Hands-on with the Audeze LCD-2C (Photo: IBTimes / Jeff Li)

If you have been acquainted with planar magnetic headphones, there's a good chance you would have heard of Audeze as well. Though already at the fourth generation of their headline LCD headphone series, the LCD-2 Classic is a tribute to the first Audeze headphone that started it all.

I was surprised at my first encounter with the LCD-2 Classic because of the large standard issue travel case that came with the headphone. Since these headphones are large in size and not really built to be worn on the run - it got me curious: under what circumstances would someone carry it around? I dove in to find out.

The steel rods for tension adjustment (Photo: IBTimes / Jeff Li)

Big Beautiful Build

The Audeze LCD-2 Classic isn't built like any typical headphones. Instead of the common telescopic headbands, the LCDs use a fixed metal headband with two steel rods that slides up and down for tension adjustment. The resulting look is a distinct and industrial feel. The industrial theme continues with the ear cup grills, which makes it one of the boldest, most masculine looking headphones I've ever seen.

The considerable thick earpads (Photo: IBTimes / Jeff Li)

Another feature that stands out is the ultra-thick earpads. The wedge-shaped pad means on the end nearer to the user's face it's thin, doubling in thickness towards the back of the head. The result is a headphone that stays more or less parallel to one another when worn on the head, as well as having a very firm seal to the side of the head.

The durable looking Mini XLR port (Photo: IBTimes / Jeff Li)

The LCD-2C comes with Mini XLR braided cables that terminate with a 1/4" jack, which is very solidly built and would last for the long run. There isn't any funny business near the female ports on the headphone, which means you can easily swap out the original cables for third-party cables as preferred.

The LCD-2C coupled with the SPL Phonitor xe (Photo: IBTimes / Jeff Li)

The Need for Larger Amplifiers

The Audeze LCD-2C is rated at 70 ohms, which is neither high nor low, and I did try it with a couple of the smaller DAC/Amps that I had like the new FiiO K3 and even the FiiO M11 Plus LTD DAP. Though I was able to get the volume, they were not doing the LCD justice in terms of dynamics and resolution.

The LCD-2C with the Schiit Jotunheim II (Photo: IBTimes / Jeff Li)

It's until I hooked it up to more sizable DAC/Amps like the SPL Phonitor xe, and the Schiit Jotunheim II that the sound really started to sparkle. So a solid investment should be expected for a headphone amplifier, for those who want to maximize the sound on their LCD-2C.

A 100 mm planar magnetic driver inside (Photo: IBTimes / Jeff Li)

Strength in the Size of the Sound

Going hands-on with the LCD-2C, I went in with great expectations especially in the bass department according to what I have heard from friends and reviews, but the experience was totally different from what I expected.

Especially with the SPL amp, the mid-range on the LCD-2C stood out and had a fantastic texture. However the texture produced from these headphones are vastly different from, say, an excellent pair of IEMs with amazing details. The sheer 100 mm size of the planar magnetic drivers does something that expensive dynamic headphones that usually use 50 mm drivers can't: they produce a larger sound.

The open-back grills (Photo: IBTimes / Jeff Li)

It's the difference between a portable guitar amp and a large Marshall stack - since the size of the source is different, the impact and size of the sound is also going to be different. The LCD-2C I felt is the perfect size to articulate voice, and the presence of vocals is one of the best that I have heard on headphones.

Other than vocals, the LCD-2C also produces other frequencies including the bass in a sizable fashion. Just as it has been reputed, it has the ability to produce a formidable bass response, but it's not the usual punchy bass, instead you get an atmospheric bass that has much greater width.

This makes the LCD-2C great for multi-instrumental music, live music, and also watching movies, where the big sound helps with the immersive experience. The sound I found most enjoyable on these headphones is movies that feature great engine sounds like Need for Speed or 6 Underground, where the explosive engine revving sound really sings through the planar magnetic headphones.

Even though these are open-back headphones, the soundstage is also not what I expected. It doesn't have the usual transparent quality that open-backs like the beyerdynamic T1 or the Focal Utopia has. Instead it sounds more like listening to monitors in a small room where the sound fills up the room.

The serious travel case that comes with the LCD-2C...but why? (Photo: IBTimes / Jeff Li)

Traveling Studio Monitors

After spending some time with the LCD-2C I've reached the conclusion that they give quite a different experience from typical headphones, and I would say shouldn't be compared with traditional dynamic headphones. I would rather place the listening experience between headphones and studio monitors because of the size of the sound they produce.

And this brings me back to my initial question: if the LCD-2C was not built as a traveling headphone, why did it come with a travel case? My answer after using them is that they are more like traveling monitors. You would use them not on a plane, but in a hotel room or office where you have a personal space and want a studio monitor experience.

The Audeze Reveal+ plugin in JRiver player (Photo: Audeze)

Audeze Reveal+ Plugin

To improve the studio monitor experience, Audeze has released a plugin software called Reveal+, which emulates famous recording studios around the world. Since it is a plugin you would need to use it with a compatible music player software or Digital Audio Workstation (DAWs).

I used the Reveal+ with JRiver player, went through the Embody set up process that uses photos of my ears to construct a personalized Aural Map, and selected the LCD-2C from the headphone list.

What resulted was a high quality soundstage emulation that boosted the staging and separation on the LCD. Most of the parameters can be adjusted and means you can spend significant time tweaking to get the sound just how you like it.

Since I had the SPL Phonitor xe amp, which is a master at providing an amazing soundstage, I did not need to resort to the Reveal+ software. However, if I only had the Schiit Jotunheim II which only boosted the dynamics of the sound, the Reveal+ software is an irreplaceable option to emulate in high quality a variety of large soundstages.

The Audeze LCD-2C looks amazing on the desk featuring the Oakywood Headphone Stand (Photo: IBTimes / Jeff Li)

Final Verdict

The Audeze LCD-2C is an excellent headphone - but not for the reasons that I expected. It offers a listening experience that veers towards studio monitors, and is a spectacular performer especially when it's paired up with excellent headphone amps. Paired up with iconic good-looks, it's a pair of headphones that I recommend to adorn any music lover's desktop sound setup.

For its impressive sound performance, we're awarding the LCD-2C the IBTimes Recommended badge.

David is a tech enthusiast/writer who is often on the move, but since the lock-down is on a mission to explore gadgets to improve his 'home work'. This is a contribution to an ongoing IBTimes review series on gadgets for Home Productivity.