The Audeze LCD-X, Fazor, and a Fresh Listen to the Current LCD-2 and LCD-3 Page 2

Audeze_LCDX_Photo_LDC2X3 Audeze Headphone Changes Over Time
I decided to dig into the many headphone measurement spreadsheets I've acquired over the last three years since starting InnerFidelity and compare the numerous models tested. A couple of things to note: Some of the traces for early models of the LCD-3 are an average of three or four headphones; the FR traces of these models will be somewhat less noisy in the treble due to the averaging of multiple cans response. Also, please remember that headphone measurements are notoriously difficult, and while I try to be very careful the data is not 100% reliable. So please, don't try to read too much into these data, especially above 5kHz where many factors come into play.

Audeze_LCDX_Plot_CompareLCD2

In the compensated frequency response plots above we see the evolution of the LCD-2. Probably the most important area of change is between 400Hz and 3kHz. This is an area critical to the proper reproduction of the human voice and its overtones. I really wish we had proper target curves to help guide our view here, but my understanding leads me to think that we don't want to see a precipitous drop after 1kHz, but rather more flat to 2kHz then gently sloping down thereafter to 10 or 15dB down at 20kHz...of course in the real world things get pretty wonky above 5kHz and you'll never see a flat line up there. Anyway, it's pretty obvious that the LCD-2 has been on a trend to make the transition after 1kHz more gentle and to lift the 1-3kHz area. Above 10kHz one can't read too much into things, but it does seem the later headphones have somewhat more energy than the older models.

To my ears in listening over the years (I don't have many of the earlier LCD-2s at hand) the LCD-2 does seem to have moved away from their earlier warm glow, and are now markedly more neutral to my ears. The sound of the old LCD-2s certainly played toward my personal dalliance with "creamy" sounding cans, but I do recognize it as a flaw in my aural personality, and genuinely prefer a more neutral and articulate headphone for serious listening. I think the current LCD-2 does a much better job in this area than previous versions. More on the LCD-2 when we start comparing cans in the Audeze family.

Audeze_LCDX_Plot_CompareLCD3

The LCD-3 has not changed quite as much over time...it's not been around as long, of course. Here we see the early LCD-3 with a plot similar to the LCD-2 Rev. 2 of its time. Subsequent LCD-3s have moved to a similar curve as the Latest LCD-2 in the above plot.

One thing that's a bit concerning to me is the latest can's tendency to drop off in the bass. The latest LCD-3, and to a lesser extent the latest LCD-2, show a modest loss of some bass extension. Some of these differences may be pad materials, but I did hear the LCD-X and LCD-2F hitting a just a little harder on the low thumps.

Audeze_LCDX_Plot_CompareFazors

Above is a compensated frequency response plot for all three current models with Fazors. Of note are the differences in low bass—and I 'm a little skeptical of the measurements accuracy here; pad material differences between the three models interacting with the artificial materials of my measurement head may be at play. My guess is they perform more similarly on real heads with acoustic leaks due to hair and such. None the less, the LCD-X did seem the punchiest of the bunch in the lows.

Another area of note is the differences between 800Hz and 2kHz. I do hear the LCD-2 as being a bit harder and grittier, and the LCD-X as being a bit smoother in this presence region that tends to emphasize consonant sounds.

Lastly, in the treble region above 3kHz, the LCD-2 has a distinct dip at 5kHz and a peak at 10Khz while the LCD-3 and LCD-X have a lot more up-and-down motion. These rapid peaks and valleys seem to me more likely to originate in various resonances in the ear-cup and my guess is that the actual energy emitted from the headphones is quite a bit flatter. My point is that while these two seem more hurky-jerky in this area, they may actually be flatter than the larger excursions of the LCD-2. Lotta guessing going on here, though.

In listening I heard the LCD-3 as the smoothest; the LCD-2 as slightly grainy; and the LCD-X as...well, more neutral sounding...having less "character" than the other two.

Driver Differences
I spent some time talking on the phone with Alex Rossen, CEO of Audeze, about the differences in drivers in the three models. Most of it, as you might guess, is proprietary information, but there are a couple of tid-bits I can share:

  • Diaphragm materials are slightly different in all models but the LCD-X and LCD-XC which use the same material.
  • The magnetic structure is similar on the LCD-3, LCD-X, and LCD-XC; the LCD-2 is substantially different.
  • Damping varies in each model.
  • The circuit design (the pattern of traces on the diaphragm) are all different. It's obvious from my conversation that this is a particularly interesting area of ongoing developement.

Listening Tests
Audeze_LCDX_Photo_ListeningTests

Sometimes my job is just awesome! To the far left is the Apex Hi-Fi Audio Teton single-ended, OTL headphone amp/pre-amp ($5000). To the right is my trusty stack of AURALiC gear, the TAURUS Mk2 headphone amp and VEAGA DAC. In the middle, headphones left to right, top row: Sennheiser HD 650; Sennheiser HD 800; HiFiMAN HE-500; HiFiMAN HE-560; Oppo PM-1. Bottom row, left to right, all Audeze headphones: LCD-3F; LCD-3; LCD-2; LCD-2F; and LCD-X. About $22,000 worth of headphone geek toys!

The bulk of my listening was done comparing the current Fazor models agains each other, and compared with LCD-2 and LCD-3 models just prior to the Fazor change. I've mentioned some tid-bits regarding the sound quality above, but I'll reiterate here in more detail.

First, all three headphones in their current form are quite similar tonally. Gone are the days of uber-buttery sound for Audeze, I find the current models be pretty well balanced with the mid-treble range and up being stronger and in better proportion than previous Audeze incarnations. I hear the LCD-2 now as being a little grainier and less refined in the treble than the other two, but significantly improved over previous iterations. The LCD-3 sounds nicely refined and clear with a bit of liquid goodness thrown in. The LCD-X seems to just want to do its job and get out of the way.

Talking now about the balance of sound in the Audeze family in general, I find I begin to have to refer to the sound of the NAD VISO HP50, Focal Spirit Professional, and, to a little lesser extent, the Shure SRH1540, all of which have sound signatures more along the lines of the Harman target response curve. If you look at the NAD VISO HP50 compensated frequency response measurements, one thing you'll see is that while the curve is going downward, it doesn't drop nearly as steeply as the Audeze family between 2kHz and 5kHz. When listening to Harry Belafonte's "Belafonte at Carnegie Hall", for example, I hear the Audeze cans as not reproducing the fine details of the throat and mouth sounds as well in proportion as the HP50. What I mean by that is I could hear the moisture of the vocal chords slapping around, lip-smacking, and the rush of breath—sounds that lie in this low treble area—more clearly and in proper proportion with the HP50. In comparison, the Audeze cans sound a little withdrawn and more distant, not quite as intimate. On the other hand, and to put things in perspective, the bass was tighter and less bloomy, the sense of space and openness was greater, and there was a greater sense of ease and refinement with the LCD-3, and to a little lesser extent, the LCD-X.

Another thing that's rather odd, given the fact that three or four years ago Audeze headphones were so well known for their unbelievable bass extension and potency, is that now compared with some of these warmer cans the Audezes sound a bit bass shy to me. Don't get me wrong, Audeze headphones continue to have killer bass control and depth, it's just that after hearing the other cans I begin to feel like I'd want a couple more dB of response below 120Hz when listening to the Audeze headphones.

As you can see from the photo above, I also compared the Audeze cans with the Oppo PM-1 and HiFiMAN HE-560. I've had the Oppo PM-1 for about a month now and like it very much...largely because it plays very strongly toward my personal penchant for a "creamy" sound. The PM-1 will get a review soon, there's a lot to like for many, but I don't think they're quite the reference quality home headphone that the LCD-3 and LCD-X are. The HiFiMAN HE-560 arrived here only yesterday, but it turns out an early change is in the works and I'll be receiving another pair, so at the moment, unfortunately, no comment...except to say that it does appear this sub-$1000 planar magnetic headphone will be competitive in its category.

Putting the Headphones in Context
All three of these headphones are big, heavy, open designs suited for studio, home, or private office listening almost exclusively. These are not headphones for portable use.

Audeze LCD-X - With significantly improved efficiency that allows it to be easily driven from most headphone jacks, the LCD-X becomes a more versatile headphone than its predecessors. Improvements in time domain accuracy with the Fazor has improved imaging and high-frequency resolution, narrowing the gap with the current king of articulation: the HD 800. But its warmer, smoother tone is much more natural then the HD800 making it easier listening, and less finicky with up-stream gear. For pros, the LCD-X will be better for listening to the mix overall and applications when the music is the important bit; the HD 800 will perform better in applications where being able to hear the minutest detail is important. For enthusiasts, the LCD-X will likely be preferred by younger folks who will likely have less expensive upstream gear and listen to more contemporary music where bass slam and punchy dynamics are highly regarded.

Audeze LCD-3 w/Fazor - Along with the addition of the Fazor, one recent change to the LCD-3 circuit (diaphragm trace pattern) has raised the headphone's impedance from about 50 Ohms to 110 Ohms. This, to me, is a delightful change as the higher impedance will make the LCD-3 a more appropriate match for tube amplifiers with relatively high output impedances. I spent my first day of listening and tube rolling with the Pete Millett designed Apex Hi-Fi Audio Teton yesterday. The LCD-3 was a lovely match with its Fazor-improved resolution allowing me to clearly hear the changes as I swapped tubes. This classy headphone continues to earn its position in the pantheon of high-end reference cans.

Audeze LCD-2 w/Fazor - Competition in the $1000 planar-magnetic headphone category is hot and getting hotter. A number of small companies like Mr. Speakers have been ramping up in this welter-weight category and showing promising results. HiFiMAN with its HE-560 and Oppo with its upcoming PM-2 will be competing here at prices lower than the LCD-2. I continue to find the LCD-2 a strong contender sonically, but its size, weight, comfort, and styling are going to leave the door open for competitive assault.

Summary
Matured headphone enthusiasts of today are quick to gripe about the failings of reference level headphones...mea culpa. This is big bucks we're talking about however, a critical eye is deserved. Having begun to hear headphones tuned to current thoughts on target response curves, I'm beginning to think all reference headphones need to start having a hard look at the work by Sean Olive at Harman. (See articles here and here.) I think the Audeze headphones need a couple dB more umph below 120Hz, and the area between 2kHz and 5kHz to fill in some. But that's it...and and there aren't many $1000+ headphone that are closer.

When I listen to the new LCD-3 with its tube-amp friendly 110 Ohm impedance on the Apex Teton I get goosebumps—and rolling tubes is a hoot! It's possible that $20,000 in a Stax SR-009 and HeadAmp Blue Hawaii might get me to part with five times the money. It's possible that an ECP L-2 amp (unobtanium), heavily modified HD 800 (not really allowed with my reviewer hat on), and a good EQ (again, not allowed in reviewing) would win me over. But if we're talking about reference gear in stock form, I think the LCD-3 is a "must audition" for the serious(ly afflicted) enthusiast. This baby's remaining on the "Wall of Fame".

The LCD-X is no slouch either. While it lacks the LCD-3's last little bit of refinement, it punches a bit harder, sounds slightly more neutral, and its significantly higher efficiency pairs better with the broad range of gear an audio pro or younger, more equipment flirtatious audiophile might encounter. Add to that the all-metal construction and bullet proof carry case, and you've got a moveable feast of great listening for your audio adventures. It's a tough decision with the LCD-3 already up on the "Wall of Fame", but the differences in impedance and modes of use makes me feel that they'll have to remain a reference can for me. Up on the wall they go!

The LCD-2, now with better imaging due to the Fazor, remains a solid gateway to reference level listening. Paired with a nice low output impedance solid-state amp these cans deliver great dynamics, and the solid across the board performance needed for a superior listening experience. There's lots of competition appearing in this area the bares watching, but I continue to think the LCD-2 should be on your audition list for $1000 headphones. It will remain on the "Wall of Fame".

Video

Resources
Audeze home page and pages for LCD-X, LCD-3, and LCD-2. Head-Fi threads are all over the place,but you can start with these: LCD-X, LCD-3, and LCD-2.

COMPANY INFO
Audeze
10725 Ellis Ave, Unit E
Fountain Valley, CA 92708
info@audeze.com
(657) 464 7029
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
Jazz Casual's picture

I've auditioned the Audeze LCD 2 and LCD 3. I found that both suffered from treble roll-off. The leading edge of notes were blunted, the overall presentation sounded closed-in and lacked air. Music sounded very smooth but lacked energy and bite where you would expect to experience it. The midrange and bass were their strengths, which seems typical of planar magnetics. But the deal breaker was the form factor. They were heavy and with the very thick earpads, I felt like I was wearing a motorcycle helmet. It was a claustrophobic listening experience. I've not felt inclined to try Audeze since. I look forward to your review of the Oppo PM-1 though.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
I think their onward march has brought some more mid and upper treble into the picture.
Jazz Casual's picture

No I haven't and that's due in part to the design and weight of the headphone, which Audeze hasn't redressed. Having said that, the changes in sound signature that you've described are welcome. I might give them another listen some time, but I honestly can't envisage owning a pair unless Audeze introduce a lighter, slimmer version.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
...is future musings. No doubt in a direction that many are cogitating. The Oppo ergos are sweet, and the HE 560 is light. Things is happening.

But I do recommend another listen to the new cans...just for fun, eh?

Jazz Casual's picture

Sure - happy to give them another audition some time.

thelostMIDrange's picture

instruments and not an issue for electronic or highly processed compressed music which is ubiquitous after 1985. It's likely an inherent issue with the planar technology as compared to a dynamic. When anyone reviews audio gear, a reviewer would be wise to have taken stock of his basic assumptions about sound and rank his priorities and list them at the head of each review. For me, accurate instrumentation in terms of timbre and attack is THE most important aspect of music while bass and treb extension, spacial qualities, etc rank lower. I don't see how any musician of traditional instruments can hear the Planar as being accurate in terms of presence when compared to a good dynamic. You can't wring blood from a stone so it may as well just be accepted and acknowledged along with all the excellent properties the LCD does have regardless of make model or iteration.

thelostMIDrange's picture

imagine that. Something being too good. It goes against the grain to suggest such a thing, along with the other assumption- that gear always progresses and gets better with each release. Just look at windows 8 for a recent example of this fact.....My point is that presence is possibly a kind of distortion. In music gear, it is minimal and needs to be just the right kind in the right place (usually only upper mids- as distortion elsewhere does seem to take away and not add to natural accurate sound). What does a percussion symbal, guitar string or horn do when it's struck loudly or played with vigor, it distorts, either the wave or your eardrum or both, but it's not some pure scientifically isolated signal. The over resolution of the LCD (and other good planars) might be both it's finest attribute and achilles heel. Something to consider at least imo. The 2 basic assumptions - evolution(progress)as always being in the right direction, and the assumption of a total ban on distortion should be looked at. It relates to this review in as much as it's ok to suggest the LCD is not perfect for every type of music or demanding listener. It depends on his priorities and bass and treble qualities seem to figure much more into reviews here and elsewhere than the accuracy of sonny rollins selmer or jimmy pages' Martin acoustic. I scarcely hear such things mentioned in any past review here now that I think of it. So, it's safe to assume it's not tyll's no 1 priority/

thelostMIDrange's picture

certain we haven't mis-calibrated our measuring tools a little, and what we measure as low level distortion is acutally something like a negative distotion, a concept we aren't even aware exists and so it hasnt't been named, like before we knew 'dark matter' or curved space existed. Or maybe there's a nano sized elf inside every song that acts as a gatekeeper and if it senses this negative distortion (what we measure as near distortionless) it puts a mild voodoo spell on the sound because it senses the designer was only searching rationally when he made the amp/dac/etc and in it's infinite wisdom, as nano elf's may have, it forgoes the spell on gear with just the right minimal level type and placed distortion, leaving it more musically pleasing. Sure it sounds crazy but so does everything about exisence we have learned and take for granted. The point is, for some reason, when gear gets past a certain point of perfection, it starts to shoot itself in the proverbial foot and this fact, even though it appears to contradict our seemingly strict flawless logic, may be real and for who knows what reason and explanation. I use this to illustrate in a different way the possibility that there may exist such a thing as, too much of a good thing' and that maybe it's possible to have too much resolution.

thelostMIDrange's picture

read and followed this thought line so far, and done in the spririt of frank Zappa, "without deviation from the norm (real) progress is impossible". (The deviation being the holding up in our mind of the possibility that there is such a thing as too much of a good thing).......it's not that I'm suggesting the LCD is 'too perfect', but that inherent to the planar mag technology exists a quality which tends to result in an aspect of the music being a bit too perfect (and then a lack of upper end presence). The way of audio judo would suggest an acnknowledgement of it, and a limit of it's impact, while trying to make up for it elsewhere with adjusting some other quality of sound or earphone design. The triangle shaped wave defractor is an example in another area of the headphone. A designer could imagine where else in the headphone, or which other abvailable variable, could be tweeked to give the feeling of more presence. The result will likely not be as good as that which can be achieved in a dynamic however because the opposite phenomenon is going on over there. namely that a dynamic tends to give this natural presence (or musical distortion) by it's nature and the task in that sense is to tame and guide it. Which Sennheiser 800 went to far with, as engineers can do sometimes. German ones more easily than italian.

Another issue that seems to be inherent to the planar is a kind of overlinearity of the bass instruments, which brings us back to the accuracy of a headpone in terms of its ability to render traditional instruments correctly in terms of timbre, dynamics and a general, yeah that sounds right kind of thing. A dynamic driver tends to round out the tone of a bass guitar or kick drum for two examples, more honestly than the planar. Speaking as someone who plays bass guitar in the real world and is not a closet basshead. There's more to quality of bass than measurements of course and accuracy should be 'measured' the same there as elsewhere in the sound, measured by its ability to most closely approximate real world sound in a live real room such as your den or the local pub.

zobel's picture

I wonder if I could hear these cans there in Bozeman at the Headroom store downtown? It would be a good outing, and the possible beginnings of actual ownership somewhere down the line.
When the Sennheiser HD 600 came out, I talked my wife into a trip to Peach Street to see you and Todd, and those cans. I brought along my Sony MDR V600 and it was easy for you to show me, (and my wife) just how much better the Senns were. I loved them. I told my wife I thought they were just a bit too costly, and we left your shop with a complimentary coffee mug, and a warm handshake. When we got home my wife called you and ordered the Senns. After replacement pads and many many hours of great music I still love them.
I don't know if another trip to Bozeman will be as fruitful, but I'm going to have to check out those Audeze cans, and my wife likes road trips, so IRIE!

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Lemme know if you come up and we'll try to get together for lunch or something. If they don't have the cans downtown (pretty sure they do) I have some you can play with.
tony's picture

Hello Tyll ,
Again , another insightful analysis , Thank You .

These headphones are not expensive , people keep on that pricy idea but it's kinda wrong in concept .

I submit that a lowly Sennheiser HD 580 ( used ) combined with an Asgard is a fine music system , a comparable High-End System would fetch staggering prices and probably be nearly impossible to sell-off when upgrading .
Starting off at the HD 580 level and moving up , a person can purchase with the comfort of knowing that these things will sell on ebay for 80% of new purchase prices , no problem at all , $2K for a headphone is hardly a stumbling block considering it as a rental in the que of transducers on the horizon , ( more lovely things coming every next year , can't wait , it's an exciting hobby ) . Of course we need our Tyll to continue pointing out fresh considerations , don't we . My thank-you to all the Manufacturers for sending you all this stuff for us to read about and contemplate as we trudge thru the drudgery of our everyday lives .
As a past participant of the High End Audio Industry I must say that these Headphones and their matching little Amps are superior transducers to any offerings of the Big Boys that manufacture the stuff that sits in living rooms for impressing guests .
Thank you and your peers for enlightening all of us , we are transitioning into an accessible world of great music reproduction , finally and at affordable price points .

audioops's picture

If you've reached the point where you think $2000 doesn't constitute an expensive headphone, then you've become so enmeshed in the hobby that you've lost grips with ordinary reality. You might find that spending $2000 on a pair oh headphones justified because of your unusual level of interest in headphone performance, but if you're actually suggesting that regular people are mistaken for thinking a $2000 pair of headphones is expensive then you're delusional.

tony's picture

I feel a person can achieve a Superb music Headphone system for $700 : an Odac , Bottlehead & HD580's ! This system will reproduce the vast world of 16/44 CDs into wonderful sounding music , no doubt about that , in fact there might be little or no reason to advance any further , unless a person hopes for a bit more of a magical experience , in which case he could pursue one of these special headphones , which he could purchase with the knowledge that he could recover his investment from a resell on ebay . The part you may be correct about is Delusion : here we , or should I say I , am contemplating the concept of being in Superb but hoping to glide into the Dopamine Cloud of these $2,000 devices .
I may be delusional to think that regular people could consider this level of investment but that dilution comes from actively working in High-End where most of the products in that group are well over $2,000 MSRP and mostly have horrible re-sale value . In reference to your entire letter , I suspect my Wife would agree with you entirely , so there probably is accuracy to what you say .
Bon Vivant
Tony

Fenderf4i's picture

My LCD-2's were made on December 17. Audeze told me that they started putting fazor's in them on December 18th. What a bummer!

Claritas's picture

I wonder how LCDX would measure (and sound) without the Fazor.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
:)

Just joking.

My guess is that you'd start to see a second bump on the 300Hz square wave, and you'd hear it as a little poorer imaging and fine detail resolution.

gavtron's picture

Hi,

Thanks for the review. Audeze have offered to upgrade my LCD-3 with the new fazor wave guide, but keeping the old drivers (50ohm). Do you think that this will result in less bass, as you have posted, or is the drop in bass due to the 110 ohm impedance in the updated drivers?

Thanks,

gav.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
....no idea.
gavtron's picture

no worries - I have read on HF that the 50 ohm upgraded version does in fact reduce bass a bit as your measurements show, so I guess it's to do with the fazor tech.
http://www.head-fi.org/t/588429/audeze-lcd-3-appreciation-thread/2625#po...

theinvertedsky's picture

Just wondering when you are going to be reviewing the v moda xs?

Thanks

Tyll Hertsens's picture
...but their in the house and on the block for review soon. Got the Oppo PM-1 and BottleHeadphones in the loop as well. Within the next month or so for sure.
NickS's picture

I completely agree with you that it is a good thing that Audeze does running upgrades to their line. However, Audeze needs to do more to protect consumers.

The fact that they don't clearly label the products with a revision number is a big problem for consumers. For example, Benchmark does revisions and they label the product with a letter code to indicate a change has been made. Without this, it make it very difficult for a consumer to know what they are buying or even what they already own. It also makes selling used Audeze headphones more difficult. I don't see any benefit to Audeze from this secrecy. In fact, I think they probably lose out on a lot of upgrade sales.

Audeze should consider a trade-in/trade-up program. It would go a long way to helping buyers who feel disappointed by an upgrade being introduced after they made their purchase. It would also be consumer friendly for them to announce revisions a month or two before putting them in production, so buyers are aware.

I think that Inner Fidelity should include a box score in each review that covers all of the above, warranty info, return policy, customer service, online presence, etc.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
I wouldn't characterize it as "secrecy" necessarily, probably more like growing pains.

On your last point, I think putting a believable objective score on those kinds of things is awfully difficult and time consuming. It's hard enough just to grade the headphones.

NickS's picture

I'd love to see a future review that compares the LCD-X vs the LCD-XC. Some reviewers have said that the XC is the best in the line. If it is true that their closed headphone is as good or better than their open headphones, it is quite ground breaking.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Reviewers say a lot of things.
NickS's picture

Thats why I'd like your opinion. :-)

Tyll Hertsens's picture
I'm going to decline comment except to say I don't think it's the the best in their line.
o153n's picture

I'm the reverse of Fenderf4i, I attended some meets and listened to LCD-2 rev. 2, saved my coins the was looking forward to the incredible bass extension that the LCD offers. My pair has Fazer, and as your review points out, better imaging, less bass. Not what I thought I was buying. I canned my Audio-gd amp for a Lyr trying to get some impact, and now I'm down to tube rolling trying to find some freaking bass response. My previous (and still current) rig is HD-600's with Bottlehead Crack. For the most part at the moment (sans some Lyr tube rolling...) the 600 is the winner. Better treble, and dare I say it, better bass impact. I don't hear any better imaging in the LCD. My question to Audeze would be, can you remove the fazer and give me back the LCD-2 rev 2?

Tyll, thanks for the great reviews. Once again, this review matches exactly what I hear with my own setup.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Could be other things as well. You'd just have to try it. Or just EQ...the Audeze cans respond well when tweaked that way.
MattTCG's picture

I had the exact same experience. I auditioned the lcd2r2 and was in love with the darker, warmer signature and that other worldly bass extension. Then unknowingly ordered the newer fazer version just when it had been silently added. I heard a very different hp than the one that I auditioned.

My hd650 with the speedball and quickie pre-amp (the quickie is key) offered better sub bass than the lcd2r2 F IMO.

Eli's picture

Hey Tyll,

I read you talking about using a (good) equalizer in conjunction with the HD 800 a few times. Are you having a hardware or software solution in mind? Or do you mean parametric when you say ,good'? Would you mind sharing some favorites? I am currently exploring the use of eq quite a bit and really like the Denon Audio and the Audioforge Equalizer apps for iphone when it comes to portable use.
Thanks for the review! Do you think an eq could maybe also be of help for reestablishing the bass of the older LCD-3 (without fazor) for people who miss it, so one could have the best of both: fazor and bass? Of course I understand your reviewers hat, but maybe in the comment section you could take it off just for a little :)

Tyll Hertsens's picture
To tell you the truth, I just don't use EQ very much and would be poking in the dark to make a really good recco. There's good threads over on Head-Fi. I'd use a parametric EQ on a computer as it's pretty much my sole non-portable source.
bernardperu's picture

Hi Tyll, just got the oppo pm-1, finished with break-in and i am bit dissapointed. The bass is overwhelming and these headphones seem geared towards movie watchers and non-audiophiles.

An audiophile with a good sounding music collection should look for a set of headphones that targets audiophiles, not the Oppos.

My he-500s which are half the price seem a lot more musical and sound like my maggies.

I have used the hifi-m8 and auralic taurus for my listening.

Would you agree with my assessment?

Tyll Hertsens's picture
....keep your eye out.

I don't think they have too much bass but rather not enough up top. They have a sound I rather like, but no, they're not flat.

bernardperu's picture

Thanks, Tyll. Aren't are the great recordings of the 60s 70s and 80s all about the top end? By the way, i am a young audiophile who apprecites good recordings.

If the pm-1s lack top end and, soundstage imo, then, they are bound not to be audiophile cans.

I sort of semi fixed the issue by turning up the treble on my hifi-m8. Never did that before.

Look forward to your reviw!

eggil's picture

Tyll, like always, this was very informative and enjoyable reading.
Thank You man!

Tyll Hertsens's picture
You're welcome, mate.
Stefraki's picture

It would be interesting to show the 'traditional' and Olive curve for new headphone reviews. Any plans for this?

Tyll Hertsens's picture
...but it's likely quite far away. The ideal thing would be to bring my head down to Harman and put it in a killer listening room and then gather a calibration curve with real sound. That's a bit of a pipe dream though. Maybe I could talk to the Folks at Head Acoustics (who make my head) and they could work out the right compensation curve.

Eventually I'll have a tool like HeadRooms that will do on-line graphing, at that point compensating curves could be built for the tool and make it easy. But again, that's a way down the road...it's something that we're commited to do when we are able though.

Stefraki's picture

... thanks for the response!

TMRaven's picture

Too bad there won't be a review on the LCD-XC. I tried it out for a week and found it quite a bit better than the LCD2 I tried earlier. Its one glaring flaw to me was that the wood cup on the back isn't burly enough to contain the entire backwave of the large LCD driver, so it does leak quite a bit for a closed can. Its isolation is decent, though. I found it rather neutral upon listen, then I went to IF's measurements and saw that it followed the Harman curve very faithfully.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
...just that it's not immanent right now.
Armaegis's picture

Interesting note about those second blips on the 300Hz square waves... so this is essentially a wave diffraction grating. It'd be interesting to see correlations (if any) vs the grid spacing and distance to ear. It (should really) just break down to geometry, as the wavefront leaving a grid gradually smooths the further away it moves, and the fazors effectively increase that distance (or rather it reduces the diffraction angle exiting the grid).

superjawes's picture

I couldn't look at that picture without remembering the double-slit experiment (the one that proved that light is a wave...or at least behaves like one).

But I do imagine that there will be some more experimentation with such waveguides. It seems like a pretty easy (and inexpensive) way to alter the sound profile of the headphones. That really opens the doors to more innovation and competition :D

Stefraki's picture

But I actually thought of an idea similar to the "Fazor" a few years ago when I was modding vintage orthos. I wondered whether using triangular bar magnets (if such a thing even existed) with the flat side to the diaphragm and the pointed side facing out might improve sound by acting as a wave guide. Nice to see something similar does actually work in practice...

bronson's picture

Well, I'm sure glad to see the LCD-X's hit the wall of fame but you had me worried for a second after watching the YT viddy, when you left the cliffhanger to check here to see if they made it or not.

I also appreciated the guest appearance of black kitty cat, though this does further add to speculation of Steve Guttenberg co writing your reviews as he is known to travel with his faithful black kitty who rumour has it also acts as a third party analytical listener when you two guys can't agree on an octave or two.

All in all, I love the LCD-X and enjoyed watching and reading your review on this considerable can - amen to that, and keep up the good work, your services to headcannery is top sonics for the win :)

tony's picture

Interesting observation ; the PM 1 being specifically designed for 24/96 reproduction of Blue Ray . Connecting the dots here we might consider this product being the first to be designed to be capable of 144 db dynamic range . No technical description of Audio products ( other than Active Monitors ) relates the dynamic capability . This may become an important parameter for our trusted review staff to include . It is probably safe to consider that the Movie Industry uses much less compression than the Music Industry , hence a Headphone designed for Movies would need considerable dynamic range capability .

Nice going Mr. BernardPeru , you definitely brought something important to the table .

Heretix_Aevum's picture

I'm excited to see that the new hifiman headphones are significantly lighter than the Audeze offerings. I think the Audeze's are actually kinda handsome (albeit large) but I think the weight would be something I'd dislike, especially on their new models! I look forward to your HE-560 review. A light, comfortable, excellent sounding and competitively priced planar could be what it takes for me to graduate from dynamics for my desktop listening.

AGB's picture

There are lighter headphones, but one can get used to the heavier cans. Heavy is in the head of the beholder. The sound of the X is just so beguiling, open, big, luscious and on occasion (more than less) fantastic. Tyll didn't mention one quality. You can listen to these for hours without exhaustion. Clear is not the same thing as transparent. The best dynamics are clear. They are NOT as transparent.

I enjoyed Tyll using the word "uncompensated." I too, once, was resistant to using EQ anywhere. With today's high end music player software one need no longer worry about phase shift and other nasties. One only needs to get it "perfect." OK, forget perfect, enjoy the perfectible. Using parametric octave-wide EQs specifically in the areas Tyll mentioned gets you closer - it's as simple as that.

You can have flat at the ears, which doesn't mean you need to date flat. OK?

Headphone amps have a strong sonic influence on the sound, especially the bass, for many reasons. If the sound is getting fatter, there might be good technical reasons for it, damping and distortion being the primary. A fat and big bass is not necessarily desirable. Chances are that an amp that has LESS, rather than more bass, also has less distortion and better damping. It's counterintuitive.

Headphone wires also influence the sound a great deal. So the magic is a moving target.

Lastly, the newer FPGA-based programmable DACs are friggin' outta this world. More costly generally, not always, but I find them significantly superior against DACs using off the shelf chips, regardless of their cost. The FPGA is an entirely different technology, the two have little in common.

The LCD-X is a heavy hitter, a winner, and is worth every cent of its price.

lizwatts's picture

The Audeze's are definitely some high-end headphones. The seem a little big...but I think they're really comfortable to wear. I also found this website that compares audio recordings of headphones. I think it's pretty accurate... but what do you think? They're all recorded in high-resolution format with all the same samples so I think this might be pretty un-biased. http://www.sonicsense.com/blog/category/premium-audiophile-headphones/

FHC's picture

Wonderfully in depth look at the Audeze cans. Also very much in line with my experiences. (nice to see those backed up with technical explanations.) See you at Newport.

William_Antrican's picture

I am using a Gungnir - Cary SLP 05(with vt231s) - Mjolnir set up. I understand I am violating many rules by making the path longer but it allows me to shape the amount of tube effect to match the phone. A little more Cary gain for the HD800s a little less for the LCD3s. Even with longer path I can detect no background noise or degradation on the rendered sonic image. To my ear the result sonic image is excellent. Also - My recent request to upgrade my LCD2s was met with "Upgrade service no longer available because of lack of customer interest." Unfortunate.

Sjeb's picture

So in comparing the two, would you say the former for use with AK240, but latter if you have Auralic Taurus for example?

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Sure. Okay.
The Headphone Viking's picture

I commented on your youtube video a few months ago regarding this, but having owned a pre Fazor LCD-3 for about half a year now and having grown to like it I feel I'm closer to being able to determine which is the best, for me (3 or X) and hope you can help clarify.
Basically I really like the LCD-3 as a supplement for the HD800 for when I want a bit more mid-centric and full sound, but the on gripe I have with the LCD-3 is still its complete lack of impact.
I listen to metal, ambient and classical music mostly and the problem is that the drums etc. tend to lack excitement and presence on the LCD-3. As far as I can understand the LCD-X might resolve that, but I fear losing resolution and that full-bodied sound. From your review I'm not completely sure, when you say the LCD-3 is more refined, if this means the LCD-X is less detailed.
(For reference my go to setup is HD800 is straight out of a good balanced solidstate amp, with no added warmth, just crisp detail and big soundstage.)

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Boy, that's a tough one. Since you like the 800 so much I think you'd find the LCD-X a step backwards in terms of fine resolution, without a significant gain in the areas you're talking about. I sort think you might want a basshead can to complement these other two. You maight be able to do it with a less expensive can. I'd suggest a listen to the Shure 1540 (u-shaped response), Focal Spirit Pro (fairly neutral with good bass punch), Philips Fidelio X1 (warm tilt but a little lacking in sub-bass), or the NAD VISO HP50 (Love it). None of these will get you treble resolution on par with the 800 or LCD-3, but the 1540 and HP50 will get closest.
The Headphone Viking's picture

Thanks for the response! Thats also the conclusion I'm slowly reaching... Darn this is an expensive hobby. Here I was naive and hoped the perfect can might be out there :P
The TH900 would be if it wasn't for its treble response shredding my ears, which I never found a way to solve - thats why I got the LCD-3 instead, that was from one imperfection to another though, but at least this one doesn't damage my ears.
By the way, you mentioned something about it being possible to retrofit the "old" models with the Fazors - how do I go about getting my hands on the parts? I've tried contacting Audeze, to no avail so far... It sound like somthing I'd want to do as soundstaging is important to me.

firstmithrandir's picture

I had my Sennheiser HD580 for around 10 years and I was always happy with them. As I mainly listing to my headphones at work from laptop I connect them directly to Sound Blaster Audigy ZS and now to Sound Blaster Omni. At home I used in addition a DIV amplifier. While the years passed I changed a cable few times to the one from HD650 model and ear pads. Recently my HD580 just go away, one of the speakers was not in good condition and by cleaning it I just kill it completely. As I both recently a quite nice stereo system I thought that I will upgrade my HD580 too.

Firstly I thought that I will go to HD650, but then many people said that HD600 is better in response and actually HD600 is only a revision of HD580 and I would love to go some level up. I got to closest shop and I listen CD connected to Bryston BHA-1. They even do not have HD600. So I tried different other headphones: HD800, T1, LCD-2 (I think that this is the older revision) and recently LCD-X. I read most reviews in the internet too, more than 100 articles and many more comments.
I found: HD800 has a biggest sound stage, nice bass, you can find with them details you cannot find anywhere else. But there were not involving. You are not attracted by the sound. The voice of Norah Jones is not a warm one I remember from live unplug concert, but it is like from transistors and silver cables: too sharp. I heard HD800 before many times on Audio High-End shows and I have always the same feeling. I put them on, listen to them for 10 minutes and do not want to listen again. With Bryston it was better, because I like the soundstage and enormous level of details I heard.

On my Audio High End shows I listen to all kind of headphones models, even to Stax ones and in the end I always come back to HD600/HD650 and they were the perfect ones. The ones I like to listen. I even cannot convince myself to listen to others. Then the guy in the shop gave me Audeze LCD-2 and I have the most strange feeling of my life. The stage was quite small, let’s say that it was 5 cm wide and in my head, on HD600 it is 10 cm, and HD800 is 20 cm. The sound sounds dull when compared to HD800, like some details were missing. But regardless this I listen to headphones for long time. I love them so much. Norah Jones voice was like natural one. Bass was so energetic. Organs sound was so cool. Actually with HD800 for the first time I heard on Metallica live concert voices of many people I did not know that there were there before. With LCD-2 you can hear them too, but you have to concentrate more.

Last time in the shop I have tried LCD-X model with XLR 4 pin connection. As I like the bass music too from Munich High-End Show music I remember how they play Will.i.am – Scream and Shout on Avantgarde Horn speakers with huge 2x2 meters subwoofer (>0,5 mln EUR), picture here:
http://www.audioheritage.org/vbulletin/showthread.php?20889-MUNICH-HIGH-...
I would say that I heard the bass and the music in the same fashion on LCD-X. I was just in the shop and WOW-WOW runs in my head. But still I missed a little bit of big stage of HD800.

Now I would like to buy headphones. I have on my list since 3 weeks: HD800, LCD-2, LCD-X and LCD-3 and LCD-XC too. Up to now I liked the most the neutral sound form LCD-X and the sound stage and details of HD800. They have too LCD-XC to listen, but not LCD-3. In the internet all the models you can buy in the price range 900-1500 EUR. If I will go for used ones I can get even older revisions of LCD-2 and 3 models. So what to chose? I have to buy for them something which I can take with me to the office. Some smaller backup dac+amp up to 2 kg I can put to the bag and maybe in the future buy something bigger for home. I thought too about buying in the future one of the silver-gold toxic cable. I still think that even with the basic amp the sound of LCD-X would be much better than HD600. I thought too about LCD-3 or HD800 if I could tune them to sound nice to my ears.

DiRo's picture

The bigger picture I am getting from this review is that closed back is ever so close to being on even playing field as open? Who would of thought...

bwright's picture

The Fazor upgrade really delivers a substantial improvement. I did an extensive comparison when the LCD-3 was first released, and the HiFiMan HE-500 outclassed the entire Audeze line at the time - I found both the LCD-2 and LD-3 to be a bit too warm, rolled off and lacking detail. I recently revisited the upgraded line-up and did the same comparison, and I was surprised to find the Fazor now set Audeze on top, at least with the amplification I was using (Chord Hugo and Pathos Aurium). The HE-1000 demo at CES 2015 was also promising, and if HiFiMan improves the dedicated amp, they will give the LCD-3 a serious run for the money.

micha661's picture

on the website they say the headphone amplifier needs between 1 and 4 watts. but my amp goes to 600 miliwatt. is that enough to make them work well? Thankyou tyll

bblegram's picture

Hello Tyll,
I'm a big doubt and please, I need the opinion of you.
I'm in doubt between buying AMP Woo Audio WA22 or Aurilic Taurus MKII for use with LCD-3 Audeze (fazor)
I always liked more amplifiers with tubes, and I was already decided to buy the WA22. However, after reading some reviews, I was very interested in the Taurus Auralic MKII, mainly because the two are in the same price range.
After reading the reviews about Taurus MKII, I saw that technically it is better than the WA22, however, all are emphatic in saying that it is very transparent and that's exactly why I'm a little worried. I like the sound a bit Warm.

What is your opinion about the AMPs ?

...Has anyone proved the two AMPs ? Please give your opinion !

Currently, I use my LCD-3 with an AMP SS Meier Audio CONCERTO.

Thank you

Tronedor's picture

I'm looking to buy headphone/amp combo in the thousand dollar range. I'm just getting into this hobby and kind of overwhelmed to be honest lol. I listen to a bit of everything from top 40, to rap/hip, house/trance music, and even a little classical in the mornings. I'm definitely a fan of planar magnetic and great sounding bass. I've been considering the LCD-2's and the HiFiMAN HE560's with the EF100 amp combo. Which should I be getting of these two? Or perhaps a different suggest all together? Any headphone/amp combo suggestions would be greatly appreciated. This will be for use only at home while on my computer and comfort is also a must for my big noggin :). Thanks in advance.

Duke40's picture

Tyll,

Thank You four your insightful reviews on InnerFidelity ... I also enjoy your youtube reviews as well.

I absolutely love the sound quality (and comfort) of the Audeze LCD3, it is a true reference HP that others should be judged against.

Though I do have issues with the reliability of the LCD3, specifically due to the number of driver failures that this model experience. Over at headfi a poll has been created and the number of people who have reported an issue, that is required to send back there LCD3 for servicing or RMA is currently at ...
61 %

It is still a young poll, so I hope more people vote and report there experience , so we (as consumers) can gain more insight to the actual severity of the LCD3 failure problem.

The actual breakdown of that 61% failure figure is;
39% None
30% Once
24% Twice
5% Three times or more

Yes, that does only adds up to 98%, though the vote count is just 53 votes so far, so there is a bit of rounding to zero decimal places.

5 Driver failures so far ... in 2.5 years of ownership ... that is my experience. A couple of Single Ended cables as well.

My experience is that the Audeze Mean Time Between Failure (AMTBF) is 6.5 months. That is the average of which they will last ... before the next failure.

Also, when they get repaired by Audeze ... they come back to me ... damaged. For instance, I sent them in once for a failed driver issue ... and they were returned with a loose connector (about 5mm of movement) on the opposite earcup. Another driver repair only lasted 3 hours. So Quality Control for repairs is poor as well.

My LCD3 experience has been they only work 80% of the time, else they are travelling around the world getting repaired all the time.

I wish Audeze every success and the LCD3 is a true reference HP as far as sound quality goes ... but this model has been in production since, I think late 2011 and yet it still exhibits a failure rate which is shameful.

So, does it really deserve to remain on the "Wall of Fame" ?

Look forward to your thoughts.

John

Peragulator's picture

Excellent review. ......a fun read. While I'd love a pair of LCD-X headphones in my living room the price (they are expensive: not a debate)isn't something I'll be able to attain, but after Beyerdynamic gets the quality controls issues sorted a pair of DT-1770's will look good on the coffee table.

jaty1900's picture

Thanks for the many reviews you have done here, I find them very informative. I know there is a lot of back and forth comparison between the LCD 2 and 3. Having listened to all pre Fazor and post Fazor, what would be the main sonic differences between the LCD 2.2 non Fazor(which I have now) and the LCD 3F( which I am considering upgrading to)?

X