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Mini-Review: Audeze LCD-3 (vs LCD-2 r2, SR-007, et al)

post #1 of 50
Thread Starter 

Mini-Review: Audeze LCD-3
vs Audeze LCD-2 r2, Audio-Technica AD2000, Sennheiser HD800, and Stax OII MKI

published on February 6, 2012

- download a printable 5-page PDF version of this review (right-click the link & save target)
- download a printable 5-page PDF version of the notes that were written for this review (right-click the link & save target). The notes should be considered a supplement and not a replacement for this review (as the review is not straight from the notes).

 

The full-length notes are also posted below in post #2 for quicker reference.

 

DSC_0757a.jpg

Intro

This is basically a mini-, multi-way review of the Audeze LCD-3 headphones, which were announced and demonstrated at CanJam@RMAF 2011. Though I also included the AD2K and HD800 for the sake of calling this a multi-way review, the most extensive comparisons were made specifically against the LCD-2 r2 and Stax OII MKI (SR-007 from here on out). The LCD-2 r2 and SR-007 comparisons were done specifically to address what I thought would be two of the most common questions about the LCD-3: (1) What does the LCD-3 offer over the LCD-2 r2? (2) Is the LCD-3 competitive with the SR-007?

To clarify my "mini-review" heading, I always call my reviews "mini-reviews" when the review period is a relatively short length of time, as my reviews are usually done over months. In this case for the LCD-3, the review period was approximately 4 weeks.

This mini-review can be considered as a companion/follow-up piece to my Audeze LCD-2 multi-way review, which can be read here: http://www.head-fi.org/t/548875/review-audeze-lcd-2-r1-r2-hifiman-he-6-stax-sr-507-stax-oii-mki-bhse-et-al

Note: the review LCD-3 unit is one I bought. I usually write reviews on stuff I buy, as I'm averse to manufacturer loans - IMO this removes any manufacturer expectations on the review, and it allows me to take as much time as I want as well.

Reviewer Biases & Info

My view of a headphone system is "source first" followed by headphones and then amp. In other words, a source of highest quality possible (assuming recordings of high quality also) should be paired with the most preferential-sounding headphone(s), to be driven by the most technically-optimal amp. In my view, the most technically-optimal amp is the one that provides sufficient power for all headphones being used without inflecting its own sonic signature, or minimally at least.

Some portions of the review/notes below refer to the sound of live instruments. As an FYI to put those references into the proper context, I'm a trained violinist (learned via the Suzuki method for 12 years starting at age 6, then quit lessons at 18 and have been playing on and off since, and I'm 30 now) and have had the opportunity several times to play in a symphony or chamber orchestra, and I've attended classical-music concerts as well.

Equipment Setup

- Source component: Plinius CD-101 (CD player) (power cord: Signal Cable Silver Resolution Reference - directly into wall)
- Analog interconnects: Analysis Plus Silver Oval XLR
- Headphone amplifiers: HeadAmp GS-X for the dynamic headphones, HeadAmp Blue Hawaii SE for the SR-007 (OII MKI)
- Comparison headphones: Audeze LCD-2 r2, Audio-Technica AD2000, Sennheiser HD800, Stax SR-007
- Aftermarket headphone cables: Moon Audio Silver Dragon V3 XLR on Audeze headphones and HD800, APureSound V3 XLR on AD2000

It should also be noted here that I used the LCD-3, LCD-2 r2, and AD2000 solely in balanced mode. I never once used the stock ADZ-6 or ADZ-6-B4 cables. I used balanced mode because I expected the LCD-3 to sonically benefit from it, as I previously compared the LCD-2 r2 balanced on my GS-X versus unbalanced on the Schiit Lyr and found that it sounded better when balanced on the GS-X.

Evaluation Music

CDs by the following artists/bands, by genre:

- Americana/Bluegrass/Folk: Alison Krauss & Union Station, Priscilla Ahn
- Blues: Eva Cassidy
- Classical: Carlos Kleiber & VPO, Julia Fischer, Nicola Benedetti
- Electronica/Trip-Hop/Industrial: Andrea Parker, Fluke, Front Line Assembly, Future Sound of London, Hybrid, Massive Attack, Neotropic, Orbital, Portishead, The Crystal Method, The Prodigy
- Jazz: Dave Brubeck, Lee Morgan, Tord Gustavsen
- Rock: Porcupine Tree, Tool
- Metal: Amon Amarth, Anthrax, Arch Enemy, Behemoth, Dimmu Borgir, Emperor, Helloween, Lacuna Coil, Meshuggah, Soilwork
- Soundtracks: Batman Begins (film OST), Descent II (PC game)

Specific tracks on the CDs are given in the review notes (see the PDF, linked at the top).

vs LCD-2 r2

When I first started informally comparing the LCD-3 to the LCD-2 r2, I wasn't sure there was a huge difference between them - the differences seemed subtle, primarily in the soundstaging.

However, after extended critical comparisons I ended up concluding that the LCD-3 was more different than I initially thought - and in some ways, better, though not in every aspect. The primary differences that I found between the two were: more treble quantity and more of a treble tilt on the LCD-2, accordingly less bass and mid-range quantity on the LCD-2, and a suffocating forward/up-front/closed-in soundstage on the LCD-2 - specifically, too-close positioning of musical elements that made music sound more directly in front (as well as directly to the left & right sides), plus just a slight sense of trapped sound-wave reverberation (sort of like the acoustics of a small soundproofed room). The LCD-3's soundstage, on the other hand, wasn't as suffocating and for me was a step in the right direction - adding just enough breathing room and pushing everything away so nothing felt too close.

The more listening I did between the LCD-2 and LCD-3, the more I came to like the LCD-3 - for specifically its added mid-range body and bass quantity. Though it did seem to sacrifice a bit of treble quantity in comparison, the LCD-3 sounded even more full, visceral, and tactile, traits that I thought were already done fairly well on the LCD-2. Not that this was a day & night type of difference, but for me it was noticeable enough to increase my enjoyment of certain music genres like electronica/trip-hop and metal.

Based on my cumulative headphone experience since 2006 (dynamic & electrostatic), I'd call the LCD-3 one of the most visceral-, tactile-sounding headphones that I've heard to date. To me it represented almost exactly what I originally wanted from Audeze when I first heard the LCD-2 r1 - a ballsy, gut-driving, bass-focused, and very assertive-sounding headphone. I'd probably sum it up as a less-suffocating, heavier-, and darker-sounding version of the LCD-2 r2 - sort of like the LCD-2 r2 tuned down for even more mid-range/bass presence, and with more spatial dimension at the same time (primarily in z-axis depth, but also x-axis lateral span). In other words, the LCD-3 offered more physical-, deeper-sounding vocals (mostly male, but also female) and brought out instruments like bass guitars more. For me this made the LCD-3 an even more obvious choice than the LCD-2 for electronica/trip-hop, heavy/hard rock, and metal music - it just made everything sound more atmospherically "dark" or malevolent. In fact, I think I'd recommend the LCD-3 for listeners of dark or malevolent music in general, it was that awesome. By the end of my LCD-3 ownership, I was seriously enjoying the LCD-3 on industrial music as well - I'll just say it was bad-ass! I can't think of a reason why anyone who listens to electronica/trip-hop, hard rock, or metal, would be dissatisfied with the LCD-3.

vs SR-007/BHSE

Not that the LCD-3 didn't also do well with other genres like classical and jazz, because it did - it was completely fine. Acceptable for most people I'm sure, and for me it was probably among the best dynamic headphones I've heard for this music type - but that's not really saying all that much for me, as the only other full-size dynamic headphones that I think are the best for classical & jazz are the Grado HP1000 and Sennheiser HD600.

However, classical music is where I started noticing most of the LCD-3's recurring flaws from the LCD-2 (r1 & r2). The LCD-3 continued to lack in the aspects that I criticized the LCD-2 - specifically scale, dynamic range, soundstage accuracy, clarity, and diffusion. To be more specific on scale, dynamic range, & clarity:

- Scale: This is a subjectively nebulous term admittedly, but on orchestral recordings, usually you want the orchestra to sound "big" - i.e., to generate a wall of sound that fills up the acoustic space and sounds like every instrument section is contributing to it left to right, back to front (violins to cellos, including percussion and brass from the back). The LCD-3 never sounded like anything more than mid-sized, while the SR-007 consistently generated that filling wall of sound from a massive-sounding symphony orchestra. For me, scale also alternately means a single instrument (or a few at most) sounding small as well, which the LCD-3 didn't convincingly portray and made single instruments stick out way too much in the soundtrack mix.

- Dynamic range: The LCD-3 rehashed the LCD-2's relative inability to produce really quiet versus really loud volumes, in contrast to the SR-007, which is extremely adept at this. Pianissimo-level violin parts, for example, simply sounded not very quiet on it, and likewise fortissimo volume levels weren't tear-off-the-ceiling loud. Additionally, everything in between quiet and loud all sounded at similar volume levels with barely any audible modulation. In fact, it seemed like there were only 3 volume settings on the LCD-3: slightly quiet, moderate, and slightly loud. This actually negatively affected my enjoyment of recordings like Carlos Kleiber's Beethoven 5 & 7 with the VPO, Nicola Benedetti's Fantasie (specifically "Spiegel Im Spiegel"), and Julia Fischer's Bach Concertos & Paganini: 24 Caprices. In contrast to the LCD-3's might-as-well-have-been 3 volume settings, the SR-007 rendered everything from barely-there quiet to intensely loud, and every music piece sounded way better because of it.

For those familiar with the musical terms, I'd describe the dynamic range of the LCD-3 vs SR-007 this way: the LCD-3's seemed like it went from mezzo-piano (mp) to mezzo-forte (mf). The SR-007's seemed like it went from pianissimo possibile (ppp) to fortissimo possibile (fff). The LCD-3 was completely incapable of rendering sforzando, which the SR-007 handled easily. Other musical dynamics that were also mostly lost on the LCD-3 but properly conveyed on the SR-007: crescendo/diminuendo, fortepiano, & marcato (among others as well, but notably these).

- Clarity: I expected this to be a large improvement on the LCD-3 from the LCD-2 given its new "Lotus" driver as reported by Audeze, but found that in actuality it was actually largely exactly the same and didn't offer any improved clarity. As in the case of LCD-2, there was a severe noticeable disparity between the LCD-3 and SR-007 in this aspect. I ended up concluding that its lack of clarity was completely unacceptable for a $2K headphone - it should have been much better considering the ~100% price increase over the LCD-2.

Ultimately the LCD-3 failed just about as much as the LCD-2 in approaching the level of my SR-007 electrostatic system for classical & jazz, barely sounding like any kind of progress over the LCD-2. Though it was certainly at least one step closer with the improved, less-suffocating soundstaging, it needed at least 100 more steps (if not more) to even get on the same plane of existence as the SR-007. It had less-realistic-sounding violins than the LCD-2 as well (not enough treble quantity), which to me was a step backwards.

vs HD800

I wrote in my LCD-2 multi-way review that I thought the LCD-2 had a yin-yang relationship with the HD800, with the two as sonic opposites - the HD800 being clear and treble-tilted with a very open soundstage, the LCD-2 being more mid-range- and bass-tilted with a compressed soundstage.

I ended up thinking that the LCD-3 was even more yin to the HD800's yang. It was even more opposite to the HD800 thanks to its increased, heavier mid-range & bass and dulled treble, contributing to a fuller, more "assertive" sound compared to the HD800's thinner, "passive" sound. The two headphones seemed like a good complementary pairing and I could easily believe that a Head-Fier would want to own both for different reasons.

vs AD2000

I wrote of the LCD-2 in its multi-way review that it was heavier-, deeper-, and more physical-sounding versus the AD2K, with less treble quantity as well. This was even truer for the LCD-3, enough that it was almost an opposite to the AD2K in only the frequency-balance aspect. It was clearly a darker-, heavier-sounding "version" of the AD2K as well with much more of a fill in the lower mid-range and bass. It was a very nice difference, as this made the LCD-3 sound more "mean".

Although the LCD-3 got substantially closer than the LCD-2 to unseating the AD2K as my favorite headphone (disturbingly close, actually), it failed mostly because it just didn't have the AD2K's forward-moving insistent sound that I've gotten used to. If the LCD-3 had that elusive quality from the AD2K, that would probably be my ideal headphone - or to put it another way, if the AD2K had the LCD-3's bass, that'd be my ultimate electronica/rock/metal headphone, period.

Postmortem

I really enjoyed my short time with the LCD-3. So much that I actually kinda miss it a little bit now (sold it just after my 4th week with the headphones). It kicked serious ass on especially electronic, industrial, and metal music.

Some might ask why I sold both the LCD-2 r2 and LCD-3. There were two major reasons: (1) Neither of them were very comfortable to wear and exerted too much clamping pressure, and (2) Neither of them sonically offered much beyond the AD2K or HD800 for my music preferences while downright detracting my enjoyment in certain ways (lack of forward-moving insistence versus the AD2K, lack of treble versus the HD800) and as a dynamic counterpart to my electrostatic system it wasn't remotely good enough. For all the times I tried listening to music I would've otherwise used my electrostatic system for, I couldn't get past the LCD-3's sub-standard portrayal.

I think anyone seeking more high-end options than the LCD-2 should seriously consider an electrostatic system instead of the LCD-3, like an SR-007 & KGSS, or just not bother upgrading at all. For me personally, I can easily get just about all of the LCD-3 enjoyment through my Audio-Technica AD2K instead, which is ~25% the cost. I do admittedly miss the heavy bass and extreme tactility of the LCD-3 now, but the AD2K is awesome in its own way. My current headphone system comprised of the balanced AD2K and HD800 plus the SR-007 & BHSE, with the JH13 IEMs thrown in for good measure, meets my preferences just about perfectly for every music type that I listen to. I can live without the LCD-3, but that doesn't mean I didn't think it was awesome - it was, but it was also a severe let-down to me at the same time. Despite that, the LCD-3 easily earned a place on my personal above-average headphone ranking, which also includes the HD800, T1, LCD-2 (r1/r2), and Grado HP1000, but for me it's too bad it couldn't transcend to my excellent ranking, which includes the SR-007, Qualia 010, and JH13 (IEMs).

As highly as I thought of the LCD-3 in certain aspects, at the same time I thought it was very mediocre too. It took some steps forward from the LCD-2 - wider & deeper soundstaging, fuller mid-range contributing to increased tactility; but it made no progress at all in other aspects including scale, dynamic range, and clarity. As awesome as it was for the music types mentioned above, it didn't sound like the improvement it should have been over the LCD-2 at approximately twice the price, and for that I can't recommend it for any kind of critical listeners who'd be expecting the LCD-3 to be "better" than the LCD-2.

Related Reading

- HeadAmp KGSS vs BHSE mini-review: http://www.head-fi.org/t/566419/mini-review-headamp-kgss-vs-blue-hawaii-se
- LCD-2 multi-way review: http://www.head-fi.org/t/548875/review-audeze-lcd-2-r1-r2-hifiman-he-6-stax-sr-507-stax-oii-mki-bhse-et-al
- Audio-Technica AD2K 5-year re-review: http://www.head-fi.org/t/574882/5-year-re-review-audio-technica-ath-ad2000
- Beyerdynamic T1 vs Senn HD800 review: http://www.head-fi.org/t/511201/review-beyerdynamic-t1-vs-sennheiser-hd800
- Schiit Lyr mini-review: http://www.head-fi.org/t/580636/mini-review-schiit-lyr

post #2 of 50
Thread Starter 

UNORGANIZED NOTES FOR MINI-REVIEW OF AUDEZE LCD-3

These notes include specific details not documented in the published mini-review. Disclaimer: Not all listening data was documented either.

 

Note: These notes are also available in a PDF version: lcd3_notes.pdf

 

> Sensitivity

LCD-3 less sensitive than LCD-2? Need to turn volume knob higher to achieve similar volume level.

> LCD-3 vs LCD-2 r2 on GS-X, balanced w/ Moon Audio Silver Dragon V3 XLR

- Helloween - 7 Sinners - "Where The Sinners Go"

  • LCD-2 brighter overall, with more treble "shearing" on guitars. LCD-3 has more mid-bass, esp on bass guitars. Neither headphone seems ideal for conveying the speed & impact of the drums though (opposed to AD2K, as its blistering agility runs through the drums).


- Porcupine Tree - In Absentia - "Blackest Eyes", "Strip The Soul"

  • ("Blackest Eyes") Opening overdriven guitars lower/fuller on LCD-3, and with more physical presence. Male vocals more diverged to left/right on LCD-2, more towards center on LCD-3. More of a "bass-driving hard rock-out" edge to sound with LCD-3; LCD-2 not as much.
  • ("Strip the Soul") Opening bass line more distinct & clear on LCD-3 - i.e., marginally clearer bass overall, though without the forward/up-close placement of LCD-2. More dimension/spatials/"air span" on LCD-3 - probably more realistic. Ending bass line more oppressively heavy on LCD-3, really fills up the entire bass spectrum considerably more, enough that it takes on a channel-bleeding "dark" edge (as in atmospherics, not frequency descriptor).


- Massive Attack - Mezzanine - "Angel", "Inertia Creeps", "Black Milk"

  • ("Inertia Creeps") Belly drums have harder/tighter impact on LCD-2. Imaging more divergent & diffuse on LCD-3 - layers spread out more from each other, not as concentrated together near the center. 3D's voice bleeds into both channels a bit more on LCD-3. Deeper-sounding bass/mid-bass on LCD-3. Slightly more illusion of space/air on LCD-3, esp on opening effects. LCD-3 also better conveys the dark atmospherics of this track - more creepy- and ominous-sounding via the mids/bass.
  • ("Black Milk") Heavier low-bass line on LCD-3, very sludge-like.


- Alison Krauss & Union Station - Paper Airplane - "My Opening Farewell"

  • LCD-3 better creates an enveloping, surrounding acoustic space, with more clearly delineated virtual "walls", much like the AD2K's ability to delineate virtual walls. Unlike AD2K though, LCD-3 isn't as in-your-face and more distant/outward. Instruments and AK's voice also have a more tactile presence x-factor on LCD-3. More illusion of them being in the room. Fuller, heavier mid-range on LCD-3 helps contribute to & enhance this effect. Acoustic bass is also more deep & solid-sounding on LCD-3. Instruments also sound slightly more relaxed on LCD-3, while they seem a bit "tense" on LCD-2.
  • LCD-3 less "stuffed up/suffocating" than LCD-2, in terms of soundstage. Music overall not as close, placed further away. More "spatial distance" on LCD-3, esp laterally from left to right.
  • AK's voice a bit further away on LCD-3; placed unnaturally close on LCD-2. Also has slightly more reverb on LCD-3. Her voice is slightly "floaty/ethereal" on LCD-2 as well, while it's more "physical/grounded" on LCD-3. LCD-3 seems to convey more realism to her voice.


- Priscilla Ahn - A Good Day - "Dream"

  • Both headphones sound very good - female vocals with solid presence factor (though vocals placed farther away on LCD-3, which is probably more accurate). LCD-3 "deeper" sounding though as expected, with more 3D-imaging dimension on vocals & instruments. More instrument resonance on LCD-3 too, specifically on left-channel opening guitar.


- Eva Cassidy - Live at Blues Alley - "Autumn Leaves"

  • Consistent attributes from the Priscilla Ahn track - LCD-3 simply has more "presence" factor, most prominently on vocals (Eva feels like she's in the room more), as well as more spatials/dimension around her vocal element. Piano also more plinky-sounding on LCD-2, has a deeper tone on LCD-3. LCD-3 also offers marginally more dynamic range on Eva's voice - more intensity and volume-swell effect than LCD-2 - but a minor difference, not huge.


- Tord Gustavsen - Changing Places - "Graceful Touch"

  • LCD-3 provides more realistic air/soundstage - the acoustics of the performance venue have clearer chamber/studio qualities that are partially lost on the LCD-2 r2. LCD-3 also seems to have more realistic piano tone - LCD-2 a bit too trebly. Neither headphone really captures the "pressure" of piano key presses though, which the SR-007 is capable of doing. Neither headphone captures the piano's dynamic range very well either (as SR-007 can) - specifically the piano's controlled "piano" volume level (as in the Italian musical term referring to volume scale, opposite of "forte").


- Lee Morgan - Tom Cat [AudioWave XRCD] - "Twice Around"

  • Texture/timbre of brass instruments slightly more authentic/realistic on LCD-3, primarily due to more body in mid-range - i.e., slightly more reedy quality to trumpet. Deeper bass on LCD-3 also brings out the acoustic bass more, as LCD-2 subtracts from its presence factor. Soundstage of LCD-3 provides more illusion that the band is in a room, with more sense of virtual walls and more intuitive lateral placement of musicians. (Not that "room" implies "in the room with you", just room-type acoustics.) Drum breakdown near the end also more physical-sounding on LCD-3, and piano heavier-sounding (not as plinky as LCD-2).


- Dave Brubeck - Time Out [Legacy Edition] - "Blue Rondo a la Turk", "Take Five"

  • ("Blue Rondo a la Turk") Like LCD-2, LCD-3 doesn't really capture the physical pressure of piano key presses - most notably the A-natural (A440) near the beginning of the track that should "pound" but really doesn't. Consistently with previous jazz tracks, LCD-3 conveys richer tone in mid-range than LCD-2 that provides more authenticity/realism on most notably the piano and alto sax, especially the alto sax. Ending drum breakout more physical- & visceral-sounding on LCD-3.
  • ("Take Five") Deeper, more visceral impact on drums throughout on LCD-3; LCD-2 not as impactful or heavy-sounding. LCD-2 does have sharper-, more incisive-sounding drums though. Alto sax also too front-and-center on LCD-2; LCD-3 pushes it away so it's not as in-your-face.


- Andrea Parker - Kiss My Arp - "Melodious Thunk", "Elements of Style"
- Neotropic - Mr. Brubaker's Strawberry Alarm Clock - "Mr. Brubaker's Strawberry Alarm Clock", "Gutted"
- Orbital - Snivilisation - "Are We Here?"
- The Crystal Method - Vegas - "Trip Like I Do", "High Roller"
- The Crystal Method - Tweekend - "Murder", "Tough Guy"

  • LCD-3 exudes more force/power over low bass in general, compared to LCD-2. Bass just "feels" lower, deeper, more of that ooze-like factor. More authoritative. Layers also positioned more distinctly - sort of blurry on LCD-2. LCD-2 seems to lose some control over multiple simultaneous layers in more complex passages.
  • LCD-3 is even more tactile/physical/visceral than LCD-2, which already had this quality in spades compared to most other headphones (with notable exception of Grado HP1000).
  • LCD-3 seems to lack a degree of "pressure" into the bass though compared to LCD-2 - a sense of it pushing downwards into the bass. Seems to have more of a "sideways" push than a downward-implosion pressure. Nevertheless, bass overall definitely "fatter" on LCD-3 than on LCD-2, but not extremely "fat" on its own, just in comparison - i.e., there are probably bassier headphones (K340, PS1000, L3000, etc).
  • Noticeable bass deficiency on LCD-3 though: very deep, complex bass rhythms seem to overload the headphone (i.e., the Andrea Parker CD) and tend to "muddify" the bass. Or to put it another way, multiple low-bass layers tend to muddify the LCD-3's bass in general, so the bass loses clarity & distinction. Might be amp-dependent though and might be fixed with a much higher-power amp like B22, though just a guess. Contrast to AD2K, which can handle multiple low-bass layers without sounding overloaded & muddy (but AD2K is thinner in bass).

 

> LCD-3 (balanced) vs SR-007/BHSE (balanced) for classical music


- Carlos Kleiber & VPO - Beethoven Symphonies 5 & 7 - "No. 5 - III Allegro", "No. 5 - IV Allegro", "No. 7 - IV Allegro con brio"

  • LCD-3 improves lateral span from violin to cello section, helps make the orchestra sound "bigger". Sections placed further/wider from each other than on LCD-2 as well, which seems to be more accurate. 1st Violins for example are too close on LCD-2. Areas that were criticized on the r1 vs SR-007 not fixed in LCD-3 though - including clarity, scale, & dynamics. Violin clarity not great, orchestra scale not nearly as large as on SR-007 (but definitely a marginal improvement over LCD-2 r2), and quiet macro- & micro-volume levels not as low as on SR-007. Everything on LCD-3 tends to remain at approximately similar volume level and it fails to get truly loud (like on opening of track 4). LCD-3 does improve the sonorous characteristics of brass over LCD-2 though - horns dominate & flare out better on it. More orchestral "sweeping power" on LCD-3 as well (mostly due to mid-range swell).
  • "Air" & dimension between sections more distinct & clear on LCD-3 - enough of a difference that it does make for more convincing realism due to a better illusion of sound waves propagating through air and reverberating off walls. All sections have more z-axis depth on LCD-3 (notably woodwinds & brass) - positioned farther away and not as close as on LCD-2. Vertical y-axis "air" reverb coming off instruments also more pronounced on LCD-3.


- Julia Fischer - Bach Concertos - "Concerto for 2 Violins in D minor - 1st & 3rd mvmts", "Violin Concerto in E major 2nd mvmt"

  • General notes on LCD-3 vs SR-007: LCD-3 not "clear" enough to remotely compete with SR-007, as the instrument sections sound partially muddy on it, especially strings. Violin tone also not very realistic, needs more treble for a more accurate "gloss". LCD-2 r2 actually closer to a realistic violin tone due to its higher treble quantity. Violins sound too heavy on LCD-3, not "lightweight" enough. Violins on this recording don't have the "fast, light Baroque touch" that should be conveyed and come across as slow and heavy.
  • LCD-3 not really any better than LCD-2 r2 on specifically track 8 ("Violin Concerto in E major 2nd mvmt") - still lacks in every single aspect criticized versus the SR-007 mentioned in the LCD-2 multi-way review. No "beautiful pure radiating tone" on Fischer's violin, no "radiating heat" or "breathing" from the orchestra, and minimal dynamics (lacking specifically pianissimo on quiet parts). Fischer's string-crossing, bow pressing into violin, bow-speed modulation, and subtle volume modulation details lost on LCD-3 as well (were lost on LCD-2). (These details are extremely apparent on SR-007.)


- Julia Fischer - Paganini: 24 Caprices - "No.1 in E major", "No.6 in G minor", "No.10 in G minor", "No.15 in E minor"

  • (Side-note: CD is solo-violin music that's more of a showcase of Fischer's technical ability more than anything else. Very technically-challenging program material.) Neither LCD-3 or LCD-2 are detailed enough to reveal Fischer's violin technique. Her bowing technique (speed, pressure, etc) in particular is very masked on both Audeze headphones - only revealed by SR-007. Neither Audeze headphone captures her dynamically-shifting tone and volume either. Various stage booms/thuds throughout the CD not very distinct either, on either Audeze headphone. Audeze headphones also lack a "shimmering clarity" to Fischer's violin that's captured by SR-007.


- Nicola Benedetti - Fantasie - "Spiegel Im Spiegel"

  • LCD-3 good enough at conveying the violin and piano interplay but is soundly beaten by SR-007 in just about every other aspect - the SR-007 creates a "divide" between the violin and piano so they sound like 2 small sources of sound in a big empty space, and sounds "quieter" than LCD-3 as well. Low volume of instruments is quieter and more "hair-line" on SR-007. Piano also sounds semi-murky on LCD-3, but sounds crystal-clear on SR-007. Though an improvement from LCD-2, LCD-3 still sounds too "stuffed-up" in soundstage compared to SR-007 - both violin and piano sound too close on it. The "divide" between them on SR-007 actually sounds extremely accurate - they're placed considerably further away from each other on SR-007.


> Dark- or Malevolent-style (atmospheric style, not sound quality!) bands/artists enhanced by LCD-3's full bass/mid-range

- Rock/Metal: Amon Amarth, Anthrax, Arch Enemy, Behemoth, Dimmu Borgir, Emperor, Lacuna Coil, Meshuggah, Soilwork, Tool
- Electronica/Trip-Hop/Industrial: Hybrid, Fluke, Front Line Assembly, Future Sound of London, Massive Attack, Portishead, The Prodigy
- Soundtracks: Batman Begins (film OST), Descent II (PC game)


Edited by Asr - 2/8/12 at 9:58am
post #3 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by Asr View Post


I think anyone seeking more high-end options than the LCD-2 should seriously consider an electrostatic system instead of the LCD-3, like an SR-007 & KGSS, or just not bother upgrading at all.

...
As highly as I thought of the LCD-3 in certain aspects, at the same time I thought it was very mediocre too. It took some steps forward from the LCD-2 - wider & deeper soundstaging, fuller mid-range contributing to increased tactility; but it made no progress at all in other aspects including scale, dynamic range, and clarity. As awesome as it was for the music types mentioned above, it didn't sound like the improvement it should have been over the LCD-2 at approximately twice the price, and for that I can't recommend it for any kind of critical listeners who'd be expecting the LCD-3 to be "better" than the LCD-2.


This is a really great, extensive, and organized set of thoughts.  A lot to respond to in there, but I'll go straight to your punchline.

 

The problem with the LCD-3 is that if I never heard electrostats, I'd think it was a phenomenal headphone.  It'd easily be a shootout between the LCD-3 and HD800.  The LCD-3 is a lot of fun with heavily synthesized music like big beat, kpop, and western pop.  The thing is, after living with Staxes for some time now, the LCD-3 still has a lot of deficiencies compared to the SR007 and SR009.  The LCD-3 does do some things I like more than the SR007 and SR009, but it only wins a few fights while decisively losing the war.

 

We didn't have the LCD-3 paired with a top-end dynamic amp which could've been part of the problem, but we were using a KG amp for the dynamic and electrostats each, and the KG designs I've heard have been consistent in sound signature.

 

The LCD-3s sounded muddy and veiled compared to the Staxes.  Dynamics were messy.  It did loud and punchy well, and I wasn't fond of how it handled much else.  Details sounded overly rounded off, and the sound was oversaturated--it lacked the clean crispness I associate with stats.  It was more comfortable to wear than the LCD-2 R2.

 

I'm probably coming off as a bit harsh, and comparing orthos with electrostats might not be exactly fair, but for $2,000, I was expecting a lot more.  It was an incremental improvement over the LCD-2 R2 in my ears, but nowhere near worth x2 the price.

post #4 of 50

What a great review. I am also having the same opinion regarding the LCD-3, but I believe this is due to my amp and DAC. I will need better amp and DAC. Nevertheless the sound of it is just a bit too thick for my liking. I just don't really like the instances where I have to strain a little bit to listen to the details, it is there, but it's kinda being glossed over. I guess if the weight is 200g less, I might be able to live happily with it, but the weight and the clamping force can be a bit uncomfortable for me.

 

Today I will be getting my Stax 507 with the modded T1 amp, which I bought from another Head-fier. If it happens that the resolution, details and transparency is noticeably better compared to the Audez'e I might even sell the 507 off and go for a 007. biggrin.gif


Edited by koonhua90 - 2/6/12 at 6:22am
post #5 of 50

I reached the same conclusion as you did when listening to my LCD-3 compared to my LCD-2 rev.2, I think I was expecting something different and I was disappointed when I realized it was more of the same, there's no doubt they are an improvement over the LCD-2 but I honestly don't think the upgrade is worth twice the price, I have now sold my LCD-3, LCD-2 and HD-800 and invested the cash towards a pair of SR-009.

post #6 of 50

what a great read; i appreciated the comparative impressions; thank you for sharing it.

post #7 of 50

Excellent review, particularly the detailed comparative analysis.  As an LCD-2 rev2 owner, you gave me a lot of insight as I struggle to justify the jump to the LCD-3.

post #8 of 50

 

Why you try to compare two different vision of sound  ? (LCD-2/3 and Stax 007/009)

post #9 of 50
Thanks for the review. I guess I will find out for myself tomorrow when I receive my lcd3. I would like to get a stax setup also but dont like the amp choices right now.
post #10 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by KingStyles View Post

Thanks for the review. I guess I will find out for myself tomorrow when I receive my lcd3. I would like to get a stax setup also but dont like the amp choices right now.

If you don't like what's out now, you'll be waiting a long time. The only stat amp on the horizon I know of is the Eddie Current Electra so then we'll have 5 ultra high end stat amps (BHSE, WES, LL, Electra, A-10) in the neighborhood of $5000 and not much else below but Stax amps and DIY.

@ ASR

Great review. I personally feel the LCD3 is closer to stats than you do, but some of the stat rigs I heard at RMAF were quite special in their own right. I'm also purchasing a stat rig to have in my home for the first time so I can get experience with them when not at a meet.
Edited by Maxvla - 2/6/12 at 5:45pm
post #11 of 50
Another winner.

LCD3 sounds like something I would enjoy, but at the price I don't see myself getting one any time soon.

P.S. I would really like to see you spend some quality time with the 009, and your thoughts on it vs the 007.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Noirceur View Post


Why you try to compare two different vision of sound  ? (LCD-2/3 and Stax 007/009)

Because they're in the same price range. And because sound is sound no matter where it comes from. And because given the state of the hobby it helps to have reviews from people that have a lot of genuine experience with high-end gear and no financial interest at stake.
Edited by catscratch - 2/6/12 at 5:51pm
post #12 of 50
I am waiting for the Electra impressions. I have heard the LL. The wes and a10 I guess arent the greatest options. That leaves the BH and it would probably be another year before a new batch comes out and the jury is still out on the BH/009 combo.

I was hoping that the lcd3 would get me close, but it doesnt seem the jury is leaning that way. You never know though, a different rig can make a difference, but I doubt it will make a big enough difference. Its good to see all the stat/lcd3 comparisons. At least I know what I have to gain if I take the leap.
post #13 of 50

very nice review, guess for me, the LCD-3 would be a step in the wrong direction. right now i'm loving my LCD-2. best headphone i've heard besides the T1. the LCD-2 are just way better than all my other mid-fi headphones, they're very close to being perfect and if only they had a tad more detail and better soundstage, they'd be perfect. 

post #14 of 50

Excellent, careful review Asr.

 

Have you heard any other LCD3 than the one you bought? If so, noticed any differences?

post #15 of 50

" I'd call the LCD-3 one of the most visceral-, tactile-sounding headphones that I've heard to date. " 

 

You may well be correct about these qualities of the LCD-3.  They made me wonder just how much of the visceral and tactile one needs in a headphone and that perhaps the LCD-3 simply had too much of it to be healthy to ones hearing even at average listening levels.

 

After using the LCD-3 for 3 weeks I got a serious case of tinnitus. Something 5 months of constant LCD-2 r.2 usage did not do.  

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