Audeze LCD-3, life changing sound

Since my Audeze LCD-3 planar magnetic headphones arrived around a year ago, I have not listened to any others (except for brief comparisons and travel.) I have been a fan of the Sennheiser HD580/600/650 line for as long as I can remember, and Audeze just blows them out of the water.

Every time I listen through the LCD-3, I hear new and interesting sounds hidden inside music, no matter how familiar. Listening with the LCD-3 makes my favorite music into a new experience every time.

The cost for this kind of audio quality is not reasonable; you'll do this out of love or not at all. Not only are the headphones expensive, at around $2000, but you'll need a good amplifier and source. I've been using the Schitt Lyr and Bifrost (Beware tube rolling as a new hobby.)

If you get a chance to listen to the Audeze LCD-3s, I don't think you'll be disappointed. Pesco wasn't.


    1. Exactly, it’s audiophile day on BB.  Maybe we can get some lamp cable and a double blind test and straighten this out?

    2. It’s not just BS. Watch the video. It proves incontrovertibly how glitter bounces around and goes in the guy’s ear. Q.E.D.

      1. Also, on the Audeze site, they rank the headphones based upon the wood they’re made with.  Zebra wood (these $2k beasties) > rose wood > bamboo, apparently.  From wiki on zebrawood/zebrano:
        “It is a heavy, hard wood with a somewhat coarse texture, often with an interlocked or wavy grain. The interlocked grain of this wood, like that of many tropical woods, can make it difficult to work. It is also a decorative exotic wood, used in a limited way for veneer, wall paneling, custom furniture, furniture trim, inlay bandings, marquetry, specialty items and turnery. It is also sometimes seen as stocks of handguns or in exotic guitars. In the past, it was used in Cadillac and Mercedes-Benz automobiles. Because of its hardness, it can also be used for skis and tool handles.”
        Clearly, that wood was chosen for its sonic properties, lovingly researched, and finely crafted to deliver wonderful stripey sound directly to your ear holes. I’m sure they even got the molecules in the wood aligned properly, with a blessing from a shaman native to those woods…

        1. Audio experts have been carefully fine tuning woodwork in concert halls for some centuries now.

          1. Wood is a terrible material. The best thing to make headphones out of is the scrotum of a Giant Panda. The sound quality improvement is amazing. Since it’s tough to obtain the ball sack of a Giant Panda now, fresh ivory is a second but inferior option.

          2. My granddad was a pioneering panda-castrator in the early days for Bang & Olufsen.  Those long voyages between Copenhagen and Shanghai were trying enough, but he lost an eye and three fingers to the vicious beasts themselves.  Their unbridled hostility to and raging bloodthirst for those brave souls attempting to pluck a ripe testis no doubt contributed to their age-old comparisons to raccoons.  Since each harvested gonad-wallet earned Gramps somewhere in the high two figures of income, while yielding forty pairs of high-end ear-pads for the top-of-the-line ‘phones, eventually he told the boss, “Svend, take this job and shove it up your ass.”

            His only regret was that his maimed hands couldn’t flip a bird to Mr Olufsen.

          3. Sure, but they usually don’t pick the stuff that’s used for Mercedes door handles. I’m pretty sure they’d care more about the sonic qualities than the attractive banding.

            Also, we’ve been thinking the full moon has effects on sanity for centuries now, that doesn’t mean it’s true. That probably just means that Antonio Stradivari was the original audiophile. They even did a double blind on his violins only to find that they weren’t picked as sounding the best by the supposed experts.

          4.  I agree with Antinous here with a caveat: We’re talking headphones here. The mass of the material used for the enclosure, and the flexibility/reflectivity of the material is secondary at best (maybe not inconsequential, however… been a while since I stayed in a Holiday Inn). I think the materials in this application are more about aesthetics and design than actual “tuning” of sound quality.

            The selling point on these headphones (too rich for me, but I like the idea) is the design of the drivers. If they’ve executed the design well, I’ll pay when the price comes down. From an analog electronics design standpoint, this is actually some neat shit. These ain’t “normal” speakers.

            They need to fire their PR group, though… they assume audiophiles are idiots. Pff…like that’s gonna happen.

      2.  Man, that’s a fucking horrible advert…reminds me of the Crelm Toothpaste ad from Monty Python. But when I saw it I had a feeling they worked differently from standard speakers simply by the shape of the enclosures. A little digging, and… well, see my other post below. Too long for a reply. Crappy advert aside, I wouldn’t mind test driving these for a few evenings; and I’m not a fan of audiophile gullibility shenanigans… if it can’t be backed up with the mathematics of electronic engineering, and differences that can actually be heard by normal undeluded humans I’m not at all interested.

      1.  Gold plating is cheap, and can be applied to crappy alloys to prevent corrosion, so it has it’s use; but it’s still a crappy alloy with gold plate. Decent quality stainless is my choice… mate the plugs with the material inside the jack. It’s a short cord, at audio frequencies, and it ain’t gonna degrade perceptibly over 10 feet no matter what conductor you use.

  1. I know there’s a solid “that had better be some *really* good Schitt” / “that Schitt is expensive” joke laying around there somewhere.

  2. As the old saying goes:

    Regular people use their audio equipment to listen to music. Audiophiles use music to listen to their equipment.

  3. “I hear new and interesting sounds hidden inside music, no matter how familiar. Listening with the LCD-3 makes my favorite music into a new experience every time.”

    If I drop $2k on a pair of headphones my brain is going to make shit up just to prevent the cognitive dissonance inherent in the the fact that I just dropped $2k on a pair of headphones.

  4. “I hear new and interesting sounds hidden inside music, no matter how familiar.”
    That’s the exact same experience I had listening to Vivaldi on a Sony Walkman in 1987 with the shittastic headphones that came with it.

    $2000 is approximately how much I have spent on all my audio production equipment (if you don’t count software).

  5. I love how people write this stuff off as fake the whole time. I personally can tell where two different people are talking from at a noisy dinner table. Yeah that seems obvious to most people and yet that’s quite a complicated exercise, but no, two pieces of equipment couldn’t possibly sound different from each other.
    I wish people would apply this to other situations: all fabrics feel the same, all types of pizza taste the same, all perfumes smell the same.
    I guarantee if this was something to do with the taste, temperature or serving vessel of coffee boingboing would be in uproar.

  6. From what I can see, these are essentially head-mounted magneplanars ( ). I’ve got a 30 year old set of these mounted to the wall as my primary sound drivers for the home PC. I absolutely love these speakers, and not just because of the form factor- 2 feetX4 feetX1 inch- or the comments they get when you turn the lights on behind them and folks realise you can see through them- but because of the definition they produce in whatever you play through them.

    They take some getting used to, as they will not in any way, shape, or form thump your neighbors out of bed (although mounted properly they can easily be tuned to reinforce whatever bass range you want). It’s not that the bass is weak; it’s just not echoing around an enclosure like a boxed driver. So no “boom”. What you do get is detail. Rush’s Moving Pictures for instance sounds much more detailed (and Lee’s style of bass sounds fucking incredible).

    There’s actually some engineering/physics behind this. There is no voice coil involved, and the mass of the driver in relation to the amount of force imparted to the driver is very low. This gives you a higher frequency response in a very large sound-producing area (obviously this is a bit different with headphones) and most importantly- here’s where the physics comes in- a just-short-of-flat frequency response over the full audio range from a single driver. There is no capacitive or inductive component to current flow through these things, and there is no crossover circuitry needed. I can see this being a huge benefit in a pair of headphones.

    Every bonus in life comes with a drawback, however… these things are highly directional, and sound unimpressively tinny until you plonk down into the sweet spot. They’re also insanely power hungry and inefficient (you need a 4-ohm head unit for them…they’ll run on an 8-ohm, but don’t expect them to get loud for long before you let the smoke out of your amp). No worries over a sweet spot with headphones, but current draw may be an issue without a sturdy amp.

    I don’t know if I’d drop 2 grand on any set of headphones, but these are the first electrostat headphones I’ve seen… if they sound as good as my Maggies they might actually be a worthwhile drop for a serious audiophile that doesn’t come with any rusty snake treatment.

    1.  Too late to edit,  but these are not electrostats.  Electrostats are a different animal, and these follow normal rules for voice coils, minus the coils and their capacitive/inductive limitations. They really aughtta have their own name, and I’m not gonna suggest one. They’re a 40+ year old concept that stuck around for the advantages but didn’t quite compete because they have to be big to produce big sound. Make me a millionaire and I’ll build a 40′ tall bank of these for live gigs; the sound quality would be outstanding but a standard bank of PAs would out-class them with sheer volume.

  7. “Planar magnetic” is just a different way of saying “orthodynamic” and it’s been around since the 1970s. Nothing new here.

  8. Eh, for most people the LCD-2s are a better choice at roughly $1000 less, and a mostly unnoticeable difference in sound. In this I’m speaking not from experience, but what I’ve read in reviews, but someday I’d like to test the LCD-2s. Or not, maybe they’d expose the flaws in my current setup. Ok, what I’ve written sounds like the worst kind of audiophile rationalization, but bear with me.

    I’m pretty satisfied with the HD580s I bought used.  With new parts direct from Sennheiser, I spent altogether $150. DIYed a decent headphone amp (Mini^3) and a source (Gamma 1) each of those were $100, not counting the cost of tools, but I like to think that a soldering iron, multimeter, and other associated tools have a worth beyond what I spent to make audiophile quality. The Gamma 1 is hooked to my CD player, and I have another DAC (~$40) hooked to my laptop. Laptops are very cramped and noisy environments from the perspective of EMI interference. Incidentally, 90% of “Beats Audio” is centered around EMI isolation. 

    I’ve also spent $50 on a set of excellent speakers (Boston Acoustics A70s) that took a few restorations ($20 for foam replacements, $20 for new capacitors. This is not audiophile BS but sound EE practice, electrolytics break down after 20-30 years). A spectacular sounding Class D amp cost me all of $40. They used to sell similarly cheap amps at think-geek. This one had slightly nice parts IMO, but nothing to break the bank. Of course, this doesn’t count the other cheap CD players and amps I went to goodwill to find good deals on.

    I own all of about 300 CDs, and I thank my local used CD store and Music Millenium for owning even that many. My impression is that most audiophiles own huge numbers of CDs or records.

    I guess what I’m trying to say here is that, yes, there is much audiophile BS out there, and it’s not only contained within the exotic cable or “power conditioning” communities. And it’s certainly possible that, in a manner that’s similar to addiction, audiophiles may be spending on expensive equipment to recapture the feeling they first got when they heard truly good sound (For me that was on $100 Grado SR-80s in high school). But I think it’s possible for people to buy really good equipment for a reasonable price these days (if you’re willing to do research, for instance for used speakers/speaker amps), and DIYing equipment can be fun, and is definitely part of the ability to own reasonably priced audiophile equipment. While personally, I would never buy the LCD-3s, the LCD-2s could be a possibility, if I weren’t on a grad student’s budget. I’d have to hear them, but they have great specs (especially for bass).

    There are nonexistent improvements to be had in pricey cables, marginal improvements in stereo sources and amplifiers above perhaps $300-500, but transducers (speakers and headphones) are another story. It’s certainly possible to spend thousands of dollars on worthless transducers with a sexy or “exotic” design but bad specs (I’m looking at you, Bose), but I truly believe that transducers are where you get the most bang for your buck. This is because while it’s not at all difficult to create low distortion, flat frequency DACs, CD players, or amplifiers, it is very difficult to design a transducer with low distortion, and flat frequency response.

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