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Sound 2. Perhaps there's only so much iTunes alone can do even when your iPod gets digitally tapped? This context added PureMusic in memory play using my iMac's internal 256GB SSD; 176.4kHz upsampling in software; plus an altogether different DAC and headphone amp. This confluence of new hard/software blew up the differences. Foremost of these wasn't so much confirmation of the previous findings as it was a sum total. And that total now called the LCD-2 the plainly drier performer. I don't know about you but I find a slick oil massage so much nicer than any dry rubdown. Here words like sumptuous and juicy point at the difference. It's quite like the offset between LCD-2 and LCD-3 ear cushions. The latter are a lot plusher. This might make for superior shape hugging around your ears and hence tighter seals too.


I still thought the LCD-2's bass had more obvious rocking power but this required digging now. The aspect which overrode any tonal balance comments had become textural. The cheaper can—though 'cheap' doesn't factor into this discussion at all—was the more damped. Stiffer. Not as elastic. This gave the lighter membrane the more languorous decays and richer though clearly not fatter tone. This delta of difference wasn't ho-hum or maybe. All it took to manifest properly was a better source (and perhaps a more incisive amp where the Burson is fatter/denser than the leaner quicker Eximus). Knowing from past experiments just how and where the 11R Bakoon eclipses the DP-1, I could only guess at what the 12R would make of this A/B. Never mind Fred's eventually inbound $10.500 Crayon CHA-1. Clearly this assignment was far from complete before at least the Bakoon returned.


Sound 3. Where the 11R's treble had been positively stratospheric, the 12 builds a virtual Jacob's ladder tapping into the blindingly white light of the central sun. That's poetic for exceptionally lit up. The amp's layover at the makeover spa in Korea had been too long to be certain of much else. Yet I was in no doubt that the top end—already a very noteworthy feature of the original as other commentators have noted too—had altered the most. Because compared to a HifiMan HE6 or Sennheiser HD800 the Audeze treble had never been as elucidated or worked out, Bakoon had always made a terrific match. The 12 took this detail mining to an even higher level without fully wiping out the planarmagnetic's tonal richness in trade. Compared to being driven from the Burson Conductor however, the sum total of sinfully chocolaty no longer applied.


With the AMP-12R fronted by my usual Metrum Hex in 24/176.4kHz NOS-style upsampling in PureMusic, Audeze had moved away from feeling voiced—terrifically so for my tastes but still voiced like vintage Sonus faber plus a true infrasonic sealed subwoofer—to register as far more neutral albeit not boringly flat as a badly driven AKG K-702. An acquaintance's business card identifies him as a sertisseur. Arturo Valdez is one of Geneva's very best stone setters for diamonds of less than 1.2mm Ø. He routinely sets 400 to 500 impossibly tiny faceted diamonds on a single ring like a glittering mesh of tiny dew drops whilst a colleague handles the central hi-carat clunker. To not ruin his eyesight Arturo works above a top-class magnifying glass of supreme resolution. That's how the Bakoon/Audeze combo felt. But unlike Arturo I didn't need three body guards to watch me work. And I could do my job in the dark.

The previous lo/med/hi gain jumpers for the 6.3mm socket have gone. The 12R's gain is fixed in 'high' mode, incidentally where I'd set my 11R permanently too.

This was ideal to magnify the differences between our two contestants. One 24/96 file that saw play was Juan Carmona's latest Alchemya, a scintillating kaleidoscope of Flamenco, Jazz, African and Latin influences with Sylvain Luc on electric guitar. A standard-resolution CD file showcased Reinhold Friedrich's high Baroque trumpet on Johann Melchior Molter and Johann Samuel Endler concerts with small string orchestra but also Sinfonias Concertante with two solo oboes, bassoons and harpsichord. In the high registers of the pocket trumpet the LCD-3 had more of what Germans call Strahlungskraft. Projection of brilliance. Here the LCD-2 sounded just a tad veiled. Moving to another "Largo" where oboes in offset thirds play an octave lower than the trumpet had previously and the bassoons work below the oboes gave the LCD-2's slightly warmer more saturated reading the advantage. Once again I was caught in ambivalence about the differences since they didn't apply themselves neatly on the same side of the ledger.


On the Carmona recording with its blistering transients, edgy compas and layered instrumentation the LCD-3 literally had the edge. Its more (quick)silvery reflexes cut deeper to the bone of the musical structure with its polyrhythmic percussive accents. But there was a flip side. On this amp the 3's lighter diaphragm's accuracy also felt a little less generous and fluid. Extrapolated this also worked on the harder/softer axis. With the 3 the raspy upper harmonics inside a Flamenco singer's warbling vocals were raspier and with it more apparent microphone spittle was obvious.


Moving to Mercan Dede's Dünya-Sunrise to inspect the bass aspect, I again thought the 2 had more slam and impact. On this expert cinerama-wide cunningly layered production my own can was the clearly warmer, less incisive and more 'contoured'. The loaner was more linear, lit up and probably more honest. Given this music's anchoredness in infrasonics which is vital for its scale, I simply preferred my lesser headphone's greater low-down whomp. On Dorantes' Sur and its "A Ritma del Berza" track which I always translate to mean berserk rhythms because the pianist uses fistfuls of fury like a harmonic but violently hammered percussion set, this resurfaced. The LCD-2 had the subjectively greater left-handed weight. The LCD-3 rendered the accompanying very rapid hand claps drier. It also gave the ivories a bit more metal, a bit less soundboard wood.


With as fast, wide bandwidth and incisive an amp as the new Bakoon, the LCD-3's lighter diaphragm and associated keener rise times telegraphed as such. On balance I preferred the LCD-2's slightly more relaxed rotund reading*. On a less lucid amp like my Eximus DP-1, the very same headphone qualities turned tables. Now the LCD-3 pulled ahead. On an even warmer denser amp like the Burson these differences congealed to recede mostly into the Avalonian mists. Since I own the Bakoon and Burson, my wallet breathed a sigh of relief. I'd stick with what I already had. Not that this matters to you.
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* This impression held even with the Burson preceding the Bakoon as DAC which injects some of the Australian's trademark weightiness. In this combination the 12R's reflexes cleary dominated.


Once Roland Krammer's new Crayon CHA-1 statement amplifier lands, I'll wrap up this report on the LCD-3 to hand-pick the most copasetic can driver which plays to its virtues the grandest. At this juncture my intermediate conclusion was this: One, the LCD-2 with an aftermarket harness was far too accomplished already to leave much room for improvement. Two, the LCD-3 is the more precise, linear and responsive. Three, it also sublimates some of the LCD-2's well-loved 'excesses'. Depending on how fond of those you were shall divide opinion on whether the LCD-3 is an unequivocal forward move or more of a sideways proposition. Regardless you'll need an amp of at least Eximus caliber on resolving power to hone in on these differences decisively enough to figure out which flavor might have your vote.

... to be continued in due time...
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