I received a big box from the german Audeze distributor yesterday morning. Since
here the distribution network is not very good, the distributor for Audeze sends
around a few test headphones. I cannot say how much I honor that. There is
nothing as good as having an item at home. Much better than sitting between
racks and speakers at your favorite hifi shop and listen to your own cds on
equipment you don't know at all. I also found my preferred headphone amp by
listening to it at home. Now it is one of the items I really enjoy a lot.
In this respect, thanks to the guys from digital highend!
For this comparison I took out some of my recordings that I want to sound good
on my system. Don't know if these planar magnets need a break-in. I just used
them as they came, right out of the box. Looked pretty new and unused though.
My system is what I would call a solid mid-fi setup with some really good
components: A yamaha cd player (good and solid mechanics) coupled optically to a
Musical Fidelity V-Dac. The V-Dac is one of the really good sounding components.
It is connected by cinch cable to my Earmax Silver headphone amp. Cables are all
highest quality, 5 star oehlbach xxl1 (hand selected by me in a long
weekend-cable comparison many years ago).
I started with the Lcd2 and Bruckners 4th symphony, Celebidache and the Munich
Philharmonic Orchestra. One of my favorite recordings of all time. In the second
movement many contrabasses are used, slow and gentle mostly. This is one of the
recordings, where the Lcd2 has a chance to really shine. Deepest bass at low
volume is rarely earth shattering through headphones. And so the Audezes shone.
Sounds marvelous, very well structured bass, but also the rest, space, stage,
really first class.
Encouraged by the good orchestral results I went to a solo instrument. The Viola
da Gamba is something like a Cello, but with much more overtone richness. I have
a great recording of Richardo Rogniono, "Susane ung jour" (whatever that means),
performed by Hille Perl. The Gamba sounds fascinating if reproduced well. I am
glad to report that also here the Lcd2 does a perfect job. A pleasure to listen
Whatever I threw into my player afterwards, Fleetwood Mac (Rumors), Neil Young
(Everybody knows..), Dylan (Desire, Original Mono Recordings), Beatles in Mono,
Simon and Garfunkel (Sounds of Silence - I have the Audio Fidelity Gold CD),
Schubert Trios, Mozart Piano Concertos (Most noticeably No 7 for two Pianos):
everything sounded great, very natural and clear, no listening fatigue, great
defined bass, good voices, smooth treble (unlike Grados RS-1 which hurt my ears
in this respect).
So far I listened to the Lcd2 only. But this should be a comparison to the HD
650. I wanted to get accustomed to the sound of the Audeze's before going back
to Sennheiser. My experience is, it is better to listen to something really good
for a while first. If the HD650 should be weaker, it would show immediately when
switching back to it. This way it is easier to compare than by switching back
and forth every minute.
So when I finally put on the HD 650, I realized that the Lcd2 more or less did
everything better: Most noticeably the bass extension and definition, but also
the soundstage and the clarity of the presentation. The Sennheisers indeed even
sounded a little colored compared to the Lcd2s.
But then it was much less dramatic than I expected. I was not disappointed at
all with the Sennheisers, even in direct comparison. Although they show their
age, the HD 650 have been top of the line for a long time. The steps up the
ladder are very, very small, even after many years. I mainly considered the
Lcd2S, because they implement a different technology (dynamic vs. planar
magnets). This is promising and may result in a big step of sound quality
compared to an improved dynamic headphone only.
So my resume:
The sound from the Lcd2s is clearly better than from the HD 650. Maybe even in
every respect. They seem to have the same sound signature, but every aspect of
this signature is enhanced. A perfect headphone, if you love the sound of the HD
650 and want to upgrade.
Comfort-wise it is different. Putting on the HD650 after listening to the Lcd2s
feels like a relief. If you think the clamping force of the Sennheisers is too
high, you should try the Audezes first. Also the weight comparison means talking
about Muhammed Ali vs. Kylie Minogue. The strong and heavy magnets of the Lcd2s
have their disadvantages too.
But why was I not disappointed with the HD 650?
I finally understood why the comparison was not disappointing when I listened to
an Opera (Don Giovanni). I have a recent recording directed by Rene Jacobs and
the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra. This ensemble is famous nowadays, at least in
Germany. Sound was good again, the usual comparison, as reported before.
Then I decided to put in one of my older recordings that I did not use for a
long time: Rafael Kubelik and the Symphony Orchestra of the Bavarian
Broadcasting Company. Famous names too: Alan Titus, Rolando Panerai, Arleen
Auger, but from 1985. No high end audiophile recording for sure.
Until then I was a bit disappointed to spend my weekend listening to music only,
because I had different plans. But all of a sudden I got lost - not in the sound
but in the music. What a difference to the Jacobs recording (overrated anyway,
if you ask me). I could feel Don Giovannis passion and Donna Annas despair
(really, no joke), laugh and grin, when Don Giovanni sings about his endless
list of lovers.
This is the moment when you press pause, open a bottle of good wine and prepare
for a long evening listening to music. When you start swinging and singing
(until the lovely lady - the real one - comes out of the bedroom ...).
Well, the whole time I listened to the Lcd2 again. And because this session was
not about drinking my best Nero d'Avola, but about retiring my HD 650, I
switched headphones. And the result: the music from the HD 650 sounds as
involving as from the Lcd2. The technical differences did not affect listening
pleasure, they did not transform a bad recording or a bad performance into a
good one. What counts is the performance!
Well, we are talking high-level of course. I would not dare to write this sentence,
while listening to my 35 year old HD 414 instead of the HD 650.
What counts is the performance, not so much the technology:
Probably this is a commonplace. But certainly a commonplace that I at least
forget from time to time, when I am busy deciding between new hardware
components. Instead, we may get more fun by keeping our hardware money and
spending it for the best recordings available (well, I do that too of course).
It is certainly also fun to toy around with new hardware. But it is an excuse
to say it is necessary for the listening pleasure. It is not. When we toy
around, we do it for different reasons (bored, too much time, too much money,
don't want to attack the real problems in life, ... , because its fun :o)?). If
we think we do it in order to get the best sound in the world and have the
greatest experience ever, we certainly will be disappointed and finally
frustrated - and broke too.
A good or a very good system will be perfect for listening to the music. A
better than very good system will most likely not enhance the listening pleasure
So I am going to send back the Lcd2s, keeping in mind, that they are really,
really nice headphones. For my taste nicer than the HD 800 or the T1 for sure.
You understood that I am not a nitpicker when it comes to sound. I don't care if
the HD 800 should have a little wider soundstage. Or may have a 0.1 percent
hotter treble. On this level of sound quality I simply say: music is about
emotion and the nice wooden finish and the leather of the Lcd2 appeal more to me
than the high-tech looks of the HD800. Forget about weight and clamping force,
this is just a question of getting used to.
If I owned Rs-1 only (which I don't like because of the treble) or some middle
class headphones, I would instantly buy the Lcd2s. Since it is as it is I
probably have to wait until I had the next great bottle of Nero d'Avola.
Edited by mironathetin - 8/9/11 at 7:25am