I’m not an audiophile. I love great sound and I know enough about audio production to be dangerous but I’ve never bought a gold reference CD of Rachmaninoff nor do I rail against the MP3 like Neil Young.
But I now know what I’ve been missing.
I’ve been musing on getting a nice pair of headphones for a while. First, let’s get price out of the way. These LCD-2 Classic Closed Back headphones cost $899. Given you probably spent more than that on your phone, it doesn’t seem like much but the impetus to spend on audio gear is a difficult one. After all, you spend all day on your phone but a few hours a week with your earbuds in, right?
That said, don’t you want to literally hear everything?
The benefit of audiophile gear is that you can raise the overall volume without losing detail. This means you can either crank your tunes super high and still not reach the point of fuzzing out or, in most cases, you can hear things absolutely clearly at normal listening volumes.
I tried the LCD-2s using four different audio sources. I listened to music from Apple Music via my MacBook’s headphone jack, lossless music via the jack, and then regular and lossless music through a Schiit Audio Asgard 2 DAC and pre-amp. Each increase in quality was astounding.
Without a pre-amp these sound fine. You’ll be pleased with the level of detail available even in simple MP3s. Adding in the entire sound chain, including lossless music, makes the whole thing far better.
As headphones, these things are massive but comfortable. The deep foam ear pads muffle all outside sound and offer quite a bit of air space for the sound to travel. These aren’t noise cancelling by any stretch but they will do in a pinch if you’d like to travel with them.
Dual four-pin jacks connect to the braided cord and a leather headstrap keeps it snug on the top of the head. The entire Made-In-America package is built out of materials that will last for years if not decades.
Now for the sound.
The bottom line is that I no longer want to use any other headphones. When I put my AirPods Pro in I feel like I’m downgrading to a transistor radio. Even listening to music in the car is a waste of time. The audio that comes out of these is pristine and perfectly balanced. In many cases you can either hear the musical mistakes in the recording – a wonderful, odd feeling that makes the music more human – or feel like the musicians are in your head. When you put these on you want to close your eyes. They’re that good.
I listened to everything from the XX to Portishead to Miles Davis. All of it had hidden depth I had never noticed. All of it was great.
This comes with many caveats, however. These things are expensive. They’re not as expensive as some audiophile headphones but for nearly thousand bucks Audeze better deliver. They do.
The headphones use planar magnetics, a system that does away with the standard sound cones found in other headphones. From the site:
Due to the small diaphragms of cone drivers, not only are those diaphragms subject to breakup modes, but the pressure wave that’s made with each motion of the diaphragm also tends to be sphere-shaped. Our brains interpret the spherical shape of these pressure waves as distorted or unnatural. This makes it difficult for us to form a convincing mental image of the sounds and their placement in space, also called stereo imaging. A flat, or planar wavefront is more natural for our brain to perceive and leads to a more pleasant listening experience with accurate sound localization. Audeze’s large planar drivers produce a planar wavefront that results in imaging that puts you right in the music…
Planar magnetics essentially vibrate on a plane and over the entire diaphragm. They write:
…the key point here is that Audeze’s planar magnetic drivers are able to produce uniform driving force across the entire diaphragm. This allows the diaphragm to move in a nearly perfect pistonic fashion, resulting in low distortion across the entire frequency spectrum.
Obviously this is all audio snake oil – audio quality is deeply subjective and in many cases, technology doesn’t matter – so obviously you have to take all of this with a grain of salt. That said, these headphones offered something I had never heard before – a depth of clarity that made me want more.
I am a convert. I think if you tried these you’d be one as well. Ultimately, these headphones make things sound better, clear, and more alive. They’re well worth the price of admission, even without a pre-amp. Give them a go. You won’t regret it.