Audeze LCD-2 Fazor Ed. Planar Stereo Headphone review

Discussion in 'Headphone Reviews' started by dalethorn, Nov 13, 2014.

  1. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Charleston South Carolina
    Youtube review: http://youtu.be/rJg7QCnLgA0

    Photos:
    http://dalethorn.com/Photos/Panasonic_Zs40/Headphone_Audeze_Lcd2_Fazor_01.jpg
    http://dalethorn.com/Photos/Panasonic_Zs40/Headphone_Audeze_Lcd2_Fazor_02.jpg
    http://dalethorn.com/Photos/Audioforge/Audeze_Lcd2.jpg

    Sources: Windows PC (Foobar2000) and Mac (iTunes) with Microstreamer DAC/amp, Microstreamer DAC with Decware Zen Head amp, iPhone6-Plus with v-moda Verza DAC/amp.

    Note_1: My first impressions of the sound of the LCD2 (Fazor edition) headphone are based on direct comparisons to other headphones - the AKG K812 and K712, the Beyerdynamic T90, DT1350 and T51p, the FAD Pandora IV and VI, and notes I've accumulated from many prior reviews. I describe how I relate to the LCD2 (i.e. my personal tastes and how I use the headphone) only after covering all of the objective issues.

    Note_2: I used my review of the Beyer T1 headphone as the template for this written review, but very little of the T1 review text will remain unchanged here except for the music sample comments below. Those comments can be compared to the equivalent comments in the T1 review, and the few differences should give some insight on how the LCD2 compares to the T1. Many other recent reviews I've done contain these same music selections, with comments that are specific to those other headphones, and those can also be compared to the music comments below.

    Summary of sound: Since this LCD2 was a loaner**, it was already broken in and needed nothing more than a few minutes warm-up to get settled. My immediate impression was of a neutral bass, ideal midrange, and near-ideal smooth treble. The only EQ adjustments I made after 2 days of testing were a 4 db boost at 40 hz - per my preference for some extra impact in the deep bass, and a narrow 5 db boost at 8 khz, to add a little more 'presence' where I perceived a slight recess compared to 7 and 9 khz. There are very few headphones I've heard that I could play for an indefinite time with all or nearly all of my music tracks with no EQ or tone control adjustments, and this LCD2 is one of those. Other such headphones include the Shure SRH840 and 1840, AKG K712, B&O H6, B&W P7, Beyer Custom One Pro, FAD Pandora VI, and MrSpeakers Mad Dog. The EQ I described for 40 hz and 8 khz are very minor tweaks for test purposes, and would not be critical for users who understand the LCD2's target signature.

    **Head-Fi user Schopenhauer is the headphone owner.

    I'd like to go into more detail about the sound, but I'd like to be as objective as I can and avoid any suggestions about how much fun it is, or what genres it plays best with. My application is desktop use, and portability is relevant to me only in how easily I can move it and the source-plus-amp I'm using around the house, when I want to sit in another room. Nowdays you can drive this headphone with an amp that's physically small such as the Objective2, Portaphile Micro, or Decware Zen Head, to name a few examples. You might have success with a USB mini-DAC such as the Dragonfly or Microstreamer, but since those obtain all of their power from the USB line, you'll probably run short of power for transients on a lot of music with those DACs. Some people report major differences in the sound signature of certain headphones with different amps, but my experience says that unless you have a bad impedance mismatch or a serious lack of output power, the signature shouldn't change much from amp to amp.

    I think people who play mostly classical or acoustic music, or possibly jazz, will like the neutral bass balance of the LCD2, and especially the quality of the bass. I've commented on the midrange for every headphone I've reviewed, in some cases just saying that it's unremarkable if the colorations are so minimal that there's nothing to address. My first impression of this LCD2 was that the midrange wasn't exactly perfect, or so near perfect that I could skip to the next step in my evaluation. I found a few small bumps in the response with test tones, but after attempts to flatten those with EQ settings and not hearing any improvement, I went looking elsewhere and then found what I think is the only important deficiency or coloration - a sharp recess around 8 khz that slightly dulls the 'presence' or sense of realism. With that fixed as shown in the graph linked above or on my dalethorn site, not only is the overall sound closer to perfection, I don't find anything else to nit-pick or complain about.

    The LCD2 fit is good, with big earpads that should surround large ears in full comfort. The earpads are similar to those that issue with the Alpha Dog headphone - they're thicker at the rear and bottom, apparently to follow the shape of most users' heads (which taper off behind the ears). The earcups are mounted on gimbals, and a screw above each earcup is tightened to fix the earcups in place so they don't slide up or down. The LCD2 is fairly large and heavy, and while some users who aren't experienced with large headphones may adjust to it easily, many users will find it cumbersome if they expect to be able to move around a lot while wearing it. The headband adjustment goes about 1/2 inch smaller on each side from where I use it, to about one inch larger on each side, which should accomodate very small heads but not very large heads, based on my average-size head. The dual-entry cable is flat and appears to have 4 conductors, is very long (~10-12 feet), and is terminated by a 6.5 mm (1/4 inch) stereo plug.

    The LCD2 is an open-back design, so there's essentially no isolation. Leakage is total - i.e. the same as if you were using small speakers out in the open. The LCD2's efficiency or sensitivity is fairly low, and while it will play with adequate volume and frequency balance with some music tracks on iPhones and iPods, many will not play satisfactorily, and those that do will likely suffer some clipping even when it isn't obvious. Some of the small portable amps I use are also strained with the LCD2, so I recommend a good desktop amp with lots of power. Audeze recommends 1 to 4 watts, or 1000 to 4000 mw. According to their specs, the LCD2 produces 93 db per milliwatt, which would seem to be 123 db per watt. Still, I think something near one watt or 1000 mw would be a good target value for a headphone amp for the LCD2.

    The comments in the music tracks listed below can be compared to other headphone reviews I've done, as described in 'Note_2' above.
     
  2. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Charleston South Carolina
    Audeze LCD-2 Planar headphone review part 2 - music samples.

    Animotion - Obsession (1980's New Wave/Techno): The upper bass synth has excellent detail and tone with a modest weight, and both male and female vocals sound natural without favoring either. The LCD2 plays this extremely well.

    Bauhaus - Bela Lugosi's Dead (~1980): Strong midrange sound effects - this is a good worst-case test for resonant-type sounds in the most sensitive midrange area. Handled perfectly by the LCD2.

    Beethoven Symphony 9, Solti/CSO (1972): Excellent overall sound. Of special note here are the bass impacts beginning around 10:30 of the fourth movement. Those impacts are soft and well in the background, but you can feel some of the weight they carry with the LCD2.

    Black Sabbath - Iron Man (Classic Rock): Very good instrumental detail and the vocal sounds very natural. As with most classic rock tracks, there is very little or no deep bass. The LCD2 plays this music smoothly, and the lack of deep bass doesn't unbalance the treble.

    Boz Scaggs - Lowdown (1976): Good sound quality - this is a great test for any nasality in the midrange. Handled extremely well by the LCD2.

    Cantus - Danny Boy (Traditional/Male Choral/Acapella): The LCD2 plays the voices with enough low end warmth and weight to sound very natural, yet there is no added emphasis of the lower register of the male voices on this track.

    Cath Carroll - Moves Like You (1980's New Wave/Techno): This track's percussion and voice are crisp and well-balanced, and there's a good sense of space or soundstage around the voices and instruments. The LCD2 reproduces the space and detail beautifully.

    Catherine Wheel - Black Metallic (~1991): Goth with industrial overtones - I like this since it's a great music composition and the sound effects are smoothly integrated into the mix. This may sound distorted or mushy with some headphones, but the LCD2 renders the deliberate instrumental distortions clearly.

    Chris Isaak - Wicked Game (Pop/Rock): The LCD2 plays this high treble energy recording very smoothly - the voice and instruments are very detailed but not edgy - very musical in fact.

    Chromatics - I'm On Fire (Synth-Pop, female lead): This track has a good amount of space around the voice and instruments, making for a very pleasant stereo image. The voice is excellent, and the tambourine sound is as realistic as I've heard with any other headphone since doing these detailed reviews.

    David Hazeltine - Fur Elise (Jazz): A very high-quality recording from HDTracks. The LCD2 reproduces the instruments smoothly with a spacious ambiance. The wire-brush-on-cymbal harmonics are very extended and detailed.

    Grieg (Beecham-Royal Philharmonic) - Peer Gynt-Solveig's Lullaby (Classical): This very old (late 1950's) stereo recording must have been made on the most expensive gear in the world, since the overall sound quality and especially Ilse Hollweg's amazing voice are as close to "being there" as I've heard with some of the better classical recordings made since the year 2000. The LCD2 plays this music perfectly.

    Hans Zimmer - Dark Knight-Aggressive Expansion (Soundtrack): The percussion in this track hits really hard, and the bass tones beginning around 0:45 *should* have the ultra-deep "shuddery" kind of sound and feel that indicates a good deep-bass response, but the low bass sounds a bit light with this track. Still, the LCD2 plays this music very well overall.

    Heaven 17 - Let Me Go (1980's New Wave/Techno): The bass instrument (guitar?) has excellent detail, and the voices and ambiance have a "you are there" quality that's uncommon in early 1980's pop music. The LCD2 plays this track perfectly.

    Hugo Audiophile - 15-16 (Electronic): I'm not sure what the 15-16 stands for - perhaps track numbers from a CD album. The deep-bass tones that start around 33-34 seconds into the track reproduce very well with the LCD2. This is a great recording for evaluating whether a headphone's bass will be sufficient for most environments, since for many headphones that have a weaker bass, the deep bass gets absorbed and mostly lost when the environment contains a lot of low-frequency energy.

    Human League - Keep Feeling Fascination (1980's New Wave/Techno): This track's bass line is very detailed but light, and the somewhat forward voices don't have quite the "you are there" quality of the Heaven 17 track noted above.

    Jimmy Smith - Basin Street Blues (early 60's): This track has several loud crescendos of brass and other instruments that don't sound clean and musical with some headphones. The LCD2 provides excellent detail. Listen particularly to the second crescendo at 15 seconds in for maximum detail effect. I'd like to emphasize that these crescendos are probably the worst-case test I have for instrument separation and detail, and the LCD2 does those extremely well.

    Kellogg Auditorium, Battle Creek Michigan, Aeolian-Skinner Organ (1933) - Pedal, 32', Resultant, Arpeggio: This 16 hz organ pedal tone differs from other music tones in that you won't "hear" the tone - you'll only feel it. Although most music tones have harmonics (including this one), the harmonics from this tone will be too weak to provide any "feel", so whatever you actually hear would not be part of the fundamental 16 hz tone. There are ~30 hz sounds in the outdoor environment in big cities, generated by large trucks, buses, and subway trains, and they have a quality of "rumble" that's similar to some deep-bass tones found in music. This 16 hz organ tone is easily distinguished from those sounds when compared on a headphone that has good undistorted response at 16 hz. The LCD2 reproduces the fundamental tone with a light weight, yet the detail is such that the fundamental 'beats' of the 16 hz tone are clearly evident.

    Mantovani - Sunrise Sunset (Easy Listening, ca. 1972): A master musician and conductor who specialized in light classics and orchestral pop music, Mantovani's accomplishments were overshadowed by music critics who couldn't tolerate the notion of "light classics" or "semi-classical" music, even when those recordings were no threat to the classical music genres. In any case the later Mantovani recordings from the mid-1960's through mid-1970's had the advantage of being mixed for much better hi-fi systems than those which the music critics possessed at the start of the Long Playing (LP) record cycle. Here in 2014, at least some of those digital remasters have improved the sound further, although it's not always the case. This track as played on the LCD2 is a perfect example of the sheer musicality lurking in those later recordings, and is highly recommended for soundstage, instrumental tone, and musical balance.

    Michael Tilson Thomas - Rhapsody In Blue (20th Century Classic): Great sound and soundstage, and terrific piano playing and tone. There are some very deep bass impacts starting around 38 seconds into the 17:24 length track, and the weight of those impacts is very subtle with the LCD2.

    Porcupine Tree - Trains (Pop-Rock): This track opens with some nicely-detailed string sounds and a forward-sounding male voice with a higher-than-average register. There are a series of "clip-clop" effects starting at 3:19 that should sound like they were made with wooden blocks of some kind. The LCD2 reproduces those sound effects perfectly.

    Richard Strauss (Mester-Pasadena) - Also Sprach Zarathustra (opening) (Classical): The granddaddy of bass is in the opening 1:50 of this recording, and I've heard it only once on a large and expensive loudspeaker system in Cleveland. For most people, that experience would be indistinguishable from being in a fairly strong earthquake. The LCD2 provides some of that experience, but the lean low bass lessens the realism. The tympani have good impact here.

    Scarlatti-Kipnis - Sonata in E Major K381 (Classical, Harpsichord): The harpsichord here is fairly bright and highly detailed, and the LCD2 renders the tones and transients perfectly.

    Trombone Shorty - Backatown (Jazz-Funk): The deep bass impacts here aren't as strong as with most headphones, but they blend well with the horns and other instruments. The LCD2 delivers the impacts with fair weight and excellent detail, and the horns have the kind of bite that gives them a wonderfully realistic sound.

    William Orbit - Optical Illusion (Billy Buttons Mix) (Electronic): This is about as close as I want to get to easy-listening music. The string tones beginning at 0:18 are fairly soft, and while the bass isn't very deep, it still adds a good underpinning to the music. The short poetic rap at 4:14, preceded by an etherial female voice, works very well with this track.
     

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