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Classic Audeze house tuning and the definition of what a high-end headphone should be.
- Exceptional quality – built like a tank to last generations
- Immediately recognizable in look and sound
- You know from the first listen that these headphones are something special
- Unique (non-Harman) tuning with exceedingly high resolution and technical capabilities
- Premium everything – including all the provided accessories
- Too large, heavy, and unwieldy for some users
- The sound profile presents music in a distinct and colored way
- The darker sound signature and midrange tuning choices may be off-putting and slightly unnatural-sounding
- May not be fully appreciated by average consumers and beginners in the audiophile hobby
“We’ve taken our current generation LCD-2 drivers and removed the Fazor elements, aligning the sound of the LCD-2 Classic with that of the original LCD-2 launched in 2008.
The result is a warm and energetic musical experience that heralds back to the early days of Audeze without sacrificing the sound or performance improvements we’ve made over the past decade.” – Audeze
Unboxing and First Impression
Design and Build
The current version comes with a steel suspension headband. While the grills outside the drivers are also metal, the outer rings are glass-infused nylon. Audeze claims this material improves sound quality. The arm adjusters are metal and audibly click and stay in position.
The ear cups rotate semi-freely and tilt. They do not fold or lay flat. The mini-XLR connectors are positioned and angled to the front so that the cables pitch forward of your collar bones and continue down your front.
Despite a lot of plastic, the case is impressive and makes you feel that your headphones are special and worthy of this kind of protection. The case inspires confidence that if it’s tossed around or dropped out of a small plane, your treasured headphones will survive.
The 1.9m cable matches the all-black, all-business theme. The sheathing is black and smooth, not prone to much tangling, and feels as durable as the headphones. The cable only has a standard 6.35mm plug (with no adapter) and 1/4” to dual 4-pin mini-XLR connectors.
The braided cable is flexible and reasonably light without being fragile. Terminations are heavy and feel well-reinforced and durable. There are zero microphonics, which is notably preferable for audio professionals who may be quite active while working.
For me, the LCD-2C are very comfortable for extended listening sessions.
Seeing and feeling the LCD-2 Classic, it is easy to assume that everything is metal or real leather. To my surprise, the head strap and memory foam earpads are faux leather.
The pads are luxuriously large, deep, and well-padded, accommodating my large ears. They crush easily and make the LCD-2C comfortable, even for those who wear glasses. There is little heat buildup to the extremely open design.
The ear pads are angled — very thick in the rear to ensure a snug fit to your skull and less so in the front.
They are replaceable, although not with the ease of many other high-end headphones. The pads are held on with a special adhesive to optimize the ear pads’ seal to your head.
The ear pads are literally large contributors to the feel, tuning, and sound, acting as a physical EQ and changing the comfort factor.
The weight is well-distributed by the head strap and the ear pads, allowing the LCD-2C to wear lighter than I anticipated.
Under the Hood
Producing the LCD-2C’s sound are ultra-thin 106mm planar magnetic drivers, each with a proprietary Neodymium N50 magnet array. The classic version’s drivers do not have the Fazor wave guides for phase management featured on the newer LCD-2.
Fazor wave guides are intended to improve the sound by making the soundwaves smoother while adding minimal weight. They extend high frequencies and allow greater efficiency. Sound waves pass through the magnet structures unhindered, causing less degradation and interference by the magnets’ mass.
How Do the Audeze LCD-2 Classic Sound?
For evaluation, I listen to a great variety of music through numerous sources, including DAPs (FiiO M15S), phones (LG V20, LG V60), portable DAC/amps (HELM Audio Bolt, DB12 AAAMP, TempoTec Sonata E44, Khadas Tea, Qudelix-5K) and desktop DAC/amps (S.M.S.L SP200, HIFIMAN EF400, xDuoo TA-22).
With a moderate impedance of 70 ohms and a relatively high sensitivity of 101 dB, the LCD-2C are not unusually difficult to drive. You will need a 6.35mm to 3.5mm adapter to use these with a computer or portable source. They will best express their full dynamic capability with high-powered amplifiers.
Tuning is best described as warm, relaxed, and somewhat dark, though not lacking detail – a rare combination. The very broad frequency response range from 10Hz – 50kHz helps ensure that all details in recordings are represented.
The overall presentation is not intimate. The soundstage is expansive, with vocals sounding more distant from the listener, rather than ‘in your face or your head.’ Timbre is generally natural and reasonably accurate. Tonality is rich across the frequency range.
For this review, I visited the following artists and their home locations:
- Belgium: Prends moi la tête by Mentissa
- United States: Füf Redux by Bulb
- England: Bergamot by Connor Kaminski
- Brazil: Mask feat. Devin Townsend by Sepultura
A fascinating collection from several continents, these diverse musical productions range in ethnic origins, musical styles, and explorations in audio.
The bass response is surprisingly organic, smooth, and textured for a large planar driver. The impact is strong for an open-back with good resonance. Speed is relatively slow, somewhere between a clinical planar driver and a heavy-duty dynamic driver. I can feel the bass. I believe that only hardcore bassheads would say that the LCD-2C are lacking.
This is the most unique part of the LCD-2C’s tuning. To my ears, the stock tuning has a notable depression in the mids and upper mids. The darker profile continues into and throughout the treble region.
This tuning creates a fascinating sense of space and distance, though it can pull certain elements behind a sonic veil of sorts. Mid-focused sounds produced by vocals and acoustic and string instruments can be compromised and perceived as less prominent.
Upper frequencies are somewhat repressed, as confirmed by the frequency response graph. That said, the LCD-2C’s treble is extended and still highly detailed. There is virtually no sibilance nor piercing harshness to be found.
Darker sound signatures with high detail and resolution are a rare combination most frequently found in headphones with planar drivers.
If you are treble-sensitive, the LCD-2C are a great choice that will not fatigue through sharpness or micro-detail overload. Some users who prefer more incisive detail, ‘air,’ and ‘sparkle’ may prefer other Audeze models, especially those with Fazors.
The LCD-2C are definitely unique in tuning and construction, with a surprisingly different sound presentation from the LCD-2 Closed Back. The closed cups are beautiful and add an extra 68g (0.15 lbs), with a whopping total weight of 612g (1.35 lbs). Somehow, they are still comfortable and distribute weight equally well.
The closed version are deeply immersive and provide far superior sound isolation. The bass response is still clean, though stronger. What’s most surprising is that the closed do not lose much soundstage size, sounding very open for fully closed headphones. Given their size and space inside the cups, heat retention is not a huge difference either.
Overall, they are quite similar, and the closed cups do not overly disturb the original sound signature and characteristics. Which one better suits you depends on your use case and personal preference.
While I have not had much time with the LCD-2 with Fazors, my impression is that they are not as warm as the Classic. The addition of the Fazors removes some of the veiling effects and increases resolution in the midrange and treble. If you prefer more detail and sharper clarity, the newer LCD-2 are the better choice.
Where to Buy
Who Should Buy This?
The Audeze LCD-2C are remarkable headphones that will appeal most to audiophiles and enthusiasts who appreciate premium industrial design, exceptional build quality, and a distinctly darker, smoother sound with a wide-open soundstage. Imaging and timbre, while questionably “accurate,” are enjoyable and create an immersive audio experience.
Despite the LCD-2C being designed and built for professional use, I would caution any audio professionals to audition these and benchmark them first before buying them for work applications. They are uniquely tuned and not what most would say is “neutral.” Audeze has newer models better suited for these purposes.
The LCD-2C present greatness and distinction in many ways. The build and driver quality are immediately apparent, though the sound signature will not appeal to everyone. The staging and warmth with high auditory detail are unique to Audeze. They are special enough to occupy a permanent residence in my collection. I imagine many of you will feel the same way.
Audeze is an Orange County, California, U.S.-based award-winning premium technology company. Audeze’s innovations have led to 9 current U.S. patents. Every Audeze planar magnetic and electrostatic headphone is engineered, hand-assembled, and tested in their CA-based factory, now the largest flexible printed circuit board manufacturer in the U.S.
In August 2023, Sony Interactive Entertainment LLC announced that it entered into an agreement to acquire Audeze. Audeze will continue to operate independently and develop multi-platform products.
What’s in the Box?
- Audeze LCD-2 Classic planar magnetic headphones
- 1.9m 1/4” to dual 4-pin mini-XLR cable
- Standard LCD travel case (locking hard case with key)
- Certificate of authenticity and product information card
- Style: Over-ear, open-back headphones
- Drivers: Ultra-thin 106mm planar magnetic driver with a proprietary Neodymium N50 magnet array (non-fazor phase management)
- Impedance: 70 ohms
- Sensitivity: 101 dB/mW
- Frequency Response Range: 10Hz – 50kHz
- Maximum power handling: 5W RMS
- Maximum SPL: >130dB
- THD: <0.1% @ 100dB
- Minimum power requirement: >100mW
- Recommended power level: >250mW
- Plug Type: 4-pin mini-XLR connector
- Cable Length and Type: 1.9m 1/4” to dual 4-pin mini-XLR cable
- Weight: 544g