Pros: Wonderfully realistic sound and timbre, non-fatiguing.
Cons: Possibly the price, some may not enjoy the dark sound signature
I recently received a brand new loaner pair of the Audez'e LCD-2, the version with the 'new' pads but not the updated drivers). Straight out of the box, music sounded great with the LCD-2, and out of curiosity I compared them with the Sennheiser HD 650. Whilst the LCD-2 seemed technically superior, my gut feeling was that they weren’t worth the $950 more to upgrade from the HD 650...
But fast forward a few hours to nearer the end of my day, and I’m listening to music files (320 kbps and Apple Lossless audio files) sent to the LCD-2 via iTunes to the Lavry DA 10 DAC/Amp and having a wonderful time.
Overall, to me the LCD-2 are absolutely fantastic headphones, the most technically adept I've yet heard. Here are some specifics about them, the way I see it.
Packaging, looks, and physical feel of the LCD-2
The packaging for the LCD-2 is very impressive. The wooden box is beautifully shiny and smells very new and quite expensive, though I felt the box smell could be less pungent. But I guess that way the smell will last for a long time. From memory it doesn’t seem to be as refined as the Sony R10 packaging, but the LCD-2 packing is still very elegant. It was fun to unravel the cling-film that covered the pads of the brand new headphone; doing so also gave me a sense of the custom-manufactured nature and care put into creating the LCD-2.
The LCD-2 are amongst the heaviest headphones I’ve worn and I’m definitely aware that they’re on my head. But I find that attribute of them to be grounding, as I enjoy being present in this moment, here and now in my body. At this time of writing I’ve had the LCD-2 on for over 2 hours, and though I’m aware of them on my head - probably because I’m thinking about them - wearing them is quite a pleasant sensation.
The stock LCD-2 cable is stiffer than the stock Sennheiser HD 6x0 series cables, and I sometimes feel the stiffness of the LCD-2 cable if I move, but that adds to the LCD-2 gearing me towards physical grounding, which is probably important to those who want to ably stay in the present moment. That said, it's easy to become immersed in music with the LCD-2. The weight of the LCD-2 is probably enough grounding for me when listening though, so I’d probably prefer another more flexible cable, but the stock cable is most satisfactory.
Aesthetically, the LCD-2 are larger headphones than I thought they might have been from when I looked at pictures of them online. On me they seem to look like they mean business, and other than I just did a few seconds ago, I probably won’t look in the mirror again to check how they look on me (well maybe I will ;-), but the important thing to me is that I'm sitting here now wearing the LCD-2 and my cheeks are gently tingling from the smiling and joy I’m experiencing.
Clarity, timbre, and sound signature
The LCD-2 excellently delineate musical lines. Their rhythmic articulation and impact is the best I’ve heard from any headphone so far – great PRaT, as we say – which has led to me hearing many details with them that I’ve never heard before in recordings I’ve listened to for years. The LCD-2 have also revealed distortion on recordings more clearly than I’ve yet heard, but not unpleasantly so, just in a way that often makes me think, ‘oh, interesting – so that’s how that recording actually sounds…’
The timbre they reveal sounds and feels very natural to me. When I'm listening to a live performance recording with the LCD-2 and aware that I’m hearing music with headphones, the sound of the instruments is still very realistic, like a smaller version of my favourite musicians playing inside my head.
On a related side-note, I have played the drum set for many years and enjoy hearing a well-tuned and played drum set acoustically. When listening to recordings of drums on headphones, I’ve always been disappointed by the sound and feel of drums, but the LCD-2 has really changed that for me. Right now as I write this, I am experiencing the most realistic experience I've yet had of hearing live drums via headphones, and for that I am very grateful. Thank you Audez’e; truly well done!
Listening to some acoustic jazz, such as ‘So What’ from Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue album, the LCD-2 come across as ever-so-slightly bassier than natural, so a more neutral/bass-light headphone could be preferable for listening to acoustic music. Whilst I have enjoyed the neutral frequency balance of the Sennheiser HD 600 when listening to acoustic/jazz recordings, I’ve never experienced recordings of those styles as viscerally as I have with the LCD-2, and to do so in a way that every note is clearly defined, even on a musically dense recording e.g. one of Miles Davis’ really large ensembles, is an astonishing experience for me.
The soundstage of the LCD-2 is definitely narrower than the HD 650, which has a very wide soundstage. But the LCD-2 soundstage is very enjoyable to me.
Bass, mids, and treble
The bass reproduction of the LCD-2 is of great quality. Everything happening in the bass region is very clear, and it’s very visceral. As I said, I have found the LCD-2 ever-so-slightly bassier than natural, but for Electronic music, such as Squarepusher’s ‘Do You Know Squarepusher,’ the sound is superlative and the lower end of the sonic spectrum sounds very satisfying. The same seems to be true for rock recordings, too. It feels real. Wow!
The mids are very clear and sound quite natural to me, my 'natural' being based on my experience of hearing live music and my experience as a performing musician (hundreds of gigs performed). In response to a post I read on these forums, I tried boosting the LCD-2 mids at around 3 + 4 K by almost 3 dB, and definitely find that makes them more forward and engaging sounding. 'Un-boosted,' I can see why they can be described as lacking in ‘bite,’ but I wouldn’t call the LCD-2 hollow-sounding. I'm finding it very enjoyably un-fatiguing, and that for me is a real plus point.
I’ve read about the LCD-2 being described having a dark sound signature, which I would agree with, and though they are far from (from memory) the treble extension and airiness of both the Sennheiser HD800 and Beyerdynamic T1, both of which I found very fatiguing after a short while of listening, the LCD-2 extend nicely and sufficiently in the treble for me. Though I could want them to extend further, I can clearly hear quite ample treble detail in a way that is non-fatiguing as they are. I like that muchly, as I want my hearing to remain healthy.
Regardless any of the technicalites and subtleties I’ve described, I’ve been listening to music with the LCD-2 constantly whilst typing these notes, which I guess have morphed into a review, and frequently laughing with enjoyment at the wonderful musical experience I’ve been having and still am.
The LCD-2 are a lot of fun, and I definitely recommend them to anyone who wants to further their capacity to experience the joy that can be found when listening to music.