Audeze LCD2 designed for Recording / Mixing Engineers as reference headphones and for audiophiles and music enthusiasts.
- Hand selected Caribbean Rosewood ear cups.
- Lamb Skin Leather Ear pads.
- Audeze’s unique planar magnetic transducer with matched sensitivity.
- Mini XLR interchangeable cable.
- Easy to drive with amplifiers.
- Left and right transducers have matched sensitivity and frequency response.
The LCD2 housing is designed and custom built from hand selected Caribbean Rosewood or Bamboo composite. It is built to enhance the quality of the sound and offers a unique coloration and graining. The LCD2 ear pads are designed to optimally recreate the entire pro audio frequency range. The sloped ear pad design allows us to faithfully reproduce the detail and clarity to the bass, midrange and the treble. The ear pads are made of premium lambskin leather with specially selected foam to offer the right amount of firmness.
|Audeze LCD2 Planar Magnetic Headphones|
Audeze LCD2 Planar Magnetic Headphones
- Average User Rating:
Recent User Reviews
"A Warm Hug of a Headphone"
Pros - Rich and warm tone, full-bodied low end, good detail, forgiving of many genres and poor mastering, stellar all-rounder in its pricerange
Cons - Weight distribution, tight clamp, earpads held in place with adhesive (tape or glue), soundstage a bit lacking
I would like to thank the guys over at Audio Sanctuary in New Malden, London, for lending me their display unit of the Audeze LCD-2 (2016 Edition) for a review. Check them out at https://www.audiosanctuary.co.uk/ and do visit their brick-and-mortar outlet if you are in the area for a terrific selection of high-end headphones and speakers.
SpecificationsStyle: Circumaural - open
Transducer type: Planar magnetic
Magnetic structure: Proprietary self-closing design, acoustically transparent
Magnet type: High-grade Neodymium
Diaphragm excursion: 2.5 mm peak to peak
Transducer active diaphragm area: 6.17 sq in
Sound pressure level (SPL): 130 db (maximum)
Housing: Renewable Shedua composite or Caribbean Rosewood
Ear pads: Specially designed acoustically shaped foam inserts with premium lambskin or super suede cover
Frequency response: 5 Hz - 20 KHz, usable high-frequency extension of 50 KHz
Total harmonic distortion (THD): Less than 1% throughout entire frequency range
Impedance: 60 Ohms, purely resistive
Efficiency: 90 dB/1 mW
Maximum power handling: 15 W (for 200 ms)
Optimal power requirement: 1-4 W
ADZ6SE Cable (single-ended): ¼” TRS to 2x4-pin mini XLR
Cable length: 2.5 m or 8.2 ft
Weight: 490 g (without cable - Bamboo Composite)
Weight: 522 g (without cable - Rosewood)
Build Quality, Comfort & FeaturesDespite what it says in the official specifications above, this particular LCD-2 weighs 548g. I must admit that I have not felt this level of discomfort from the stock configuration of a headphone since the days when I owned a Hifiman HE-500. The weight itself is not a bother, my ZMF Eikon is over 600g by comparison, but I find the distribution to be poorly handled. I am told that some purchase a Lohb strap to assist this matter, while others stretch out their headbands to reduce the clamp (also an issue, the lower back of my ears would get considerably strained after prolonged listening) – but I was not going to attempt these methods on a review loaner.
The LCD-2 is also the first full-sized headphone that I have encountered in which I have to completely maximize the headband adjuster to be as loose as possible. I have a large head, but not quite that large (if other headphones are anything to go by) so this was surprising to me.
As for the build quality itself, it seems quite sturdy in the hands – with the wooden cups standing out in a fetching manner. However, I do feel that the joints that connect the frame to the cups is a weak point – with it creaking and snapping whenever I stretched it open to don it.
The headphones use the same 4-pin mini-XLR connectors that all the LCD series do, as well as some other headphone manufacturers like ZMF. I find these connecters to be preferable to many, as they lock in place and are sturdier than simple plug-and-play push-in variants. I’m not sure if I agree with Audeze’s choice to have the connection on the earcups jutting forward as they do, but it does add to their unique design.
The headband has very little padding and, in my opinion, could greatly benefit from the use of a strap to even out the weight. Adding a Lohb strap would do the trick, but I specifically would need to buy the extended yoke rods that Audeze sell for $30 – a worthy investment in comfort, but one I have not tried personally.
Those looking to spend a little more can opt for the LCD carbon fibre headband, the one used by the flagship LCD-4 and the recently unveiled LCD Pro – retailing for $200 in the official store. This floating system utilizes a leather strap in its design.
SoundThe LCD-2 is quite the friendly headphone, injecting a warm hug of musicality in each piece of music listened to on it. Laid back and chilled, the headphone does not attempt speed, aggression or forwardness in either bass or treble. Soundstage is quite intimate but does not feel stifling and the imaging is adequate – making do with the space available in impressive fashion.
To further the topic of warmth, this headphone is not at all harsh to my ears in any region. It is neither supremely airy like the Sennheiser HD800 nor a bass cannon like the Fostex TH-X00. In truth, I hear a sense of comfortable clarity throughout the headphone – but some might get the sense that the headphones are veiled due to this. I find such a characteristic quite in line with the Audeze LCD series, with the LCD-3 having the most sparkle and crash from all of the open variants that I have tried (including the LCD-4). I would actually say that the LCD-3 had the most dynamic and impactful sound, but at the cost of the friendly nature that exists in the LCD-2 and, to a more refined degree, the LCD-4 200 ohm edition.
I’m told that the bass of the LCD-2 is one of the areas that has morphed considerably since the pre-fazor days of years past. Essentially, the clarity and dynamics of the headphone were increased at the cost of some sub-bass extension and overall bloom in the low end. Indeed, I have not heard a pre-fazor LCD-2, but I do find the bass to be more than adequate on the 2016 version. It extends decently low but does not have an immensely controlled nature – nor is it particularly fast. I find the speed decent enough to keep up with the transients of double-bass drums, but not if the tempo reaches Slayer levels. Despite being laid back, it is no slouch though – handling all genres that I throw at it with some ease – and only really being out of its element in the earlier mentioned example or in the electronic sub-bass usage in James Blake’s Limit to your Love. Overall, I find the low-end to have the sub-bass and mid-bass amount to make this an effective all-rounder for listeners – within reason. What’s left as a deciding factor now are the other frequencies.
The midrange of the LCD-2 is smooth. Not entirely liquid in nature like the Hifiman HE-500, but possessing a level of soft clarity that makes vocals have body and presence. It should also be noted that, although the midrange performance of the LCD-2 as a whole is smooth, it does not lack in detail – nor is it completely rolled in air. I can confirm that, to my ears, the transition between the bass to midrange is quite transparent and clean. The bloom on the lower midrange is minimal but what exists serves to accentuate the character of warmth that these headphones possess. Male vocals are quite well served, even gritty and guttural vocal tones ringing out clearly with the body and edge needed. The upper midrange is a bit dipped, but not drastically like the Focal Elear – meaning that while female vocals feel a little further away than male, they don’t sound thin or tonally off.
I must commend this headphone for being as forgiving as it is with some genres and recordings. A reference point that I have is an album that I think is mixed quite horribly – Master of Puppets by Metallica. Insisting on speed despite having a scooped guitar tone, while generally being mid-bassy all around, the album makes many high-end headphones fall flat on their face as they don’t quite know how to reproduce it effectively. The Focal Elear is by far the best headphone in my possession for this endeavour, but the LCD-2 comes in second place – possibly tied with the Sennheiser HD800 (which is lacking in guitar crunch). For the purpose of review context, I’ll detail what I mean with pairing this album in the comparisons below.
The treble of the LCD-2 has a nice amount of air around it, making cymbals pop a fair amount and injecting a slight sense of slight snappiness to the overall sound reproduction. High strings, like violins, and wind instruments like the tenor saxophone sound quite well represented – not overly airy or shrill and maintaining a good sense of tonal balance and depth. Even with songs that absolutely murder me with the HD800 (even SD-modded), I don’t get the same sense with the LCD-2.
Again, I am told that the treble characteristics of the LCD-2 2016 iteration is because of the fazor driver innovation plus a reduction of a more bloated low end – making the headphone possess more micro-detail than before. Even without a pre-fazor unit to compare, I like this change because while I do appreciate a sweet, dynamic but warm sound – I would not have wanted the LCD-2 to sound like laggy. Being laid back and chilled out is a characteristic, being laggy is a flaw – and this headphone is not the latter.
Overall, besides being warm, the LCD-2 feels like a very wet headphone – in stark contrast to the dry and analytical likes of the HD800 or even the less-dry but still starker ZMF Eikon. I find the headphone very enjoyable to listen to with a multitude of genres, but never really edging out any of my other headphones in anything particular. It has shimmering detail where the ZMF Atticus is a little glossed over, but has less aggression and shout than the Focal Elear. It sounds like it uses a wall of reverb to its advantage, making all music listened to take on the Audeze sound that I have heard in their other headphones – but for a price that could be considered entry-level to their lineup.
Amp PairingsBased on how this sounded from my warm and syrupy Cavalli Liquid Carbon, I would not recommend it or a similar amplifier for it – unless you really want to pursue such a sound signature on purpose. To me it felt a little sluggish, and was better served by the powerful but neutral balanced output of the Audio-GD NFB28. Bass was more controlled too and the shimmering detail was very pronounced, to what I suspect is the best level the headphone has to offer, using the Schiit Gungnir Multibit as a DAC. I have not tried this from a tube amplifier, as I do not have one on hand, so I cannot say regarding that pairing.
Also, as it is a planar magnetic headphone, it does require a decent amount of power to drive – something that should be considered when selecting an amp for it.
As an all-rounder, the LCD-2 is firmly in that jack-of-all-trades area for its pricerange. Ironically, it is able to handle more genres of music than my other headphones (barring the Focal Elear, which does this better if you are a fan of its shouty and aggressive sound signature). From jazz to classical, from metal to pop – the LCD-2 envelopes music with its own characteristics and presents a pleasant listening experience that has a lot of body due to the low end.
Electronic music may lack bass slam compared to the likes of the Fostex TH-X00 or ZMF Atticus – but it is still not thin-sounding like the HD800. Bass guitars fall right into the range that is well-represented by the low end of the LCD-2, but do not have the sharp and precise nature of the HD800. I could continue down this path, but it is needless – this is just a nice-sounding headphone and definitely one you can expect consistent performance with if you like how it sounds - with any genre of music.
Headphone Pairings (DAC: Schiit Gungnir Multibit)
The former Sennheiser flagship is placed firmly in the drier and analytical side of things when it comes to headphones in this pricerange. It pairs extremely well, to my ears, with the Cavalli Liquid Carbon, which I don’t find the LCD-2 to do quite as much – but it is quite a picky headphone to pair with amps due to its somewhat harsh 6k treble spike. Bright and even some neutral amplifiers exacerbate this and sound piercing and shrill to me with most genres of music. The HD800 also has the widest soundstage and most precise imaging of all headphones mentioned in this comparison section.
Switching from the LCD-2 to the HD800, you feel like the floor has fallen in a bit – that is how noticeable the absence of the Audeze’s low-end is. You also miss a warmth in the midrange, removing a lot of body from vocals and guitars alike. I would not call the HD800 a V-shaped headphone for this reason, but it definitely sounds a little recessed in this region compared to the Audeze.
What it outright wins at is reproduction of detail. A solid choice for a reference headphone, the HD800 is quite brutally honest and exposes poorly mastered recordings to the listener – whether in highlighting recording faults or becoming shrill in the face of mastering hack jobs. The LCD-2 is more welcoming of all recordings, particularly the above-mentioned Master of Puppets album – which sounds like the guitars are distant on the HD800, while the drums and cymbals are thin and piercing.
The HD800 is considerably lighter than the LCD-2 as well, coming in around 371g to the Audeze’s 548g.
Switching from the LCD-2 to the Atticus is revealing of just how much (the 2016 model anyway) emphasizes the availability of the shimmering detail hidden in the Audeze’s treble. Phrasing it like this would have you believe that the Atticus is completely lacking in such aspects, which is untrue, but it definitely is not as even in revealing its capabilities – requiring the right genre pairing to do so. What the Atticus has is bass, in abundance, and bass slam. It does not shy away from the electronic genres that the Audeze might be a tad laid back for, and it certainly does not mind introducing hefty low end into just about any recording.
However, this isn’t without its detriments. Master of Puppets is one album that the Atticus suffers on, due to the reliance of a midbassy sound in the mixing falling square in the region that the ZMF headphone emphasizes heavily – making the entire album from start to finish sound a bit bloated. The Atticus hits back, and hard, in electronic pop music – with its bass slam and smooth midrange going hand-in-hand to showcase the headphone’s energetic nature. The Atticus is a more “awake” experience than the LCD-2, which sounds veiled by comparison – but the LCD-2 is able to work with more genres due to its less bassy nature.
One area in particular that the LCD-2 is able to succeed, compared to the Atticus, is in older and warmer recordings – such as those by Led Zeppelin. It does quite well with guitars both electric and acoustic, while the Atticus relies on the mix and can sound a little overwhelmed with such pairings – as Led Zeppelin are from an era without snazzy modern production.
The cherry Atticus and this particular LCD-2 are almost alike in weight, 546g and 548g respectively.
The Elear’s take-no-prisoners sound, consisting of fantastic dynamics and speed among other aspects, puts it directly across the aisle from the laid back and smooth LCD-2. Both are what I would consider all-rounders, handling most genres with ease if you are a fan of their sound signature. With the Elear, I prefer hard rock, metal and electronic genres while smooth jazz, classical and live recordings sound better to me on the LCD-2. The midrange of the Elear is also aggressive and a bit shouty, while the LCD-2 simply is not.
The Elear also has a snappier sound, to my ears, possibly due to a sudden upturn around 9k-10k after a considerable dip in the upper-midrange – making cymbals and snare drums hit hard. Grand pianos are also tonally superior and more realistic on the Elear. Vocal reproduction, both male and female, are handled better by the LCD-2.
Ultimately, it comes down to preferences. I would not recommend the Elear if you want something for easy listening and are looking to relax – whereas the Audeze fits perfectly into that scenario.
My Elear weighs 448g while the LCD-2 weights 548g. The weight distribution, I must admit, is handled far better on the Elear too – a very comfortable headphone with its headband padding and soft earpads.
ConclusionComfort issues aside, the LCD-2 does so much right in its pricerange that it is hard not to recommend to those seeking a relaxed and warm tone in their audio. Once again, I have not heard the previous iterations so I can’t comment on the differences – but I really do feel that it strikes the right balance between warmth and sparkle while maintaining a rich midrange.
It is a distinguished sound, not offering heaps of technical brilliance nor magnified microdetail – but rather an effective zone-out tool that just allows you to listen – and that should always be appreciated in this hobby, where sometimes gear is listened to rather than the music.
"A Dark Jewel of Audio Perfection - A Review of the Audeze LCD-2.2 Fazor"
Pros - Sounds as good as it looks. Finest grade materials. Sturdy construction.
Cons - Heavy cans. Heavy cable.
That dread sickness returned to my mind and I found myself looking for an upgrade to the Sennheiser HD600. I didn’t quite know what to expect. I mean, the HD600 is a king slayer, so what would “better” sound like?
Research, led by a passion for a warmer signature, brought me to the LCD-2.2 Fazor, by Audez’e. I had long coveted this headphone for its appearance, and now I learn its sonic performance may be equally alluring. The more I read, the more I wanted it, and the more I felt it deserved better than my current DAC & Amp. The Maverick Audio TubeMagic D1 Plus is a wonderful unit for the price and served me well, however, the LCD-2 deserves a fully balanced unit, and a DAC that doesn’t up-sample.
So… more research.
While I looked into a new desktop system, I kept an eye on the Head-Fi Classifieds. It wasn’t long before an LCD-2 appeared at a price I couldn’t pass up. As is always the case, I wasn’t planning on making this purchase right away. But once you start looking, opportunities pop up frightfully fast.
$650 and it was mine.
I also placed an order for a 2016 model NFB-28 Amanero by Audio-GD. Though, that may have been a little later. I seem to recall it all happening in quick succession. I can’t remember! The sickness clouds the mind!
Either way, the LCD-2 arrived first. I had about a week to test it on the Maverick in single-ended. It immediately impressed me, but didn’t quite sound like the huge upgrade I expected. The LCD-2 is clearer, smoother and more detailed than the HD600, and nothing quite measures up to that Planar sound-wall experience. I was not, however, utterly blown away.
That changed when the NFB-28 came in the mail.
I didn’t have an XLR Balanced cable yet, so for a few weeks I enjoyed my LCD-2 on the NFB-28 in single-ended. This alone was a massive upgrade over the Maverick D1 Plus. The HD600 sounded better as well, but nowhere near as spectacular as the Audeze LCD-2.2 Fazor. It outstripped the Sennheiser by a country mile. Its sound felt much weightier, richer, and more detailed, like the LCD-2 was now getting all the things it hungered for. It’s a voracious beast. Feed it the best source you can get your hands on and the LCD-2 will scale endlessly.
When at last I assembled the Balanced copper OCC cable, my Audeze was unlocked to its full potential. It didn’t change drastically. That’s not what balanced does. It simply increased in transparency, separation, and soundstage. Basically, the equipment disappears more or less completely, and the music is all that’s left. This is the same impression I get with my JH Audio Angie playing from the Balanced Output on the Astell&Kern AK120ii: The veils are parted and you’re brought fearfully close to the naked soul of Sound and Melody.
The Audeze LCD-2.2 Fazor is awe-inspiring in its clarity. There’s absolutely no grain, which highlighted for me just how grainy the HD600 is. In contrast, the Sennheiser almost sounds dirty, a thing I would never have said before. The LCD-2, especially in Balanced, has clean, glass-like audio.
Tonal quality and naturalness is equal, the HD600 being a titan in this field, and the LCD-2 keeping up nicely. Only the LCD-2 produces those tones with a richness and depth that’s new to me. A warm weight imbues the presentation. It’s chocolaty and luxuriant.
The Audeze’s detail and resolution puts to shame everything else I own. It’s the cliché of clichés to say I hear things in my music I never heard before, but **** me! These Planars can do things Dynamics can only dream of. You wouldn’t think a laid-back headphone would excel in detail, yet these render all for your enjoyment. The details simply aren’t forced upon you, as with more aggressive headphones.
Going hand-in-hand with detail is imaging and separation. I doubt they’d be half so accurate without that resolution. As it stands, every element on the track can be heard on its own and located on the stage. There’s so much air and space around each piece it seems like a physical object. I feel as if I could pick an instrument up and move it at will.
Treble is nice and extended. There’s a lot more of it than I expected from a “dark” headphone. The highs are very present, giving air and space to the LCD-2’s signature and banishing any sense of claustrophobia that can occur with very warm phones. There is a subtle sparkle to the highs, yet they are not prone to sibilance. Even old-school Metallica can crash and blear without a messy shimmer distorting the cymbals.
Everyone’s heard about the LCD-2’s bass. You’re probably reading my review because you’re looking for an open-back set of cans capable of beefier bass than you’ve been able to find thus far. Well, the LCD-2’s sub frequencies are marvelous to experience. They have impact, character, texture, and speed. Indeed, I would say the virtues of the bass give the LCD-2 the greater portion of its identity. A velvety tone “colors” the sound to a most splendid effect. And yet I refuse to call them bass-heavy, because everything is in such wonderful balance. I do not get the impression the bass is dominating the other frequencies, in spite of what I said about identity.
This must be part of how Audeze rose so fast in the industry: Giving us bass of this quality without betraying neutrality or muddying the whole.
I’ve called the LCD-2.2 Fazor the perfect upgrade to the HD600, as it does everything the Sennheiser does, only better. Some would say it’s more of an upgrade to the HD650, due to the warmth and bass presence. Maybe. I’ve not had the chance to audition those. Still, if you look at the frequency curve, there is no mid-bass hump on the LCD-2. It’s flat. Which makes it very much like the HD600. The perfect upgrade.
This holds true in most respects, including the mids/vocals. You can’t really do better mids than the HD600, when taken on their own. They’re sort of flawless. But when you take all the other things the LCD-2 does and apply those effects to the vocals, they are a bit fuller, a bit more detailed, and a bit cleaner. Therefore, the mids are, if I dare to say it, “better” on the LCD-2.
Forgive me, Lords of Kobol!
When you are accustomed to IEMs and feather-light headphones like the Sennheiser HD600, or Momentum 2.0, these cans feel like a hundred pounds sitting on the top of your head. My cranium and neck muscles required a couple of weeks to strengthen before I could use the LCD-2 for more than forty minutes at a time. Now I feel rather comfortable wearing them. I’ll never forget they’re on, like I do with the HD600, but at least the fatigue has gone away.
But I’m a big burly bear. If you’re on the petite size, these may crush your brains, or compress your vertebrae into powder. Consult your physician about a Weapon X upgrade.
I’m a fan of leather pads. I’m also a fan of velour, or whatever the f*** the HD600 uses. Leather is trickier, though. You don’t want to wear it if you’re sweating, or even if you just came out of the shower. So my enjoyment of headphones like the LCD-2 or Momentum 2.0 Over-ear is hindered by certain conditions. Audeze sells Microsuede Vegan Pads, but I like the leather so much I doubt I’ll bother. My heart fills with dark pleasure knowing the Planar Drivers are cushioned against my head by the flesh of what was once a living, breathing miracle.
The warranty card for my set gives a manufacture date of November 2014. This is an older 2.2 Fazor, before the driver revision which, as espoused by some Head-Fi’ers, finally makes the Fazor model sound “good”. I can’t comment on the newer versions, but my model leaves nothing to be desired. It has a sound that matches the aesthetics. By that I mean, when I look upon that gorgeous wood, rich lambskin leather, and solid black metal, I imagine what quality of sound must come from a thing of this craftsmanship.
Let me assure you, Pinky is not disappointed. The Audeze LCD-2.2 Fazor may be my final headphone. After more than six months with it, I have no desire to seek “better”. Every time I put them on, I am wowed all over again. What more could I ask for?
Built myself a silver-gold alloy cable. Sounds sharper still, with better defined treble. Slightly less bass, which does cause me to EQ sometimes.
"The bold and beautiful. Solid bass, proper transient articulation and extension throughout the entire range."
Pros - Linear well-extend bass. Performs well in all ranges. A good upgrade for HD650 fans looking for more extended bass.
Cons - Comfort. A bit rolled off. A downgrade for an HD650 fan in terms of comfort and weight.
Liquid organic audio - the LCD2
Been meaning to get around to a full review of these for a while. I have attached some of my early impressions from a comparison thread in which I was able to isolate specific frequency ranges and found the LCD2s performance superior.
Since the time of that writing I acquired a Mayflower O2/ODAC which is a better match for the LCD2 than the JDS Labs C5D used in my initial tests. The C5D is still a credible performer but the the O2 felt just a bit more balanced, especially in the mid-range. For the sake of the tests, however, the C5D was able to help spot the differences in the various headphones.
Also, I've managed to go to another Head-Fi meet in Calgary where I was able to listen to a set of LCD3 (pre-fazor) on a Woo Audio setup that was smoother with even better bass than my LCD2s. It sounded heavenly with a price to match. Still, my LCD2 shared many of the same qualities and for a fraction of the price. I listened to Mikoss' LCD3Fs (now sold) and thought they were good but sorta preferred the pre-fazor and didn't feel my LCD2 were that far off. He preferred his HD650 of which he is now a ravenous fan (so am I!) and I was able to compare these headphones. I still think the HD650s are amazing though not technically superior, may be the better choice for some ears (and heads) and certain amp pairings.
The LCD2 I have are the pre-fazor rosewood versions with the old style cable connectors and foam headband. By a number accounts these have the most bass, and the most rolled off treble of all the versions. I'm sure I would appreciate the qualities that the fazor versions bring, but I am very happy with the overall presentation of the 'classic' LCD2s.
These are completely non-fatiguing headphones. They do demand that you listen to high-quality works, and do their best on the most dynamic of recordings. They are simply incredible for classic rock, jazz, acoustic, vocal, small orchestration classical, and piano. For electronic and pop they are excellent, specifically with the LCD2's bass reproduction, but in this genre they will do their best with very dynamic electronic pieces, rather than 'club-style' EDM productions, which are best relegated to a 'v-shaped' dynamic headphones.
Given the somewhat cumbersome nature of these headphones, they are not a casual affair. No lying down on your pillow for late night listening. They also require an amp which will likely tether them to a listening-station in your home. They are serious headphones and demand some periodic care and proper handling. Their comfort has either improved with the headphone band loosening and/or I have really acclimated to them. I have no problem just wearing them for hours with a bit of adjustment now and then. Still, they will always have a bit of clamp, they do not disappear, and it has to be said that this can be a major downside of these headphones, enough to turn someone off completely.
Audeze's new EL-8 is really comfortable, leagues better than the LCD2. If one didn't need the robust bass reproduction of the LCD2, the EL8 would be a good choice. Very easy to drive too, and so consider that part of the overall package.
I have tried and really like the HE-560. It sat somewhere in the middle of the LCD2 and HD800. It kinda throws you off at first, but it may be one of those headphones that grows on you overtime as just a solid performer. Also, was very comfortable, much better than the LCD2 in that respect.
The HD800s I love every time I try them. Completely different sonic signature than the LCD2, and I don't mind it. More treble tilted, with articulate bass range.
Still, the LCD2 has its own thing going for it and stands alongside the HD800 and HE560. Depending on one's preferences, it could even be preferred. If you want something beefier, that is not muddy, but has a solid weight to its presentation, yet still feeling tonally balanced - the LCD2 is for you. In fact, the LCD2 has an organic presentation that is more akin to actually listening to real-world instruments and sonics - especially the lower-end and mid-range timbres. There is a caveat, the LCD2 is rolled off on the upper end, even more-so than my prior HD650s. It just needs a bit more elevation to give some recordings a bit more 'air' on the top end. Make no mistake, it has exceptional treble detail as discussed in my comparison, but it is rolled off a bit. This appears to be what Audeze has sought to adjust in later versions and in their latest models. That said, a slight bit of EQ works, but most of the time I couldn't be bothered and enjoy them as is. Your brain adjusts.
If one isn't looking to spend a ton and wants a headphone that doesn't require a dedicated amp I would look into the Fidelio X2. Was really impressed with them at a recent meet. The owner, a fellow head-fier, and I compared them back and forth with my LCD2. He was quite taken with the LCD2 and it was clearly a notch above in all sonic aspects. We both agreed, however, that somehow the Fidelio X2 still accomplished being as enjoyable and well-balanced. It was also well-crafted and really comfortable. Quite an admirable achievement by Phillips and a competitor to the HD650 - especially so considering it doesn't require an amp and has a bit more bass heft than the 650.
The HD650 is another consideration and even a replacement for the LCD2 if one needs a more comfortable headphone and is okay with loosing the bass extension.
I wouldn't necessarily recommend the LCD2 right off the bat if you are new to this hobby or high-end headphones. If new, I'd look at the Fidelio X2, the AKG 7xx, ATH-M70x, HD-598. The reason for starting with these is it will help you identify if you really need something more and decide whether it's worth it to take that step forward. Neither of them have significant amping requirements either.
I lucked out, and my used LCD2, were a 1/3 of their new price. I have never seen that type of deal before or after, so I'm glad I jumped on them. They were damaged, with split wood and loose connectors. All of which I fixed with wood glue and filler.
Aside form music listening, which in the first month-or-so of ownership is all I did every evening, I've been using them for some music production and gaming. I've had a friend test these out who is an audiophile beyond most on this planet. He works in the industry and has owned top flight 2-channel setups. For whatever reason, he never had experience these headphones. I watched him just sink into his couch listening to Mozart with his eyes closed, paying attention to every detail. He was in awe, and said 'yup, these are incredible'.
My other headphones compliment it pretty well, though I still wouldn't mind the HD800 for listening to binaural field recordings and other works that need more spatial depth. Also, the HD800 is so comfortable I wouldn't mind owning it just to see if it is my end-game headphone for that reason. Still it doesn't have the visceral low-end of the LCD2 and I'd likely miss that.
My Sennheiser Amperior is the only headphone not included in the following comparison. In brief, the Amperior has some audiophile aspects to it but has no where near the transient detail nor instrument separation. The bass is not as controlled, and is a bit too mid-bass accented (even more so after exchanging the pads to pleather pads which increase the seal). The treble can be a bit much for some or even strident. Still it is a very good headphone for $110 CDN that I purchased it at, and is great for street use, music production and work. The HD25 I-II is a more balanced headphone and closer to the presentation of the LCD2.
Comparing a new favourite with some studio classics.
copied from my thread here (5/7/15):
I wanted to get my impressions down on these headphones, primarily as I recently sold the HD650 to a friend. In doing this comparison and listening test, I found that the headphones showed their strengths and flaws uniformly. While there may be the occasion where I might prefer one presentation over another for a certain track, for the most part, the headphone with the better technicalities sounded better no matter what the genre.
Audeze LCD2 revision 1 - recently acquired, just under a week.
Sennheiser HD650 - owned for almost an entire year. Didn’t think I’d be moving on so early.
Sony MDR-7550 - owned for about a year. Previously owned a Sony MD-EX600 for about a year
Sennheiser HD25 1-II - owned for about a decade. Loaned to a friend who travelled the world and these never left his side. They went through a motorcycle accident, fire and rain. Got back to me in complete disarray. Still using the original drivers, cups and headband.
MacBook Retina 2012 running Vox and Adobe Audition - Vox is a great player for OS X and can synchronize sample rate and obtain exclusive access to the DAC.
JDS Labs C5D - this is a capable DAC/amp for use with IEMs/ sensitive headphones and it has enough power for the HD650 and LCD2. Some may scoff at this little amp as it isn’t super pricey, but I found it had sufficient power for both the 650 and the LCD2. Part of this review uses bandwidth isolation to listen to specific frequency ranges. In this respect, the C5D performed perfectly. If there are benefits I could get from a higher end dac/amp, I would expect it to increase the respective performance of both the HD650 and LCD2. That said, I feel the key technical differences can be sufficiently identified with the components I’m using. Both the HD650 and LCD2 could be driven at equal volumes from the C5D even at 2.5x gain. With the higher gain setting of the C5D there is plenty of room to spare and they can reach ear damaging levels. I’m heading to a head-fi meet soon, so I should be able to listen to some pricier DACs and amps and can update this review if my jaw hits the floor. I’m open minded to re-evaluate, and interested to hear higher end components especially with the LCD2.
Bandwidth Isolation Tests
Why Bandwidth Isolation? When you are comparing headphones traditionally, listening to the full spectrum of music, it is easy to get swayed by the overall subjective experience of what you are hearing. By selectively comparing specific frequency bands, typically the high-end and the low-end, it can become very evident how these ranges are handled. I used my ears for this test, but measuring equipment would be helpful to see distortion and other artifacts.
Test track used: Tipper ‘Ambergris’ Fathoms EP - 44.1kHz / 16bit
I picked this track for bandwidth isolation testing because of its high-fidelity in both high and low extension and its consistency throughout allows you to listen over a period of time to hear the full frequency range. This track is impeccably produced by David Tipper. Here is a man who knows how to create bass music. His background started in creating tracks for car audio subwoofer tests and he has grown into musical talent. Where some artists in the electronic spectrum are squashing their tracks for the dance floor, Tipper is meticulous in his production. He is known for his SurroundSound production, digital audio mastering, and providing content for DTS Inc.
General Listening Impressions with Test Track
HD650 - This is electronic music with modulating waveforms that runs the entire frequency range while retaining integrity. I’m a bit worried how the 650 may perform here on the sub bass. The attack of the bass is there on the HD650. It does extend all the way down, but rolls off with perhaps a hint of distortion on the bass notes.
LCD2 - This one of the first EPs I played on the LCD that woke me up to what they are capable of. The full spectrum of detail from the electronic instruments is represented very well. The somewhat darker tilt of the LCD matches this genre of music perfectly. Precise, spacious, with full weight on the lower tones.
MDR-7550 - The 7550 presents itself with more treble bite than the LCD2, and with more bass punch. The 7550 is remarkably clear and powerful sounding. I’ve been continually impressed by it and its sibling the MDR-EX600. I would say if you like the LCD2 and want a portable and extremely comfortable IEM version, the 7550 may take the prize.
HD-25 1-II - Probably the ‘fun’ sounding headphone of this bunch. It has an addictive signature. Punchy bass. It doesn’t have the same clarity as the 7550, and has less separation. The bass rolls off, and although extending deep, is not near LCD2 levels. This headphone is not going anywhere, though. It fits extremely well, seals perfectly, and is excellent for so many applications.
Bandwidth Isolation using Test Track
Low Frequency Range
Using Adobe Audition to isolate the lowest frequencies of bandwidth in the test track, it is clear where the LCD2 has the advantage with its deep uniform bass extension. The HD650 cuts off early and does not hit as low. The 7550, its bass is great, but does not extend as deep and has some distortion. The HD25, again like the 7550 audible distortion, and in this case doesn’t extend as far as either the 7550 and nowhere close to the LCD2.
High Frequency Range
On the highest frequencies 15k and up, you can hear transients clearly on the LCD2. They are coherent and more information is presented than the other headphones for this test. Harmonics in this range sound like a very high pitched and rapid glissando. With the LCD2 the glide in the harmonics was more continuous and there was just more harmonic information.
Here you can see that a range is selected as the audible portion
Remarkably, these higher frequencies were barely audible on the HD650!
Comparing between the LCD2 and the HD650, there is significantly more information at these extreme ranges being reproduced by the Audeze and I suspect this goes for the entire audible range. I made sure to match the volume ranges, and honestly even if I turned it up on the 650, this information is just not present at the extremes.
I tested the MDR-7550, and it too, did not reproduce these upper harmonics like the LCD2. The harmonics that were present were quieter and subdued, perhaps just a bit more audible than the HD650.
The HD25 - again, quieter transients. They were there, and perhaps a touch more audible than the 650.
I was surprised by the HD650 not being to translate these high frequency ranges. Its possible that these frequencies are somewhat attenuated. If it wasn’t for the LCD2, I might assume this is the limit for typical dynamic drivers and they pitter out at this point. I'm sure if I had an HD-800 on hand this probably would not be the case! I also have to say, for all of those listening to high sample rate music, you’ll be surprised to see just how little is in the upper ranges, and even more so, how your transducers may not even produce these upper harmonics, never mind our ears inability to hear them past a certain range. The range displayed in Audition will be completely dependent on the file.
Music and Genre Comparison
For the following critical listening test I didn’t stick to an order of preference. I enjoyed the complete piece with each single headphone and occassionly went back to swap back and forth.
Avro Part & Latvian Estonian Riga Tallinn Choirs - Adam’s Lament
HD-25 - Well, it almost sounds like I’m listening to a mono recording. Listenable. No sense of space. Nice timbre though. The HD-25 has a nice presentation but here it is severely lacking.
MDR-7550 - Wow. Night and day difference. The soundstage opens up in comparison to the HD25. Suddenly, strings and chorus, now have nuance and emotion. The 7550 is much more refined than the HD25 and less meaty in the mid-range. Great transparency, and you can hear room ambience and reverberations. Bass is delicate and controlled. You could lose yourself listening to this. Voices are perhaps a bit sharp on the higher octave ranges though.
HD650 - It may be just the nature of open headphones versus in-ear monitors, but there is more coherent soundstage with the 650. The 7550 has a wide sense of space, and has more transparency, it just doesn’t present itself as realistically. The 650 though, is softer, relaxed and gentle. Bass notes are not as discernible, and are taken out of the equation emotionally compared to the 7550. There is ‘air’ in the room space with the 650 though. You hold your breath when listening to this piece in quieter segments, almost as if you don’t want anyone to hear you! I have to say though, the 7550 was pretty remarkable in comparison. The 7550's extra detail and transparency edging out the 650. Higher range vocals might be a bit strained with the 650. Overall, with the 650,especially in the mid-range there is a natural, relaxed presentation that is very enjoyable.
LCD2 - There is weight and emotion. I feel like the transparency from the 7550 and the naturalness of the HD650 have been blended together. Combine that with overall superior transient reproduction and the LCD2 is clearly preferred. To be fair, the HD650 mid-range is very seductive, and with the whole presentation not being as weighty as the LCD2 some may prefer this presentation. Again that ‘air’ that the 650s deliver just helps give a certain realism to the presentation. The LCD2 has more realism in timbre, but I can see where some may prefer the LCD2 to have a higher treble response. I do have the LCD2 rev1, and have not heard the Fazors or rev2 editions so perhaps this is what has been addressed. I’d give my second choice to the 7550.
Bach- European Brandenburg Ensemble & Trevor Pinnock - Sechs Konzerte für den Markgraf von Brandenburg (2007) [FLAC]16bit 44.1
LCD2 - Similar to the previous piece, the LCD2 offers a peerless window into the heart of the performance. It is effortless (aside from the weight of the LCD2!) to listen to all six concertos in one sitting. I feel truly spoiled, as this is the first time I’ve had such fidelity and the ability to listen so intimately to a performance. I haven’t had the luxury of attending many live concerts, and this is real treat. This level of performance makes me want to share this experience. I’ve read articles on websites where people rag on audiophile equipment and ‘over-priced’ headphones. Well, I truly hope performance like this becomes more affordable as I feel it will allow people to appreciate performances and compositions that they otherwise may have ignored in favour of pop-material that translates easier onto their ear buds. I have read that some people feel the LCD2 soundstage closed-in, but that is not what I am hearing here. It is wider and more expansive than the 650. What I hear is the greater realism and detail defines the recorded room space.
HD650 - Immediately the performance opens up - literally up. You get the impression that perhaps there was a low ceiling before with the LCD2, not quite oppressive, but the 650 is so effortless a listen. I’m going to miss these. The instruments blur together a bit, whereas they were more separated and defined with the LCD2. Even with the lack of detail the presentation is so great that you just relax and listen. Switching back to the LCD2, there is a range and extension both on the low end and the high-end that ‘completes’ the presentation. The 650 is still very close to the LCD2 in its rendering of this piece. Technically the LCD2 is better and you can hear it. But the 650s mid-range prowess is undeniable and therefore you still get an excellent rendition of the performance.
"the difference is like reading a lovers' note and having them in front of you."
7550 - Again, it is easy to notice that the soundstage of the 7550s, although wide, is not as realistic as with the LCD2 or the 650. As noticed on the Avro Part piece, the low-end of the 7550 helps translates the emotion. While clear, the instruments don’t have as much separation as the LCD2, and the soundstage feels a bit compressed vertically. I feel this has may have to do with the sound waves not hitting the outer ear. Aside from this, you have plenty of detail and fast transient response. The presentation of the 7550 may just be a bit too bass heavy for this genre, and this is where the EX1000 probably would shine. Indeed adding a bit of highend EQ helps. Definitely the bass feels a bit over-represented. The sound is in you head and sounds panned hard right and left. Still great clarity and performance.
HD25 - working all the way down to this sturdy headphone. While not as wide a soundstage, it is more acoustically realistic than the 7550. The stereo phase however is more narrow, the instruments somewhat flat. If you were just strolling around you’d be certainly content. However, if these were your only headphones, you may not reach for this music. The recording is just too dynamic and nuanced for the HD25. I’ve always loved classical and even enjoyed it in the waking hours listening to mono AM radio. The arrangement on its own is a language, but the difference is like reading a lovers' note and having them in front of you. They are still enjoyable and some of that natural timbre comes through, just without the finesse. I’d characterize the deficiencies of the HD25 similar to most dynamic consumer cans. You’ll never know what you are missing but you’ll probably enjoy what you are hearing. Often I’ll be listening to the HD25s, and even now with such a dynamic piece think “these are great!’ And its true. They are classics. I’d choose them as a desert island headphone as I know they’d last and if a part broke i could get Sennheiser to airdrop in a replacement.
John Coltrane A Love Supreme 24 bit 88.2 kHz
HD-25 - I’m starting to form an impression here that is pretty consistent. On the HD-25 pianos are flat. There isn’t nearly as much detail in the higher and lower transients.
7550 - From the opening of the piece, the percussion is more spacious and detailed with more body on the bass. Piano with a bit more dimension. Trumpet much more vividly realized than the HD25 (and almost as good as the LCD). There is a higher-end extension on the percussion and overall sound. A little boxy sounding on the lower-end, not tubby, just a bit boxy.
HD650 - Overall presentation of all instruments just seem to open up. Everything fits together, even if the imaging gets a bit blurred. Is the HD650 too soft though? Moving on.
LCD2 - Just on another level of clarity. Percussion more realistic. Trumpet is life-like, you can hear its natural reverb tail and extension - something I wasn’t getting with the other headphones. Bass nicely textured and responsive. Bass never overtakes or interferes with the mid-range. Without such a reproduction, I could see how certain jazz pieces could be passed over. With the LCD2, I get a feeling that there is a better sound out there for a certain head-fier, but I also know I’ve reached a new height as a music listener. I can now begin to really listen to pieces, that until now, were locked away under a haze, veil, and lack of technical performance.
Pink Floyd - The Dark Side of the Moon
LCD2 - Smooth and deep, though a bit dark. Great depth and space. ‘Money’ just straight-up rocks. Excellent depth in reverb ambience and you can hear those reverberation transients clearly in the room space. Just wow. I need to start listening to more classic rock.
HD650 - A lighter listen. You can still hear those reverb transients but they are bit ‘cloaked’ and diffused. Vocals are still fantastic. I’d say the HD650 make excellent headphones for rock music. Similar issues to the other tracks tested, in the imaging not being as good, and everything just blending together.
HD25 - Wow. These are doing great for rock. Very enjoyable. Not far behind the HD650 here. Great set of headphones.
7550 - A little too much bass emphasis. I’d take the HD25 over the 7550 on this one just because of the HD25s more natural presentation. Saxophone sounds great on the 7550. Guitars are pretty dimensional but compete with the lower end somewhat.
I wasn’t planning on upgrading headphones. I really thought I’d have the HD650 for years. The opportunity came up to get a revision 1 LCD2 at an unbeatable price. The wood had cracked near the jacks, but it is very minor and barely noticeable - but hence the discount. This was a headphone that was completely out of my price range several years back. Truth be told though, I could have afforded it, I just didn’t know I’d want it! Now having listened to headphones on the level of both the HD650 and the LCD2 there is no going back. They become your audio standards. Next step, I’m going to explore DACs and amplification. Right now, the LCD2 seem like my perfect headphone. It has a similar tonal quality to the HD650, which makes parting with the 650 much easier. The comfort isn’t near the HD650, and what I found was that initially I was wearing the Audeze too loosely. Adjusting the fit, the ear cups are now more perpendicular and the weight distribution is more balanced. I can now wear these for hours with good comfort.
For the music I enjoy, a mixture of ambient, drone, binaural field recordings, electronic, jazz, fusion, experimental, orchestral, ensemble and solo piano with the occasional rock, and vocal pieces I couldn’t be without these. Interested to hear the LCD3, LCDX, Alpha Dogs, HE-560, HE-500, and Stax headphones.
Regarding the 650, they are excellent, and I respect that many have chosen them as their end-game headphone. It does sound like a bit more can be squeezed out of them with higher-end equipment. For me, the technicalities evident in my listening sessions pointed to the LCD outperforming the HD650 in key areas. Comfort and tonal signature of the HD650 could be a preference over the LCD2, however. I am fan of the 650 and I’d recommend them to many people as an affordable way to get into audiophile sound. The LCD2, are just taking me to a place I’ve never been though. Even having listened to expensive Bowers & Wilkins floor standing speakers (with Classe amplification), this audio rig is just awesome - its mine to listen to and didn't cost a fortune.
Typing up this review I listened to the LCD2 the entire time. Just as I was about to submit this I got a text from my friend who bought my HD650:
"Dude, I am in love with these headphones! My 598s are nice, but this is another level"
For me, this is what makes this little hobby so enjoyable. Sharing the experience of music and sound with people.
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