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Over-Ear item created by Kabeer, May 6, 2010
Pros - Will change your Life forever
Cons - Will change your life forever
Growing up poor in Bucharpest, life often felt like this:
Then I got a wife and a job. Now I am like this:
So now I was flush with cash and had nothing to spend it on. Then I heard about the LCD-2. The more I kept reading, the more excited I got.
And then I ordered. And waited:
Then one day, a package came:
And I was like:
Then it was time for the unboxing:
Then came the listening. At first I was like:
Probably because of burn in or something. But after 30 seconds the beat dropped, and it was like:
It was kind of weird when it was just me, but when I showed it to my wife and friends we were all:
Needless to say, when I first heard about burn in I was like:
But now I firmly believe:
Then I started surfing the forums looking for more great gear:
My friends and I would rock out with our headphones every night:
Long after they had all gone home, I was still burning the midnight oil, listening to my jams:
It was like Wall Street during the coke years. I'd stay up all night and then go to work and put in my 60. I thought my performance hadn't slipped at all. But my bosses were like:
Then I went a step further and started getting all my audiophile packages at work:
My boss waited until a new one came and had it sent to his office. I had to go there to pick it up. When I came in, he was like:
After he fired me, I came home. My wife was not understanding, she dumped me:
I thought she was bluffing, so I gave her some time:
But she sent divorce papers over. Then I had to hire a lawyer. He talked a lot about how she wouldn't get a dime, so I was like:
I even sold the Audeze to pay for legal bills and as a result lost all my new friends. The little money the lawyer didn't take went to my ex, as she left court with the last of my cash she did a little dance on the ashes of our marriage:
Now I am poor and alone in Bucharpest again:
Screw you Audeze.
Pros - Beautifully built, addictive sound, natural tonality, easy to listen to for hours at a time
Cons - They are heavy, some people might find them too dark
A review of the Audeze LCD-2 Revision 2 Headphones
Where I started in this hobby, and where it has taken me.
About 5 years ago I brought myself a home theatre system it was made up of a cheap Accusound 5.1 speaker package, a Pioneer receiver and a Yamaha DVD player. For a few months I really enjoyed this setup; to me, at the time, I didn't know better. One day I called in to my fathers place and noticed he was playing some music on his old Technics Hi-Fi from the early 80s. I can’t remember if I immediately noticed it or not, but I realised his old fairly cheap system from the 80s could actually project sound in to the room, at the time I didn’t know it but what I realised was that the soundstage on his system really put my home theatre to shame. This put me on the path to finding a really nice 2 channel Hi-Fi setup.
After a ton of research and a lot of advice from the guys on the What Hi-Fi forums, I brought a set of Monitor Audio RX6 Speakers, a NAD amplifier and a NAD CD player. In a few words, this Hi-Fi absolutely blew me away; I couldn’t believe how much detail I was hearing in my music – hello audio nirvana! I had this setup for about a year I think. Still enjoying my setup, I was in town and called in to the dealer where I brought my Hi-Fi from; to make a long story short, he lent me a Rega DAC and Rega Brio-R for the night to audition. I couldn’t take the Rega gear back, straight away I noticed improvement in dynamics, transparency, imaging and it had a noticeably more detailed treble.
At the beginning of 2013 I got my first pair of headphones, the Grado SR80i. I really loved this headphone when I first got it, I think the detail that Grado's produce is a real wow factor with them, they may not measure very well compared to other headphones but they do have a very enjoyable – wow you instantly sound signature.
PC > lossless files > Foobar2k wasapi event > M2Tech Hiface 2 > Rega Dac > Woo WA-6 (RCA 6DR7 & Philips black base 5AR4/GZ34)
These headphones are very well built. When I look at these, I can’t really find any part of them that's poorly made. Every part of these phones really shows these are not your average cheap set of cans. The Bamboo cups are beautifully crafted, the leather headband and pads are made with precision and care, and the mini xlr connections seem to be a lot smoother when connecting the cable than the one on my old Q701. Combine the quality parts used to build these with the way Audeze assemble them and you've got one very beautiful set of headphones!
Comfort: (compared to Q701 and HE-400)
I'm probably in the minority here, well maybe? Out of the 3 my preference is LCD-2 > Q701 > HE-400. The reason I found the Audeze best is because of its clamping force, deep pads and even weight distribution. On the other two headphones mentioned, my left ear just touches the inside of the pads, while this isn't too much to complain about, it did get annoying at times having to move the headphones around to try to avoid it. My issues with the Q701 were that it actually felt to light on my head and didn't have the clamping force to seal very well. The HE-400 while definitely wasn’t too light also didn't clamp very well; mine do have Jerg pads on them which reduce the clamping force because of having to remove the foam ring in the pads, I also feel the Hifiman's don’t distribute the weight as evenly as the Audeze's.
Sound: (some comparisons to HE-400 and Q701)
This is the hardest part of the review for me, I know I hear differences between various headphones but I do find it hard to put in to words. As I write this part of the review, I'm actually using this as a reference. http://www.head-fi.org/a/describing-sound-a-glossary
When I first listened to the LCD-2's I wasn’t really that impressed. First reaction; CRAP they're so dark sounding! Where's the treble? I thought to myself, no they'll open up once the amp warms up; I had them on my head within a minute of turning the amp on. The slight disappointment didn't last long though, as I started playing different songs I started noticing how much better these were to my previous headphones. The first sign was when I played Guns N Roses – Patience. Listening to this song on the LCD-2's for the first time helped me understand what timbre and good tonality are. One of my best mates plays classical, electric and acoustic guitar. We have had quite a few conversations about the various tones of different instruments before. For example when it comes to electric guitar we both much prefer the tone of a Fender Stratocaster than a Les Paul. I understand these two instruments have a very different sound and its personal preference as either is objectively better than the other. I choose what headphone I prefer in a similar way. I’ll pick what I enjoy the sound of over what measures better and is objectively better technically.
Timbre and tonality, in my opinion the LCD-2 destroys the HE-400 and Q701 in this respect, it’s actually very noticeable that instruments sound much more natural on the LCD-2 compared to Q701 and HE-400. This put a big smile on my face when I first noticed this: D.
Soundstage/Imaging, I've heard a lot of people talk about pin pointing where the musicians are in the soundstage and I’ve never really been able to pick up on this. When I listened to Patience, I felt the soundstage was as I’ve heard others say quiet accurate. Before I had LCD-2 I couldn’t really make that assumption, but now I feel a bit more confident saying that. Perhaps if I get to hear higher end gear than my own in the future, I might notice this even more? Compared to HE-400 and Q701 I think Q701 might be more distant and wider but LCD-2 is definitely deeper and you’re closer to the musicians. HE-400 with Jerg pads has a similar presentation to LCD-2 but I feel the HE-400 brings you a little closer to the musicians than LCD-2. I think the LCD-2 is a bit wider than HE-400 but depth I’m not too sure about, it would be a close call between the two.
Detail Retrieval, I can say confidently that they LCD-2's are definitely more detailed than HE-400. Compared to Q701 though, it's hard for me to say because I haven’t had them for a while. I remember being blown away by Q701's detail when I had it so I imagine it would be close between the two but I can’t say for sure which headphone is more detailed.
Speed, I can definitely tell that LCD-2 is faster than HE-400; I think it would be faster than Q701 also but it’s hard to remember. The difference between HE-400 and LCD-2's speed was made very apparent to me when I played some punk rock. The LCD-2 seemed to stay composed no matter how dynamic and fast a song is, the HE-400 simply didn't sound as composed as LCD-2 does when playing fast music.
I'm very happy that I brought the LCD-2's. After trying to decide on a new higher end headphone for roughly 4 months, I feel as though I picked the right one for me. I'm actually quite happy I didn't make the bigger jump to LCD-3 straight up because now I have something to look forward to in the future.
*EDITED TO FIX GRAMMAR AND PUNCTUATION
Pros - Full-bodied mid-range, relatively close to neutral- & natural-sounding, music genre versatility
Cons - Suffocatingly-small soundstage, lack of clarity & musical dynamics, physically heavy & uncomfortable
Originally published on April 11, 2011
Updated on December 11, 2011
Note: this review is an exact cross-post from post #1 of this thread on Head-Fi, which contains some user discussion on the review that may be relevant to read: 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
- download a printable 9-page PDF version of this review (links go to locations on my Dropbox)
- download a printable 15-page PDF version of the notes that were written for this review. The notes should be considered a supplement and not a replacement for this review (as the review is not straight from the notes). The notes for this review in particular are HIGHLY-RECOMMENDED reading for anyone who wants the in-depth details of how most of the headphones directly compared to each other.
Not much really needs to be said to "intro" this review—it's basically just a multi-way review of various mid-level & flagship headphones, which were all owned at different points in time. Every comparison below was a simultaneous one though, and notes from every listening session were saved over the course of a few months. My review process is always at least several months (to get familiar with the equipment being evaluated) and this review was no exception.
A big disclaimer I want to add: the HiFiMan HE-6 and Stax SR-507 were the only headphones that did not get extensive listening time. I had the HE-6 in-house (on loan from another Head-Fi member) for only a couple of weeks, and the SR-507 has been in my possession for just over a week as I write this. So my opinion of the HE-6 and SR-507 should not be considered finalized.
This was originally a review of the LCD-2 r1 (revision 1). Review update on December 11, 2011, was for a new section covering the r2 (revision 2), see below.
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 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 orchestra, and I've attended classical-music concerts as well.
- Source component: Plinius CD-101 (CD player) (power cord: Signal Cable Silver Resolution Reference - directly into wall)
- Analog interconnects: Analysis Plus Silver Oval RCA & XLR
- Headphone amplifiers: HeadAmp GS-X and Nugget Audio B22 for the dynamic headphones, where noted. HeadAmp Blue Hawaii SE for the Stax SR-507 and SR-007 (OII MKI).
CDs by the following artists/bands, by genre:
- Americana/Bluegrass/Folk: Alison Krauss & Union Station, Priscilla Ahn, Sierra Hull
- Blues: Eric Clapton, Eva Cassidy
- Classical: Hilary Hahn (Bach), Julia Fischer (Bach), Carlos Kleiber & VPO (Beethoven), Pierre Boulez & VPO (Mahler)
- Electronica/Trip-Hop: Massive Attack, Orbital, The Crystal Method, The Prodigy, Trifonic, Zero 7, Zero One
- Jazz: Dave Brubeck, Lee Morgan, Steve Kuhn, Tord Gustavsen
- Rock: Led Zeppelin, Porcupine Tree, Radiohead, Tool
- Metal: Emperor, Helloween, In Flames, Megadeth, Nightwish, Symphony X
Specific tracks on the CDs are given in the review notes (see the PDF, linked at the top).
Audeze LCD-2, overall
LCD-2 w/ 2010 stock and ADZ-5 cables. Amps: GS-X in unbalanced mode and B22.
When I first got the Audeze LCD-2 in September 2010, I was unimpressed. It was dark-sounding (not a whole lot of treble quantity), closed-in (not much "air" to the sound, which made it borderline suffocating to me), and it lacked general bass drive. But my amp at that time, a Rockhopper-built M3, might not have been optimal for it. Later on in early 2011, with the HeadAmp GS-X and the Moon Audio Silver Dragon XLR re-cable, the LCD-2 turned into something much more promising when driven in balanced mode. It had very solid & physical bass, actually even better than my Audio-Technica AD2000—very deep, heavy, and low-sounding, not just in the lowest bass but throughout the mid-bass and up into the mid-range. I'd call the LCD-2's overall bass & mid-range almost sneaky in a way—doing a subtle yet fantastic job at making you think vocalists and instruments like acoustic double-bass, bass guitar, etc, are right there in front of you because of how low, full, & "fat" they are, whereas most other headphones just lack that presence factor. The only other headphones in the round-up that offered a similar type of presence factor were the Grado HP1000 and Stax OII MKI.
There are 4 headphone "classes" that I personally define: excellent, above-average, average, and below-average. For reference, there are only a few headphones I classify as excellent: Qualia 010, OII MKI, and JH13 (IEMs). (Not that I think they're flawless though.) I'd classify the LCD-2 as above-average, in the company of headphones like the Beyerdynamic T1, Grado HP1000, and Sennheiser HD800. I don't think any of these headphones to be "better" than one another per se—they all have their trade-offs, the LCD-2 included.
So what I mean by my "above-average" classification is that the LCD-2 is very good—it's just not the best of the best that I've heard. I've heard the LCD-2 on a variety of amps so far—SPL Auditor, Rockhopper-built M3, Schiit Asgard, Avenson Audio Headphone Amp, HeadAmp Gilmore Lite & GS-X, and Nugget-built B22. The best I've heard from the LCD-2 has been with the GS-X in balanced mode and the B22. And with those two amps, the LCD-2's sound can be summed up as bassy, full, assertive/direct, and fast (as in impulse response). It's one of the most mid-range-focused headphones I've heard with a heavy slant towards the mids, mid-bass, & bass in general, and it offers a sufficiently different sound than any of the other headphones that were compared that one could easily find an excuse to own it along with any of the others. But if one can afford to buy only one headphone, or just a few at most, I'd call the LCD-2 an instant recommendation for anyone who doesn't really like treble very much and is seeking bass & mid-range more, for listening to music like classical/soundtracks, jazz, electronica/trip-hop, pop/rock, and/or metal. Not that I think the LCD-2 excels at any one of those genres, but it handles them all to varying degrees of success.
LCD-2, revision 2
LCD-2 r2 w/ Moon Audio Silver Dragon XLR on HeadAmp GS-X. Also with stock ADZ-6 cable on Schiit Audio Lyr.
The r1 LCD-2 that was originally used for this review was sold shortly after it was written, in April 2011. The primary reason I sold it was due to its relatively mediocre sonic performance, at least for me. After the r2 was introduced, I decided I wanted to try it and finally bought one in October 2011, so my impressions of the r2 are now about 2 months ongoing (as I write this new section, it's December 2011).
Without a direct comparison to the r1, which I was unable to do, I can't say with any certainty how the two revisions compared to each other. But I will say that the r2 seemed to sound very similar to the r1 that I previously owned, and more to the point, just about as good—I'd say it retained the "very good" quality level that I gave to the r1. Having now heard the r1 and r2—both in the exact same way, balanced on the GS-X—I'd also argue that the LCD-2 benefits from balanced operation, because the r2 sounded just as good, if not better, than the r1, when balanced on my GS-X.
In spite of not having any experience of the r2 directly versus the r1, I feel that this review as originally written completely applies to my thoughts on the r2 in addition to the r1, and I mean that in both the good and bad implications. It means that for every aspect that I thought was good about the r1, I thought the r2 was just as good; but for every aspect I thought was less than stellar, I didn't think any of them were fixed with the r2 either—specifically the areas in which I criticized the r1 versus my electrostatic system (OII/BHSE). Scale, dynamics (including intensity), clarity, soundstage, etc, were not significantly improved on the r2 enough that any of them were rectified for me. My conclusion was that the OII/BHSE absolutely sonically crushed the r2 in the same way it crushed the r1.
The Schiit Lyr was an informative experience for me as well—proving to me that an amp with loads of power output doesn't necessarily translate to better sound. I thought the HeadAmp GS-X in balanced mode (2W @ 32 Ohms in balanced mode) sonically crushed the Schiit Lyr (6W @ 32 Ohms) and the r2 sounded significantly better on the GS-X than it did the Lyr. I wrote a review of the Schiit Lyr and it can be found here: http://www.head-fi.org/products/schiit-lyr/reviews/10264
vs AKG K701
LCD-2 w/ Moon Audio Silver Dragon XLR. K701 w/ SAA Equinox XLR. Amp: GS-X, in balanced mode.
The K701 was my original favorite headphone before the AD2K (below)—I owned it from April 2006 up to January of this year. Over that time my opinion of it grew increasingly negative though, and at my peak of negative opinion, I thought it was one of the most average headphones I still had. Not that it was terrible, but it just didn't do anything especially good, for any type of music. So the LCD-2 really had almost nothing to go up against for me here. In almost all cases, it eclipsed the K701, offering much more natural tonality on orchestral instruments with a more realistic soundstage, more powerful and filling bass & mid-range, more overall clarity, a faster impulse response, and more diffusion (forced "separation" between musical layers to spread them out from each other more). The only thing the K701 really brought to the table was its usual forward female vocals but even that I don't consider a good quality on every music type, or every female vocalist for that matter (as it tends to deepen upper-register voices, Alison Krauss being just one example).
vs Audio-Technica AD2000
LCD-2 w/ 2010 stock cable. AD2K w/ APS V3. Amp: GS-X, in unbalanced mode.
I've owned the AD2000 (AD2K for short) since June 2006 and it's become my #1 favorite headphone of all time. It started out as my headphone preference for electronica/trip-hop but is now also my preference for metal. One of the biggest reasons I like it as much as I do is due to its forward-moving, insistent sound—not a quality I've heard from any other headphones to date. It's hard to explain this forward-moving insistent quality—there's an extreme tightness to its sound overall, and on fast music it really keeps up the tempo (the musical term for "speed"). On fast music especially, it has the drive of something running really fast, like a runner leaping over endless hurdles without running out of breath. On complex, heavy bass lines, it can charge through like it's Superman smashing through boulders.
The LCD-2 had a lot going up against here simply because I've had the AD2K for years and have gotten so used to it, I couldn't imagine liking anything else for electronica/trip-hop & metal. So it was a huge surprise when I found that the LCD-2 did really well on those music types too—good enough that I'd absolutely recommend it for those music types. It could easily come in at a #2 favorite spot if I added one. For all intents & purposes, it approximately matched the AD2K's impulse response (audibly, that is), while adding an appreciated dose of heavy, deep, & physical bass. I've never thought the AD2K to really lack bass, but against the LCD-2, it sounded light-weight in comparison—but at the same time, the AD2K also had more treble quantity than the LCD-2, so it was somewhat of a trade-off. I wouldn't really say the LCD-2 is great for every sub-genre of electronica though—I thought it was best on breakbeat, trance, & techno (though a disclaimer here as I don't listen to every sub-genre).
I wouldn't say either of the headphones was better than the other but I still prefer the AD2K, at least for the music types mentioned. It has a forward/up-close, very assertive & direct sound that's addictive for metal in particular—its insistent quality makes the fast drumming in most of metal really stand out. I consider the LCD-2 more versatile though, as it handled other genres relatively well too, in addition to electronica/trip-hop & metal—classical & jazz specifically, which I don't listen to at all on the AD2K, because its mid-range makes acoustic instruments sound unnatural.
vs Grado HP1000/HP2
LCD-2 w/ Moon Audio Silver Dragon XLR. HP2 w/ APureSound V3 XLR. Amp: GS-X, in balanced mode.
Among all the headphones that I've heard to date, none have matched the HP1000's "living soul" x-factor, but the LCD-2 got the closest. This is an extremely unexplainable aspect of the HP1000 though—you have to hear it to understand it, and while the LCD-2 got very close, it still didn't deliver a true breath-of-life quality to orchestral music. The only other headphone I've heard to match or exceed the HP1000 in this aspect is the Stax OII MKI when amped by the HeadAmp BHSE.
It's tricky to sum up the LCD-2 vs HP1000, as there were various subtle differences. So although this glosses over the finer details, the HP2 could be described as a version of the LCD-2 with: more natural tonality on strings, brass, & woodwind instruments; more treble; a more solid, tighter bass component; more bombast when the recording calls for it; a substantially "richer" and deeper mid-range with a greater degree of texture; a smaller, compressed soundstage; and a more "integrated" type of imaging that made the orchestra sound less like disparate instrument sections and more like a unified body of sections all playing together. All of these aspects made the HP2 sound really good with jazz too, maybe even better than the LCD-2, as it provided more of an intimate setup with the jazz group, throwing you right in with the group (almost as if making you another group member to jam along with them), instead of sitting back from a distance, as the LCD-2 did instead.
vs HiFiMan HE-6
LCD-2 w/ ADZ-5 cable. Amp: B22.
The only thing I conclusively came away with after this comparison was a dislike and negative opinion of the HE-6. I found very few redeeming qualities to this headphone.
The one headphone the HE-6 reminded me most of was the Qualia 010 due to a loosely-similar treble response, but IMO the Qualia's treble is king and the HE-6 nowhere near matched it. The Qualia had the clearest, cleanest treble I've ever heard from headphones, with true razor precision, and the HE-6 simply lacked this quality. It failed to deliver clean high-speed zings, for example, or proper metallic sheens, on bluegrass-type music. The HE-6 did have a very wide, deep, & open soundstage, but that too is eclipsed by the Qualia. So as far as the HE-6 and Qualia go, I think anyone who actually likes the HE-6's treble or soundstage and wants even more would likely find a lot to like from the Qualia.
The HE-6 to me fell in the same trap as the Qualia did—I thought it fared best with bluegrass & ambient electronica due to the treble response and insufficient balance of mid-range & bass. Like the Qualia, the HE-6 was relatively thin in the mid-range (though probably not as thin as the Qualia) and did not have very much bass—though more bass than the Qualia. This made it completely unsuitable to me for every type of music that wasn't bluegrass or ambient electronica—for classical it made violins too screechy, for jazz it made brass instruments too weak-sounding & distant, for electronica it lacked bass power & force, and for rock & metal it was way too thin- and passive-sounding. It was just way too much of a weak-sounding headphone overall. The LCD-2 in contrast was a polar opposite with its full & heavy mid-range and bass, almost like a yin-yang relationship.
The HE-6 was a poor-fitting headphone as well on my small-ish head and I was never able to get a secure fit with it. At the lowest adjustment it still didn't fit my head and I had to put a hand towel under the headband to situate the earcups high enough to level with my ears.
vs JH Audio JH13
LCD-2 w/ ADZ-5 cable. Amp: GS-X, in unbalanced mode.
If there was one thing that this comparison proved, it's that the JH13 was a far easier headphone load, and that the GS-X under-drove the LCD-2 in unbalanced mode. But the GS-X is probably the only amp in the world that can drive both of them realistically, because it has unity gain for the JH13 and High gain + balanced output for the LCD-2. How did they compare, though? The frequency balance was very similar, but the JH13 had lower, more powerful bass. The biggest difference though was that the JH13 was more closed-in (not as much "air" within the soundstage) while the LCD-2 was more open-sounding with more "air" between instruments/layers in comparison.
Despite sounding more similar to each other than any other headphones should sound (not that they were identical-sounding though, just relatively close), I'd say the JH13 and LCD-2 serve separate functional purposes, considering one is an IEM and the other is a full-size headphone. The JH13 can sound really good directly out of a DAP, but it clearly takes high-power amplification to begin to get good sound out of the LCD-2.
vs Sennheiser HD800
LCD-2 w/ 2010 stock & ADZ-5 cable. Amp: B22.
Like the HE-6, the HD800 was somewhat of a treble-tilted headphone. It was better balanced throughout though, with more mid-range & bass quantity. The HD800 had a smaller soundstage than the HE-6, with less depth in particular that made it sound more closed-in. So for anyone who thinks the HD800's soundstage to be large, that should put the HE-6 in perspective, as I thought its soundstage was even bigger with substantially more depth and diffusion (resulting in more "air" throughout).
I thought the HD800 represented another yin-yang to the LCD-2—the HD800's treble tilt versus the LCD-2's mid-range tilt made for a complementary pairing. The HD800's large amount of soundstage depth & width was another contrast to the LCD-2, which was compressed in comparison. The LCD-2's soundstage was much more realistic to me though, despite sounding substantially more closed-in. Its "integrated" imaging was a good contrast from the diffuse imaging of the HD800.
vs Stax SR-507
LCD-2 w/ ADZ-5 cable, amped by B22. SR-507 amped by HeadAmp BHSE.
The SR-507 was more similar to the HE-6 and HD800 than LCD-2, so comparisons were done against those two headphones instead. And between the three, I was the most impressed by the SR-507. Qualities the three headphones had in common included relatively strong treble, high overall clarity throughout the spectrum, and appropriately diffuse imaging—layers were nicely spread out from each other. It could be said that the SR-507 was the most diffuse though, as its imaging had the most lateral span from left to right. The SR-507 had the least soundstage depth though, but I didn't think it was really a negative aspect—if anything, it made it sound less fake and more genuine with respect to the recording. It wasn't quite as good as either the HD800 or HE-6 in certain, minor aspects, but overall it had the most direct, up-close, & driving sound. The HE-6 and HD800 were passive- and detached- (HD800) or distant-sounding (HE-6) in comparison.
The SR-507 also had the fastest impulse response and hence the most precision—fast sequences of notes were the most cleanly separated on it. For bluegrass music it delivered the most pop and twang, qualities that were mostly absent on the HE-6 and HD800. I ended up liking the SR-507's treble the most of the three, primarily because of its precision—the HD800 was simply too slow & imprecise, and the HE-6 didn't accentuate note "attacks" very well—which included details like ringing and high-speed "zings".
None of these three headphones (HE-6, HD800, SR-507) were particularly bassy (and the HE-6 had the least amount of bass) but they did have some bass, just not enough that I'd call any of them satisfactory for music that rides on bass, like electronica/trip-hop. As expected, the LCD-2's higher level of bass was a good contrast against them. The LCD-2 had a substantially more full-bodied mid-range too.
vs Stax SR-007 (OII MKI)
LCD-2 w/ Moon Audio Silver Dragon XLR & ADZ-5 cable, amped by GS-X & B22 respectively. OII MKI amped by HeadAmp BHSE. Balanced XLR input on LCD-2/GS-X vs OII/BHSE comparison.
The LCD-2 had an uphill battle against the OII/BHSE, which remains my reference for all acoustic types of music—in the aspect of tonality & timbre, or whatever you want to call it. It's also my reference for soundstage accuracy, as the OII reacts to different recordings and grows or shrinks the soundstage appropriately.
I'll begin by stating that the LCD-2 in balanced mode on the GS-X made for a very fine-sounding LCD-2. But single-ended on the B22 was definitely better—the LCD-2 developed more bass power, more forward drive, and more fill to the bass/mid-range area for an overall slightly-thicker sound—i.e., even more of that presence factor as previously mentioned.
But as good as the LCD-2 was on the B22, and it was definitely good enough that I'd call the pairing an optimal one, it was still no match for the OII/BHSE. For classical music specifically, the LCD-2 completely lacked several qualities. Scale was missing—the sense of the orchestra sounding big with instruments coming at you from back to front. Dynamic range too—the various instrument sections all sounded at similar volume levels and nothing was truly quiet or truly loud. Volume intensity, accurate soundstage width/depth, true clarity, and proper diffusion weren't there either. The OII provided all of these and in spades at that. Julia Fischer's "Violin Concerto in E major, 2nd movement" from her Bach Concertos CD is probably the best example of the OII doing what it does best, especially in the intensity aspect, on her solo violin. The violin's intensity was completely lost on the LCD-2. It made the solo violin sound merely like a violin playing. Not that that there was anything wrong with this portrayal, but against the OII there was simply no peer—the OII made the violin "sing" with subtle rises & falls in intensity, with the orchestra coming to virtual life at the same time.
No, the LCD-2 could not compete with the OII. There were just too many areas in which the OII crushed it on sonic merit alone. But considering the relative prices between the LCD-2/B22 (approximately $2K) versus the OII/BHSE (~$6.5K), it's an acceptable compromise for those unwilling to pay for the high-end electrostatic system. Were there any aspects in which the LCD-2 was better than the OII? Oh there were a few—the LCD-2 was easily the more physical-, tactile-sounding headphone, with a more direct & assertive sound, and there was that heavy, deep bass too. In fact, one of my complaints against all of the electrostatic headphones that I've heard (which include the SR-X MKIII, SR-404LE, SR-507, and even the OII) is that they lack a sort of "directness" to the sound, but this was not an issue on the LCD-2.
SR-507 vs SR-007 (OII MKI)
Amp: HeadAmp BHSE.
A disclaimer here as I didn't formally compare these two headphones against each other to determine relative strengths & weaknesses, but I will say I found them different enough from each other to form a complementary pairing, similar in line with the AD2K & LCD-2 pairing.
In fact, I could take an analogy from the AD2K & LCD-2 pairing. The AD2K was brighter and more forward/up-front, while the LCD-2 was a shade darker with more mid-range & bass and a marginally more passive sound. In a loose sense then, the SR-507 to the OII paralleled the AD2K to the LCD-2. Not that the SR-507 was particularly bright or forward/up-front though, only relatively compared to the OII. But the SR-507's treble tilt & flatter imaging in relation to the OII made it more ideal for certain types of music to me, like bluegrass, trip-hop, rock, and metal, for example. And despite the flatter imaging, I still thought it was perfectly acceptable for ambient electronica, which tends to sound best on headphones with an imposed large soundstage. In fact, I thought the SR-507 ultimately beat out the HD800 which was my previous ambient-electronica headphone, primarily because of its combined clarity, treble, & precision.
Although some might call the SR-507 inferior to the OII, to me it was more of a different flavor that went well with music genres I don't typically use the OII for, as the OII is my preferred classical & jazz headphone. And in my system, I thought it went alongside particularly well with the OII, to comprise a strong electrostatic counterpart to my remaining two full-size dynamic headphones (AD2K & LCD-2).
Alex and Sankar at Audeze, whom I've met in person on a few occasions now, came up with a really good headphone in the LCD-2. They're good guys too and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend dealing with them.
The LCD-2 did very well in most aspects, all things considered. No single headphone can be all things to even one person IMO, which is why I own multiple headphones, but for me the LCD-2 nicely filled in a void—a (planar) dynamic headphone capable of being driven by the HeadAmp GS-X for classical, jazz, & rock, for times when I don't want to rotate in my electrostatic system. I consider it a bonus that it just happens to also do electronica/trip-hop and metal just as well too. The AD2K, SR-507, and OII MKI fill in for its weaknesses nicely—forward-moving drive & insistence in the case of the AD2K; more treble, diffusion, & clarity in the case of the SR-507; and dynamic range, intensity, & scale in the case of the OII MKI.
Once again I defer to the Notes file (linked at the top) for in-depth details of every headphone comparison that was staged. This review was just a scratch on the surface on the iceberg of notes that were written—so read the notes if you want the full compilation of everything that went down for the listening of this review.
4/25/11: relevant info & backstory on the OII/BHSE in my system: http://www.head-fi.org/forum/thread/548875/review-audeze-lcd-2-hifiman-he-6-stax-sr-507-stax-oii-mki-bhse-et-al/60#post_7427838
- LCD-3 multi-way review: http://www.head-fi.org/products/audeze-lcd3-planar-magnetic-headphone/reviews/10298
- Audio-Technica AD2K 5-year re-review: http://www.head-fi.org/products/audio-technica-ath-ad2000/reviews/10293
- Beyerdynamic T1 review: http://www.head-fi.org/products/beyerdynamic-tesla-t1/reviews/10295
- Sennheiser HD800 review: http://www.head-fi.org/products/sennheiser-hd-800-headphones/reviews/10294
Pros - Made in America, attention to detail, great value especially when on sale.
Cons - Some comfort issues
My hifi journey started 2 years ago with a pair of Sennheiser hd598s and an Asus Xonar Essence Stx sound card. A modest entry, but I have spent a lot of money trying to recapture that wow factor. This was a headphone that I initially bought for gaming, but rekindled my passion for music.
I was lucky enough to pickup a set of LCD 2's for black Friday prices, and received a rosewood upgrade for free. Many thanks to HeadAmp for this wonderful deal. I consider the LCD2's to be an incredible value for a number of reasons I hope to explain throughout the review. The attention to detail, and engineering is truly second to none.
Note: I have the LCD2 revision 2. However for the remainder of this review I will refer to them as 'LCD2'.
Packaging and Accessories
When I received my headphones I was struck by the attention to detail and how well thought out every aspect of the headphone is. Ill explain. I knew I was working with a well thought out product when I saw the pelican case, and leather care 'oil' that is made with beeswax. Two products I am very familiar with. Arguably the best leather conditioner out there, Obenaufs, is based on beeswax. A good boot 'oil' will be waxy, but should melt as you apply it to leather from the heat of your hand. What can you say about Pelican cases that has not already been said? The have one of the best reputations out there, and for good reason.
The cable that comes with the headphone is of excellent quality. I appreciate its light weight, supple feel, and the quality connectors. I really like that the cable is flat. Compared to my Hifiman He 400s, the Audeze cable blows it away in every aspect. The goofy mini connectors HiFiman uses to connect the ear-cups are temperamental, and are prone to shorts.
The 6.3mm to 3.5mm adapter is of good quality, and good design (grado style adapter). No problems here.
Build Quality & Comfort
Note: Some of the aspects of the LCD2 I appreciate so much are a result of revisions based on community feedback.
The build quality is superb. Every aspect of this headphone is well thought out, and even though some features have been added through the different revisions, Audeze deserves credit for the excellent build quality. Wood, metal, leather. This headphone exudes quality workmanship, and long lasting durability. The leather is real, no pleather on this puppy. The rosewood housings are beautiful. The leather ear-pads are uncommonly supple, and are best described as pillows. I really appreciate the angled connectors on the ear cups, this keeps the cable from bumping your shoulders. This sounds like a minor annoyance, but it is a nice feature.
I would say the LCD2's are a reasonably comfortable headphone. The ear-pads are warm, but they breathe reasonably well. The stock ear-pads are incredibly soft, and supple. When you first put the headphones on you will notice three things; cabin pressure on your ears, the weight, and the clamping force. You adjust quickly, but it could bother some. I have a large head, and have to completely extend the LCD2's to get a comfortable fit. This is an area the Sennehiser HD598s and AKGs K702.65AE's outshine the LCD2's. With those headphones you will forget you are wearing them after a while, I always know I have headphones on with the LCD2's.
For purposes of this review, the LCD 2 was run off the following setup: CD quality music, Asus Xonar Essence STX Optical out, Schiit Bifrost, Schiit Asgard 2. This is a pretty good budget setup with great price vs performance. You are only limited by your budget far as amps and dacs go. The LCD 2 is incredibly efficient for a Planar Magnetic design, and sounds good out of most everything. If you are looking, for amp recommendations for the LCD2 check this thread.
I am going to keep this section brief as possible. Some of the best have already reviewed this headphone, and honestly I am a blundering newbie when it comes to reviews.
That being said, the sound quality is better than anything I have heard before. I compared the LCD 2 to the following headphones: AKG K702 65th Anniversary, Sennheiser hd598s, Grado Sr80s, Hifiman He400s w/velour ear pads, and lastly my Denon D600s.
Right from the start I was smitten by these headphones, and the effortless way they produce mid range vocals. It is delightfully rich and warm. I am struggling to relay just how great the mid range is. Expect several wow moments were the music just seems so real, and alive.
The treble, to me, is perfect. A lot of people will disagree with this, but I am sensitive to treble, and even the slightest bump in treble causes fatigue. So for me personally I prefer treble that is present but slightly rolled off. My biggest complaint against the Akg k702.65AE, and the Hifiman He400s was how fatiguing the treble peaks are.
I really enjoy how well the LCD2s handle bass. It is my humble opinion that the LCD2 has the type and quantity of bass all other cans should strive for. This is one area the HE400 keeps pace with the LCD 2s, although still slightly behind. The LCD 2 can rumble your brain if the music calls for it, but does not over extend into areas it should not be. Well extended, tight, controlled, and great impact when it is called for. Excellent.
Imaging and transparency are pretty darned good with the LCD2's. I haven't sampled other heavyweights in this category, but suffice to say they are the best I have heard. One area the Akg k702.65AE's outshine the LCD2's is with sound staging and instrument separation. This is probably due to the LCD2's slightly rolled off treble.
Value & Conclusion
How do you put value on a $1000 headphone? It seems very frivolous in today's economy to spend that type of money on personal audio. The good news is, you dont have to spend much money to bring the LCD2's to life. I have a decent budget setup, but obviously you can go wild with sources and amps. Which leads me to the main reason I think the LCD2's are an incredible value (especially with 20% off). This is one of the few headphones that cost around $1000 that can sound so good from a setup costing 1/5 as much. They sound excellent just from my Asus Xonar essence Stx. This makes the entry price a lot lower than some of the competition, and will enable you to enjoy them and upgrade gear a little at a time. Do they scale with better gear? Of course. Take the Sennheiser Hd800 for example. It is considered one of the worlds best headphones, but is known for being picky about source and amp, making the entry price a lot higher.
This whole review I have been trying to drive home the attention to detail, and how much thought and engineering went into these headphones. For your $1000 you get one of the worlds best sounding headphone that is made right here in the good ole USA. The company does not nickle and dime you, and provides top of the line components and an excellent pelican case. I give these two big thumbs up.
Pros - Amazing overall sound, especially bass and mids
Cons - Cumbersome and heavy; weakest part is highs
The LCD-2s are an excellent headphone. I had the LCD-2s Rev. 1s and the Rev. 2s. In this review, I will be talking about the Rev 2s. I will strive for concision to save everyone a bunch of time. I will only comment on the sound.
Setup: Foobar 2000 (WASAPI Event) > Schiit Modi > Schiit Mjolnir (Balanced) > LCD-2.2s
SPECIFICS ON SOUND
With no EQ
The LCD-2 Rev. 2s are certainly not as dark as the Rev 1s. If I could compare them to an IEM, they seem like the full-sized version of the Earsonics SM3. The reason why I think both the ES SM3s and the LCD-2s are so popular is because of the sound signature. It's very easy to love: the mids are bumped, some of the harsher parts of the higher frequencies have a little dip.
The LCD-2s mids are very forward and give a pretty thick sound. The lower mids are definitely boosted by just a bit, and you can see this in the response chart you receive with your headphones. This is very good for male vocals, but female vocals (which occupy the mid-mid-high range frequencies) might not seem that detailed and realistic. They sound too thick and heavy. The response chart also showed a tiny dip in the lowest frequencies as well, which disappointed me because I had expected the bass to be amazing on the LCD-2s. I was very underwhelmed at the beginning.
Overall, the sound was very good, but it was not excellent. It was a little slow and not that energetic up in the higher frequencies, the mids were a little too thick, and you wanted more from the bass. It was kind of boomy and weak. In total, it sounded a little unrefined.
For comparison, given the very forward nature of the LCD-2s, you will not be able to listen to music while working with the LCD-2s on. With the Sennheiser HD650s, the sound is remarkably laid back, and the LCD-2s are nothing like that. They are very forward, present and in your face.
Soundstage seems to be medium in size.
The sound was really good (noticeably better than my HD650s in everything except maybe the lows, which I thought the HD650s did really well), but left me wanting a lot more. I couldn't believe this was all a top end headphone could offer. I knew that the Schiit Mjolnir was one of the best amps at any price you could get for the LCD-2s, but I still wasn't blown away.
I then started looking at the sound science forum. It seems that EQing can really change everything. Also, since Audeze is so good to include the response chart of your headphone, you are able to adjust it perfectly to get the most neutral presentation you can. Some might disagree, but as a lot of sound sciencers hold, it seems like people try to EQ as much as they can with hardware. Sure, I guess you should get a good match of amp (if there's truly a difference among amps) for your headphones (like my Mjolnir + LCD-2.2 combo), but unless you get really lucky and hit the margins in terms of hardware, you would probably be better off by barely EQing. The difference is tremendous. For instance, the Mjo is supposed to be really detailed and revealing, whereas the LCD-2s are supposed to be thick and dark. You mix the two together, you get something neutral. However, it's not going to be perfect. That's where the EQ comes in.
Returning to what I said earlier, the mids sounded a little too thick (which caused them to be a little muddy), and there was a bit of treble energy lacking. Also, the bass wasn't as good as I expected. This is where looking at the response chart and ear-tuning came in. I couldn't find a good parametric EQ (which would have been perfect because then I could more closely match the response graph), so I just used a graphic equalizer add-on for Foobar. Remember, when you EQ, always EQ down. The Mjolnir has enough power to keep the dBs high enough even with down EQing, so I was in luck.
The BEST results came from the following:
1. Slight bass bump
2. Lower mids to mids reduction
3. Boost at upper mids (at around the 800 frequency range) *this made the most dramatic difference*
4. Slight reduction at the lower end of the high frequencies
5. Flat or even a very, very minor boost at the highest frequencies.
This made the LCD-2s sound so much better. The mids were too thick and muddy before. You suddenly reveal so much detail by pulling down the overly forward mids. The most dramatic change (breathtaking change, really) was when I boosted the sound at 800. 800 hit exactly where my female vocals were (a lot of music is sung by females), and the voice just came to life. It came to life because of the boost at 800 and the reduction of all the other mid-low frequencies that were muddying up the sound before. I was able to get a tiny bit more energy out of the highs by giving it a tiny boost.
The bass became so much better as well. With the mids and lows reduction with a little bump on the bass, the bass became very punchy and lost its bloatedness. The bass on the LCD-2s just whooped anything I heard on the HD650s. After EQ, I would say that the bass was just short of excellent, but very close. It was very powerful, however.
This is all to say that I strongly suggest you EQ your LCD-2s. The sound improved about 15-20% for me.
GENERAL REMARKS ON SOUND
Soundstage was medium in size. Honestly, nothing special. After demoing the Sennheiser HD800s, the soundstage on the HD800s is absolutely massive, and the LCD-2s really cannot compare on this front.
There is also no subbass, so you won't get any good rumble out of these from what I noticed (really a music headphone; not for movies).
Leaning on a thicker sound. Does not at all have an airy presentation.
The headphone is moderately-high revealing. It is not as revealing as the HD800s, but it is still decently revealing (especially after EQ). Bad recordings were tolerable but not enjoyable. I really went hunting for the best mixed/mastered stuff because the LCD-2s played everything so transparently that I just saw all the flaws in the mix. However, if you hit a good mix, it was highly, highly impressive. For instance, Yo-Yo Ma's recent bluegrass collaboration sounds just excellent. Kind of Blue by Miles Davis from, I think, 1959 sounds phenomenal (best recording I know of, even on my HD650s). Each string hit was very clear and had impact. The sax just sounded so intimate and realistic; it was very captivating.
The weakest part of the LCD-2 signature is the highs. I know the HD800s sound a little hot up there, but even after a short demo at a fellow HeadFiers house, I could really tell the difference between the HD800 articulation of the highs vs. the LCD-2s. This is to say that if the LCD-2s could somehow steal the HD800s upper end and one could EQ it down a bit, you would probably have one of the best headphones ever. Especially if you were able to endow the LCD-2s with the HD800 soundstage.
That, my friends, would be audio nirvana.
Comfort: 2.5/5 (too heavy)
Priceerformance: 4/5 (Sure, it's not a cheap headphone, but you can put your hands on a LCD-2.2 for $995 direct from the manufacturer... Relatively speaking, it's inexpensive. Especially when compared to the mind-boggling price of the HD800s, you should be happy that you're getting an LCD-2.2 for what would buy you a HD700 *which no one really likes on HeadFi* if you stuck to Senns. However, from the HD650s to the LCD-2.2s, I could feel the diminishing returns on overall sonic capabilities; it was more a difference in sound signature, and about a 20% increase in technical capacity.)
Pros - Great sound signature, lovely wooden build
Cons - Heavy, expensive
I own a bamboo LCD-2.2. I bought them second hand for approximately 800 Australian dollars.
These are the best headphones I have ever heard. The sound signature is so appealing to me they might have my perfect sound signature. Big, powerful, natural and textured bass when the recording calls for it. Smooth mids. And a slightly rolled off high, which is exactly what I want. I'm young and I really don't appreciate 'bright' highs, they fatigue me and give me a headache. High level of clarity.
Cominig from the Hifiman HE-40 they are better. However, they are of course a clear step up in price too. The build seems good, hopefully they end up being durable. I get a sense of handcrafted with them, probably due to the leather and wood. However, I do not notice the poor in craftsmanship that sometimes accompanies hand built.
Comfort is only fair. They ARE heavy. A bit heavier than the Hifimans. The clamp is at the level I like. Sometimes I get a bit of pain on top of my head, maybe this could be improved with a revision of the headband. I'm willing to put up with fair comfort for amazing sound though.
EDIT: They were too uncomfortable and gave me too many headaches. Sold them.
Pros - Midrange
Cons - weight, bass -see below, pace, realness
This review is of the first model, prior to the revision and 'solving' of all its problems. Whatever, perhaps the rev2 is indeed a vastly improved item.....regardless these are a nice sounding headphone and of the half dozen or so orthos I've heard over the years, are the 'best'. The biggest problem I have with this sound is actually the low end, which puts me as the odd man out since everyone else names this as one of the phone's star qualities, and technically it is, it's very tight, full, quick etc..... I find it a little too much of a good thing and distracting. The problem is that the nuance and timbre is not as accurate a good dynamic driver phone and if you like to 'reach in' to hear the bass and don't want it constantly pulsating it's way into your nervous system, you may also be distracted. It's a trait inherent with the planar technology imo. But for those who listen to modern and/or digital music, this is a non-issue, just go out and fork over your cash, these are about as good as you will get in terms of technicalities and performance, but for those who value the more subtler aspects of music such as pace, natural dynamics and open air instrumentation, I find the lcd lacking a bit when compared to a good dynamic driver. The weight and fit is another issue altogether and if you like to move around, bebop and shift'em as john lee hooker says, while listening to your music, you may find the weight of these distracting. These are for laying back in your easy chair and immersing yourself in the sound like a good coma patient. I may request these for my deathbed listening sessions in the event I retain the faculties and financial wherewithal at such a time but for now i'll continue listening and dancing to my record collection with a dynamic driver that is 'less able', 'distorted' and technically inferior.....
Pros - Truly physical bass without distortion
Cons - Comfort, comfort, comfort
Bass - fantastic, clean, physical - I listen to a wide variety of music and the LCD-2 shined across the spectrum, but particularly stood out in bass heavy EDM.
Mids - natural and to my ears quite engaging.
Treble - slightly rolled off at the high end, but still engaging - for me this is a positive - harsh treble actively pains my ears.
For me a very high degree of goodness here ... except .. COMFORT
I have a small male head with largish 70mm ears. For me, I couldn't wear the LCD-2s for more than an hour without constantly adjusting them - even after bending the headband to reduce clamping force.
For me the issue seemed to be that they were large enough and heavy enough that they placed pressure on my head quite a distance from my ear, and this just did not work with my head topology.
These were my 1st truly high end audio headphones, and I thought that even at $995 they delivered value for money.
However .. that doesn't do me any good if I can't wear them.
That said, they were good enough I'm considering the LCD-3s, which have a similar signature but are generally regarded as more comfortable due to softer pads.
Pros - Wonderful Mid-range, Excellent Bass
Cons - Right Channel died 2 months later(fixed and quickly returned)
I originally owned the Sennheiser HD800's and I thought they were great!(After they were burned in; out of the box they were the worst thing I'd ever heard) But I always felt like it was missing something. I LOVED the soundstage, clarity, speed and detail. But vocals didn't sound right to me. I had read many reviews of the LCD-2's and constantly went back and forth about buying a pair. Finally, I pulled the trigger and liked what I heard. However, it wasn't until the headphones had burned in that I finally understood what all the fuss was about. Out of the box it sounded a bit cloudy, even a little muffled. But after burn in the mid-range sounded beautiful and full of life and the bass was melodic and authoritative but never obtrusive. This is truly an amazing headphone that even sounds nice without an amp. Highly recommended!
Pros - Overall Sound Quality; Deep Bass; Natural; Midrange; Angled Ear Pads and THE LOOK!
Cons - Price Range; Must be paired with the right setup
Lossless FLAC using MediaMonkey with WASAPI drivers.
$10 USB cable
ALO PanAm Amp
Siemens Tubes / Russian Tubes
In order to write this review I have been listening to this setup for over a 100 hours. So I am quite sure everything is burned in by now. The sound quality is simply beautiful! I listen to pretty much everything except Rap and I have not find any problems with these headphones. I cannot ear any background noise (more due to the amp I imagine). I do not believe into the all and precise description of the sound range because it is completely different for everybody. But I found the sound really clean and natural. I was pleasantly surprised by delivery of the sound thanks to those "massive" and angled ear pads. Indeed, the sound-stage is wonderful in my opinion.
I would recommend these headphones to anyone that want to rediscover their favorite tracks. I have not tried the LCD2 with any other setup, however, when I do I will update this review!