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

Sound Quality
As you can see from the graph above, the overall measured performance of the LCD-2 and LCD-3 is quite similar. Listening to these to cans confirms the measurements: both these cans sound cans sound very similar...and great! One quick note: Audeze headphones have changed in their sound quality quite a bit over time (see graphs on measurement page of this article), the listening impressions here are with current (June 2012) product, and differ somewhat from my experience with previous iterations of these headphones.

The first thing you'll notice with Audeze planar magnetic headphones is the gloriously tight and well extended bass. Seemingly both in proper balance with the whole and compelling your attention, the Audeze bass notes thrill with both texture and Adam's apple wobbling impact. There's a tendency for me to want to say the LCD-2 has a slightly tighter bass presentation, but after a lot of listening I've come to the conclusion the LCD-2 bass is just slightly more apparent due to the somewhat less lively presentation of these cans when compared to the LCD-3. My impression is that the LCD-3 has a more articulate and well textured bass by a small amount, my measurements indicate the LCD-2 would have better impact. Whatever. The bass on these headphones is as good as it gets.

The mid-range on the Audeze planar magnetic cans is marvelously well-balanced. I'm pretty sick of headphones that either have an overwhelming bass or a forward mid-range. It does seem like finding a headphone with with excellent bass-to-mid balance is as hard today as ever, but Audeze nails it with certainty. That said, I do hear the LCD-3 as having a smoother, more liquid mid-range. The LCD-2 just seems a bit dry and grainy in comparison. Mind you, the LCD-2 would seem smoother and lusher in the mids than just about any other headphone but for the LCD-3, which just excels in this department. Yummy and yummier describes it best for me.

Treble response is the one area where I find the Audeze headphones slightly lacking. The LCD-3 does better than the LCD-2, but when compared to the lightning speed of the Sennheiser HD 800, the Audeze cans just seem a little sluggish and blurred. This lack of the last bit of treble air seems to reduce the ability for these headphones to image as well as the HD 800 or Stax SR-009, for example. On the other hand, I hate harshness in headphones, and the Audeze cans seem to reproduce treble at about the right level, with almost no sense of glare or bite. I've read some comments promoting the idea that LCD-2 and LCD-3 headphones are gentle on the ears and will play bad recordings more satisfactorily than some of the other ultra-high-performance cans. Boy, oh boy, do I heartily agree! I've also heard it said that the LCD-2 may turn this trick better than the faster sounding LCD-3, but I spent a lot of time listening to poor recordings and streaming audio for this review and I tend to think the lush and liquid sound of the LCD-3 is slightly better for edgy source material than the slightly drier sound, as I heard it, of the LCD-2.

I generally listen at fairly low levels, but I always do a little listening at high volumes to see if a headphone can maintain its composure. Both the LCD-2 and LCD-3 do extraordinarily well in this department. These headphones play clean all the way to ear-bleed levels.

A Note For Audio Pros
Most audio pro headphone use requires sealed headphones. In those instances I like to recommend the Beyer DT1350 or Sennheiser Amperior/HD 25-1 II for location recording and ENG work, and the AKG K550 for a full-size can in the studio. But there are applications where open headphones can be used, and high prices can be tolerated for headphones that deliver exceptional performance in professional applications. My go-to recommendation is the Sennheiser HD 800--there's simply nothing in the mix that will escape detection with the HD 800. They're the audio microscope; great for mastering work. The problem is, they're not much fun to listen to. They lack bass extension somewhat and they have a glare-y spot at about 6kHz (this mod can help), and if you mix with them you might end up with a bit of bass boost and laid-back mid-treble.

Though not the microscope that the HD 800 is, in many ways the Audeze LCD-2 and LCD-3 are the more neutral sounding cans. I think the LCD-2 is perfectly adequate to the tasks of general audio recording and production work, but the slightly quicker and livelier sound of the LCD-3 is probably a more accurate representation of what's on the tape (or hard drive). I think I'd trust either of the Audeze cans for general balance and mixing over the HD 800, and I'd certainly prefer them for pleasurable listening. OTOH, the Sennheiser is cooler (temperature-wise) and more comfortable to wear for long periods, and it will let you hear low-level tweets and glitches more clearly.

Overall, I found the sound of these headphones powerful, liquid, engaging, and just downright fun to hear. At twice the price of the LCD-2, is the LCD-3 twice as good? No. There's always a diminishing returns curve in high-end audio, and it's at work here as well. The common number bandied about the forums currently is something like the LCD-3 is 20% better than the LCD-2. A ridiculous assertion, but one I'll agree describes the magnitude of the difference adequately. But while I'd argue one might analyze the performance of the LCD-3 as 20% better, those improvements gain more traction in the purely subjective experience. Audiophilia is a game of barely audible inches, and the LCD-3 is a clearly audible foot or two ahead of the LCD-2. The LCD-3 is a worthy purchase for the dyed-in-the-wool headphone audiophile willing to spend the big bucks on a headphone and an amp. I'm not ready to start making high-end amp recommendations yet, so I'll just refer you to this thread. Sorry about your wallet.

However! If you're not one of those kinds of folks who can play willie-nillie in the rarefied air of mega-buck audio purchases, and find yourself stretching to afford the LCD-2, worry not, they're a great headphone as well. If there were no such thing as an LCD-3, I'd still be touting the LCD-2 as a world class headphone and the one I would prefer to enjoy my music over all others. An LCD-2 and a good little amp like the Apex Butte or JDS Labs O2 will make for an exceptional listen.

Both these headphones are bound for InnerFidelity's "Wall of Fame." The LCD-2 clearly bests the Sennheiser HD 800 for listening pleasure, and at a lower price. The LCD-3 is an audibly, though not dramatically, more pleasing headphone than the LCD-2, and it's pleasing in a way that pushes all my buttons. The Audeze LCD-3 is my desert island headphone...I love it!

It's really rather a large miracle what Audeze has accomplished in the last few years, producing not one, but two of the world's best headphones in the span of a just a few short years. Great job, guys!

Measurements next, and worth a look.

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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


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


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

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.





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

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.



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 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!