Audeze (pronounced Odyssey) is an American company that started in 2009 with the LCD-1 – their first released product was the LCD-2 in 2010 and it took the world of headphones by storm. This headphone went through a few iterations and is available in different wood trims and with different ear pads. Audeze is driven to create the best organic sounding headphones – something that makes people forget they are wearing headphones – how they manage this with these pretty bulky headphones, I will explain later in the review.
A side job for the 2 founders turned into the founding of Audeze and now they are a full blown headphone producer with different product lines being mentioned in the same breath with Sennheiser, Beyerdynamic and others. The EL line and the LCD line of headphone. the LCD line being the top of the range line. Audeze only puts proprietary planar magnetic drivers in their heapdhones. And that is a good thing as you will find out. The headphone has 12 magnets per side that move a flat, super thin diaphragm producing and outstanding detail and sound quality – but I am getting ahead of myself….
Past changes to the LCD-2:
Update 2011: Revision 1
new cable and new ear pads
Update 2011: Revision 2:
New diaphragm material, new headband
Update 2014: Fazor
Updated Fazor elements (old LCD-2 can be retro-fitted with these)
- Type: Full size – over ear
- Drivers Size:
- Drivers Type: Planar-Magnetic
- Frequency Response: 5Hz to 50KHz
- Sensitivity: 91dB @1mW
- Impedance: 50 Ω
- Microphone sensitivity:
- Maximum Input: 15W (yes: W)
- Weight without cable: 550g
- Connector: 6.5mm single ended (ear cups mini-XLR on each side)
- MSRP: $1399
A black metal cup cover is the centerpiece of attention at these headphones. It’s shaped in the companies stylized logo A (for Audeze). The outer cup itself is done either in Bamboo or Caribbean Rosewood. To me, they look gorgeous. The ear pads are created in a way that angles the headphone slightly to your ears so the drivers are pointing straight at your ears. The ear pads are made out of beautiful extremely soft and plush lambskin leather or from a vegan velours material.
The cable is attached to each side of the headphone via a mini XLR connector. I think this is the best way replaceable cables can be attached. It’s a bit heavier than other connectors but also way more sturdy and reliable. The connectors on the ear cups are slightly angled forward so that while wearing the headphone the cable doesn’t brush around your shoulders, so it won’t create noise and microphonics. The cable itself is 3m long sturdy and flat. It has a very solid Neutrik branded 6,5mm connector – if you want to connect the headphone to 3.5mm sockets you need an adapter.
Earcups have the classic round shape, the angled leather ear pads are very comfortable and create a great seal. The design though is an acquired taste. There is no denying this is a large and heavy headphone. I found it to be comfortable, even with long listening sessions but it’s something you need to check for yourself. The style itself is something I would call “traditional” it’s not making you look cool or trendy – these are home listening headphones with only one goal: be something to behold and enjoy for a long time.
Sturdy, every piece of these headphones is replaceable – Audeze customer service is amazing. Out of my own stupidity I broke a screw on one of the connecting rods. With my next order of the leather care kit (for the ear pads) they put a small bag with extra screws in the delivery free of charge. Communication with customer service was for me nothing but exceptional. These will last forever if you care for them. A wood care kit is included and I recommend getting the leather conditioner from Audeze as well. That way you will have decades of joy with your headphones.
Once you wear these headphones you are looking like Princess Leia from Star Wars – but the moment you play some music – you don’t care anymore.
These headphones are heavy, 550g without cable is a lot. Personally I didn’t find them too heavy as the adding everywhere is really soft and lush. I have friends who find them too heavy – so, it’s advisable to try them at a local headphone meet or in a shop if you are interested in buying them.
They come in a Pelican case. I repeat – a Pelican case. It’s a ruggedized plastic case that keeps your headphones safe to US military specifications. The case is gasketed, waterproof, airtight and submersible, UV and corrosion resistant, has an ambient pressure equalization valve so you can open it on Mount Everest or at sea level. I think you can throw this case down Burj Khalifa and your headphones would arrive safe at ground level. It’s the most sturdiest carry case I have ever seen for a headphone and really is “proper” storage for something of that value.
Other included accessories are the wood caring kit (wax and cloth) to care for the wood cups every now and then and the detachable cable.
Pretty much the perfect sound. Plenty of details without being too harsh or treble happy, round and full bodied sound. This headphone took the world of audiophiles by storm and I can see why. I am still in love with my trusted Sennheiser HD650 and Beyerdynamic T90 but the LCD2 is elevating my listening pleasure to another level. It’s like the love child of the former two, it took the best of both headphones. The T90 is capable of amazing bass, the midrange of the HD650 is the best I ever heard… It is a warm sounding headphone but no details are smeared – they are all there. It’s magic. It sounds a lot like speakers – in the best way possible.
Bass: The bass goes down low. It’s defined, full bodied and has plenty of pressure to satisfy the bass folks. It’s not a bashed can but offers plenty of fun. It does make you smile for sure without loosing it’s balance or overshadowing any other frequency range when the bass hits. So in short – the bass is amazing. Layered and precise.
Mid-range: Energy, balanced and open sounding, no distortion whatsover. Vocals, male and female sound amazingly real. You can call the mids – RICH. Again vocals sound the most natural I have ever heard.
Treble: Less in your face. As mentioned this is a warm sounding headphone – the detail in the treble is there in spades but you won’t find any harshness. It’s hard to describe it’s smooooooth but at the same time incredibly detailed. The balance and fun listening to these is top notch. Also no sibilance in the treble/mids range at all.
Sound Stage and instruments separations: The LCD-2 has not the largest soundstage. It’s there and you can put instruments in their respective spaces but it’s not expansive nor super deep nor ultra wide. I would say, it’s perfectly fine but you won’t get a soundstage wow effect. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing at all wrong with the soundstage, it’s way larger than any closed headphone – just having heard the Hifiman HE-560 it’s smaller. Instruments are clearly separated and sound as natural as they can.
Pros & Cons:
- vocals are out of this world
- the bass is insanely layered and precise
- comfortable (yet heavy)
- replaceable cable and ear-pads, headband, actually every piece of this phone is replaceable
- great customer service
- detailed yet fun sounding signature – best headphone in my collection
- you look like Princess Leia while wearing them
- needs care every now and then (wood, leather)
If you can’t afford this headphone – safe up. Work hard, work extra hours, do whatever it takes. It’s worth it.
This is one of the best headphones I have ever heard and the best one I own. If you can get over the looks, physical size and weight – these are endgame headphones (or summit-fi). I warn you though, pair them with a good amp, feed your decent DAC with high quality music and you will smile from ear to ear – don’t think of listening directly out of your phone to this headphone. Audeze recommends an amp that can output 1-4W into 50 Ohms. That is quite a lot – for normal listening levels you are fine with a 1 Watt amp like the Schiit Asgard or CEntrance DACMini. But something more powerful like the Schiit Lyr2, Schiit Magni2Uber, Gustard H10 or Violectric V200, Gungnir, Ragnarok, and many others, reward you with liquid gold being poured into your ears…
When I wore this headphone the first time, I couldn’t stop listening – I wanted to re-listen to ALL my favorite songs with them again.
The only really big downside is the price. It’s not a cheap headphone and I had to think long and hard before getting this one. Is it worth it? Of course. It’s worth every penny. If you are on a budget, I recommend the Sennheiser HD650 or check out the latest EL line of Audeze for half the price. they seem to be very promising. If you can’t get over the design – Oppo has some modern looking and great sounding planar magnetic headphones (PM1 and PM2) that are cheaper and share the same slightly warm sound signature of the LCD-2.
Now, since I also bought the last headphone I reviewed from samma3a.com – the Hifiman HE-560 as I liked it so much – I need to compare the two.
Is the HE-560 the better headphone for a lower price? Yes and no. First the HE-560 needs even more power than the LCD-2 so be prepared to spend on the amp as well. Second, the HE-560 does not have the amazing bottom end and relaxed upper range of the LCD-2, so it delivers the details a bit sharper than the LCD-2. For longer listening sessions I reach for the LCD-2 more often. If you prefer classic and Jazz – it might be a close tie with a slight advantage to the HE-560. With any other genre and modern music – the LCD-2 is still the king of headphones.
Oh and the LCD-2 is the big one of the two, large and heavy. Not an issue for me but you should check it out first.
The headphone is available from samma3a.com for a very fair price. They only sell it in the Rosewood trim and it’s equipped with the latest Fazor driver.