Audeze LCD-3 Review
Audeze is currently one of the headphone audio pioneers in this field. They don’t just farm out drivers from OEM’s and what not. They design, tune and sell them for the purpose of mastering audio. The LCD-3 is one of the world’s best headphone right now next to the HD800′s, Orpheus, SR-009 and many other units. The LCD-2 skyrocketed Audeze to being one of the most bought summit-fi cans. I wish to thank Audeze for jumping in with Burson to send the LCD-3 to me for review. And I wish to thank Burson as well for even making this possible.
The quality of the LCD-3 is marvelous and at the same time worrying. Everything on it is either shiny or Earthy. the wood used for the ‘faceplate’ is real and of high quality. Custom made and designed by Audeze. It feels sleek and has the air of quality around it. The pads used are soft, and show no signs of being flaky, and the headband is the same. No cracks are detected in them(I’ve only had them for short time) but it also doesn’t seem like they will develop them for a long time if ever. The LCD-3 has personal quality to it. Quality that gives it a feel of legitimacy, expense, and of nobility. However in terms of how well built this is in terms of not breaking. The LCD-3 is worrisome. The joints leading from the headband to the drivers were meticulously designed but of course still feel very weak to me. Pictures have also shown that I am right to be worried about that part as well. The good thing is that that is also probably the cheapest part to replace as no audio wires are up there. The termination into the dual cables also worry me in terms of how one should place the LCD-3 on a table and if something pushed against it head on by accident. But of course, this is a $2,000 marvel so there is some leniency towards it in terms of it needing protection.
The LCD-3 of course is open and is a planar magnetic. This means that you can’t use it easily on the go (unless you are as awesome as ALO Audio ). Placing your hands in front of the LCD-3′s front grills also distorts the sound due to the design of the drivers (some planar magnetics don’t need an open back plate like the T50RP) and so this also means that you are limited in use to it. This headphone obviously was not designed for any of those situations where you can get comfy with the LCD-3. I am just mentioning the obvious as some want to know and as it is part of the usability. How one can put the LCD-3 down is also an issue. I personally had to resort to using the soft case of my Macbook Pro as the throne of the LCD-3 for the past two weeks.
Audeze gives you an XLR terminated plug along with a Quarter inch (TS) terminated cable. So you have the option to go balanced or not. The Audeze units themselves have mini xlr male terminations on each side of the driver facing forward. The cable is of good quality, and the termination of the cable is a bit DIY-ish in where you can take it apart. I have no qualms with the cable for the most part.
Isolation and Leak:
You are reading the wrong review for the wrong headphone if you want to actually know about this section. But for the record, these are open and can get quite loud. Outside sounds also penetrate in.
The pads themselves were very comfortable, but the headband started to get annoying. This is not the headbands fault. Audeze made the headband as comfy as they could, but this was to only help with the other issue. The weight of the LCD-3′s. All the weight is thus on your head and it does make you hate the headbands. Although that hate is a bit wrong. They are good for about 3-4 hours without taking them off at the max I think. I don’t have much hair, and those that do may want to do it sooner. The only softer pads my ears touch are my pillows. And even then, the LCD-3′s driver pads are still much comfier than my pillows.
(please skip to 5:36 if the video doesn’t do it)
I do not use many high end parts. I have owned the Audio-gd NFB 12.1 and have been sent review samples of many other units. The whole point of this tour was to give people that don’t use $2000 headphones the chance to do a write up on them and what not. So this will just be my own thoughts and do not reflect an actual professional review where the reviewer would have had a plethora of knowledge and experience with units at this price point.
For this review, I used the AKG Q701 and Burson Soloist SL. The constant DAC was the Cirrus Logic CS4398. I have had experience with the LCD2.2 for a home demo thanks to Justin at Headamp and wil include that.
The lows of the LCD-3 are absolutely fantastic. They extend far while having great feel and presence to them. Many call it greatly textured and I can not agree more. You can finally hear and ‘feel’ the actual lows. Almost as if you could touch them. They don’t accentuate the mid bass and keep it fairly smooth throughout. The mids on the LCD-3′s are amazing. I was less than impressed with the LCD 2.2′s but these are great. The vocals are forward and have good presence to them. The lower end of the vocals isn’t as thick as the mid vocal range which is good in my opinion. And what is even better is the layering of the mids from the vocals. The instruments are very noticeably seperated from the vocals. No, this is not the song I am listening to. This is two weeks of listening to music from every genre, watching movies, watching videos and what not with them. The layering of the mid instruments from the vocals is really just out of this world. And finally the highs. The highs of the LCD-3 are there. It won’t satisfy those that want the frequency to be well represented and bright(but not fatiguing). But what it does have is a mellow high frequency range that is smooth but without much presence to them.
Compared to AKG Q701:
There is close to no competition now with the LCD-3. The only two thing the Q701′s have for it are the light weight of it so it can be ‘thrown’ anywhere and comfort. All due to its lightness. And being a better light sounding can for those that prefer it. The LCD-3′s are dark and add that sound sig to nearly everything it plays. Some want a very light sound signature that doesn’t carry the entire weight of the music behind it, and that is where the Q701′s can shine. However everywhere else the Q701 loses out. The Q701′s won in the mid range from the 2.2(depending on what you like) but the Q701′s layering of the mids to vocals is nowhere near the level of the LCD-3s. And now that the vocals are also forward, the Q701′s have really nowhere to run. The vocals are well presented on the LCD-3′s and have depth. The low end of the Q701′s is laughable compared to the LCD-3′s. But keep in mind that there is nearly a 7X-10X cost difference between the two.
Video Comparison of Q701 to LCD-2.2:
Compared to LCD-2.2:
I do not have the LCD-2.2 side by side. So this is the most probably possibly in-accurate section. Bear that in mind please, but I personally felt like the mid bass of the LCD 2.2 was more pronounced and louder than the LCD-3s. The LCD-3′s are more like reference headphones where everything is smoothed out and made equal. The vocals of the LCD-2.2 are also laid back and fairly mellow which just wasn’t my cup of tea. That is the most I can maybe remember between the two.