CanJam at RMAF - Show Stopper: The Amazing Audez'e LCD-3

Audez'e LCD-3 ($1945)
The rise of planar magnetic headphones over the last few years has been breathtaking. In rapid succession both HiFiMAN and Audez'e have released headphones of this type, stepping up their game at each point along the way. Both have been steadily narrowing in on great sound and, until a week ago, the Audez'e LCD-2 and HiFiMAN HE-500 were neck and neck (in my opinion) in the race for greatness. And then, in one swell foop, Audez'e arrives at CanJam with a headphone that races lengths ahead in this category.

Okay, maybe I'm overstating the case, but man, I simply can't believe how Audez'e has managed to make such significant improvement to this category of headphone. Some might simply call it an incremental improvement, but when an audio device is so clearly better on first listen I take that as a major accomplishment.

The previous LCD-2 Rev 2 is a very good sounding headphone with luscious bass and heft. It improved significantly over the Rev 1 version of these cans with significantly more articulate treble. But it doesn't have the clarity and speed of top-of-the-line electrostatic headphones like the Stax SR-007 or SR-009, or the dynamic ring-radiator driver of the Sennheiser HD 800.

The new LCD-3 is a significantly faster sounding headphone without going overboard with an overemphasized treble. This has been achieved with a completely new planar magnetic driver design that uses a much thinner diaphragm than previous models. Other changes include softer ear-cushions (which also effect the sound), a more comfortable headband, and a more durable ear-piece connector design.

But more importantly for this report, the show floor was abuzz with cudos for these new cans. Every conversation started with, "Have you heard the LCD-3?" Headphone geeks cheer good new products certainly, but we really get excited when new technologies in headphone design yield game changing dynamics in the industry. I've got to believe Sennheiser, AKG, and Beyerdynamic have noticed the rise of the planar magnetic cans in the last few years and are thinking about what to do about it. 'Cuz if they haven't, they'll be quizzically brushing dust off the boxes on their stocking room shelves.

I consider the LCD-3 the very best headphone you can get for use with a traditional headphone amplifier. You'll have to step up to the big bux of electrostatic headphones and amplifiers to best them. Simply put, if you're not ready to spend $10,000+ on headphones and amp, the LCD-3 is the way to get world class sound on headphones.

Congatulations Audez'e! What's it feel like to sit on top of the world?

Reticuli's picture

Now me desires to see a review and measurements compare the LCD-3, Hifiman he-500 (your current pick of great buy?), and the Koss ESP-950, which is supposedly a neutral stat (when working properly) that compares surprisingly well to the top big boys. Because if you can get "nearly" the LCD-3 and SR-009 sound that exceeds that of the Hifiman for a fraction of the price, then maybe the Koss is a truly great buy... especially when the amp is included. Two grand is still pretty darn high, even if you expect to use a budget O2 to run it. I mean, come on. The new LCD-3 comes out almost double the price of the top headphones from Sennheiser and Beyerdynamic that you can easily find used in mint condition. I don't expect the LCD-3 to make *that* big of a dent into their bottom lines... especially if the few people that buy them love them so much not to ever unload them later. Is that the ultimate compliment? ;-) Btw, was Koss even at the show?

Tyll Hertsens's picture
I'd still take the LCD-2 over the HE-500 --- I like things darker rather than brighter given a choice, but it's a close call. The thing I like about both those cans is that they seem like a bargain; they sound better and are cheaper than the European flagships, it seems to me.

The LCD-3 doesn't seem like a bargain. They sound great, and you're gonna pay for it. Given thier performance however, I think they're a better value than say the HD 800 for most personal listening. (Audio pros would be a different story.)

I think the ESP-950 would be a killer deal if you could keep them running.

No, Koss has never been to a Head-Fi event to my knowledge. They do go to CES though. I'll see if I can get my hands on an ESP950 for measurement.

dyl1dyl's picture

Hey Tyll, could I just check, what is your opinion as to whether the 007mk2 or the LCD-3s are better?

Tyll Hertsens's picture
I'll be doing some listening tests this week. Will report sometime soon.
Jazz Casual's picture

Audeze releases its latest flagship headphone and Head-Fi launches into hyper-drive. Unsurprisingly, there is precious little in the way of considered listening impressions, but no shortage of baseless speculation and arguments over the morality of Audeze's decision to release another flagship headphone at this time, and the hefty price hike that comes with it. The impressions that I have read of the LCD-3 thus far over there, typically range from game-changing to incremental. As always, time will tell and the truth will probably lie somewhere in between. It seems that Audeze has redressed the LCD-2's "shelved down" treble, that its most vociferous defenders strenuously denied ever existed in the first place. The shedding of some weight would be most welcome with the LCD-3. Those ear pads look thick enough to smother your grandmother with in her sleep.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
I think Alex said they were lighter, I'll check.

On limited listening, I'd say the improvement is incremental, in the sense that the character of their sound hasn't changed from the LCD-2, but substantial. I can't qualify that other than to say it was pretty easy to tell they were improved over the LCD-2 (yes, I had both at the booth).

But it may be a game changer as well because when the cans were <$1000 they might have seemed less threatening to the big-boys. Now that the LCD-3 is two grand --- and I know this is rather sad to say --- it will be seen more broadly as clearly superior to the HD 800, T1, Ed 10, etc.

"no shortage of baseless speculation and arguments over the morality of Audeze's decision to release another flagship headphone at this time"

I assume you use the word "morality" due to the rapid release of the LCD-3 after the LCD-2 Rev2? Yeah, manufacturers are always in a pickle when it comes to releasing newer/faster/better versions of product. A maker sees new product release as a boon to the market. Recent purchasers see it as hiding truths to keep sales up before new product release. Same as it ever was; not sure much can be done about that.

"It seems that Audeze has redressed the LCD-2's "shelved down" treble, that its most vociferous defenders strenuously denied ever existed in the first place. "

QFT. :) That got a chuckle out of me. Nice post.

Jazz Casual's picture

I thought that there was a lot to like about the LCD-2 when I auditioned it, but the treble did sound shelved down to me. I can understand how its sound signature would appeal to headphone listeners who prefer a darker presentation. It certainly made for a non-fatiguing listen. However, I thought its design was unwieldy and though not uncomfortable to wear, it just felt cumbersome on my head. Thanks for the compliment Tyll. Posts like that one got me banned from Head-Fi. ;-)

Tyll Hertsens's picture
And the knives and stabbing involved in it's assimilation.
John Grandberg's picture

It's always a tough one. For the price of the LCD-3, I can probably cruise the used market and pick up an HE-500, W1000X, Thunderpants TP1, and Grado HF2. That's a lot of versatility. Can the LCD-3 really do everything as good or better than those other fine headphones?

But of course that's a loaded question. No headphone can ever be all things to all people, but for some folks the LCD-3 probably *will* offer a more enjoyable experience than the other four combined. In other cases they won't.

The smart thing to do is obviously wait until Tyll and a bunch of other folks report their experiences. That's probably the route I'll take.

acs's picture

There is an elephant in the room, and it is the price. The headphones are essentially the same as the LCD2. They haven't completely overhauled them, it is an incremental upgrade, that doubles the retail price.

How much could manufacturing costs increase? Same headband, a piece of metal added to the connector (which might even make it less expensive to make since the connector is now external and would be easier to solder), and the only stated driver change is the material they use to make the traces on the planar magnetic board. Double the cost?

What else can you get for $2000? Vandersteen 2CE Signature II's, Magnepan 1.7's, or even Magnepan Mini's for less than that. These are loudspeakers, expensive to ship, much more expensive to build and design than headphones, and are sold through a dealer network with dealer markup. The Audeze LCD3's are very inexpensive to ship, inexpensive to manufacture (by comparison), and are mostly sold directly by the manufacturer. Somehow Magnepan, and Vandersteen have been in business for decades, making speakers in the USA, using a pricing model that allows for profit, but sells more speakers. They also have a large and passionate customer base, I wonder why?.

How much do you think it costs to make Sennheiser HD800's, development, everything included? How much do think it costs to make the Audeze LCD3, development, everything included? Keep in mind that Audeze was already making money selling a phone with essentially the same manufacturing cost for half of the LCD3. Sennheiser also sells through a dealer network, which greatly adds to the retail price of a product. Sure, you can buy Audeze at a dealer, but few and far between. Most are sold on their website. Granted, they are much smaller, but that means that they might also take customer loyalty and brand reputation into account when working on their pricing model.

I know, people will say, well, you don't have to buy them. I understand that, and I know that they have the right to price their products however they choose, but that doesn't mean that they shouldn't be called out for price gouging. We live in a culture where people pay $100 for a tshirt, and $3000+ for an ugly purse that is only in style for a year. We are surrounded by price gouging, and it is rampant in high end audio. That doesn't mean that we have to accept it.

John Grandberg's picture

....a lot of valid points there. And of course there is another side to things - how many HD800s has Sennheiser sold, compared to how many LCD-2s Audeze has sold? Senn likely makes a smaller profit on each, but they sell many thousands of them. Audeze would have to make more on each LCD-2 to make up for the lower volume of sales. Obviously there are tons of variables here but you get the idea.

More importantly, Sennheiser is a huge corporation, who makes all kinds of equipment. If any one of their products has a slow sales year, it probably doesn't bother them much. Audeze is a few guys doing this in addition to their regular jobs. They have a lot more riding on each individual sale. Plus, they are taking a huge risk at the moment by introducing some speakers and a microphone, which could end up being flops for all they know. They probably have a lot of money to recoup from the development of the new stuff - LCD-3 is pretty much a sure thing, and I suspect they are counting on it in order to recover those costs. Yes, they will continue to sell LCD-2s, but at a slower rate since there are now plenty of used ones available for $700-800.

I do see your point though and I'm really not trying to argue, just playing devils advocate. I would have loved to see the LCD-3 go for $1450 or somewhere around there.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
The real point, as mentioned above, is what is the real cost of a product?

When people's lives are at stake --- when someone's kid should have their medical insurance covered by their employer for example --- it takes dough that the customer pays that can't actually appear in the product. For Audez'e --- or any small company --- to launch itself above ground zero, the real cost of producing something needs to be paid.

That's a beast, and it's very hard to compete against the big comapnies in this regard. They've got lots of low engineering-cost products to subsidise the research on the hot-rods.

Materials is a small part of the product cost; my guess is the LCD-3 delivers good value at the price. Great value? Probably not. They're no Creative Aurvana Live! (or LCD-2 Rev 2 for that matter) but tell me a headphone that performs as well for the money? Especially when it comes to those that really deliver a fully rounded listening experience. It's pretty hard.

priest's picture

I planned to stay out of the LCD-3 discussion, because it only fans the flames, etc. But I do have to point out that Grado was savagely and repeatedly attacked for introducing a new flagship that was priced several hundred dollars *below* the LCD-3. Admittedly, the PS1000 has a sound that is less "universal," but let's see how much goodwill Audez'e has built up in the headphone enthusiast market -- which is really their only market from what I can tell, unlike Grado. And let's see whether all those who criticized the PS1000 pricing eat their words and spend two grand for the new one.

I am also with Peter in that it's been vindicating to watch all the hypesters at Head-Fi, who would pile on anyone who suggested that the LCD-2 had a treble limitation, bend themselves into pretzels trying to describe how the Rev2 and now the LCD-3 improve upon the treble of a headphone that was literally "perfect" and "sounded like real life" in the first place. Of course now it seems like Audez'e has responded to the treble issue by demanding a ransom of $1000 to get some more high end response.

And none of the preliminary reviews that I have seen appear to have mentioned whether the new model addresses what for me was another limitation of the LCD-2 -- soundstage. My limited experience with orthos suggests that this is inherent in the technology, but I have to wonder. Can the HD 800, with its almost unreal soundstage, really be threatened in this regard? Tonality is only part of the game, after all, albeit one that we headphone freaks appear to primarily focus on, perhaps because it can ostensibly be measured.

One of the appeals in the headphone enthusiast market for the LCD-2 had to be that people could spend under a grand for a headphone that no one would question was in the "high-end" -- and people bought it and bought it and bought it. Now every one of them has been shoved down to the second-tier in one fell swoop. And they will be lorded over by those who shell out $2000 for the LCD-3. I've thought alot over the past few years if there is really any price limit on the attainable high-end in the headphone market, or will normal mortals keep paying more and more and more? I suppose it's time for the headphone "mass" market to mature like the speaker market, where there won't be a headphone that is both ultimately affordable by the average enthusiast with a decent income, and also considered state of the art. Perhaps there will only be fortunes spent or obvious compromises. Now *that* sounds like real life to me.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Paragraph 1

"Admittedly, the PS1000 has a sound that is less "universal,"

LOL! Seriously? I'm really not sure what argument you're making exactly, but if there's any company out there that is charging far more than the R&D and performance warrent, it seems to me it's Grado. Intimating that it's "goodwill" Audez'e is banking on is a deflection. Look at the full-size headphones above a grand and tell me which has the best price/performance ratio.

Paragraph 2

Head-Fi is Head-Fi; people are people. Connecting too strongly the mud wrestling matches there between folks who are playing on their keyboards, to the maneuvers a company like Audez'e might make, is a mistake, IMO.

"Of course now it seems like Audez'e has responded to the treble issue by demanding a ransom of $1000 to get some more high end response."

I think you're writing fairy tales. They've made one of the best headphones around in the LCD-2. Then they work to improve it, and want to make a living out of it, so they price it at what they think the market will bare. Are they right? I don't know. But I doubt you're statement reflects the reality of their thinking very well. Things tend to be more complicated than that.

Paragraph 3

I'm of two minds when it comes to imaging on headphones. First, they simply don't do it well ... period. Real imaging takes speakers. If you want to get it on headphones, you need cross-feed or some sort of HRTF synthesis. On the other hand, the HD 800 is simply stunning in this regard. I can't tell you how muh I admire Sennheiser's R&D efforts, and their ability to put that knowledge into real product. So sure, they don't "threaten" the HD 800 in terms of imaging, but I'd still rather listen to the LCD-3 than the HD 800 for enjoyment; on balance, I think they're a superior headphone.

Paragraph 4

"And they will be lorded over by those who shell out $2000 for the LCD-3."

Again, I think your conflating the emotions of people in the hobby with Audez'e and it's products.

"I suppose it's time for the headphone "mass" market to mature like the speaker market, where there won't be a headphone that is both ultimately affordable by the average enthusiast with a decent income, and also considered state of the art."

When has this ever happened? The only time I can think of is when small innovative companies get started and underprice their product. In the real and sustainable world, "state of the art" and "affordable" are mutually exclusive. How could it be otherwise?

Yes, that is real life.

Loved your post, BTW. Stinky bait maybe, but meaty none-the-less.

Jazz Casual's picture

I dare you David to post this withering assessment in any LCD thread of your choice at Head-Fi. I've never witnessed a virtual lynching before. ;-)

Jazz Casual's picture

However, I share David's frustration with the LCD-2's more zealous and vocal devotees, of which there are many, and their propensity for bending the facts to fit their story. Their selective interpretation of the LCD-2's frequency response graphs immediately come to mind.

Anyone who pointed out that it suffered from a slight treble roll-off were accused of misinterpreting the data. If you had the temerity to even suggest that the LCD-2's highs actually sounded muted, you were dismissed as a "treble head". Yet while these people were vehemently defending the LCD-2 against such unfounded criticisms, some of them were also investing in Silver Dragon cables to enhance its supposedly perfect treble.

Even though the LCD-2 is one of the heaviest headphones in production, complaints about its weight being an issue for some owners would not be countenanced by its ardent fans. Problems pertaining to build quality from the cracking blocks and ear cups, to the flawed drivers that led to the introduction of the LCD-2 - rev-2, seemed to be accepted with little complaint. Yet these same people who were so forgiving of these design and production flaws, and the resultant ongoing modifications to the LCD-2 throughout its production life, also mercilessly attack Grado for its headphone designs and build quality.

Isn't it arguable that the improvements to the LCD-2 throughout its production thus far, are really nothing more than attempts to redress inherent shortcomings in its design and execution, that should have been identified during the R&D phase? Why is it that a young American start-up in headphone manufacturing can be forgiven almost anything, but a traditional family owned American company producing a range of budget to premium priced cartridges and headphones, that are exported all over the world to international acclaim by users and reviewers alike, is not afforded the same respect and good grace? I find the hypocrisy of the LCD-2 fanboys breathtaking. So I'm with David there.

I don't buy into or even understand the notion of a price/performance ratio for a headphone that sells for the price of a luxury item. This seems like spurious reasoning to apply to the purchase of "high-end" audio gear, where value for money is probably the least of the prospective buyers considerations. Seriously, how does the LCD-2 give you more bang for your buck than say the Ultrasone Edition 10, if you prefer everything about the latter? Surely the market - i.e., people's personal preferences and how much they are will to pay to satisfy them will determine the success or otherwise of the LCD-3, just as it has for the LCD-2, HD800, T1 and the PS1000. If you are prepared to pay $995 for the LCD-2 but find that you actually prefer the sound, ergonomics, build quality and heck, even the appearance of the HD800, then the chances are you'll be prepared to pay a few hundred dollars extra for it.

Note that I included Grado's flagship headphone in that group. I could have bought any one of them and was originally interested in the HD800 and the T1. The PS1000 wasn't really on my radar when I auditioned the HD800, T1 and LCD-2. Truth be told, I preferred the LCD-2's sound signature to the HD800 and T1. However, I felt that it lacked some top-end sparkle and air. Now had I relied on the PS1000's frequency response graphs and the general lack of interest in it at Head-Fi, punctuated by disparaging opinions over its "price/performance ratio", I would not have thought it worthy of consideration. Fortunately, I relied on my ears in the end, and the decision to choose the PS1000 over the other three contenders was a surprisingly easy one for me to make. Simply put, I preferred the sound of the PS1000 and engaged with it in a way that I could not with the other three. I'd found my "high-end" headphone and was prepared to pay a premium for it.

So flat frequency response graphs, price/performance ratio, R&D and build quality be damned. The PS1000 looks great, seems sturdy, feels very comfortable on my noggin for lengthy listening periods (admittedly it would benefit from some weight loss like the LCD-2) and most importantly, it sounds wonderful to me. You really do have to trust your own ears in the end. :-)

Tyll Hertsens's picture
"However, I share David's frustration with the LCD-2's more zealous and vocal devotees,"

Lemme tell you a little somethng about me. I used to be a moderator over on one of the biggest motorcycle boards there is. (NO! Not a Harley site.) I was virtually a n00b at the time they asked if I wanted to be a mod. There had been a lot of tension between the mods and pld guard there, and the avalanche of new members joining, so they wanted a new kid to discourage the belief they were one sided. When I asked why the singled me out, they basically said that I "got it." And that was enough.

I reckon what "got it" meant was that I knew it was just rowdy motorcycle adventurers drunk behind their keyboard, whacking away at keys as fast as there three remaining synapses could handle. What the hell did it matter what someone else said or did? Here's the great thing about internet forums: You can say what you want and no one can shut you up short of banning. You can laugh and point at what someone said and shout out "What an asshat" and they won't hear you. And you can just scroll past the ramblings of idiots ... or put them on ignore.

Point is, "it's just the internet." Don't think it's personal.

"Isn't it arguable that the improvements to the LCD-2 throughout its production thus far, are really nothing more than attempts to redress inherent shortcomings in its design and execution, that should have been identified during the R&D phase? "

So Apple should have produced the iPhone first and not gone through the bother of making 5 or 6 versions of the iPod first? Dude, "evolution," it's pretty much how everything works, is it not?

Lastly, I applaud your recognition that it's only your ears you have to satisfy, and I'm glad you like your PS1000.

warp08's picture's time to do something about ergonomics and comfort for long-term listening. Like many out there, I was floored by the sound of the LCD-3 as well as the LCD-2 V2, and I own a few pairs of high-end headphones/ear speakers worth a lot more than the LCD-3.

But comfort hasn't improved, despite the thicker ear pads. There is zero horizontal stabilization in the suspension blocks, so every time I moved my head, the headphones tilted forward on my head due to their weight. How long can you stay still while listening?

At any rate, I hope they will address this in next year's release and I'll be happy to buy a pair. Great to see a small American business succeed at this level!

acs's picture

I understand and appreciate the need for a company to get medical insurance for it's employees, and that business is not cheap. Audeze is making headphones in the USA, and they should be admired for giving work to Americans, even if that means they have to charge a little more. If it works out for them, and people buy the LCD3 in droves, great! The pricing model just leaves a sour taste in my mouth. I appreciate your assessment that they are priced according to sound quality, but offering more sound for less money is something that a start up company should be doing in order to establish it's reputation and capitalize.

I think it could be a serious mistake for them to double the retail price at this point, especially when it is obvious that the manufacturing costs could not justify the increase. They take away their future market position because they establish a very high price point, which could easily be undercut by another manufacturer, and open themselves up to being reviled for their greed by a good number of their fan base. Their headphones simply do not have the fit and finish to be $2000. For that expense, they should be luxuriously comfortable, and look stunning, in addition to sounding like $2000.

Time will tell what the results will bring. I personally hope that the future brings more wonderful planar magnetic headphones (let's stop calling them orthos already). I'll keep modding my T50RP's, and listening to my K1000's until something irresistible comes along.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
"I appreciate your assessment that they are priced according to sound quality, but offering more sound for less money is something that a start up company should be doing in order to establish it's reputation and capitalize."

A mistake I made at HeadRoom that is a struggle to this day is that I priced the gear too low in the beginning, and then I could never raise it high enough to sell through alternate distribution and make any money. I can tell you for sure that there are a number of number of small companies in the headphone world that have made that mistake and know it.

The fact is, manufacturing a product commercially and successfully is far more expensive than the average hobbyist thinks. For a small company to get big, they have to deliver a better value than big companies that enjoy economies of scale that a small company doesn't have. That's a huge barrier to growth for small audio hardware firms.

Imagine that Sennheiser decides to make a planar magnetic. It's probable that they could do it better and cheaper than Audez'e or HiFiMAN. The need to succeed is severe for small companies in this arena, and money is juice that let's you do it.

"I think it could be a serious mistake for them to double the retail price at this point, especially when it is obvious that the manufacturing costs could not justify the increase."

Obvious? How do you know? Diaphragm is now less than half the thickness; a sturdy custom connector was added; plusher earpads with a different material; new leather covered headband. Do you know how much more those things cost? Out of curiosity I called Alex tonight, he said cost of manufacture basically doubled.

Now, I don't know if it's true or not, and I don't really care. All that matters ... the only thing that matters is what's available in the market, what are the prices, and what do you value. Then you vote with your wallet.

When I look at the market I see the LCD-2 and 3 as headphones with characteristics I like. I don't see many others that fit that bill quite so well. And I would rather spend 2 large on the LCD-3 than $1200 on a pair of Grados because it would be worth it to me.

Actually the above isn't quite true. The last time I bought a pair of headphones was when I was setting up my lab. I went with the HD 800. If I had to do it again today, I would still go for the HD 800 as the ultimate proffesional reference headphone. But setting up a lab is a different value structure than listening for entertainment.

Last thing:

"Their headphones simply do not have the fit and finish to be $2000. For that expense, they should be luxuriously comfortable, and look stunning, in addition to sounding like $2000."

So, how do you like the tradeoffs made with the Ultrasone Ed10? They look fabulous! But they sound like a rain of rasors. Or what about those Grados mentioned above? They're not very luxurient looking, no more than the LCD-3 IMHO.

That's it, nighty night.

dalethorn's picture

Wowee - bottle this thread and sell it as a major article. Should be worth about $2000 (heh). Yeah, why discuss old news - this is where it's at - the Big Iron headphones going head to head. But you know, if you have new drivers that are significantly thinner and the new tech that represents (that's what Stax has been selling with the SR-009), all bets are off, aren't they? I think it would be great if there were a way to upgrade existing LCD2 headphones, but I don't know what the parameters are since I don't do electronics. Personally, based on the reports about the LCD3's sound as an absolute, 2 grand seems very fair. A - they're the best, and B - they do represent new tech whether anyone thinks it's incremental or not. As to Grado's PS-1000, I would love to evaluate those, but unless I get a loaner that won't happen. If they are significantly better than the PS-500 and retain a Grado sound sans any serious warts, they might be a good value too. But that's a lot of if's for $1700.

Jazz Casual's picture

Just checking that I'm still allowed to post here Tyll. ;-) I've found that things can get pretty personal on the interweb actually. Of course things and products evolve, as they should. That wasn't my point. It was about personal bias and tribalism dominating reasonable debate and distorting the facts as we know them. Some even-handedness wouldn't go astray, even in an internet forum about headphones.

For example, the reluctance to acknowledge that even Grado continues to evolve in its own unique way puzzles me. Surely the introduction of the GS1000, PS1000, PS500 and Grado's entry into the earphone market is evidence that it is not just sitting on its hands. It seems to me that there is a general reluctance in the headphone community to acknowledge Grado's efforts because it is an established, idiosyncratic and unfashionable company, that doesn't take a high-tech approach to producing its headphones. Some headphone audiophiles may not like or even respect its approach, but there are also many others who do, and they have cycled through several of the other "serious" audiophile headphones on the market.

For what it's worth, I wish Audez'e well with their latest offering and look forward to giving it a listen at some stage. As I've said, I really do hope that it lives up to the hype.

John Grandberg's picture

that people take these discussions WAY too seriously. Here we are having an interesting discussion, weighing the different sides, and I find it enlightening. But many folks seem unwilling or unable to behave like this, and instead they personalize things and turn them into the internet equivalent of a shouting match.

I'll never understand when I see people arguing passionately for or against some headphone that they don't own, and possibly have never even heard. Grado is a big target in that realm.

I also don't get the idea of people feeling "betrayed" by the company releasing a higher end model. If I own a Lamborghini Gallardo, am I insulted by the fact that the Murcielago exists as the more expensive flagship product? Or do I just enjoy the sweet ride that I get to drive? It's not like the LCD-3 is replacing the LCD-2 - it's a higher model in the lineup, and is priced accordingly.

I don't recall people being this upset when Sennheiser released the HD800, which cost roughly double the MSRP of the HD650. Maybe it was the delay between models? Or the perception of newer technology in the HD800? Same goes for Beyerdynamic T1 versus DT880.

Either way, I think folks will have to decide for themselves if the LCD-3 is worth the price or not. As I mentioned before, used LCD-2s are going for $800 or less, so it seems to me that everyone wins.

dalethorn's picture

Maybe my experience with Grado would shed some light. I had the 325 I bought circa 1999 and used with the $400 Headroom amp. I thought the 325 was similar to the Sennheiser 565, which was more forward than the 600/650 and way more than the 580. But I don't recall the 325 being warm. Fast forward to 2011 and I'm thinking positively about Grado because of the PS-500, and much negatively because of all the reportage about colored sound, excessive warmth, and other things that weren't scrutinized with test gear. Coming from a Senn HD-800 kind of sound the reports of Grado sound struck fear in me, and I don't scare that easily.

So your influence really counts. I came here just now to get the link to get some other people reading this thread, which is one of the better I've read, angst or no. And all of the reviews and commentary on Grado don't just fall by the wayside - it sticks in people's brains. I like what they do, and it doesn't hurt to encourage them to do better, i.e. correct any severe anomalies they might have in their product. It does seem that the overall growth of the headphone market is accomplishing that vis-a-vis Grado, and maybe it's because they're paying more attention now. I just hope if they move toward the center of the sound signature curve, they can retain some of what made them unique, not just the wood parts and cosmetics.

timmyw's picture

Add a little perspective to the pricing. Ever since these headphones have been announced (and people learned their pricing) I have been sitting here reading things and being slack jawed at the reaction some people have administered to these headphones and Audez'e.

I am not a hobbyist in this field just so you know. The only reason I own any equipment at all is to try and wring out pure sounding music. That's right I forget about my gear once I get the sound I want. I haven't actually been able to forget about my gear at all till recently (after my purchase of some T1s).

Now, I tried the LCD2 and I didn't like them. They weren't horrible, but I don't particularly like dark signature headphones, which is how I heard those, and why I bought the T1s, which I love by the way.

Now if I heard the LCD 3 (which is going to be very unlikely in a place like Australia) and I thought they were better than the T1s I would consider purchasing them, even if they cost 2K. I love music, and I am incapable of using speakers at this time (perhaps ever). I also do some amateur recording and mucking around. Mind you I can't imagine music sounding any better than with what I have right now, I am happy.

To be a small company and create something like headphones, then go through R&D and get them manufactured to your specifications, create all the packaging, advertising, time and effort plus all sorts of other headaches that must come along with that has to be nothing short of really, really hard work. Blood Sweat and Tears.

I love how I hear people criticising how much these things are going to cost. I mean, it's not like just anyone goes through the effort to create headphones. I am certain that if two friends who thought they could do a better job and just go out and make a product like those headphones would get a pretty nasty shock at just how much everything would cost. Also how much effort you had to put in without the use of massive mass producing equipment and factories and permanent labour already working for you, like Sennheiser and Beyerdynamic and all the other big ones.

I personally thought the LCD 2 while not to my taste were quite an accomplishment. I also think that for a small company which will inevitably have inflated costs (and also lets not forget the cost of warranty and returns and repairs) they have done extraordinarily well. Also with the effort those guys put in, I am guessing they also have to do things like eat, pay rent and pay off loans etc... and don't have much time to run another day job. Hey I could be wrong though on that subject.

I have no problem with the LCD3 with their entirely new driver costing 2k a pop, especially if they sound divine. Because it's not like they just said "HEY PRESTO!!" and in a puff of smoke this smick product appears.

You also have to take into account the current atmosphere in the world economy. I don't know what it's like over in America, but in Australia the prices for just about everything except perhaps string and balloons have sky rocketed, so if the same is true over there, then I believe the cost of materials would be going through the roof as well. It's a sad indictment on the market economy we all live by and are slaves to, but unfortunately for the moment it's reality. Infinite growth and all that jazz. It's harder for a small company or literally ANYONE these days to be successful.

I would say congratulations Audez'e for producing what seems to be to be a rather high quality and also mighty fine sounding headphone, premium price for a premium sound from a micro manufacturer.

Unfortunately also it really does come down to if you don't like the way things are going... vote with your wallet. Choice in the modern climate is really the only power most of us mortals have (not just with headphones). If we want things to change, it's going to have to be a concerted and combined effort. There are literally thousands of other kinds of headphone out there, some real gems for a fraction of the price of those things. It's always been the case that people with more disposable income are going to be able to purchase more luxury items. Again, unfortunately, that is just reality.

P.S. Sorry for the Essay length.
P.P.S btw there is no way I would post this on head-fi.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Essay length is fine ... even encouraged here. Deep thoughts take words. Nice post, thanks!
dyl1dyl's picture

Hey Tyll, hope you're enjoying those LCD-3s. How are you finding them so far? Are they the first headphones you go to now? As in would you pick them up over say the HD800s, Stax 007s and 009s to enjoy your music?

Tyll Hertsens's picture
I'll be listening in-depth over the weekend.
Draygonn's picture

If anyone should be given leeway to charge what the market will bear shouldn't it be a small American company that provides enjoyment and technological improvement in an enthusiast market?

This is a great time to love headphones. From modding T50RPs for cheap all the way to used car spendy STAX SR-009s. There are great cans at every price point. I'll take "Anaxilus" modded HD800s and a pair of Thunderpants for the price of an LCD-3 and call it a day.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Could you get them both at the price of the LCD-3? If so, I think I might agree. There not just one click away on teh interweb, but it takes sweat to climb a mountain.
Draygonn's picture

I got the HD800s for 1299 on Amazon and got in on Smeggy's group buy to get Ziricote Thunderpants w/ O2 pads for 640. Not everyday prices, but I'll take it.

AGB's picture

Just a note for current owners of Version I.

Moon Audio's Silver Dragon slayer cable slays the rolled off top.

The improvement is dramatic. Much more detail and transparency, a flatter and neutral frequency balance, the inner voices will appear in bold relief without edge. The warmth will be gone entirely!

In fact, after a prolonged burn in of three days to a week, all the desirable characteristics had returned. My thinking, and those of you who are willing can test it out, that the LCD-2 was not inherently rolled off. The cable the co supplied made it so...and I was one who complained about the roll off early.

The boss of this site might do us all a favor by reviewing the LCD 2 (V1) with the Silver Dragon slayer against the LCD-3. He might find a very interesting surprise for early adoptees of the first model.

Who might just pocket the $1000 and walk away snickering?

Would I buy the LCD-3? Well yes, but I would sleep on it for a couple of months. At least.

The Silver Dragons really need a few days of burn in, and with the perceptible change in FR, some may find the bass not as prominent. It is, it's just that the new balance will trick the ear. One can, with the right software (I use Fidelia, but Amarra has the same ability), boost the LFs using the parametric EQ one octave-wide envelope 20-40hz +3db and get the most kick ass bass he's ever heard. Tight, low, detailed.

Enjoy, and don't hold it against me for bettering your lives.

Jazz Casual's picture

So the LCD-2 didn't suffer from shelved-down treble; the stock cable did.

John Grandberg's picture

I'd be interested in seeing Tyll measure the LCD-2 using the aftermarket cable as described above. Would the measurements reflect any of this extra energy on the top end?

How would cable believers react if the measurement was EXACTLY the same with either cable? How would cable skeptics react if the measurements showed an increase in high frequency extension?

It would make for an interesting article. Tyll is one of the few people I can think of in this industry with both the expertise and the gonads to do such a test. It probably wouldn't change any minds, but would spark some interesting discussion.

Draygonn's picture

Objective measurements of cables, this I want to see. Would the cable-mafia allow it?

Tyll Hertsens's picture
I doubt anything would show up in measurements. Yes, I do believe there are audible differences between cables. I'll try to get around to it.
AGB's picture

The arguments have little to do with performance, other than knocking the Audez'e's.

The fact is this. The LCD-2 is a brilliant design that achieved what others could not. It is a thoroughly satisfying product. So far.

That, is the bottom line. The FR and transparency problems noted here and elsewhere can be resolved handily with MOON's Silver Dragon wire.

End of story.

Jazz Casual's picture

This is a comments thread. The story doesn't end just because you say so. You believe that Silver Dragon cable improves the performance of the LCD-2 to your ears, which is fine. You are entitled to your belief, just as I or anyone else are entitled to not share it until we hear it for ourselves, or it is objectively proven. You are a fan of the LCD-2 and that is something you don't have to prove to anyone - enjoy!

AGB's picture

Thanks for putting me in my place Mr. Moderator.

Let me put it this way Sir. Some people's opinions are actually better than other's. That's just the way it is in the real world. In other words, mine is better than yours.

When you've had decades of published audio reviews as I have, we can resume this conversation. Until that time, this is the end of that story.

The beginning of your story should have been a spanking your parents failed to give you. It's called manners... and first, putting yourself in your place.

Can I assume you don't own, and perhaps never even heard, the Audez'e, yet have plenty of opinions about it?

I refer you to your Oct. 26 post.

Jazz Casual's picture

Believe what you like, including the worth of your opinion over other people's and take comfort in that. Though self-inflated, it's only your opinion and nothing more, in the end.

In answer to your rather rhetorical question, I refer you to my second post dated 25th October, which you seem to have overlooked.

Vlad's picture

Tyll, thanx for the early review of LCD-3, I guess y had a very pleasant time at CanJam... Well, I never heard Audeze headphones, but I really want... as for the price, I think everything is a matter of priority. 7 Days vacation / a chill out session on the islands could easily cost that much. The difference is that people are going to listen to headphones not for a week or month, but probably a couple of years (if we are talking about high-end solutions)... I can't afford myself spending 1945$ for the cans right now, but at the same time I understand, that this is a feasible amount of money (need to save of course).No doubt, the step of doubling the price wasn't expected by many, but this is how business goes. Since this is a huge market with really big playas (Beyerdynamic started in 1924...) they all took different niche (starting from low-end to high(ER)-end), it's hard to survive especially for "younger brothers"... I guess Audeze found its own niche with a unique product. Time flies fast, personally I hope to see more products from Audeze - not low-end, but something starting from the middle, anyways, the guys are doing great job!

AGB's picture
Jazz Casual's picture

and you're entitled to make them. A sense of entitlement complements self-importance quite nicely. Though you might want to reconsider your "Break in time" stipulation in view of Tyll's latest findings. ;-)

Frank I's picture

What is Audeze saying about the failures and how they are going to approach the issue. It appears this product was not ready for production and since your review was so favorable Tyll a followup may be in order as people are investing 2K in a headphone that has proved not reliable from what I have concern with the short warranty is how these problems will be addressed long term. They have been silent on this problem which from what i can see is substantial.

Jazz Casual's picture

The increasing number of reports regarding flawed build quality with Audeze's LCD-2 Rev 1 and Rev 2, and now its current flagship the LCD-3, is tarnishing the reputation of this young American start-up that had received so much goodwill from the Head-Fi community. However, the negative reports are anecdotal and it would be helpful to know how many headphones sold have been returned due to production flaws. In the absence of such information, the perception is that Audeze has rushed its most expensive headphone to market without first redressing the quality control problems plaguing its predecessors, and this disappointing trend continues with the LCD-3. It's not a good look.

AGB's picture

"The increasing number of reports regarding flawed build quality with Audeze's LCD-2 Rev 1 and Rev 2, and now its current flagship the LCD-3, is tarnishing the reputation of this young American start-up..."- writes Jazz Casual.

No Mr.Jazz Casual. None of these models nor their users are tarnishing the reputation of this young American start-up. It is you alone who are relentlessly trying to tarnish it, and it has become transparent to readers of this blog. You don't own any of them, yet you seem to have a hard-on for Audez'e products - all of them - and excuse us, but we are not in the psychiatric profession. So why don't you take your act to whatever headphone company you "like," or is paying you for your predictable comments, eh?

On that note Tyll, would you consider trying the LCD-2 with the Silver Dragon wire, make slight adjustments to the EQ of the digital player (Amarra or Fidelia), and compare the first with the LCD-3, see what you get? An interesting experiment me thinks.

Thanks. A

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Generally speaking, I review product in it's stock form. You can twiddle with EQ and cables to suit your taste, of course, but I have to remark on the product people will receive on purchase.

" and excuse us, but we are not in the psychiatric profession"

Who's this "we" you're talking about? Jazz Casual has a right to his opinion, you have a right to yours. Bring that to the table; got no problem there. But don't speak for the entire blog, that's my job, and I allow the blog to speak by letting people have their own opinion.

As far as I can tell, you're the one swinging a purse. Let's try to keep it civil, feel free to express your position, but knock off the personal insults.

Jazz Casual's picture

No, other than to say that you and your royal "we" should visit the Audeze threads over at Head-Fi some time with your polishing cloth. ;-)

Double-A's picture

There has been an awful lot of people crapping on each other. I see this all over the web . . . including Head-Fi, and I can't seem to get away from it. Can we please be more mature?

Double-A's picture

And no, your opinion is NOT better than ANYONES AGB . . . everyones opinions are equal in value. Just because you have had "decades of published audio reviews" does NOT mean your opinions hold more value than others. You say "it's called manners" but I read both of your comments and your comment was extremely rude . . . if anybody needs to learn manners, it is you.

PS: I also think the part of your comment that said "The beginning of your story should have been a spanking your parents failed to give you" was so childish that (I'm sorry) I just had to laugh at you. Someone who has been alive long enough to be doing reviews for decades should act more like an adult and not a child.

Double-A's picture

Now, back on topic, I will wait and see if some bigger company that has been around a lot longer will make any Planar Magnetic headphones. An example being Sennheiser.

PS: I don't know if this site is like Head-Fi or not where it is frowned upon when you make multiple posts in a row but I apologize if it is.