Audeze

LCD2 Clas­sic Head­phones

NOVO - - REVIEW - by Dou­glas Brown

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?

PER­FOR­MANCE

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.

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