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Comparison Review: Arya vs. LCD-3

Discussion in 'Headphones (full-size)' started by tylerfutrell, Jul 21, 2019.
  1. tylerfutrell
    This is a detailed comparison review between Hifiman Arya and Audeze LCD-3 (2018/fazor), both of which I own, so I’ve had time to really get to know them. I think it makes sense to review through comparison, since on their own they are both great cans (and also people read reviews to help figure out what to try out or buy). Let’s go straight to the sound:

    FR: Overall, the Arya’s FR presents as more cohesive, whereas the LCD-3 presents more segregated. By that I mean that the LCD-3’s response feels like it comes across more in parts, whereas the Arya comes across more connectedly. Which is preferable depends on the track, but for me in this aspect Arya is preferable more often. It’s a safer presentation. The soundstage also influences this. Overall I would describe Arya as clean and LCD-3 as (mostly) warm.

    Bass: Both cans have great, planar bass, extending deep and having good impact. LCD-3 is a bit rounder and warmer, often with a just a tad more impact (the word “phat” comes to mind, now and then), while Arya is cleaner and more detailed/textured. On LCD-3, the sub bass separates a bit from the rest a little, sometimes feeling a bit like a second instrument in unison (because it’s less warm that the rest, perhaps). There’s certainly a difference here (each has won a track at least once due to their bass), but it’s not the biggest one between the cans.

    Mids/lower treble: The biggest difference in the FR is in lower treble. I include this with the mids because its function is mostly to color them (and actual mids are quite similar). LCD-3 continues down after 2k, while Arya starts going up, so that by 3k they are pretty far apart. This is responsible for the LCD-3 warmth and sweetness, as well as Arya’s presence and clarity. Spoiler: Arya won more often than LCD-3 head to head on tracks, but when LCD-3 won, it was usually because of the tonality of the mids/lower treble (female voice, violins, etc.). But it has to be the right track. Baroque classical for example, often favors LCD-3. Anything where the music wants lusciousness, but the mix doesn’t have added warmth already. Sometimes also, in popular music LCD-3 has a bit more meatiness, leaving Arya slightly thin feeling. More often though, LCD-3 feels slightly veiled instead, and Arya doesn’t feel thin.

    (Upper) Treble: While LCD-3 is warm from the bass through the lower treble, in the upper treble it cools off, and can be just as icy sharp as Arya at times (tambourines and ride cymbals, for example). This is part of what causes the segregation in the FR for LCD-3. This is exaggerated in mixes with artificially elevated treble, however on more natural mixes (like the aforementioned Baroque music), it sounds very lifelike. I could imagine someone liking this all the time, though. Arya can be a tad sharp or sibilant sometimes, however this is mostly (but not always) due to poorly mixed recordings (elevating treble to give “detail” to bad systems). Mostly, it just presents fantastic detail and silvery texture without being too bright (or etched/brittle). I am treble sensitive, and Arya is about my limit without causing fatigue, but sometimes crosses that border on certain tracks. I had HEX earlier, and found LCD-3 winning against it sometimes due to its increased treble energy. I don't think Arya ever lost for that reason.

    Resolution: This is another big differentiator. Arya really steps up the game for this price bracket. Arya’s resolution across the whole spectrum is fantastic, clearly outdoing LCD-3. The only thing I’ve heard that out-resolves Arya is HE1000SE (though I haven’t heard LCD-4), and that’s only by a tiny bit. The FR lends a hand to this “cleaner” impression, as does the blacker background, and the spaciousness, but the resolution is an important part too. LCD-3 isn’t “grainy” though, more slightly blurry (less resolving but not harsh at all) - but it’s only through comparison you’d ever notice (just saying it’s “blurry” is misleading - it’s not, only compared to Arya).

    Soundstage and imaging: sometimes a larger soundstage requires a tradeoff for less precise imaging. In this case Arya somehow has both a larger soundstage and more precise imaging. The only dimension LCD-3 equals Arya in is depth. They have similar width, although Arya is a little wider. The main difference in size comes from the height, and it’s a factor of 2, at least. Arya is the tallest stage I know, other than HEX: it is like a halo of sound, while LCD-3 is like a baseball cap: things sit closer to the head, and it projects forward some information that Arya projects upward instead. But, unlike HEX, Arya also has decent depth to the stage, about equal to LCD-3, though it’s difficult to measure because of the difference in height that’s going on at the same time. With orchestral music, LCD-3 is more realistic in a way - musicians all sit at about the same height - however it’s like a miniature model, compared to being there (or Arya). Arya is tilted upward (imagine watching from above instead of the front), but gives a much better “big, immersive” feeling, despite being less realistic in terms of height differences. I like it both ways, but it’s much easier to pick out all the instruments on Arya (also due to more precise imaging). The soundstage on Arya also works in tandem with the resolution to make it very, very clear what’s happening, even in complex passages. For example, in Daft Punk’s excellent “Within”, there is a repeated stepwise synth glissando toward the end, and on LCD-3 the ending of it gets lost down among the piano and kick drum, whereas on Arya it’s possible to distinguish them. Arya is never congested in the slightest, and while LCD-3 usually isn’t either, occasionally it feels that way when comparing with Arya. Lastly, LCD-3 gives the impression in music recorded in churches like the walls have been covered in felt, and often sounds like the room is long and wide, but short. On Arya you hear the walls clearly, made of stone, and the sound goes way up, like a Cathedral. For vocals on popular genres, Arya presents slightly higher and slightly farther out than LCD-3. Sometimes, like with Diana Krall’s “I’ve got you under may skin”, I slightly prefer LCD-3 for this reason (complimented by the tonality).

    Amp/DAC pairings: for me, LCD-3 wants neutral and transparent gear, to let its natural sound signature come out and provide the warmth. It’s already sometimes a tad too warm as it is; adding more is a little overkill. Also the MCTH exaggerates the already segregated FR in the sub bass and upper treble. Arya on the other hand plays well with transparent and more colored amps. With popular music, I tend to prefer it on the MCTH (slightly warm/smooth), while on classical I usually prefer the NFB-11.28 or Atom. I’ve never tried an OTL amp, but a 10ohm impedance is probably too high for Arya, from what I hear - and I'd imagine too warm for LCD-3.

    Comfort/build: Arya is more comfortable. You can forget you’re wearing it, which helps with the “immersive” feel in some music. LCD-3 isn’t uncomfortable, for me, even for long periods, but you certainly don’t forget you’re wearing it either. The LCD-3 does have gorgeous build, though. I like how Arya looks too, but it certainly doesn’t feel luxurious like LCD-3 does.

    Conclusion: Arya is a great all-rounder. LCD-3 is more picky, but when it’s good it’s near impossible to beat. The warm, sometimes sweet tonality is quite alluring, as evidenced by the fact that Arya doesn’t always win, despite being more spacious and clean.
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2019
    mixman, THGM, fuhransahis and 12 others like this.
  2. Condocondor
    Very glad for this review. Thank you...
  3. Mshenay Contributor
    I have to be honest with you, don't much like my PreFazor LCD 2 on the ATOM if you getting a rounded presentation overall have you tried something a bit more powerful than both the NFB 11, Atom and MCTH?

    My own iBasso PB2 and Ember II output around double the total wattage [1.8w into 120 Ohms VS around 900 mW for the NFB 11.28] into a load like your LCD 3 and I find with those amps my LCD 2 maintains much more of a defined edge so it's still rich but not nearly as "phat" an disjointed [or not cohesive] as when it's under-driven or under-powered. So again I feel you may want to try better amplification than Atom and MCTH especially for an LCD 3.

    An while I enjoy my own ATOM, I like it more so with HD 800 than any of my planars.
  4. tylerfutrell
    Interesting. I talked to Audeze about this, and they recommended half a watt at 110 ohm, which all my amps do better than, but I've never tried it with something more powerful. Unfortunately, I don't have the ability to do that at home - although maybe I could take them to a store and test your theory :)
  5. Mshenay Contributor
    Half a watt, it used to be a full watt minimum at least. Still yea give it a shot and see what difference it makes
  6. tylerfutrell
    Interesting. I just noticed on their website is says over a quarter watt! I wonder what's up with the revisions to the recommendations.
  7. Mshenay Contributor
    Huh that is weird they're super efficient stuff like the LCD x an mx4 and even the LCD 4z do exceptionlly well with just a quarter of a watt

    But again my old-school prefazor lcd 2 think it's somewhere around seventy ohms, the efficiency is likely similar to your three and back in the day it was a one at least I remember people were talking about having four watts to actually get the best out of it not nearly as intense as powering an he 6 but still it was worth having sufficient amplification, but I find that even my hifiman he-560 sounds a little bit fat and kind of loose when I underdrive it...

    Best way that I can describe it is it sounds as if there's not quite enough power for the transducer to fully extend I'm both the positive and negative voltage swings. That's what the app does it gives the headphone enough power to have full extension both forwards and backwards and for me without enough amplification a lot of my Planers sound a bit soft and kind of rounded, and even a bit congested during busy or passages as there's not a defined leading-edge like there should be
  8. chimney189
    Great review man! I think the LCD-3 has a magical quality to it that the Arya can't match up to. I owned the HEKv2 and everything seemed overly rounded and soft. Sometimes I like those hard edges. :wink:
  9. tylerfutrell
    I haven't heard HEKv2 - supposedly similar to Arya - but I wouldn't call Arya rounded and soft, or say LCD-3 has harder edges - but maybe I'm not sure exactly what you mean. Are you talking about speed or FR? I assume you're talking about treble, but maybe I'm off.
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2019
  10. chimney189
    I mean that notes have a soft decay, like I can't tell when they actually end. I think this actually might contribute to the cohesiveness that the Arya has, but to me it was a bit of a turn-off -- I felt less engaged as a result.
  11. tylerfutrell
    Ah, ok. Interesting. I hadn't noticed that, but you may be right.
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2019
  12. BuddhaBruce
    What's your current line up look like and how does the Ether 2 stack up against the hek?
  13. chimney189
    Audio-Technica ATH ADX-5000 & Fostex TH-X00 Mahogany.

    In terms of the Ether 2 & HEKv2:
    - I believe the Ether 2 is wider and has more depth than the HEKv2, but the HEKv2 has more height in terms of soundstage.
    - The HEKv2 has more weight to the bass and more punch, but the Ether 2 has better bass detail, texture and the sub-bass reaches lower.
    - The Ether 2 has a somewhat recessed upper-treble while there is a slight peak at the lower-to-mid treble, while the HEKv2 has the same lower-to-mid treble but not as peaky -- it does have more extension and a greater sense of air in the upper-treble.
    - The HEKv2 basically sounds more balanced and more spacious while the Ether 2 sounds more dark and more compressed -- although I'd say both are just as cohesive. Both extract a lot of detail, but I feel that the Ether 2 does a better job at this.
    - Finally, I think that the Ether 2 has more pinpoint imaging.
    - Comfort goes to the HEKv2. I always found myself adjusting the Ether 2 on my head.
  14. BuddhaBruce

    Thanks for the impressions! I'm very torn between the two... well I have an Arya which I'm guessing is similar to the Hek. Ether 2 has peaked my interest and I'm about to get one to try out. Then I gotta decide which I want to keep. Decisions...

    Also are you using the suede or perforated new pads for the e2? How do you like them?
  15. chimney189
    I had both (I sold the Ether 2), and I actually ended up preferring the stock pads. The new pads made everything too warm and laid-back. The Ether 2 does have a sound-signature that's hard to replicate though. It's dark, yet all encompassing. I've never heard and don't think I will hear more accurate bass. In the end that sudden peak in the treble and having to always adjust it made me decide to sell it.

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