Audeze LCD3 – Let the Old Gods Tremble
No doubt that Audeze punched us all in the throats a few years back, appearing out of thin air and taking root in the audiophile community as a force to be respected. Recently, Audeze has introduced a bit of a revision and upgrade to their LCD2 and LCD3 series headphones called “Fazor”, which is simply a new magnetic alignment styling over the drivers. I must say, while the new Fazor LCD3 sounds audibly more clean than the original version, I very much prefer the tone of the last generation.
What I felt set the LCD3 apart from most of the other top tier headphones has been totally erased out of existence in the new version, while completely subjective I still fully understand the value of the improvement in the Fazor versions of this headphone. However, the original LCD3 had perhaps the most satiable tonality in any headphone I had ever heard in my life. The Fazor tech absolutely ruined it by swapping that yummy, gently beautiful coloration to the tone of the headphone for a more natural one to my ears.
Sometimes, headphones invoke a deep, emotional response inside the user that transports them away from reality entirely. Musicphiles are a different breed than Audiophiles, those who wish to get lost and escape through a window to an alternate stress free universe for a short time, the other who may care more for raw purity in the experience. Sure, there are hybrids of both, which is a category I fall into, but I can’t help but feel that Audeze’s original version of the LCD3 catered specifically for those tired of a clinical experience in their music. Those weary of the reference tone, that snobbish flare to the sonic void were more at home with the original version of the Audeze’s flagship masterpiece, where as those who wanted to keep the general quantity of bass up through the treble but whom also wanted a less colored experience would probably enjoy the new Fazor version more. Pick your poison, both are fantastic.
The LCD3 also happens to be one of the best vocalist headphones available and is my go to headphone for moderately paced jazz tracks. In my opinion, the midrange is half a step less clean than the Sennheiser HD800. Not many of these flagship headphones spark something inside me when I listen to my favorite tracks, not many really make me want to press the pause button on life simply to enjoy the musical experience in full. Michael Buble’, Torston Goods, Mr. Sinatra and Big Band tracks in general offer some of the best dynamic and intimate experiences out of the entire lot of Summit headphones I have here in this report. If vocals and intimacy is your thing, look no further than the LCD3 and the LCDXC, both will satisfy anyone interested in a highly musical and hyper clean headphone experience.
The treble on the LCD3 is a bit laid back and natural sounding, I find it very out of place with the plentiful bass and midrange thing headphone has to offer. The Hifiman HE-6’s treble absolutely and mercilessly devastates the LCD3 in every facet of the word, side by side there is no question the LCD3 is more prone to sibilance and audible haze over the entire upper end of the audio spectrum. The Sennheiser HD800 also is capable of more tonally accurate, clear and beautiful treble depending on the rig.
The Audeze headphones are dreadfully heavy, exceeding 400g and beyond. This makes it very hard to enjoy music for extended periods of times, I also cannot help but to feel extremely claustrophobic while wearing them not only due to the excessive clamp by my standards, but because the general sound staging properties from left to right are relatively poor. Despite that closed in sound signature, the depth of field is excellent. Of course, it isn’t as cavernous as the HD800 depth of stage is, but it certainly does not lack in the slightest. I am on the fence about the new Fazor version of the LCD3 and I am leaning towards subjectively strong dislike, just as I absolutely hated the LCD2 with the fury of 1,000 suns. Yet, despite that disdain for the LCD2 and the new Fazor LCD3, I regard both as fantastic headphones. If I had a choice, I would always choose the first generation of the LCD3 without the Fazor tech upgrade.
Most Interesting Comparisons
LCD3 vs HD800
The Fazor LCD3’s more natural approach to the tone of the presentation is simply much more enjoyable than the clinical and brighter tone the HD800 offers. It is very hard to compare these headphones directly. These headphones are worlds apart and offer different sound signatures: where the LCD3 is more intimately forward and far less spacious, the HD800 is more relaxed and aired out. I find the shape and feel of the LCD3 presentation to be too closed in for comfort, but also significantly less prone to warping and sounding like something is wrong. The sound signature in a physical sense of the word never changes on the Audeze, however it seems like every track on the HD800 physically sounds different…even lopsided at times. The HD800 is much more true to the track recording and that to me is a serious issue, some of my music ends up sounding skewed with regard to sound staging through the Sennheiser. Bigger doesn’t always mean better.
LCD3 vs Stax 007
There is noticeable haze over the entire LCD3 sound signature when directly compared with the Stax 007 electrostatic headphones, no chance for the LCD3 to compare to what the Stax is capable of while focusing on raw clarity aspects of the experience. The 007 is more pure, more solid and more well formed and defined, instruments feel less pristine on the LCD3 than they do on the 007. The LCD3 has a more dry and natural tone, where as the Stax 007 is significantly darker everywhere except the treble, which happens to be more like a Hifiman headphone ( which I am afraid to say is much better than Audeze’s treble in most cases ). The Stax 007 is also the more bassy and enjoyable of the two on the low end, it also has more rumble and physical quantity on the low end than the LCD3. Of course, the Stax 007 is the more musical of the two in comparison to the Fazor edition of the LCD3, it also offers more wow factor in terms of dynamics on the low end.
Rig Recommendations: The Fazor LCD3 has a naturalistic flare to the tone and texture of its presentation, so you’d want to pair it with a neutral amplifier in attempt to avoid altering that tone. Pairing with a warm or colored amp would be unwise, that it unless you buy the original version and want more coloration, in which case I would recommend the 1793 Dac option on the Burson lineup of Dac/amps. Anything with a gentle coloration or musical flare will pair nicer with the original version, more neutral or natural/reference amps and sources will pair better with the Fazor edition. The headphone is moderately needy with voltage needs so I would recommend something with at least 2watts of output potential, the more the merrier. The LCD3 responds nicely to higher output current and generally sounds the same with physical spaciousness on most amplifiers, so no need to hunt for an amp that is known for exceptional staging qualities, however you do want to hunt for one that is known for offering the most pure bass texture you can find. A softer bass experience via source or Dac, in my opinion, would be detrimental to what Audeze intended. If you want a solid portable amplifier, you need something similar to the Ray Samuels SR71B or F-35 in balanced mode.
Click here for the LCD-XC…