This is a review of the Audeze LCD-3, which is a set of open-back planar magnetic headphones using the company’s patented Fazor technology. It is currently priced at $1945.
Disclaimer: This is a sample sent to us in exchange for our honest opinion. Headfonics is an independent website with no affiliate links or services We thank the team at Audeze for giving us their support.
To read more about the Audeze products we have previously covered on Headfonics click here.
Note, that this review follows our current scoring guidelines which you can read up on here.
Side by side with the LCD-2, the more expensive Audeze LCD-3 sounds more clear and yummy and I feel the general tonality of the headphone to be perfect. It's not pure and snobbishly neutral, nor are they colored. It's right in the middle somewhere and allows most people to enjoy them.
Back in 2010, Hi-Fi audio and Audeze became synonymous with each other, a hand-in-hand and a brothers-in-arms sort of thing. Funny now that I think back on it, Audeze is the only company that I’ve ever known to have its manufacturing name often used as a noun to describe other headphones.
Audeze did something very right but still has a great deal to learn about design and implementation. To be honest, I never really understood their appeal until a long while after the upgrade to the LCD-3 model was released.
Generally, the LCD-3 Planar Magnetic headphones grant me more sonic bliss than some of those hyper-expensive electrostatic headphones out there.
I really disliked the LCD-2 and each revision that was released to the masses, it just never clicked with me and when I’d heard the LCD-3 model was audibly superior, I wasn’t even remotely interested…that is until I hopped a plane to Japan to visit some of my friends.
Alone, unable to speak Japanese and sweating profusely in a meeting room filled with elderly, stern-faced, and stone-silent men all staring at me for almost an hour, a good friend of mine finally made it out of his extended meeting to greet me.
After shaking hands and a brisk walk to Tokyo’s version of a pub for a bite to eat, he’d pulled out a few of his toys for me to listen to after a long time of getting reacquainted. The place was located in one of those horrifying dark alleyways, complete with steam vents and boxes littering the ground and unseen voices in the distance yelling at each other
Naturally, I’d felt absolutely terrified once I saw what was in his bag, I just knew someone was going to throw a knife into my chest or try to steal those Audeze LCD-3s before he could hand them to me.
Thankfully, the pub was extremely friendly and clearly a place for business people to wind down after work. I’d listened to his LCD-3 on his portable rig and was hooked. This model was a lot more to my liking than the LCD-2. From there, I’d saved up for an entire year to try to buy my own LCD-3.
I think the Audeze headphones are among the most beautiful headphones out there in terms of aesthetics. Simply gorgeous hand-crafted wooden rings and supple leather or vegan pads, your choice these days, make for stunning eye candy to anyone who looks upon you.
Topped with a metal framework, there isn’t much to gripe about beyond the weight which is a staggering 550 grams or so. The cable itself is nothing special but it is terminated in really nifty mini XLR adapters that protrude at an odd angle near the bottom end of the headphone ear cups.
Depending on your preferences, you can purchase the headphones with a wooden box case, or something that will really scare the TSA agents at the Airport with a smaller, more explosive device-looking hard shell travel case. Both are quite nice but I certainly prefer the travel case, despite being fairly bland looking with an Audeze logo on top of it.
Well, Audeze doesn’t understand comfort in the slightest but they sure do understand how to be extremely bold and beautiful in their exterior design.
Planar Magnetic drivers are heavy, there is no getting around it. All of the Audeze headphones have a strong Vulcan Death Grip and an unbalanced, oddly positioned fit to how the headphone rests on your noggin.
That annoys and upsets a great deal of normal people. Most regular, nonaudiophiles whom I’ve allowed access to the LCD-3 found it to be extremely uncomfortable. My niece is often used as a science experiment and…well…I will let the timeline and sequence of events snapped in real time tell the story.
11:40 AM – She wears the headphones for the first time and offers the perfect expression that we all felt the first time we’ve worn an Audeze headphones.
12:30 PM – Her favorite Katie Perry song comes on…yes, I listen to Katie Perry…
12:33 PM – She accidentally clicks the touch screen button on her portable music player and a track off of the Superman The Movie OST begins to play, she immediately takes them off and looks around the room for the source of the song she is hearing.
She thought a nearby TV was playing the track, not the headphones. She’d gotten embarrassed when I told her that wasn’t the TV and put them back on.
12: 41 PM – She is still listening to music and asked her dad to buy her one. He looked at me and asked how much they were…I respond ” Around $2,000.00″.
No other headphone in existence does bass like the LCD-3. I mean it. Nothing. The LCD-3 takes the cake in the bass department with a respectful nod to the JVC Victor DX-1000.
These two headphones are leagues above the rest in terms of how the bass is offered to you, that overall yummy balance between gentle coloration, warmth, and envelopment is beyond exceptional.
This is what Audeze is known for: That exceptional bass quality experience. Dipping way down to 5hz, the Audeze LCD-3 is regarded as one of the most responsive to bass headphones ever produced.
Rightly so, it indeed is every bit as good as audio junkies proclaimed. It measured extremely well on the low end during testing and I can find no real faults with the bass on this headphone.
I consider the headphones extremely well-rounded and set up to enjoy almost any genre of music. Nothing sounds bad on these headphones. From rock to dubstep, classical, and fusion the LCD-3 will tank all of your attempts to thwart it and come away smiling as you fume with anger and pop a blood vessel in your eye in futile attempts to beat it.
I find the low end always satisfying and never lacking, but there are times on certain tracks that I find myself cranking the bass up a little.
With the freeware program Foobar2000’s vast selection of free downloadable DSPs ( Additional components for the software ) you can alter the bass type to your heart’s content and not worry about the bass overshadowing the mids or treble too much.
Audeze headphones tend to allow plenty of bass EQ before the low end starts to muddy the presentation.
To date, the LCD-3 offers my favorite mid-range and vocal experience in a non-electrostatic headphone. Only the uber-expensive Stax 007 and 009 outperform the LCD-3.
Intimacy is important to me personally, I really dislike that distant and relaxed presentation type when it comes to vocals in general. I want that artist to be as close as possible, almost singing to me personally.
I want to hear her lips gently caress the microphone and hear the subtle nuances in her voice or mannerisms that most headphones simply cannot pick up. A hyper-sense of realism in sound staging is extremely vital for me.
With regard to the setup, the mids are well within the exceptionally forward placement area, and as a result, the sound stage depth on this headphone is good. Tracks from Michael Buble’ or similar artists tend to have an almost visceral sense of realism through the LCD-3, almost euphoric even at times and you can easily get totally lost in your listening.
Another great quality the mid-range offers in the LCD-3 is that it carries a smooth weightiness that is absent in most dynamic Drivers and only found in some electrostatics.
They have a smooth approach and presentation that I find extremely satisfying, it lacks punch and too much body and weight while retaining a good sense of both when needed.
It is very rare for a headphone of any type to offer a prominent mid-range along with a very satisfying low end. Audeze’s second-best quality is their midrange. Beautifully set up, perfection in tonality in my opinion, and something I’ve long desired.
I wouldn’t consider the treble on this headphone a downfall, but it certainly does not match the special top end of its rival: the HIFIMAN HE-6. The latter of which has perhaps the most beautiful treble response of any headphone I have ever had the pleasure of using.
Side by side with the LCD-3, the HE-6 sounds audibly more clear, focused, and more present. Hissy tracks sound more hissy on the LCD-3 than they do on the HE-6 which took a more flat and relaxed approach over a glistening in the sun or twilight moon experience.
I find the top end lacking in every sense of the word and it is very clear that Audeze played it very safe here. Not that it is a bad thing, but I’d probably have done the same due to most flagships from other companies offering brutal treble responses, often painful and hard to enjoy.
The AKG K-1000, Sennheiser HD 800, JVC DX-1000, Denon D-7000, and Grado PS1000 flagships all have abysmal treble response. All are downright painful to listen to. I’m happy to report the LCD-3 doesn’t have this problem and the treble response is still very enjoyable, very safe, and lacking punch.
Hiking all the way up to 50 KHz, it lacks the capabilities to really even remotely come close to the HE-6 despite that 50 KHz ceiling. To me, it is just a number and does not at all reflect the boasts Audeze often claims that their LCD-3 is similar to $40,000 speaker setups. It’s not.
The LCD-3 treble lacks brightness and styling and as a result, feels a little out of place with the rest of the headphone’s sonic qualities. Far from a negative thing, but you will notice quickly that the treble is the weak link in the chain.
Audeze headphones are nearer to the bottom tier of what sounds best for stereo imaging. With regard to the stereo image depth of field, the Audezes rank very well and offer a fantastic cavernous feel to things.
The reach out forward into space aspect of listening is good and it is very apparent. Stage height is also more than satisfactory and is only heightened by the forward-sounding, almost mid-bloom effect the vocal experiences tend to offer.
However, the stage width and separation are average at best and offer a low sense of space, air, and separation by comparison to numerous other headphones.
Sound staging and Audeze are two terms that do not go together. I feel claustrophobic every time I wear the LCD-3 and the clamp effect only makes it worse with regard to the fit issues I have.
Imaging is again good, but when it comes to multimedia such as movies, TV, and gaming the Audeze headphones are in my opinion close to dead last on the list of gear I would use.
While gaming in general, I tend to reach for the AKG K812 or something similar these days and the Audeze will always remain untouched. The developers for Borderlands 2 have 1 upped every video game previously released when it comes to sound editing, engineering, and setup.
The game sounds immensely wide open, well cued, and offers staggering levels of spatial imaging. The LCD-3 also has extremely poor pinpointing abilities, gamers exit stage left. You will hate these headphones so don’t bother.
I don’t find the Audeze headphones to require a specific source of any type, but they do need a bit of power. Sets like the HD 800 are notoriously difficult to find the right amplifier for, that headphone is overly snobbish when it comes to playing nice with others.
I don’t get that sense with the LCD-3 and find my 2W Burson Conductor SL to perform very nicely with most of the power-hungry Planars. You want to find amps and sources known for exceptional sound staging qualities to boost the potential of the LCD-3’s own stereo imaging qualities.
Without them, the experience sounds too closed in and lacking. Power isn’t so important with this one, but it is important with the likes of the HE6 from Hifiman which requires an atomic blast to power properly by comparison.
Mid-tier and non-summit level amplifiers can pair nicely with the LCD-3 and you have a lot of options during purchasing. This is a preference thing and it is very important to pick what you enjoy best.
My Burson amp has two DAC chip options, both sound different and pair best with certain headphones. One chip sounds warm and a bit slow on the decay, but it’s highly musical and so fun to listen to with the LCD-3.
The other is highly neutral, precise, and pure which makes for a more reference tonality through the LCD-3. Pick your poison, choose wisely but know that most decent amplifiers sound perfectly fine with the Audeze headphones.
In the end, the Audeze headphones need a ton of redesign in my opinion and I cannot justify that price tag. In this hobby, price means nothing and I try not to judge headphones on their MSRP.
Side by side with the LCD-2, the more expensive LCD-3 sounds more clear and yummy and I feel the general tonality of the headphone to be perfect. It’s not pure and snobbishly neutral, nor are they colored. It’s right in the middle somewhere and allows most people to enjoy them.
With proper source and amp pairing to your preferences you can alter the tone of the headphone to your heart’s content. Despite the cost of the LCD-3, it only outperformed the LCD-2 by 1/4 or so in overall clarity.
That extra 25% boost in clarity all around isn’t as noticeably obvious as a 25% boost in sound stage would have been…and sadly the LCD-3 still sounds basically the same in physical size and vastness in the stereo image of the LCD-2.
Having said that, it is still one of the best headphones ever made and will remain so for some time. Studio engineers should not use these headphones for mixing and mastering editing, but it should be the headphones they use to play back the music after it is all finished.
Audeze LCD-3 Technical Specifications
Style: Circumaural – open
Transducer type: Planar magnetic
Magnetic structure: Proprietary self-closing design, acoustically transparent
Magnet type: High-grade Neodymium
Diaphragm excursion: 2.5 mm peak to peak
Transducer active diaphragm area: 6.17 sq in
Sound pressure level (SPL): 130 db (maximum)
Ear pads: Specially designed acoustically shaped foam inserts with premium lambskin or super suede cover
Frequency response: 5 Hz – 20 KHz, usable high-frequency extension of 50 KHz
Total harmonic distortion (THD): Less than 1% throughout the entire frequency range
Impedance: 45 Ohms, purely resistive
Efficiency: 91 dB/1 mW
Maximum power handling: 15 W (for 200 ms)
Optimal power requirement: 1-4 W
ADZ6SE Cable (single-ended): ¼” TRS to 2×4-pin mini XLR
ADZ6B4 Cable (balanced): 4-pin XLR to 2×4-pin mini XLR