Back in June at CanJam 2010, I had the opportunity to try out the LCD-2, a new open-backed, orthodynamic headphone from Audez’e. (The name is pronounced like “odyssey”.) At his demo table, I met co-founder Alex Rosson and learned that not only is he the dnb-head behind all the drum ‘n bass on the demo iPad, but his wife is Reid Speed, a dnb DJ I have great respect for! It was very cool meeting him.
When I switched between Alex’s LCD-2 and my own Edition 8 out of the Woo tube amp on the his table (a WA6), it became immediately apparent that the LCD-2 was showing me much deeper into the recording. The Edition 8 has a warm, fun, and punchy sound that should be forgiving of the recording. It rounds over some edges, making most material sound good. Great even, if you’re into that flavor. But the LCD-2, by contrast, is like a squeeky-clean window, giving an extremely detailed view into the recording. I knew right away that the LCD-2 was a special headphone.
The LCD-2 is a beauty. The outer rims of the cups are Caribbean Rosewood, and some treatment oil is included to preserve the wood. The cups are quite large, accommodating even the largest of ears, and the clamping force is fair. Also, some fairly heavy driver magnets mean the LCD-2 can do amazing things out of weak sources such as an MP3 player headphone out, but it comes at a cost — the headphones are a bit on the heavy side. I wouldn’t say the LCD-2 is necessarily an uncomfortable headphone to wear, but there’s no doubt they want you to know they’re on your head.
The orthodynamic driver in these headphones is quite different from your average dynamic cone driver. It is comprised of a very thin diaphragm with a flat voice coil embedded onto it through which current is applied. The advantage of this type of driver is primarily the speed with which it moves and thus the detail or clarity that can be heard.
I’ve primarily listened to the LCD-2 out of two rigs. My HeadRoom Ultra Micro DAC and ALO Rx amp make a really excellent transportable stack, and they do not let me down with the LCD-2. The Rx has incredible power for its size that really brings out what the LCD-2 has to offer. When I plugged them into my RudiStor RPX-33 (fed by PSAudio DL III), I feel I’m really squeezing the headphones for all they’ve got. Soundstage, detail, and authority come right alive, and I just want to turn up the volume. The sound is immensely clean and refined; I can hear everything in the recording with amazing clarity.
When I switch to the Sennheiser HD600, I feel I get an extra dose of the trebles at the cost of a little of bass. After a quick and casual listen, my brother actually preferred the HD600, but I think this is mainly due to the increase in treble giving an illusion of more detail and “hifi-ness”. If I listen to a good recording (that hasn’t been abused in the studio) and turn up the volume, I get detail, frequency response, and a lack of distortion that is simply breathtaking.
A printed frequency response graph of each headphone is included from Audez’e, and I think it’s pretty obvious why. Each pair’s graph is very similar, showing Audez’e has a well-controlled manufacturing process. Also, apart from the high frequencies (which are very difficult to maintain a flat response for), the graphs are nearly ruler-flat all the way down to 5 Hz. So while you won’t find the accentuated bass that is common in many mainstream headphones, you WILL find an extremely neutral sound signature. No frequency range really stands out too much, and that’s exactly what they’re designed to do — produce a really neutral and balanced sound.
I think this very neutral sound signature is really the Achilles’ heel of the LCD-2. Many will find the sound signature uninteresting because they don’t get “sparkly treble” or “phat bass” like you can get from even other monitoring or audiophile headphones. Instead, the extremely neutral sound of the LCD-2 mostly seems to “wow” its listener with detail, tone, and mega low distortion. I mean yes, the bass is deep and textured and the highs sweet and extended, but no range really calls attention.
As a final note, I must mention that the stock cable on these headphones is no good. Just because the headphone is a bit on the cumbersome side does not mean that the cable needs to be, but the one they ship with these headphones is just flawed. The wire from the Y-split to the ear cups has a sort of plastic mesh sheathing that easily and often rubs against itself, causing the very worst kind of microphonics; the sound just digs into your brain. The cable is stiff, too. Heck, it’s literally labeled “speaker cable” right on the covering! It sucks to admit it for this headphone, but it was worth replacing the cable. (And I’m not one to speak critically of cables usually.)
But now that I’ve got a few months’ experience with the LCD-2, I must say that I’m overall very pleased with it. To me, it does everything very well, but nothing overdone, and it continues to be my go-to headphone when I want to relax and really enjoy the music.