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Audeze LCD3 Planar Magnetic Headphone

100% Positive Reviews
Rated #24 in Over-Ear

Posted

Pros: They have that orthodynamic magic taken to the next level.

Cons: The magic comes at a heavy price.

If there is a more apt example of the Law of Diminishing Returns than these headphones, I'd be surprised. For the refinement over the LCD-2s, the price is double.  With the new LOTUS drivers, an acronym that appears to target electrostats ("Light Omega Type") there is a significant improvement in all the areas that the LCD-2s had issues. Complex orchestral music is now no longer a blur; the mildly annoying ringing in the treble has gone and everything sounds more detailed and separate. It is easier to pick out individual instruments in good recordings. The penalty is fast-attack fun of listening to, say, well-recorded pop has been replaced somewhat with a more "analytical" presentation that picks the nits out of recordings and equipment, as now the rest of each note is now more detailed, revealing the texture in a manner that previously was the realm of electrostatic drivers.

 

The improvements are also of only a degree that they might not be readily noticeable on other than high-end gear, so I'd say if someone had a total rig budget, if getting the LCD-3s was going to result in a significant sacrifice in source and amp quality, I wouldn't bother. 

 

As for the price, lets face it, audio is an expensive hobby to get serious about. If you want to be positive, Sony R-10s, now a decade out of production, cost over $5k on the used market. Even the Stax SR-009s cost around $5000 or more outside of Japan.  However, the Stax do still best the orthos for ultimate detail,  imaging and being the closest to having a lack of coloration, but less than before.

 

In the end, I could live with these as the One Headphone at home. That being said, I can only wish this technology would filter down into lower-end headphones. Those who have experienced the inexpensive magic of vintage orthos know that great-sounding headphones don't have to be anywhere near as expensive. LIke other top-of-the-line headphones, the LCD-3s may be a huge win for those who can justify shelling out for them and comparable equipment to get the most from them, it will be how they influence mainstream manufacturers that will end up mattering the most.

Posted

Pros: World-class sound

Cons: expensive

REVIEW – Audeze LCD-3 planar magnetic headphones

 

Introduction:

 

The announcement was a well-kept secret, and it hit the head-fi community like a ton of bricks.  Audeze was coming out with a new headphone, the LCD-3, which would feature a new driver, new pads, slightly uprated cosmetics, and would cost $1,950 – roughly double what the popular LCD-2 cost.  Explosions ensued.  There were lots of people very upset about the much higher price.  I was intrigued.  I sought out a pair at CanJam, and having liked what I heard in what was admittedly a very difficult environment to judge open headphones, I asked Alex from Audeze if I could get a review pair sent.  He obliged, and here we are.

 

Audeze made huge strides over the 18 months the LCD-2 were in production in terms of improving ergonomics and comfort, and these are all in play in the LCD-3 – much softer leather earpads, leather headband, angled cable exits, etc.  The LCD-3 has a metal cable exit rather than the extruded wood.  I think this is a very wise move.  Not sure it’s a cosmetic improvement, but given that there were quite a few reports of splits in the wood of the LCD-2’s cable junction, I think this was a wise move.

 

Personal opinion: I like dark wood, and I prefer the darker wood of my original LCD-2 over the Zebra-wood of the LCD-3.  The wood finish is nicer on the LCD-3 to be sure, but I like darker wood.  That’s just me, though.  Many will like this look better.  The dark brown leather is VERY nice looking, and matches the grill color well.  Judge for yourself:

 

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As you can see, the LCD-3 comes in a ver nice wood box, and includes some leather conditioner, as well as balanced and unbalanced cables.

 

I think the LCD-3 are much more comfortable than the LCD-2, also, and this is largely due to the MUCH cushier pads.

 

 

Review parameters:

 

Sources uses: RWA Audeze Edition DAC, AVA Vision Hybrid DAC, MHDT Havana DAC, all playing lossless music files.

 

Amps used: RWA Audeze Edition, Leben CS-300, Trafomatic Head One, Meier Audio Corda Classic; Marantz 2285, Pioneer SX-1980, Sansui 9090DB receivers.

 

Headphones compared:  Audeze LCD-2 R1, Sony MDR-R10, Beyerdynamic T1, HifiMan HE-6

 

Cables used: ALO Cain Mail balanced, Q-Audio unbalanced

 

 

Sound:

 

So, before we can possibly tackle the question of value, we have to first decide how the things SOUND.  And there is no doubt that they sound excellent.  But that isn’t good enough.  A high-end headphone must go beyond that.  It was OK for the LCD-2 to sound “just” excellent.  The LCD-3 needs to sound even better – it has to be at the pinnacle of headphone sound to play at this price point.

And, in the opinion of this reviewer, it is indeed.  The LCD-3 has a coherency, transparency and top to bottom consistency of sound that rate it as the very best headphone I have ever heard.

Take just one example – Diana Krall’s “Do Nothing ‘til You Hear From Me” from “Stepping Out”.  The bowed cello solo in the middle is the most lifelike reproduction of a cello I have ever heard.  The stand-up bass is deep and powerful but with a truly astounding level of definition.  And Diana’s vocals are cleanly rendered in a very lifelike way. 

 

That deep bass was very much in evidence again on Mastodon's "The Hunter", by the recent album of the same name.  Bass is as deep and powerful as one could even ask for, and actually manages to best the LCD-2 in terms of definition and taughtness while not giving up any weight.  This is as good as bass performance gets via headphones.  The LCD-3 have no equal that I have ever heard in this regard.

 

Midrange performance was also absolutely first rate.  There is a slight lushness to the mids, I feel - I'm not sure how else to describe it.  I know one head-fier has described the LCD-2 as "creamy".  I am not sure that's the word I would use, but the mids are surely beautiful, while not sounding colored in any way. I think you can see this in the frequency response chart below, there is a small measured dip at the upper end of the midrange, and I think this is what keeps the mids from ever crossing over into overly-bright territory. 

 

LCD-3FR.jpg

 

 

Nonetheless When guitar has bite, the LCD-3's reproduce the bite, but not in a way that's painful - in a way that seems always very natural.  "Cosmic Egg" from the Wolfmother album of the same way evidences this nicely.

 

I think it bears mention that, from the FR chart above, supplied with my review pair, the FR is not markedly different from the LCD-2 FR charts I have seen.  Nonetheless, the LCD-3 are more neutral sounding than the LCD-2.  I liked the LCD-2’s slightly dark tonal balance a lot, but there is none of that in evidence with the LCD-3.  I would definitely not call them “bright” though.  In fact, I found them to be so neutral as to be difficult to get a handle on sometimes.  I started listening to them on my vintage Marantz 2285.  I thought they sounded very good, but thought they were missing something at the top that I was sure I had heard at Can Jam.  So I quickly moved them to the Red Wine Audio Audeze Edition, and there it was – that treble extension that I hadn’t noticed before that the vintage Marantz lacks (probably not surprisingly).  The RWA AE was much more adept as driving the LCD-3 than the Marantz.  The 2285 doesn’t lack at all for power, but doesn’t seem to have the nuance that the AE does.  And the LCD-3 laid this very plain, in no time at all.

 

All that transparency and neutrality isn’t always a universally good thing, though.  There was a degree to which the LCD-2 allowed one to listen to sub-par recordings and not immediately be struck by how poor they are.  Not so with the LCD-3.  The Waterboys “This is the Sea” from the album of the same name came up on my iPod (which goes digitally via the Pure i20 into the RWA AE’s DAC) and I thought “wow that sounds really, really awful” – but that is just how that recording sounds.  It’s sinfully bright, and that is how the LCD-3 rendered it.  Up right after it was Nickel Creek’s “Best of Luck” from “Why Should the Fire Die”, and that sounded TERRIFIC, as I would expect.  All well recorded material sounded really, really good, and in fact, was the best I have ever personally heard from a headphone, including my beloved Sony MDR-R10. 

 

The LCD-3, though, are better than the MDR-R10.  They are more even in frequency response, and just slightly more transparent.  The R-10 have a phenomenal midrange, and so do the LCD-3.  The R-10 have a little peakiness in parts of the treble, though, that I do not hear from the LCD-3.  And the bass on the R-10 is also a little pronounced in the midbass and a little lacking in the very deep bass versus the LCD-3.  I find the LCD-3 to be a remarkably neutral transducer.  I do not hear any obvious frequency-response aberrations with the LCD-3.  In this way it departs from the LCD-2 – the 3 is more neutral sounding to these ears, and this is most germane in the treble.  The LCD-2 featured a shelved-down treble, which I personally liked, but as such it was not flat from 20Hz-20kHz.  The LCD-3 has much less of this in terms of both the measured performance, and even less in terms of what I hear.  And yet, the treble is not aggressive or biting, but VERY pure and sweet.  Again, the LCD-3 will not hide a recording with a nasty treble though.  If it’s there, you will hear it. 

 

And I think that defines the LCD-3 for me.  The combination of a very neutral frequency response and an almost startling transparency are its hallmarks.  The vast majority of the time I enjoyed listening to music through the LCD-3 more than I ever have with headphones.  Alison Krauss’s new record, Paper Airplane, is a terrific recordings, and it sounded just terrific on the LCD-3.  Alison’s vocals were beautiful.  Same for Steven Wilson’s, on “Postcard” from his new and terrifically recorded “Grace For Drowning”.  The song is just haunting, and it sounds beautiful on the LCD-3.  Then again, I have some metal records that are super-aggressive sounding, and the LCD-3 laid them bare.  Such is life.  For those I will probably stick with the LCD-2.  But one cannot blame the messenger!  I know such recordings are harsh.  No surprise the LCD-3 renders them as such.

 

One result of the combination of the neutrality and transparency is an outstanding retreival of detail and resolution.  Other headphones I have heard force detail at you my pushing the mid treble up.  That's not what is happening here.  The resolution is due to the transparency.  This is something I have found in evidence in all planar magnetic headphones (and speakers) I have heard - and it's very much in evidence here.  There are some very subtle percussion elements in Opeth's "Death Whispered a Lullaby" from "Damnation" that I had never really noticed before, but that I was able to hear on the LCD-3.

 

I also spent some time comparing the LCD-3 to the HifiMan HE-6. I find the HE-6 to have just a touch more treble energy than is neutral, although overall I find the HE-6 to be an absolutely outstanding pair of headphones, and I listen to them at work almost daily.  The LCD-3 were just better, in every dimension, IMO.  Which isn’t to take away from the HE-6, but I found the LCD-3 to be more neutral, and just slightly more transparent.

 

I spent the majority of my review time listening to the LCD-3 on the Red Wine Audio Audeze Edition, since I felt that it had made the LCD-2 sound about as good as anything else, and wanted to give the LCD-3 a very clean signal.  I also played them on the Leben CS-300, the Trafomatic Head One, the new and several of my vintage receivers.  I also listened to it on the new Meier Audio Corda Classic, on which they also sounded great (review forthcoming on the Meier).  They sounded great on the Pioneer and Sansui receivers, but not as good on the Marantz, as mentioned above, just because the LCD-3 exposed a treble roll-off on the Marantz I hadn’t been aware of.  The LCD-3 definitely benefit from the best you can give them, but they sounded very good from everything I listened to them on.  

 

So it also was with sources.  The RWA DAC, my MHDT Havana, and my AVA Vision Hybrid DAC all sounded good, and all sounded different. And to a degree I wasn’t quite used to.  It was very easy to pick out the differences.  The LCD-3 will make a good source reviewing tool!  The Havana is the warmest, the RWA the most neutral, and the AVA in the middle.  This was plainly apparent.

 

Lastly, let’s talk about soundstage.  The LCD-3 is excellent in this regard, but in this one area I don’t think it is quite state of the art.  I think the LCD-3 is better than the LCD-2 in this regard, especially in terms of image specificity.  But the R-10 is better in terms of image definition and specificity.  The LCD-3 projects the soundstage out in front of the head somewhat, which I really like – it does NOT feel like the sound is just between your ears, at all.  The width is outstanding, and so is the depth.  But the images are just not quite as well defined as I hear on some other headphones, like the R-10, or even the Beyer T1.  That said, I am not an imaging freak, and I value tonality and transparency higher.  And so for me, the LCD-3 is as good as it gets.  But if soundstage gymnastics are your primary thing, I think I would probably go with something like the HD-800.  The LCD-3 is “merely” excellent in terms of soundstaging ability.

 

 

 

Summary:

 

So, overall, where does that leave us?  I think the LCD-3, as a whole, is the best headphone I have heard.  I have never owned any electrostats, but I have had several pairs for review, and have heard quite a few others, and I prefer the meatier sound of the LCD-3 to any of those.  But again, that’s not a direct, detailed comparison.  Someone else will have to offer that.  However, the LCD-3 is a big improvement over the LCD-2, and handily beats the Beyer T1 (which is a headphone I like a lot).  I prefer the LCD-3 to the HE-6 as well, and even prefer it overall to the MDR-R10.  And folks, that’s saying a mouthful.  Does that make it worth the asking price?  For me, beyond any shadow of a doubt.  But I liked the LCD-2 a great deal as well, and of course, like all reviews, this one is my personal opinion, and nothing more.  Only you, dear reader, can decide that for yourself.  I sure hope you get a chance to hear a pair, though.  I don’t think you will be disappointed.  I am buying the review pair.  No way am I letting these go.

Posted

Pros: a wonderful evolution of design and technology

Cons: do there have to be any?

 

Where to start? I guess a big thank you to Alex and Sankar for making these available. I finally got to meet the lads at RMAF and the pleasure was all mine - I now have the T-shirt ;-) . 
 
On a more serious note , it was truly a pleasure to meet them and speak about the inovation that has been going on behind the scenes. Not only in headphone development but the fact that Dragoslav Colich joined up with them to assist in engineering their superb line of speakers.  ( now I will admit bias freely - Dragoslav is a demigod in my eyes as he is a zen master of ribbons and planar technology ) so.... I expect even greater things to come.  
 
This review will be a little different from what some people may be expecting as I will not go into diatribes about how wonderful the LCD3's are with various types of music , just trust me , they are. When I first heard the LCD2 , I thought "this is it" , this is what all the orthodynamic / planar magnetic followers have been looking for  - "tactile" music that was both rich and organic, smooth vocals that pull you in and very responsive. "How could this possibly get any better!" well , it just did.  How do I know? Tyll said so ( and he never lies.   come to think of it , he doesn't drink, never swears and only eats vegans ) 
 
On with the show. 
The Box: truly a work of art in its own right . Piano gloss finish with the Audeze logo inlaid into the wood. 
Inside the box: 
     1. a graph of the frequency response for the headphones. 
     2. two sets of stock cable - one TRS terminated and one 4pin XLR for those more balanced than myself. 
     3. wood care kit
     4. last but most definitely not least , the LCD3
 
Specs from website:
- Planar Magnetic Transducers.
- Custom designed Zebra wood (zebrano) earcups.
- Specially designed lambskin leather earpads.
- Left and Right transducers have matched sensitivity and frequency response within +/- 0.5dB.
- Specially designed self- closing, acoustically transparent magnetic structure with highest grade Neodymium magnets.
- Frequency Response: 5Hz - 20KHz, usable high frequency extension 50KHz.
- Distortion: less than 1% even at full output.
- Impedance: 50Ohms, nominal
- Maximum diaphragm excursion: 2.5mm p- p
- Efficiency: 93dB/1mW - Maximum output: 133dB, 15W
-Transducer active diaphragm area: 6.17 sq. in.
- Input cable: Custom cable with mini XLR connectors
- Weight: 550g, without cable.
 
Overall design, some love it , some don't care for it. Personally I am a fan. I liked the original foam headband but this one oozes luxury. It is padded and sits comfortably on my head. 
 
The pads are very soft , imo a significant improvement over the original LCD2 pads. They are as soft as my Stax O2 pads but more compressible. The memory foam has good loft and make for a comfortable fit with a great seal. When you first put them on, there is that slight pressure you get similar to a closed headphone. I think this is due to the clamping pressure of the frame and the good seal from the pads. The pressure may be greater for macrocephalics but is no problem for me. I initially thought the stock cable was going to be a little short but it extended the 2 odd meters from my amp to where I listened without a problem and there was enough slack for me to do my thing while listening. 
 
I said I was not going to languish on my impressions of the sound and this sort of sums it all up.  I have listened to them at every opportunity for the past week and although I have flitted through much of my music collection, I returned frequently to the demo disc I made for RMAF ( a mix of vocal, acoustic, jazz, rock and then a few familair classical pieces) 
Amp - mostly the early liquid fire prototype. I did try it with the mini3 and portatube+ (a real winner for a protable tube amp with a dac) 
Bass - everyone knows that these headphones can do bass, but they do more than bass, they flesh out the texture within bass and respond to complex bass rhythms without muddying the lower mids. There is no bass hump and I know that people have described them as emphasizing bass notes that aren't really there ?? not sure what that means but my interpretation is that the LCD3 reproduce a very real , almost palpable bass which some headphones just don't manage to portray acurately. 
Mids - more forward voiced than some of my headphones which are probably a little recessed. Vocals (male and female) and acoustics are spellbinding. I had heard some metal at RMAF and as I didn't know what I had listened to , called on a friend for guidance to test these waters. The experience of Katatonia on the LCD3 is quite something. Not sure if this is what the band expected people to listen through but remarkably well recorded. Overdriven guitars without additional distortion and lightning quick response to some really complex harmonies. I have heard this about metal on the Stax O2 too. 
Top end - this was a criticism by many of the LCD2 but I never found the highs to be particularly rolled off. Thus when the rumours started that the highs were to be more extended with the LCD3, my concern was that they would be too bright and not to my listening preferences. They do have more extention but they are not bright. They have an almost ribbon feel to their top end which is crisp and airy but never bright or overbearing. 
 
A couple of things that stood out - single miked recording in a London cathedral  - the "room acoustics" are incredible, eerie vocal placement and staging , the goth metal - hard to believe that everything didn't just collapse into itself to produce annoying noise, Edgar Meyer's bass lines in YoYoMa's Apalachian journey were deeply stirring.  an exerpt from one of the Linn Recordings "soulful magic next day tragic" made me think of all the folk who would get to sample a sense of the brilliance of the LCD3 at various meets around the world, only to have to walk away unless they could be fortunate enough to own them. 
 
Is this the best headphone ever ? I am sure there will be many more praise worthy products from various manufacturers , I have no interest in an electrostatic set up and my brief listen at RMAF was enough to cement my opinion that my needs would more than be met by the LCD3 and decent front end equipment. I will not say that my journey is over as I will always be tinkering with vintage planars and should Dragoslav encourage Alex and Sankar to delve into making a true ribbon headphone, who would I be to discourage them at such an early stage by making bold statements such as the "best" has been achieved. 
 
Thanks Alex & Sankar and all the team  who made this possible, I am a totally biased believer. 
 
..dB

Posted

Pros: Not fatiguing, build quality, timbre, bass,

Cons: A bit too dark for my tastes, can sound congested sometimes, heavy weight, now I want to buy an LCD2

First off, before I begin this review, I would like to give a big thank you to the guys over at Audeze and Burson Audio for letting me demo their Conductor SL & LCD3. This review would not have been possible if it wasn't for their generosity. Stay tuned for a Conductor SL review soon.

 

Comfort/Build: Very good, the LCD3 does a good job at evenly distributing the weight around your head so that no specific area has more pressure on it causing fatigue. The lambskin earpads are very plush. This, coupled with modest padding towards the top of the headband offers you fair resistance against the heavy weight, which is the only comfort problem for me. The LCD3s feel well built in the hands and look stunning with the Zebrano wooden cups. Padding on the headband is adequate and the pads, again, are wonderfully plush and soft yet create a good seal on my head. A removable cable sporting mini XLR connectors is a definitely a plus. The LCD3 is nearly all metal/wood in the construction. Only cons (which are very minor nitpicks) is that the rodblocks where the gimbals are located are made of plastic. Also, the stock cable feels and looks a little cheap, but can be easily replaced.

 

Bass: The LCD3 is close to perfection. Bass has excellent extension, boasting a response that goes all the way down to 20hz. However, it rolls off at 30hz. The LCD3 lacks a mid-bass hump and has modest impact in the sub-bass regions with slightly less bloom in the mid/upper bass frequencies relative to the sub-bass. The low end is able to keep up with fast paced music (techno/metal/rock) and can deliver a nice rumble when the track calls for it. Listening to various electronic (house/dubstep), you really can appreciate the LCD3s sub-bass. You literally can feel the lowest bass notes with these.

 

Mids: Lush would be the way I would describe the midrange. Vocals and instruments sound full bodied and timbre is pristine. I find that the LCD3 can reproduce the sound of instrumentation accurately and it sounds very close to real life on a good recording. Drum cymbals and hi-hats however are my only gripe, they are not reproduced well due to the Audezes slightly dark sound. I find the HD600, which is a fifth of the cost of the Audeze, sounds better with cymbals/hi hats (though the 600s don’t reproduce bass drum as well) I feel that overall the HD600 has better timbre on the drums.

 

Treble: The treble is the achilles heel of the LCD3 and it's sort of a love it or hate it affair. Simply put it, the highs are not fatiguing and are laid back. Sibilance, if present, is slightly attenuated. The issue with the treble is that it slightly lacks in air and overall aggressiveness, making it boring and too laid back for some. However, others without the highest quality sources will appreciate that it is very forgiving and treble sensitive users will also love that the LCD3 has a laid back sound. I personally would prefer more bite on electric guitars, the harp, and violin. I find that a slight bump with equalization in the 3-5k/10-14k area really helps the Audezes shine.

 

Soundstage: The LCD3 lacks the width and size of other offerings. However, it provides an excellent balance between intimacy and space. I never felt that the music sounded diffused and too far away. The LCD3 gives you the impression that you are fairly up close and intimate with the music, yet, not so much so that it sounds excessively forward and in your face (HD600 is like this). Instrument separation is good and I could distinguish where certain instrumentation was easily in small jazz ensembles but the LCD3 sounded slightly claustrophobic with large orchestras.

 

Amping and Synergy: I found that LCD3 to be driven easily with the Burson Conductor SL. Using high gain, I usually had the volume half way for music with a large dynamic range. With modern music, the volume was set at 25-35%. Getting to a good volume is easy on the LCD3, mobile devices I tested it with were an iPhone 5, Note III, and Fiio E7 which were able to drive it to near deafening volumes (but had to be set near max volume to get decently loud on recordings with a large dynamic range) But of course on a mobile device the Audezes were obviously were not driven to their full potential and lacked sound wise. The first thing was a slight bass loss and distortion.

 

Versus others: Unfortunately, I don’t own anything similar like the LCD2/LCDX/HE6/etc. This is an apples to oranges comparison, the HD600 is a completely different phone, but it’s relatively popular and I know many have heard it so it may be a good reference point. The HD600 has a brighter sound overall and treble/ timbre on the drums is the only thing it happens to beat the LCD3 on. Both offer about the same amount of detail, yet the HD600 has a way of presenting it in a more assertive manor. Immediately switching to the HD600 reveals it sounds narrow and congested, brighter, less bassier, and slower. However, I still enjoy them. I actually prefer some songs on the HD600 over the LCD3. Take for instance Little Tuesday, by The Flashbulb, it’s mainly all drums and I find that the HD600 sounds much clearer and more true to life on this track.

 

Final words: The LCD3 is a superb headphone if you’re looking for something that is smooth and easy on the ears. It does everything well except for its slight treble deficiency. However, that’s sort of the magic of the LCD3. They never fatigue and rarely are they harsh. You just enjoy the music with them while any recording flaws (while still present) are modestly attenuated.

 

Song tests (320kb MP3/FLAC via Burson Conductor SL w/ 9018 DAC via optical input)

 

Miles Davis, Freddie Freeloader, Kind of Blue

Like: Excellent timbre and bass texture. Instrumentation sounds full bodied, natural, and quite real. Soundstage is perfect, you feel relatively intimate and close to the ensemble.

Don't Like: Cymbals could be more prominent, trumpet lacks slightly in air.

 

Richard Wagner, Ride of the Valkyries, Apocalypse Now Soundtrack

Like: Again, excellent timbre, the instruments sound very true to life. The warmer signature of the LCD3 makes the instrumentation sound very full as well.

Don't Like: Slightly congested sound made instruments sound mashed together during complex parts of the song due to the warm signature.

 

Avenged Sevenfold, Victim, Nightmare

Like: Immediately in the towards the start of the song the bass from the drums are perfect, you can almost feel it. I feel immersed in the atmosphere and actually with the artist in the studio. Guitars sound full and lush as well as vocals. Sibilance is present in the vocals, but attenuated slightly.

Don't Like: Cymbals could be just a touch brighter and more present. More bite on the guitars would have been welcomed.

 

Gorillaz, Latin Simone, Self Titled Album 

Like:  A full sound with an overall pleasant tone. Instrumentation such as the piano have good timbre. Vocals dead in the center and focused with respective instruments towards the left and right.

Don't Like: None.

 

Couple of quick picks

Posted

Pros: King of bass, excellent dynamics, tactile feel of sound, very good imaging, good soundstage

Cons: Very expensive, I do not own one yet

Hey guys,

I have re-auditioned the Audeze LCD3 and I have been very impressed.

I had to get the HD800 to really understand the LCD3 . First time I have heard it, it impressed me, but I did not think it to be that much above LCD2. 

In the last month with HD800 and LCD2 I found myself listening a little more to the sennheisers. LCD2 seemed to lack in dynamics, details and soundstage compared to  HD800.

Darku was kind enough again to lend me his LCD3 for a week. I must say these days my impressions of LCD3 had completely changed from the first time I have listened to them.

It has exactly what I found to be lacking in LCD2.

Audeze Lcd3

They feel more refined than the LCD2. Also they are more comfortable. Their pads are softer, the zebra wood gives them a nice look and feel and they fit better on the head.

P1250620

Let’s get to what is really important: the sound.

Here are my impressions on a few songs:

(The tests have been made with the Burson Conductor and the Toxic Silver Widowcable)

Leonard Cohen – Dress Rehearsal Rag

The first thing that popped out was the change of tonality and the soundstage. LCD3 seem more neutral to me. The sound really opened up to a level you cannot find the music to be congested any more. Leonards’ voice has an excellent texture and body. The guitars were much more apparent on LCD3 and had a tactile feeling on them.

 Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon – Time

Again the soundstage was considerable wider. The positioning of the bells was better on LCD3 and they had more sparkle. The drums from the beginning had again a tactile feel on LCD3. You can feel the music with it.

ABBA, Mamma Mia Slipping Through My Fingers

I just loved this song on LCD3. All blended in with great musicality. The voice was brilliant and had wonderful texture and presence. The chorus and instruments behind had a very well placed position. The sound was so better layered and you could hear all the voices in the chorus distinctively. Excellent round sound. It was so good it gave me goosebumps.

Goosebumps8168_n

Dire Straits, Brother In Arms – Ride Across The River

Wow, the dynamics are absolutely awesome on LCD3. You can really enjoy music on lower volumes because of this. And the bass…so deep, so well controlled so full & detailed …. mesmerizing. Somewhere on a back, a guitar told magical story that makes you weep of joy, while all the instruments around it make you feel there.

Franz Schubert -Piano Trio No. 1 in B flat Major D898 – Andante un poco mosso

The instruments are excellently put into space and have a lot air between them. You can hear every one of them and each with different intensity and feel. The instruments have great extension and a very important tactile feeling.

Infected Mushrooms, Army of Mushrooms – Wanted to

The bass is absolutely incredible. I think this is the best bass I have ever heard in a headphone and there is no doubt about it. It has an incredible body, goes incredible low and is very detailed! The sound is very well rounded, not too much of anything keeping a very good balance.

P1250615

Conclusions

Is it better than LCD2? It definitely is. It will be hard going back to it knowing what these new babies can do.

You can feel that the LCD3‘s drivers are more thin and are faster.

The dynamics are one of the most important thing they bring over LCD2. You can hear the full extension of the instruments now. Every sound has a fuller life . You can hear it born and you can hear it disappearing in the dark.

The soundstage is considerably wider than LCD2, the instruments are better separated and have more air between them.

The bass  is more detailed and refined than LCD2 and is the best bass I have heard in a headphone till date.

They are more neutral and the treble is more defined than with LCD2.

There are somethings that I like about LCD2 as well. The lower midrange and bass have a little more impact. Also the sound has a nice warmer color on them. The voices are a little fuller.

You will ask yourself if they are better than Sennheiser HD800. I, for one love them both and don’t consider one to be better than the other. They sound very different and both are excellent in their own way.

Even after LCD3 when you put HD800 on your head, the sound opens a lot.

HD800 is still more detailed, has a wider soundstage , better positioning and instrument separation.

However, LCD3 has a fuller sound with the best bass I have ever heard,  a creamy, tactile sound and great musicality.

Pros:

  • Excellent dynamics
  • King of the bass
  • Good soundstage
  • Detailed, yet very smooth and musical
  • Tactile feel of sound
  • Multi layered sound
  • Very good imaging

Cons

  • Very expensive
  • I do not own one  :))

Audeze LCD3

Posted

Pros: Heavy & powerful bass, very full mid-range

Cons: Lack of clarity & musical dynamics, moderate scale, physically heavy & uncomfortable

Originally published on February 6, 2012

 

Note: this review is an exact cross-post from post #1 of this thread on Head-Fi, which contains some user discussion on the review that may be relevant to read: http://www.head-fi.org/t/594426/mini-review-audeze-lcd-3-vs-lcd-2-r2-sr-007-et-al

- download a printable 5-page PDF version of this review (right-click the link & save target)
- download a printable 5-page PDF version of the notes that were written for this review (right-click the link & save target). The notes should be considered a supplement and not a replacement for this review (as the review is not straight from the notes).

 

DSC_0757a.jpg

Intro

This is basically a mini-, multi-way review of the Audeze LCD-3 headphones, which were announced and demonstrated at CanJam@RMAF 2011. Though I also included the AD2K and HD800 for the sake of calling this a multi-way review, the most extensive comparisons were made specifically against the LCD-2 r2 and Stax OII MKI (SR-007 from here on out). The LCD-2 r2 and SR-007 comparisons were done specifically to address what I thought would be two of the most common questions about the LCD-3: (1) What does the LCD-3 offer over the LCD-2 r2? (2) Is the LCD-3 competitive with the SR-007?

To clarify my "mini-review" heading, I always call my reviews "mini-reviews" when the review period is a relatively short length of time, as my reviews are usually done over months. In this case for the LCD-3, the review period was approximately 4 weeks.

This mini-review can be considered as a companion/follow-up piece to my Audeze LCD-2 multi-way review, which can be read here: http://www.head-fi.org/products/audeze-lcd2-planar-magnetic-headphones/reviews/10299

Note: the review LCD-3 unit is one I bought. I usually write reviews on stuff I buy, as I'm averse to manufacturer loans—IMO this removes any manufacturer expectations on the review, and it allows me to take as much time as I want as well.

Reviewer Biases & Info

My view of a headphone system is "source first" followed by headphones and then amp. In other words, a source of highest quality possible (assuming recordings of high quality also) should be paired with the most preferential-sounding headphone(s), to be driven by the most technically-optimal amp. In my view, the most technically-optimal amp is the one that provides sufficient power for all headphones being used without inflecting its own sonic signature, or minimally at least.

Some portions of the review/notes below refer to the sound of live instruments. As an FYI to put those references into the proper context, I'm a trained violinist (learned via the Suzuki method for 12 years starting at age 6, then quit lessons at 18 and have been playing on and off since, and I'm 30 now) and have had the opportunity several times to play in a symphony or chamber orchestra, and I've attended classical-music concerts as well.

Equipment Setup

- Source component: Plinius CD-101 (CD player) (power cord: Signal Cable Silver Resolution Reference - directly into wall)
- Analog interconnects: Analysis Plus Silver Oval XLR
- Headphone amplifiers: HeadAmp GS-X for the dynamic headphones, HeadAmp Blue Hawaii SE for the SR-007 (OII MKI)
- Comparison headphones: Audeze LCD-2 r2, Audio-Technica AD2000, Sennheiser HD800, Stax SR-007
- Aftermarket headphone cables: Moon Audio Silver Dragon V3 XLR on Audeze headphones and HD800, APureSound V3 XLR on AD2000

It should also be noted here that I used the LCD-3, LCD-2 r2, and AD2000 solely in balanced mode. I never once used the stock ADZ-6 or ADZ-6-B4 cables. I used balanced mode because I expected the LCD-3 to sonically benefit from it, as I previously compared the LCD-2 r2 balanced on my GS-X versus unbalanced on the Schiit Lyr and found that it sounded better when balanced on the GS-X.

Evaluation Music

CDs by the following artists/bands, by genre:

- Americana/Bluegrass/Folk: Alison Krauss & Union Station, Priscilla Ahn
- Blues: Eva Cassidy
- Classical: Carlos Kleiber & VPO, Julia Fischer, Nicola Benedetti
- Electronica/Trip-Hop/Industrial: Andrea Parker, Fluke, Front Line Assembly, Future Sound of London, Hybrid, Massive Attack, Neotropic, Orbital, Portishead, The Crystal Method, The Prodigy
- Jazz: Dave Brubeck, Lee Morgan, Tord Gustavsen
- Rock: Porcupine Tree, Tool
- Metal: Amon Amarth, Anthrax, Arch Enemy, Behemoth, Dimmu Borgir, Emperor, Helloween, Lacuna Coil, Meshuggah, Soilwork
- Soundtracks: Batman Begins (film OST), Descent II (PC game)

Specific tracks on the CDs are given in the review notes (see the PDF, linked at the top).

vs LCD-2 r2

When I first started informally comparing the LCD-3 to the LCD-2 r2, I wasn't sure there was a huge difference between them—the differences seemed subtle, primarily in the soundstaging.

However, after extended critical comparisons I ended up concluding that the LCD-3 was more different than I initially thought—and in some ways, better, though not in every aspect. The primary differences that I found between the two were: more treble quantity and more of a treble tilt on the LCD-2, accordingly less bass and mid-range quantity on the LCD-2, and a suffocating forward/up-front/closed-in soundstage on the LCD-2—specifically, too-close positioning of musical elements that made music sound more directly in front (as well as directly to the left & right sides), plus just a slight sense of trapped sound-wave reverberation (sort of like the acoustics of a small soundproofed room). The LCD-3's soundstage, on the other hand, wasn't as suffocating and for me was a step in the right direction—adding just enough breathing room and pushing everything away so nothing felt too close.

The more listening I did between the LCD-2 and LCD-3, the more I came to like the LCD-3—for specifically its added mid-range body and bass quantity. Though it did seem to sacrifice a bit of treble quantity in comparison, the LCD-3 sounded even more full, visceral, and tactile, traits that I thought were already done fairly well on the LCD-2. Not that this was a day & night type of difference, but for me it was noticeable enough to increase my enjoyment of certain music genres like electronica/trip-hop and metal.

Based on my cumulative headphone experience since 2006 (dynamic & electrostatic), I'd call the LCD-3 one of the most visceral-, tactile-sounding headphones that I've heard to date. To me it represented almost exactly what I originally wanted from Audeze when I first heard the LCD-2 r1—a ballsy, gut-driving, bass-focused, and very assertive-sounding headphone. I'd probably sum it up as a less-suffocating, heavier-, and darker-sounding version of the LCD-2 r2—sort of like the LCD-2 r2 tuned down for even more mid-range/bass presence, and with more spatial dimension at the same time (primarily in z-axis depth, but also x-axis lateral span). In other words, the LCD-3 offered more physical-, deeper-sounding vocals (mostly male, but also female) and brought out instruments like bass guitars more. For me this made the LCD-3 an even more obvious choice than the LCD-2 for electronica/trip-hop, heavy/hard rock, and metal music—it just made everything sound more atmospherically "dark" or malevolent. In fact, I think I'd recommend the LCD-3 for listeners of dark or malevolent music in general, it was that awesome. By the end of my LCD-3 ownership, I was seriously enjoying the LCD-3 on industrial music as well—I'll just say it was bad-ass! I can't think of a reason why anyone who listens to electronica/trip-hop, hard rock, or metal, would be dissatisfied with the LCD-3.

vs SR-007/BHSE

Not that the LCD-3 didn't also do well with other genres like classical and jazz, because it did—it was completely fine. Acceptable for most people I'm sure, and for me it was probably among the best dynamic headphones I've heard for this music type—but that's not really saying all that much for me, as the only other full-size dynamic headphones that I think are the best for classical & jazz are the Grado HP1000 and Sennheiser HD600.

However, classical music is where I started noticing most of the LCD-3's recurring flaws from the LCD-2 (r1 & r2). The LCD-3 continued to lack in the aspects that I criticized the LCD-2—specifically scale, dynamic range, soundstage accuracy, clarity, and diffusion. To be more specific on scale, dynamic range, & clarity:

- Scale: This is a subjectively nebulous term admittedly, but on orchestral recordings, usually you want the orchestra to sound "big"—i.e., to generate a wall of sound that fills up the acoustic space and sounds like every instrument section is contributing to it left to right, back to front (violins to cellos, including percussion and brass from the back). The LCD-3 never sounded like anything more than mid-sized, while the SR-007 consistently generated that filling wall of sound from a massive-sounding symphony orchestra. For me, scale also alternately means a single instrument (or a few at most) sounding small as well, which the LCD-3 didn't convincingly portray and made single instruments stick out way too much in the soundtrack mix.

- Dynamic range: The LCD-3 rehashed the LCD-2's relative inability to produce really quiet versus really loud volumes, in contrast to the SR-007, which is extremely adept at this. Pianissimo-level violin parts, for example, simply sounded not very quiet on it, and likewise fortissimo volume levels weren't tear-off-the-ceiling loud. Additionally, everything in between quiet and loud all sounded at similar volume levels with barely any audible modulation. In fact, it seemed like there were only 3 volume settings on the LCD-3: slightly quiet, moderate, and slightly loud. This actually negatively affected my enjoyment of recordings like Carlos Kleiber's Beethoven 5 & 7 with the VPO, Nicola Benedetti's Fantasie (specifically "Spiegel Im Spiegel"), and Julia Fischer's Bach Concertos & Paganini: 24 Caprices. In contrast to the LCD-3's might-as-well-have-been 3 volume settings, the SR-007 rendered everything from barely-there quiet to intensely loud, and every music piece sounded way better because of it.

For those familiar with the musical terms, I'd describe the dynamic range of the LCD-3 vs SR-007 this way: the LCD-3's seemed like it went from mezzo-piano (mp) to mezzo-forte (mf). The SR-007's seemed like it went from pianissimo possibile (ppp) to fortissimo possibile (fff). The LCD-3 was completely incapable of rendering sforzando, which the SR-007 handled easily. Other musical dynamics that were also mostly lost on the LCD-3 but properly conveyed on the SR-007: crescendo/diminuendo, fortepiano, & marcato (among others as well, but notably these).

- Clarity: I expected this to be a large improvement on the LCD-3 from the LCD-2 given its new "Lotus" driver as reported by Audeze, but found that in actuality it was actually largely exactly the same and didn't offer any improved clarity. As in the case of LCD-2, there was a severe noticeable disparity between the LCD-3 and SR-007 in this aspect. I ended up concluding that its lack of clarity was completely unacceptable for a $2K headphone—it should have been much better considering the ~100% price increase over the LCD-2.

Ultimately the LCD-3 failed just about as much as the LCD-2 in approaching the level of my SR-007 electrostatic system for classical & jazz, barely sounding like any kind of progress over the LCD-2. Though it was certainly at least one step closer with the improved, less-suffocating soundstaging, it needed at least 100 more steps (if not more) to even get on the same plane of existence as the SR-007. It had less-realistic-sounding violins than the LCD-2 as well (not enough treble quantity), which to me was a step backwards.

vs HD800

I wrote in my LCD-2 multi-way review that I thought the LCD-2 had a yin-yang relationship with the HD800, with the two as sonic opposites—the HD800 being clear and treble-tilted with a very open soundstage, the LCD-2 being more mid-range- and bass-tilted with a compressed soundstage.

I ended up thinking that the LCD-3 was even more yin to the HD800's yang. It was even more opposite to the HD800 thanks to its increased, heavier mid-range & bass and dulled treble, contributing to a fuller, more "assertive" sound compared to the HD800's thinner, "passive" sound. The two headphones seemed like a good complementary pairing and I could easily believe that a Head-Fier would want to own both for different reasons.

vs AD2000

I wrote of the LCD-2 in its multi-way review that it was heavier-, deeper-, and more physical-sounding versus the AD2K, with less treble quantity as well. This was even truer for the LCD-3, enough that it was almost an opposite to the AD2K in only the frequency-balance aspect. It was clearly a darker-, heavier-sounding "version" of the AD2K as well with much more of a fill in the lower mid-range and bass. It was a very nice difference, as this made the LCD-3 sound more "mean".

Although the LCD-3 got substantially closer than the LCD-2 to unseating the AD2K as my favorite headphone (disturbingly close, actually), it failed mostly because it just didn't have the AD2K's forward-moving insistent sound that I've gotten used to. If the LCD-3 had that elusive quality from the AD2K, that would probably be my ideal headphone—or to put it another way, if the AD2K had the LCD-3's bass, that'd be my ultimate electronica/rock/metal headphone, period.

Postmortem

I really enjoyed my short time with the LCD-3. So much that I actually kinda miss it a little bit now (sold it just after my 4th week with the headphones). It kicked serious ass on especially electronic, industrial, and metal music.

Some might ask why I sold both the LCD-2 r2 and LCD-3. There were two major reasons: (1) Neither of them were very comfortable to wear and exerted too much clamping pressure, and (2) Neither of them sonically offered much beyond the AD2K or HD800 for my music preferences while downright detracting my enjoyment in certain ways (lack of forward-moving insistence versus the AD2K, lack of treble versus the HD800) and as a dynamic counterpart to my electrostatic system it wasn't remotely good enough. For all the times I tried listening to music I would've otherwise used my electrostatic system for, I couldn't get past the LCD-3's sub-standard portrayal.

I think anyone seeking more high-end options than the LCD-2 should seriously consider an electrostatic system instead of the LCD-3, like an SR-007 & KGSS, or just not bother upgrading at all. For me personally, I can easily get just about all of the LCD-3 enjoyment through my Audio-Technica AD2K instead, which is ~25% the cost. I do admittedly miss the heavy bass and extreme tactility of the LCD-3 now, but the AD2K is awesome in its own way. My current headphone system comprised of the balanced AD2K and HD800 plus the SR-007 & BHSE, with the JH13 IEMs thrown in for good measure, meets my preferences just about perfectly for every music type that I listen to. I can live without the LCD-3, but that doesn't mean I didn't think it was awesome—it was, but it was also a severe let-down to me at the same time. Despite that, the LCD-3 easily earned a place on my personal above-average headphone ranking, which also includes the HD800, T1, LCD-2 (r1/r2), and Grado HP1000, but for me it's too bad it couldn't transcend to my excellent ranking, which includes the SR-007, Qualia 010, and JH13 (IEMs).

As highly as I thought of the LCD-3 in certain aspects, at the same time I thought it was very mediocre too. It took some steps forward from the LCD-2—wider & deeper soundstaging, fuller mid-range contributing to increased tactility; but it made no progress at all in other aspects including scale, dynamic range, and clarity. As awesome as it was for the music types mentioned above, it didn't sound like the improvement it should have been over the LCD-2 at approximately twice the price, and for that I can't recommend it for any kind of critical listeners who'd be expecting the LCD-3 to be "better" than the LCD-2.

Related Reading

- LCD-2 multi-way review: http://www.head-fi.org/products/audeze-lcd2-planar-magnetic-headphones/reviews/10299
- Audio-Technica AD2K 5-year re-review: http://www.head-fi.org/products/audio-technica-ath-ad2000/reviews/10293
- Beyerdynamic T1 review: http://www.head-fi.org/products/beyerdynamic-tesla-t1/reviews/10295
- Sennheiser HD800 review: http://www.head-fi.org/products/sennheiser-hd-800-headphones/reviews/10294

Posted

Pros: Balanced Sound, Warm, bassy, detailed

Cons: Weight, price compared to 2.2, Build durability, not as clear as other reference

Introduction:
Audeze is currently one of the headphone audio pioneers in this field. They don't just farm out drivers from OEM's and what not. They design, tune and sell them for the purpose of mastering audio. The LCD-3 is one of the world's best headphone right now next to the HD800's, Orpheus, SR-009 and many other units. The LCD-2 skyrocketed Audeze to being one of the most bought summit-fi cans. I wish to thank Audeze for jumping in with Burson to send the LCD-3 to me for review. And I wish to thank Burson as well for even making this possible. 

 

Read the review here:

http://www.pandatechreview.com/audeze-lcd-3-review/


Unit Quality:
The quality of the LCD-3 is marvelous and at the same time worrying. Everything on it is either shiny or Earthy. the wood used for the 'faceplate' is real and of high quality. Custom made and designed by Audeze. It feels sleek and has the air of quality around it. The pads used are soft, and show no signs of being flaky, and the headband is the same. No cracks are detected in them(I've only had them for short time) but it also doesn't seem like they will develop them for a long time if ever. The LCD-3 has personal quality to it. Quality that gives it a feel of legitimacy, expense, and of nobility. However in terms of how well built this is in terms of not breaking. The LCD-3 is worrisome. The joints leading from the headband to the drivers were meticulously designed but of course still feel very weak to me. Pictures have also shown that I am right to be worried about that part as well. The good thing is that that is also probably the cheapest part to replace as no audio wires are up there. The termination into the dual cables also worry me in terms of how one should place the LCD-3 on a table and if something pushed against it head on by accident. But of course, this is a $2,000 marvel so there is some leniency towards it in terms of it needing protection.

Usability:
The LCD-3 of course is open and is a planar magnetic. This means that you can't use it easily on the go (unless you are as awesome as ALO Audio ). Placing your hands in front of the LCD-3's front grills also distorts the sound due to the design of the drivers (some planar magnetics don't need an open back plate like the T50RP) and so this also means that you are limited in use to it. This headphone obviously was not designed for any of those situations where you can get comfy with the LCD-3. I am just mentioning the obvious as some want to know and as it is part of the usability. How one can put the LCD-3 down is also an issue. I personally had to resort to using the soft case of my Macbook Pro as the throne of the LCD-3 for the past two weeks.  

Cable:
Audeze gives you an XLR terminated plug along with a Quarter inch (TS) terminated cable. So you have the option to go balanced or not. The Audeze units themselves have mini xlr male terminations on each side of the driver facing forward. The cable is of good quality, and the termination of the cable is a bit DIY-ish in where you can take it apart. I have no qualms with the cable for the most part.

Isolation and Leak:
You are reading the wrong review for the wrong headphone if you want to actually know about this section.  But for the record, these are open and can get quite loud. Outside sounds also penetrate in.

Comfort:
The pads themselves were very comfortable, but the headband started to get annoying. This is not the headbands fault. Audeze made the headband as comfy as they could, but this was to only help with the other issue. The weight of the LCD-3's. All the weight is thus on your head and it does make you hate the headbands. Although that hate is a bit wrong. They are good for about 3-4 hours without taking them off at the max I think. I don't have much hair, and those that do may want to do it sooner. The only softer pads my ears touch are my pillows. And even then, the LCD-3's driver pads are still much comfier than my pillows.

Review backstory:
I do not use many high end parts. I have owned the Audio-gd NFB 12.1 and have been sent review samples of many other units. The whole point of this tour was to give people that don't use $2000 headphones the chance to do a write up on them and what not. So this will just be my own thoughts and do not reflect an actual professional review where the reviewer would have had a plethora of knowledge and experience with units at this price point.

For this review, I used the AKG Q701 and Burson Soloist SL. The constant DAC was the Cirrus Logic CS4398.  I have had experience with the LCD2.2 for a home demo thanks to Justin at Headamp and wil include that.

Sound Quality:
The lows of the LCD-3 are absolutely fantastic. They extend far while having great feel and presence to them. Many call it greatly textured and I can not agree more. You can finally hear and 'feel' the actual lows. Almost as if you could touch them. They don't accentuate the mid bass and keep it fairly smooth throughout. The mids on the LCD-3's are amazing. I was less than impressed with the LCD 2.2's but these are great. The vocals are forward and have good presence to them. The lower end of the vocals isn't as thick as the mid vocal range which is good in my opinion. And what is even better is the layering of the mids from the vocals. The instruments are very noticeably seperated from the vocals. No, this is not the song I am listening to. This is two weeks of listening to music from every genre, watching movies, watching videos and what not with them. The layering of the mid instruments from the vocals is really just out of this world. And finally the highs. The highs of the LCD-3 are there. It won't satisfy those that want the frequency to be well represented and bright(but not fatiguing). But what it does have is a mellow high frequency range that is smooth but without much presence to them. 

Compared to AKG Q701:
There is close to no competition now with the LCD-3. The only two thing the Q701's have for it are the light weight of it so it can be 'thrown' anywhere and comfort. All due to its lightness. And being a better light sounding can for those that prefer it. The LCD-3's are dark and add that sound sig to nearly everything it plays. Some want a very light sound signature that doesn't carry the entire weight of the music behind it, and that is where the Q701's can shine. However everywhere else the Q701 loses out. The Q701's won in the mid range from the 2.2(depending on what you like) but the Q701's layering of the mids to vocals is nowhere near the level of the LCD-3s. And now that the vocals are also forward, the Q701's have really nowhere to run. The vocals are well presented on the LCD-3's and have depth. The low end of the Q701's is laughable compared to the LCD-3's. But keep in mind that there is nearly a 7X-10X cost difference between the two. 

Compared to LCD-2.2:
I do not have the LCD-2.2 side by side. So this is the most probably possibly in-accurate section. Bear that in mind please, but I personally felt like the mid bass of the LCD 2.2 was more pronounced and louder than the LCD-3s. The LCD-3's are more like reference headphones where everything is smoothed out and made equal. The vocals of the LCD-2.2 are also laid back and fairly mellow which just wasn't my cup of tea. That is the most I can maybe remember between the two.
 

Posted

Pros: Bass Quality, perfect coloration

Cons: weight, upper region, stereo imaging width

*

 

 

A preview spot for my LCD-3 review coming soon.  

 

This review will be extensive, in depth and as thorough as possible.   I don't want to bore you with specification and details in the beginning of this review, you can read the details afterward.  That is just how I roll.  #likeaboss

 

 

The End Credits


Every once in a while, the audio deities bestow upon us a very special product.  Praise worthy of the highest order, shining bright upon the summit of Mt. Audiophile.  No question or doubts in my mind that no other manufacturer of Hi-Fi products has been able to take over the Audiojunky community so effectively, efficiently and as quickly as Audeze has.  Seemingly overnight, the LCD-2 won the hearts and ears of the majority of those who listened to it.  A while back, decades in Audiophile years, the LCD-3 was released. To the shock and dismay of most of the other headphones out there, they had swiftly taken over the pack as The Alpha.  The Audeze LCD-3 experience is nothing short of incredible.  From top to bottom, no other headphone in existence that I've ever listened to has been able to sucker punch me with that much class and style.  T.K.O.  Done.  I give up.  Audeze wins.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted

Pros: Great bass extension; incredible transparency; very musical

Cons: Price - need I say more?

When $$$ is no consideration - these cans need to be at the top of your list.  I have been an avid Sennheiser listener for years.  Most recently with the HD600.  My amps are Joseph Grado Signature (battery operated), Aspen Audio (model 823 - tube amp) and most recently The Pan Am (ALO Audio of Portland OR - also tube amp).  I compared the new Sennheiser HD 800 to the Audeze LCD-3 recently and here is what I found.  The HD 800 is surgical, quick and a bit bright.  Musical but without the bass extension.  Very clear but could cause fatigue due to its sharp edge.  The LCD-3's are liquid, musical, stunning clarity, deep/powerful bass and present a full articulate soundstage.  I must admit I have never heard anything quite like these cans.  I am in love.  I feel like I am listening to the same old stuff for the first time.  Wow - they are that good.  Yes they are crazy expensive - but an audiophile never considers money!!!  Just sound quality.  Why else would we spend thousands on power cables...L3000.gif  My musical tastes cover the full spectrum of analog and digital - from metal to classical.  Highly recommended.

Posted

Pros: This is no ordinary headphone

Cons: This is no ordinary headphone experience! Having no benchmark for which to draw from (including my HD800's)

While I'm a known advocate for Audeze's LCD3 I've shied away from writing anything official about the cans because Alex Rosson, CEO and co-designer, has become one of my closest friends.  So there's an obvious conflict-of-interest, but I figured if I share that here I could maybe stop some of the vitriol in the commentary that might follow in our wonderfully strange world of high end audio, both personal and in-home. I've also experienced a handful of events over the last two years that have literally forced my hand. Some of my most intense listening sessions have occurred using my Audeze LCD3's. How, as an audio journalist, can I neglect to share about these incredible times listening to music? I couldn't hold out any longer, pure and simple.  An official review for one of the websites I write for is coming.  In the meantime:

 

 

Some audio journalist will undoubtedly attack me for writing this. I just hope you trust my intent. I'm trying to share my excitement when I use these sonic marvels. Audeze currently designs and builds the only hi-fi product in the world where I do admittedly use the term “best” when people ask me “what do you think are the best headphones on the planet”? I say, knowing my best differs from their best and ultimately we are all reacting to art (so the truth is always in the ear of the beholder) that Audeze make the best headphone “experience” I know of. I haven't been this captivated while listening to music since I walked into Rm #3 at Harry Pearson's place in Sea Cliff, NY, in 1994 (the original home of The Absolute Sound magazine). That was a turning point in my life. I never actually heard the sheer magic that can be created using two channels until that day. I had nothing to judge it against, nor did I care to! The music just washed over me, and I remember walking around the room wondering how the hell these giant loudspeakers (the 150K Genesis 1 Loudspeaker System) were creating a three dimensional soundstage. I could discern where first and second violins were, the horn section, etc. The audible experience was opaque, like a giant movie theater screen. It was so intense it actually become a visual experience as well as an audible one. From that day forward I've been chasing great sound like the greatest drug.

 

 

I stayed up all night a couple nights ago, listening to my ALO Pan Am (running on it's Gateway power supply) and my Audeze LCD3's, now fitted with their “leather free”/super-suede headband, which I prefer to the leather because of the heavier padding. The headphones feel so much lighter on my head. This combo is glorious, including my MacBook Pro w/ SSD running Amarra 2.5 as the source. It's a fusion that's been sounding so seductive and enrapturing I've literally skipped meals and lost sleep because of its hypnotic sonics! Alexandra (my wifey) has been complaining about my time at the computer far more than usual lately because of these damn headphones.

 

--If you want a terrific technical review of the LCD3's check out Chris Marten's review in Playback. In my opinion, Chris nailed that review, and as a fellow audio scribe I have to give him props for that piece.--

 

Some consumer products level cultural boundaries; financial and social status, geography, politics, things that consume us as much as we do them. Music, as an art form turned commercial, does all that. No matter what the playback mechanism, music itself touches us on a deeply human level. It transcends all that ultimately divides us. It's the world's only universal language. How can you not love it? I can't imagine a life without it. I fell in love with hifi because it strips away all the ******** between me and the music. I lived (and still do) for the wide-open spaciousness of Pink Floyd in Dark Side of the Moon and the spirit of my generations angst and rebellion in Nirvana's “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” When I first heard a large-scale high end audio system I knew I wanted to be involved with this world in some way forever, whether it be working in the audio or music side. I've dreamed of owning an obnoxiously large, jaw-dropping reference system since I was 18. With Audeze LCD3's I take one with me everywhere I go! Thanks to their sturdy travel case I've listened to my pair all over the states, even beachside in Kona, Hawai'i! That was a magical experience: I would sit on our lanai overlooking the ocean after sunset, cranking Burnt Friedman's Secret Rhythms. Since the headphones are magnetic planar transducers I loved listening while the waves smashed against the sand. It was a purely meditative experience. You don't achieve this level of sonic integrity by accident, or by chasing someone else's product.

 

Audeze's freakin' earcups show they know whats going on: how they direct the sound of the transducer into your ear at an angle, like a continuation of the outer-ear. Most companies just give you an even circular pad that doesn't aim sound at you naturally, and your brain knows that believe it or not. It's why these headphones maybe a little big and makes us look like Mighty Mouse, but it feels good to be Mighty Mouse, doesn't it?

 

Now, I don't think I can identify the actual sonic signature of the Audeze LCD3, as I'm not sure what they necessarily “sound like”. I say this because, when I listen, I'm not concerned with the headphones. They connect me to the music in such a deep way that I always feel like I'm hearing my records for the first time, and that is an amazing gift. That sound nuts I'm sure, but after 20 years in high end audio I can honestly say these wonderful cans provided me with new sonic territory to explore, and that's a treasure to behold! I find I'm listening to records I'd forgotten about. The greatest thing about that is re-discovering things I may have missed in albums that have great significance in the soundtrack of our lives (meaning my life with Alexandra)! That's another precious gift the LCD3's have given me.

 

I'm not going to dive into the classification bit here, and I'm sorry if this review in this spot is not technical enough for you. I (when writing for places like Positive Feedback or HPSoundings) write about the experience of listening to a component rather than spit specifications at you that you can easily find on a companies website. I'm also admittedly saving most of my review for PFO.

 

However, I have to admit that legendary Grammy-Award winning producer Frank Filipetti (look him up) offered up some of his thoughts on the LCD3's during one of our phone calls that say more than I ever could in a couple of sentences, and he gave me permission to share them. Now, before I share them I must preface this by saying that I asked Audeze to send a pair to Frank because I knew he “hated headphones”! But I also knew that he is one of the best engineers/producers this world has ever produced. Arif Mardin considered him not only a dear friend, but part of his “A-Team” list. That says it all about Frank. Plus he's like Bob Ludwig or Ted Jensen – he knows good audio! When I called him to ask what he thought of the LCD3's here are some of his thoughts:

 

“to call these the best headphones on the planet would be doing a disservice to Audeze, because these are not headphones at all, they're actually head-speakers” “they have given me a new frame of reference, and I'm using them about thirty-percent of the time now when I'm engineering”!

 

Frank also told me he was using them (and his trusted monitors of course) to mix the recent 50th anniversary of PBS special! His words will always carry far more weight than mine. I'm just excited to get into different headphone amplifiers with him for our LCD3's! These headphones have blown things wide open. There are other great headphones out there. There's no doubt about it. The Audeze LCD3 is the Ferrari 250 GTO of it's time.

 

 

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Audeze LCD3 Planar Magnetic Headphone
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Edited from webpage: "LCD-3 professional reference headphones. No compromise when it comes to the quality of sound. It provides the highest level of audio quality, unsurpassed bass extension, exceptional treble and the best mid-range. The LCD-3 is packed with many innovative technologies and new approaches. The all new LOTUS diaphragm that uses a special alloy for conductive traces gives us greater control, lower distortion. Translation - Music that sounds like original studio recordings."

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