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