The Audeze LCD-2 is something of a staple in the headphone world as a solid dark-sounding headphone people looking for something beyond the AKG K701, Beyerdynamic DT880, and Sennheiser HD600/HD650 can lean towards and generally not be disappointed. It’s the headphone many refer to when they talk about, “the planar sound,” with its well extended and flat yet authoritative bass. Over the years, it’s gone through a number of revisions and it’s interesting to see how far it’s come. I’ve owned an LCD-2.1 in the past and enjoyed, but I’d be lying if this 2016 aluminum LCD-2 Fazor I’ve borrowed from my friend Arv doesn’t have me aching for yet another Audeze.
The LCD-2 is just a nice sounding headphone. It doesn’t really try to impress, but instead shines most through its inoffensiveness. It has more than enough bass presence with nice linearity, dipped upper midrange to create a laid back sound, and a small bump in the low treble to keep things interesting, but never enough to sound sibilant.
As expected from a planar magnetic design, the LCD-2 extends deep into sub bass with no sign of struggle. If I have any complaints, there is a slight bit of “one-notedness” to their midbass in which the bass becomes mildly indistinct and clumsy but I only noticed it in complicated passages. But otherwise, it’s authoritative and provides solid impact. Most planar magnetic designs lack the midbass hump dynamic designs have so someone coming from a bassy dynamic headphone like the Fostex TH-X00 may find that the LCD-2 doesn’t have the same kind of overwhelming slam. Rather, the LCD-2’s bass creates more of a solid base to the music rather than trying to stick out to the listener.
The LCD-2’s most noticeable midrange quirk is that it has a very dipped upper midrange relative to 1kHz. This makes for a somewhat distant sound that some may interpret as added depth to the sound, but I found myself turning up the volume more often than I’d like to balance the sound. Though, since the treble is also rather relaxed, the increased volume never led to discomfort. One other issue I noticed is a slight coloration to the upper midrange that makes female vocals sound slightly tonally off, but it’s a minor issue I only noticed when really trying to analyze their sound. Otherwise, I can find little to complain about—low midrange is slightly warmed and creates a comforting sound which, to me, works in tandem with the dipped upper midrange to create a relaxing listen.
The treble is undoubtedly relaxed relative to the bass, but it avoids being dipped to the point of sounding veiled. Unlike what I remember from the LCD-2.1 and the various LCD-2.2’s I’ve heard, this LCD-2 has a bit of a low treble bump to add some presence and excitement to its rather warm and laid-back sound. It’s a small bump, unlikely to offend any but the most treble-sensitive. There’s also a higher mid treble peak around 9kHz that very occasionally started to fatigue me after longer (2-3+ hours) listening sessions but as I’ve said in prior reviews, I’m especially sensitive to mid treble so my experiences are a somewhat extreme case. I also wish they had more air as the LCD2 can sound congested at times, though considering the dark-tilting sound signature, boosted air would make for a confusing balance.
Honestly, there’s not much more to say about the LCD-2. It’s a good headphone. A “safe” sound, maybe, but I’d much rather take “safe and cohesive” over “unique and situationally fantastic but mediocre for most music.” The LCD-2’s the kind of headphone I could easily see as someone’s only headphone—it doesn’t really do anything particularly wrong, dipped upper midrange notwithstanding, so it would work with a variety of music, it works out of most sources (I even used it out of my iPhone just fine, albeit at max volume and bass was noticeably less authoritative), and it’s pretty comfortable, discounting the fact that some may find them a bit too heavy, which can be partially remedied by adding a suspension strap. I can’t claim the LCD-2’s the “best” headphone by any stretch of the imagination, but it just works well, and this hobby needs more headphones that strive for this.