There’s somewhat of a stereotype that says gamers don’t appreciate audio. This isn’t true, but it’s also not totally false: it’s not the gamers, it’s gaming. Gaming doesn’t care about audio — at least, not in the way critical listening audiophiles care about audio.
Game audio is mainly designed to be immersive (opens in new tab). There are many elements that make up immersive audio, including realistic sound reproduction and a thoughtfully-crafted spatial environment, as well as responsive auditory signals/feedback. Audio quality also plays a part — it’s just not the biggest part.
But that doesn’t mean there’s no space for a wildly-expensive, audiophile-grade gaming headset — such as Audeze’s LCD-GX.
The LCD-GX is an over-ear, open-back planar magnetic gaming headset with a lightweight magnesium frame and a design that mirrors the rest of Audeze’s LCD lineup. It comes with multiple cables (one of which has an external boom microphone) and adapters, and it has a low impedance and power requirement so you can plug it directly into most gaming devices without needing an amp. Oh, and it costs $899, which makes it the most expensive gaming headset we’ve reviewed — by far However, for that price, it’s one of the best gaming headsets you can buy.
Design and Comfort of the Audeze LCD-GX
The Audeze LCD-GX is a wired, over-ear, open-back gaming headset. It has large, circular earcups attached to a suspension-style headband with metal yoke rods that are notched for adjustability. The headset can be a little difficult to adjust, especially while you’re wearing it, but it stays put once adjusted. It has a relatively wide range of adjustment: each yoke rod extends approximately 1.75 inches (44.5mm), for a total length that ranges from 9.5 inches (241.3mm) to 13 inches (330.2mm).
The earcups feature Audeze’s logo in black metal over a red grille — The earcups feature Audeze’s logo in black metal over a red grille, and are lined with plush, memory foam earpads. Both the earpads and the headband are made from premium faux leather.
High-end gaming headsets, such as the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro and the Corsair Virtuoso RGB Wireless XT, have drivers that are between 40mm (1.57 inches) and 50mm (1.97 inches) in diameter. The LCD-GX’s planar magnetic drivers, or transducers, are more than twice that size: 106mm (4.17 inches). Needless to say, this is a very large headset. It’s also fairly heavy, weighing approximately one pound (454g), sans cables.
Believe it or not, the LCD-GX has a magnesium frame and is one of the lightest headsets in Audeze’s LCD collection (only the LCD-5, which has a carbon-fiber, magnesium, and acetate frame, weighs less — 14.82 ounces/420g).
Despite its weight, the LCD-GX is a pretty comfortable headset, though it may take you a moment to get used to the earcups basically swallowing half your head. The headset has a slightly higher clamping force overall, which is probably necessary to keep it from flying off your head if you turn too quickly. I have a medium-sized head (22.25 inches/565mm in diameter) and I’m semi-sensitive to high clamping forces, but I found the LCD-GX to be perfectly comfortable — albeit, always noticeable — after hours of wear.
The headset has large, thickly-padded earpads, which are contoured to fit the curvature of your skull. This contouring allows for a snug fit and more even weight distribution — which definitely contributes to the LCD-GX being comfortable despite being objectively monstrous. The suspension-style headband features a wide, perforated faux-leather strap that’s also designed to better distribute the headset’s weight.
The LCD-GX comes with several accessories, including a heavy-duty, locking travel case (Audeze’s standard LCD travel case (opens in new tab)), which is lined with foam and fits the headset and its accessories perfectly.
It also comes with two cables: an 8-foot boom microphone cable, with a directional, noise-attenuating boom mic on the left side, and a 6.2-foot braided standard cable. Both cables connect to the LCD-GX directional, noise-attenuating external boom mic on the left side, and a 6.2-foot braided cable. The cables connect to the LCD-GX using dual 4-pin mini XLR headphone connectors.
The boom mic cable has a 3.5mm (1/8-inch) headset plug while the standard cable has a 6.35mm (1/4-inch) connector — an audio output commonly found on DACs (digital-to-analog converters), amps, and audio interfaces. Audeze also includes a 3.5mm TRS splitter (lets you plug the boom mic cable into separate headphone/mic jacks) and an OMTP to CTIA audio adapter (reverses the mic and ground connection). Since this headset is supposed to be aimed at gamers who may or may not be audiophiles, it would be nice to also include a standard (mic-free) cable with a 3.5mm plug — or a 6.35mm to 3.5mm adapter.
|Frequency Response||10 Hz - 50,000 Hz|
|Design Style||Over-ear (circumaural), open-back|
|Microphone Type||Directional, noise-attenuating|
|Weight||16.01 ounces / 454g|
|Price at Time of Review||$899|
Audio Performance of the Audeze LCD-GX
Most of the best gaming headsets (and also most gaming headsets, in general) have dynamic drivers. Dynamic drivers, also known as ‘moving coil’ drivers, consist of a fixed magnet (usually neodymium) and a thin metal (usually copper/aluminum) voice coil attached to a (usually cone-shaped) diaphragm. When an electric audio signal passes through the voice coil, the current interacts with the magnet’s static magnetic field, which causes the coil (and the attached diaphragm) to move — producing sound. This is the most common type of headset/headphone driver by far.
Audeze, however, specializes in a different type of driver. Planar magnetic drivers also produce sound with electromagnetic fields. But instead of using a coil as a conductor, the conductor is embedded within the diaphragm, which is situated between two magnetic arrays. This allows the diaphragm to move all at once (versus the diaphragm in a dynamic driver, which moves from the point at which the coil is attached to it), in a precise and controlled manner. Thus, planar magnetic drivers can produce accurate, detailed sound with very little distortion — even at higher volume levels (something dynamic drivers often have trouble with).
The LCD-GX is a planar magnetic headset featuring Audeze’s proprietary array of single-sided Fluxor N50 neodymium magnets, paired with ultra-thin Uniforce diaphragms. The headset has a frequency response of 10 Hz - 50 kHz, and a total harmonic distortion (THD) of <0.1% at 100dB. Planar magnetic headsets usually require more power than their dynamic counterparts, and often need to be used with an amp or a DAC to draw a certain amount of power.
Audeze does recommend that you use the LCD-GX with a good amp/DAC to get the best output possible, but this headset does not need an amp/DAC. It has a low impedance (20Ω), a sensitivity of 100dB/1mW, and requires a minimum of >100mW of power (though >250mW is recommended) — you shouldn’t have any issues getting enough juice if you plug it directly into a gaming PC, laptop, tablet, or even a phone (unless it’s an iPhone, in which case you’ll need an adapter).
While the LCD-GX doesn’t need an amp/DAC, that doesn’t mean it won’t benefit from one, especially in certain listening scenarios. Gaming and voice chatting didn’t sound too different when I plugged the headset into the AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt USB DAC, but music did.
Speaking of which, music sounds fantastic on this headset. Bass response was excellent: well-defined, loud, and punchy without distortion or loss of details, even in bass-heavy songs that play with distortion such as Kaskade’s POW POW POW. Mids were, first and foremost, present and multi-layered and balanced overall. Vocals were slightly warm but otherwise natural-sounding, and intimate in a way that made a shiver run down my spine in the opening of Billie Eilish’s bad guy. Highs are crisp and clean, if not particularly bright or sparkly.
Audeze’s LCD line tends to lean warm in general; testing this headset against the extremely flat Sennheiser HD 800 headphones confirmed that the LCD-GX also leans warm. This is an audio profile I’m particularly fond of, so I might be a little biased — but my husband isn’t (he’s the real owner of the Sennheisers), and even he admitted the LCD-GX’s dynamics made for a surprisingly enjoyable listening experience.
I realize this is marketed as a gaming headset, but I didn’t have super high hopes for the LCD-GX as a gaming headset. The truth is, gaming isn’t really about great audio. Before you get out the pitchforks, let me point out that I’m not saying gamers can’t or don’t appreciate incredible audio — just that games generally aren’t set up to take advantage audiophile equipment, which is why gaming headsets tend to focus as much on gamer-friendly features and software-side audio processing as they do on audio quality.
I was a little concerned that the purely-analog LCD-GX might offer an underwhelming gaming experience, and so I was pleasantly surprised by this headset’s impressive performance. The open-back design gives it a wide, lush soundstage, which, combined with the LCD-GX’s detailed and accurate multi-layered source representation, makes for incredibly immersive in-game audio. Honestly, the depth in this stereo setup was probably as immersive as a lot of virtual surround attempts.
Microphone of the Audeze LCD-GX
The LCD-GX comes with Audeze’s LCD boom microphone cable, which has a directional, non-attenuating boom mic on the cable that attaches to the left earcup and an inline mute switch. The mic sits on a 4-inch (101mm) flexible gooseneck arm and comes with a removable foam pop filter. This is a purely analog headset, so there’s no software-side processing for noise isolation/cancellation or other tweaks.
The mic doesn’t need any processing prowess, however, because it sounds great: full, round, warm-sounding vocals, with none of the loss in detail you often get from headset mics. In a Tom’s Hardware editorial meeting, my colleagues said I sounded “slightly more broadcast-y.” (Which is more noteworthy than it sounds! I switch headsets constantly, and people normally can’t tell I’ve switched — premium headset mics tend to hover around the same quality level of ‘good but not amazing,’)
It’s still not going to beat a dedicated, standalone USB gaming microphone, but it’s definitely one of the best headset mics I’ve used.
The Audeze LCD-GX is an exceptional headset, but it’s not for everyone (or even most). It is definitely the best-sounding gaming headset we’ve tested, and it sounds especially good when listening to music. It doesn’t have a perfectly flat, neutral presentation, but it has a warm, deep bass response, a spacious soundstage, and a dynamic kick that makes for a great listening experience out-of-the-box — no EQ necessary (which is just as well, since the headset does not come with software). Honestly, the LCD-GX is a great entry-level option in Audeze’s lineup, gamer-status notwithstanding.
That said, the LCD-GX handles the gaming side very well — it comes with a variety of cables and plugs, it can plug into a range of devices without requiring an amp/DAC, and its external boom-mic is practically broadcast-quality. It also sounds great, but so do a lot of premium gaming headsets. There isn’t such a noticeable difference in gaming audio quality between the LCD-GX and the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless, for example, and the latter includes features such as wireless freedom, multi-source input, and ChatMix — all of which are probably more appealing to the average gamer than pure, distortion-free clarity.
The LCD-GX is a headset for audiophiles who also happen to be gamers, rather than the other way around. It’s definitely a commitment — this is a headset to use at home, in a relatively quiet space (it’s an open-back design, so there’s a lot of noise leak for both the listener and anyone around the listener).
If you’re looking for a nice pair of critical listening headphones that can also work for gaming and chatting, the LCD-GX’s $899 price tag is worth it. But there are also plenty of excellent gaming headsets, such as the Corsair Virtuoso RGB Wireless XT or the Asus ROG Delta S, that offer a better balance between gamer-friendly features and superb audio quality (and are less than one-third the price).