tends to make general gaming headphones not as enjoyable overall across genres. Another thing that these excel in is watching movies! That planar “slam” comes into play! I would say overall for gaming they are very immersive and bring a solid performance to those looking for more out of their gaming headphones. While the LCD-GX is good out of most sources, I think that pairing them with a little more power can really flesh them out.
Now, you don’t need anything crazy with these but, if you have a portable DAC/amp like the iFi Nano Black Label or iFi Hip DAC/amp, or similar portable DAC/amp, then you can benefit from pushing more power to these and get a fuller sound out of them. I have used these direct from my Xbox controller to being plugged into my Nintendo Switch and laptop. I have yet to be disappointed by them powered by any of these options. To be noted though, they also scale very well with a more dedicated system, such as my favorite pairing the Schiit Hel (which is also relatively portable) to the SPL Phonitor XE!
So, to be clear, it isn’t necessary to have endgame amps to pair with these to get their full potential but, the LCD-GX handles scaling up to higher-end gear for both gaming and music quite well.
Listening & Synergy
As I’ve scaled up through some of my amps I noticed for gaming, it factors into the enjoyment, but, really as you scale up the food chain of amps and DACs a difference in the quality of music performance becomes more recognizable. This is understandable, as with gaming, you are not as focused on the audio. Not that it isn’t gaining benefits in gaming with better performing and dedicated amps, but more that your focus is usually elsewhere while gaming. Where as the benefits in sound with music, on the other hand, is a more focused endeavor.
Music becomes more controlled with more power, allowing for engagement with the music to be effortless. Now, I find that it doesn’t take much to get these to full potential. The iFi amp/DACs mentioned above provide enough power to be fully enjoyable. I will say my favorite pairing is the Schiit Hel as a nice desktop solution that also provides gain for the mic output! Having the gain for the microphone on the Schiit Hel is a nice way to control how loud your microphone is from an analog standpoint that makes it very easy to dial in performance.
Ok another surprise for me was how good these sounded straight out of a dongle DAC and my iPhone11! It lacks some of the slam, plus feels a little lean, but overall, quite capable and enjoyable…plus phone calls are now an option with them. I was using a random aftermarket dongle DAC but I also utilized the stock Apple dongle. Both performed about the same with no major differences to talk about.
This leads me to my other use of the LCD-GX, they make excellent work from home conference call headphones and microphone system. I use them with my laptop for contacting friends and family/co-workers straight from the headphone/microphone out port. I especially enjoy pairing the LCD-GX with the Schiit Hel when sitting at my desktop setup, even though I have more powerful amps, DACs on hand. While I wouldn’t recommend them for a noisy environment, they do exceptionally well inside the confines of a home, or private office.
I will plug them directly into my laptop/iPad/iPhone and randomly plop down around the house or outside on the porch, to chat with friends and family via Facetime/phonecall/Skype/Zoom, yes some people are like “what the heck is on your head?!?!?”, but usually, I get "those look cool, what are they?" Then the disbelief at the cost happens from my non-audiophile friends/family/co-workers come in, but they just don’t get it ha!
Mic & Cable
Moving onto what makes these “gamer” headphones, also why they are so diverse, the microphone cable that they come with is more or less why they get tagged/shoved into the gamer corner. This is why I think they are ignored by more serious headphone enthusiasts, and that may be a shame. For anyone wondering, you can also order the cable directly from Audeze and use it with any headphone that uses the same connectors.
So does a microphone turn a headphone into a “gamer” headphone…. Well no, it just lets you have an easy way to talk using a headphone. That being said, the microphone on the cable of the LCD-GX is very capable, I’ve tested it with both phone calls, web calls, gaming and discord with no issues. Everyone I’ve asked said I sounded normal and had no issues with it. While testing it for myself, it works well but can pick up ambient noise pretty easily. This can be troublesome, but not a deal-breaker and controllable with software or gain control via amps like the Schiit Hel. I can honestly say overall an excellent solution, and one of the better headphone mics I’ve used.
Comfort and aesthetics
These are two things that I find while not necessarily required for performance, factor heavily into the enjoyment of a thing and the LCD-GX I feel is both comfortable and aesthetically pleasing. Though I would like some different rod options for customization reasons. The red mesh behind the main black grille just pops and matches with a lot of the gear I mentioned above. I found my preference for pairing them, both in sound performance and aesthetics in the Schiit Hel…it’s as if these two were planned together…hmmm…But that is an inquiry for another day.
I’ve spent hours listening to music, conference calls/meetings then swapping over to gaming, all while never taking them off, I was surprised how easy these are to keep on my head without any hot spots or discomfort - a pretty remarkable feat.
Due to the design of the magnets, these are some of the most efficient planar magnetic headphones I’ve come across. I’m quite content with them straight out of my cellphone. Add in the diversity of the microphone cable and you have a pretty diverse headphone, capable of jumping around different tasks with ease. I honestly find these more enjoyable than the LCD-X even though they might technically be less capable.
At the end of the day, I feel like this excellent headphone is being misjudged and overlooked purely due to being misaligned as “only” a gamer headphone when in reality it is a sleeper hit!
-Tyler Manuel (@DarthPool)