The LCD-3 was Audeze’s flagship from 2012 and 2015, before the LCD-4 came into the market. The design is very similar between LCD-2, LCD-3, LCD-4 and LCD-X, with differences regarding earpads, cups material, grills and of course drivers.
Just like the LCD-2, the LCD-3 was firstly produced without Fazors, before the company updated the magnets with the Fazor elements in late 2013/early 2014. My unit is a 2017 Fazor model (SN282xxx), with the older (non-suspension) style headband. Build quality is, as expected from a high-end Audeze, excellent, with use of zebrawood, real leather pads and headband and metal connectors. The rugged Pelican case is still one of my favorite case coming with any headphone.
Comfort needs some adjustement for me : the earpads are very plush and comfortable, but because of their perfect seal around the ears, create air pressue and a ‘suction’ effect that is sometimes not agreeable. The old style headband can create hotspot on top of my head rather quickly, but using a wool headband to thicken the contact area helps a lot. Of course, upgrading to the new Audeze headband would be the best solution, but it is rather expensive (easily more than 220€ in Europe).
Clamp is a bit strong, but with time it’s easier to deal with. All in all, I can wear the LCD-3 for a few hours without any issue, but probably not a whole day like I could with a pair of HD650 or HD800.
○ Release : 2012
○ Current status : In production
○ Type : Over-ear / Open-back
○ Measured weight : 620g
○ Impedance : 110 Ohms
○ Sensitivity : ~97-101 dB/mW
○ Average used price : $800-1200
At first, the LCD-3 sounds similar to most of the LCDs I have heard. A warm signature with well extended bass, recessed presence region and moderate treble energy.
But after an hour or so, it became apparent that this particular LCD-3 unit has a lot of energy above 10 Khz. The “air” is quite accentuated, especially around 13-16 Khz, and honestly fatiguing with some songs. Audeze LCDs are known for their unit variation, and my pair has probably more treble than average. The mid-treble (around 8-9 Khz) is a also a bit elevated. The overall treble presentation is not the best, as the highs have a sandpaper and rather piercing sound to them. Fortunately, I have found that EQ-ing 9 Khz down by 2 dB and 14 Khz down by 4 dB solved my issues with the treble.
The bass and midrange presentation are quite good. The bass extends all the way down to 20 Hz, and probably below my hearing limit. It is tight, punchy and rumbling with authority, although it doesn’t have slam capabilities on the level of the LCD-4 or Hifiman HE-6. The midrange is flat from 200 Hz to 1 Khz, but the upper-midrange (1 to 4 Khz) is not as recessed as the LCD-2 Classic or the LCD-2 Fazor. Still, there is less energy in the upper-mids to low-treble than most existing headphones.
I have always read that the LCD-3 has an “organic”, “creamy” and “butter smooth” midrange presentation, more so than the LCD-2 and LCD-X. Although this LCD-3 has a pleasant midrange coloration (=non neutral), I don’t find it to be that creamy and engaging. I probably prefer its midrange to some of its competitors, like the Hifiman Arya (I find its midrange more linear but a bit drier sounding), but it is not as musical as the HD6x0 serie. By aural memory, I found the mids of the LCD-2.2 (Pre-fazor) as much musical, if not slightly more. It is totally possible that the pre-fazor LCD3 had a more interesting midrange than the modern models.
The staging and imaging is pretty wide, but probably not that different from the LCD-2. It is slightly above average compared to most headphones around 1000-2000$. Some have a wider and more defined stereo image (HD800, HE-1000, Arya, HEDDPhone), while others are a bit narrower (Clear, Aeolus, HE-6).
Is the LCD-3 more resolving than the LCD-2 ? I would say yes, but not by a big marging. Micro-detail is probably a small step above. I would say the LCD-3 has slightly faster decay and transients, but is not more dynamic than its smaller brother. The LCD-3 does not have the best macro-dynamics I have heard in this price range ; the LCD-X is known to be a bit punchier, and headphones like the Hifiman HE-6 or Focal Clear are clearly more dynamic sounding. On the other hand, I wouldn’t call the LCD-3 compressed like most modern Hifimans are.
The LCD-3 probably doesn’t sell well : most people choose the cheaper LCD-2 and LCD-X, for very good reasons. In no way the LCD-3 is worth twice the price of the LCD-2 or 60% more than the LCD-X. With a budget of $2000, one can find an used LCD-4, superior in every way to the LCD-3. A fair MSRP price for the LCD-3 should be around $1400 : the extra cost over the $1200 LCD-X would be justified by the zebrawood cups and the Pelican case.
Now, an used LCD-3 for less than $1000 is still interesting, if you are looking for a laid-back planar with solid bass and midrange. The Auteur is probably a safer bet : less resolving, but better stock tonality and reliability.
NOTE : This LCD-3 has the older brown earpads, which are more angled than most Audeze earpads produced between 2018-2020. Around 2020, Audeze produced very thick memory foam earpads which were known to change drastically (in a bad way) the frequency response. In late 2020, they again revised the pads, coming with newer (non-memory) thinner pads, which significantly improve the tonality. It is possible that using these new pads on my LCD-3 would improve the tonality (and, I hope, the upper-treble), but for now I’m quite happy using the older pads with EQ.
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