The Audeze LCD2C will ruin your taste for other audiophile headphones
The Audeze LCD2C is the muscle car equivalent of headphones -- it's got the power to move you!
Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Stereophile.
Audeze came out of nowhere in 2009. Its very first headphone, the LCD-2, put establishment brands like AKG, Beyerdynamic, Grado, Sennheiser and Stax on notice.
Nine years later, the LCD-2 is still in the line, and it still makes most other brands' full-size headphones sound rather puny. They all lack the LCD-2's visceral bass and shockingly wide dynamic range. In short, the LCD-2 is a rock fan's dream headphone. It plays other genres with verve, but there's real synergy between rock music and the LCD-2.
In addition to the current LCD-2 which runs $995 in the US, £1,099 in the UK, and AU$1,399 in Australia, Audeze now offers a range of full-size over-the-ear, on-ear and in-ear headphones. The subject of today's review is the LCD2 Classic (aka LCD2C) that sells for $799 in the US, £899 in the UK and AU$999 in Australia.
The new headphone comes with a lightweight suspension headband, and crystal-infused nylon ring ear cups. Best of all, it features Audeze's huge 106mm planar magnetic drivers. I say huge because most competing dynamic headphones have drivers measuring 50mm or smaller. The LCD2C's impedance is rated at 70 ohms.
As good as the LCD2C sounds, I'm duty-bound to report it's a big and heavy headphone, so it's not all that portable. It's also an open-back headphone, so it doesn't do a thing to hush external noise. Comfort was a little better on this generation of LCD 'phones than earlier models, but this still really a big thing on your head.
The user-replaceable braided cables seem sturdy, and securely lock onto the LCD2C's ear cups. I really do love the feel of this headphone's extra-thick ear pads, and overall build quality feels mighty impressive. Audeze LCD headphones are all made in California.
The thing that really jumped out about the original LCD-2 and now the LCD2C is its powerful dynamics and ear-massaging bass. It has a larger sense of scale than most competing headphones; the LCD2Cs sound rich, warm and hugely satisfying.
To put the sound in context, I compared the LCD2Cs with a set of Sennheiser HD700 ($750) open-back, over-the-ear headphones. Audeze doesn't list the Classic's weight, but right away the HD700 was more comfortable and much lighter, it weighs 9.5 ounces (270 grams). The HD700s sound was livelier, with more treble detail and air, and they are more open and spacious-sounding headphones. The LCD2C packs a bigger wallop, it really kicks, and the bass, OMG -- the bass is miles ahead of the HD700s! If you want to not just hear but feel your tunes, the LCD2C has it all over the HD700.
Sadly, I didn't have a set of the more-popular Sennheiser HD600 or HD650 headphones on hand for direct comparisons, but I know those headphones well enough to know they can't keep up with the LCD2Cs' bass and dynamic slam.
Midrange is another area where the LCD2C excels. Well-recorded vocals sound so real, tonal balance is warm and full, and more natural than what I heard from the HD700. Some audiophiles find the LCD2C's treble dull or soft sounding, and if you crave lots of detail and brilliance the LCD2C won't cut it. On the other hand, I really like the LCD2C's easy-to-listen-to sound balance. Harsh or overcompressed recordings go down easier over the LCD2C; the HD700s brighter sound is more fatiguing with those recordings.
Play any Star Wars or Star Trek Blu-rays via the LCD2Cs and their sound will knock your socks off. They seem to encourage louder listening sessions because you don't hear distortion creeping up with higher volume. The LCD2C also sounded great at quiet volume levels.
Comparing the LCD2 Classic with the slightly more expensive LCD2, the Classic can't match the LCD-2's superior brawn and transparency. But if you can't spring for the standard LCD-2, the LCD2 Classic will get you most of the way there. It'll outperform any "regular" nonplanar magnetic headphone in its price class in just the ways I described earlier in this review.
With all of that in mind, Audeze's LCD series of headphones are definitely worth checking out. I assure you their strengths are easy to discern for everyone, not just audiophiles.