Similar to the amp thread, I'll be running each through its paces with the goal of being left with one at the end.
My original LCD-2 v LCD-3 notes can be found in that thread but were from when this pair had mismatched drivers so... let's start fresh. My LCD-3 RMA are back from repair with new drivers, earpads and longer adjustment rods. So its now got matched drivers, pads and it fits!
My Sennheiser hasn't shipped so I will be updating the thread later with it.
All comparisons will be run with the W4S DAC-2, AMB B22 Balanced and Q cables.
So getting on with it... LCD-2 v LCD-3
In the interest of getting people up in arms... its a crap shoot. At this level we've entered diminishing returns. There are things the LCD-3 does that the LCD-2 not only doesn't do as well but at all. And there are things about the LCD-2 that the LCD-3 doesn't achieve as well. Crap shoot, yay.
Looking over my notes its very clear that the LCD-3 stages much better than the LCD-2. Instruments aren't grounded, they have a distinct location in space. The tonal balance is flatter though I still think its slightly U shaped with a minor focus on sub bass and upper treble. It has a greater tendency to highlight background detail. But all these things tend to result in a detached, less emotionally involving presentation. Its not studio dry, but it doesn't have the full body of the LCD-2. On busy passages these advantages can collapse into what I feel for lack of better wording, a smeared or messy presentation.
The LCD-2 on the other hand has a grounded, precise but flat sound stage. Tonal balance falls more into the middle with great body and fullness in comparison. Its blackground is higher. Instruments come and go into complete darkness. Its reduced top end makes for a cleaner presentation while also not spotlighting background detail. It errors on omission.
Where they are equal or pretty close is in texture and detail retrieval. Where the tonal balance of the LCD-3 highlights little things more, they are present on the LCD-2 just at a lower level. Attack and drive is high on both models.
So what to do. If staging is a priority then its a one side thrashing. If emotional engagement is your game then you fall to the other side. The darker more forgiving LCD-2 also invites the listener to go to 11 and might be the better choice for libraries containing a lot of less than stellar recordings. The LCD-3 counters with more authentic balance which is truer to the recording.
The good news is I have an actual competition on my hands. The bad is I won't be padding my bank balance anytime soon ;)
* UPDATE - Senn HD800 v LCD-3 comparison has been posted http://www.head-fi.org/t/614655/audeze-lcd-2-rev2-audeze-lcd-3-rma-and-sennheiser-hd800-compared/105#post_8569379 *
Edited by Solude - 7/28/12 at 7:48pm