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Audeze LCD-3 Review: A Visceral Odyssey Into The Unknown

by Stuart Charles Black
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Part of “Stories w/ Stu”

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…

It was a day just like any other day demoing headphones at my local Audio Advice here in North Carolina.

I was going to sit down and try some of Audeze’s high-end models, and in particular, the LCD-3 seemed promising. I had heard a lot of great things, but I wanted to see for myself what all the fuss was about.

At this point, I was fairly excited at the prospect of putting the super mutant Behemoth headphones on my fat melon, even despite them weighing about as much as a small elephant.

If you’re unaware, the folks at Audeze go to great lengths to make sure their products can withstand a nuclear holocaust, and the LCD-3 is no different.

It’s comfortable; up to a point. I’d say even with standard-sized regular bro neck muscles, you’ll likely be adjusting after around 30-45 minutes so the weight doesn’t cause you to fall face-first into the floor.

If you’re like me and have some disc issues, the LCD-3 can be both a blessing and a curse. It just weighs on you after a while, which is unfortunate considering that, for the most part, I enjoy the sound signature.

Speaking of, I vividly remember the experience:

Audio Advice, generally speaking, is a speaker store first, headphones second. But for those like me who love headphones, they are very accomodating.

Since I’ve been frequenting their store going back to 2017, they’ve always provided a reclining chair. Now, there have been a few different versions of it, but it always reclines. That’s the important part for us lazy couch potatoes.

The listening station has also been in different areas over the years, and for a while, they even put a large foldable barrier around it to ensure extra privacy, you know, just in case you and the headphones decide to get a little freaky.

Jokes aside, below the chair is a shaggy red area rug, adding to the overall sex appeal I MEAN experience.

Rounding out the setup are any combination of Amplifiers, DACS, CD Players, etc. on a small wooden shelf. They’ve switched it up quite a bit over the years, but rest assured there’s always something high-end available for demo.

On this occasion, I had the privilege of using an Oppo CD Player and Bryston BHA-1. I can’t remember if a separate DAC was running into the Bryston, but alas.

The Best Headphone Amps & DACS

For those that don’t know, Oppo has since stopped making products, and it’s very unfortunate as they were an excellent company.

In any event, before leaving my house, I decided to bring some FLAC CDs with me, one of which was Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side Of The Moon.”

You remember CDs, don’t you? They’re those small round disc-looking things that people used to listen to music with back in the Stone Age.

Because I’ve heard the album so many times and know its many intricacies, I figured I could get a great sense of how the headphones performed.

Well, apparently, I didn’t know the album as well as I thought because what happened next would change my life forever.

At A Glance

Preview
Audeze LCD-3 Over Ear Open Back Headphone Zebrano Wood Rings with New Suspension Headband
Title
Audeze LCD-3 Over Ear Open Back Headphone Zebrano Wood Rings with New Suspension Headband
Color
Black/Brown.
Weight
21.2 Oz / 600g
Type
Open Back, Planar Magnetic
Fit
Circumaural (Around-Ear)
Materials
Wood, Lambskin.
Connector
4-pin Mini XLR
Headband Style
Traditional
Impedance
110 Ohms
Sensitivity
93dB/mW
Frequency Response
5Hz to 20kHz
Primary Use
Everything
Cable Length
8.2'
Cable Detachable?
Yes
Folding?
Amplification Needed?
Prime
Amazon Prime
Price
$1,945.00
Preview
Audeze LCD-3 Over Ear Open Back Headphone Zebrano Wood Rings with New Suspension Headband
Title
Audeze LCD-3 Over Ear Open Back Headphone Zebrano Wood Rings with New Suspension Headband
Color
Black/Brown.
Weight
21.2 Oz / 600g
Type
Open Back, Planar Magnetic
Fit
Circumaural (Around-Ear)
Materials
Wood, Lambskin.
Connector
4-pin Mini XLR
Headband Style
Traditional
Impedance
110 Ohms
Sensitivity
93dB/mW
Frequency Response
5Hz to 20kHz
Primary Use
Everything
Cable Length
8.2'
Cable Detachable?
Yes
Folding?
Amplification Needed?
Prime
Amazon Prime
Price
$1,945.00

Audeze LCD-3

Price: Check Amazon! | Check Audeze! | Check Apos Audio! | Check eBay!

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

Specs/Graph

Credit: Crinacle

Specifications

  • 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.

The Audeze LCD-3 Experience

Are you experienced?

Audeze LCD-3 Review

So I innocently put the headphones on and fired up “Time” – not the most popular track on the album, but arguably the best one.

Time combines everything that makes a Pink Floyd song great: it’s relatable, has a fantastic solo, great instrumentation, an important message, and it’s… timeless.

Plus, those grandfather clocks in the beginning though. Comment down below if you still jump when the clocks go off, yo!

In any event, the realization I had in listening to the song is one of the hardest things to put into words.

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.

In the 14 years prior, with countless other cheap headphones and run-of-the-mill speakers, it always kind of sounded like an afterthought; something used to give the composition a little more body like Lou Ferrigno.

For me,

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. Somehow.

I could hear it, but it sounded sort of distant and muffled; jumbled together with the other sounds.

Audeze LCD-3 Review

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 from the crowd.

Not only do they all seem to do a fantastic job at placing sounds where they were recorded, 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 dense, rich, lush, raw, and clear.

Insert more word salad here _____________.

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 into that one esoteric-sounding guitar.

The lost rhythm of life.

It almost sounded… apathetic. Melancholy.

As if the guitar had a distinct personality with feelings and emotions, but those emotions just kind of somehow existed without any rhyme or reason.

Its rhythm meandered, but still somehow stayed intact long enough for the solo to play out.

It reminded 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 took.

He held it together, but only for so long.

It’s almost as if Gilmour (and this is just my personal opinion) 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.

And it was this seemingly small, insignificant event of listening to a pair of headphones (go figure) that caused me to get way more philosophical about it than I ever thought possible.

Its raw, visceral nature was one of the most bugged-out 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. Meaning, you don’t understand how it was recorded until you listen with a headphone like the LCD-3.

It went beyond feeling like I was hearing the track for the first time; no, it made me feel uncomfortable.

This was like micro-detail on steroids, with, in my opinion, some of the best resolution that exists in audio. As weird as it sounds, I honestly felt like I was catching a glimpse into David Gilmour’s soul.

And this feeling honestly made me question everything I ever thought about recorded sound. It’s something I still think about to this day and will never forget for as long as I live.

The experience made me realize that yes, sometimes more expensive headphones do provide better sound. And that better sound does exist.

Better resolution, better timbre.

It exists.

Though the law of diminishing returns is an incredibly important concept that we shouldn’t gloss over, headphones like the LCD-3 are almost exceptions to that rule.

Who is it for?

Audeze LCD-X Review

The LCD-3 is most certainly a vivid, unique sound in every sense of the word. It almost transcends how we typically think about what it means to sit down and listen to music.

It makes you realize that it should always be a fun, unique, and maybe even a strange encounter.

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 cerebral than anything, meaning it appealed to my intellect and 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 and 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 and deserves some level of recognition even this many years later. 

Audeze LCD-3 Review

Speed

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.

Yes, the song itself has a somewhat slow tempo, but here I felt like it was traveling at a turtle’s pace.

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 on it more, but at the same time, the perceived speed almost altered it in a way that seemed sort of artificial, unnatural, and fabricated now that I look back in hindsight.

Even so, the Soundstage is quite good here (with some out-of-your-head moments), and in addition to the good imaging we touched on earlier, the headphones are at the very worst an interesting experience. I would almost never call them “bad” in any way.

Amplification

Are Audeze Headphones Worth It?

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.

This headphone was made to run with a beefcake amp, and I used the Bryston BHA-1 & NAIM DAC V-1. 

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.

That said, part of why it sounds so strange is the dip after 1kHz as seen in the graph at the beginning.

You may think that this means the mid-range is essentially lost (which is the case for most headphones), but for whatever reason this isn’t the case in this specific instance. Don’t ask me why. I have no earthly idea. Magic?

Everything is strangely accounted for, which makes the time I spent with them all the more bizarre.

Closing Thoughts

Audeze LCD-3 Review

The LCD-3 was most certainly one of the most eye-opening experiences I’ve ever had listening to headphones.

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, I probably still couldn’t justify paying that much, even after all I’ve just shared.

If I were looking for a perfect-sounding end-game type of headphones, the Utopia is it hands down.

Learn more:

 

Ready to venture further down the rabbit hole?

 

Video Discussion

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.

My Review

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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.

If you love what I do here and want to support the blog and channel in a more personal way, check me out on Patreon and discover all the value I have to offer you.

Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Please let me know down below or Contact me!!

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,

 

 

-Stu

[Xtr@Ba$eHitZ]

Can’t decide which headphones to purchase? Interested in a complete buyers guide outlining over 40 of the best options on the market? Click on over to the best audiophile headphones to learn more!!

Be sure to also check out my Reviews and Resources page for more helpful and informative articles!

Audeze LCD-3

4.65

Build

5.0/5

Comfort

3.8/5

Sound

4.8/5

Imaging

5.0/5

Soundstage

4.8/5

Pros

  • Great Build
  • Insane detail and clarity; incredibly revealing
  • Excellent Mid-Range
  • Great Imaging & Soundstage

Cons

  • Speed is a tad slow for faster genres
  • Comfort is hit and miss

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2 comments

Daniel May 12, 2021 - 5:35 am

I had sold my LCD-3s two months ago. It’s because my Martin Logan speakers had consistently out-resolved them. I think they are closer to the LCD-4 in detail. Bass below 70 Hz is noticeably cleaner with the LCD-3s, however. It’s just not possible to achieve the low distortion a planar offers below a certain frequency, with most conventional speaker setups. Phase shift and impedance swings are absent with planar headphones.

Reply
Stuart Charles Black May 16, 2021 - 8:47 pm

That’s never a bad reason to sell them! Haha. I’ve heard Martin Logan’s and they are indeed breathtaking. I actually heard their most expensive unit at around 100k. Breathtaking, but still not quite like I was there. The environment wasn’t the most ideal though. I’m sure in a proper space it’s pretty close.

Reply

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