Audeze LCD2 Classic Open Over-Ear Planar Magnetic Headphones Page 2


Sound Quality
In general, the LCD2 Classic is neutral with a slightly warming roll-off above 1kHz. My experience of the Audeze LCD line when they went to Fazors is that they lost a bit of bass heft and dynamics, but made gains in finesse and resolve. Listening to the LCD2C definitely harkens back to that earlier sound signature.

Bass response is dead flat and very well extended. I'd like a little more bass level below 120Hz, but I couldn't ask for better bass response quality. The low notes are wonderfully tight and well textured, and extend effortlessly into lowest, Adam's apple wobbling, octave.

Midrange balance is spot on until it begins a long roll-off starting at 1kHz. This tends to make the fundamental of vocals and instruments a bit more prominent than the overtones, which can make them sound a bit shouty at times.

On the other hand, it's a bit hard to separate any tendency for shoutiness from the astonishing dynamic impact of the LCD2C. Though not quite the baseball bat to the forehead delivery of the Focal Elear and, to a lesser extent Utopia, the LCD2C is a tremendously punchy sounding headphone. And unlike the Focals, the LCD2C does seem to have good soundstage width and depth, though it's probably a little less spacious than average and can tend towards blobs of sound left, right, and center with some material.

Along with being a little laid back, treble response is a bit grainy sounding to me. Cymbal fundamentals are stronger than the shimmering overtones making them slightly more 'clangy' sounding then they ought be. Coupled with the slightly grainy sound and strong dynamics, I find them just a tad more aggressive than I like. On the other hand, the dip in response between 4kHz and 6kHz does a good job of getting rid of some harshness, many rock and pop recordings will benefit from having the edge taken off a bit. This combination of being both assertive and forgiving give me the impression that this is a good headphone for contemporary popular music.

The good news is that measurements made both by me and others show the LCD2C has extraordinarily low distortion. So while they can be punchy and a little lacking in treble smoothness, they never get hard sounding...even at higher volumes. It seems to me this is what ties these headphones together for a solid listening experience: super low distortion; superb dynamics; a treble, though a bit grainy, that doesn't offend; and deep, controlled bass response.

Unfortunately, I don't have an LCD2 on hand to compare it with, so I grabbed my LCD-3 and LCD-X along with current Wall of Fame resident the MrSpeaker Aeon Flow Open for some comparative listening.

Audeze LCD-X - The first thing that's obvious right off the bat is how much more efficient the LCD-X is; it took a while to get used to how much volume control change was needed to switch between them quickly and have a good starting volume. Once I got past that the next thing to become obvious is how similar these two cans sound. The LCD2C seems to be a solid affordable alternative to the LCD-X.

While the LCD-X did seem a bit more refined, possibly due to the Fazor, it also seemed to have a bit less dynamic punch and bass resolve. On the other hand, the LCD2C seemed a bit more veiled sounding. That was a surprise as measurements show these two cans have quite similar response in the 1kHz to 5kHz area. But in switching back and forth, every time I went to the LCD2C I heard this slightly more muffled sound. None the less, these differences were quite small and the two headphones sound far more alike than different.

Audeze LCD-3 - Again, these two cans are quite similar in tone, but the more liquid and refined LCD-3 is a stronger contrast to the drier and slightly grainy sound of the LCD2C. I've always thought the LCD-X sounded a bit drier than the other models and this listening bore out that impression.

Still, if you're looking for impact and a snappy response, it seems the LCD2C continues to produce a dynamic punch the other models don't quite seem to have. I suppose that' the nature of trade-offs: You can either have snap and punch, or you can have liquid and smooth, but you can't have both. Generally, I'd say the LCD-3 is the more enjoyable listening experience, but I can certainly see many folks who will be pleased with the dynamism of the LCD2C.

MrSpeakers Aeon Flow Open - While the LCD2C is a mildly warm headphone, the Aeon Flow Open is even warmer. It's clearly a less neutral headphone with a relaxed presence region and a somewhat emphasized upper bass/low midrange. Thing is, it's a sound that's right up my alley. Bass lovers and those averse to treble brightness will easily prefer the Aeon over the LCD2C.

If you're interested in a snappy, present response however, the dynamics of the LCD2C is likely to win you over. I feel this is a pretty clear example of two headphones with differing responses that remain within bounds of good taste but offer solid alternatives for those with different listening preferences. In fact, I would say these two cans would complement each other quite well in the quiver of a headphone enthusiast who wants alternatives on hand to suite various moods and music. It is a hobby after all, one headphone is probably never enough for a die-hard headphone geek.

Reveal Plug-In
Audeze does produce an equalization tool for profesional and enthusiast listeners called the Reveal Plug-In that works with a number of digital audio workstations and playback software. I use JRiver's Media Center 21 and downloaded the plug-in during this evaluation. Listening to pink noise and turning the Reveal EQ on and off made quite clear what was going on, which was an adjustment to to balance out the response in the presence region. The adjustment was modest, tasteful, and did produce a more natural sounding cymbal balance. I would recommend this plug-in for Audeze headphone users.

The LCD2 Classic is a well, if unusually, balanced effort by Audeze to bring the perfomance of their LCD product line to a sub-$1000 price point. Build quality and materials are top notch at this price. The new crystal-infused nylon rings appear to be brutally sturdy; the new braided cable is ergonomically excellent. On the other hand accessories are stark. Only a plain cardboard shipping box with foam cutouts is included. I recommend viewing the optionally available $125 carry case as a near mandatory purchase in addition to complete the package, making this a $924 headphone.

While I would consider this a slightly warm headphone, with a somewhat laid back presence region, it delivers a very snappy listening experience. Bass is very tight and well textured; midrange is nicely neutral; presence region is a bit laid back. Treble region tends to sound a bit grainy to me; I'd call it a slightly dry presentation. The LCD2 Classic has extremely low distortion and, to me, this provides a clarity the ties the sound together well despite any modest treble grain or presence area tonal imbalance. I find this to be a great rock and pop headphone—the somewhat relaxed response 4kHz to 6kHz does a good job of filtering out the hash often found with this genre.

The LCD2 Classic will make the Wall of Fame as a more snappy alternative to the romantic and warm sound of the MrSpeakers Aeon Flow Open. Audeze has done a very tidy job of bringing their high-end sound down to more affordable prices. Thank you!

View on YouTube here.

Audeze home page and LCD2 Classic product page. measurement and impressions threads. impressions thread.

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TMRaven's picture

How is comfort in relation to Aeon Flow Open.

AMW1011's picture

Hello Tyll! I was wonder if this review indicates a change in your opinion about distortion?

You wrote: "The good news is that measurements made both by me and others show the LCD2C has extraordinarily low distortion. So while they can be punchy and a little lacking in treble smoothness, they never get hard sounding...even at higher volumes. It seems to me this is what ties these headphones together for a solid listening experience: super low distortion; superb dynamics; a treble, though a bit grainy, that doesn't offend; and deep, controlled bass response."

Does this indicate a difference in opinion on the relevance of distortion? I notice that such products as the Mr Speaker's headphones and especially the Sonoma E-stat measure quite poorly in terms of distortion, but don't remember a reference to that in those reviews. I had assumed you fell towards the belief of a fairly high threshold of audible distortion, meaning most distortion is not audible. Has that changed recently, and can you tell me if it did what changed your mind?


detlev24's picture

Distortion is always a very important parameter that defines audio fidelity; alongside frequency response and noise. Low distortion becomes even more important for EQ, since it confines the magnitude of applicable FR correction.

Sonarworks describe briefly the benefit of low THD [below 1%] in their 'Studio Headphone guide 2018', as well:


detlev24's picture
Hifi59's picture

I’ve found the included cable to limit the capabilities of the 2C that’s quite obvious. It makes them sound distant and bass notes kind of sound plastic and lack oomph compared to any of my inexpensive after market cables.
Just that swap out alone took the 2C from sounding very good to most excellent. Try it.

Heretix_Aevum's picture

When you say 'inexpensive' aftermarket cables, what kind of price are we talking? Any particular models you would recommend?

You're not the first person I've seen to complain about the cable, though I am skeptical about claims of cable improvement in the vast majority of instances. I also trust that Tyll would've said something if it wasn't up to scratch, as he did with the Fidelio X1.

Hifi59's picture

I like Cardas cable for their midrange. Their bulk 2x24 cable is relatively inexpensive and can be found on eBay when searching for Audeze headphones. I can’t hear any difference between their bulk line vs their higher end line and that’s what makes it a great value.

南开米饭's picture

Audeze are made in China, and they ship them from Shanghai port

Impulse's picture

I don't really care about the omission of a case for a headphone I'll use exclusively at home... If I were lucky enough to get a chance to travel to a meet or trade show I'd just buy a suitable cable for less than $125.

If you were to press me, I'd say the low introductory price that ended before many had a chance to hear/review the LCD2C bugs me more than the lack of a case. Are you backing off the assertion that cans need to get the tonal balance right to even think of reaching the WoF btw? Or is the LCD2C just close enough?

gLer's picture

Great review Tyll. Really wish you’d have compared it to the latest 2026 fazor version, because that is more immediate competition for many potential buyers. As a new LCD-2F user, I’m more interested in how similar (or different) the two headphones sound, not really the AFO or other brands I’m not in the least bit interested in. But it’s all personal preference, I get that. By the way please can we call them by their official name: LCD-2C. It’s not LCD2C (clue: look on the headphone).

gLer's picture

Oops, I meant 2016F :)

Impulse's picture

Disassembled photos show the grills say LCD-3 on the inside tho, so don't look TOO closely. :P

gLer's picture

Yeah that’s true, but still... Tyll’s is the second review I’ve seen that misspells the proper name.

CPUzer0's picture

Audeze themselves are being inconsistent with the naming of these headphones. LCD-2C is printed on the cans but their own websites refer to these as either LCD2C or LCD2 Classic.

RedGum's picture

In Australia, the "$125" case is $229 AUD, which is a fairly hefty markup. The headphones themselves are $899 AUD, which makes them a great deal here! Since I have used the case for my LCD-XC exactly zero times, I'd say the case is an unnecessary option.

I don't understand the fuss about the pre-order/intro price. It's normal for a pre-order/intro price to be lower than the regular price (otherwise, what would be the point of having it?)

I'm enjoying the LCD-2C right now, as they have finally arrived in AU :)

Pokemonn's picture

it really sounded very very good!
probablly I am going to click an order..

markbrauer's picture

to those of us who use headphones only at home and have little storage space for such things. Get a nice case and what do you do with it? It's too nice to trash, and if you did what would that do to future resale value. In every case (pun intended) the case should be optional, especially if it means saving $100+.

GimmeCans's picture

$799 without a 'case 'feels' like the right deal IMHO because headphones don't get much less portable than this. My Beyer Amirons (Which you should review, Tyll) came with a hard zipper case that I will never use and lists for $85 (in case you lose it I guess) ; I wish they had lowered the price of those accordingly and left the case off. If I want high-end sound on the go I'll reach for my SE535 IEMs, but to each his/her own.

gLer's picture

...about the case. A portable case, yes, not that useful. While the LCD-2 case is also ‘portable’ it’s actually more useful as a dust sealed storage case for keeping the headphones safe, clean, and accident free. It’s also great for storing cables and other accessories. I bought both my headphones (LCD-2F and Atticus) partly because of their storage cases, even though neither leave my listening room. I take special care of my expensive gear, and the extra protection and premium feel definitely adds to the overall value and experience. I don’t think 10-15% of the price of a headphone is too much to ask for a premium case. If were to buy the 2C one day I’d get a hard case for it as well, like Tyll suggests; heck I’d even do it for a “cheap” mid-fi.

Impulse's picture

I'm curious, do you put them away inside the case after every listening session? That seems like such a hassle, maybe I'm just lazy, I hang my primary/secondary headphones (an open/closed combo like you) on a stand and call it a day... Granted I made sure to find a stand with a nice wide base that wouldn't scratch, compress the padding, etc.

I'd actually take a nice stand over a case if I'm paying a premium for extras... But I imagine the weight/space of a nice stand would push things too far. There's a lot of crappy stands out there with arms that are too thin or rod-like, tho it's probably less of a concern for headphones like these with a suspension strap.

My current favorites are Silverstone's EBA01 and Jokitech's Air Cushion FWIW (not the Slim or Dual). If I were to put the headphones away on a secure box at home because I'm going on a long vacation or anything it'd have to be in something larger than them so I can throw in some desiccant (or Eva Dry boxes). Might seem paranoid but Puerto Rico's humidity can wreck havock with everything from rubber (shoe soles) to glass (camera lenses) to wood.

sciencemajor's picture

I enjoyed the LCD-2's but I found them to be dull and overpriced compared to cheap hi-fi sennheisers. They need to be less than $500 in order to compete with them.

vkalia's picture

As someone who goes to a lot of classical concerts, I have always held to the old Stereophile/TAS standard that the reference for any audio product should be how close it comes to reproducing the sound of live, unamplified music.

To me, the Oppo PM1 doesnt sound like music. I can hear/analyze the highs, the mids and the bass, but i cannot hear the musicality. I bought the PM1s after the enthusiastic reviews here, and that was when i realized that my preferences in sound are very different from that of InnerFidelity reviewers. This was reinforced when I listened to the various Focals - they are impressive products if you want to analyze the sound coming out of them, but not so good in re-creating the mood of an orchestra playing its heart out.

I had the privilege of getting fantastic seats to Temirkanov playing Shostakovich's #7 in St Petersburg, and it was an absolutely amazing performance. Listening to a lossless rip of his RCA recording of the same symphony on the LCD2 vs the Oppo PM1 is an absolutely different experience.

I say all this to put in perspective my somewhat brief statement: viz, if the LCD2 classics sound anything like the original LCD2 (which i still have), they will be possibly one of the nicest headphones in the sub-$1500 range for listening to music, *in my opinion*.

sszorin's picture

If you really want musical headphones then get Audio-Technica W3000ANV [used, as they are out of production]. Then you will know what musicality is. How can you listen to pieces of classical music with LCD2 ? They lack treble and treble extension. Because of this problem the tonality of instruments is all wrong. These headphones are for bass oriented Pop and ghetto music.

hackmartian's picture

Every interpretation or intent of a phrase like that I can think of is wrong, unless you're a huge BDP fan and going for a very specific piece of music that you feel the LCD2s are properly voiced for. Otherwise, take that crap elsewhere.

vkalia's picture

"Ghetto music"? Charming. And thank you for your efforts to teach me about musicality. After 20+ years of being interested in high quality sound reproduction and live concerts, I still prefer to go with what my ears tell me a violin or a piano should sound like, live.

I have owned a pair of AT headphones - some wooden jobbies: 3000 or 5000, forget the model number. Another example of cans where you listen to high/medium/lows, as opposed to the cohesive whole.

MattH's picture

Why u no AKG K712 PRO?

The lack of any AKG reviews is conspicuous on this site, however the K712 especially seems to have a more full-range appreciation than the 701/2 series. I find the disregard a bit unfair by this point, and it does headphone buyers a disservice. They will look at it anyway, just not here, and it makes comparisons harder.

jmsdnhw's picture

the price is ridiculous if one buys the case which is included w the lcd2 wood version it is about the same . so one gets for an almost identical price cheaper construction materials and less technology. as i would rather have the lcd2 with out the fazor technology I'm conflicted that the company discharging me the same price for a headphone of inferior construction material and a design already 10 yrs old. this in itself should justify a substantially lower price especially considering one can purchase directly from audeze who therefore avoiding distribution and dealer mark up. but apparently audeze thinks little of their customers to offer them less product for the same priced do it buy duplicitously displaying a lower price but when one considers the cost of the missing and probably needed super case and the expense of the missing but by my unwanted fazor element are in effect just creating a way to sell less of an already old product for what will net them the same or probably more. this is very disappointing from a company most likely making a profit due to their high prices and large percentage of the market.