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Over-Ear item created by Kabeer, May 6, 2010
Pros - Sound Quality, Impedance, Bass Impact, Fit
Cons - Weight, Size, Rolled Off Highs
May Your Next Set be the LCD-2
If you slap two enormous earcups onto a thin headband you start to approach just how large the LCD-2's are. After all not every phone out there gives you greater than "6 square inches of active driver space". The picture really does not tell the whole story.
I was a little hesitant to try them when Tyll Hertsens handed them to me. I really was a bit shy of such a ridiculously sized phone. So I started with some HE 6's ended up being a beast to drive. At a mere 83.5 dB sensitivity it is no wonder why you have to turn your amp up to 70% volume to start to get the full sound of the HE 6. I quickly moved onto some T5's which were easier to drive, but still had that recessed soundstage that I cannot stand. It is bad enough to have headphones project the sound back into your head which really does not simulate real hearing phenomena, but to have it exaggerated is just unacceptable. In went the HD-800's and boy was the comfort and build quality felt. They were awesome to wear, just lifeless to listen to. Their deeply laid back imaging, their impedance dominated low end, they just leave you unimpressed.
Perhaps these colossal headphones should be tested, I thought while staring at the LCD-2's handed to me earlier. In they went. Their size quickly diminished as the smooth and immediate bass began to oscillate my eardrums. The mids were crystal clear, and the highs were nicely rolled off. The bass was an abyss.
The harder I drove them the better the highs became. The detail on La Roux - [La Roux CD1 #07] Cover My Eyes was simply awe-inspiring. The soundstage in Michael Jackson - [The Essential Michael Jackson CD1 #06] Ben (Single Version) was outstanding. I could here the distant cymbals which put my head in the middle of the studio. When Patricia Barber - [Verse CD1 #04] Pieces was playing the kick bass was airy and deep.
The sound quality is outstanding and the best among the auditioned headphones mentioned in this review. The soundstage is immense. The sonic clarity is one of a kind. The price even at $945 US is fantastic. The bass is the best I have found in a headphone that was not over emphasized. The mids were true and blissful. The design is pleasing and you know there are some expensive elements to the headphone. The cable is well constructed and replaceable.
The sheer weight and size of these headphones place them dangerously close to being full sized speakers. The highs can seem a touch too rolled off and the same goes for vocals. The clamping force combined with their weight made them a bit uncomfortable especially on the cheekbones.
This is the first set of headphones that made me truly suspect what I was hearing was the way the music truly was.
m903 fed via USB
Volume set to 57
261kbps bitrate files
Update August 2012
It as found in late 2011 and early 2012 that both the LCD-2 Rev 2 and LCD-3 had some driver issues. Tyll Hertsens worked on measuring it and many of us heard the issue. It is a combination of blurring and lack of treble response that is the issue. In August of 2012 Tyll gave me a set of LCD-2 Rev 2 and LCD-3 that were very recently manufactured. The LCD-2 Rev 2 has some blurring, but the performance was a definite improvement over my older LCD-2 Rev 1. The LCD-3 was again an improvement over the LCD-2 Rev 2 with hardly any noticeably blurring. The LCD-3 tested in August 2012 sounds amazing and easily remains my favorite headphone to date.
Pros - Sound
Cons - none
These headphones will make you smile and shake your head in disbelief. To get this kind of sound with a home stereo you would have to spend tens of thousands.
Hello I thought I'd do a short review of the LCD2 since I just got the privilege of giving them an extended audition at home with my own equipment. Equipment used for the audition are:
Macbook Pro optical out --> Cambridge Audio DACMagic --> Schiit Asgard --> LCD2
For some background on my listening preferences, I own a Sennheiser HD650, an ESW10JPN, and a Fostex T50RP that I have done some damping modifications on. I've heard the HD800, the T1, the HE5, and many other headphones as well. My portable set up is a HM801 with either a Sleek CT6 or Westone UM3X. I've noticed that I dislike over-accentuated treble, and I tend to look out for midrange presence and detail, as well as good bass quality in a headphone. Used to have the RS1 and sold it off because it was too bright for my tastes. I generally listen to jazz, rock, and latin music, and sometimes some classical.
Now, I've always been satisfied with my audio set up, especially with the HD650 in my desktop audio chain. Its lush midrange and weighty bass have always impressed me, and I've spent many hundreds of hours with the HD650 on my head. Sure, I wish it had better soundstaging, and I wish the bass went deeper, but they have always been acceptable compromises for me.
When I first put the LCD2 on my head and pressed 'Play', the best description of my reaction would be O_O. It was the best headphone I have ever heard, even compared to the T1 powered by the HP4 that I auditioned extensively at Stereo. It wasn't absolutely perfect, but I highly doubt any headphone can be 100% perfect, and generally view comments like "this is the best headph4n3 ev4rr!!" with a considerable amount of skepticism.
I'll go into more detail of the LCD2's sound, starting with the bass. The bass goes a lot deeper than the HD650's bass, with about the same quantity. In other words, bass quality is significantly heightened. I cannot adequately describe how REALISTIC the bass is. Percussion instruments are superbly detailed on the LCD2, and I can actually picture the drummer in front of me letting the drums have it. Bass guitars go all the way down and allow me to hear every pluck of the strings. I always thought that the HD650 was pretty good in the bass department, but the LCD2 totally trounces it.
The midrange is what I always look out for, and it's absolutely perfect on the LCD2. Remember I said earlier that no headphone is 100% perfect? That merely means that no headphone can get everything absolutely right, but some headphones can certainly achieve perfection in a specific area. To me, the LCD2 achieves absolute perfection in the midrange. I've read with some degree of skepticism about how people feel like singers are singing right in front of them with the LCD2, and guess what, it's ABSOLUTELY TRUE. Voices are perfectly weighted and detail is impeccable. I almost teared listening to Time To Say Goodbye by Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli. I have never felt any way like that with a headphone before. Coming from what I thought was a really good midrange on the HD650, this was an utter revelation to me. Not just voices are perfect, pianos are perfect too. On the HD650, I always thought that pianos lacked some detail and were a little 'fuzzy', for lack of a better word. On the LCD2, piano notes were clean, clear, and beautiful and decayed into the background perfectly naturally. Listening to some Bill Evans almost made me tear again. Damn, this is getting embarrassing.
Anyway, many people have commented on the highs of the LCD2 being recessed and the weakest point of the headphones. Although I've mentioned that I don't like over-extended treble, treble detail is still important to me and I wouldn't accept a phone that fuzzes up the highs. This is the reason I kind of dislike Denon headphones, I think treble sounds unnatural with them. The HD650 is not known for awesome highs, and I acknowledge that, but they are detailed enough and sound natural to me. With regard to the LCD2, I was happy to find that my fears about its treble were quite unfounded. The treble was clean, detailed, and natural, with good decay and sufficient sparkle. Granted, people who love Grados, Etys, the HE5, and the DT880 may not be entirely satisfied, but I'm sure Senn fans will definitely appreciate the LCD2's detailed and natural treble.
Speed is something pretty important to me in a headphone as well, and I acknowledge that the HD650 is not exactly the king of speed. When I heard the LCD2, its speed was a revelation to me, probably because of the nature of its driver technology. Transient response was perfect, and the speed of the drivers allowed each instrument its own space which never faltered even in very busy passages. Playing some Metallica and Arctic Monkeys fast tracks, I was amazed at how the LCD2 was able to deliver all the detail of each instrument even in the busiest passages.
The LCD2's soundstage isn't as expansive as the HD800 or T1, but it's enough for me. A 3D soundstage all around one's head is certainly delicious, but it's not really an important factor to me.
The biggest problem I have with the LCD2 is its build quality. The one that I tested had the new aluminium blocks and the fabric-sheathed cable, but it still looked pretty... ghetto, to be honest. I wasn't expecting HD800-level build quality, but at the very least, I think the hole in the wooden cups that is connected to the U-shaped metal ring should be reinforced with metal or even plastic. The wood around that area looks a little rough, which is kinda unpleasant in a headphone that costs a significant amount of money.
That's the end of the review. It's an amazing headphone, basically. I'm sure Senn fans will not be disappointed with the LCD2 as an upgrade from the HD650. Trebleheads should look elsewhere, but do note that the treble of this headphone is in no way unnaturally recessed, to my ears at least.
You can see some pics of the headphones and the original review here. Thanks for reading!
Pros - ovreall balance, bass, naturalness, easy to drive
Cons - heavy, cable
ovreall balance, bass, naturalness, easy to drive
Pros - Full-bodied sound, extended bass, non-fatiguing sonic signature
Cons - Very slightly recessed mids, physically heavy, slightly sloppy craftsmanship, odd design decisions
It's been about a month since I've received my Audez'e LCD-2 headphones (after being on the waiting list for almost three months). It's currently one of the most praised high-end headphones on the market, and before I jump into the review, I'll just get straight to the bottom line--it is a fine pair of headphones, but it's not without issues.
Here's what the LCD-2 looks like:
Cosmetics & Ergonomics
First of all--the build is excellent. It looks every bit the high quality hand-made product that it is, but it has a quirky problem--one of the earcups came out of the frame upon arrival and my heart sank for a moment, but a quick look revealed that it was designed to be able to come off very easily if you simply pull on the anchoring frame a little, and it's very easy to put it back in. While this makes it easy to take the earcups off, it also means it can happen by accident if you simply pull on the headphones a bit hard from the wrong angle. No other headphone I've ever used had this problem, where it literally comes apart easily. It's sort of a blessing at the same time since it's easy to take the earcups off to run audio tests one channel at a time (but obviously, this is something only total audio geeks would do):
The actual earpads are very comfortable, but because leather (or pleather) can get sweaty after a while, I always have sanitary covers on all my headphones, including the Sennheiser HD650 with velour earpads (since it protects the earpads from getting worn out). Here's without the sanitary covers:
Here's with sanitary covers:
My earpads don't match since the right side is 0.6cm thicker, but it doesn't affect the sound--just looks a bit lopsided. They also put in the cable sockets with the wrong orientation on the right side too, making the cable twist a bit on the right side. Minor issues, but slightly annoying since this is a $1,000 pair of high-end headphones and I expected more careful craftsmanship. I wonder why they didn't use metal or plastic parts where the frame's anchoring points inserts into the wooden cups though--they just dug out the wood, which looks a bit too hand-made for comfort to me--I'd prefer they installed metal parts into the wood so that there's no danger of the wood cracking or chipping. I also don't understand why they'd use an open-cell foam on the headband--it just doesn't look very durable since the edges could peel off eventually (like it did on my Sennheiser HD555 after a few years), and it's also terrible for sanitary reasons. Hair has oil and dirt and other stuff that you don't want to get caught in the cell of the foam. They really should have sheathed the foam under a cover for the headband--something like pleather or leather since it's much easier to wipe those clean. The Sennheiser HD650's foam is covered with fabric, and even that inspires more confidence than just bare foam. The cables on the LCD-2 are also awkward since they are stiff have long connectors, and they will poke into your shoulder if you look down. The main cable is also the stiffest headphone cables I have ever seen--they are basically typical thick instrument cables, and all musicians hate instrument cables because we're constantly coiling and uncoiling them all the time and they can be a bit unruly.
In terms of isolation, the LCD-2 is an open-backed design, so you will hear outside sounds--in fact the LCD-2 is one of the most open headphones I have ever heard. Usually open-back headphones still muffle the clarity of outside sounds a little, while the LCD-2 changes the outside sound only very subtly. I personally much prefer open-back designs since not only is the sound a lot more natural and not so claustrophobic like closed-back designs, you can also hear when people talk to you, or when the door bell rings (but they can also hear your music clearly too--it just sounds like a tinny version from a small radio). But of course, if you really need isolation, then only closed-back or IEM's will do.
Here's the whole package and the wooden box:
The overall visual sensibility of the LCD-2 is the steampunk look, which is quite appealing if you dig that style (I do). It's similar to the Hifiman HE-5, the other currently popular orthodynamic headphone, combining wood, naked metal, and painted metal.
The comfort level of the LCD-2 is just fine in general. It's a lot heavier than most headphones (up to 2x or 3x heavier), but it's very comfortable in a snug, substantial way that inspires a sense of security, like how when you hold up something of quality and it weighs a bit but feels very solid and secure. That's how it feels on my head--solid, secure, snug, yet very comfortable. It's no less comfortable than all the other headphones I have, despite being significantly heavier; however, its weight will take its toll after prolonged listening--you'll start to feel it, while with really light headphones like the Denon AH-D7000 or very comfy headphones like the HD555, you pretty much forget you are wearing headphones until you stand up and they are accidentally ripped off your head.
One other small issue with the weight is that because it's so heavy, if you hang the LCD-2 on a typical headphone stand where the entire weight of the headphone rests in the middle of the headband, then the foam on the headband will become compressed in that spot. Some LCD-2 owners just rest it flat on a thick piece of fabric due to that issue, but I don't really have flat surfaces to spare, so I improvised and DIY'd a modification on my headphone stand with some old socks:
See how the hanging surface now is almost as wide as the entire headband, and the weight is now evenly distributed? This way, the foam won't compress severely in just one tiny spot like with typical rods that many headphone stands use.
First of all, take a look at this frequency graph of the LCD-2 (all graphs are taken from measurements done by Tyll Hertsens, formerly owner of HeadRoom--one of the most popular headphone and amp retailers):
That's pretty amazing, isn't it? From 1KHz to 20Hz, it is almost ruler flat. It is extremely rare for any headphone to achieve that kind of linear and neutral frequency response--in fact the LCD-2 is the only one I've ever seen that can do it to that degree. (All LCD-2's are shipped with its own individual graph, showing you how your particular pair tested. Mine looks similar enough to the one above that it's not necessary to post it.)
Now, look at how a 30Hz square wave looks on the LCD-2:
Now, look at how a 300Hz square wave looks on the LCD-2:
That is also very impressive--the square wave is reproduced so cleanly and with very little distortion.
If you compare the LCD-2's measurements with the out of production, very expensive, and legendary Sony Qualia, you'll be shocked to see just how laughly bad the Qualia's audio quality is compared to the LCD-2:
Sony Qualia frequency response graph:
Sony Qualia 30hz square wave:
Sony Qualia 300hz square wave:
Pretty horrendous frequency response and distortion for a "legendary" high-end headphone, eh? Not even a fraction as good as the Audez'e LCD-2, and costs more than twice as much when it was in production, and now even more since it's been discontinued and elevated to mythical status.
While all that is great on paper, how does the LCD-2 actually sound? Overall, the LCD-2 has a full-bodied sound, but it is not slow, too heavy or too lush. The bass is extended and sounds neutral without any bloat, while being authoritative and substantial. The mids are smooth and clear, but it's recessed around the 2KHz~3KHz region for about -3dB, which results in the LCD-2 sounding a bit too polite in some cases--especially when it comes to the bite of distorted electric guitars, the snap of the snare drum, or the power of the brass section. I usually EQ that region a little to restore that little bit of brightness. Here's how I EQ the LCD-2:
The treble of the LCD-2 is just fine. It's articulate and detailed, never too exaggerated or too dark, and very natural sounding.
One very important characteristic I care about the most in audio reproduction gear is that it cannot be fatiguing and offensive, and the LCD-2 has no such problems at all. It isn't excessively bright and fatiguing, nor does it have overwhelming bloated bass, or exaggerated upper-mids that causes annoying sibilance. If anything, I wish the 2KHz~3KHz region didn't have that -3dB of recess, but it's very easy to correct with a simple one-band EQ compensation. If I'm watching a movie or playing a video game where I can't apply surgical DSP processing via software, I actually don't ever notice the slight recess and in fact welcome it since it makes prolonged listening very pleasant. Truth is, if I didn't A/B the LCD-2 against my other headphones or my reference studio monitors (Klein + Hummel o 300D's), I probably would not have noticed that slight recess, although I'd probably note the somewhat polite presentation on aggressive music that has lots of energy in the 2KHz~3KHz region.
Anyway, I could go on listing all the music and test tones I used to put the LCD-2 through its paces, but I listen to some very obscure and eclectic choices of music, so describing them in detail would be meaningless to most of you. If you must know, you can just search head-fi forums for my posts in the official LCD-2 thread. In that thread I even posted the tracks I used to test the LCD-2, and which sections to listen to in order to hear that slightly recessed mids.
For about $1,000, the LCD-2 might be too expensive for some people, and the truth is, you can get pretty close to the sound quality of the LCD-2 while spending a lot less. The Sennheiser HD650 for example is an excellent pair of headphones, costing less than half of the LCD-2. The HD650 does just about everything right, except its sub-bass isn't as substantial as a full-range speaker system with subwoofer. It's really only from around 35Hz and lower that the HD650 is rolled off though, while in rest of the frequency response it performs very well and is one of my favorites. It's actually kind of hard for me to say if the LCD-2 is all that much better than the HD650 in terms of value (but in terms of sonic signature, the LCD-2 is definitely a class above, being more refined, balanced, and full-bodied), since both have a singular issue in its frequency response--the LCD-2 in the mids and the HD650 in its sub-bass. The Denon AH-D7000 costs a lot more than the HD650 too but it's certainly not better--at least not to me. Whether you think the LCD-2 is worth the price of admission depends on what you prize the most in a pair of headphone's sonic signature.
As the result of getting the LCD-2, I have sold my Denon AH-D7000. While the D7000 can sound very satisfying when EQ'd to compensate for it's recessed mids, sibilant upper-mids, and exaggerated treble, I just couldn't justify keeping another high-end headphone similar in price to the LCD-2, especially when I would never use it for movies and gaming since I can't apply software DSP processing to it (and buying a high-quality hardware EQ unit just for that purpose seems a bit too much of a waste). Also, needing three bands of EQ to make it sound great is two-bands too many for me. I will definitely miss that visceral and grin-inducing bass though, even if it's a bit exaggerated.
When I decided to purchase the LCD-2, I was hoping it would sound similar to the Stax SR-007 MK2 that I heard months ago when I was in Taiwan--it was one of the most memorable "eargasm" experiences I've ever had, and it was my first experience with an electrostatic system. I was mislead to think the LCD-2 can come close because some members at head-fi had compared the LCD-2 favorably to the flagship Stax rig. I'm tempted to say those guys are smoking something powerful because the LCD-2 to me does not compare to the magical flagship Stax sound, but sonic preferences are very subjective, so maybe to them the LCD-2 really is that magical. Also, I have never A/B'd the two side-by-side, so until I do, I can't say for sure. But at this point my hopes of saving the thousands of dollars I'd need to spend on the flagship Stax rig by getting the LCD-2 was dashed. I bought it without having auditioned it in person--this is just how it is when you live in a crappy city in China--you must rely on other people's reviews and hope to God they have similar taste to yours. While the LCD-2 sounds great, it was probably a bit naive of me to think it could sound like a flagship electrostatic--the two technologies are inherently different after all.
Obviously I like the LCD-2 a lot, otherwise I'd have turned around and sold it immediately to recoup my money, since the LCD-2 is very hot right now and the waiting list is about two to three months. I have ordered the Stax SR-007MK2 and the SRM-717 solid state energizer/amp, and they should be coming in about a week or so. I'll decide after I have spent some time with the new Stax rig if I'll be selling off any more of my headphones.
EDIT: Now that I have had the Stax rig in my studio for a while now and have A/B'd the LCD-2 against it extensively, I have written a detailed review of the Stax rig. In the review, I go into detail about how the LCD-2 compares with the Stax rig. You can read the review on this page: http://www.head-fi.org/products/stax-sr-007-mk2/reviews#3796
If you don't want to read the detailed review of the Stax rig, I'll simply say this--the LCD-2 compares very well, and in some ways they do share a similar sonic signature, but they also have important differences.
They both have a full-bodied sound, with authoritative bass, refined mid-range, and articulate treble. They both have slightly recessed mids and upper mids, which contributes to the warmer sonic signature. They both are non-fatiguing and remain pleasant during long listening sessions.
The LCD-2 is overall denser and creamier, with lower bass extension, while the 007mk2 has punchier bass and more prominent treble, while having a more elegant presentation.
Both are excellent, and I would rate them similarly in terms of overall sound quality. In terms of comfort, the Stax is a more comfortable due to the lighter weight.
EDIT (August 15, 2011): I have been refining and tweaking the LCD-2's custom EQ curve, and the one I have been using for a while now is this one:
When Audez'e released the rev.2 version of LCD-2, the updated frequency response graph really surprised me (in a good way), because it looked almost exactly like the response of my custom EQ curve. That tells me Audez'e agrees with my assessment of the LCD-2 and updated it accordingly.
Pros - AMAZING CLARITY AND TRANSPARENCY,BASS
Cons - small sound stage, no space and air
Once in a great while in my 32 years in the hobby I have seen products come to market that can make a significant change in the way the game is played. Rarely if ever does one come to the market that completely changes the game and rewrites the rules such is the case with the LCD2. Audeze is a start up company that has two passionate owners who have somehow managed to bring to market a product which has challenged the majors in a big time way. The LCD2 is a planar headphone that not only competes with the flagship products offered by Sennheiser and Beyer but in many ways easily outpoints them in many of the categories important to many people who really enjoy music. Alex and Sankar have managed to up the ante and have created what I believe will be a benchmark for others to follow.
The hype on Head Fi for this product was very exciting and prompted me to order a pair to see if they met my expectations. They not only met them but exceeded them in some very significant ways. The equipment I have been using to review this product has been my Decware CSP-2 OTL and Matrix Solid state amplifiers with my Marantz DV6001 as my main source for playback of both red book CD’s and SACD disc. Audioquest Black Mamba interconnects were using during the review process. Using various types of music from classical, jazz, female and male vocal recordings and some rock for my audition. I used no metal or electronic music. I have had the LCD2 for almost three weeks and now feel comfortable in describing the sound signature. My other two reference headphones are the T1 and Denon D7000.
The LCD2 are very transparent and excel with vocal recordings. Listening to female vocalist is a treat and rivals my Maggie MMG for the best vocal reproduction that I have ever experienced. The sound of vocalist and the clarity of which the LCD2 reproduces them has brought me closer to the recording studio. So much that I envisioned myself there at the event. Diana Krall and Ella Fitzgerald never sounded so good and it really what makes the LCD2 so special. Jazz recordings are best portrayed with this headphone it really does a wonderful job of what you expect from a flagship headphone.
Classical recordings showcase the tone of instruments in an accurate way. Violins sound like violins and I can distinguish the difference in violins and cello very clearly. The sound stage in comparison to the T1 is smaller and has less air and space but you can locate the performers in a defined sound stage. Focus is better on the wider sound stage of the T1 but the LCD2 is no slouch in this area. I would have liked to see a wider and deeper sound stage with more focus. I also can get the full bass impact on large symphony recordings as the bass is an area unequalled by any headphone I have heard to date. The LCD2 is very fast in transient response and give you the excitement and slam demanded and needed to reproduce classical music and with all the excitement that makes a great symphony sound so exciting.
The bass is very deep and extended. There is no doubt that this is how bass is supposed to be portrayed. Percussion and drum recording are very exciting to listen to on the LCD2. Drums recordings with brushes is very easily noticed. The LCD2 allow you to hear the sticks hitting the drums and if a congo or bongo instrument you can hear the hands hitting the skins in a very transparent way. I have not other headphone that can unravel inner detail as well as the lCD2. The treble is also very clearly defined. I hear the correct tone of the cymbal and the proper decay after the drummer strikes it. Treble while being sparkly is still not extended as the T1 which sometimes makes you want more air and space around the instrument. The bass is very special on the LCD2 and will leave even most bass heads satisfied.
The LCD2 hits most of the marks better than most other flagships. Is it better than the other contenders? Some individual will prefer the presentation more others will prefer some of the strong points of other contenders but it is in the same class and in many ways beats the other headphones in important areas. It is worthy of being placed in the same class as the other contenders for best headphone and really when you consider its price it is a bargain.
Much has been made about the weight and comfort issues. Make no mistake they are heavy but not what I would call uncomfortable to wear. I have worn these for as much as 12 hours in a day and have experienced no major issue. The headband is unique and different from the other flagship headphones and I would prefer a leather headband similar to my T1 but I have managed to get used to the one supplied. The pads are comfortable and overall the LCD2 is not all that bad for comfort. This is one area where I would like to see some improvement. The wood cups are Caribbean rosewood and really give a nice finish to the headphone. Build quality is good they are sturdy and the box that they are stored in demands to be shown as it is so beautiful.
The amazing clarity and transparency is a notch above my T1 and D7000. The sound signature portrays natural tone and is neither dark nor bright. The midrange is indeed very special. I did not notice any recessed treble as some have experienced. It plays the recording in a very accurate and precise manner. It is also very musical and has never shown any sign of fatigue when I listened in marathon sessions.
In concluding I would like to say that Alex and Sankar have done an outstanding job with the LCD2 and should be proud of their accomplishment. The LCD2 has lived up to the hype for me and is part of my daily listening. I have not regretted buying them nor have I looked to sell them. This headphone will allow me to forget about gear and just enjoy the music which is what the hobby is really about. Audeze has established itself with the benchmark product and others will need to get much better to compete. You will want to use the best gear you can afford to listen with and it really sounded special on the CSP-2 tube amp with vocal and jazz recordings. The SS Matrix gave it the slam and bass drive and power for classical music. Beware there is a new kid on the block that has raised the bar that others will now have to follow. A new Star is born..
Pros - Incredible bass/mids with a true to life sound
Cons - Heavy and treble at times can be slightly recessed.
So I've had my pair for around a month and they have very quickly shown themselves to be deserving to be amongst some of the very best headphones I've ever heard.
Absolutely the best bass of any headphone I've ever heard. Deeper, more defined and controlled than anything out there. The amazing thing is just how scary good it is and with ZERO bleeding into the mids.
Along with the T1s, I consider the LCD-2's mids to be the best I've ever heard as well. Both male and female vocals excel exceptionally well with them. Incredibly organic and upfront with outstanding detail, presence and still very musical.
Very nice treble, but with some of my recordings, they can seem a bit recessed and set the cymbals too far back in the sound stage. But definitely not a show stopper in any way. With other recordings, the treble is full of life and energy. So it could simply be the great transparency of these headphones showing what is on the recording.
I would rank the sound stage capabilities of the LCD-2s right after my two current favourites (HD800 and T1...in that order). They do portray the sound stage in a very life like way and in proper proportion left to right and front to back. But when compared to the HD800s and T1s they are slightly behind.
This area is not a concern to me in anyway, but as I find the HD800s very comfortable and the T1s/D7000s comfortable, I find the LCD-2s adequate...but still heavy. The one kink in their chain.
What can I say, they are 30% and 40% less than the T1s and HD800s respectively, but in quality they are on par (and in many areas even better). Great value IMHO. Their build and construction is simply outstanding and exude $1000+ quality!!!
Amazing job by a 2 year old company to come out with a product that competes with the "big boys" in the industry...beyerdynamics, Sennheiser, Grado, Ultrasone, etc... that have all been around much, much longer. Congratulations to Audeze!
Pros - Remarkable performance on another level altogether, both measurably and audibly..
Cons - Heavy headphones and cable, needs a powerful, fast amp and top source for best results and there's a 2-month waiting list.
While they are usable out of even an iPod, as well as the lowly amps I have tested, out of high-end gear they give a remarkable presentation that eclipses that of just about any other headphone, both measurably and subjectively.
While the HD-800s were supposed to be the ultimate headphone and do measure incredibly well, sonically it always seems that, to get the most musical enjoyment out of them requires extra work or compromise, whether it be a re-cable, a slightly warm-of-neutral amp or whatever.
If there are compromises with the LCD-2s, then they are in the weight, somewhat tight initial clamping and initially stiff pads. If these things, ultimately don't turn out to be a problem, then the rewards are great.
The entire sound spectrum, from the bass through to the treble is both fast and even. However, there are no large peaks in the frequency response unlike so many other headphones. They don't require tonal trickery to make the music sound good. That means that one can easily get the impression that they are darker sounding. However, whereas with, say, Grados, the music jumps out because of the treble or bass, with the LCD-2s, turn the volume up a bit and the music just jumps out as it is. Vocalists suddenly appear in front of you and instruments come from their precise locations with beautiful timbre and accuracy whether it be percussion, brass or wood.
Overall, they make headphone listening wonderfully enjoyable sonically, if preferably in a reclining chair or sofa to take some of the weight off your neck, but importantly without trickery, just purity.
Asr put it succinctly in one of his posts thus:
Pros - Looks fantastic.
Cons - Comfort level is low and cable is stiff. Needs good pairing.
OK, this is a quick placeholder review.
I didn't have more than a couple of hours with these and they were sitting in good company.
Dac was a Metric Halo ULN2.
Stax O2 out of an exstata.
HD800 out of a B22 and SPL Auditor.
First off, the LCD2 comfort level was AWFUL! It's stiff and clamps onto my average-sized head with such force I had to continually adjust it. I couldn't listen to it for more than 5 to 10 minutes. Such was the level of pain it inflicted on the side of my head.
The O2 and HD800 were spades ahead in comfort-level.
The LCD2 cable, a starquad cable (a microphone cable I believe) was stiff and just got in the way.
Sound is arguably the most important factor but in this case ultimately moot because I won't put use them no matter how good it sounds...I'll end up with a headache.
On the B22 and SPL Auditor, the LCD2 were sluggish, veiled, dark and had a recessed midrange. It just sounded terrible. I really wanted to like them.
Surprisingly, jacked into...wait for this...an RSA Predator (as a DAC and headamp), the sound signature completely changed. The veil disappeared and things were clearer. Out of a Cavelli CTH hybrid?. Similar results. Just clear.
But soundstaging was small compared with the O2 and HD800.
I would have listened more but couldn't bear to have them on my head. Perhaps that will change with time but for now, I'll pass.
Seems like these are 'flavour of the month' on HF. Let's see if they have the chops to survive the long haul.
Said owner of the LCD2 (not me) has already gone on a hunt for an amp to pair with these.
Potential buyers should thus take note of two things:
2) Needs to be paired with a matching amp. Your high-end amp might disappoint. Solid state high-end amps such as the B22 and midrange-ish Auditor didn't do well.
Pros - Excellent dynamics, instrument placement, resolution, speed and texture, easy to drive yet scales up nicely with the source and amplifier used
Cons - A bit heavy, headband foam could use some work and the clamping feels tight, especially with eyeglasses
To me the Audeze LCD-2 has a very full sound; they are the closest thing to what well-placed, full-range speakers would sound like if they were put on my head. Everything is there, with plenty of detail and perfect placement. They are extremely well-balanced, and quite agile. Hypnotic even. Also effortless, like you would expect a planar to be. The LCD-2 is both subtle and overwhelming, like attending a live symphony for the first time.
Physically, the LCD-2 is a very substantial headphone. They do feel a bit heavy at first, but their weight quickly becomes unnoticeable. By the second listen they did not seem heavy at all to me. As far as the foam padding for the headband goes, it was not as dense as I was expecting; it is a very fine type of open cell foam, and it slopes away at the ends. I think that it could be a bit denser, like a memory foam, and perhaps contoured into a more convex shape for added stability. And yes the foam could use at least a stretchy fabric cover (I did promise to nitpick in this department after all).
The LCD-2 comes in a classy wood box with a padded velvet lining, but you have to remove the substantial cable to store them in it. The cable is easy to remove and re-attach, however. As far as the cable goes, I suppose that I prefer a softer, more supple type of wire, wrapped in fabric rather than techflex. But this is both personal preference and quite correctable, much like the headband. The clamping around the ears does feel tight, especially with eyeglasses and I suppose that is my only real comfort issue; hopefully the earpads will break in a bit to alleviate this.
Back to the sound. I would say that when you first listen to the LCD-2 the one thing that stands out more than anything is that nothing stands out. No humps or divots anywhere, if that makes any sense. The highs are quite extended and offer all the detail you could want, without being fatiguing in any way. Absolutely everything is quite defined and right where it should be, placement-wise. The lows are extremely detailed and extended as well, without any of the punchiness that I have come to expect from a good headphone.
As the best headphone that I have in my collection prior to acquiring the LCD-2 is the HiFiMAN HE-5, I will be mostly using it for comparison. I remember being surprised when someone commented that the HE-5 had "one note" bass, now I understand. The HE-5 has headphone bass that goes low and punchy like a subwoofer, while the LCD-2 has a more natural, nuanced, and integrated bass presentation. The lows are all there, and they extend nicely with brilliant, realistic texture without distracting from the rest of the overall presentation.
While I really like the HE-5, the LCD-2 is a step up. I had been without the HE-5 for some time and was unable to do a direct comparison right off the bat, but I could still tell that the LCD-2 is a different beast, with a more understated overall musicality that sacrifices nothing. I would go as far as to say that the LCD-2 relegates the HE-5 into becoming a "fun" headphone; when you want to get serious, put the LCD-2 on.
The mids on the LCD-2 are all there as well and quite sweet without any added warmth; the detail is completely present without distracting from the music in any way. Everything is so well balanced on these headphones, while they cannot be called mid-centric you really know there is something special going on in the meat of the spectrum. The highs are not rolled off at all either, they are quite extended and full of exceptional detail much like on the HE-5 but are somewhat smoother to my ears. We're definitely talking minute differences here, and the HE-5 holds up very well in comparison.
You're not going to miss a thing with the LCD-2, but they do seem to focus on what is most important. I have been in a happy genre rut recently, and they seem to have taken me out of that. I am now attracted to the more diverse music in my collection than I have been for quite some time. I really enjoy throwing different things at these headphones, and they are absolutely up to the task.
The soundstage of this "headphone" (I want to call them earspeakers, the first time I have ever had that sensation) is multi-dimensional. Not noticeably wider than deeper, or vice versa but quite present. The LCD-2 offers mid-theater like proximity, without sacrificing any intimacy. They seem to reverberate without adding any resonance as well. If it wasn't for the stiffness of the new lambskin pads against my eyeglasses, I wouldn't even be aware that I was wearing headphones.
The LCD-2 is surprisingly easy to drive, as some have said it is even possible with an iPod, yet they seem quite capable of picking out any flaws in mid to high end systems as well. I am listening to them through my EF5 for now, with a Bel Canto DAC1 processing lossless music files.
After a listening session with a Woo WA22 and a balanced DAC, I have surmised that the LCD-2 is quite capable of "scaling up" in respect to the source and amplification. Soon I will be upgrading the chain with further with a re-clocking s/pdif converter into a balanced source, and I already have a much better balanced amplifier on the way. I also have the mini-XLR connectors en route for the fabrication/modification of a silver balanced cable that I have laying around that was never finished correctly. So this "review" is really a collection of initial impressions, which may well evolve in the future.
I was not blown away at first, but the LCD-2 does seem to get better and better (and better) with each listen. They seem to only want to reveal a bit about themselves at a time. It's like learning to appreciate a fine wine, or the difference that a really good cigar offers; your senses have to catch up to the added nuances. I would go as far as to say that the auditory information offered by the LCD-2 is like seeing the sun set on the water for the first time. It's hard to take it all in on the first observation, or listening session, but you are rewarded with new revelations every time you come back for another look (or listen, as it were).
A week or two after I received the LCD-2 I got my old favorites, the HE-5 back from China. They still sound fantastic to me, and I still think they are great headphones. The LCD-2 in comparison are weightier, from both a physical (putting on the HE-5 is like a breath of fresh air comfort-wise; the pads don't need any breaking in--so I can keep my glasses on while wearing them--and they are much less "hefty" than the LCD-2) and from a sound quality standpoint. Both of these headphones do everything right IMHO, but the LCD-2 keeps the bright top end while also adding some more overall weight, or body, to the sound. They also seem to provide a bit more texture.
The HE-5 in no way sounds anemic, like say an under-amped K701, but the LCD-2 is just a bit more full sounding. The only area that feels out of whack is that it seems like the HE-5 should be easier to drive than the LCD-2, since it sounds and feels lighter, but it's the other way around. The HE-5 never struck me as a physically lightweight headphone but compared to the LCD-2 they seem downright dainty. In a back-alley brawl there would be no contest.
I really was missing the HE-5 when I was without them and the replacements didn't disappoint, they sounded great right out of the box as I said earlier. So great that I had to do some real switching back and forth to be fully convinced that the LCD-2 has a little more to offer. But they do cost almost 40% more; even so the HE-5 really does hold their own against them.
My balanced tube amplifier has taken a detour for now (hopefully I will have it worked out soon), but both of these headphones sound great out of my EF5 hybrid amplifier with a Bel Canto DAC 2. This is Orthodynamic planar goodness at its finest, and I can't wait until it's my turn to demo the HE-6!