The Planar Magnetic Audeze LCD-3 is a strange animal indeed. Aside from looking like an extraterrestrial when you put them on, they are gigantic and heavy as a bowling ball. What is a Planar Magnetic Driver? I sincerely hope you lift weights, and particularly focus on neck work, because these bad boys will have your head jerking back as if you’re in mid-orgasm. Haha.
Anyways, aside from all that silly stuff, they are a pretty serious set of cans. I imagine the term “cans” actually originated from Audeze headphones, because these really fit the bill with immaculate precision. They literally define the term.
Okay enough of all that. How about build?
Keeping in line with Audeze tradition, we’ve got a gigantic headphone that’s built very well.
I’m not too worried about it breaking down, as it’s very similar to it’s younger brother, the Audeze LCD-2.
The only problem here is that it’s even heavier than an LCD-2 if you can believe that: 543g vs. 460. Wowzer McGee!
Aside from that, the LCD-3 is built roughly the same as the 2. We’ve got the same headband adjustments, a similar cable terminating in Mini-XLR into the ear cups, and a 1/4″ Jack at the business end.
Instead of Bamboo wood as with the LCD-2, we’ve now got Zebrano Wood. It’s a bit darker than it’s older brother, and looks phenomenal overall.
The unique Audeze grilles make a return as well, and it’s something that’s always attracted me to their headphones. The design here is very aesthetically pleasing to the eye.
BUILD SCORE: A+
How about comfort?
Comfort is unfortunately more of the same here. The LCD-3 is extremely heavy on your melon, even more so than an LCD-2.
The good news is that clamp force isn’t too tight, and the ear-cups are plenty big enough for your dumbo sized ears.
Because I have a herniated disc in my neck, comfort on the LCD-3 is even more problematic than it would be for others without the same ailments.
Even so, I can tolerate this headphone in smaller increments, and the sound experience is more than worth it. You’ll just have to take more frequent breaks.
COMFORT SCORE: C
What about sound?
Where do I start? If you’re looking for Soundstage, look no further. Well I take that back, the HD800 may have the best Soundstage, but the LCD-3 is right up there with it. Talk about open! It almost doesn’t feel right how open these are. What is Soundstage?
On Yes’ “Starship Trooper”, I’m able to hear an extra guitar in the middle section, and prior to listening to the LCD-3, it was non-existent. This is about the pinnacle of instrument separation in my mind. I can’t imagine a headphone doing a better job of giving space to the sounds. Like I said before, it almost feels unnatural. Almost.
There’s a nice sense of air, and the personality of the voices really come out in particular. This is what left me with a strange feeling. The small and insignificant stuff that you start to hear actually becomes significant, which is hard to believe. I would classify the sound as unbelievably vivid. David Gilmours guitars on “Time” in particular must be heard with this headphone. It’s like all these years the recording was actually lying to me, and in reality doesn’t actually sound the way I’ve always thought it to sound.
The guitars actually have a personality of their own, and every note, every pluck, every strum feels so incredibly lifelike that it becomes hard to put into words.
The LCD-3 picks up right where the LCD-2 left off.
This time around the sound is even more lifelike, if that was even possible. The raw energy that this headphone provides is pretty much second to none.
SOUND SCORE: A+
How about Imaging?
Like the LCD-2, the 3’s have fantastic Imaging, Instrument Separation, and Soundstage. What is Soundstage?
You’re getting incredible width here, and it’s so good that it will make you turn your head to check the surroundings. Listening to an Audeze headphone will most certainly make you very aware of what’s going on around you.
It’s subtle, but every so often you’ll find yourself taking the headphone off, wondering if you’re indeed going crazy.
You’ll start to hear extra detail in the mix, and this really adds to the overall enjoyment and listening experience. It never feels forced or artificial.
The LCD-3 has a buttery smooth, yet still raw and honest quality about it.
They will need an excellent amp to shine. If you don’t plan on purchasing an amp to go with these, I wouldn’t bother.
The reason for this is because of their 91dB of Sensitivity, which is much lower than the LCD-2’s 101. This is a big difference between the two actually.
The LCD-3’s need A LOT of power from an amp to reach acceptable listening levels. The LCD2’s do not.
I listened with the LCD-2’s out of an ifi micro iDSD Black Label and didn’t have to use the Normal or Turbo settings. With the LCD-3 you’ll definitely have to use at least the Normal. Normal mode provides 100mW at 300 Ohm. The LCD-3’s only have 45 Ohm impedance but remember: they are very inefficient. Still, Normal mode should be just fine.
These headphones have a darker sound.
I would say that like the LCD-2, the 3 will work with the same genres. Pretty much everything. Because of the incredible bass response, they will also work with Rap/Hip-Hop. In fact, the bass on an Audeze is probably the best around. It’s a flat line, so neither rolled off nor boosted.
Bass heads will appreciate the nice thump here, but fans of other genres will love it as well because it never gets out of line, retaining all that nice texture and detail.
I’m one of those people. I used to be a bass head but I now prefer a lot less of it. The LCD-3 strikes that perfect balance.
Thoughts from Stu’s notepad
If you’re going to purchase these, I would definitely buy from Audeze’s website, and double check the serial number (if you’re buying from someone else) to make sure they are a legit set of LCD-3’s.
Comes with 2 detachable cables: A balanced 4 pin XLR cable, a 1/4″ cable with 3.5mm adapter, a quality hard case, and a 3 year warranty. There’s also a small kit to take care of the wood, which includes a soft cloth, and some lemon wax to shine these babies up. What is XLR?
The cool thing about the wood is that because it’s real, no two pairs of LCD-3’s will be completely alike. Each pair is hand crafted with a different piece, so the patterns in the wood will vary from headphone to headphone.
If you don’t want leather, Audeze offers optional faux suede ear-pads and headband at no extra cost.
The LCD-3’s, like the 2’s, also get an A- because of the poor comfort levels.
Everything else about them is near perfect. In fact, this is still considered the best open back planar in the world, and in listening, I can definitely see why.
Are they worth the price? That’s always the million dollar question. If you’re an audiophile, I would say that’s a resounding yes. If you’re reading this, that’s probably the case.
However, if you’re just a casual consumer or even a budding audiophile, there’s no real reason to spend this much on headphones in your first foray. Still, if you’re looking for something a bit more affordable, Audeze’s redesign of the LCD-2 is the solution.
The LCD-2C (Classic) is a lighter, and more affordable headphone that still retains all the amazing sound of the original LCD-2.
Well that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this Audeze LCD-3 Review, and came away with some valuable insight.
Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Looking for something else? Please let me know down below or Contact me!!
Would you invest in the LCD-3? What about the updated LCD-2C? I would love to hear from you. Until next time..
Stu is determined to provide the truth about all things audio, and strives to deliver excellent content to you the reader! In his spare time, he likes to fish, paint, play guitar, attend church, take photos, record videos, graphic design, and more. His attention to detail and perfectionist attitude are what allow him to excel, but it can be both a blessing and a hindrance at times.