Eargasmic: Audeze’s $1299 LCD-2 headphones reviewed

There are people out there who love big speakers, and who spend a fortune on them, but if you need to cut the sound out or just want to listen to a recording intimately, a pair of $1300 headphones might be just what you need to look for.

Features and performance

Headphones can sure cost a pretty penny, but there’s something special about a pair that costs over a thousand dollars.

Well out of reach of most people, the Audeze LCD-2 are an unusual pair, not just because they’ll attract attention from their rather unusual design, and not just because the materials used in their construction look a little unorthodox, but because they use a rather unusual magnetic design to achieve the sound the headphones are offering.

The technology is called “Fazor” and essentially it’s an element that sits on the edges of the magnets used in a headphone along the diaphragm, with these elements used to spread the flow of sound in a more balanced way, as opposed to letting the sound resonate the way it normally would.

As a result of this larger headphone technology, the sound waves are apparently less disturbed, better acoustically, and fairly balanced due to the way the sound patterns occur.

A very thin diaphragm is also a part of the technology, something Audeze says is “significantly thinner than other planar designs on the market”, which together with the Fazor technology and Audeze’s magnetic design creates a “uniform magnetic field” to minimise the distortion, suggesting loud volumes that don’t buzz out are possible here.

That’s essentially what the $1299 price tag is paying for, as well as a comfort level that isn’t normal in headphones, we can tell you that.

And for the price, you even get a special casing, which is worth noting only because so few headphones ever see anything like it.

Yes, even from the packaging, we can tell you that you’ve probably never seen anything like the Audeze LCD-2, a pair of headphones that arrive in their own little Pelican hard case and aren’t made for someone with a fleeting interest in audio technology. Inside is a certificate of authenticity — just in case you think someone has sold you a pair of fake $1300 headphones — and a wood care kit, because the LCD-2 is a wooden pair of headphones that you need to treat right.

Take them out and you’ll see just what we’re dealing with here, with large pieces of wood encasing the cans, metal grills, and a very lush, plush, and lovely feeling the microsuede neck-band and ear pads offer. It’s hard not to see this pair of cans as anything but luxurious from the get go, and upon first glance, we’re already impressed.

Stick them on and that feeling continues, because while they’re a little heavier than you might be used to, Audeze’s LCD-2 are insanely comfortable. If you’re ok with some larger headphones, you’ll move beyond the feeling that there’s a weight around your ears quickly, and just get into the comfort, with large soft pads that surround the ear.

Circumaural is the name of the game here, and our lobes didn’t feel like they were even touching the pads here, which is very good.

You may find the proprietary cable a little disheartening, which can be separated from the headphones, though relies on a very unusual port found on the headphones connecting to a flat but still very well built cable executing in a 6.25mm amplifier jack, though they do arrive with a converter to bring this back down to the more common 3.5mm jack.

Seriously, Audeze’s port choice for the headphone cable reminds us of S-Video for some reason, probably the pin layout, but it at least guarantees a strong connection, and might just be what the headphones need to stop interference.

Getting to the sound test, and we need to note, you’ll need a fair amount of sound output if you are to drive these headphones.

Will they work with your iPhone? Yes. Will they work well? No, because there just isn’t enough volume output from most portable devices, with specialised products required, or even an amp.

Case in point, Audeze’s local distributors Busisoft sent us an amplifier to test the LCD-2 with — the Violectric HPA V100 (above), which worked a treat — but we also found a portable high-res compatible Walkman we were testing from Sony (review to come) suited these headphones perfectly, confirming to us that yes, you do need something capable of boosting volume levels if you want listen to anything using the LCD-2.

In any case, our test had us jumping between all three devices, as we tested the limits of what the headphones were capable of.

As usual, we’re running with the GadgetGuy 2014 Sound Test, though will later in the review switch to the beginnings of our high-res playlist to test extra depth that people listening with high resolution audio will be looking for.

That said, we’re starting with the electronica in the sound test, and the balance is immensely noticeable on Mooro’s “M66R6” with strong mids and highs, while the bass punches through in this hotbed dance track, a feeling that is also true on The Glitch Mob’s “Skullclub”, this one with a soft echo as the track begins but no section really outpacing one another.

When The Glitch Mob really kicks it up a step a minute into the track, the bass takes over forcing output through both the lows and mids, though Audeze’s LCD-2 headphones never let the highs sneak far away, and these cans sound like the DJ team is mixing straight into your ear drums.

In rock, the balance continues, and whatever Audeze’s “Fazor” technology is doing, it seems to show itself as a winner, with clear guitar screams and balance in the bottom end of Closure In Moscow’s “A Night At The Spleen”, while Muse’s “Supremacy” keeps the lead vocals soft and prominent, the base punchy, and the guitar edgy when it needs to be.

The amp we’re using here, the Violectric HPA V100, allows us to ump all of this up loud, and we’re not even at 50 percent of the volume we can push out, with the loudness to much for our ears and yet not blowing out across the sound.

Impressive. Very impressive.