Akarise asked me to compare the LCD 2 with the Final Audio Pandora Hope VI.
This is my first review here ever - so please be gentle with me if I do not cover all aspects that You would ask for. Also I am not a native english speaker ...
I do not have any professional connections whatsoever to or financial interests in either of both companies. These are just my personal listening impressions.
I compared both Headphones with the following setup:
AK100 stock --> JDS Labs O2 --> Grado 6,3 - 3,5 adapter --> LCD2 / FAD Pandora Hope VI
Naim Superuniti (with integrated class A Headphone Amp) --> LCD2 / FAD Pandora Hope VI
A) General Impression:
i) Look and Feel:
The Pandora looks really nice with its polished steel and the black leather earpads and headband cover. (I believe it is real leather - at least it feels like leather). It is comparatively heavy (>500g), but fits acceptably on my head. I would wish that the earpads were larger as I have to fiddle around a bit to get a good fit. Also the earpads are too soft to my taste which leads to the feeling that my ears touch the grid that covers the drivers. After an hour of listening my ears became pretty warm. I later stuffed the earpads which helped in terms of comfort and hot ears.
I have learned by others that FAD would be willing to exchange the earpads without extra charge which would be very welcome indeed. (Let's see if this is true).
There have been concerns that the earshells move too easily and do not hold - I cannot confirm this from my experience. They move easily enough but do not get loose.
The LCD 2 have been described here pretty often, so I leave that only saying that I still like their look. To me the fit on my head is better than the Pandora. Especially the really large earpads have always been comfortable on my ears.
They are also pretty heavy - so no real advantage there.
result: LCD2 > Pandora Hope VI
The Pandora come with a very nice but quite short round cable which can be removed from the earpads. It has a very easy to use individual solution to secure and lock the cable which is nice. On the other hand I do not know of any possibility to attach balanced cables to it. I would assume that the short cable is a hint that it was meant to be useable with portable players. (which they are indeed)
It has a 3,5 '' connector. The quality and the workmanship of the connectors, the Y-splitter and the protective shells (steel?) is flawless and they look absolutely beautiful.
The LCD 2 also comes with a detachable cable (flat cable) and has a 6,3 '' connector. The cables can be exchanged against balanced cables as far as I know. The cable also has a very good quality - I would not fear that it could break or tear. The 6,3 ''connector can be opened - so there is the possibility to repair and change if needed. The looks of the cable are not spectacular - rather average / normal.
iii) sensitivity / sound volume
The Pandora come with an impedace of 8 ohm - which has lead others (who have more theoretical knowledge than I) to wonder why Final did this. I can only say that the Pandora doesn't need a lot of power to work.
In both chains that I used for listening I had to turn down volume considerably when I changed from LCD 2 to Pandora.
On my Superuniti I listened with a loudness setting of between 32 - 38 (depending on the recording quality) while I had to step volume up to between 48-53 when listening to the LCD2.
On the O2 I used a volume setting of approx. 8.15 with the Pandora while having to turn volume up till 10.45 with the LCD2.
I wouldn't say this is good or bad per se - but it's worth mentioning.
The high sensitivity may make it a welcome solution to listen to Ipods (which in Europe have been limited in volume to protect people's ears) I couldn't test it with an Ipod
though - maybe someone else will do this.
B) Sound Quality
i) General impression:
To me the Pandora is a "fun headphone". I almost instantly started to look though my music
files and wanted to hear how my favorites sound with it.
The LCD2 are good Headphones but they don't deliver the listening fun as the Pandora do. I would say they are more neutral and probably analytic.
ii) Songs that I used for comparison:
1) Jun Fukamachi & New York Allstars - Live / "I'm sorry" (FLAC): one of my favorite Jazz Funk records with some really fantastic saxophone, keyboard and vibraphone works. This recording unfortunately has a weakness in the original master recording leading to short distortions, especially when the Vibraphone (Mike Manieri) plays solo. I guess they set the recording level too high for the Vibes. I thought this would give both headphones a chance to show how they can deal with that.
2) Fred Wesley - New Friends / "Peace Fugue" (FLAC): This track shows some really nice trombone work which provides disharmonies at some point. Those give a lot of "grown up" speakers their problems.
3) Deacon Blue - Raintown / "This Town" (FLAC): This is a underestimated Rock Song from the 80ies providing different levels of volume in the singing and the accompanying instruments - mainly synthesizer and bass.
4) Fat Fredd's Drop - Dr. Boondigga / "Shiverman" (MP3) - This song has some real strong bass and sub bass to deliver.
5) Julia Fordham - Porcelain / "Porcelain" (FLAC) - a wonderful song to listen to female alto and soprano voices.
6) Paco de Lucia, Al di Meola, John McLaughlin - A Friday Night in San Francisco / "Mediterranean Sundance" - a perfect song to hear the different nuances of the famous 3 guitars
7) Rodrigo & Gabriela -11:11 / "Hanuman" - another fabulous guitar duett.
8) Annie Lenox - Diva / "Precious" - this song provides a wonderful strong bass and subbass
9) Casper - Hinterland / "Hinterland" - this artist is probably only known in Germany
10) Kings of Leon - Because of the Times / "Knocked Up"
Generally speaking the Pandora produces very decent and clear highs which are not harsh and are definitely not dominant.
I had the feeling that the highs of the Pandora found their limits with Mike Manieri's vibes in "I'm sorry" - there is distortion in the recording and Manieri plays the vibes really fast, often leading to several layers of overlapping sound. Here the distortions became disturbing with the Pandora. It seemed to me that the Pandora held the frequency a little bit longer than the LCD2 thus emphasizing the recording's weakness. The LCD2 could handle this part better to my ears. The distortions were still there of course - but it seemed they didn't linger longer than necessary. On Julia Fordham's porcelain the highs were absolutely clear and precise, no harshness or sibilance at all.
To me the mids are a real strength of the Pandora. They are always present and to my ears definitely more dominant than with the LCD2. I had this impression throughout all songs that I listened to. Probably this part of the reason why the Pandora is such fun.
They are lush and yet precise, instrument separation is great. There is warmth in the mids, probably enhanced by the bass but still they sound detailed and realistic. Although the mids are so present I can hear background instruments and voices absolute clearly. This is something I really love about the Pandora.
The Pandora brings the bass more into the foreground than the LCD2 does. There is always a little more of it in comparison. Still it is not a Headphone for bassheads I would say. I can hear and feel a lot of sub-bass especially with Fat Freddy's Drop where it gave me the feeling to be in a club and getting the vibrations from the big bass box. The bass is fast enough and has a lot of punch although I would wish for a tiny bit more precision with staccato bass tones.
Astonishingly the Pandora could even produce this strong bass directly from the AK100 (stock = 22 ohm). (I cannot explain why this is possible, maybe others can)
The LCD2 is a bit more contained in this respect although it doesn't lack anything.
Compared to the LCD2 I have the feeling that the Pandora are closer to the stage - as if You were in row 5-10 and directly looking up to the artist. The LCD2 to me feel as if You were further back, watching everything and getting a real good impression, but not feeling the spark so intensely. (I hope this makes sense) In terms of stage wideness to me the LCD2 therefore provide a wider stage. I cannot honestly judge the "blackness" of the background as my tinnitus is always present. I didn't recognize any noise with either headphone though
The Pandora Hope VI to me is an absolute Fun Headphone that gives me listening with emotions. I often had goose bumps when I listened to some of my favorite songs with it. It brings the music much more into Your face than the LCD2. Sometimes this may be too forward though.
For me the Pandora is a great match to Blues, Vocals, Jazz and also Rock/Indie with focus on Melody and singing. (I didn't listen to classical music as this is not what I normally listen to)
The LCD2 on the other hand is more analytical to me - for some opportunities it will be the more relaxing solution to me.
I cannot finally say which I like more - it is probably a matter of the situation.