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.