Before I begin, I would like to personally thank Justin at Headamp
for allowing head-fiers like myself to test out the Audeze LCD-2 at home for a few days. Without him and Headamp, I would have most likely never been able to demo these stellar, and extremely expensive headphones. The LCD-2 are one of the most popular, and highly regarded former flagships to date. Until the LCD-3's release, the LCD-2 was arguably known as the best headphone in the world in the $1500 or less price range. It's most popular and direct competitors in the price range are the Hifiman HE-6, the Sennheiser HD800, Ultrasone Edition 8 and Signature Pro, among some others.Build Quality
: I must say I'm not a big fan of the LCD-2's aesthetics. It has a very retro look to it, as if these were made in the 1940s. I'm sure there are many fans of it's look, but I'm not one of them. It looks clunky, way too large, and borderline utilitarian, in my opinion. The cups are made of wood (there are rosewood and bamboo variants, bamboo being lighter). I was sent the bamboo LCD-2, which I was hoping on, as the LCD-2 is quite heavy as is. The grills are black, with the Audeze grill design, with screws that protrude holding it in place. The headband adjustment is basically two long cylindrical rods, which look durable, but ugly as sin. The headband is padded with leather bumps, which aren't as offensive as the AKG K701/2/Q701 bumps. They aren't extremely soft, but get the job done. The cable input is a 4-pin XLR, which is leaps and bounds better than Hifiman's horrible screw-in type of connector.
The connectors are angled, which I'm a big fan of, as they allow the headphone cables to stick out a little in front of you, and not directly fall on your shoulders. The removable headphone cable looks straight out of 1940 as well, with small cables covering each channel and stuck together. While it's not the prettiest cable, I am a fan, as it's relatively flat, and should be mostly tangle-free. The termination is a very thich 6.3mm (1/4") plug, which screams rugged and durable. Unfortunately, there is no 3.5mm adapter of any kind, so you may want something like the Grado 1/4" to 3.5mm cable to connect to smaller devices. Due to the fact that the LCD-2 is actually pretty decent on lesser equipment (doesn't need a lot to sound good), you might wanna invest on such an adapter if you have a portable amp here or there. The LCD-2 is definitely not for portable use, but it can at least be transportable and enjoyable in that method.
The included pads are made of real leather (none of that pleather nonsense). They are angled, and VERY thick. Not the softest kind, but not hard either. I feel they are the right amount of firmness, personally. Audeze also sells vegan pads (which are more akin to something like velours) if you're like me, and prefer non-pleather/leather material.
As I briefly mentioned, the LCD-2 overall is a very retro, very heavy, very big, and of utilitarian design.Comfort
: The LCD-2 is not exactly what I'd call comfortable. The weight is definitely a factor. They also have some clamp, which can be a bit strong. I'd bend the headband out to lessen this, but as these are not mine, I've left them untouched. I don't mind it's clamp personally, but I would prefer a bit less. My biggest issue is that even for an open-design headphone, they have that airplane cabin-pressure feeling once you put them on. It's as if the pads find a seal, and you get that suction feeling. It's a bit surprising and unpleasant, but the feeling goes away after awhile.
As always, leather builds up heat and induces sweat, but the effect is somewhat better with leather compared to pleather which tends to add stickiness into the mix. Thankfully, as I demoed the LCD-2, Florida was going through a pretty strong cold front, so the pads didn't bother me much. I still would have preferred the vegan pads, but beggars can't be choosers. The headband on the first day of use put pressure on the top of my noggin, which was quite uncomfortable. After a day, I was able to get used to the feeling. Certainly not as bad as the AKG headband bumps which never disappear off the head.
Overall, I'd say the comfort on the LCD-2 is passable. Not the worst, but not great. It's between decent to good.Accessories
: You get the headphone, the cable, some stickers, and an AMAZING hard case. The case looks like it would survive a nuclear blast. Very impressive, to say the least. Not exactly something I'd keep in the the open, but it should offer extreme protection if you desire to use it.Isolation/Leakage
: As an open-ear headphone, the LCD-2 isn't exactly isolating. It lets external noises in, and leaks out a LOT. You definitely do not want to use this in a room with people, or even in a separate room with the door open.Sound
: To the meat of what everyone really wants to know. What does a $1000 headphone sound like? I must say... FANTASTIC. The tonal balance is quite warm, rich, creamy, and oooooh so seductive. The frequency response of the LCD-2 is VERY linear up until the upper mids, which then gently rolls off to a smooth treble range. This makes the LCD-2 like the HD650, in which is brings in a thick, musical, and non-fatiguing sound signature. In short, if I were to put the HE-400's bass with the HD650's mids and treble, with a pinch of refinement, the concoction would sound something like the LCD-2.
Is it all magical? Unfortunately, no. The LCD-2 has it's weaknesses. Number 1 being that the treble isn't what I'd consider natural. It's rolled off a bit. While I wouldn't change this (as it'd make the bass and mids less magical), the smooth treble leads to very little airiness in the sound and somewhat congested and small-ish soundstage. Can't have it all, it seems. Let's get into the specifics...Bass
: The bass. Dear god. The bass. Incredibly full, textured, and very, VERY deep. Due to the extreme linearity of the LCD2's response, I can't say the bass is emphasized, because it is PERFECTLY in line with the mids. Seriously, if you look at the published graphs, you'd see, there is absolutely no real emphasis anywhere. Does that mean the bass is neutral and not very strong? Yes and no. The LCD-2 has bar none, the best bass I have ever heard on any headphone. Not the MOST bass, just the best overall.
While I personally prefer the Denon D7000's fun fueled bass with it's emphasized and omnipotent sub bass, it isn't accurate, and doesn't have very strong mid bass. It also tends to add bass where there shouldn't be none. The Ultrasone Pro 2900's bass is incredibly agile, and sharp, but lacks quite a bit in the sub-region. The LCD-2's bass is full in all areas and not just certain frequencies. When a source demands it, the LCD-2 hits like Thor's hammer, and in all other cases, presents itself very naturally. There is absolutely no lack of bass here. Just accurate, and always involved in a proper manner.
The closest competitor (with very similar bass) is the Hifiman HE-400. The LCD-2 further improves on the type of bass the HE-400 is known for with even more texture and fullness. Headphones should strive to have the type of bass that the LCD-2 has. It's that good.Mids
: If you have read my HD650 review on this guide, you know how absolutely entranced I am by it's mids/vocals. What if I told you the LCD-2's mids are even better? That's right. The LCD-2's mids are incredibly intimate, haunting, and realistic. I have never heard vocals sound as if the singers were singing in the same room. This is as close as it's come to that. The best word for me to describe the mids is: NATURAL. Natural, organic, realistic, very detailed, and spine-chilling. Don't get me wrong, the HD650's mids are very, VERY close to this, but the LCD-2 just has that extra step that makes them stick out even more for me. Amazing. Absolutely.Treble
: The treble range. This is the LCD-2's weak point in terms of it's frequency response. In order to make the bass and mids as special as they are, something had to give. Unfortunately, it's the treble range. Technically rolled off and smooth. This gives the LCD-2 lose out on air and soundstage, which leads to congestion/stuffiness. The lack of air paired up with the incredibly full notes tends to clash sounds together in comparison to other headphones with more treble, which is the LCD-2's biggest shortcoming. Personally, the treble is the least important aspect of sound to me now, as most music is in the bass and mids region of the sound spectrum. Treble aids in perceived clarity with sparkle and air, but it's not essential or integral. The LCD-2 is not undetailed or veiled sounding. However, the treble does lack sparkle in comparison to more neutral offerings. That is undeniable. This is one area that it truly shares with the HD650. However, I feel the LCD-2 is quicker and more aggressive, so it doesn't sound laid back like the HD650.Soundstage
: As mentioned before, the lack of air and the congestion due to it's smooth treble response leads to a soundstage that is more akin to a closed headphone. Like a closed headphone with a large soundstage, but disappointing for an open headphone.
I directly compared the LCD-2 with my K702 65th Anniversary which is also warm/smooth.
The LCD-2: It's midnight, the place is a small, smoky jazz lounge. There is a very sultry, seductive singer in a long red dress, glass of red wine in hand, who recently brought you up on stage and sat you on a chair. She sits on your lap and begins to sing her slow, romantic song directly to you.
K702 Anniversary: Instead of a smoky jazz lounge, you're in the front row of an open theatre, same woman, same song, but she's moving around while singing it to many people.
Make sense? The LCD2 is a lot more intimate and closed in, while the Annie has a much bigger sense of air, space and perceived clarity of notes. Both are so very good in what they do, but very different in presentation. What I recently stated was how I personally heard the LCD-2 for music, the LCD-2 for gaming (with Dolby Headphone) fared quite a bit better. Soundstage opened up, with a very good sense of depth and relatively decent width. Not very large, but there was ample space to allow positional cues space to do their magic.Positioning
: Positional cues were surprisingly very good. I had zero issues locating sound placement, though lesser headphones with less thickness made it much easier to pinpoint sounds. The LCD-2 is one of the better headphones I have heard in terms of rear depth, which is incredibly beneficial for positional cues.Clarity
: Clarity for gaming is actually pretty good. That linear response in bass and mids gives the LCD-2 quite a detailed sound for gaming, even borderline analytical at times (like the HD650, which was also surprisingly detailed for gaming), while softening just the impact of the more annoying sounds like gun fire and glass shattering enough to reduce ear fatigue. You get fullness AND clarity. Not many headphones that do both.Amping
: The LCD-2 is surprisingly easy to power for a planar magnetic headphone, requiring minimal amping to sound good. I was able to use it with the Mixamp alone, though I would still recommend some amping to truly make this $1000 worth the purchase. No reason to skimp out here when you've aready spent so much money on the headphone alone. The LCD-2 is known to scale up quite a bit, as it can handle a ridiculous amount of power, despite not needing much to hit the ground running. It certain improved in refinement when I used paired the Mixamp up with my Compass 2 which does 2 watts at 50ohm. The LCD-2 can handle even more than that.Value
: Value is certainly questionable. It costs an exhorbitant amount of money, and you can get by with much, much less for gaming in particular.Final Impressions
: The LCD-2 is a truly stunning headphone with the best bass and mids I have heard to date. That being said, as far as gaming goes, there are headphones better suited that cost MUCH less. It however, a top tier headphone that will impress on almost all fronts with few weaknesses. You get lots of warmth, musicality, fullness, and truly organic sound. Treble, air, and congestion are it's weaknesses, but the overall package is so fantastic, you can forgive these faults once everything is taken into account. This is one headphone I suggest people use for gaming if you happen to own them, though I certainly wouldn't buy them with gaming as the top priority. It is certainly better for non-gaming needs, though hold their own for gaming, especially for casual/fun gaming.
Fun: 9 (Fantastic. Incredible warmth, bass texture, mids, and fullness, for lots of immersion.)
Competitive: 7 (Good. Great clarity and detail, decent soundstage in Dolby Headphone with good rear positional cues.)
Comfort: 6.5 (Decent. Heavy, and clampy, but not completely offensive. It's passable. Comfort may be boosted with vegan pads and stretching the headband out for less clamp.)