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Review of Audez’e LCD-2 by Donald Basel

 

Originally Published on May 24th, 2010. Ported over to the new blog.
They have a richness of tone that very few headphones or speakers reproduce, without sounding “lush”.  There is no hint of sibilance and will bring even the toughest logger to his knees
 
I felt extremely privileged to be included in the first group of people to hear the long awaited and much anticipated release of Audeze’s LCD2. Some history: I am not new to planar magnetic technology and have been an avid fan and disciple of planar magnetic headphones ever since I was lured into the murky waters by the vintage yamaha orthodynamic headphones. If not for the keen efforts of wualta on HeadFi, this dream would most likely not have been realized. I first heard about Audeze when a friend and fellow disciple of orthodynamic headphones discovered this small company in California, managed to make contact with them and establish that initial dialogue which brought to us the LCD1 and now the LCD2. I really liked the LCD1, it was my first glimpse at what modern planar drivers were capable of. The LCD1 was a top performer and finally offered a modern headphone that had better performance than the venerable Fostex T50vx. It did most things that one would want from a headphone but finally didn’t have the ability to reproduce the bass notes with the authority that they deserved. The LCD1 was always aimed at being a market entry headphone with limited production, as it used an off the shelf foster frame and cup the biggest weaknss for these drivers in the end as they were more than capable of superb performance. The LCD2 is finally here to continue the promise from this dedicated company. An aside on Audeze – they have been very open to guidance from the experience of the headphone community and have worked hard to address most people’s concerns/requests in their  development process. I would be remiss if I did not mention the HE5 from HeadDirect. This is another planar magnetic headphone which made a surprise appearance at CanJam 09 and has garnered much popularity amongst headphiles. I have had the opportunity to hear 2 versions of this headphone, the earliest suffered some congestion on the bass and a peakiness in the upper mids, the later version had cleaned up the bass with some damping but the peak remained and although it was still a very good headphone, it still needed some fine tuning. I have not yet heard the HE5LE but this was version is supposed to address the concerns noted in the HE5.
 
Back to the LCD2.
Music chain – RED BOOK CD – Yamaha DVD1700(SACD) – highly modified Sonic Frontiers Transdac – direct coupled tube hybrid amplifier with class A mosfet output.
My music preference is vocal/acoustic/jazz/rock/blues/classical
 
Build quality:
Initial impressions on opening the box were very positive. My review sample did not come in the wooden box but that did not detract from my initial impressions. The black grills against the wood immediately caught my eye , not sure if they had me in mind when they were designing these but they sure had my attention. Weighing in at 1/2kg, these headphones leave you with both visual appeal and a tactile sense of anticipation. The overall engineering is rock solid. Steel sprung headband with metal ratchet type arm adjustments allow for a very sturdy feel. No slipping and no movement once they are positioned where you want them. The foam headband has caused a little stir of disappointment in the community but make no mistake, they are very comfortable. They do not retain the impression of my sophisticated headphone stand ( a large hand clamp). The cups themselves are solid, lovely wood with a simple finish, as it turns out “Hand selected Caribbean Rosewood”. The addition of the mini xlr is a welcome addition and offers an elegant solution to custom cable connectors of many manufacturers. The steel  rill is attractive and finishes the overall look of these headphones. Someone described them as “steampunk”. The grill trills when you drag a nail over the surface but I cannot hear any resonance concerns with them. They also are able to screw off, allowing the more adventurous to modify and fine tune the sound to their liking. The Pads are substantial and offer great support and seal to create the sound scape that enables notes to be be free and create that ever important soundstage. I was a little concerned about how hard the leather was, but the lambskin do not sweat ( a huge negative of the stock O2 pads ) and they are more comfy than I had anticipated. You are most definitely aware that you are wearing a serious pair of headphones, none of this ” I forgot I was even wearing them” but after 3 hours, I still felt comfortable.
I was told that these drivers had only had an hour of play on them and thus I anticipated the need for a little burn in. I naturally could not wait indefinitely to hear them and I am not completely sold on the idea of prolonged burn in. To me if it takes 500 hours for a headphone to sound good to you, you have acclimated to the sound signature and learned how to appreciate it. But that is a can of worms for another debate. I had a few hours before I could sit down with them so I put on some white noise and let them warble.
 
The first night I just sat back and listened to them, I can normally pick up on idiosyncrasies pretty quickly with casual listening. Nothing jumped out at me and I thoroughly enjoyed the following 3 hours, would I be a prat to say they had PRaT  .
 
The next round comprised listening to some white noise, pink noise and frequency sweeps ( stereophile editors choice test CD ) – subjectively there are no peaks, no inconsistencies, white noise is   homogenous , it extends both high and low.
 
Sound impressions:
An emphasis on impressions – subjective attributes based on personal preferences.
 
Treble:
I like my headphones to present a detailed top end with air and delicacy. This is evident in most all recordings. Live recordings sound just that, live. The acoustic space and pinpoint timing of a Jazz band is reflected in the percussion, ensuring a particularly intimate experience. Is it the most detailed ortho I have heard, no, some of my orthos are damped to  enhance the top end and moving from such an orthodynamic headphone to the LCD2, the initial reduction in top end energy is  noticeable but that feeling is soon replaced by a sense of overall balance and enjoyment. I am sure there will be some who
 
would like a more pronounced top end, this is after all a selfish hobby which promotes personal preferences but for me, these headphones offer a perfectly balanced sound.
 
Mids:
The mids are what particularly stand out for me. They have a rich tonal balance with no loss or emphasis, sound “organic” yet are not boring. They have a richness of tone that very few headphones or speakers reproduce, without sounding “lush”.  There is no hint of sibilance and will bring even the toughest logger to his knees if he hears xxx (insert favorite female vocalist here) Not many  headphones reproduce the lower mids well as many headphones have a low mid upper bass bump – this directly impacts on the baritone and can often paint a muddled picture in this department. I listened to an assortment of recordings which focus on the voice within an acoustic space, I wish I could share this experience with you. Just breathtaking and absolutely natural.
 
Bass:
The downfall of so many great orthos – do you leave them slightly under damped so that the bass throbs with a little less control than would be ideal or do you tighten it up so that the bass is several dB down but very tight and accurate. The LCD2 has no problem here – it just keeps going down. The acoustic bass of YoYoMa’s cello on the Appalachian Waltz reverberates with multilayered bass that it transfixed me for the moment. I initially thought I heard some low bass warble but it turned out after much listening and reflection that I was hearing bass notes in the music which had never featured in my experience
 
of the music before. This was only on one particular electronica piece of music which I don’t listen to frequently but does extend the bass notes pretty low. Bach’s Toccata’s and Fugues sound vivid, Ulanji’s bass drum virtuoso is thunderous and never did I feel the bass was congested or lacked definition. The bass is tight, punchy, fast and layered with all the texture of the mids. Does it sound as deep as the venerable TP , no, the TP’s feel like they have greater impact but they are also closed and lose some of that depth and layering as a consequence.
 
Overall:
I have been modifying vintage orthodynamic headphones for some time and have a good feel for what I am trying to achieve when I start out with any given model. The LCD2 accomplishes many of these objectives and manages to retain an open soundstage  without compromising the depth of bass extension or delicacy of treble articulation and the mids are just “to die for”. I knew that my time was coming to an end with this pair of headphones and my final wow came when I listened to a piece of Scottish Folk music recorded by Linnrecords , William Jacksons CorryVrechan. It is a very dramatic piece of music with wide  dynamic swings, drums, bass, bagpipes, pennywhistle, just a lovely shamble of music. It was the perfect note to finish my experience as it left me feeling invigorated and so completely convinced that these headphones were a must have for my collection. I for one am convinced that this is the advance in magnetic planar technology that I had hoped it would be.

 

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Audeze LCD2 Introduction

Santa Monica CA, 05-02-2010

Audeze is proud to introduce our LCD2 heapdhones designed for audiophiles, recording/mixing engineers (as reference headphones) and music enthusiasts alike.
 
The LCD2s are in production and will start shipping to customers on May 10th, 2010. We are in the process of contacting people who have emailed / pre-ordered the product.
 
The LCD2 housing is designed and custom built from hand selected Caribbean Rosewood. The wood was chosen not only for its aesthetics, but also to enhance the quality of the sound where the wood offers a unique coloration and graining. The LCD2 ear pads are designed to optimally recreate the entire pro audio frequency range. The sloped ear pad design allows us to faithfully reproduce the detail and clarity for bass, midrange and treble. The ear pads are made of premium lambskin leather with specially selected foam to offer the right amount of firmness.
 
Technical Specs:
  • Impedance: 50 Ohms, nominal
  • Sensitivity: 91 dB/1mW
  • Maximum power handling: 15W
  • Frequency Response: 5 Hz – 20 KHz, usable high frequency extension 50 KHz.
  • Distortion: Less than 1% even at full output.
  • Impedance: 50 Ohms, nominal
  • Efficiency: 91 dB/1mW
  • Maximum power handling: 15W
  • Maximum output: 133dB, 15W
  • Active diaphragm area: 6.17 square inches.
  • Contact pressure: 1.5 N, adjustable, comfortable headband.
  • Weight: 550 g, without cable.
  • Maximum diaphragm excursion: 2.5mm p-p
  • Maximum output: 133dB, 15W
  • 1 year warranty.
  • Custom wooden box for storage.
  • Wood care kit.
MSRP: $945.00
 
Original LCD1 owners, please contact us for upgrade information.

 

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Audeze LCD2 Waterfall Plots

Reposted from January 2010.

Audeze has been able to create an incredibly low frequency extension on our LCD2 relative to other headphones. The following measurements were performed using the Neumann KU 100 Dummy head. Below are the waterfall plots, low frequency extension and the driver impedance.
 
1. Waterfall Plot of the LCD2.
 
2. Impedance driver of the LCD2 driver.
 
 
3. Low-frequency response of LCD2 compared with other headphones.

 

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First Headphones Shipped

 

<Reposted from Aug 5th 2009>
 
YAY! First Headphones were shipped today. If you have put your name in our list, you should be getting an email this weekend with more information.

 

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CanJam09 Impressions

 

<Reposted>
 
I must say it was a pleasure meeting everyone at CanJam 09.  When we saw the post from John about CanJam 09, we were debating if we were at a position, where we could show it. John was very helpful, allowing us to book half a table. We were very pleased with the response we got from our listeners and we also made some new friends.
 
We came on saturday morning realized we forgot to bring a power extender. Our neighbour IpodPJ graciously loaned us a power strip.  One headphone wasat our table and the other one was floating around. Sachu loaned us his CTH amplifier.
 
We are very happy for all the kind words and encouragement. The response gives us the impetus to put in more effort into improving our headphone, working out the kinks and getting it out of the door. Overall it was a wonderful weekend.
Originally Posted in 2009, Reposted and ported tot he new blog.

 

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LCD-1 Shipping

 

Audez'e LCD-1
We have started assembling some of the headphones.
The impedence of the Headphones will be 40 ohms.
The Diaphragms are slightly thinner (and lighter) than the prototypes.
We will be contacting everyone in our list shortly about delivery dates and other details. Delivery of Headphones will start on August 3rd.
Originally Posted in 2009. Ported to the new blog

 

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