Audeze LCD2 Classic Open Over-Ear Planar Magnetic Headphones

It's deja vu all over again. Maybe Audeze decided to reverse the trend for ever more expensive headphones. Maybe they were just aware of so many people longing for the LCD2 of old. But whatever the reson, I do like seeing them breath new life into the more affordable end of the LCD line-up with their newly released LCD2 Classic.

Audeze LCD2 ($799)
The LCD2 Classic is an open acoustic, over-ear, planar magnetic headphone. While the LCD2 Classic has the same double-sided magnetic structure and ultra-thin film diaphragm of the LCD2 it forgoes the Fazor elements and wood ring in an effort to further reduce costs.

Audeze's LCD series is definitely a form-follows-function design; styling is utilitarian...but it's a look I've grown to enjoy. This is a very mature design; every bit and piece of the LCD2 Classic has been thought through over and over again in preceding models. For me, evaluating an Audeze LCD model stripped down to its bare essentials is an intriguing exercise...and to see it done so well is quite satisfying.

Materials and build quality are very nice. Headband arch and yokes are powder coated spring steel. Headband and ear pads are a very good grade of synthetic leather. Ear pads are memory foam and have generous 70mm x 55mm openings and are angled providing about 35mm depth at the rear of the opening. Folks with big ears should fair well with these cans.

The capsule housings—or 'rings', as Audeze calls them—are crystal-infused nylon. These feel extremely hard, scratch resistant, and durable. I particularly like the return to the older style of connector housing that's molded right into the ring. (The wood rings of some years ago also looked like this, but tended to be a weak point and crack as the wood dried. The new nylon ring should be immune from this.) Covering the rear of the driver is a large, black, powder coated metal grill.

Even though there are quite a few differing materials in the build, I'm struck by how well parts are matched in color and texture. The only exception is the paint covering the metal of the headband ends is slightly more glossy than other surfaces. Maybe that was done to add a little excitement to the headphone and highlight the Audeze logo on the outside, and 'L' and 'R' indicators on the inside.

The LCD2C has a new braided cable similar in construction to the flagship LCD4's cable. I definitely like this type of cable as it lays flat and is suple when moved; very little cable-born noise is transmitted up this cable. Much nicer than the previous four conductor ribbon cable. The cable is terminated with an Audeze 1/4" TRS plug on the player end, and two mini XLR 4-pin female connectors on the headphone end. A very nice black anodized aluminum ferrule secures the cable at the 'Y'-join.

No adapters or case are included with purchase, though the plain cardboard shipping box with foam cut-outs for the headphones can double as a storage case. (See photo at top of next page.) This is an area I feel a little conflicted about. I understand and appreciate Audeze's desire to trim costs on this product, but at the $799 price point I think a headphone should come with a case.

On the other hand the new crystal-infused nylon rings are really nice, as is the new cable. It wouldn't surprise me to hear that the rings and cable were strong cost drivers with this headphone, and I do think they add value to the purchase. Audeze does sell a very nice hard shell, Pelican Case-like travel case for the LCD line for $125, so an appropriate case is readily available. It seems reasonable to me to think of the LCD2C and the case as the completed package at $924.

I don't think it rises to the level of a bait and switch, but the initial $599 holiday price has put a low number into people's heads when, one could argue, this is really a $924 product. On the other hand, it does give the consumer the option to purchase a no-frills, well built headphone for a decent price, and purchase the case separately if desired. As I said, I'm a little conflicted on this, please feel free to comment below with your thoughts on this accessorization approach.

Well, as long as they sound good, I'm not going to get knotted up about it. Let's have a listen...

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TMRaven's picture

How is comfort in relation to Aeon Flow Open.

AMW1011's picture

Hello Tyll! I was wonder if this review indicates a change in your opinion about distortion?

You wrote: "The good news is that measurements made both by me and others show the LCD2C has extraordinarily low distortion. So while they can be punchy and a little lacking in treble smoothness, they never get hard sounding...even at higher volumes. It seems to me this is what ties these headphones together for a solid listening experience: super low distortion; superb dynamics; a treble, though a bit grainy, that doesn't offend; and deep, controlled bass response."

Does this indicate a difference in opinion on the relevance of distortion? I notice that such products as the Mr Speaker's headphones and especially the Sonoma E-stat measure quite poorly in terms of distortion, but don't remember a reference to that in those reviews. I had assumed you fell towards the belief of a fairly high threshold of audible distortion, meaning most distortion is not audible. Has that changed recently, and can you tell me if it did what changed your mind?


detlev24's picture

Distortion is always a very important parameter that defines audio fidelity; alongside frequency response and noise. Low distortion becomes even more important for EQ, since it confines the magnitude of applicable FR correction.

Sonarworks describe briefly the benefit of low THD [below 1%] in their 'Studio Headphone guide 2018', as well:


detlev24's picture
Hifi59's picture

I’ve found the included cable to limit the capabilities of the 2C that’s quite obvious. It makes them sound distant and bass notes kind of sound plastic and lack oomph compared to any of my inexpensive after market cables.
Just that swap out alone took the 2C from sounding very good to most excellent. Try it.

Heretix_Aevum's picture

When you say 'inexpensive' aftermarket cables, what kind of price are we talking? Any particular models you would recommend?

You're not the first person I've seen to complain about the cable, though I am skeptical about claims of cable improvement in the vast majority of instances. I also trust that Tyll would've said something if it wasn't up to scratch, as he did with the Fidelio X1.

Hifi59's picture

I like Cardas cable for their midrange. Their bulk 2x24 cable is relatively inexpensive and can be found on eBay when searching for Audeze headphones. I can’t hear any difference between their bulk line vs their higher end line and that’s what makes it a great value.

南开米饭's picture

Audeze are made in China, and they ship them from Shanghai port

Impulse's picture

I don't really care about the omission of a case for a headphone I'll use exclusively at home... If I were lucky enough to get a chance to travel to a meet or trade show I'd just buy a suitable cable for less than $125.

If you were to press me, I'd say the low introductory price that ended before many had a chance to hear/review the LCD2C bugs me more than the lack of a case. Are you backing off the assertion that cans need to get the tonal balance right to even think of reaching the WoF btw? Or is the LCD2C just close enough?

gLer's picture

Great review Tyll. Really wish you’d have compared it to the latest 2026 fazor version, because that is more immediate competition for many potential buyers. As a new LCD-2F user, I’m more interested in how similar (or different) the two headphones sound, not really the AFO or other brands I’m not in the least bit interested in. But it’s all personal preference, I get that. By the way please can we call them by their official name: LCD-2C. It’s not LCD2C (clue: look on the headphone).

gLer's picture

Oops, I meant 2016F :)

Impulse's picture

Disassembled photos show the grills say LCD-3 on the inside tho, so don't look TOO closely. :P

gLer's picture

Yeah that’s true, but still... Tyll’s is the second review I’ve seen that misspells the proper name.

CPUzer0's picture

Audeze themselves are being inconsistent with the naming of these headphones. LCD-2C is printed on the cans but their own websites refer to these as either LCD2C or LCD2 Classic.

RedGum's picture

In Australia, the "$125" case is $229 AUD, which is a fairly hefty markup. The headphones themselves are $899 AUD, which makes them a great deal here! Since I have used the case for my LCD-XC exactly zero times, I'd say the case is an unnecessary option.

I don't understand the fuss about the pre-order/intro price. It's normal for a pre-order/intro price to be lower than the regular price (otherwise, what would be the point of having it?)

I'm enjoying the LCD-2C right now, as they have finally arrived in AU :)

Pokemonn's picture

it really sounded very very good!
probablly I am going to click an order..

markbrauer's picture

to those of us who use headphones only at home and have little storage space for such things. Get a nice case and what do you do with it? It's too nice to trash, and if you did what would that do to future resale value. In every case (pun intended) the case should be optional, especially if it means saving $100+.

GimmeCans's picture

$799 without a 'case 'feels' like the right deal IMHO because headphones don't get much less portable than this. My Beyer Amirons (Which you should review, Tyll) came with a hard zipper case that I will never use and lists for $85 (in case you lose it I guess) ; I wish they had lowered the price of those accordingly and left the case off. If I want high-end sound on the go I'll reach for my SE535 IEMs, but to each his/her own.

gLer's picture

...about the case. A portable case, yes, not that useful. While the LCD-2 case is also ‘portable’ it’s actually more useful as a dust sealed storage case for keeping the headphones safe, clean, and accident free. It’s also great for storing cables and other accessories. I bought both my headphones (LCD-2F and Atticus) partly because of their storage cases, even though neither leave my listening room. I take special care of my expensive gear, and the extra protection and premium feel definitely adds to the overall value and experience. I don’t think 10-15% of the price of a headphone is too much to ask for a premium case. If were to buy the 2C one day I’d get a hard case for it as well, like Tyll suggests; heck I’d even do it for a “cheap” mid-fi.

Impulse's picture

I'm curious, do you put them away inside the case after every listening session? That seems like such a hassle, maybe I'm just lazy, I hang my primary/secondary headphones (an open/closed combo like you) on a stand and call it a day... Granted I made sure to find a stand with a nice wide base that wouldn't scratch, compress the padding, etc.

I'd actually take a nice stand over a case if I'm paying a premium for extras... But I imagine the weight/space of a nice stand would push things too far. There's a lot of crappy stands out there with arms that are too thin or rod-like, tho it's probably less of a concern for headphones like these with a suspension strap.

My current favorites are Silverstone's EBA01 and Jokitech's Air Cushion FWIW (not the Slim or Dual). If I were to put the headphones away on a secure box at home because I'm going on a long vacation or anything it'd have to be in something larger than them so I can throw in some desiccant (or Eva Dry boxes). Might seem paranoid but Puerto Rico's humidity can wreck havock with everything from rubber (shoe soles) to glass (camera lenses) to wood.

sciencemajor's picture

I enjoyed the LCD-2's but I found them to be dull and overpriced compared to cheap hi-fi sennheisers. They need to be less than $500 in order to compete with them.

vkalia's picture

As someone who goes to a lot of classical concerts, I have always held to the old Stereophile/TAS standard that the reference for any audio product should be how close it comes to reproducing the sound of live, unamplified music.

To me, the Oppo PM1 doesnt sound like music. I can hear/analyze the highs, the mids and the bass, but i cannot hear the musicality. I bought the PM1s after the enthusiastic reviews here, and that was when i realized that my preferences in sound are very different from that of InnerFidelity reviewers. This was reinforced when I listened to the various Focals - they are impressive products if you want to analyze the sound coming out of them, but not so good in re-creating the mood of an orchestra playing its heart out.

I had the privilege of getting fantastic seats to Temirkanov playing Shostakovich's #7 in St Petersburg, and it was an absolutely amazing performance. Listening to a lossless rip of his RCA recording of the same symphony on the LCD2 vs the Oppo PM1 is an absolutely different experience.

I say all this to put in perspective my somewhat brief statement: viz, if the LCD2 classics sound anything like the original LCD2 (which i still have), they will be possibly one of the nicest headphones in the sub-$1500 range for listening to music, *in my opinion*.

sszorin's picture

If you really want musical headphones then get Audio-Technica W3000ANV [used, as they are out of production]. Then you will know what musicality is. How can you listen to pieces of classical music with LCD2 ? They lack treble and treble extension. Because of this problem the tonality of instruments is all wrong. These headphones are for bass oriented Pop and ghetto music.

hackmartian's picture

Every interpretation or intent of a phrase like that I can think of is wrong, unless you're a huge BDP fan and going for a very specific piece of music that you feel the LCD2s are properly voiced for. Otherwise, take that crap elsewhere.

vkalia's picture

"Ghetto music"? Charming. And thank you for your efforts to teach me about musicality. After 20+ years of being interested in high quality sound reproduction and live concerts, I still prefer to go with what my ears tell me a violin or a piano should sound like, live.

I have owned a pair of AT headphones - some wooden jobbies: 3000 or 5000, forget the model number. Another example of cans where you listen to high/medium/lows, as opposed to the cohesive whole.

MattH's picture

Why u no AKG K712 PRO?

The lack of any AKG reviews is conspicuous on this site, however the K712 especially seems to have a more full-range appreciation than the 701/2 series. I find the disregard a bit unfair by this point, and it does headphone buyers a disservice. They will look at it anyway, just not here, and it makes comparisons harder.

jmsdnhw's picture

the price is ridiculous if one buys the case which is included w the lcd2 wood version it is about the same . so one gets for an almost identical price cheaper construction materials and less technology. as i would rather have the lcd2 with out the fazor technology I'm conflicted that the company discharging me the same price for a headphone of inferior construction material and a design already 10 yrs old. this in itself should justify a substantially lower price especially considering one can purchase directly from audeze who therefore avoiding distribution and dealer mark up. but apparently audeze thinks little of their customers to offer them less product for the same priced do it buy duplicitously displaying a lower price but when one considers the cost of the missing and probably needed super case and the expense of the missing but by my unwanted fazor element are in effect just creating a way to sell less of an already old product for what will net them the same or probably more. this is very disappointing from a company most likely making a profit due to their high prices and large percentage of the market.