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One step up from LCD2?

  1. cossix
    Thanks to a few absolutely wonderful Head-Fi members, I've been able to finally get my ears on some of the most popular headphones on the market, AKG k3003, ie800, HD700, HD800, HD800S, ZMF Atticus and Eikon, etc.

    As much as I loved every single headphone I've come across this way, I still prefer the sound of the LCD2 out of my Jotunheim. It has clarity, detail, low reaching bass, ample amount of low frequency impact, present and smooth mids, and has an overall "engaging" sound to me. The only issue I face is the comfort. I find myself opting to listen to my LSR 305 more than my Audeze and I think I it's due to the LCD2 comfort/weight.

    Factoring all of this in, what would you say the next step up is? Here is an abbreviated list of how some of the popular headphones I've tried stack up with my tastes.

    LCD2 (favorite): Has just the right amount of bass for me while retaining the ability to sound impactful but not overbearing. Mids are in a great spot and not too recessed. I hear them slightly further away than I'd like but it's not a problem at all. Highs are crisp and detailed. I would not want anything with sharper highs than this.

    HD700: Bass and mids are completely overshadowed by the amount of treble. It isn't harsh treble to my ears, but there is simply too much of it. The headphone sounds like somebody boosted the treble by a ton in a software EQ which makes the other frequencies quiet in comparison. I didn't like this one at all, no matter how long I listened in an attempt to get used to the sound. It was hollow and unexciting. I also heard weird added reverb which added to the tinny hollowness of the sound.

    HD800: Bass reaches much lower than I expected and this headphone surprised me every single time I listened to a song with sub bass. Mids were plenty clear but didn't have the emotion to them that I like. Highs were not painful to me, but I found myself concentrating on them a bit too much for my liking. They distracted me from the music on some tracks.

    800S: Better than the 800 in just about every way, but not enough to justify the difference in price. I appreciated the relaxed treble (in comparison) and everything sounded more musical. Still a bit analytical for my tastes.

    Bass: Midbass
    Mids: Midbass
    Treble: Midbass
    If you haven't already guessed, this headphone has a ton of mid bass. It drowns out every other frequency about 3 times more than the HD700 treble does. It bleeds into the mids and makes vocals seem heavier than they should be. The treble is also far too rolled off to work well with the mid bass. It literally sounds muffled and thumpy. I can only listen to EDM on this headphone because any other genre sounds like I'm listening to music with a pillow between my ear and the headphone.

    Eikon: This came the closest to my preferred sound. Good sub bass but not overpowering, good impact, mids are smooth and present, highs are relaxed (although a bit too relaxed) and the soundstage is remarkably wide for a (ported) closed back. I consider them closed back anyway because putting the earcups together isolates 95% of the music even at high volume, 5 inches from my head. The only thing I would change is the treble roll off. The physical design is my favorite out of anything so far.

    Extra stuff: If I were to replace my LCD2 I would love to have something that looks similarly classy. I love the use of wood in headphones and my top 3 favorite designs are the LCD2/3/4, Eikon, and TH900.

    Does anything exist that ticks all my boxes? I was also considering getting the LCD2 upgrade headband from Audeze but 200 bucks for a headband is not on my to-do list at the moment. It would, however, make sense if it would fix my comfort issue.
  2. Music Alchemist
    STAX is two steps up in my opinion. (Even used entry-level models that cost a fraction of the price.)
  3. cossix
    Do you have a suggestion on model? I don't know anything about them, and even more nothing about the "amps"
  4. Music Alchemist
    The SRS-3100 system (SR-L300 headphones + SRM-252S amp) would be good to start with. It's under $800 from the US and under $700 from Japan. If you import a STAX amp from Japan, you can't safely use its power supply and would have to also get either a voltage transformer or the right power supply. (And possibly a reverse polarity converter as well.)

    You can research and ask for many more details here: https://www.head-fi.org/threads/the-entry-level-stax-thread.676272
  5. cossix
    Alright I may look into that, thanks! As a side note, how do you feel about the build quality of the Stax earspeakers? They seem very plasticky and cheap, and not the HD800 type of plasticky. I like a complete package of sound, looks, and comfort. The sound could be amazing but if the headphone build quality is comparable to the original HD598 then I won't be happy spending over 700 dollars on it
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2017
  6. Monsterzero
    Try getting yourself to the next CanJam,or wait until theyre actually released into the wild and grab a pair of The ZMF Auteur... stunningly beautiful open back with Eikon driver.Members who have gotten their hands on it say its a clear step above The Eikon in most areas.

    You can play it safe and check out the Focal releases,Elear is close in sound to HD650 which is close to LCD-2,might be a sidegrade tho.Utopia is a glorious sounding HP,but big $.Havent heard the Clear yet.
  7. Music Alchemist
    As long as you treat them with respect and keep them on a headphone stand, they should be fine.

    STAX is focused on providing the best sound for the price rather than making other aspects fancy. I think even entry-level STAX destroys far more expensive non-electrostats in terms of fidelity.
  8. cossix
    Good call on the Auteur, it would satisfy my aesthetics and comfort requirements for sure. And if people say it's a step up from the Eikon then I'd love to find a way to get my ears on it, because the Eikon gets to about 85-90% of the LCD2 in terms of enjoyability IMO
  9. cossix
    I suppose I'd just have to try it and find out for myself! I'd probably hold onto the LCD2 just in case the Stax falls very short in the build quality department, then I'll just keep both
  10. zzz
    eh, I suggest not even looking at stax. lambdas are exactly as plasticky as they look and have a tuning that does mids well but craps all over everything else. yes, stax does detail well. they also do lots of things poorly. I've owned 404 and 007mk1 + various kg amps for years, and I find both lcd-4 and the utopia to be more consistently enjoyable and much less finicky than either of them.

    given your comfort preference, I suggest trying out the utopia. downsides are the price, underwhelming build, and the infinitely hateful stock cable, but other than that they are a damn fine headphone.
    cossix likes this.
  11. knopi
    From my view, seems you like planar sound. I would say HiFiMAN HE1000v1 from secondhand could be what you want I have seen them for $1200 sometimes, sound is nicely engaging as LCD2 but in much more spacious, lighter, well arranged way, very very comfy. Try them somwhere. But hard to say how it will sound from your system.
    I like Audeze too I had LCD2 in past but LCDX is noticeable better for me, it could be upgrade for you too, comfort the same of course.

    Stax I heard only from meets and visits L700, 007mk1, 009. Sound is great but be careful here, I think to get really good sound from Stax is much more expensive than from planars and I have the same opinion as member zzz planars is more universal.
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2017
    cossix likes this.
  12. ahmadfaizadnan
    I've heard the auteur pair with couple amps like Milo, WA33 and iCan pro last canjam. Amazing headphone. I love lcd2 (pre-fazor) as I owned it before but I love the auteur more :ksc75smile:
  13. Music Alchemist
    I didn't think his budget was that high. But STAX (at least many of the models) is about as neutral and transparent as it gets, plus tonal balance is the least important factor since you can make any headphone have whatever tonal balance you want with a parametric equalizer.

    I disagree. To my ears, even entry-level STAX systems (which can cost as low as a few hundred dollars on the used market) beat the crap out of planar magnetics, including the HE1000, LCD-X, and LCD-2, and including systems costing thousands. But this is just in the context of high fidelity. Not everyone wants such accurate sound. (Oh, and for high-end STAX, it's obviously going to cost a lot more to get the best sound out of them, but the entry-level models aren't like that.)
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2017
  14. zzz
    eq can do a lot, but it cannot fix bass rolloff (amp/dac will distort first) or the rattle that lower end lambdas develop. one cannot eq away position sensitivity of the omegas. tonal imbalance almost definitionally means all sorts of icky things about timing too, which messes with soundstaging, and good luck fixing that with eq.

    anyway, stax is exactly what some people are looking for, but it seems a poor fit for someone who appreciates "low reaching bass, ample amount of low frequency impact, present and smooth mids, and [...] an overall "engaging" sound." just saying.
  15. cossix
    I can see both sides of the Stax argument, I really think it's something I'd have to try out before committing to. I'd much rather blindly commit to a solidly-built headphone like the Auteur since people say it's essentially a better Eikon, which I already love almost as much as the LCD2

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