Part of The Audiophile Rabbit Hole Series!
This series takes a look back on my experiences with headphones dating back to 2010. Enjoy!
Greetings mate and Welcome aboard!
Stuart Charles here, HomeStudioBasics.com helping YOU make sound decisions leading to a beautiful audio experience that will make you fall in love with music (NOT gear), all over again, so…
The Audeze LCD-3 stands as a beacon among audiophiles, renowned for its sonic prowess that transcends conventional expectations.
However, its impact may not manifest in the anticipated ways one might assume.
Far from a conventional assessment of “good” or “bad,” the LCD-3 beckons listeners into an enigmatic realm—a departure from the polarizing extremes of audio experiences.
It presents an encounter that, while not steeped in overt favoritism towards particular sonic signatures, remains profoundly memorable.
As we embark on our exploration of the LCD-3, we’ll navigate its distinct attributes, dissecting its performance and unveiling the nuanced intricacies that make this headphone a transformative journey.
The LCD-3’s allure lies not in the predictable facets of audio quality, but in its capacity to carve a unique, almost neutral, yet undeniably impactful space within the audiophile landscape, promising an experience that might transcend traditional categorizations of sound quality.
At A Glance
In The Box
Audeze LCD-3 – High-Performance Planar Magnetic Headphone With Ruggedized Travel Case (Zebrano Earcups, Lambskin Leather Earpads)
8.2′ (2.5 m) 1/4″ (6.35 mm) to Dual 4-Pin Mini XLR Cable
8.2′ (2.5 m) 4-Pin XLR to Dual 4-Pin Mini XLR Cable
1/4″ (6.35 mm) to 1/8″ (3.5 mm) stereo adapter
Ruggedized Travel Case
Limited 3-Year Warranty
- Type: Open Back, Planar Magnetic.
- Fit: Circumaural (Around-Ear)
- Frequency response: 5Hz – 20kHz.
- Impedance: 110 Ohms.
- Sensitivity: 93dB/mW.
- Driver Size: Not specified
- Material: Wood, Lambskin.
- Color: Black/Brown.
- Cable: 8.2′ (2.5 m) 1/4″ (6.35 mm) to Dual 4-Pin Mini XLR Cable, 8.2′ (2.5 m) 4-Pin XLR to Dual 4-Pin Mini XLR Cable
- Connector to Earpiece: Mini XLR 4-Pin
- Weight: 21.2 Oz. / 600g
- Amp needed: Yes.
- Amp recommendation: Benchmark DAC1 HDR, Woo Audio WA7, Woo Audio WA6 SE, Bryston BHA-1, NAIM DAC V-1.
What about the Audeze LCD-3 stands out?
This is another headphone that left a profound impact on me back when I heard it around 2017-2018.
Its raw, visceral nature was one of the most startling things I’ve ever experienced; in this hobby or otherwise.
I haven’t since felt anything like it, and I’ve demoed over 130 headphones at the time of this writing.
It was the first time I remember coming to terms with the fact that headphones themselves can have a monumental influence on your perception of how a track was recorded.
It went beyond feeling like I was hearing the track for the first time; no, it made me feel uncomfortable.
The LCD-3 can and probably will change your life, but perhaps not for the reasons you were expecting.
I remember vividly the track in question; Pink Floyd’s “Time” off of Dark Side Of The Moon – a song I’ve heard probably a thousand times at this point in my life. This time paired with Bryston’s venerable BHA-1.
It sounded different, sure. But there’s more to it.
This was like micro-detail on steroids, with some of the best resolution you’ll ever hear. I honestly felt like I was catching a glimpse into David Gilmour’s soul.
During the rhythm section and into the solo, there’s a seemingly inconsequential guitar that you can never really make out with any sort of clarity.
With other headphones and speakers, it always kind of sounded like an afterthought; something used to give the composition a little more body.
it was never articulate and only somewhat heard but never felt on an emotional level.
I could never understand where it was in the mix, but it was always there.
I could hear it, but it sounded sort of distant and muffled; jumbled together with the other sounds.
With the LCD-3, I’ll never forget how it sounded.
I could pinpoint exactly where it was – down and panned almost extreme right, which speaks to the LCD-3’s imaging capabilities.
Imaging on the LCD-3 is laser-like; another quality that makes high-end headphones stand out.
Not only do they all seem to do a fantastic job at placing sounds in exactly the right positions, but you’re able to hear and see exactly what they’re doing.
Like the NSA.
It was almost as if the guitar took on a life all its own.
As if it were breathing and pulsating. It sounded “jangly.” Kind of loose, but incredibly rich, clear, and raw.
It drew so much attention to itself that I was forced to block everything else out and focus on it – as if it were an Ant under a microscope.
It was like all of Gilmour’s pain, frustrations about life, his uncertainty, his doubts, his fears, and his attitude about time itself were all concentrated on that one esoteric-sounding guitar.
It sounded apathetic almost.
As if the guitar had a distinct personality with feelings and emotions, but those emotions were kind of just ho-hum, or business as usual, or too laid back.
As if it were existing, but didn’t care quite as much.
Its rhythm meandered, but still somehow stayed intact long enough for the solo to play out.
It reminds me a lot of Syd Barrett, the founding member of Pink Floyd who, for much of his short career, meandered seemingly in and out of consciousness and seemed directionless; mostly due to the large number of psychedelics he ingested.
He held it together, but only for so long.
It’s almost as if Gilmour used this mysterious guitar to describe Syd – a person with a lot of energy and life but who ultimately lost his way.
A vastly important, founding member of the band, who never really received his due recognition – at least in comparison to Waters and Gilmour.
Another track I’ve heard hundreds of times is Yes’s Starship Trooper.
In listening with the LCD-3, I was able to hear an extra guitar in the middle section, and before listening with the headphones, 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.
There’s a nice sense of air, and the personality of the voices comes out in particular.
This is what left me with a strange feeling.
The small and insignificant stuff that you start to hear becomes significant, which is hard to believe.
I would classify the sound as unbelievably vivid.
Who is it for?
The LCD-3 is most certainly a unique sound in every sense of the word.
What I described above specifically about Gilmour’s guitar was most certainly not a “good” experience in the sense that I can say I enjoyed it.
It was more of a cerebral experience than anything, meaning it appealed to my intellect and my sort of analytical nature.
I appreciated being able to dissect the song as I did, but it’s not a headphone you’ll want to kick back with to relax with; at least in my opinion.
Speaking of, check out my kickback and relax homie t-shirt. I promise I didn’t plan that. xD
No, the LCD-3 demands your complete and undivided attention. It’s like a blink and you’ll miss it type of thing.
It forces you to be completely present with the music and in the moment; not thinking about something else or being distracted by the cares of this world – something we all are guilty of.
If that sounds like you, the LCD-3 is still a relevant planar.
Even so, another thing to keep in mind about this headphone is its speed; or lack thereof.
Part of the reason I was able to clearly define every aspect of “Time” with unparalleled precision and accuracy is that it was almost moving in slow motion.
This isn’t quite a knock, but it’s also not a compliment either. It just sort of, is.
It was cool in the sense that the song took on a different personality and I could focus more, but at the same time, the perceived speed almost altered it in a way that seemed sort of artificial and fabricated now that I look back in hindsight.
Even so, the Soundstage is also quite good here.
You’ll get some out-of-your-head moments for sure, but it doesn’t feel overly wide or anything.
At 110 Ohm Impedance and 101dB/mW Sensitivity, an amp is highly recommended; not because it’s hard to drive, but rather because it comes with an extremely bulky 1/4″ adapter which most higher-end amplifiers have.
Based on speed, I may not recommend these for Metal, but they’ll work with most genres regardless.
The bass digs down incredibly deep, and for the most part, it’s a neutral-ish response with a non-fatiguing, detailed treble.
Comfort & Build
The build is incredibly rugged, but comfort will be a point of contention with many.
I cannot wear Audeze headphones for more than an hour without having to take them off.
My neck issues certainly contribute to that, so your mileage may vary.
They tend to sit pretty well on my head, but they feel like a bowling ball.
Clamping force on the sides of your head is fine, but the headband may dig.
Check out Metal 571’s Review. Pretty much everything he says in this video aligns with my own opinions, therefore, he’s right. LOL. Nah, but I think this review was bang on.
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The LCD-3 was most certainly the most eye-opening experience I’ve had listening to headphones, concerning clarity and detail.
You could almost reach down and touch Gilmour’s guitar – that’s how articulate and real it sounded.
As for it being a sound purchasing decision? It’s hard to say.
At its asking price of around $2k, I almost want to say yes based on its visceral nature alone.
Even so, if I were looking for a perfect-sounding end-game type of headphones, the Utopia is it hands down.
Ready to venture further down the rabbit hole?
Well, that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this Audeze LCD-3 Review and Discussion, and came away with some valuable insight.
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What do YOU think about the LCD-3? Have I described it well? Have you tried one? I would love to hear from you. Until next time…
All the best and God bless,