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Excellent planar headphones

A Review On: Audeze LCD2 Planar Magnetic Headphones

Audeze LCD2 Planar Magnetic Headphones

Rated # 5 in Over-Ear
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Price paid: $995.00
Pale Rider
Posted · 114 Views · 4 Comments

Pros: Natural sound, excellent transients, smooth treble, no sibilance. Midrange unbelievable

Cons: Somewhat soft in detail, bass not as tightly controlled as Senn 800s.

This is purely preliminary, as I have owned the LCD-2s for only a few days, and I am not yet running them on my rig of choice.

 

Equipment

 

I am using a 2008 Mac mini running OS X 10.6.7 for playback. Primary playback is through Fidelia, with some secondary listening on Pure Music. All files are lossless ALAC or uncompressed AIFF files. Most files are iTrax 96/24, Linn 192/24, HD Tracks hi-res, or DVD-Audio tracks [specific discs listened to more than once noted below]. Signal out is USB into an Audiophileo Model 1, into a PS Audio DL III DAC w/ Cullen IV Mods, running balanced into an RSA Apache. Plenty of quality cable, too, 

 

My LCD-2s have the stock cable. That may change.

 

Music [all rips at full available resolution]:

 

Riccardo Muti/CSO Verdi Requiem [HD Tracks]

Robert Shaw/ASO Verdi Requiem [Telarc]

Cantate Domino [HD Tracks]

Accardo/Orchestra da Camera Italiana Vivaldi Four Seasons [HD Tracks]

Jackson Browne Running on Empty [DVD-A]

Claire Martin Witchcraft [Linn 192/24]

Carol Kidd Tell Me Once Again [Linn 192/24]

Diana Krall Look of Love [DVD-A]

T. Rex Electric Warrior [DVD-A]

Fleetwood Mac Rumours [DVD-A]

Eagles Hotel California [DVD-A]

Porcupine Tree Fear of a Blank Planet [DVD-A]

AIX All Star Band Moonlight Acoustica

AIX All Star Band Goldberg Acoustica

Jazz Side of the Moon [HD Tracks]

 

Comfort

 

My headphones are of the 2011 "final" vintage. They are actually quite comfortable, though heavier than other cans I own. They appear to be well made, quite solid, and the aesthetics are very pleasing. Others who own them have already described the very "plush" presentation in which these arrive. The wooden box, though not heavy, is very attractive. The inclusion of a frequency response graph is a nice touch. Much thought seems to have gone into making the purchaser very pleased to have waited for these hand-built headphones. They have a wonderful "new material" smell.

 

On the head, I have not found the LCD-2s uncomfortable from a pressure, weight, or temperature perspective. As a result of some medical issues three years ago, I lost a fair bit of muscle tissue in my neck, but I still find the LCD-2s comfortable to wear for several hours at a time. The Senns are more comfortable, to be sure.

 

Listening:

 

At first listen, my rig appears to have plenty of power and headroom for the LCD-2s. I say "appears," because as noted in a couple of my posts in the forums, I am getting something that sounds like clipping, crackling, or membrane breakup on the drum thwacks in the Dies Irae of Verdi's Requiem on the Robert Shaw Telarc recording. The Riccardo Muti recording does not exhibit this behavior, but some Telarc recordings are renowned for their bass transients and dynamic range. Alex Rosson at Audez'e is trying out the same track. It is possible the problem lies upstream, but if so, it is not audible on any other headphone [Sennheiser 800, Darth Beyer Terminator IV, Jerry Harvey JH13 Pro]. I plan to run the LCD-2s on a Decware Taboo amp, which outputs 6 watts per. It has not yet arrived.

 

Most of my listening reference comparisons will be to the Sennheiser 800s that I run balanced on the same rig, with some reference to the JH-13s, which I still find amazing..

 

Soundstage

 

The soundstage of the LCD-2s is not as wide as the Senns, nor as tall, but it may be deeper. When I sketch out the Senn soundstage, as compared to the LCD-2, it is stretched wider and taller, but not as deeply three-dimensional. This means that on large scale orchestral works, such as the Verdi Requiem, the LCD-2 feels a bit more constricted, though instruments sound correctly placed. On more intimate recordings, like the jazz and vocals, those differences are less obvious.

 

The Senns appear to have more air around treble note instruments like flute and high-hat, less discernibly so on piano and violin. I am not at all sure it is a natural sound, though, as noted below.

 

Vocals

 

The LCD-2s are gorgeous with female vocals. Carol Kidd just has to be heard to be believed. My assistant is a Brit, for whom Carol Kidd and Claire Martin are icons. When she listed to Kidd, she literally cried hearing Moon River.

 

I felt the same way listening to Muti & the CSO's rendition of Verdi's Requiem. The cadence of this Requiem is quite a bit different from the Shaw recording, and in some spots, those differences are breathtaking. The LCD-2s bring a lushness to the massed choral works. I didn't do any extensive listening to Beethoven's 9th, but I am going to. I expect the pleasure to be similar. The combination of richness in the human voice, whether solo or massed, along with the front-to-back depth of the LCD-2s delivers an immersed quality to these works. Similarly with strings.

 

Highs

 

I am very much undecided on the highs. As you read this, you should know I am in my mid-50s, and all the tests indicate my hearing is not what it used to be. Those same medical issues I mentioned above left me with tinnitus as well, so I have to hear "past" that. Just the same, the Senns sound more airy than the LCD-2s. No shock there given what everyone else has written. But I do not find the LCD-2s dark at all. They simply sound more natural to me. On the Vivaldi Four Seasons, the upper strings do not sound "flattened" or "compressed," as they can with inadequate high frequency extension. Similarly with the air of a live performance [Running on Empty] or Mick Fleetwood's cymbal work. The LCD-2s sound completely natural, and only sound "un-airy" if I listen again after the Senns. I believe that the open-ness of the Senns, plus their very exacting detail, might create an artificial sense of air and high frequency extension.

 

[FWIW, although I did my best to level set the two headphones, I will be the first to admit that it is unlikely they were truly level.]

 

Bass

 

As noted above, something in my system is producing a problem with the Telarc Verdi recording, but only on the LCD-2s.  I am not faulting the LCD-2s, because I don't know enough yet what the source might be. I have a friend waiting for his to arrive; we can compare his set. And I have another amp on the way as well. I also plan to test the LCD-2s on CD playback of the original with my Oppo BDP-95 to see if any DAC or file issues are at work.

 

Having said that, I found the LCD-2s brought forth all the bass I could ask for. I never really thought the Senns were light in bass until now. And it's not muddy, floppy pants bass. It's the real deal. Not the somewhat exaggerated bass of my Terminators, either. There are some amazing lower register notes on both Requiem recordings and the Cantate Domino [you really ought to hear that recent re-release from HD Tracks]. Bass transients attack and decay very timely, lending a sense of precision to the bass. On fun stuff like Running on Empty, bass notes are delivered with significant authority.

 

Conclusion

 

It's early, but it's not hard to imagine that I will get another set of these, if the initial impressions hold up. I simply won't want to have to choose where to have them.

4 Comments:

Thanks for posting your impressions. I own a pair of Senn HD800s and BD T1s and have been seriously contemplating supplementing them with the LCD-2s. Both of these have approx 10' stock cables which is perfect for my seating position. What is the length of the LCD-2 stock cable?
Ken
Ken:

didn't measure the cable length. Not sure it is a full ten feet but it is longer than six.

Greg
I think You have 2 option's on the to order different cable's, I am saving up for these bad boy's and I was thinking of going with the the Moon audio Black Dragon Ver.2 or shooting for the moon and going with ALO Chain Mail cable's. Need new componet's for that though, just getting back into the hobby and SUOND QUALITY is way more important to Me now! Keep Us up on this if You can with burn in, new amp and new cable's. Thank's, Frank.
Frank: You have hit my two front-runners. The ALO chain mail is a sweet cable. I almost ordered the combo LCD-2s with the chain mail cable directly from ALO, but decided that: (a) I wanted to hear the LCD-2s with the stock cable; and (b) wanted to have the stock cable in the box [ALO doesn't include the stock cable when they sell the package].
I already have a Blue Dragon balanced for my Senn 800s, and I have been very happy with it. I am probably leaning toward the Silver Dragon v.3 for the LCD-2s in 10 ft. length or the ALO Round Chain Mail. The ALO is a bit pricier, so would appreciate thoughts and recommendations from the group.
Cheers!
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