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Stax SR-009 vs. Audeze LCD-2s: Music Impressions

post #1 of 43
Thread Starter 

 

Out of pure interest, I'm posting my impressions of my current two favourite headphones with different types of music. I'd previously pegged the LCD-2s as being great with hotter recordings, such as pop music and less great with violin-laden classical, purely due to the frequency response.  Now, with a new God to bow down to top-tier contender at around 4-5x the price, I wanted to see how they compared.  Initial impressions were that the Stax are, when it comes to detail and naturalness, on another plane from the LCD-2s (which is saying A LOT), but not everything I listen to is un-compressed jazz or classical.  The Stax do have an ability at detail retrieval and imaging precision that is phenomenally good, while the LCD-2s have a lot of punch while retaining detail and are capable of bringing you into the music without frequency-response trickery.
 
Rig: Mac > Audiophilleo 1 > Audio-gd Reference 1 > Audio-gd Phoenix or Stax SRM-007t (with Herbies tube dampers).
Rig summary: Detailed with very low distortion and dead-neutral with a wide sound-stage going through to the LCD-2s. The Stax amp has tube dampers which bring out the bass*, while retaining just a touch of tube flavour. The Phoenix is technically probably a better amp than the SRM-007t, so the LCD-2s probably have an advantage here until I can get a better 'stat amp.
 
*Yes, tube dampers really can do that.
 
LCD-2s with original pads and a Norse Audio 8-wire cable.
Stax SR-009 stock.
 

 
Norah Jones - Above Ground
 
LCD-2s: Norah is seductive as ever, though the bass and guitar drone somewhat in the background. A little bit of sibilance on S-sounds is noticeable in the recording, but is not annoying in the slightest. Despite the equipment tending to throw a wide headstage, the overall sound is club-like intimate with instrument sound being less precise and filling the imagined soundstage. Norah's voice is punchy and in-your-face.
 
SR-009s: Norah’s voice jumps out, clearly separate from the instruments around around her, which in turn seem to have more distinct places. Whereas the LCD-2s with their particular FR tend to give Norah a more husky presentation, being more focussed towards the lower end of the vocal spectrum.  The notes that punched with the LCD-2s are caressed over you with the 009s.  The Stax seem to show you all the finest textures and details where the LCD-2s are more like a photo with the contrast turned up a bit too much, washing out some of the finer detail in exchange for greater impact.  
 

 

Jack Johnson - Dreams be Dreams 

Jack Johnson - Holes to Heaven
 
JJ's tracks are great, high-quality, high-contrast tracks to listen to gear with. They make everything sound great. 
 
LCD-2s: The cymbols and upper registers of his guitar stick out here, presumably due to the treble peak around 10k.  The magnificient bass really sticks out here, bringing a lot of body to the music when the bass is playing without overdoing it. The LCD-2s here remind me a little of some IEMs such as the AT CK-100s which can sound somewhat wrong in absence of sufficient lower treble.  Being full-sized headphones though, in the absence of headphones with a more V-shaped FR to compare with, it sounds right, unless you are a bass- or treble-head.
 
009s: With a more filled-out treble, this pseudo-pop can be a tad overwhelming with even some guitar sounds being a little too hot, though not harsh.   The bass guitar, in contrast, sits more "there" than "everywhere" as an just another instrument in the recording. Jack's voice is heading a bit more towards being "tinny", though it isn't.
 

 

Massive Attack - Protection

 
009s: Tracey Thorn's voice has a delicacy and naturalness that is addictive, with all the subtle reverb she puts at the end of the word "protection" coming through.   The recording is on the very edge of sibilance and this is very apparent.  The back-beat of the track is in the background, not the foreground as it is with many headphones. 
 
LCD-2s:  The backbeat is more prominent here. The less forward treble gives the impression of a blacker background around Tracey.
 

 

Michael Jackson - Liberian Girl

 
LCD-2s: The impact, being pop music, is delicious here. The voice over-dubs fill the sound and the electronic beat punches beautifully. Michael's voice is done great justice with the detail and feeling coming through.
 
009s: The electronic beat still punches, but not as deep and hard as it does with the LCD-2s. With the 009s it is more around the mids and treble.  Despite volume-matching roughly using Sound Meter on my iPhone, I had to turn the volume down on the 009s as the greater treble can make pop, which tends to be bright, a little unpleasant. 
post #2 of 43

I noticed that you also have a Parasound HD1600. Have you had the chance to listen to the SR-009 with it?

 

Would definitely love to hear your impressions of the LCD-2s on the stackerII as well. :)

post #3 of 43

Just a generalized question here: Overall, do you like the LCD-2 better than the 009? Also, did you give the 009's enough burn-in time? 

post #4 of 43
Thread Starter 
Hi David. I was just thinking of your old HD-800 thread when I was taking photos of the 009.

Stax diaphragms, to the best of my knowledge, aren't affected by use. I did get a couple of solid weeks of use out of my first pair and didn't notice any changes, except in my feelings about them. At present, I prefer the 009s for acoustic, uncompressed music (jazz and classical mostly) and the LCD-2s for just about everything else. It will be interesting to see how my impressions change once I get a better 'stat amp built.

Ujamerstand: The Parasound isn't that different in sound to my Reference 1. Instruments do sound a bit more natural, however and the Ref 1 seems to have a touch more bass.
post #5 of 43

I have a feeling that the mid of the SR009 is a little more forwading than the LCD2, while the bass quantity

impact has to go to the LCDs.  The treble of the SR009 is much better and exttended high, not too overbright.

The soundstage and detail of the SR009 is definitely better.

Please compare the SR009 with the O2mkI or O2mkII

post #6 of 43

Hi Currawong, 

Too funny. I  was also thinking about my old HD-800 thread as I was trying to tear apart the build quality and design of the 009. Yes, I have been studying your photos for quite a bit and the 009 seems to be built without compromise (your photos are excellent, by the way). I am keeping my fingers crossed that headphones like the 009, LCD-2, HiFiMan HE-6, and the Ultrasone Edition 10 have set the new standard for build quality in headphone design. I look forward to reading more of your listening impressions. Take care.

post #7 of 43
Thread Starter 

Some more, taken in inappropriately poor light. Click on one to go to the set.

 

DSC_1042

 

DSC_1045

post #8 of 43
Thread Starter 

Some more thoughts.  Rather like the LCD-2s did originally, the 009's capabilities crept up on me with use. With initial comparisons, the brighter 009s, using what I have, do seem to take the lead. The usual cliché about hearing things in the music not heard before applies here.  I think Lunatique was spot-on about the 2-3kHz range in the LCD-2s needing a boost though, so I will be springing for the new, thicker pads. With both headphones, they stay more towards the "neutral" side of things, allowing the music itself to shine through. This is very apparent if you EQ up the bass and treble with the LCD-2s.  My original Symphones Magnums, with a FR more akin to the 325is they were based upon, were very like the 009s -- bright with more forward mids. They too had pinpoint imaging and were glorious with instruments and vocals, if not having quite as much bass as some tracks could do with.

post #9 of 43

I'm amazed you can listen to Norah Jones any anything that is revealing.  The first time I tried to listen to The Fall was at a meet with HD800s and I could only take about 15 seconds.

post #10 of 43
Thread Starter 
I'm surprised too. I spent a long time NOT listening to Norah Jones -- I think a couple of years at least -- after she was being demoed everywhere and it started to drive me insane.

It is interesting though how not just the frequency response of the headphones matter, but the balance of frequencies in the recording too.
post #11 of 43

Interesting read, thanks.

post #12 of 43

I’d be willing to bet that Stax Mafia hardliners would blame any SR-009 bass impact and extension limitations on the relatively modest amp you currently have.  And I’d have no reason to doubt them. 

 

These impressions are still extremely useful for those of us ichin’ to take the Stax plunge without already having an uber amp.  Please keep the impressions coming Currawong.

post #13 of 43

Moar power is always better but it will still be an electrostatic. If you listen to those almost all of the time you don't really notice that they might lack a bit here and you really start to appreciate their other qualities (e.g. very airy and effortless). But the headphones that I listen to most of the time (HD250II) have quite a big kick in the bass so it can be felt (but on other aspects, it is no contest against the O2).


Edited by padam - 8/1/11 at 6:38am
post #14 of 43
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by padam View Post

Moar power is always better but it will still be an electrostatic. If you listen to those almost all of the time you don't really notice that might they lack a bit here and you really start to appreciate their other qualities (e.g. very airy and effortless). But headphone that I listen to most of the time has quite a big kick in the bass so I did notice it.


Definitely. Before sitting down and doing the comparison, I only felt like listening to the 009s exclusively.  I didn't think I'd enjoy going back to the LCD-2s (and missed the 009s while I was waiting for a replacement pair).  But focussing on a variety of music made me reconsider my feelings somewhat.  It helps with both pairs to listen to music with them exclusively for this kind of reason.

post #15 of 43

I'm curious how the LCD-2 with my custom EQ curve sounds compared to the SR-009. If you ever get the chance, and are interested, could you maybe try using my EQ curve on the LCD-2 and then compare to the SR-009?

 

My latest fine-tuning of the custom EQ curve for the LCD-2 looks like this:

LCD-2-Custom_EQ.jpg

 

The bass boost is not meant to be neutral/accurate. I sometimes have it for those times when I want to really feel the visceral impact of the bass so I can somewhat get back the satisfaction I would get with speakers. For critical listening, you should not boost the bass as shown in the screencap.

 

The treble and mids are fine-tuned to fill out any dips I can perceive when A/B with my Klein + Hummel rig (with ARC System and custom EQ), as well as taking the FR graph Audez'e included into consideration. Obviously you should never fill out all the dips so it's perfectly flat, because that would be way too bright, so I placed more emphasis on just listening and comparing with all my other headphones and speakers, in order to arrive at the most neutral sound IMO for the LCD-2.

 

BTW, this is my LCD-2's FR graph:

d9d737f8_RobsLCD-2Graph.jpg

 

I also have a custom EQ curve for the SR-007mk2, so if you're interested, I can post that one too.

 

I have long been advocating that instead of spending money on more headphones and amps, it's much better to learn how to EQ like a professional audio engineer and "upgrade" your headphones for no cost (even freeware audio plugins get the job done beautifully). I can make mid-range headphones sound like headphones that cost double or triple, and I can get rid of all the little "regrets" that we have with high-end headphones and make them sound essentially perfect (according to my ideal of neutrality and accuracy, and on occasions, pushed a bit more for extra satisfaction).


Edited by Lunatique - 7/5/11 at 9:05am
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