LCD2 Classic Headphones
During a phone interview with Evan Grimm, Audeze’s Head of Product Training, he admitted that when they’d released their new “Fazor” headphone waveguide technology in 2013, they’d expected near universal praise for the sound. Such was not the case. Many headphone dorks, myself included, preferred the warmth and soundstaging of Audeze’s 1st generation LCD-2 model. In fact, on several audiophile websites, a lot of headphone enthusiasts voiced a passionate preference for the sonic signature of the original pre-Fazor LCD-2 model.
Responding to consumer demand, Audeze have done something remarkable: they’ve released a 3rd generation version of the LCD-2 — the new LCD2 Classic — which seeks to return to the sound of the original LCD-2 model. When NOVO asked if I’d like to review Audeze’s new LCD2C headphones, I was more excited than Stormy Daniels’ legal team.
DESIGN & FEATURES
The new LCD2C is Audeze’s latest pair of the over-ear, open back, planar magnetic headphones. The Classic utilizes a doublesided magnetic structure and an ultrathin film diaphragm. The headband is constructed out of a powder coated springsteel arch and includes a perforated leather headband. The ear pads are made from a high-grade synthetic leather. The openings are 7cm x 5.5cm and will comfortably fit any human sized ears. The LCD2C has a 70 Ohm impedance.
My marathon late night listening sessions usually last for many hours. Any headphone that causes listening fatigue or neck-strain is a non-starter. To cut its weight, the Classic’s “rings” are formed out of crystalinfused nylon. Earlier LCD-2 models that used real wood rings occasionally cracked as the wood aged and/or dried out. Physically, the crystal-infused nylon is lighter and also more impact and scratch resistant than wood. Weighing in at 550 grams, the Classic is the lightest model in Audeze’s current LCD line. If you’re used to ultra light on-ear headphones like Grado’s RS-1, the weight, over-ear clamping pressure, and “seal” of the Classic may cause some issues. I had no problems with any of this.
To offer a discount alternative to their higher echelon LCD-3 and LCD-4 models, some frills have been cut from the new LCD2C. The Classic does not come with a
protective travel case or a wood display / storage case. Audeze does, however, sell a hard shell Pelican case for an extra $125 USD.
The original LCD-2’s sound in the lower frequency registers was deep, extended, and powerful. Its textured presence and low-end weight is a big part of what earned the 1st-gen LCD-2 its now legendary status. Although some audio reviewers felt that they sounded a bit dark, most serious headphone listeners recognized the astonishing timbral accuracy that the LCD-2 created in the midbass and low bass. Audeze’s goal was to try to return to the warmer sonic signature of the original pre-Fazor LCD-2. So… how does the Classic sound?
The LCD2C comes with a 1.9m length 1/4” to dual 4-pin mini-XLR cable. The stock braided 6-nines Oxygen Free Copper (OFC) cord that Audeze bundles with the Classic sounded fine and moving it while listening resulted in zero cable-borne noise.
For perspective, I tried several after-market OCC Copper (Cu) and OCC Silver (Ag) cords. To my ears, the Classic sounded its best when mated with a 1.5m Audio Sensibility Statement OCC Silver headphone cable [$449 CAD]. As budget permits, to hear the full sonic potential of the LCD2C, I’d strongly recommend upgrading the stock OFC cord to an OCC Silver one.
For comparative testing, I borrowed pairs of Audeze’s original LCD-2 headphones, LCD2 Fazor, and even their LCD-3 Fazor. [Thanks to Bernie and Andre for these]. The new Classic sounded very similar to the original LCD-2. Compared to the LCD-2 Fazor, the Classic’s sonics were warmer and had more weight in the lower frequency registers. The Fazor version had marginally faster transient speed, especially with high frequency instruments like cymbals.
Climbing higher up the sonic ladder, the LCD-3 Fazor had less grain, better timbral accuracy, superior separation of instruments, and rendered vocals clearer than the Classic. The LCD-3F also created a larger soundstage and a more articulate sound. The LCD-3F’s deeper resolution and smoother sonics do, of course, come with a higher $1,945 USD price tag.
Overall, the new LCD2C has a remarkably similar sonic signature to the original LCD2. With Audio Sensibility’s Statement OCC Silver HP cable installed, beneath the $1,500 USD mark, the Classic’s soundstage width and depth is the best I’ve yet heard. The LCD2C also has an exceptionally low distortion. Less distortion inherently means that more sonic detail can be heard. Even though they have a bit of grain in the treble, if you like Audeze’s “house sound”, you’ll certainly appreciate the stellar sonics that the Classic delivers for its reasonable asking price.
Released in 1996, the Tragically Hip’s Trouble at the Henhouse is a fascinating collection of songs that sound like the band was painting with sonic textures.
Listening through the LCD2Cs, I clearly heard the way that the Hip layered the haunting timbral shades of their instruments on top of one another. With tracks like “Gift Shop”, “Don’t Wake Daddy”, “700ft Ceiling”, and “Let’s Stay Engaged”, Gord Downie’s eccentric vocal intonations were easier to understand than I’ve ever heard them before. In particular, the Classic let me hear the subtle sonic nuances buried deep within the song “Sherpa”. The way that the individual piano notes are struck, hang, and then float across the soundstage in lingering echoes sent shivers down my spine.
Showcasing 15 heavy songs played at neck-snapping speeds with a white-knuckle death grip aggression, Sepultura’s landmark 1998 album Against mixes a plethora of different instruments into a peppered sonic goulash of simmering rage. Exploding with such riveting tracks as “Against”, “Choke”, “Old Earth”, “Common Bonds”, “Floaters in Mud”, “Hatred Aside”, and “Reza”, Against is a blisteringly heavy record that assaults listeners harder than a Liberal government tax increase. In particular, the Classic let the airy flute solo captured on the track “Kamatachi” soar over top of the atmospheric drum and percussive instruments layered underneath it with a haunting resonance.
Faced with the daunting challenge of reproducing the spine shaking low-end slam of this sonic masterpiece, the LCD2C created a warm and organic sound that was fast enough — and went deep enough — to capture the essence of Sepultura’s late1990’s thrash sound. The Classic’s ability to accurately resolve complex instrumental timbres in the lower midrange, upper bass, and mid bass registers was close to the best I’ve ever heard; and that’s in comparison to headphones with retail price tags that are 4 and even 5 times as expensive.
In releasing a 3rd generation version of their LCD-2 headphones, Audeze’s goals of cutting the Classic’s weight, dropping its price, and returning to the warmer sound of the original pre-Fazor LCD-2 headphones have all been achieved.
With a price of $799 USD, Audeze’s LCD2 Classic is — by far — the best sounding sub-$1,500 USD pair of planar magnetic headphones that I’ve yet heard. Upgrade the stock OFC cable to an after-market OCC Silver (Ag) headphone cord and you’ll hear audiophile calibre sound at, by high end audio standards, a bargain price.
How good is the LCD2 Classic? Well… I bought the review pair. No stronger statement about the stellar sound quality of any audio product can be made than when a reviewer ponies up his (or her) own cash to buy it.