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.