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A chameleon of the headphone world

A Review On: Audeze LCD2 Planar Magnetic Headphones

Audeze LCD2 Planar Magnetic Headphones

Rated # 3 in Over-Ear
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Recent Pricing:
Amazon.com
Review Details:
Audio Quality
Comfort
Design
Value
Purchased on:
Price paid: $1,000.00
dagothur
Posted · 86 Views · 3 Comments

Pros: Liquid, refined bass, beautiful mids, amazing transience and presentation, glorious highs, competitive price

Cons: Huge and dorky looking, has been said to be heavy to the point of inducing pain

I would like to preface this by saying I've not had the kind of time I had with my Denon AH-D7000s - which were my favorite headphones that got almost 100% of head-time and hundreds of hours of use - as I have with my LCD-2s.  However, I shall be using them as the basis of comparison since I found - and still find - the D7000s to be an amazing pair of headphones, especially for their price point.  I bought these headphones at the beginning of September with the intention of getting a sample of their sound and perhaps even making them my top choice of headphone.  For the sake of reference, I was using a Nuforce Icon HDP as a DAC and amp.  At this point, I can definitely say they are now my go-to headphones.  On to the review!
Revision: After having spent six months with these headphones, I've come to a few new conclusions that I think are worthy of sharing.  These new conclusions will be based partly on my experiences with the LCD-2s and the Audio GD NFB-10SE - a combo I am loving - and the much extended listening time I've had since the original review.  The revised sections will be marked as such.

Packaging and Design 
   This was the most over-packaged headphone I've ever bought.  It was in the beautiful wooden box, with foam, inside of another cardboard box, inside of a larger cardboard box.  The box that carries the LCD-2 itself is a dark, polished wood with the Audez'e logo on the bottom right of the lid.  Inside is red silk(?), and some foam on the inside of the lid to protect the LCD-2s.  The LCD 2s smelled strongly of Oak - due to the wood polish, I presume - and leather.  The headphones themselves are extremely sturdy and heavy (this will be discussed further in the 'comfort and use' section).  These won't be breaking anytime soon.  
   These are completely open, and although very attractive and stylish looking off the head, look absolutely foolish while on the skull.  The headphone jack is a large, silver 1/4 inch (or 6.33 mm) plug with a bit of black rubber that screws on.  Overall, these headphones are sturdy and well-made, but I gave them a half-star less because of the weight and how ridiculous they look on the head.

Comfort and Use
  This seemed to be a point of contention on the LCD-2 thread before it was locked.  I will admit it's a bit of hit-and-miss in terms of comfort, but I found having the large back end of the leather pads sitting at the point where the jaw meets the neck is prime.  These aren't nearly as comfortable as my Denon D7000s - which disappear on the head without question -, but for somebody with an enormous noggin' (I have to adjust it almost all the way up) it's not so bad.  If you have a small head and/or neck, you'll have to get adjusted to the heftiness of the LCD-2s.  The clamp force is a measure greater than what I expected or am used to, which may become an issue depending on the music you're listening to or how long you use them.

Sound
     
     Highs:  The highs on the LCD-2s are brilliant.  The Beyer Dt990s up until hearing the LCD-2s had the best highs I had ever heard, especially paired with a warm amp.  However, once listening to Dream Theater, Rush, and various classical music, I have found a clear winner.  Sibilant is not even in the same building as these headphones.  Cymbals and hi-hats are perfectly crisp, high vocals are engaging and wonderful.  There is absolutely no artificial tonality to these headphones.  It feels as if the singer is in the room with you as the music plays.  I used to think the Denons had natural-sounding highs, but the LCD-2s are far superior.  A word of advice, though:  these headphones, like most, shine when given proper recording.  Give it a 128 kbps, and you won't feel the magic.  I can definitely say the mids and bass on these cans are definitely their strong point, but the highs are certainly no slouch.
     Revision: The highs are heavily dependent on how well textured the amp or source is.  My Nuforce is a bit laid back, at least in comparison with my NFB, so the highs weren't as articulate as they could be. With the NFB, the highs are distinct and well-articulated, but it seems to bring the highs themselves closer to an in-your-face Grado signature.  The strengths of the LCD-2 highs - natural, non-sibilant and engaging - were amplified, but very occasionally the highs were striding the fence on sibilant.  

     Mids:  The crown prince of mids has earned his title.  The vocals are never harsh, or artificial.  Every note is sweet and perfectly executed.  "Spanish Harlem", a song I've noticed thrown around a lot as a benchmark for engaging mids, sounds mesmerizing on these headphones.  It's like Rebecca Pidgeon is whispering into your ear the entire song.  Voice has a very live, natural quality to it.  I had never realized how recessed the midrange had been on my Denons or M50s until having heard these.  Listening to the song "Autumn Serenade" from "Standards" is stunning.  The Denons have sweet, engaging vocals, but the LCD-2s bring life and naturalness to singing in a way no other headphone can.  Another song by Livingston Taylor, "Grandma's Hands", is conveyed with a natural energy that I've yet to hear again.  There is no negative to the mids.  If you enjoy mids, go for a pair of LCD-2s.  You will not be disappointed by any means.
    Revision: The mids are, and remain to be, the strength of the LCD-2s.  In general, the NFB provides a lot more power and articulation than the Nuforce did, which lends better distinction to the vocals.  This shouldn't be mistaken for emphasis or edginess.  Mid-range clarity and naturalness is merely enhanced, as if the singer cleared their throat and gave it some extra oomph.

   Bass:  The bass of the LCD-2s does not have the impact of my D7000s, by any stretch.  That is something you will notice immediately coming from a pair of fun and bassy headphones to these.  Although it doesn't have as much impact as a pair of D7000s, it certainly has plenty of impact to spare.  With the song "Slam" by Pendulum, the first minute or so of the song can be a challenge for a headphone to really deliver the kind of 'Slam' for which the song is titled.  The LCD-2s do so perfectly, and with a refinement that trumps the Denons.  A very good test of bass is the song "Failure in the Flesh" by Through the Eyes of the Dead, which can also be challenging for a headphone to do properly.  On the LCD-2s, the drum notes and vocals have a beautiful union of force and refinement.   There is no muddiness whatsoever, no matter how low or how strong the bass goes.  The bass on these beauties is liquid, refined and extended.
    Revision: As with the mids, the bass isn't necessarily emphasized over the rest of the frequency range.  Everything in the lower end is just better articulated, textured and powered over the Nuforce's performance.  I would also compare the change in signature from the Nuforce to NFB with leaning towards the AKG, but the bass proves this not to be.  Bass notes are tighter, punchier and faster, but still fast and natural.  
    Soundstage:  Oh yes, soundstage.  Most closed headphones simply can't compete with open headphones in terms of soundstage, and the LCD-2s don't make me disbelieve this.  The soundstage is much wider than my Denons - which I believe is again from the open design -, and much deeper.  All the notes feel as if they're placed accurately and distinctly in space.  Listen to any drum-heavy song, and you'll understand what it really means to feel the music.  "Festival De Teum" feels down right ethereal through these cans.  If that choir is 10 feet above you, and thirty feet forward, you'll definitely know it with these headphones.
   Revision: Not much to say here, but I definitely feel like soundstage was improved.  This might be because presence and transience are far improved, so each note feels distinct in space, but I do believe depth is noticeably better.
   Presence and Transience:  One of my problems with choosing which headphone stays or goes was how different the presentation was between the Denons and LCD-2s.  The D7000s have, hands-down, some of the best instrument separation and presence I've ever heard.  However, after a lot of listening to the LCD-2s, I've decided I prefer them.  Everything is transparent and clear through these headphones, which was a caveat for the Denons.  As with soundstage, any drum-heavy track will reveal just how well these headphones do Presence, and how quickly.  The Dt990s are the fastest headphones I've ever heard by far, but the LCD-2s aren't too far behind.  Cymbals have a crisp, clean quality, and every note feels distinct.
   Revision: If you had a problem with the LCD-2's presence and transience, the NFB will fix it in kind.  Every single part of the music is distinct, clear and clean.  This might be the largest improvement I heard from the NFB, and generally brings the LCD-2s closer to the Grados or AKGs in this respect.  Heavy metal, rock and classical all benefit extremely well from this enhancement.  It's almost as if the LCD-2s were veiled with the Nuforce, and now it's being set free by the change in source/amp.
 Conclusion:  These are all around the best headphones I've ever heard.  Nothing sounds bad on them, and everything feels natural, transparent and liquid.  According to the FR graph, these headphones are reasonably neutral, and I have to agree.  They're not bottom-heavy like my Denons were, or too focused in the mids and highs like I find my Grado Sr-80s.  They're not as comfortable as my Denons by a large margin, and might cause some fatigue after extended listening.  When properly amped, they can deliver sweet musical bliss.  I only have experience with the Meier Opera and Nuforce Icon HDP, but the Amp Recommendations thread has impressions for every amp under the sun with these.  Overall, I would definitely recommend this to any headphone user (if you have $1000 to drop) with a proper amp and a large cranium.
  Revision: The LCD-2s are truly chameleons in the way they respond to changes in amps.  The sound signature remains slightly dark, and their strengths are the same - transparency, clarity, midrange, naturalness, etc. - but each amp seems to add its flavor to the headphones themselves.  I wouldn't say it's drastic, as with the Paradox t50 mods, but it's certainly noticeable.

3 Comments:

I really wanted to like it, but it's sooo heavy :(
You get used to the weight after enough use. It also depends on where you wear them on your head and how large your noggin' is. I have a big head so I didn't have problems.
Dagotthur, very nice and comprehensive review !
I agree 100% and I'm too very impressed with LCD-2s...
thanx !
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