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Audeze LCD3 Planar Magnetic Headphone

Rating:
4.60526/5,
  1. dan.gheorghe
    King of bass, excellent dynamics, great musicality
    Written by dan.gheorghe
    Published May 16, 2013
    5.0/5,
    Pros - King of bass, excellent dynamics, tactile feel of sound, very good imaging, good soundstage
    Cons - Very expensive, I do not own one yet
    Hey guys,

    I have re-auditioned the Audeze LCD3 and I have been very impressed.

    I had to get the HD800 to really understand the LCD3 . First time I have heard it, it impressed me, but I did not think it to be that much above LCD2. 

    In the last month with HD800 and LCD2 I found myself listening a little more to the sennheisers. LCD2 seemed to lack in dynamics, details and soundstage compared to  HD800.

    Darku was kind enough again to lend me his LCD3 for a week. I must say these days my impressions of LCD3 had completely changed from the first time I have listened to them.

    It has exactly what I found to be lacking in LCD2.

    [​IMG]

    They feel more refined than the LCD2. Also they are more comfortable. Their pads are softer, the zebra wood gives them a nice look and feel and they fit better on the head.

    [​IMG]

    Let’s get to what is really important: the sound.

    Here are my impressions on a few songs:

    (The tests have been made with the Burson Conductor and the Toxic Silver Widowcable)

    Leonard Cohen – Dress Rehearsal Rag

    The first thing that popped out was the change of tonality and the soundstage. LCD3 seem more neutral to me. The sound really opened up to a level you cannot find the music to be congested any more. Leonards’ voice has an excellent texture and body. The guitars were much more apparent on LCD3 and had a tactile feeling on them.

     Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon – Time

    Again the soundstage was considerable wider. The positioning of the bells was better on LCD3 and they had more sparkle. The drums from the beginning had again a tactile feel on LCD3. You can feel the music with it.

    ABBA, Mamma Mia Slipping Through My Fingers

    I just loved this song on LCD3. All blended in with great musicality. The voice was brilliant and had wonderful texture and presence. The chorus and instruments behind had a very well placed position. The sound was so better layered and you could hear all the voices in the chorus distinctively. Excellent round sound. It was so good it gave me goosebumps.

    [​IMG]

    Dire Straits, Brother In Arms – Ride Across The River

    Wow, the dynamics are absolutely awesome on LCD3. You can really enjoy music on lower volumes because of this. And the bass…so deep, so well controlled so full & detailed …. mesmerizing. Somewhere on a back, a guitar told magical story that makes you weep of joy, while all the instruments around it make you feel there.

    Franz Schubert -Piano Trio No. 1 in B flat Major D898 – Andante un poco mosso

    The instruments are excellently put into space and have a lot air between them. You can hear every one of them and each with different intensity and feel. The instruments have great extension and a very important tactile feeling.

    Infected Mushrooms, Army of Mushrooms – Wanted to

    The bass is absolutely incredible. I think this is the best bass I have ever heard in a headphone and there is no doubt about it. It has an incredible body, goes incredible low and is very detailed! The sound is very well rounded, not too much of anything keeping a very good balance.

    [​IMG]

    Conclusions

    Is it better than LCD2? It definitely is. It will be hard going back to it knowing what these new babies can do.

    You can feel that the LCD3‘s drivers are more thin and are faster.

    The dynamics are one of the most important thing they bring over LCD2. You can hear the full extension of the instruments now. Every sound has a fuller life . You can hear it born and you can hear it disappearing in the dark.

    The soundstage is considerably wider than LCD2, the instruments are better separated and have more air between them.

    The bass  is more detailed and refined than LCD2 and is the best bass I have heard in a headphone till date.

    They are more neutral and the treble is more defined than with LCD2.

    There are somethings that I like about LCD2 as well. The lower midrange and bass have a little more impact. Also the sound has a nice warmer color on them. The voices are a little fuller.

    You will ask yourself if they are better than Sennheiser HD800. I, for one love them both and don’t consider one to be better than the other. They sound very different and both are excellent in their own way.

    Even after LCD3 when you put HD800 on your head, the sound opens a lot.

    HD800 is still more detailed, has a wider soundstage , better positioning and instrument separation.

    However, LCD3 has a fuller sound with the best bass I have ever heard,  a creamy, tactile sound and great musicality.

    Pros:

    1. Excellent dynamics
    2. King of the bass
    3. Good soundstage
    4. Detailed, yet very smooth and musical
    5. Tactile feel of sound
    6. Multi layered sound
    7. Very good imaging

    Cons

    1. Very expensive
    2. I do not own one  :))

    [​IMG]

     



      m17xr2b and necip494 like this.
    1. wink
      Loved the review.
      I agree with the second Con point.
      wink, May 18, 2013
  2. larry33myhero
    Audeze LCD-3 are simply the best!
    Written by larry33myhero
    Published Apr 8, 2013
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Great bass extension; incredible transparency; very musical
    Cons - Price - need I say more?
    When $$$ is no consideration - these cans need to be at the top of your list.  I have been an avid Sennheiser listener for years.  Most recently with the HD600.  My amps are Joseph Grado Signature (battery operated), Aspen Audio (model 823 - tube amp) and most recently The Pan Am (ALO Audio of Portland OR - also tube amp).  I compared the new Sennheiser HD 800 to the Audeze LCD-3 recently and here is what I found.  The HD 800 is surgical, quick and a bit bright.  Musical but without the bass extension.  Very clear but could cause fatigue due to its sharp edge.  The LCD-3's are liquid, musical, stunning clarity, deep/powerful bass and present a full articulate soundstage.  I must admit I have never heard anything quite like these cans.  I am in love.  I feel like I am listening to the same old stuff for the first time.  Wow - they are that good.  Yes they are crazy expensive - but an audiophile never considers money!!!  Just sound quality.  Why else would we spend thousands on power cables...[​IMG]  My musical tastes cover the full spectrum of analog and digital - from metal to classical.  Highly recommended.
      necip494 likes this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. starstern
      how are they in compare to DT 880 ?
      starstern, May 30, 2013
    3. starstern
      how in compare to dt 880 ?
      starstern, May 30, 2013
    4. XVampireX
      Only thing I don't agree is spending thousands on power cables...
      XVampireX, Sep 2, 2013
  3. mikemercer
    Audeze's LCD3 Changed Everything for me.
    Written by mikemercer
    Published Mar 31, 2013
    5.0/5,
    Pros - This is no ordinary headphone
    Cons - This is no ordinary headphone experience! Having no benchmark for which to draw from (including my HD800's)
    While I'm a known advocate for Audeze's LCD3 I've shied away from writing anything official about the cans because Alex Rosson, CEO and co-designer, has become one of my closest friends.  So there's an obvious conflict-of-interest, but I figured if I share that here I could maybe stop some of the vitriol in the commentary that might follow in our wonderfully strange world of high end audio, both personal and in-home. I've also experienced a handful of events over the last two years that have literally forced my hand. Some of my most intense listening sessions have occurred using my Audeze LCD3's. How, as an audio journalist, can I neglect to share about these incredible times listening to music? I couldn't hold out any longer, pure and simple.  An official review for one of the websites I write for is coming.  In the meantime:
     
     
    Some audio journalist will undoubtedly attack me for writing this. I just hope you trust my intent. I'm trying to share my excitement when I use these sonic marvels. Audeze currently designs and builds the only hi-fi product in the world where I do admittedly use the term “best” when people ask me “what do you think are the best headphones on the planet”? I say, knowing my best differs from their best and ultimately we are all reacting to art (so the truth is always in the ear of the beholder) that Audeze make the best headphone “experience” I know of. I haven't been this captivated while listening to music since I walked into Rm #3 at Harry Pearson's place in Sea Cliff, NY, in 1994 (the original home of The Absolute Sound magazine). That was a turning point in my life. I never actually heard the sheer magic that can be created using two channels until that day. I had nothing to judge it against, nor did I care to! The music just washed over me, and I remember walking around the room wondering how the hell these giant loudspeakers (the 150K Genesis 1 Loudspeaker System) were creating a three dimensional soundstage. I could discern where first and second violins were, the horn section, etc. The audible experience was opaque, like a giant movie theater screen. It was so intense it actually become a visual experience as well as an audible one. From that day forward I've been chasing great sound like the greatest drug.
     
     
    I stayed up all night a couple nights ago, listening to my ALO Pan Am (running on it's Gateway power supply) and my Audeze LCD3's, now fitted with their “leather free”/super-suede headband, which I prefer to the leather because of the heavier padding. The headphones feel so much lighter on my head. This combo is glorious, including my MacBook Pro w/ SSD running Amarra 2.5 as the source. It's a fusion that's been sounding so seductive and enrapturing I've literally skipped meals and lost sleep because of its hypnotic sonics! Alexandra (my wifey) has been complaining about my time at the computer far more than usual lately because of these damn headphones.
     
    --If you want a terrific technical review of the LCD3's check out Chris Marten's review in Playback. In my opinion, Chris nailed that review, and as a fellow audio scribe I have to give him props for that piece.--
     
    Some consumer products level cultural boundaries; financial and social status, geography, politics, things that consume us as much as we do them. Music, as an art form turned commercial, does all that. No matter what the playback mechanism, music itself touches us on a deeply human level. It transcends all that ultimately divides us. It's the world's only universal language. How can you not love it? I can't imagine a life without it. I fell in love with hifi because it strips away all the ******** between me and the music. I lived (and still do) for the wide-open spaciousness of Pink Floyd in Dark Side of the Moon and the spirit of my generations angst and rebellion in Nirvana's “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” When I first heard a large-scale high end audio system I knew I wanted to be involved with this world in some way forever, whether it be working in the audio or music side. I've dreamed of owning an obnoxiously large, jaw-dropping reference system since I was 18. With Audeze LCD3's I take one with me everywhere I go! Thanks to their sturdy travel case I've listened to my pair all over the states, even beachside in Kona, Hawai'i! That was a magical experience: I would sit on our lanai overlooking the ocean after sunset, cranking Burnt Friedman's Secret Rhythms. Since the headphones are magnetic planar transducers I loved listening while the waves smashed against the sand. It was a purely meditative experience. You don't achieve this level of sonic integrity by accident, or by chasing someone else's product.
     
    Audeze's freakin' earcups show they know whats going on: how they direct the sound of the transducer into your ear at an angle, like a continuation of the outer-ear. Most companies just give you an even circular pad that doesn't aim sound at you naturally, and your brain knows that believe it or not. It's why these headphones maybe a little big and makes us look like Mighty Mouse, but it feels good to be Mighty Mouse, doesn't it?
     
    Now, I don't think I can identify the actual sonic signature of the Audeze LCD3, as I'm not sure what they necessarily “sound like”. I say this because, when I listen, I'm not concerned with the headphones. They connect me to the music in such a deep way that I always feel like I'm hearing my records for the first time, and that is an amazing gift. That sound nuts I'm sure, but after 20 years in high end audio I can honestly say these wonderful cans provided me with new sonic territory to explore, and that's a treasure to behold! I find I'm listening to records I'd forgotten about. The greatest thing about that is re-discovering things I may have missed in albums that have great significance in the soundtrack of our lives (meaning my life with Alexandra)! That's another precious gift the LCD3's have given me.
     
    I'm not going to dive into the classification bit here, and I'm sorry if this review in this spot is not technical enough for you. I (when writing for places like Positive Feedback or HPSoundings) write about the experience of listening to a component rather than spit specifications at you that you can easily find on a companies website. I'm also admittedly saving most of my review for PFO.
     
    However, I have to admit that legendary Grammy-Award winning producer Frank Filipetti (look him up) offered up some of his thoughts on the LCD3's during one of our phone calls that say more than I ever could in a couple of sentences, and he gave me permission to share them. Now, before I share them I must preface this by saying that I asked Audeze to send a pair to Frank because I knew he “hated headphones”! But I also knew that he is one of the best engineers/producers this world has ever produced. Arif Mardin considered him not only a dear friend, but part of his “A-Team” list. That says it all about Frank. Plus he's like Bob Ludwig or Ted Jensen – he knows good audio! When I called him to ask what he thought of the LCD3's here are some of his thoughts:
     
    “to call these the best headphones on the planet would be doing a disservice to Audeze, because these are not headphones at all, they're actually head-speakers” “they have given me a new frame of reference, and I'm using them about thirty-percent of the time now when I'm engineering”!
     
    Frank also told me he was using them (and his trusted monitors of course) to mix the recent 50th anniversary of PBS special! His words will always carry far more weight than mine. I'm just excited to get into different headphone amplifiers with him for our LCD3's! These headphones have blown things wide open. There are other great headphones out there. There's no doubt about it. The Audeze LCD3 is the Ferrari 250 GTO of it's time.
     
     

      necip494 likes this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. mikemercer
      mikemercer, Dec 25, 2013
    3. longbowbbs
      Nope...No one near me has a pair. So I am suffering along with my poor old HD800's...:D
      longbowbbs, Dec 25, 2013
    4. mikemercer
      oh, well than its not so bad...
      I still love my HD800s!
      mikemercer, Dec 26, 2013
  4. Synchronised
    The only good thing about the LCD3 is sound quality
    Written by Synchronised
    Published Dec 13, 2012
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Sound quality, Audeze customer support and more comfortable than expected!
    Cons - Build quality and Value.
    I am not a professional reviewer or anything so I'll just write a few words.
    I originally had a HD650 which I sold to buy the Audeze LCD3. The LCD3 is by far the best sounding headphone I have ever heard. It sounds amazing.
    I'm not happy with the build quality of the headphones. Considering that I paid $2000 I was expecting something built like a tank lolol but they are beautifully built!
    In terms of value they are not worth $2000 unless you think it's worth paying that much for the amazing sound quality. I think it should cost no more than $1400 if you compare it to the LCD2.
    In terms of comfort they are relatively comfortable but they get very uncomfortable if used for a long period of time, i.e. 3 hours +.
    PS: Audeze customer support is by far the best, they even sent me a brand new $80 + shipping costs cable when I accidentally damaged my old cable.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. adydula
      That wood will crack!! But I still like my 2's...
      adydula, Dec 14, 2012
    3. silversurfer616
      Why would you drop a headphone....and then 10 times?If you are that clumsy,you should get them covered by your house insurance!
      silversurfer616, Dec 14, 2012
    4. MightyChimp
      IMO the HD650s are way less well built. I'm terrified of chipping the paint. No such concerns with the LCD3. I think all around they are very well built.
      MightyChimp, Feb 14, 2013
  5. Rawdawg3234
    WOW
    Written by Rawdawg3234
    Published Nov 1, 2012
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Tight punchy bass, all around exciting
    Cons - Weight is almost an issue
    Just got them yesterday and I have to say that these are what I've always imagined high end headphones to sound like. I'm very pleased with them so far. Thought the weight would be a problem but after 3 hours I wasn't fatigued at all. Don't get me wrong, you know they're there but not in a bad way. They actually "feel" like $2000 headphones.
    Too early still to give an accurate sound description but ill say that the bass is the best I've heard. One of the few cans whose bass doesn't feel forced. It feels authentic and gives you an "in your face" experience.
    1. XxDobermanxX
      What you use to drive them?
      XxDobermanxX, Nov 2, 2012
    2. Rawdawg3234
      I'm using a WA6SE with a sophia princess and a variety of tubes. My favorite tubes at the moment are the 6GL7/6EM7.
      Rawdawg3234, Nov 2, 2012
    3. XVampireX
       Everyone is saying the weight is a problem, but I've tried out the LCD-2's and it was perfectly fine.
      XVampireX, Sep 4, 2013
  6. MacedonianHero
    Simply my new favourite headphones
    Written by MacedonianHero
    Published Feb 24, 2012
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Best bass/mids I've heard and true to life sound
    Cons - Not cheap, picky of upstream gear and not forgiving or poor sources
    Here's a link to a wiki I wrote about the differences between the LCD-2r.2 and LCD-3s that pretty much sum up my thoughts quite well.
     
    http://www.head-fi.org/a/comparisons-of-the-lcd-3-and-the-lcd-2-rev-2
     
    I've had them now for more than 3 months and they still get 80% of my head time. My HD800s/T1s/Ed.8s/HF-2s are sadly not getting the time they rightly deserve since the LCD-3s arrived. I was also able to sell my HE-6s as the improvements in soundstaging and air in the LCD-3s have made the HE-6s redundant in my collection.
     
    Just a few more points, they (LCD-3s) are in fact much pickier of upstream gear than the LCD-2s (as both Skylab and Currawong have pointed out). A good case in point was the LCD-2/Lyr combination. I really liked the pairing very much, but the LCD-3s were quite a bit less synergistic. If I only had the Lyr, I would have been disappointed. But luckily I did have a WA22 (with the right tube combination) fed by my W4S DAC-2 on hand as well and WOW...what a pairing! I can also vouch for the GS-1 as well with the LCD-3s as they are a great match (for a SS option). Funny, I'm finding the LCD-3s as difficult to drive synergisticly as the HD800s. [​IMG]
     
    As well, some of my older rock and jazz recordings that sounded "nice" on my LCD-2 (r.1 and r.2), where significantly worse on my LCD-3s. I don't blame the LCD-3s for showing me what crappy music I was feeding them, but if your collection is substantially populated with poorer recordings and you want a headphone to make them sound better, I'd suggest you look elsewhere. The LCD-3s or HD800s will serve to reveal their flaws and take away from your enjoyment IMO.
     
    Overall though, the LCD-3s are my favourite "go to" headphone three months later, long after the "new toy" luster has passed.
      necip494 likes this.
    1. rudi0504
      I am agree with your opinion
      LCD 3 is very picky with the source , luckily all my Music file in Imac are in WAV .
      and for longterm listening i use Stello CDA 500 as my CD Player to serve my LCD 3.
      I try many amp from portable to Desktop.
      in my opinion :
      Headamp : T + A Pre amp P 10.2
      CDPlayer : Stello CDA 500 , can use as stand alone DAC to pair with my IMac.
      Headphone : LCD 3 , LCD 2 rev 2, HD 800, T 1, HD 650 , ATH W 1000 X, Ultrasone ED 8 Ruthenium
      My Set up above is good for allrounder Head Amp , specially to drive my LCD 3 and HD 800
      Before i bought Headamp T + A P 10.2 . i had tried many amp like below
      Portable amp was : IBasso D 6 and P 4 and Dzero and Desktop amp Beer A1 by Stereo Singapore , was not good , sound so muffled with the LCD 3 Demo there.
      After that : I try Graham Slee Ultra Linear, Wa 6 SE , sound Quality from LCD3 is better compoare by Stereo Sinagpore
      At the end i found T + A Pre Amp P 10.2 , until now is the best i ever heard to drive my LCD 3.
      I also agree with Skylab that :CD3 is very NEUTRAL Headphone .
      When your source and Head Amp are not good , come out from your LCD 3 also not good.
      like my experiance above from IBasso to T+A P 10.2
      Good luck for Head Fi friends, who own LCD 3 to hunting their Audio Gear.
      Note : Only one Pre Amp from USA can drive my LCD 3 to the Best Sound Quality from LCD 3 is pair with Pre Amp from VIOLA
      SOLO but the MSRP is 4 times my Pre Amp T + A P 10.2
      rudi0504, Feb 25, 2012
    2. MacedonianHero
      Funny, both the LCD-2 r. 1 and r.2s were no where as picky as the LCD-3s.
      MacedonianHero, Feb 27, 2012
  7. Currawong
    Significantly refined over the LCD-2s, but significantly more costly.
    Written by Currawong
    Published Nov 20, 2011
    5.0/5,
    Pros - They have that orthodynamic magic taken to the next level.
    Cons - The magic comes at a heavy price.
    If there is a more apt example of the Law of Diminishing Returns than these headphones, I'd be surprised. For the refinement over the LCD-2s, the price is double.  With the new LOTUS drivers, an acronym that appears to target electrostats ("Light Omega Type") there is a significant improvement in all the areas that the LCD-2s had issues. Complex orchestral music is now no longer a blur; the mildly annoying ringing in the treble has gone and everything sounds more detailed and separate. It is easier to pick out individual instruments in good recordings. The penalty is fast-attack fun of listening to, say, well-recorded pop has been replaced somewhat with a more "analytical" presentation that picks the nits out of recordings and equipment, as now the rest of each note is now more detailed, revealing the texture in a manner that previously was the realm of electrostatic drivers.
     
    The improvements are also of only a degree that they might not be readily noticeable on other than high-end gear, so I'd say if someone had a total rig budget, if getting the LCD-3s was going to result in a significant sacrifice in source and amp quality, I wouldn't bother. 
     
    As for the price, lets face it, audio is an expensive hobby to get serious about. If you want to be positive, Sony R-10s, now a decade out of production, cost over $5k on the used market. Even the Stax SR-009s cost around $5000 or more outside of Japan.  However, the Stax do still best the orthos for ultimate detail,  imaging and being the closest to having a lack of coloration, but less than before.
     
    In the end, I could live with these as the One Headphone at home. That being said, I can only wish this technology would filter down into lower-end headphones. Those who have experienced the inexpensive magic of vintage orthos know that great-sounding headphones don't have to be anywhere near as expensive. LIke other top-of-the-line headphones, the LCD-3s may be a huge win for those who can justify shelling out for them and comparable equipment to get the most from them, it will be how they influence mainstream manufacturers that will end up mattering the most.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. rudi0504
      This week i have tried LCD 3 at Stereo Shop in ION Plaza Singapore.
      Stereo do not have very good desktop amp , Stereo has only IBasso PB2 , D4 , Beter Dynamic A 1 and my amp Ibasso Dzero
      With IBasso PB 2 : LCD 3 sound so muffled , sound very dark , maybe not so synergie with PB 2
      With IBasso D 4 : Sound a little better , more power , but the sound stil mnuffeled.
      With Beyer A 1 : Sound very bad , doesn't synergie with LCD 3
      i turned the Volume to Maxx , I feel not enough power to Drive LCD 3
      With IBasso Dzero : Sound the best from these 4 Amplifier what i have on Stereo.
      My Question to allo my Head Fi Friends :
      Why LCD 3 sound is darker than my LCD 2 Rev 2 eben LCD2 Rev 1 ?
      My opinion LCD 3 , is not so easy to drive , compare my LCD 2 Rev 1 and Rev 2
      Until now i did not believe , why LCD 3 sound not so good , i like my LCD2 Rev 2.
      Shall i use very good amp liuke The Leben , what Skylab use The Leben to Drive LCD 3 in his review
      Please advise , because i am a big fans for LCD Headphone.
      I wish to buy LCD 3 , because of the SQ not so good , now i hold to buy LCD 3, until realy i read
      very good review and i will try by my self in the Future.
      rudi0504, Dec 3, 2011
    3. rudi0504
      After one weeks of marathon hearing from LCD 3 , at the end i bought my LCD 3 for my Headphone Collection.
      LCD 3 is the best natural Headphone i ever heard to date.
      My Headphpone Collection are : HD 800 , T 1 ,ED 8 Ruthenium , LCD 2 rev 2 , ATH WQ 1000 X , HD 650
      My Souce are : Imac 27" with WAV File Music
      CD Player April Music Stello CDA 500
      DAC : Stello CDA 500 as stand alone DAC
      Cable : RCA Cable ACR Reference Silver Cable
      USB Cable ACR Reference II
      Head Amp : Pre Amp from T + A P 10 - 2 from Germany
      Music genre : Jazz, Audiophile , Blues , Slow Rock , Classical Music.
      High : more open anbd detail compare to my LCD 2 rev 2
      Mid : more sweet and natural compare to my LCD 2 Rev 2
      Bass : the Bass Quality LCD 2 rev 2 more than my LCD 3 , but the LCD 3 Bass Quality is better and deeper Bass and more Detail.
      Separation : much better than my CD 2 Rev 2 , i can hear the instrumental placement better than my lCD 2 Rev 2
      Sound Staging : wide and very good in Depth Layering compare to my LCD 2 Rev 2.
      only my HD 800 is more wider sound stage than my lCD 3.
      Conculsion : LCD 3 is the best Headphone in my Collection, is very natural sounding Headphone.
      If your Source and Amp very bad , your LCD 3 become very bad Sound Quality.
      Now with my set up above , in my personal opinion is the best set up for LCD 3.
      rudi0504, Jan 22, 2012
    4. kixxit
      does anyone have any idea of how well the Burson HA160D would drive the LCD-3's?
      kixxit, Jun 19, 2012
  8. Skylab
    REVIEW – Audeze LCD-3 planar magnetic headphones
    Written by Skylab
    Published Nov 1, 2011
    4.5/5,
    Pros - World-class sound
    Cons - expensive
    REVIEW – Audeze LCD-3 planar magnetic headphones
     
    Introduction:
     
    The announcement was a well-kept secret, and it hit the head-fi community like a ton of bricks.  Audeze was coming out with a new headphone, the LCD-3, which would feature a new driver, new pads, slightly uprated cosmetics, and would cost $1,950 – roughly double what the popular LCD-2 cost.  Explosions ensued.  There were lots of people very upset about the much higher price.  I was intrigued.  I sought out a pair at CanJam, and having liked what I heard in what was admittedly a very difficult environment to judge open headphones, I asked Alex from Audeze if I could get a review pair sent.  He obliged, and here we are.
     
    Audeze made huge strides over the 18 months the LCD-2 were in production in terms of improving ergonomics and comfort, and these are all in play in the LCD-3 – much softer leather earpads, leather headband, angled cable exits, etc.  The LCD-3 has a metal cable exit rather than the extruded wood.  I think this is a very wise move.  Not sure it’s a cosmetic improvement, but given that there were quite a few reports of splits in the wood of the LCD-2’s cable junction, I think this was a wise move.
     
    Personal opinion: I like dark wood, and I prefer the darker wood of my original LCD-2 over the Zebra-wood of the LCD-3.  The wood finish is nicer on the LCD-3 to be sure, but I like darker wood.  That’s just me, though.  Many will like this look better.  The dark brown leather is VERY nice looking, and matches the grill color well.  Judge for yourself:
     



     
     
    As you can see, the LCD-3 comes in a ver nice wood box, and includes some leather conditioner, as well as balanced and unbalanced cables.
     
    I think the LCD-3 are much more comfortable than the LCD-2, also, and this is largely due to the MUCH cushier pads.
     
     
    Review parameters:
     
    Sources uses: RWA Audeze Edition DAC, AVA Vision Hybrid DAC, MHDT Havana DAC, all playing lossless music files.
     
    Amps used: RWA Audeze Edition, Leben CS-300, Trafomatic Head One, Meier Audio Corda Classic; Marantz 2285, Pioneer SX-1980, Sansui 9090DB receivers.
     
    Headphones compared:  Audeze LCD-2 R1, Sony MDR-R10, Beyerdynamic T1, HifiMan HE-6
     
    Cables used: ALO Cain Mail balanced, Q-Audio unbalanced
     
     
    Sound:
     
    So, before we can possibly tackle the question of value, we have to first decide how the things SOUND.  And there is no doubt that they sound excellent.  But that isn’t good enough.  A high-end headphone must go beyond that.  It was OK for the LCD-2 to sound “just” excellent.  The LCD-3 needs to sound even better – it has to be at the pinnacle of headphone sound to play at this price point.
    And, in the opinion of this reviewer, it is indeed.  The LCD-3 has a coherency, transparency and top to bottom consistency of sound that rate it as the very best headphone I have ever heard.
    Take just one example – Diana Krall’s “Do Nothing ‘til You Hear From Me” from “Stepping Out”.  The bowed cello solo in the middle is the most lifelike reproduction of a cello I have ever heard.  The stand-up bass is deep and powerful but with a truly astounding level of definition.  And Diana’s vocals are cleanly rendered in a very lifelike way. 
     
    That deep bass was very much in evidence again on Mastodon's "The Hunter", by the recent album of the same name.  Bass is as deep and powerful as one could even ask for, and actually manages to best the LCD-2 in terms of definition and taughtness while not giving up any weight.  This is as good as bass performance gets via headphones.  The LCD-3 have no equal that I have ever heard in this regard.
     
    Midrange performance was also absolutely first rate.  There is a slight lushness to the mids, I feel - I'm not sure how else to describe it.  I know one head-fier has described the LCD-2 as "creamy".  I am not sure that's the word I would use, but the mids are surely beautiful, while not sounding colored in any way. I think you can see this in the frequency response chart below, there is a small measured dip at the upper end of the midrange, and I think this is what keeps the mids from ever crossing over into overly-bright territory. 
     

     
     
    Nonetheless When guitar has bite, the LCD-3's reproduce the bite, but not in a way that's painful - in a way that seems always very natural.  "Cosmic Egg" from the Wolfmother album of the same way evidences this nicely.
     
    I think it bears mention that, from the FR chart above, supplied with my review pair, the FR is not markedly different from the LCD-2 FR charts I have seen.  Nonetheless, the LCD-3 are more neutral sounding than the LCD-2.  I liked the LCD-2’s slightly dark tonal balance a lot, but there is none of that in evidence with the LCD-3.  I would definitely not call them “bright” though.  In fact, I found them to be so neutral as to be difficult to get a handle on sometimes.  I started listening to them on my vintage Marantz 2285.  I thought they sounded very good, but thought they were missing something at the top that I was sure I had heard at Can Jam.  So I quickly moved them to the Red Wine Audio Audeze Edition, and there it was – that treble extension that I hadn’t noticed before that the vintage Marantz lacks (probably not surprisingly).  The RWA AE was much more adept as driving the LCD-3 than the Marantz.  The 2285 doesn’t lack at all for power, but doesn’t seem to have the nuance that the AE does.  And the LCD-3 laid this very plain, in no time at all.
     
    All that transparency and neutrality isn’t always a universally good thing, though.  There was a degree to which the LCD-2 allowed one to listen to sub-par recordings and not immediately be struck by how poor they are.  Not so with the LCD-3.  The Waterboys “This is the Sea” from the album of the same name came up on my iPod (which goes digitally via the Pure i20 into the RWA AE’s DAC) and I thought “wow that sounds really, really awful” – but that is just how that recording sounds.  It’s sinfully bright, and that is how the LCD-3 rendered it.  Up right after it was Nickel Creek’s “Best of Luck” from “Why Should the Fire Die”, and that sounded TERRIFIC, as I would expect.  All well recorded material sounded really, really good, and in fact, was the best I have ever personally heard from a headphone, including my beloved Sony MDR-R10. 
     
    The LCD-3, though, are better than the MDR-R10.  They are more even in frequency response, and just slightly more transparent.  The R-10 have a phenomenal midrange, and so do the LCD-3.  The R-10 have a little peakiness in parts of the treble, though, that I do not hear from the LCD-3.  And the bass on the R-10 is also a little pronounced in the midbass and a little lacking in the very deep bass versus the LCD-3.  I find the LCD-3 to be a remarkably neutral transducer.  I do not hear any obvious frequency-response aberrations with the LCD-3.  In this way it departs from the LCD-2 – the 3 is more neutral sounding to these ears, and this is most germane in the treble.  The LCD-2 featured a shelved-down treble, which I personally liked, but as such it was not flat from 20Hz-20kHz.  The LCD-3 has much less of this in terms of both the measured performance, and even less in terms of what I hear.  And yet, the treble is not aggressive or biting, but VERY pure and sweet.  Again, the LCD-3 will not hide a recording with a nasty treble though.  If it’s there, you will hear it. 
     
    And I think that defines the LCD-3 for me.  The combination of a very neutral frequency response and an almost startling transparency are its hallmarks.  The vast majority of the time I enjoyed listening to music through the LCD-3 more than I ever have with headphones.  Alison Krauss’s new record, Paper Airplane, is a terrific recordings, and it sounded just terrific on the LCD-3.  Alison’s vocals were beautiful.  Same for Steven Wilson’s, on “Postcard” from his new and terrifically recorded “Grace For Drowning”.  The song is just haunting, and it sounds beautiful on the LCD-3.  Then again, I have some metal records that are super-aggressive sounding, and the LCD-3 laid them bare.  Such is life.  For those I will probably stick with the LCD-2.  But one cannot blame the messenger!  I know such recordings are harsh.  No surprise the LCD-3 renders them as such.
     
    One result of the combination of the neutrality and transparency is an outstanding retreival of detail and resolution.  Other headphones I have heard force detail at you my pushing the mid treble up.  That's not what is happening here.  The resolution is due to the transparency.  This is something I have found in evidence in all planar magnetic headphones (and speakers) I have heard - and it's very much in evidence here.  There are some very subtle percussion elements in Opeth's "Death Whispered a Lullaby" from "Damnation" that I had never really noticed before, but that I was able to hear on the LCD-3.
     
    I also spent some time comparing the LCD-3 to the HifiMan HE-6. I find the HE-6 to have just a touch more treble energy than is neutral, although overall I find the HE-6 to be an absolutely outstanding pair of headphones, and I listen to them at work almost daily.  The LCD-3 were just better, in every dimension, IMO.  Which isn’t to take away from the HE-6, but I found the LCD-3 to be more neutral, and just slightly more transparent.
     
    I spent the majority of my review time listening to the LCD-3 on the Red Wine Audio Audeze Edition, since I felt that it had made the LCD-2 sound about as good as anything else, and wanted to give the LCD-3 a very clean signal.  I also played them on the Leben CS-300, the Trafomatic Head One, the new and several of my vintage receivers.  I also listened to it on the new Meier Audio Corda Classic, on which they also sounded great (review forthcoming on the Meier).  They sounded great on the Pioneer and Sansui receivers, but not as good on the Marantz, as mentioned above, just because the LCD-3 exposed a treble roll-off on the Marantz I hadn’t been aware of.  The LCD-3 definitely benefit from the best you can give them, but they sounded very good from everything I listened to them on.  
     
    So it also was with sources.  The RWA DAC, my MHDT Havana, and my AVA Vision Hybrid DAC all sounded good, and all sounded different. And to a degree I wasn’t quite used to.  It was very easy to pick out the differences.  The LCD-3 will make a good source reviewing tool!  The Havana is the warmest, the RWA the most neutral, and the AVA in the middle.  This was plainly apparent.
     
    Lastly, let’s talk about soundstage.  The LCD-3 is excellent in this regard, but in this one area I don’t think it is quite state of the art.  I think the LCD-3 is better than the LCD-2 in this regard, especially in terms of image specificity.  But the R-10 is better in terms of image definition and specificity.  The LCD-3 projects the soundstage out in front of the head somewhat, which I really like – it does NOT feel like the sound is just between your ears, at all.  The width is outstanding, and so is the depth.  But the images are just not quite as well defined as I hear on some other headphones, like the R-10, or even the Beyer T1.  That said, I am not an imaging freak, and I value tonality and transparency higher.  And so for me, the LCD-3 is as good as it gets.  But if soundstage gymnastics are your primary thing, I think I would probably go with something like the HD-800.  The LCD-3 is “merely” excellent in terms of soundstaging ability.
     
     
     
    Summary:
     
    So, overall, where does that leave us?  I think the LCD-3, as a whole, is the best headphone I have heard.  I have never owned any electrostats, but I have had several pairs for review, and have heard quite a few others, and I prefer the meatier sound of the LCD-3 to any of those.  But again, that’s not a direct, detailed comparison.  Someone else will have to offer that.  However, the LCD-3 is a big improvement over the LCD-2, and handily beats the Beyer T1 (which is a headphone I like a lot).  I prefer the LCD-3 to the HE-6 as well, and even prefer it overall to the MDR-R10.  And folks, that’s saying a mouthful.  Does that make it worth the asking price?  For me, beyond any shadow of a doubt.  But I liked the LCD-2 a great deal as well, and of course, like all reviews, this one is my personal opinion, and nothing more.  Only you, dear reader, can decide that for yourself.  I sure hope you get a chance to hear a pair, though.  I don’t think you will be disappointed.  I am buying the review pair.  No way am I letting these go.
      sillysally, carm, mikemalter and 4 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Modwright01
      Great review ! But, There is a problem...You shouldn't compare the R10 with the LCD3 because one hand, you have an closed headphone and on the other hand, you have opened headphone... :wink:
      Modwright01, May 27, 2012
    3. Solan
      Very much appreciated, Skylab.
      Solan, Nov 11, 2012
    4. spitfire777
      Fab review.  Please help me decide:  HD800 or Audeze LCD3.  Lots of people rate the HD800 why is it so much cheaper. Your review is so interesting and seems to tick all my boxes for my audio happiness.    Kind regards Spitfire
      spitfire777, Dec 7, 2013
  9. dBel84
    LCD-3 Planar Magnetic Headphone
    Written by dBel84
    Published Oct 31, 2011
    5.0/5,
    Pros - a wonderful evolution of design and technology
    Cons - do there have to be any?
     
    Where to start? I guess a big thank you to Alex and Sankar for making these available. I finally got to meet the lads at RMAF and the pleasure was all mine - I now have the T-shirt :wink:
     
    On a more serious note , it was truly a pleasure to meet them and speak about the inovation that has been going on behind the scenes. Not only in headphone development but the fact that Dragoslav Colich joined up with them to assist in engineering their superb line of speakers.  ( now I will admit bias freely - Dragoslav is a demigod in my eyes as he is a zen master of ribbons and planar technology ) so.... I expect even greater things to come.  
     
    This review will be a little different from what some people may be expecting as I will not go into diatribes about how wonderful the LCD3's are with various types of music , just trust me , they are. When I first heard the LCD2 , I thought "this is it" , this is what all the orthodynamic / planar magnetic followers have been looking for  - "tactile" music that was both rich and organic, smooth vocals that pull you in and very responsive. "How could this possibly get any better!" well , it just did.  How do I know? Tyll said so ( and he never lies.   come to think of it , he doesn't drink, never swears and only eats vegans ) 
     
    On with the show. 
    The Box: truly a work of art in its own right . Piano gloss finish with the Audeze logo inlaid into the wood. 
    Inside the box: 
         1. a graph of the frequency response for the headphones. 
         2. two sets of stock cable - one TRS terminated and one 4pin XLR for those more balanced than myself. 
         3. wood care kit
         4. last but most definitely not least , the LCD3
     
    Specs from website:
    - Planar Magnetic Transducers.
    - Custom designed Zebra wood (zebrano) earcups.
    - Specially designed lambskin leather earpads.
    - Left and Right transducers have matched sensitivity and frequency response within +/- 0.5dB.
    - Specially designed self- closing, acoustically transparent magnetic structure with highest grade Neodymium magnets.
    - Frequency Response: 5Hz - 20KHz, usable high frequency extension 50KHz.
    - Distortion: less than 1% even at full output.
    - Impedance: 50Ohms, nominal
    - Maximum diaphragm excursion: 2.5mm p- p
    - Efficiency: 93dB/1mW - Maximum output: 133dB, 15W
    -Transducer active diaphragm area: 6.17 sq. in.
    - Input cable: Custom cable with mini XLR connectors
    - Weight: 550g, without cable.
     
    Overall design, some love it , some don't care for it. Personally I am a fan. I liked the original foam headband but this one oozes luxury. It is padded and sits comfortably on my head. 
     
    The pads are very soft , imo a significant improvement over the original LCD2 pads. They are as soft as my Stax O2 pads but more compressible. The memory foam has good loft and make for a comfortable fit with a great seal. When you first put them on, there is that slight pressure you get similar to a closed headphone. I think this is due to the clamping pressure of the frame and the good seal from the pads. The pressure may be greater for macrocephalics but is no problem for me. I initially thought the stock cable was going to be a little short but it extended the 2 odd meters from my amp to where I listened without a problem and there was enough slack for me to do my thing while listening. 
     
    I said I was not going to languish on my impressions of the sound and this sort of sums it all up.  I have listened to them at every opportunity for the past week and although I have flitted through much of my music collection, I returned frequently to the demo disc I made for RMAF ( a mix of vocal, acoustic, jazz, rock and then a few familair classical pieces) 
    Amp - mostly the early liquid fire prototype. I did try it with the mini3 and portatube+ (a real winner for a protable tube amp with a dac) 
    Bass - everyone knows that these headphones can do bass, but they do more than bass, they flesh out the texture within bass and respond to complex bass rhythms without muddying the lower mids. There is no bass hump and I know that people have described them as emphasizing bass notes that aren't really there ?? not sure what that means but my interpretation is that the LCD3 reproduce a very real , almost palpable bass which some headphones just don't manage to portray acurately. 
    Mids - more forward voiced than some of my headphones which are probably a little recessed. Vocals (male and female) and acoustics are spellbinding. I had heard some metal at RMAF and as I didn't know what I had listened to , called on a friend for guidance to test these waters. The experience of Katatonia on the LCD3 is quite something. Not sure if this is what the band expected people to listen through but remarkably well recorded. Overdriven guitars without additional distortion and lightning quick response to some really complex harmonies. I have heard this about metal on the Stax O2 too. 
    Top end - this was a criticism by many of the LCD2 but I never found the highs to be particularly rolled off. Thus when the rumours started that the highs were to be more extended with the LCD3, my concern was that they would be too bright and not to my listening preferences. They do have more extention but they are not bright. They have an almost ribbon feel to their top end which is crisp and airy but never bright or overbearing. 
     
    A couple of things that stood out - single miked recording in a London cathedral  - the "room acoustics" are incredible, eerie vocal placement and staging , the goth metal - hard to believe that everything didn't just collapse into itself to produce annoying noise, Edgar Meyer's bass lines in YoYoMa's Apalachian journey were deeply stirring.  an exerpt from one of the Linn Recordings "soulful magic next day tragic" made me think of all the folk who would get to sample a sense of the brilliance of the LCD3 at various meets around the world, only to have to walk away unless they could be fortunate enough to own them. 
     
    Is this the best headphone ever ? I am sure there will be many more praise worthy products from various manufacturers , I have no interest in an electrostatic set up and my brief listen at RMAF was enough to cement my opinion that my needs would more than be met by the LCD3 and decent front end equipment. I will not say that my journey is over as I will always be tinkering with vintage planars and should Dragoslav encourage Alex and Sankar to delve into making a true ribbon headphone, who would I be to discourage them at such an early stage by making bold statements such as the "best" has been achieved. 
     
    Thanks Alex & Sankar and all the team  who made this possible, I am a totally biased believer. 
     
    ..dB
    1. View previous replies...
    2. DannyBuoy
      LCD-2 owner very curious abolut the LCD-3. Thanks for the tempting review. I know this is a loaded question but it goes through my mind anyway; IS this a case of diminissing returns over the LCD-2, or is it a significant enough evolution to the SQ over the LCD-2 that you would say, If you love the LCD-2 you are going to really, really love these LCD-3. I cannot imagine being more content with a headphone than I am with the LCD-2 (with Violectric balanced DAC and Amp, and 4 conductor Norse Cable). But if I heard someone say the equivilant of what I stated above, I would consider getting these.
      Oh BTW-I love the thought of a ribbon tweeter in these also. Still my favorite home setup I listened to was a pair of Maggies (with the 5 foot ribbon tweeter, not all maggies have them) hooked up to Conrad Johson Pre and Amp. Horowitz's piano sounded more realistic than many pianos do at concert halls. The timbre and ring gave me goosebumps and made an indelible impression on my memory 20 years ago that has caused me and my wallet a great deal of pain trying to get that "high" again....
      DannyBuoy, Dec 1, 2011
    3. dBel84
      DB , the following statement; "I cannot imagine being more content with a headphone than I am with the LCD-2" tells me that you are in a good place. I recommend that you continue enjoying it..dB
      dBel84, Dec 2, 2011
    4. gasherman123
      Its a lot more money for the lcd-3 and haven't seen any comments on this issue.
      gasherman123, Feb 1, 2012