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