Like the Hifiman Sundara, the California Audeze uses a planar magnetic element in the Audeze LCD-1. Which is much smaller, lighter and even collapsible, despite having a slightly larger element on the inside. The small LCD-1s are the only ones that can be plugged straight into the mobile, without the sound collapsing, and for people who want the good sound out, the Audeze headphones are the best choice among the open headphones. A handy case for LCD-1 is also included.
The compact earbuds reach right around the ears, and with a relatively short 2 meter fabric-covered cable, you avoid too much cable salad. Like most headphones in the test, the detachable cable can be replaced with a balanced cable should one wish to connect the LCD-1 to a headphone amplifier with balanced outputs.
Audeze LCD-1 in use
When the impedance is as low as 16 ohms, it does not make so new that the sensitivity is moderate 94 dB. With Audioquest Cobalt connected to the mobile, the LCD-1 plays playfully easy, and if you do not care that others hear what you are listening to, the small Audeze headphones are perhaps the very best among open headphones. For portable use.
The wearing comfort is not unexpectedly very good. The low weight turns out to be an advantage, but we experienced that the ear pads in artificial leather eventually gave a warm and clammy pressure around the ears. The earbuds can be turned quite a lot, mostly backwards in fact, but more than enough to make close contact when the watches are correctly placed on the head.
There is a lot of plastic on the LCD-1, which is not perceived as as robust as the Hifiman Sundara, with which it shares the operating principle. The planar magnetic construction is based on the same principle with a thin film membrane with conductive material, driven by small magnets. As is well known, it provides lower moving mass, and faster responsiveness than heavier, dynamic elements.
You notice this immediately on the sound. Which is unusually fresh and dynamic to be magnetic. As mentioned, the small earbuds house quite large membranes, it is noticeable on the bass which is relatively full in the sound. Those who think that all planetary magnetic headphones sound slim should try these. Sibilants (s-sounds) can sound a bit murky if you turn up the volume, otherwise there are no notable artifacts in the soundscape.
Compared to Hifiman Sundara, the soundscape is more prominent here, and the sound is not as warm as for example. on the Sennheiser HD 660S or Amiron Home.
The bass, on the other hand, does not go very deep, but in return it is rich in details and the sound is perceived as relatively neutral, without any parts of the frequency range protruding negatively. There is not as much air and the detail is not as fine-meshed as in Sundara, but they are equally suitable for both studio and home use.
There is probably no better open headphone for mobile use. The Audeze LCD-1 can be folded, unfolded, and threaded over the ears in the same way as small, portable headphones. But the sound is much better, with an open and fresh soundscape, which is well balanced and has lively bass, albeit not with any particularly deep bass. For sofa use, there are better choices than this, but for portable use, the Audeze LCD-1 is a bargain.