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Excellent Headphone — Probably Near Endgame

A Review On: Audeze LCD2 Planar Magnetic Headphones

Audeze LCD2 Planar Magnetic Headphones

Rated # 4 in Over-Ear
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Pepper
Posted · Updated · 512 Views · 1 Comment

Pros: Amazing overall sound, especially bass and mids

Cons: Cumbersome and heavy; weakest part is highs

The LCD-2s are an excellent headphone. I had the LCD-2s Rev. 1s and the Rev. 2s. In this review, I will be talking about the Rev 2s. I will strive for concision to save everyone a bunch of time. I will only comment on the sound.

 

Setup: Foobar 2000 (WASAPI Event) > Schiit Modi > Schiit Mjolnir (Balanced) > LCD-2.2s 

 

SPECIFICS ON SOUND

 

With no EQ

 

The LCD-2 Rev. 2s are certainly not as dark as the Rev 1s. If I could compare them to an IEM, they seem like the full-sized version of the Earsonics SM3. The reason why I think both the ES SM3s and the LCD-2s are so popular is because of the sound signature. It's very easy to love: the mids are bumped, some of the harsher parts of the higher frequencies have a little dip.

 

The LCD-2s mids are very forward and give a pretty thick sound. The lower mids are definitely boosted by just a bit, and you can see this in the response chart you receive with your headphones. This is very good for male vocals, but female vocals (which occupy the mid-mid-high range frequencies) might not seem that detailed and realistic. They sound too thick and heavy. The response chart also showed a tiny dip in the lowest frequencies as well, which disappointed me because I had expected the bass to be amazing on the LCD-2s. I was very underwhelmed at the beginning.

 

Overall, the sound was very good, but it was not excellent. It was a little slow and not that energetic up in the higher frequencies, the mids were a little too thick, and you wanted more from the bass. It was kind of boomy and weak. In total, it sounded a little unrefined. 

 

For comparison, given the very forward nature of the LCD-2s, you will not be able to listen to music while working with the LCD-2s on. With the Sennheiser HD650s, the sound is remarkably laid back, and the LCD-2s are nothing like that. They are very forward, present and in your face.

 

Soundstage seems to be medium in size. 

 

With EQ

 

The sound was really good (noticeably better than my HD650s in everything except maybe the lows, which I thought the HD650s did really well), but left me wanting a lot more. I couldn't believe this was all a top end headphone could offer. I knew that the Schiit Mjolnir was one of the best amps at any price you could get for the LCD-2s, but I still wasn't blown away.

 

I then started looking at the sound science forum. It seems that EQing can really change everything. Also, since Audeze is so good to include the response chart of your headphone, you are able to adjust it perfectly to get the most neutral presentation you can. Some might disagree, but as a lot of sound sciencers hold, it seems like people try to EQ as much as they can with hardware. Sure, I guess you should get a good match of amp (if there's truly a difference among amps) for your headphones (like my Mjolnir + LCD-2.2 combo), but unless you get really lucky and hit the margins in terms of hardware, you would probably be better off by barely EQing. The difference is tremendous. For instance, the Mjo is supposed to be really detailed and revealing, whereas  the LCD-2s are supposed to be thick and dark. You mix the two together, you get something neutral. However, it's not going to be perfect. That's where the EQ comes in. 

 

Returning to what I said earlier, the mids sounded a little too thick (which caused them to be a little muddy), and there was a bit of treble energy lacking. Also, the bass wasn't as good as I expected. This is where looking at the response chart and ear-tuning came in. I couldn't find a good parametric EQ (which would have been perfect because then I could more closely match the response graph), so I just used a graphic equalizer add-on for Foobar. Remember, when you EQ, always EQ down. The Mjolnir has enough power to keep the dBs high enough even with down EQing, so I was in luck.

 

The BEST results came from the following: 

 

1. Slight bass bump

2. Lower mids to mids reduction

3. Boost at upper mids (at around the 800 frequency range) *this made the most dramatic difference*

4. Slight reduction at the lower end of the high frequencies

5. Flat or even a very, very minor boost at the highest frequencies.

 

This made the LCD-2s sound so much better. The mids were too thick and muddy before. You suddenly reveal so much detail by pulling down the overly forward mids. The most dramatic change (breathtaking change, really) was when I boosted the sound at 800. 800 hit exactly where my female vocals were (a lot of music is sung by females), and the voice just came to life. It came to life because of the boost at 800 and the reduction of all the other mid-low frequencies that were muddying up the sound before. I was able to get a tiny bit more energy out of the highs by giving it a tiny boost.

 

The bass became so much better as well. With the mids and lows reduction with a little bump on the bass, the bass became very punchy and lost its bloatedness. The bass on the LCD-2s just whooped anything I heard on the HD650s. After EQ, I would say that the bass was just short of excellent, but very close. It was very powerful, however. 

 

This is all to say that I strongly suggest you EQ your LCD-2s. The sound improved about 15-20% for me.

 

GENERAL REMARKS ON SOUND

 

Soundstage was medium in size. Honestly, nothing special. After demoing the Sennheiser HD800s, the soundstage on the HD800s is absolutely massive, and the LCD-2s really cannot compare on this front.

 

There is also no subbass, so you won't get any good rumble out of these from what I noticed (really a music headphone; not for movies).

 

Leaning on a thicker sound. Does not at all have an airy presentation.

 

The headphone is moderately-high revealing. It is not as revealing as the HD800s, but it is still decently revealing (especially after EQ). Bad recordings were tolerable but not enjoyable. I really went hunting for the best mixed/mastered stuff because the LCD-2s played everything so transparently that I just saw all the flaws in the mix. However, if you hit a good mix, it was highly, highly impressive. For instance, Yo-Yo Ma's recent bluegrass collaboration sounds just excellent. Kind of Blue by Miles Davis from, I think, 1959 sounds phenomenal (best recording I know of, even on my HD650s). Each string hit was very clear and had impact. The sax just sounded so intimate and realistic; it was very captivating. 

 

The weakest part of the LCD-2 signature is the highs. I know the HD800s sound a little hot up there, but even after a short demo at a fellow HeadFiers house, I could really tell the difference between the HD800 articulation of the highs vs. the LCD-2s. This is to say that if the LCD-2s could somehow steal the HD800s upper end and one could EQ it down a bit, you would probably have one of the best headphones ever. Especially if you were able to endow the LCD-2s with the HD800 soundstage.

 

That, my friends, would be audio nirvana.

 

Comfort: 2.5/5 (too heavy)

With EQ:

Bass: 4/5

Lows: 4.5/5

Mids: 5/5

Highs: 3.5/5

Soundstage: 3/5

Price:Performance: 4/5  (Sure, it's not a cheap headphone, but you can put your hands on a LCD-2.2 for $995 direct from the manufacturer... Relatively speaking, it's inexpensive. Especially when compared to the mind-boggling price of the HD800s, you should be happy that you're getting an LCD-2.2 for what would buy you a HD700 *which no one really likes on HeadFi* if you stuck to Senns. However, from the HD650s to the LCD-2.2s, I could feel the diminishing returns on overall sonic capabilities; it was more a difference in sound signature, and about a 20% increase in technical capacity.)

1 Comment:

The HD650 is about 80% of LCD-2 rev2, I get it. This comparison is nearly the same as a review that I read which included HD650, LCD-2 rev 2, HD800 and Stax Lamda SR-407.
 
Thanks and this is a nice review. Keep going man.
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