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The LCD-2s arrive in a nice red wooden presentation box with quality gold-plated hardware; a wood maintenance kit with special oil, polyester cloth and hex driver for recommended bi-annual applications; and an envelope with the unit's frequency response chart plus 1-year warranty card.

The response graph along the 90dB sensitivity axis is ruler flat from 10Hz to 1kHz - shockingly so. At 1kHz it expectedly descends over the span of one octave by about 11dB whence it arrives at 2kHz on a new ±80dB plateau. Here it remains for the duration to 20kHz, albeit with pronounced ±5dB squiggles.

As a perusal of Tyll Hertsens' earlier PDF file of measurements confirms, this 1kHz descent for a ca. 10dB offset between high and low bands is the norm for most all headphones. Where models from diverse makers diverge is essentially the linearity of these two respective plateaus.

Some designs suffer massive attenuation above 8kHz for example, others noticeable bumps and dips below the presence region. This standardized 2-stage contour pattern must counteract the impact the inner ear's geometry has on frequency response.

Unlike the very heavy wood/metal Grado PS-1000 which places the majority of mass outside its hanging posts, Audez'e very cleverly moved all their weight between posts and ears. As the below photos on the Sieveking Sound Omega stand show, once on the head the adjustable posts for the wooden enclosures angle severely outward. They do not hang down vertically. While this makes for a strangely old-fashioned laboratory or robotic Klatuu-type look, it generates a very comfortable fit. The photos also show the steep built-in angle of the ear pads to optimally aim the diaphragms at the ears.

Turning your head quickly with the Grados exerts more lateral force and thus creates a propensity for slippage. It feels as though they mean to fly off. It has you constantly aware that something bulky hangs off your pink bits. Doing the same with the LCD-2 creates far milder torque. Yet these earspeakers attach snugly without any undue clamping pressure. Alexander Rosson wasn't upselling his team's efforts to optimize wear comfort. On my big noggin, I find their cans as comfy as the big Senns.

Considering that the Grados too are manufactured by hand and in lower volumes in the good US of A but demand 70% more, arrive in a lowly pizza-style cardboard box—the entire presentation box silliness en vogue in this sector admittedly does nothing for the sound—and sport those butt-ugly raw foam pads while Audez'e gives us luxuriously padded lamb skins... one either must call the Grados grossly overpriced or the Audez'e far more aggressively positioned. Such an assessment forms well prior to any actual listening.

Once my audition commenced vis-à-vis my personal inventory of AKG K1000 and K-702, beyer-dynamic T1, Sennheiser HD800, audio-technica W5000, Grado PS-1000 and Hifi Man HE-5LE & HE-6, the LCD-2 went straight to the top. I'm resolutely adding myself to the apparently growing list of folks who consider the Audez'e the currently best headphone made. I don't have any Stax or Ultrasone nor one of the advanced DSP-controlled three-way inner-ear designs. My opinion thus remains sternly qualified by this particular list of various companies' current full-size top efforts.

Let's handle the most surprising item first. My iPod 160GB Classic does drive the LCD-2 fine. On dynamically compressed Pop which nearly redlines overload by design, I needn't even invoke full output. On quality recordings meanwhile, max iPod volume generates well above background levels but not complete immersion. That requires not just a tad higher signal voltage but altogether more raw oomph. The softer iDecco and ALO Audio RxMkII portable could blow me into the weeds on raw SPL but for ultimate control based on drive, I'd want something like Burson Audio's new HA-160D or Trafomatic Audio's Head One (a MkII version plus White Series model with new transformers and completely omitted NFB are forthcoming).

For the crowning touch with particularly classical and acoustic music, the mighty fully optioned-out $4.000 Woo Audio Model 5 with all Create/Synergy glass is my ultimate solution. The upshot of this quickie scan is that while the LCD-2 can be driven from pretty much any 6.3mm socket available, its full potential won't be tapped until you mate it to truly first-rate amplification. It's the old tale of the Arabian race horse with the shoddy shoes and overweight jockey. It'll run but it won't win.

About a mini-plug terminated 'mobile' cable Ken Ball had included with my shipment the man had this to say: "The silver cable's final version will be a 12-wire Teflon cable with 24-gauge silver-plated OCC cable and sell for $485/6ft and $40 for each additional foot. This cable does not have the weight of the larger 8-wire 18-gauge version you bought but does offer some nice top end sparkle as well as being extremely light and easy to manage physically. Re: your surprise about iPod compatibility, this planar is remarkably sensitive considering. I shared a table with Alex at the RMAF show in the Head-Fi CanJam room. We had the LCD-2 running off the Cypher Labs AlgoRhythm Solo plus my Rx MkII headphone amp. It sounded just like you were using a MacBook with desktop amp. It was a really fine setup that I think surprised many people by how such a small rig drove clearly full-sized headphones very well."

Superior to most the competition—AKG K-702 excepted—are the XLR terminations Audez'e has chosen. Sennheiser's HD800 solution isn't as convenient, Hifi Man's screw fittings are far less confidence inspiring and robust. The LCD-2's ratcheting posts might not be the final word on hi-tech but they work reliably. The exposed wooden housings are of course beautifully finished and add a classy touch. The metal headband is still lined with exposed ultra fine-pore smoothly shaped foam to pick up the occasional hair but does look better in person than expected. Four exposed screws each attach the headband to the post blocks from the insides to not be visible on the head. Still, they and four corresponding screw heads on each nicely perforated 'big A' metal grill are—small—reminders that this is a low-volume rather than big-corporate production.

Visually scary perhaps are the small tabs on the semi-circular metal retainers of the head pieces. It's what the adjustable posts screw to. To contemplate these sizable enclosures being supported by such small angled and exposed tabs seems mechanically compromised and weak. In reality this interface is probably well overspec'd and tough. All in all, a visual/physical inspection determines very robust and high build quality that's more than commensurate with the sticker. Frankly it's very surprising given the company's startup status. There's really nothing that betrays a relatively recent transition from DIY to formal production. It's in the industrial design choices versus something ultimately polished like my audio-technica Raffinatos that enthusiast rather than corporate origins telegraph the most. Finally there's price. Hifi Man's competing new HE-6 orthodynamic will be $1.199 by the time introductory pricing ends. While it goes after more lifestyle high-gloss cosmetics, its Chinese manufacture also reflects on the comparative value Audez'e has managed to build into their all-American statement effort. The LCD-2 has thrown down quite a glove.