Audeze LCD-X vs Sennheiser HD800
I know that I already did a review on LCD-X, but I am sure that a lot of you will ask yourselves how does the X stand next to Sennheiser HD800. Well, this is what this review is for, as I will explain my perspective on the matter.
So, consider this the Part 2 of from the original LCD-X review.
I have now spent days with LCD-X, trying to determine which I like more between the LCD-3 and it. I really didn’t managed to reach a conclusion in that department.
Just when I thought LCD-3 was it, the X pulled me back in ( read that with Al Pacino‘s voice ) and the other way around. I also tried to make my mind between LCD-X and HD800 with the same results.
The tests have been done with Burson Conductor, Audiobyte Hydra usb interface, PowerInspired AG500, Sennheiser HD800, Audeze LCD-X, Chord Usb Silver plus.
I have used the Toxic Silver Widow with LCD-X and I found to be a very good match for it, as it puts you a little further in the scene. It actually relaxes the treble a little more but gives it more extension and detail, improves the bass impact and makes it faster, the instrument separation is better and the sound is more detailed overall.
With HD800 I used a diy cable made by a friend from rectangular occ copper which i found to be very good with HD800 improving the lower end and relaxing the treble a little, without loosing from attack and details.
Let’s get into the heart of the sound and explain it on some songs.
Piotr Ilich Tchaikovsky – Waltz of the Flowers from “The Nutcracker”
LCD-X never seizes to amaze me with it’s treble, air at the top and soundstage height. The treble is extremely clean and doesn’t have any touch of grain or sibilance. The harp has a great sense of tactility, giving me goose bumps. It is so clear as I think of a clean mountain river with fresh, cool water and I get thirsty. The instruments positioning is well determined they are well separated in space. What I find amazing is that the sound opens up in some ways even compared with HD800, as LCD-X has more air at the top and a taller soundstage which gave me a more precise image of the concert hall sometimes. The sound had overall more tactility than with HD800 on this song.
As I thought, this song sounded excellent with HD800. The treble was very good here too but not so smooth and tactile as with LCD-X. Also when the trumpets began to sing at the end, the treble was a little dirty and peaky with “ss”-s in it compared to X.
The soundstage was wider , deeper and the sound had more layers, but doens’t have the height of LCD-X, and I have the impression that sometimes the depth and width are not well determined with HD800 compared to LCD-X, as they seem endless.
Mike Oldfield – Runaway Son
The energy LCD-X starts with is very engaging and makes me dance. The PRAT is just awesome. The trumpets have a very good extension and clarity without being bright at all. The instrument separation is amazing. I never feel that the instruments blend into each other. The bass is fast, punchy and still has a good body. The voice is very clear and I felt that it integrates very good between the instruments, not being surpassed by any of it in tone.
The first thing I observed is the bigger depth and better layering. When the voice from the beginning started to sing it was further in the back than with LCD-X. The guitars are more detailed with hd800 with a better extension. However the treble was again more peaky and sibilant and not as linear and present as with LCD-X. The voice was quite good but the sibilance took away some of the fun.
Coldplay – Sparks
The guitars are amazing with HD800 in this song. They have amazing body with excellent extension, good tactility and texture. You can hear the plucks and the fingers on the chords. HD800 is excellent with details. The voice is very clean, and in this song it has no sibilance.
The guitars are very impressive here too, but they aren’t as clean as with HD800 or as detailed. The voice is excellent with the X too. I felt that it had more presence and better texture and it was brought closer to you. The treble was again better extended and present here than with HD800.
Silent Strike – Keys For Silent Doors
This song has a lot of sub bass going on so I felt it was interesting to test it against LCD-X. The details are of course as you would expect very good with HD800. Overall the bass was good, very fast, punchy but lacked some body.
Well this is what I am taking about. This is the bass presence I felt it was missing on HD800. The sub-bass here is much more present and fun. Again, the sound opens up as there are a lot of details on the upper mids and treble that are better extended and more present on X.
Pink Martini – Taya Tan
When the voice started it literally sent shivers down my spine. That voice is amazingly transparent and clear, with very good texture. The cymbals are very sparkly but not sibilant or bright. The instruments dance around the voice with grace and enough space between them but a little closer to each other than HD800.
The voice starts amazing with HD800 but is a little more laid back than with LCD-X and lacks some of the presence. On some parts it even presents a few more “ss” than needed. The cymbals are a little too sharp and tend to have a start of sibilance.
Rebecca Pidgeon – Grandmother
HD800 puts you a few seats back in the room. The depth incredible with it, the sounds going and going into depth without a delimited end. The guitars have a wonderful extension and all the instruments are incredibly detailed and well separated. The voice is clean with some “ss”-s from time to time. The dynamics and micro dynamics, details and micro details are wonderful. Every instrument is well extended and can be heard clearly, no matter how further in the back it is and even it isn’t so loud.
The sound is very smooth and it flows with ease and musicality. The x brings you closer to the scene and especially to the singer as the voice is more forward with more presence and better texture. Even if the depth is not as deep as with HD800, it is still enjoyable as I can get a better understanding of the room, as the X delimits the room’s ending better. The instrument separation and positioning is excellent here too. The dynamics are very good, but HD800 still wins in the micro department.
Massive Attack – Mezzanine
The piano at the beginning is amazing. You can immediately here it as further in the back and pinpoint it’s position. The notes have tactility even if the piano has a lower volume. The voice is as you would expect with X a pleasure to listen to. The bass has very good impact and body, but I thought it to bee too much on this song compared to HD800 ( it may be the song’s fault with the bass here) .
The piano in the back was on par with LCD-X. The bass was faster, but still with a good impact and body, making the sound clearer than on LCD-X. The voice, even if not so in front, still was very detailed and had very good texture.
Infected Mushroom – Project 100
The guitar begins strong impressing me with it’s body, extension and detail. The details come from every direction and you can hear any one of them. The bass is very engaging being very fast with a very good impact and a good depth. If there wouldn’t have been the ocazional “ss”-s in the treble it would have been close to perfect.
The guitar begins strong here too. It has better body and impact than with HD800 but it is not so well extended and detailed. The prat and energy are awesome with the X. The bass has more weight and depth and the treble doesn’t have signs of sibilance.
I am surprised and happy to say that LCD-X competes with HD800 in this department . I said I am happy because it takes a lot to pull something that competes here so well with the HD800s in the dynamic headphones world. And to us, the headphones lovers, there’s even more choice now.
It doesn’t have the depth of HD800 and all that air between the layers, but the sound is still opening in some ways compared to HD800.
LCD-X has more air at the top and gave me a more precise image of the room. With HD800 the sounds go further in the depth than with LCD-X, but sometimes they loose themselves in the back. With LCD-X the sounds hit the ending wall in the room and come back, giving you a more accurate presentation of the room. This could be from the treble, as overall, it is more linear and present on LCD-X than on HD800. The treble reflects more easily from objects, in this case the scene’s wall.
I think that treble contains the most reflective sound waves, thus creating the sense of space, room delimitation and air.
Both have a very good soundstage in my opinion, and it is incredible that LCD-X competes with HD800 in this department and even surpasses it in some ways.
Imaging and instrument separation
The instruments still have more air between them on HD800 which overall has better layering. However, I feel that the instrument separation is comparable, as they are very well delimited on LCD-X as well. Sometimes I feel that instruments that live in the upper mids and treble are more present and more easy to distinguish and separate on LCD-X. Even if HD800 is still best here, LCD-X is very close to it and is a very strong contender here.
The treble on LCD-X is excellent and doesn’t have the annoying peak from HD800. One very important aspect here is that the treble is linear compared to the senns. I feel that before the peak and after the peak from HD800 the treble is more present on LCD-X. This can also be seen if you compare Tyll’s measurements on LCD-X and HD800.
The X gives an incredibly smooth, clean & transparent treble which I absolutely love. I very much like the treble on HD800 but the sibilance and brightness ruins the fun sometimes, and it isn’t as present on all frequencies as LCD-X.
The mids on the LCD-X have some of the magic from LCD-3 and are more smooth than on HD800. I feel that the upper mids are more present on LCD-X. However, overall, HD800 has more extended and detailed mids . I like them both.
The bass is faster on HD800 having a quicker decay. LCD-X however has more impact, better depth and more body. Overall, I enjoyed the bass on both but favor the X.
Both have very good transients being very good in the attack department. The decays are smoother on LCD-X giving a smoother presentation to the sound than on HD800 (which have faster transients overall) but still very energetic.
Even if the details are more apparent on LCD-X in the treble department, the details and micro details are still quite better on HD800.
The dynamics are very good on both headphones but HD800 still wins in the micro dynamic department.
The voices are amazing with LCD-X as I stated a lot of times before. They are more forward than with HD800 with more presence, texture and incredible transparency. The voices are very detailed with HD800 too, but are a little more laid back and sometimes the sibilance takes away the fun.
I think that LCD-X is very close to the neutrality of HD800.
I am going crazy here. Why can’t I just prefer a type of sound and go with it? No… I must be the guy that loves all of them…
Ah…The voices on LCD-X, the smooth and transparent treble, clean as a whistle, the incredible openness due to the air at the top and the treble, ah..the very engaging and deep bass from the X.
Then HD800 invades my mind : Ah, the details & micro-details, the layering and depth, the dynamics and micro-dynamics.
And then it gets “better” as LCD-3 gets into my head too and it starts to become crowded there: Ah… that excellent deep bass with full tonality, that euphonic, organic & visceral sound with wonderful instrument extension .
I am going nuts here:
I don’t know how Audeze managed to pull this, but X hits a very interesting spot against the HD800 and LCD-3 without actually replacing any of them, making all of them complementary to each other. However, in the end, the X can be seen as a compromise between the two, but for me it is not that simple it seems .
However, if I would be forced to pick just one from the 3, I would go with the X because it excels at all genres from classical, jazz to rock and electronic.
LCD-X is a wallet killer. I really think that we will start seeing people owning LCD-X, HD800 and even LCD-3, all at once, yes . I am talking about hardcore audiophiles here. So don’t worry, as any of those 3 would make you happy depending on what you are looking for.
The HE6 still remains the best ortho ever made though. I was fully expecting the LCD-X to innovate
I saw that there are people preferring LCD-3 while others prefer HE-6. Still haven’t heard that one, so can’t say anything yet 🙂
great review. which one is the most comfortable for long listening sessions?
Thanks Jim. HD800 wins comfort wise.
However, LCD-X is better suited for long listening terms, soundwise.
Audeze has gone further and further away from the creaminess of LCD-2 Rev 1. It is the creaminess that made Audeze headphones a success to begin with. I blind purchased the LCD-3 but was a tad disappointed. The creaminess is gone. And in terms of detail and transient response it can’t compare with my SR009 (not even close). Looks to me that LCD-2 is actually the perfect compliment to my 009. Everything in between (including the LCD-X, which according to your review seems to have departed further away from the original LCD-2 sound) is just meh to me.
I see it as evolution. They increased transparency, speed, instrument separation, details, etc.
I love my lcd-x for example and I still consider it to have the audeze house sound.
Just to compliment your writing skill and perspective ,while reading your head phone reviews I was compelled to comment. I find your analyst to be refreshing compared to many if not all main stream reviewers. I think you cover all the bases and know very well at what you speak of.
I’ll continue to read through your site with interest. Keep up the good work,……
Thank you very much for the kind words. I really appreciate it.
Thanks for th
Thanks for the reviews! Very thoughtful and lucid identification of the variables we all look for in high end headphone performance. Now to decide if I want to replace my LCD3s with the X… It keeps calling to me and I really need to audition a pair to see how they sound on my Mjolnir/Gungnir setup.
Thank you Keith. I heard that that setup might be very energetic in the treble region. LCD-X might be a little bright, but this is just an assumption, as I never had the pleasure of listening to the Schiit Products.
i have got a top end linn sondek,naim amps and proac speakers,with a second from top naim cd player.if you have only heard headphones with ANY digital front end,than you have absolutely NO idea what they are capable of.i have heard a linn digital mater which is by far the highest quality digital version of a song you can currently get.we heard the Eagles’ Hotel California on the digital master and on the 180g vinyl,throug a £100,000 system and the lp absolutely slaughtered the digital version in EVERY WAY.IF YOU HAVE NOT HEARD THE HD800′s with vinyl,which i have,as i own them,and also audeze lcd2,then you dont know what they are capable of.there has always been,and still is far more information on a record than on any cd or digital file,lossless, or wav or flac or even a digital master.if you think that the hd800 s are sibilant or bass light or inferior to audeze headphones,you are completely wrong.and all this twaddle about changing cables is rubbish- what makes all of your aupio problems is digital front ends,which are ALL crap compared to a high end turntable
If you see my recommendation list, you will see that they are in the first place. They scale like no others. I have listened to them from really high end systems myself and they are the best dynamics out there if you have a really good system. However, LCD-X scales really nicely too (more than LCD-3 without the fazors) and has some very appealing strong points as well. I own and love them both.
Ah..and I forgot to add…that the best sound system I’ve ever heard…was not vinyl..Even if I like vinyls…I never found one to sound better than a really high end DAC with quality digital recordings 🙂 .
For example MSB Analog Dac sounds extremely natural and analog by itself.
Rock music is your reference?,,,,,Really?,…
I have sat and listened to systems far more expensive then 100,000 BP assembled by owners that have no clue other then it has to be good for all the money spent which is not the case. At least Dan has knowledge of live music and how it should sound , for home listening digital recordings have come a long way and of course there is always room for improvements . Analog play back is not easy to get right however this depends on your goals.
A top flight Linn table would not be my choice neither would a re-issue Rock recording would be any reference either.,.”…
i didnt say rock music was my reference,and digital does not now,nor has it ever gotten as much information as vinyl.read what i said,before you comment.read Noel keywoods treatise on cd,published in the flat response,before you comment again,please.more information,means more music,period.a digital dac cannot compete with,let alone exceed a vinyl record,or system. i also have knowledge of live music”,like Dan does,so quit the patronising tone,please.i notice none of you have supplied your system details. i have also heard the worlds finest streamers and cd players,and none of them are as good as a top flight turntable
Well, I think this is the most expensive sound system I have ever heard : https://headmania.org/2014/05/14/18-million-dollar-stereo-sound-system/
If you look inside, you will see a Kuzma turntable was also inserted in the system. While it sounded very good, I still preferred the MSB Diamond DAC IV (with the powerbase and all upgrades->> ~50.000$) and by a large margin. I am sure that there are better turntables than what I have heard, but this was not a bad one at all… Actually I preferred the MSB Analog DAC to the Kuzma turntable by a large margin as well…
Hotel California would not be my choice, maybe back ground music when company come over for dinner ,but not to evaluate recorded medium ,
This debate of digital VS analogue is futile and goes no where.
Anyway I think Dan did a good solid job evaluating these head phones.
there is no debate as to which is superior between analogue and digital,you cannot hear digital,it has to be reconverted to analogue so you can hear it.digital does not have as much information as vinyl,and what is lost at source cannot be amplified or heard through either speakers or headphones.and stop going on like a musical snob about the eagles,ihave heard mitchell,rega,linn,pink triangle,avid,nottingham space analogue,turntables,and high end cd players like the sondek cd player,ive heard top end streamers,and in every comparison,over the years,the vinyl slaughtered the digital.try and understand that the ONLY reason that i compared the Eagles track on this forum,is because the linn digital master is the pinnacle of the digital source,it has the greatest shot at being compared to vinyl,and is the finest level of digital playback,and the fairest comparison to vinyl,but it still falls a long way short.i use multiple musical tracks over the years to dem all the equipment i have bought,and have been doing this for over 30 years.i also live a few miles from Snape maltings,which has a world renowned concert hall,i work every month for a composer callled Oliver knussen,look him up,if you dont know of him,i play the drums myself,i know many people in the Aldeburgh and Southwold area,who own pianos,play saxophone,acoustic guitars,electric guitars,and almost every other type of musical instrument,i go to live concerts of ALL TYPES of music regularly,so i know that digital is inferior to vinyl,and has always been.you need to do some proper research on WHY digital is not in the same league as vinyl,and never can be.this discussion is futile,because all digital does is lose information,sometimes deliberately by compression,or inadvertently,through the conversion to digital,then back to analogue so you can hear it.a good recording on vinyl will always have more information on it than the same recording on the digital source.
Thank you, Mike.
Nice history you have there, Glen.
However, the thd, snr and stereo channel separation are much better on digital sources from what I know. (orders of magnitude better).
Even if they were more details on the vinyl (which I didn’t hear for myself), they would be masked under all that noise.
you havent read Noel keywoods technical analysis of digital,then,on cd it was 38.5 % thd,and the artificial absence of noise is not the same as more information,and in my experience,i dont hear the noise that you claim that is on vinyl,even through the very revealing hd800’s,or very expensive pre / power amps,and very good speaker sources,as they are designed to let more musical information through,whilst getting rid of the spurious noise that you dont want to hear.digital may appear to be transparent and clear,but that is because of a huge loss of musical information,not the subtraction of noise. have you heard a digital file as good as linn digital master,yet? if you havent try to hear one,then compare the vinyl recording,through the same system,and then get back to me.i have given digital the fairest dem,and it is in no way comparable in any way,to vinyl,it falls way short in every way
Well, even though I haven’t experienced things as you did, I will give it more attention, especially if I have the chance to hear a good turntable again.
Until then: http://wiki.hydrogenaud.io/index.php?title=Myths_(Vinyl)
Have you ever hear some DACS that have non conventional dac chips, like MSB or Chord for example? I found them to be quite ahead from other dacs. And MSB Analog Dac really sounds very analog, natural and full of details.
no,i havent,i have just heard one box streamers from companies like Linn and Naim,i don’t understand streaming and dacs,i just listen and decide what sounds better!😳 i wish i did understand how to do it,but i just stick to, at home,anyway to convential naim cdx cd player,and the sondek.my latest upgrades this year,has been the hd800s,headline and power supply,then a new naim 200 power amp lat month,and today,ive finally got a pair of Proac response 2.5’s,which i will get set up at home in about an hours time!!!!!! what is your setup?
My setup contains the following : MSB Analog Dac, Audio GD Master 9 headphone amplifier, Sennheiser HD800, Audeze LCD-X.
Analog Dac runs from my powerinspired ag500 power regenerator. The usb cable between analog dac and the computer is a split forza (silver+copper) cable that takes the power from a linear power supply that is plugged into my power regenerator and the signal from the computer.
The cable between Analog dac and M9 is a single ended (RCA) Kimber Kable Silver Streak.
My HD800 has a Norne Draug Series occ copper cable and the LCD-X has a Toxic Cable Silver Widow.
Congrats on the proac!
“you need to do some proper research on WHY digital is not in the same league as vinyl,and never can be”
if digital recording is still not the best today, it will be someday and that’s inevitable. Technology will only get better and digital is the way to go mainly because of Moore’s law. I am no audiophile nor do I own many high end audio systems. My main hobby is photography and I too was skeptical at first that digital(eg. digital camera sensor) would eventually capture more details than film (analog) given the same sensor/film size. Excellent review by the way, Dan. In the gist of it all, I have the same conclusions about the HD800 and LCD-X when I tested them for several hours at a store. I ended up buying the LCD-X primarily because of the superior build quality and aesthetics. Sound quality wise, I too could not decide between the two because each had their own strong points.
as i have alresdy pointed out,you see and hear in analogue,every digital format needs a DAC,a digital to analogue converter,which takes the digital information,and reconverts it into what we can see (eg:camera,) or hear(cd/ digital file etc). there has never been,or ever will be,on this planet,ANYTHING that is better than the original,after being cut up into thousands of smaller bits,or blown up,then having all those bits stuck back together,yet that is what happens to a pure analogue signal. moores law is not an ongoing one,it reaches its own self collapse point,so that is not a good analogy.and as time goes by,turntables have improved,and will still do so,so vinyl,which has always,and still is,and as i have stated,always will be better than digital,because more information is in the vinyl grooves,it just needs extracting.btw,i have digital recordings on vinyl,such as Brothers in arms,and they are VILE,therecord sounds WORSE than the cd,because the much higher quality turntable shows just how foul the recording is.i am not a digital hater,as i type,i am listening to Pylos Bellevue ep through my Naim cdx,and it is very good.and,the true arbirer of how something will sound,is the recording,a bad recording will be bad on cd,worse on vinyl,and apalling on mp3,because a dire recording is ruined at source
Thank you, Don and congrats on the purchase!
Here is a CD vs vinyl comparison :
Yes, not needing a DAC eliminates a step from the audio chain, and that usually is a good thing. However, I am not sure that those grooves are so detailed…and just by adding a mechanical way of reading them doesn’t add distortion.
Hi Dan, Vinyl is not easy to do and many never ever get it right and if anything I learned in this hobby it’s cost have no bering on performance.
It would be foolish to dismiss vinyl as a standard , I can garinty you have not heard any good vinyl playback even at your friendly audio dealer,….dealers I’m sorry to come off as arogant ,I have little use for them.
Digital playback since the 1990s there has been always the next big revolutionary advancement and here we are today with the same marketing tactics. From all these revolutions digital has must of advanced 200 % better then live music.
Oh goodness my state of the art $20,000 dac is no good anymore , obsolete even with upgrades, the reviews in all the magazines said there was no better and with all the prestige and accolades I got from online audio clubs has dwindled ,all though finding the next big revolution is easy , just google the best and The best one is always the next one. It’s the same for analog play back and most tables at any price point cannot even hold a constant speed during play back,……
I know a German record collector friend if given half a chance he would clean fish on top of the majority of turntables and digital components
For YouTube learning.
Thank you for your insights.
I am not dismissing anything. However, from my experience until now, I didn’t hear a vinyl to impress me more than a good dac based system.
This, and the fact that digital is much much more convenient as I can hold all my music on an external hard drive that fits in my pocket, helped me decide to go in the digital world.
my 2 cents: lcd2 for “party” compressed music: solid extended base, good dynamic, reasonable impedance; for real instrument music, masterized by trained people, hd800 – dynamics details separation impedance you name it except da bass extension. Merge these two and you’ll find the lcdx more than the lcd3 so good marketing from Audeze. Icd3 impedance works well with refined cigars and cognac and red-ish light emitted by kt88, or similar and sing just for me sweet lady attitude, which I can’t afford.
Could you please add the recording year orchestra director for classical?
Good job with your reviews!
Thank you. I will try to add it.