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Headphone Sessions 4/27/2012: Audez’e LCD-3; Planar Magnetic Bliss

As some may recall, the initial release of the LCD-3, the $2,000 Audez’e flagship headphone made with Zebrano wood, experienced issues with inconsistencies in acoustic performance due to the incredibly difficult manufacturing tolerances demanded by the newly engineered LOTUS planar-magnetic driver. When we received our first retail sets of LCD-3 and put them through standard HeadRoom analysis, a lot of confused looks were exchanged between our review team as we all found the LCD-2 to be the better-sounding model. Audez’e promptly addressed the problem and HeadRoom is now in possession of re-tooled LCD-3 headphones -- and we’re now smiling from plush leather earpad to plush leather earpad. Thankfully with the LCD-3 re-release, they have clearly fixed all complaints. The principal fail of the first edition was a lack of clarity and presence in the mid-range frequencies which made the overall musical presentation muddy and lack definition. Problem solved: the newest LCD-3 probably offers the most airy, breathy mid-range response we’ve heard, providing a vocal realism along with a depth and breadth of soundstage unmatched by the LCD-2 and most other upper-tier headphones. While we still find the Sennheiser HD800 to be clearly tops in dynamic accuracy and transient response, it takes a highly critical approach that can become sterile or too dry for some listeners. The LCD-3 offers a pleasantly lush and buttery tonal presentation with slightly emphasized bass and treble extension adding a smooth characteristic to the very organic timbre, typically making them a more ‘easy listening’ and warmly engaging headphone versus the HD800.

[caption id="attachment_2425" align="aligncenter" width="480" caption="Audez'e LCD-3"] Audez'e LCD-3[/caption]

Now to address the biggest question we get at HeadRoom... At twice the price, how much better is the LCD-3 than the LCD-2? We will confidently say it’s not twice as good, but it is definitely better. The LCD-2 in comparison seems the flatter-measuring, slightly cleaner and brighter headphone of the two, even though we wouldn’t consider the LCD-2 overly bright by any means. The LCD-3 is the more expansive and natural-sounding can with added detail in the mids, and as mentioned, a bit of welcome emphasis in the low bass and an extra sense of spaciousness in the uppermost highs. Be aware that positioning of the earcups can audibly alter the sound; when the earcups are pushed too far towards the back of the head, the tone can become brittle. Thus, the ergonomic fit is definitely something to consider if the sound does not meet your expectations when you first try them on. The overall fit between the two Audez’e models is similar, but the LCD-3 features softer, deeper earpad cushions that are ultimately more comfortable. Both cans remain on the heavy side, an unfortunate trait with all planar magnetic headphones, and the Audez’e headband force stays loose on the head so the best listening scenario is likely ensconced in your favorite easy chair, all chilled out and jamming. Another thing we need to mention is the stock Audez’e headphone cable provided with both the LCD-2 and LCD-3 leaves much to be desired in sonic performance and is, in essence, a sound quality ‘choke point’ on these otherwise superior headphones. Regrettably, the detachable cord is an unshielded flat-wound braid that can sound confused, so when budgeting for your new LCD headphones, allow enough leftover cash for a killer Cardas/HeadRoom ‘Fat Pipe’ or CablePro cord upgrade. In the end, the entire HeadRoom review team agreed when asked, “Budget aside, which Audez’e headphone would you choose?” That was an easy one -- the LCD-3! At the same time, with budget in full consideration, we all feel it is definitely a bit expensive, but we also realize it takes a lot of extra investment to get a drag car to run a race even just one tenth of a second faster. The LCD-3 has not only achieved the faster time, they’ve also improved the ride! For more information on the Audez’e LCD-3 or any other planar-magnetic headphones, feel free to give our music freak HeadRoom team a call (800) 828-8184 … (just wait ‘til this song is over!)

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