Actually, above the facets I just mentioned was the big, coherent picture the headphones deliver out of pieces that were just as fascinating to listen for on an individual scale. What I mean by that is that the LCD-3s made it really easy to find myself focusing on single instruments and voices, especially for nuances that I’d previously not heard or get overshadowed in traditional speaker playback, but then being able to check myself and hear the song as a vivid, entire picture.
This was exemplified on a couple of tracks featuring trios—Crosby Stills and Nash’s “Helplessly Hoping” (on CD) and “Metamorphosis” by guitarists Larry Coryell, Badi Assad and John Abercrombie (24-bit). In both cases, the left and right channels clearly present two of the three performers … but then seemingly centered in the image comes the third voice or guitar. Whichever direction I focused the LCD-3s articulated the individual pieces perfectly, but then soaking in the complete harmonic image was mesmerizing.
I’m not a huge classical music listener, though I greatly respect it, but I can see after playing several 24-bit recordings from Norwegian label 2L how one could get hooked on headphone playback of everything from orchestral to quartet performances with detail like that of the LCD-3. You can readily follow and appreciate each well-defined instrumentalist’s role, with the appropriate dynamics and transients to bring the recordings to life. The furiously paced finale of the Engegard Quartet’s Haydn String Quartet in D, Op. 76, No. 5, roared through the headphones in elevated dramatic presence.
These audiophile high-res recordings don’t hurt, either, but the clarity was evident on traditional redbook CDs like the Greatest Hits from CSN, Sufjan Stevens’ Illinois and Phish’s Hoist. The layering of instruments in Illinois sometimes makes it challenging not to get muddled, but here it was crisp and spacious; on Hoist’s “Down with Disease,” I was surprised to so clearly hear background vocals behind Trey Anastasio’s lead during the chorus that even through other headphones were far less pronounced that I hadn’t realized how many there were. Background vocals on the whole were a revelation.
Are the LCD-3s for everyone? Of course not. But there’s a segment of audiophiles that prefer the headphone experience, where others might take the $2,000 and put it toward floorstanding speakers or turntable. For those seeking headphones that will take them to that transportive musical point of no return, well, try these on for size.
• Transducer type: Planar magnetic
• Magnetic structure: Proprietary self-closing design, acoustically transparent
• Magnet type: High-grade Neodymium
• Transducer active diaphragm area: 6.17 sq in
• Sound pressure level (SPL): 130 db (maximum)
• Frequency response: 5 Hz - 20 kHz, usable high-frequency extension of 50 kHz
• Impedance: 45 Ohms, purely resistive
• Efficiency: 91 dB/1 mW
• Optimal power requirement: 1-4 W
• ADZ6SE Cable (single-ended): ¼” TRS to 2x4-pin mini XLR
• ADZ6B4 Cable (balanced): 4-pin XLR to 2x4-pin mini XLR
• Cable length (both): 2.5 m or 8.2 ft
• Weight: 548 g (without cable - Zebrano)
More Headphone Reviews:
Velodyne vTrue and vFree
RHA MA-350 Earphones
Paradigm Shift E3m Earbuds
Follow Electronic House
Arlen writes about home technology installations and product news and reviews for electronichouse.com
and Electronic House magazine.