The Spectacularly Yummy Audeze LCD-2 and LCD-3 Measurements

LCD-2 measurements taken of the various iterations over last couple of years.

Before we get to the current headphone measurements, I thought it would be interesting to have a look at the evolution of these headphones over time. In the graph above you'll see the measurements of the various iterations of the LCD-2. The blue trace is the original LCD-2. You'll note that it falls off at the very lowest frequencies a bit more then the others, this is likely the somewhat stiffer pads not providing the quality seal of the softer subsequent pads.

In the region around 1kHz you can see the original LCD-2 had a bit of a presence bump. The Rev. 2 reduced this bump, but probably by a bit too much. The later revisions shoot right down the middle and remain more linear on their way down to 5kHz. (This sloping response from ~2kHz to ~5kHz is desired) From 5kHz to 11kHz, the Rev. 1 headphone exhibits a strong peak, the remaining cans tend to perform a little more linearly in this area. In the very top octave between 10kHz and 20kHz you can see the overall amount of energy slowly rising over time in the various revisions, likely in response to customers comments of "shelved" highs. The overall trend over time is toward a better behaved headphone and to me indicates a fairly good grip on the part of Audeze of the physics and workings of their headphones.

Audeze_LCD2LCD3_graph_lcd3OldAndNew

This graph shows the frequency response of the average of four LCD-3s from the initial release plotted next to the average of three different LCD-3s in the current iteration of the product.

The release of the LCD-3 was greeted with much fanfare at the 2011 CanJam at RMAF. The new cans were clearly faster and more lively sounding than the LCD-2, while keeping and improving on the yummy lushness of the breed. However, subsequent experience of customers and vigorous dialog on Head-Fi drew out the conclusion that the sound of the new LCD-3 was varying substantially and drivers were suffering from reliability issues. The gents at Audeze were quick to respond: driver problems were solved; customers who had problems had their headphones quickly replaced; and then they took their responsibilities a giant step further and retroactively increased the warranty on all Audeze headphones to three years.

What the nature of the problem was is known only to the folks at Audeze, but I did get the chance to measure numerous early LCD-3s and have measured three of the current versions. In the graph above, I've averaged all the early LCD-3s together and plotted that against the average of three current LCD-3s. You can see there is now a bit of a wiggle in the lowest octave or two. I suspect this comes from either a change in the compliance of the pads, or a change in the damping materials behind the driver. I'm finding more and more that I like headphones that extend a little flatter to about 2kHz before rolling off into the treble octaves. It seems to me the voices are more present and natural sounding. The current LCD-3 does a substantially better job than the initial version in this regard being a few dB louder between 1kHz and 3kHz. Details in the frequency response curve above 5kHz can be quite noisy and erratic, but because these curves are averages of many headphones they may be reliable enough to believe the notch at about 11kHz is narrower with the later headphones.

Again, these data show Audeze working to improve the product, and demonstrate they have developed a significant degree of mastery in the design of their planar magnetic headphones.

Measurements of Current Audeze Headphones
Audeze LCD-2

Click on graphs image to download .pdf for closer inspection.

Audeze LCD-3

Click on graphs image to download .pdf for closer inspection.

Good stability on the lowest octaves in the raw frequency response measurements of the LCD-2 and LCD-3 show earpads seal reliably. Small variations in raw frequency response with position changes begin at about 300Hz with the LCD-2 and at about 1kHz with the LCD-3 indicating there may be slightly less positional sensitivity with the LCD-3.

Compensated frequency response of the LCD-2 shows a small presence bump at about 900Hz where the LCD-3 turns the corner at a slightly higher frequency and with a smoother response. The LCD-2 also has a larger peak at 9kHz than the LCD-3. These may be indicative of the slightly dryer and grainier sound I heard with the LCD-2 in listening tests. However, both headphones have lower peaks at 9kHz than most headphones and are heard to me as smooth and liquid when compared to many other cans.

After looking at this 9kHz bump and lack thereof with other planar headphone designs, I'm beginning to think the closer to a point source a driver is, the more likely it will exhibit this bump. I'm thinking this artifact comes from changes in the magnification of these frequencies in the concha bowl of the ear. Pure speculation, but I'm gonna keep an eye on it.

The slight bowing of the 30Hz square wave and slight drop-off in the lows of the LCD-3 when compared with the LCD-2 would indicate tighter bass performance of the latter. I didn't hear it that way in the listening tests, and both exhibit very good performance in the low frequencies of the THD+noise plots. (The LCD-3 THD+noise plot is a little noisy down low, but I think that was probably due to some environmental noise during tests and should be discounted.) I came to the conclusion that the bass in the LCD-3 was slightly more articulate and textured, but I think we'll find many who like the bass of the LCD-2 better. Either way, the measured low frequency performance of both these cans is stunning.

The THD+noise plots also show very low levels of distortion. Some of the Stax and HiFiMAN headphones came close, but these are the best (lowest) distortion plots I've seen. Also worth noting is that the 100dBspl THD+noise plot remains entirely below the 90dBspl plot indicating these headphones can handle power very well, which was clearly heard during listening tests.

The double bump of the leading edge of the 300Hz square wave of the LCD-2 is typical of the new generation of planar magnetic headphones, and my assumption is that it's related to the sound getting through the rather large magnet structure that surrounds the diaphragm. I think this double-bump feature leads to a reduction in the ability of the headphones to image well due to the ear not having a clear leading edge from which to extract timing information. This seems to have been significantly reduced in the LCD-3 where the second bump is significantly reduced. I've come to the conclusion that a slight overshoot of the leading edge is desirable, and I think the LCD-3 comes very close to what I'd like to see in a 300Hz square wave response.

Impulse responses look speedy but somewhat noisy. This rather surprises me as the 300Hz square wave is fairly clean. So I checked out Head-Fi member Purrin's LCD-3 cumulative spectral decay plots that should have shown some ringing given what the impulse response looks like, and he observes very little. But, oddly enough, he, too, commented on significant ringing in the impulse response, but little evidence of the problem in the CSD plots. A perfect example of measurements not being able to tell the whole story, or even be internally consistent, at times.

Impedance and phase plots are essentially ruler flat--like all planar magnetics. At about 60 Ohms impedance and 200mVrms required to drive these cans to 90dBspl, these are not headphones to drive out of your iPhone or iPad. Isolation is very low. No, these are not commuter headphones.

Take a good look at these measurements, you're not going to see many better.

Resources
Audeze website and LCD-2 and LCD-3 product pages.
Head-Fi has dozens of threads on these two headphones, here's a couple for the latest LCD-2 and LCD-3, let me Google the rest for you.
Steve Guttenberg thinks they're great, too.

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

COMMENTS
Alondite's picture

I've yet to hear either of these cans (something I hope to soon rectify), but by the sounds of it if I were going to throw down the big bucks on a pair of cans it wouldn't be either of these two. Now that's not to say I would turn either of them down! That would be plain foolish.

"Liquid" is not a quality that I look for in sound (at least by my definition of the word). I prefer a snappy "live" sound with an aggressively textured midrange. When I think of what "liquid" sounds like, I imagine a smoothed-over sound, like using a surface blur in Photoshop. I love to hear all the grit and rasp in the vocals. 

Bass is also the least important part of the audio spectrum for me. If anything, I prefer a bass response that is slightly under neutral. I find that it lends itself to cleaner, less "cluttered" sound and a slightly cooler midrange, which I also prefer. It could be due to my rather "busy-sounding" genre preferences (various brands of rock and metal). 

Would the HD800 be more my cup of tea then? Or something entirely different maybe? Because I'm starting to think that instead of spending a few hundred dollars every year of so on different/upgraded headphones, that I should just save up for a AAA pair.

dalethorn's picture

By your description you might want to try the Shure 1840. Leaner bass than HD800 (not by much though), less of the brightness but plenty of detail and grit.

AGB's picture

Alondite,

Since you haven't heard the Audeze's, I suggest you get yorself the freebie given away with iPods. From your description we "get it."

Ferraris are not for everyone.

$5000 DACs are not for everyone.

Or Rolexes...when the Timex keeps on tickin.'

Go hear it and then you can recommend for yourself what you really need and like.

You don't know what you'd like either...

For without the experience, you can't know.

Now you can go drink your cup 'O tea.

I'll stay with a good brew of coffee thank you.

And the Audeze.

star's picture

anyone exhow lcd 2 compare to dt 880 ?p

MacedonianHero's picture

Fantastic write up Tyll. Our comparisons of the LCD-2/LCD-3 and HD800s seem to match up quite well. Agreed that the LCD-3s are my desert island headphones as well...simply magical. They easily get 70% of my listening time over my other 3 headphones (HD800, T1s and W3000ANVs). Thanks!

 

BTW, as I've said before, I love those headphone stands!

mikemercer's picture

Tyll

NAILED it....

Alondite's picture

I've never really been particularly fond of the Shure sound. After I bought my Vsonic GR07, a friend insisted that I should have gotten the Shure SE535 instead because they sound "so much better," despite the fact he'd never even heard of the GR07. Well, I listened to his 535s, and for one they were very clearly inferior to my GR07s, but they also had a "thick" midrange I didn't care for. From what I've heard, that is the Shure house midrange.

Also, the supposed superior imaging of the HD800 is very enticing. 

dalethorn's picture

Shure is a world unto itself, that's for shure. But I had a HD800 for 3 years, and like a few people have mentioned, I enjoyed some of the listening and used it to compare a lot of audio qualities, but in the end it wasn't completely satisfactory for long-term music listening.

Alondite's picture

Given my tastes, I think I may be able to use them long-term. I want hyper-analytical, with absolute transparency, and the HD800s by most, if not all accounts, are just that. I want to miss no detail, and I want to track represented exactly as the artist wanted me to hear it. 

Frankly, I see headphones that intentionally color the sound in one way or another as being an insult to the artistic integrity of the music. "I think this would sound better with more bass." No, it wouldn't. It has exactly as much bass as it's supposed to have, and it has that much for a reason. Changing it is like paiting penises all over the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

I want to hear the artist's intent, not the headphone's interpretation of it.

dalethorn's picture

I can say this about the HD800 - you get a really good amp for them and then compare to other dynamics. When some of those upper harmonic details on other headphones sound a little indistinct or dull, the HD800 will often resolve them into their individual details with a sparkle and tone color that may surprise you.

Tyll Hertsens's picture

Quote:
Frankly, I see headphones that intentionally color the sound in one way or another as being an insult to the artistic integrity of the music.

I think the LCD-3 is probably closer to neutral in terms of frequency response than the HD 800.  Bass is flatter, fewer peaks in the highs. Resolution and imaging is better on the 800s for me though.

Dr.Phil's picture

Did you experiment with swaping the pads ?

Folks are reporting improvement on the LCD2 sound with the LCD3 pads, stating it sounds better and actually closer to the LCD3.

I would like to hear your report on this.

mward's picture

Loved the LCD-2 when I had a loaner set for about six months. Honestly, I think just about anyone would love them. They might like the Sennheiser HD 800 or some other world class headphones more, but the I think they would find the LCD-2 (and presumably LCD-3) completely appealing, regardless of their preferences. 

 

I miss them. But if I'm going to drop a grand on headphones, I'll get some custom IEMs, which I will get much more use out of. 

wilzc's picture

Whats your take on the HD700 Tyll?

Your sonic tastes are almost akin to mine therefore I'd love to hear your opinion on them before cutting off or succumb to this lust of mine for them.

I know you've heard them at meet conditions and therefore not really reliable. But maybe you've got your hands on a pair now.

Tyll Hertsens's picture

Had one in for measurements. It sounded tizzy and thin to me.

wilzc's picture

My take on them actually is sliiiiightly thick. Lush but not loose. Like a serious version of the HD650.

Do try to get one in for more than a quick measurement!!

Draygonn's picture

I should have bought LCD-2s last year when I was looking for a compliment to HD800s.  I'll give them a long listen at the upcoming LA meet.  I like the new connectors and appreciate the way Audeze keeps improving their product and listening to their customers.

burnspbesq's picture

See you then, Daygonn. The rest of the signal chain will be MacBook Air/Amarra/Ayre QB-9/Luxman P-200 or Bryston BHA-1.

I could easily live with either as my only headphone. I narrowly prefer the HD 800, for its sound-staging and overall clarity. I tend to listen analytically, and the 800 lets me farther into the music. But oh man, the bass on the LCD-3 is to die for.

The best sound-bite summary of the difference: id vs. superego or tool vs. toy. take your pick.

bernardperu's picture

Hi Tyll, I own the LCD-3s based on S Gutt's recommendation and other info I found online. I drive them with my Schiit Lyr but it seems like they need a different amp to outshine my Hifiman HE-500s. 

I just purchased the new balanced Schiit amp. I live overseas and have to take leaps of faith when it comes to audio purchases. 

For pre-recorded music, Would you recommend a balanced amp for the LCD-3? What do your ears tell you?

Congratulations on your great site! I have been following it for a while but this is my first post.

 

Bernard

 

 

Mike Birman's picture

Several months of listening to my HD700s have not diminished my enthusiasm for them. I consider them a viable alternative to the strongly analytical/superbly imaging HD800s. There may be some forthcoming data that supports Tyll's characterization of them as one of Sennheiser's "bloopers" but I'm more of a subjectivist when it comes to headphones. And even empirical data must often be subjectively analyzed, so we can never totally escape the murky world of psychoacoustics. The Audeze LCD-3s are a superb headphone but given their lofty price one would expect no less.

Tyll Hertsens's picture

Quote:
There may be some forthcoming data that supports Tyll's characterization of them as one of Sennheiser's "bloopers"

I've measured them, and there's a significant ringing.

Purrin's measured them ... and there's significant ringing.

How they sound is more important, but we're not measuring something that's not there. And I can hear problems fairly clearly. Glad you're enjoying yours, though, have no problem with that.

dalethorn's picture

Purrin's comments and comparison graphs illustrating smoothness in the treble are helpful. It's too bad we can't get a few normalized high-freq. curves on at least the top models, since it's hard to evaluate them intuitively. There must be a way.... On the smoothness thing, it's even more important if you wanted to apply just a little bit of EQ, so you don't make peaks and dips worse.

Tyll Hertsens's picture

Doesn't work like that, Dale. The solution is in the design. They make a great headphone or not. Sometimes there's stuff you can do to help, but it's really up to the manufacturer to get it right. 

heycarnut's picture

Why would a warm, but dead, audiophile care?

I think you meant dyed... smiley

Thanks for the review, one of my favorites is my 3.

 

Rob

Tyll Hertsens's picture

Me go fixie.

AGB's picture

Just a curiosity I cannot satisfy.

Once I had installed the Moon Silver Dragon wires for my LCD2s, the characterizations for the LCD3 I saw in print seem to be closely related to the LCD-2/Moon wires combo AFTER I had used the parametric EQ  on the Fidelia player.

Can someone who actually has access to both please run a listening test and let us know your impressions?

I got much better detailing, resolution, transparency, more tightness and character in the bass and more extended treble with the Moon/Fidelia.

But also, and this is rather important, some players (I use Audio Engineering's FIDELIA advanced) has three parametric EQs with which I can "create" flat at the ears...as opposed to what flat may be theoretically on another planet. In other words, I think - and this is pure speculation - that I can match the sound of the 3 with the 2 - or close enough.

In this sense I am using the Parametric EQ - and not lightly either.

I suggest for those who think they are hearing flat, don't fool yourself.

You'll know it when you hear it...and you'll hear it ONLY after using parametric EQ.

Mike Birman's picture

The data is incontrovertible, no question. The ringing is significant. Yet it has not (at least thus far) impinged on my listening: which may be a function of my own personal treble roll-off and an inability to discern unwanted resonance. Or perhaps variability in manufacturing (not unheard of, though pretty unlikely). One would think something as significant as this would not escape Sennheiser while developing the HD700. One would think ....

What is interesting is that I also don't hear the 700s as thin. To my ears they sound rather full and are given to fast volume increases that require vigilance. Thin and tizzy vs. full and loud. Some headphones are prone to controversy, I suspect the HD 700s may also acquire that dubious distinction. And it certainly highlights the subjective component when evaluating something as inherently personal as headphones. I also wonder if ingesting acoustic data alters one's perception of what they are hearing. Now that I've seen the data on ringing, will I hear what I previously missed? It's possible.

Kabeer's picture

Great article Tyll. Im really enjoying my LCD-2's thanks to you!

Just one little thing, the photo you have labelled as LCD-1 is actually the LCD-2 prototype that was demo'd before the LCD-2 commercial release where they totally revamped the design. The prototype was an in-house design too.

The LCD-1 had a greenish/gold oem housing.

Tyll Hertsens's picture

Glad to hear you're digging the cans!

StudioGuy's picture

Hi Tyl,

How do you compare the LCD-2 to the HD-600\650 (or other sub 995$ cans) for proffesional Mixing applications?

Does they worth twice the price of the HD650? (I know, deminishing returns and what not, but still..) 

How do they compare in terms of comfort, esspecially for long term sessions?

I wish I could check the LCD-2 for myself, but there aren't any stores that sell them in my country.

Thanks a lot!

Milton's picture

Hi, I am seriously considering buying the Audeze LCD-3's.  My amplier is the HeadRoom Ultra Desktop (unbalanced) with the HeadRoom dedicated power supply.  I would love to hear  opinions about how well this amp matches with the Audeze LCD-3's.  I don't see too much talk about this amp on the Head-Fi website.  Thanks!

Cavcalade's picture

I like a real warm sounding headphone with a nice low bass.

I was considering the HD 800 first but after reading about the bass performance of the Sennheiser I think I'll have a look at the LCD2 or 3.

Does somebody know if the Woo Audio WA2 is also suitable for the Audeze?

peterroumian's picture

hi

due to the place where i live

hd 800 costs $1000

lcd2 costs $1200

hd 650 costs $416

hd 600 costs $368

i like deep but Tight bass and i also Hate harsh headphones

also i like rock - badly recorded music (thats why i listed hd600)

i'm totally confused :(

star's picture

How is the comparison between the lcd-2 to DT 880 and  he-6 and HD 800 ?

bugz's picture

Hi Tyll, Have you had a chance to compare the new Fazor update on the new LCD-3s? I was about to pull the trigger and purchase a set and am now a bit confused. Is this really an upgrade? I can't seem to find anything about it on the Audeze website. And not much at Head-Fi (other than it's been on all their cans since mid December).

Tyll Hertsens's picture

I'll be doing a review of the LCD-X and the latest revs on the LCD-3/2 that will likely post next week.

X