Audeze LCD-2 Classic Review
Written by Chrono
The LCD-2 Classic ($799), which I will be referring to as “LCD-2C,” is the current introductory model of Audeze’s full-size LCD family of headphones. The LCD-2C is essentially a simplified version of the iconic LCD-2, as they share various design aspects and driver technologies. The LCD-2C retains the LCD-2’s Neodymium N50 magnets, as well as the same magnetic structure; albeit without the inclusion of Audeze’s Fazor waveguide technology.
Sources and Music Used in Listening Tests
The amplifier/DAC used was an ifi iDSD Micro Black Label connected via USB to my desktop computer. For the listening tests I used music from a wide variety of genres including Rock, Jazz, Classical, Acoustic, Hip-Hop, and latin. I played tracks from my own FLAC library as well as from Qobuz streaming service via Roon.
What’s in the box?
I think that “bare-bones” is a fitting description of the LCD-2C’s packaging. It comes in a very simple white box with no branding, only a couple of “Fragile” stickers. The inside of the box is padded densely with foam in the same way that Audeze’s travel cases are; and there you will find the LCD-2C itself, a warranty card, as well as the excellent 1.9m, dual 4-pin mini-XLR to ¼” LCD-series cable.
The LCD-2C, like the standard LCD-2, clocks in at an impedance of 70 ohms and a sensitivity level of 101dB/mw. In practice I found that these were actually very easy to drive. I did feel as though they opened up a bit more nicely when driven off a discrete headphone amp so I will ist one as required, but I do not think it has to be the most powerful one out there; I thought they sounded great when powered by a JDS Labs Atom.
Build Quality and Comfort
The LCD-2C is built using Audeze’s traditional full-size LCD design, but it features black nylon rings in lue of the usual wooden rings. Aside from the nylon rings, ear pads, and headband strap, the LCD-2C is composed entirely out of metal and it feels very sturdy. The use of nylon for the rings does come with some added benefits. Despite feeling very solid, the nylon rings reduce the headphones overall weight when compared with the wooden rings; and unlike wood, Nylon will not need any special maintenance or precautions to keep them in their best shape. My only complaint is the same one I had with the LCD-GX, and that is that the synthetic leather used on the LCD-2C makes the headband stretch very easily and I think it will need replacement not too far down the road.
Comfort on the LCD-2C was, at least to me, very good. The pads are–in usual Audeze fashion–gigantic and deep; providing ample room for your ears to fit in. While they remain relatively heavy at 550g, and are not as light as the magnesium-chassis LCD-GX, I still found the LCD-2C to be very comfortable and had no issues wearing them even in prolonged listening sessions. Clamp force out of the box was not particularly bad either. I still think that they will need some easing-in, but they did not put as much pressure on my jaw as the LCD-2; which had a pretty vicious clamp in the first couple of weeks of use. My only real complaint for comfort is–again–the headband strap’s stretching. The stretching of the suspension strap can cause the metal headband to come in contact with the user’s head; applying some pressure.
LCD-2C measurements on Headphone.com’s GRAS standardized measurement system.
As previously mentioned, the LCD-2C is a Fazor-less variant of the standard LCD-2, and therefore it should come as no surprise that both headphones share similar qualities in their frequency response and tonality. As such, I will say that the LCD-2C is not really a headphone I would listen to or recommend if you are not comfortable with using some EQ or the Audeze Reveal + plugin. The LCD-2C, like the standard LCD-2, is a headphone that greatly benefits and transforms with EQ, so I will be discussing its usage extensively in this review. As I usually like to do, I will go over the different sections of the frequency response, but for the LCD-2C I will be subdividing them into “Without EQ” and “With EQ.” For each “with EQ” section, I will go over the changes I made with EQ and why. If you would like to try the EQ profile I created for the LCD-2C in your EQ software of choice, it is as follows:
Low Shelf at 100hz, +2dB Q of 0.7
Peak at 1000hz, -3dB Q of 1.41
Peak at 4000hz, +3dB Q of 2
Peak at 6000hz, -6dB Q of 3
Peak at 8000hz, +4dB Q of 4
Like on other full-size LCD headphones I have listened to, the LCD-2C has great bass. The LCD-2’s bass has a great sense of depth as it extends very evenly and in almost perfectly-linear fashion all the way down to 20hz with no roll-off that I could hear. The lows here are also extremely clean, with very good control and articulation; it has no bloats causing the bass to sound muddy or boomy. Whilst I still think that the standard LCD-2 and Ananda have slightly better-textured and detailed bass, the LCD-2C is excellent in this region of the frequency response and is about on-par with the LCD-GX.
I actually do not think that the bass region needs EQ on the LCD-2C. I really only use EQ to bring it to preference. Some might find that the overall bass level is just right, but I personally like to add 2dB under 100hz to just give the sub-bass region a little kick. It is also worth noting that the LCD-2C has very low Total Harmonic Distortion (THD), so if you would like to add an additional 5dB or 6dB or bass shelf like on the 2018 Harman Target Curve, you can definitely do that on these without running into any strange audio artifacts or distortion.
Unfortunately, the midrange is where the LCD-2C’s tonality starts to get a little funky. The mids on the LCD-2C have a couple of deviations that combine to really throw off the headphone’s tonality and timbre. The LCD-2C, to me, seems to actually have less severe of a recession in the upper midrange when compared to the standard LCD-2, but they still lacked a fair bit of energy at around 4.5K. The more problematic peak for me, however, was a fairly wide elevation at 1K that when paired with the lack of presence in the upper midrange resulted in the LCD-2C’s mids having a strangely dampened, congested sound in their tonality that even affected perceived resolution negatively.
With EQ, the mids on the LCD-2C can be very easily restored and that congested tone in the timbre goes away; making them sound, to me, significantly more natural and tonally accurate. After EQ, I really enjoy the mids on the LCD-2C, as they have good body whilst maintaining a laid-back upper midrange that lends them a somewhat “sweet” sound. I would also like to add that after enabling EQ, the perceived loss of resolution effect goes away and a lot of midrange detail is able to re-surface. The LCD-2C seemed to me like it had good resolution in the mids, and was about on-par with the HiFiMan Ananda. However, I still found the LCD-GX and standard LCD-2 to be more resolving in this region of the frequency response.
The treble region on the LCD-2C is, again, fairly similar in tonality to that of the standard LCD-2. However, their technical performance was surprisingly different. Starting with tonality, the LCD-2C’s treble is very warm, and to me it sounded like it was actually a little darker than the standard LCD-2. Like the standard LCD-2, the LCD-2C has a prominent peak at 6K that introduced some sibilance and noticeable glare in the lower treble. To me, it also sounded like there was a dip at around 8k; brass instruments and cymbals in particular sounded like they were missing some of their overtones in that region.
When using EQ on the LCD-2C’s highs I add a more aggressive cut at 6K than I did on the standard LCD-2, as I feel as though that peak is a little more present in the LCD-2C Additionally, I add a boost at 8K to bring back some of those shrouded overtones. With these peak adjustments in place, I feel like the treble cleans up quite a bit, with most of the sibilance and glare gone. So while there really isn’t anything bothering me for frequency response in the treble region after EQ, I find that it is in treble quality where the LCD-2C seriously falters. To me, the LCD-2C’s treble is really missing the cleanliness, extension and refinement in the highs that really impressed me on the standard LCD-2. Other headphones like the Ananda, AEON 2, and LCD-GX all sound to me like they deliver a much cleaner image of the highs, and it makes LCD-2C sound fairly grainy by comparison. The standard LCD-2 (post-EQ) is one of the best-performing headphones I have listened to thus far; only being slightly edged out by the Focal Clear. Therefore, the underwhelming treble detail retrieval of the LCD-2C was very surprising to me; especially when you consider that both the standard LCD-2 and LCD-2C are using similar, if not identical, driver technology minus the omission of Fazor waveguides on the LCD-2C.
Soundstage, Imaging, and Layering
I really enjoy the LCD-2C’s soundstage, and I personally find it to be fairly wide. For width, it is slightly narrower than the LCD-2, but I still find it to be a bit wider than the LCD-GX, DT 1990 Pro, and much wider than the HD 660S. Imaging I think is where I do think that the LCD-2C’s soundscape takes a bit of a hit, as its center-image is not as clearly defined when compared to the standard LCD-2. Occasionally it feels like it moves the different sounds either slightly to the right or to the left when I compare to other headphones. The imaging is definitely still much better than on something from the HD 600-series, but I definitely would not describe it as precise, as the standard LCD-2, LCD-GX, DT 1990 Pro, and Ananda feel more precise in that regard. Layering on the other hand I think is fantastic on the LCD-2C, as it is able to very easily distinguish all the different vocal and instrument lines that compromise the music that I listen to. Overall I find the LCD-2C to have an enjoyable soundstage presentation, it just seems to lack a bit of precision in its directionality.
I tend to associate full-size LCD headphones with great dynamics that enhance the emotion and energy behind the music, and I think that for the most part the LCD-2C retains that lively element. Listening to things like kick drums provides a very good sense of punch and slam on the LCD-2C just like they do on the LCD-GX and Standard LCD-2. However, I feel like while they have that satisfying low-end impact, they do not always have as much top-end attack on instruments when compared with the latter two headphones. Nonetheless, the LCD-2C has great dynamics; making for engaging listening experiences.
With the standard LCD-2 being one of my favorite headphones, I cannot help but to admit that I am slightly disappointed by the LCD-2C. Whilst you can definitely get a very good tonality out of it with EQ, it really lacks the technical performance and finesse that the standard LCD-2 brings to the table. If the LCD-2C was still available for its original pre-order price of $599, I think it would actually be a much better option, especially if you are comfortable with EQ. However, at its current $799 price tag and in the current headphone market, I really don’t think that buying LCD-2C makes much sense. From Audeze themselves there is the awesome LCD-GX ($899), which at only one hundred more dollars provides better technical performance, better ergonomics thanks to its magnesium chassis, and a much more natural, agreeable tonality that–ironically–I think sounds more like what listeners expect the LCD-2C to sound like. In that price range there is also the excellent Ananda from HiFiMan, which at $699 offers outstanding technical performance and one of the best natural frequency responses I have heard in a headphone. If you are looking for a headphone with great technical performance with a warm, relaxed tonality or an intro to Audeze, I think that the best options are the LCD-GX which I find to be a great introduction to the LCD series, or just go straight to the standard LCD-2 if you are fine with using some EQ.