Audeze LCD-2C review: ‘Budget’ Planar Magnetic headphones

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For budding audiophiles, Audeze is a well-known headphone manufacturer. For those unaware of the brand, the company made a name for itself with the original LCD-2; they’re somewhat a legacy for Planar Magnetic Headphones. First released in 2009, the open-back headphones grew a strong cult for its warm, smooth sound signature and of course, its distinctive look.

Fast forward to 2018 and we’ve got ourselves the brand-new Audeze LCD-2C (aka Classic). These headphones encapsulate the original LCD-2, but are subtly different in a few areas.

For starters, headphones aren’t elegantly finished in a wooden enclosure. This never impacted the sound, unlike the Denon AH-Dxxxx range, but aesthetically it’s a night and day difference. I know which one I’d pick and that’d be the wooden enclosure. Apart from its finish, there’s also a difference in terms of the accessories you get. Previously you’d get a travel case with your LCD-2 purchase, but not with the LCD-2C – you only get the headphones.

Finally, and arguably the most important change to note, is the removal of the Fazor elements on the new headphone. This technology was developed by Audeze to make their LCD range sound more neutral and less bass heavy.

Pros: Overall sound quality (exceptionally good soundstage), build quality, removable cable
Cons: Poor comfort due to a relatively heavy design, no accessories, poor isolation, dipped upper mids

Packaging & Accessories: 0/10
Build Quality: 10/10
Design & Look: 8/10
Isolation: 5/10
Comfort: 6.5/10
Sound Quality: 9/10
Value: 8/10 – based on £600 price tag
My final Rating: 8.5/10

Review Date: May 2018
Review Price: £600

Here’s my video review of the headphones:

My full written review continues below, alternatively, click to view it.

Audeze LCD-2C review: Packaging & accessories

As mentioned above, the headphones lack a travel case, but I was expecting to get a small pouch, or maybe even a 6.3mm to 3.5mm adaptor…but that’s not the case, you get absolutely nothing, zilch, nada. At £600, there’s no excuse, heck, even a set of £15 earphones come with more accessories – common Audeze.

Audeze LCD-2C review: Build quality

From the drivers’ enclosure to the headband, the LCD-2C has an all-metal frame, which gives it that durability factor. From the moment I picked it out the box, my first reaction was: ‘This feels really well built’ – it’s the sheer weight of the thing that made me say that. However, this also has its drawbacks. Due to the hefty nature of the headphones, they sit heavily on your head. Yes, even with its headband design, you can still feel the LCD-2C’s weight on your head (more on that below).

Moving on from the construction of the headphones, I found the headband assembly itself to be well made, though, I wasn’t a fan of the headband adjustment. It requires a lot of force and even some twisting to adjust. Arguably I can’t see you having to adjust this on the regular, so i can’t be overly critical of it.

There’s a right and left indicator within the headphone’s assembly, however better still, there’s a clearly indicated blue and red tag around the Mini XLR connectors that go into the headphones. It’s a simple, yet effective design choice.

As you might expect from a set of £600 headphones, the LCD-2C have removable cables, which is great for those who want to tweak the sound with some custom cables or alternatively, for those who want to prolong the life of the headphones.

The LCD-2C are terminated by a straight gold-plated 6.3mm (1/4″) plug. The size of the plug is absolutely massive, too, so I’d not worry about straining the jack. It’s worth also mentioning that the all-black cable is braided.

Audeze LCD-2C review: Design, looks, comfort and isolation

Looks:

Audeze has gone for an all-black colour scheme. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the choice of colour, though, it doesn’t really excite me either. In comparison to my modded Denon headphones, I much prefer the look of wooden headphones – they’re just more aesthetically pleasing to my eyes.

Isolation:

As you’d expect from open-back headphones, the isolation is poor. So, if you have screaming kids or don’t want to hear the external environment, then these and all open-back headphones aren’t for you.

They also leak quite a lot of sound, too, so worth bearing in mind if you were looking to game at night, while your partner sleeps in the same room.

Comfort:

The headphones feature the much-loved Audeze suspension headband. Its goal is to make the headphones lighter on your head, while also spreading the load across the top of your head, rather than localising it into one place. Here, the headband does a magnificent job, but I can’t overlook the weight of the headphones (a figure Audeze somewhat conveniently lacks to state on its website).

These are heavy, and for long gaming or listening sessions, you’ll find the overall weight is somewhat uncomfortable. Heck, even around the ears, you feel the LCD-2C weighing down on you. So, even after Audeze’s best efforts, the use of an all-metal design and big-sized drivers, mean that the LCD-2C aren’t the most comfortable headphones I’ve tried. They’re literally the polar opposites to the Sennheiser HD800, and even my modded Denon AH-D2000 were a lot more comfortable.

On the plus side, the ear pads are thick, so it’ll sit snugly around your ears and provide a cushiony feel.

Audeze LCD-2C review: Sound quality

Onto the sound quality. Now, if you were looking for a detailed breakdown with the original Fazor (or pre-Fazor) LCD-2, you’ve come to the wrong person. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve heard most of Audeze’s range, but only in extended (private) listening sessions at shows. So, my recollection of the LCD range, let alone the LCD-2 wouldn’t be accurate. I can however, give you my subjective opinion of them.

To me, the overall sound presentation doesn’t sway off the ‘classic’ (pun intended) sound signature of the Audeze line. The LCD-2C has a warm sound signature, while also being a set of headphones that reveal plenty of detail. By far its most impressive trait is its soundstage, which is wide and reveals plenty of detail.

It’s worth pointing out that I ran the LCD-2C on my Denon AVR-X500 amp/receiver, while also doing some tests through my Chord Mojo. I had no problems driving these 70 ohms headphones.

Lows:

Starting off with the bass, I found the LCD-2C to have a punchy mid-bass slam and a great extension into the sub-bass frequencies. This is somewhat of a rarity in open-back headphones, but not with Audeze headphones. The manufacturer seems to always deliver in this department. Here, the LCD-2C have a controlled mid-bass slam, while also revealing plenty of detail. Its sub-bass extension is impressive too, with plenty of rumble in low end frequencies, though, I do feel that there’s a slight cut-off at the lower-end spectrum.

Due to the lack of any housing, the Audeze headphones don’t have that beautiful wooden decay, that you’d hear in a set of modded Denon AH-D2000, Fostex TH-900 or Denon AH-D7200 (and so on).

So, despite having plenty of control, precision and quality in the low-end tones, the LCD-2C still doesn’t compare to some of the best closed or semi-closed back headphones on the market.

Mids:

The mids on the other hand, are absolutely sensational. Sure they don’t compete with the aforementioned Fostex headphones, nor the incredible Sennheiser HD800, but those cost double the price of these Audeze headphones. So, bearing in mind the £600 price tag, I must say, I’m impressed. They reveal plenty of detail and are surprisingly unaffected by the mid-bass slam.

However, they do have a slight weakness, and that’s in the upper mids. There’s an audible dip here, and it’s obvious when the LCD-2C is pitted up against the very best (or mid-centric) headphones. It’s hard to describe, but believe me, there’s a slightly odd sound here, and it’s apparent when you’re listening to vocal tracks that have plenty of instruments in the background. In some respects, the vocals are pushed back, though, are evidently present.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying there’s a recessed mid-range or an overly pushed back sound, far from it; there’s just a dip in the upper mids.

It’s also worth pointing out that these headphones are relatively slow-sounding. So in comparison to my modded Denon AH-D2000 that have more treble energy, I found the LCD-2C to have a slightly slower response – all of which makes a difference when listening to EDM or similar.

Highs:

The highs extend beautifully into the top end frequencies. Here, there’s a great sparkle, which kept me tapping my toes while listening to music.

Yet, again, it’s not quite perfect, as I heard a slight roll off at the very top frequencies, as if the LCD-2C was designed to be a little smoother than some of its rivals.

Soundstage:

The soundstage is fantastic; from the instrument separation, to the overall width and depth the headphones are able to achieve – frankly it’s incredible. Now, if it wasn’t already obvious, the LCD-2C are open-back headphones, and this results in the aforementioned results. Plenty of space for the drivers to breather and reproduce a stunning sound.

As mentioned in the bass section, there’s a lack of decay, and as mentioned in the mids section, I found the LCD-2C a little slower than some top-end closed back cans.

Sound Quality Ratings
Lows: 8.5/10
Mids: 8.5/10
Highs: 9/10
Soundstage: 9/10

Audeze LCD-2C review: Verdict & closing thoughts

Overall, the LCD-2C are excellent ‘budget’ Planar Magnetic headphones. They might not be perfect, but as far as sub-£600 headphones go, it’s easy to see why Audeze remains one of the top dogs in the audiophile community.

The LCD-2C provide plenty of details throughout all the frequencies, and despite being open-back headphones, these don’t compromise on the low-end quantity or quality; it’s all there.

In conclusion, if you’re looking for an incredible set of headphones for under £600, these are it. You just have to remember a few key elements: they’re heavy, they don’t look as sexy as some of its rivals, and they’re not flawless (upper mids dip). If you take these three factors into the equation and you’re still content with the result, then you’ll be in audio heaven.

Hope you enjoyed my review!
TotallydubbedHD

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2 thoughts on “Audeze LCD-2C review: ‘Budget’ Planar Magnetic headphones

  1. George

    Hello,
    super review. I have a question. What is your opinion on Denon AH-D7200 vs. LCD-2 (clasic or fazor)? Regardless of comfort, just in music. Separation, transparent, imaging…Are they comparable or one of them is clearly better?

    Thank you for your answer.
    G.

    Reply

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