Audez'e LCD-2 - Overview
The LCD-2 is a headphone by Audez'e (pronounced to sound like odyssey), using a brand new and improved (compard to the one used in the LCD-1) planar magnetic driver in a custom manufactured headset. Various stage prototypes appeared at headphone meets. Final product is shipping in May, 2010.
The LCD-2 has gone through many iterations, most notably:
- Initial deisgn: had cable entry straight down, and a different grille than later versions.
- Classic version: change of cup cable entry, to angled entry, and change of grille design.
- REV 1: change of ear pads, new cable
- REV 2: change of drivers
Initial design (info from Audeze web page):
Audez’e is proud to introduce the LCD-2s designed for Recording / Mixing Engineers as reference headphones and the audiophiles and music enthusiasts.
The LCD-2s are in production and will start shipping to customers on May 10th. We are in the process of contacting people who have emailed / pre-ordered the headphones. Hand selected Caribbean Rosewood ear cups.
Lamb Skin Leather Ear pads.
Audeze’s unique planar magnetic transducer with matched sensitivity.
Mini XLR interchangeable cable.
Very easy to drive with amplifiers.
Left and right transducers have matched sensitivity and frequency response.
The LCD-2 housing is designed and custom built from hand selected Caribbean Rosewood. It is built to enhance the quality of the sound and offers a unique coloration and graining. The LCD-2 ear pads are designed to optimally recreate the entire pro audio frequency range. The sloped ear pad design allows us to faithfully reproduce the detail and clarity to the bass, midrange and the treble. The ear pads are made of premium lambskin leather with specially selected foam to offer the right amount of firmness.
As production went on Audez'e made a few changes to the ergonomics and appearance of the headphones such as grille slots, head-pad material, angle of cable entry into the cups, and possibly also headband clamping force.
REV1: Update 2011 (info from Audeze web page):
- new cable, the ADZ1
- new ear pads
REV2: Update 2011 (info from Audeze web page):
Now we are introducing revision2 of the driver. The LCD-2s as a model remain the same. Newer LCD-2 shipments from middle of June have revision2 of the driver.
Does the sonic signature change ? Revision 2 transducer has the same mechanical construction as original transducer, but uses newly developed, thinner and more reliable diaphragm material. Overall sound signature remains similar. Low frequencies stay flat, but are tighter and even more extended (flat to 5 Hz), midrange is smoother and more transparent, while high frequencies are more extended, detailed and more pronounced. With Rev.2 we are addressing concerns of many customers who feel that original LCD2 has darker high frequency signature than many top of the line headphones.
While overall sonic signature remains similar, new revision provides substantial improvement in sound quality (this is no hyperbole), sound resolution and especially imaging, which is wider, more stable and 3 dimensional. If you loved the LCD-2 sonic signature, you will like the new one even more.
Does this mean there is a new model ? No. We considered this, but decided to continue with the same LCD-2 model. Though the changes are significant, we don't think it warrants a completely new model. The change will be seamless to new customers. Customers who order LCD-2 will get the new driver by default. If you bought the headphones recently (mid-june), please email us your serial number and we can tell you if it is newer driver.
Why change it suddenly ? A couple of reasons. We have developed new diaphragm material that offered several benefits over the existing material. We decided to pass along the improvements to customers. The issues we had with some older stock gave us the impetus to move to the new diaphragm quicker than expected.
Leather Headbands ? One of the major requests we have had from our customers is for Leather headbands. Well, here it is. The headband is designed to fit the LCD-2 and be as comfortable as possible. This will be a drop in replacement for the current headband. We will provide the Leather headband as an upgrade option for the LCD-2 for existing customers. You can order the headband here. The headband is wrapped with high quality, very soft lamb skin leather with memory foam cushions to give the user a maximum comfort.
General Description of the Sound
I felt extremely privileged to be included in the first group of people to hear the long awaited and much anticipated release of Audeze's LCD2. Some history: I am not new to planar magnetic technology and have been an avid fan and disciple of planar magnetic headphones ever since I was lured into the murky waters by the vintage yamaha orthodynamic headphones. If not for the keen efforts of wualta on HeadFi, this dream would most likely not have been realized. I first heard about Audeze when a friend and fellow discple of orthodynamic headphones discovered this small company in California, managed to make contact with them and establish that initial dialogue which brought to us the LCD1 and now the LCD2. I really liked the LCD1, it was my first glimpse at what modern planar drivers were capable of. The LCD1 was a top performer and finally offered a modern headphone that had better performance than the venerable Fostex T50vx. It did most things that one would want from a headphone but finally didn't have the ability to reproduce the bass notes with the authority that they deserved. The LCD1 was always aimed at being a market entry headphone with limited production, as it used an off the shelf foster frame and cup the biggest weakness for these drivers in the end as they were more than capable of superb performance. The LCD2 is finally here to continue the promise from this dedicated company. An aside on Audeze - they have been very open to guidance from the experience of the headphone community and have worked hard to address most peoples concerns/requests in their development process. I would be remiss if I did not mention the HE5 from HeadDirect. This is another planar magnetic headphone which made a surprise appearance at CanJam 09 and has garnered much popularity amongst headphiles. I have had the opportunity to hear 2 versions of this headphone, the earliest suffered some congestion on the bass and a peakiness in the upper mids, the later version had cleaned up the bass with some damping but the peak remained and although it was still a very good headphone, it still needed some fine tuning. I have not yet heard the HE5LE but this was version is supposed to address the concerns noted in the HE5.
Back to the LCD2. Music chain - RED BOOK CD - Yamaha DVD1700(SACD) - highly modified Sonic Frontiers Transdac - direct coupled tube hybrid amplifier with class A mosfet output.
My music preference is vocal/acoustic/jazz/rock/blues/classical
Initial impressions on opening the box were very positive. My review sample did not come in the wooden box but that did not detract from my initial impressions. The black grills against the wood immediately caught my eye , not sure if they had me in mind when they were designing these but they sure had my attention. Weighing in at 1/2kg, these headphones leave you with both visual appeal and a tactile sense of anticipation. The overall engineering is rock solid. Steel sprung headband with metal ratchet type arm adjustments allow for a very sturdy feel. No slipping and no movement once they are positioned where you want them. The foam headband has caused a little stir of disappointment in the community but make no mistake, they are very comfortable. They do not retain the impression of my sophisticated headphone stand ( a large hand clamp). The cups themselves are solid, lovely wood with a simple finish, as it turns out "Hand selected Caribbean Rosewood". The addition of the mini xlr is a welcome addition and offers an elegant solution to custom cable connectors of many manufacturers. The steel rill is attractive and finishes the overall look of these headphones. Someone described them as "steampunk". The grill trills when you drag a nail over the surface but I cannot hear any resonance concerns with them. They also are able to screw off, allowing the more adventurous to modify and fine tune the sound to their liking. The Pads are substantial and offer great support and seal to create the soundscape that enables notes to be be free and create that ever important soundstage. I was a little concerned about how hard the leather was, but the lambskin do not sweat ( a huge negative of the stock O2 pads ) and they are more comfy than I had anticipated. You are most definitely aware that you are wearing a serious pair of headphones, none of this " I forgot I was even wearing them" but after 3 hours, I still felt comfortable.
I was told that these drivers had only had an hour of play on them and thus I anticipated the need for a little burn in. I naturally could not wait indefinitely to hear them and I am not completely sold on the idea of prolonged burn in. To me if it takes 500 hours for a headphone to sound good to you, you have acclimated to the sound signature and learned how to appreciate it. But that is a can of worms for another debate. I had a few hours before I could sit down with them so I put on some white noise and let them warble.
The first night I just sat back and listened to them, I can normally pick up on idiosyncrasies pretty quickly with casual listening. Nothing jumped out at me and I thoroughly enjoyed the following 3 hours, would I be a prat to say they had PRaT.
The next round comprised listening to some white noise, pink noise and frequency sweeps ( stereophile editors choice test CD ) - subjectively there are no peaks, no inconsistencies, white noise is homogeneous , it extends both high and low.
An emphasis on impressions - subjective attributes based on personal preferences.
I like my headphones to present a detailed top end with air and delicacy. This is evident in most all recordings. Live recordings sound just that, live. The acoustic space and pinpoint timing of a Jazz band is reflected in the percussion, ensuring a particularly intimate experience. Is it the most detailed ortho I have heard, no, some of my orthos are damped to enhance the top end and moving from such an orthodynamic headphone to the LCD2, the initial reduction in top end energy is noticeable but that feeling is soon replaced by a sense of overall balance and enjoyment. I am sure there will be some who would like a more pronounced top end, this is after all a selfish hobby which promotes personal preferences but for me, these headphones offer a perfectly balanced sound.
The mids are what particularly stand out for me. They have a rich tonal balance with no loss or emphasis, sound "organic" yet are not boring. They have a richness of tone that very few headphones or speakers reproduce, without sounding "lush". There is no hint of sibilance and will bring even the toughest logger to his knees if he hears xxx (insert favorite female vocalist here) Not many headphones reproduce the lower mids well as many headphones have a low mid upper bass bump - this directly impacts on the baritone and can often paint a muddled picture in this department. I listened to an assortment of recordings which focus on the voice within an acoustic space, I wish I could share this experience with you. Just breathtaking and absolutely natural.
The downfall of so many great orthos - do you leave them slightly underdamped so that the bass throbs with a little less control than would be ideal or do you tighten it up so that the bass is several dB down but very tight and accurate. The LCD2 has no problem here - it just keeps going down. The acoustic bass of YoYoMa's cello on the Appalachian Waltz reverberates with multilayered bass that it transfixed me for the moment. I initially thought I heard some low bass warble but it turned out after much listening and reflection that I was hearing bass notes in the music which had never featured in my experience of the music before. This was only on one particular electronica piece of music which I don't listen to frequently but does extend the bass notes pretty low. Bach's Toccata's and Fugues sound vivid, Ulanji's bass drum virtuoso is thunderous and never did I feel the bass was congested or lacked definition. Tha bass is tight, punchy, fast and layered with all the texture of the mids. Does it sound as deep as the venerable TP , no, the TP's feel like they have greater impact but they are also closed and lose some of that depth and layering as a consequence.
I have been modifying vintage orthodynamic headphones for some time and have a good feel for what I am trying to achieve when I start out with any given model. The LCD2 accomplishes many of these objectives and manages to retain an open soundstage without compromising the depth of bass extension or delicacy of treble articulation and the mids are just "to die for". I knew that my time was coming to an end with this pair of headphones and my final wow came when I listened to a piece of Scottish Folk music recorded by Linnrecords , William Jacksons CorryVrechan. It is a very dramatic piece of music with wide dynamic swings, drums, bass, bagpipes, penny whistle, just a lovely shamble of music. It was the perfect note to finish my experience as it left me feeling invigorated and so completely convinced that these headphones were a must have for my collection. I for one am convinced that this is the advance in magnetic planar technology that I had hoped it would be.
--DB 10:40, 8 May 2010 (EDT)
Pricing & Other Data of Interest
During the prototype stage the price was rumored to be $650, however the final production model was revealed at $945. They are scheduled to be released in May, 2010. You can place your pre-order on Audez'e web page now.
The frequency response is flat between 10hz and 1Khz. At higher frequencies the response is adjusted for headphone listening.
Impedance: 50 Ohms, nominal
Sensitivity: 91 dB/1mW
Maximum power handling: 15W
Frequency Response: 5 Hz – 20 KHz, usable high frequency extension 50 KHz.
Distortion: Less than 1% even at full output.
Impedance: 50 Ohms, nominal
Efficiency: 91 dB/1mW
Maximum output: 133dB, 15W
Active diaphragm area: 6.17 square inches.
Contact pressure: 1.5 N, adjustable, comfortable headband.
Weight: 550 g, without cable.
Maximum diaphragm excursion: 2.5mm p-p
Other things of interest: 1 year warranty; Custom wooden box for storage; Wood care kit.
To build your own custom cable you're gonna need:
2x 4-pin Female Mini-XLR: Switchcraft 
And the cable (18-24AWG): homegrownaudio IC-4 Braid  for exampleThe wiring scheme: