Audeze LCD2 Closed-Back Headphone - Official Discussion Thread

As some of you may have seen earlier in the week when a store jumped the gun and leaked it, Audeze has released a closed-back version of their LCD2 Classic. We’ve had it for a couple days now and I know @Ishcabible has a pair as well for review / impressions.

Decided to enjoy my morning breakfast with them and woke up early to get some shots with the sun coming up!

How do you guys feel about the design?

Keeping with Audeze tradition, they are fairly hefty at 560 grams and you can definitely feel the weight when you first put them on.

So far, I have found them to require a fair bit of juice to get them up to proper listening levels. Even though they are closed-back, I couldn’t recommend them as a portable can as the noise isolation isn’t great for outside environments and the only cable that comes with them is almost 2 metres long.

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The thing that sticks out the most is low midrange suck out. Male vocals, especially gravely male vocals, lose so much of their body and character because of this. The treble isn’t incredibly recessed or accentuated but does sound kind of uneven. The midrange is very shouty at around 2kHz. Not quite Grado levels, but I can definitely see people finding these uncomfortable.

The bass sticks out as the most prominent part of these headphones. It’s really elevated. Like, if I listen loudly they’ll rumble. It’s fun, but it’s not the most articulate. There is a sub preference rather than a mid bass emphasis. I could see these being awesome for movies…if the low midrange suck out doesn’t bother you.

Compared to the LCD-2C, these sound much less plasticky. They’re smoother overall, despite the shout around 2kHz. They’re much bassier but also less distant. They actually don’t share too many similarities sound-wise. They go for completely different things—these are meant to be exciting while the LCD-2C sounds more relaxing.

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Very interesting. Of course the news hits of these a day after I took the closed back plunge and ordered emerald green TH900mk2’s. Response graph even kinda looks Fostexy too.

I almost jumped on a set of Emerald green MK2 myself there was a really good deal on recently.

Interesting. I’ve got a pair for review. I really wanted to like these. I’m trying to work on analogies.
There’s an old saw from back in my college days, that I’m told circulated among the coeds.
Something about the difference between Mr. Right, and Mr. Right Now.

These are clearly neither.

They’re far short of Mr. Right. And they are both better quality and have more issues than Mr. Right Now.

I figured I’d write my impressions and review here just to add to the thread a bit. This review comes at the courtesy of the guys at headphone.com, who have been kind enough to lend them to me to evaluate.

Intro

I’ve always had a bit of a love/hate relationship with Audeze products over the years. The love is for the sound, generally, and the hate is for the weight and comfort. Their primary line of headphones is enormous, and I get that’s just part of the design, but other companies like mrspeakers are seemingly able to produce much lighter and more comfortable headphones that make me think no, the bulk isn’t necessary anymore. We should be past it by now. Nonetheless, Audeze have come out with the closed back version of their well-received LCD2 Classic, and somehow they’ve left me less conflicted and more simply confused when it comes to the LCD2 closed.

Source

FLAC Library, TIDAL (HiFi and Master) - iFi iDSD Micro Black Label-> Cayin IHA-6 (balanced output) -> ZMF Atmos C cable -> LCD2 Closed

Music
I went from instrumental jazz such as Michael Wollny, some folk from Alison Krauss and eventually to some more rough material from Avenged Sevenfold for metal. Of course, I also put it through my usual catalog of Patricia Barber, Julian Lage, Francis Lockwood, Brad Mehldau and Ulf Wakenius.

Specs:

  • Style: Over-ear, closed-back
  • Transducer type: Planar magnetic
  • THD: <0.1% @ 100dB
  • Impedance: 70 ohms
  • Sensitivity: 97dB/1mw
  • Weight: freaking brick

Build & Comfort

The LCD2 Closed takes the headband design from the LCD2 Classic, which is a good thing. The weight is extremely well distributed and there are no pain points or hotspots on top. Additionally the pads are absolutely massive - possibly the biggest pads I’ve ever seen. They’re not as nice as the ones on the Stellia, or LCD4, with the leather feeling a bit lower quality, and the pads not quite as plush. Nonetheless, they do a good job of cushioning the cups. The cups themselves feel very well built - perhaps too well built because this thing is unreasonably heavy. So much so that I couldn’t wear them for more than an hour or so at a time without getting neck pain. That means I’m back to the hate part of the love/hate relationship with Audeze… headphones shouldn’t weigh more than 500g in my opinion, and these weigh quite a bit more. While they made some improvements in the comfort department, they’ve unfortunately gone in the wrong direction when it comes to bulk and weight.

Performance

Since this is the closed back version of the LCD2 Classic, it’s unsurprising that the LCD2 Closed has the same excellent performant qualities. This is a decently resolving, fast, hard hitting, planar closed back.

Resolution & detail retrieval:
Resolution is good for the most part, and detail retrieval is similar to that of the LCD2 Classic. The tonality can cause some of that to be obscured with certain genres, however, and we’ll get to that. But in general I wasn’t left feeling like I was missing anything.

Speed & dynamics:
This has the same excellent planar speed that the Classic has, but where it improves on the classic is in the dynamic slam. This may be due to the closed back nature of the LCD2 Closed, but in any case, if this headphone has a crowning achievement, it’s this, especially down low. I will say, I do find the mrspeakers Aeon to be a bit faster, but perhaps with less of that slam or hard hitting quality. The LCD2 Closed is faster than the ZMF closed backs, but at best, it hits about as hard. The instrument separation is also quite good, especially in the bass - and kick drums hit with good weight and articulation.

Soundstage & imaging:
Another high point of the LCD2 Closed is that it doesn’t sound overly claustrophobic or closed in like some other closed back headphones can. You also get fairly large images. They’re not quite as surgical as on something like the Focal Stellia or even the Elegia, but they seem to be noticeably bigger, and on a fairly wide stage for a closed back.

Timbre:
The LCD2 Closed has the typical planar timbre (to me this is a good thing, it sounds engaging and punchy), and perhaps more natural sounding than that of Focal’s closed back offerings. The LCD2 Closed doesn’t quite match the tone of the ZMF Eikon or Atticus.

Tonality

The tonality of the LCD2 Closed is bizarre. When I first started listening, I threw on my usual instrumental jazz tracks, and I thought it sounded okay. The bass digs deep, with the planar driver adding weight to upright double bass lines. Piano recordings in this genre tend to be all over the place, however, because they’re often played live. This means it can be tough to evaluate a headphone’s tonality unless you’re listening to tracks where you know exactly how it should sound. So I moved on to material with vocals, and sure enough, I found that male vocals in particular tend to sound really strange. Then moving on to rock and metal, I found things started to get worse. Avenged Sevenfold’s ‘the stage’ - an album that sounds admittedly a bit rough on most equipment - sounds particularly dreadful to me on the LCD2 Closed. Needless to say, the experience of listening to this headphone demonstrates the significance of genre and music preferences for whether or not a person is likely to enjoy it.

This measurement was done using the MiniDSP EARS rig, which should not be compared to other systems and is not to be taken as an industry standard measurement system.

Of course, taking look at the measurements we can get a sense of why there’s so much variation among music genres. Unsurprisingly the bass is fairly flat and extends all the way down without roll-off, as is to be expected with a planar driver. There’s a rise in the lower mids, followed by a substantial cut. The midrange dip at around 500hz is such a strange contrast to the lower mid elevation, and for music genres that focus instrumentation primarily in that area, it throws it off quite a bit. So in that regard, it’s perhaps not the best headphone for metal music, or mid-focused electric guitars. It’s as if the primary tone sits further back in the mix, but the resonant qualities above and below still come forward, leaving it a bit hollow and muted. I don’t put too much faith in the HEQ target curve for the treble region above 4khz, but it does look like there’s a bit of a dip around 5khz. When trying to EQ, I don’t feel that adjusting it makes a huge improvement and the midrange proper is the bigger issue. For the rest of the treble, there’s a bit of edge or sharpness to it, not unlike the Classic. I liked this quality in the Classic, but because of the odd tonality of the Closed, it sounds a bit harsh to me. It’s not particularly sibilant, and thankfully there’s no egregious peak at 8.5khz, but that edge or grain might do better with a more subdued upper treble, and to me the Classic does this a bit better. I think the treble would have been fine for a slightly more analytic sound if the midrange weren’t so strange, and so for EQ, the key area to look at is 500-1khz.

Comparisons

Mrspeakers Aeon Flow Closed - The AFC is slightly faster to me, with about equal detail retrieval capabilities. The tonality of the AFC is much more neutral, and overall sounds much more agreeable to me, however the dynamics and slam of the LCD2 Closed is superior, as is the stage space and image size. The AFC is also much more comfortable, and so I’d take the Aeon over the LCD2 Closed.

Focal Elegia - Also a bit of an odd tuning, with a midrange emphasis, but the Elegia’s tonality is much more enjoyable to me than that of the LCD2 Closed. The LCD2 Closed hits harder, especially in the bass and with bigger images, but the Elegia wins out on detail retrieval capabilities. The Elegia is surprisingly comfortable as well, and so again I think the Elegia wins, unless you’re looking for that incredible bass slam and planar timbre exhibited by the LCD2 Closed.

ZMF Eikon - The Eikon is not quite as fast, but has at least as good detail retrieval capabilities, and hits about as hard. The stage is also more spacious, with a more natural timbre, and a vastly superior tonality. It is still bulky and a bit heavy, but nowhere near as bad as the LCD2 Closed. I’m a big fan of the Eikon for a closed back with its slightly warm take on neutral.

Focal Stellia - The Stellia has categorically superior detail retrieval due to the Beryllium driver. I prefer the more linear bass of the LCD2 Closed, and the dynamics are again slightly more intense. But in my opinion for overall enjoyment this is no contest, and the Stellia wins hands down.

Conclusion

I’m back to my love/hate relationship with Audeze products. This headphone does a lot of things very well, especially in its performant qualities, but ultimately it leaves me confused about what its intended design goal was. It’s not a closed back LCD2 Classic, and I don’t think that’s quite what Audeze’s target was with this. Sometimes companies try to achieve something different with their closed back headphones, but if that’s the case here, I’m not sure what that goal was. If the LCD2 Classic is warm or dark, the Closed isn’t exactly a brighter or more neutral take on the driver. Moreover, the weight is a bit of a deal breaker. I think the preferred listening environment might be with a headrest so you can lean back and take some of that weight off the neck, and that might put the listener in a less than ideal environment to be meticulous with EQ to get the tonality to the right place. Ultimately I’m left with mostly question marks when it comes to the LCD2 Closed. I could see someone who is really into the Audeze bass enjoying this, with the right kind of music, and for those people, it’s probably the closest closed back to that traditional Audeze sound. But for me, I’d take some of the other closed backs in this price range.

You can watch the video review here.

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FINALLY, The Much Delayed Review of the LCD-2 Closed Back by @pennstac

Review of Audeze LCD-2 Closed Back Headphones (with apologies to Chaucer)
image

As told by Pennstac, to the spirit of Sir Thopas, taking a break from his Pilgrimmage of 1387, in which he likens his love the Elfin Queene to the quest for a closed back headphone that sounds as the woods she inhabits.

The briddes synge, it is no nay,

The sparhauk and the papejay

That joye it was to heere,

The thrustelcok made eek hir lay,

The wodedowve upon a spray

She sang ful loude and cleere.

1 Sir Thopas hearing the clarion call of the Elf Queene

Pennstac: And so it comes that I have placed upon my hedd the Audeze LCD-2 closed-back headphones once more. To get into the spirit of this review, I’ve gone to ROON and am listening to a selection of Fairport Convention, from a 44.1 16-bit FLAC source, through the Mac Mini, and the iFi xDSD. But more about this later.

The Elders of Headphone Community Reviews have put upon me a geas of disclosure, in which I admit that these headphones were shipped to me as part of the Headphone Community Preview Program, in exchange for a review, not biased, but my personal best, although I am certain that this is not what they expected. I confess to the sins of sloth and laziness, and I have spent my vocabulary elsewhere, having had to wait for a new shipment of vowels before undertaking this task.

Upon completion of this task, I will dutifully and with small regret package the carefully handled LCD-2 closed back headphones and remand them into the hands of the UPS returning them to the community.

Not having purchased these headphones, I betook it upon myself to search upon the Internet, a wonderful series of tubes connecting to information, which informed me that these phones cannot be purchased with mere chicken feede. In fact, 899 Iron Men it takes to pry them loose from their source.

Sir Thopas: (slipping out of personna) Gad, Pennstac, why do you do this? Look, @Resolve has just posted a perfectly fine review of those LCD-2 Closed-Backs, and here you are pharting around with some fake Chaucer references, making a Sophomoric hash of things.

Pennstac: (sipping on a gynne and tonicke) Well, Sir T, I just had to play some kind of game after all this time. If I liked the dammned things more, I could dispense with this and extoll the virtues, as you do with your Elfin Queene. Ll

Sir Thopas: (Back in personna) Mind what you say about my love. For in this world no womman is Worthy to be my make. As no worldly heddphone can sing her voice so clear. Dynamic drivers you may dred, planar-magnetics the chanticleer. Audeze, aww deeze, pfones upon my hedd, a tonne of brickes, a crowne of lead.

Oh, Dag-burn it, this is going nowhere.

I shall make a royal mess of a review. Changing styles as one changes from Texas Two-Step to the Academy of St. Martin’s in the Fields.

Interjection!

At last! I have found something that I like to listen to on these weighty beasts. TUBULAR BELLS! Yes, these headphones sound good playing Mike Oldfield’s original TUBULAR BELLS. Lossless stream, Tidal/ROON. MacMini to iFi xDSD in line out mode. Thence to the Schiit Loki, the HeadRoom Standard amp, and the AUDEZE LCD-2 Closed Back. The roomless nature of this album is perfect for these phones. Bass extension is good. Dynamics are excellent. I don’t hear the little echoes that have been plaguing me otherwise. If you are not familiar with this album, you should be. Only part of it was used to creep people out watching the [watch me puke green goo] Exorcist. Headphone enthusiasts will like Vivian Stanshall’s introduction of the instruments that comes in at 20 minutes.

What about the box? (close your eyes and read, I did not take photos)

The box arrived some months ago. I took good care of it, as I have these headphones on loan. It’s a white cardboard box. The box contains grey foam. The foam is grey, did I mention that? It has a cut in space where the headphones rest for travel. A tube of foam, also grey, keeps the earcups somewhat separated. Also cut in the foam is a deep slot, where you have an OK cable with a ¼ inch stereo plug. And an adapter that goes to 3.5mm stereo plug. And a flash drive with a not terribly informative manual.

That’s it! At a list of what, $899 or more, nobody is spending extra money on packaging. Both my Hifiman HE-560s and the $200 Massdrop Sennheiser HD-6XX have nicer packaging.

Did I mention the white cardboard and grey foam theme?

No Really, this can’t be your review. Have you given them a fair trial?

Pennstac: (now on a Brandy mixed with rumme and juice of the farkleberrie) The Elf Queene spins the digitalle philes on the Radio Paradise, (which I have not yette achieved) and many hours have I tried to take my rest listening to same files FLAQUE eschewing favored reproducers of Musicke in favor of the echo-prone Audeze Closed Back LCD-2 Producte.

Interjection! Phase II

Another win for the LCD-2. After reading What music have you been listening to elsewhere here I’m listening to Slint “Spiderland”. It’s the 4th of July, weather is not good. AC is droning in the background. I don’t know what this music is supposed to sound like. Tidal is pumping it through the Mac Mini, to the iFi xDSD, and then out to the LCD-2 Closed Back, which mercifully mask the window unit AC. I can hear the music and it’s good. Just a Redbook FLAC, but the headphones are right for it. Spiderland has aggressive silences and imperative guitar. Drums sound good. I can’t close my eyes and envision the size of the recording studio. But I can get lost in the music. Thanks to @boneburglar for the pointer.

Back to the Narrative

Sir Thopas: (Still in personna) “Now holde youre mouth, par charitee”. How can ye damn these aww deeze with faint praise (methinks a future quote) and still be so unsure? I have no such misgivings about my faerie Queene.

Pennstac: These rhymes are the best I can do. And partial pleazing is the best El CeeDee Too can do. For it, unlike youre Queene is not of a constant, but a variable nature. It expelleth it’s musique from inside a small shell, albeit a heavy one. The magick is imperfect, it sometimes confuseth me, so I know not if I lie in a chest or a cavern, listening to the musics of the spheres, (and tesseracts, and non-Euclidian geometries).

Sir Thopas: That oghte liken yow, as I suppose, Or elles, certes, ye been to daungerous.

Pennstac: That may be true. For unlike you I ne’er was a dognthy swayn, shoon of cordewane, and robe of sylkatoun. An olde man I be, cranky and however you say irascible in middle English. I will be donne with this, and packe up the Aww Deeze into their greysome boxxe and send them home. My jobbe be donne or not.

Epilogue

All fooling aside, I must say that I got more than I bargained for when I decided to do a review of the Audeze LCD-2 closed backs for the community program. Yes, I got to listen to them. It’s been a long time since I listened to closed back headphones. I think I just don’t care for them.

I apologize for taking so long to do a review, but not for the nature of it. I think I make clear some of the strengths and weaknesses of the phones. It is not easy to write about something you are not enthused about. These are not bad headphones, but they are very clearly not to my taste. I started several times and deleted my work. Finally, I decided I’d at least play around a bit to make it somewhat fun for myself, if daunting for my readers.

Chaucer is worth reading, even more so in some of the online versions which do so much more than Cliff’s notes. The Harvard university online version juxtaposes modern and middle English fragments, as do several others. I have used a fair amount of real middle English and a fair amount of “Fake Middle English” in this review. And even more fake early modern English.

The tale of Sir Thopas is particularly appropriate for this review. It is a break in serious narrative, and is assigned not to the other pilgrims, but to Chaucer himself. It is a tale in which Chaucer does an almost modern twist – mocking himself and the sort of tales that he is telling. I hope you all haven’t puked reading my sophomoric scribblings.

@pennstac

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A few other points, now that I’ve posted the truncated review.

The LCD-2s are heavy on my head. Clamping force is fine, and the cheap feeling rubbery head band works OK.

These are relatively hungry beasts. The iFi xDSD DAC powers them but not with complete authority. I did better putting the DAC in line out mode and using the Headroom Standard amp.

It is POSSIBLE to plug them in to your mobile device directly. Just don’t plan on playing them loudly. The best thing about these is that they reduce room noise. The worst thing is that they have a significant internal sound-space of their own. This either works with a particular recording, or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t it can be very bad. I listened to an MQA recording of Spanish Guitar recorded in a stone church in Spain. The internal reflection or sound-space made it unlistenable. Same recording on my old STAX or on Sennheiser HD-6XX was just fine.

It was this feature of the closed back that made it so hard for me to continue to work through them and do the review.

I will miss the isolation without having to stick things in my ears, or hear the effects of active noise cancellation.


Other things I should have said now that I got them back in the box. Sound signature. About what I expected. They are respectable planar magnetics. It’s only the closed back that bothers me. It makes the bass feel somehow small or compressed, even though it has considerable extension and punch. Frequency wise- they seem more like my HiFiman HE-560 planars (in the same price ballpark originally) than anything else I have.

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