This review page is supported in part by the sponsors whose ad banners are displayed below

Head space. Given overall excellence and bandwidth + power down low, the LCD-2 would sell for $10.000 were it a speaker. At double the coin that'd make the LCD-3 a $20.000 speaker. For that we'd expect and get a rather larger cabinet, more and bigger woofers and likely a more exotic tweeter. As the primary distinctions over its brilliant smaller stable mate, this bigger box would be heavier and play demonstrably louder and lower. That's it. With loudspeakers lower louder bass costs beaucoup. This illustrates the mental cramp between Audeze models. The LCD-3 can't play lower. The LCD-2 already hits the audible limits. You can't play the LCD-3 louder without physical pain. In a lab it won't exceed the 2's 130dB in the first place. It can't grow bigger or noticeably heavier either because the starter model already maxed out what's practical. Though it theoretically could—perhaps how Swiss Piega does it with their coaxial ribbon—the 3 hasn't an extra driver. Nor does it use fancier tech like you'd see between a silk-dome and Beryllium or diamond tweeter. The LCD-3 uses identical tech in a slightly more extreme version. The same 6.17-inch² diaphragm gets a few microns thinner, its magnet array changes, sensitivity goes up by a lone decibel and impedance lowers from 60Ω to 49Ω. That and associated sonic benefits like faster rise times (superior impulse response) are it.

Whilst a thinner membrane per se isn't more expensive, manufacturing it into a reliable driver is. The higher price thus reflects more extensive hand labor. (There are stories about cable conductors so thin that only well-trained women can work them into final cables without breaking them during the process. There are stories of driver builds with ultra-potent motor assemblies where magnets go airborne like dangerous projectiles to massively complicate the build.) None of this extra is visible to the naked eye save for a different wood species on the cups and slightly plusher pads. Big deal. Any impulse buyer staring down both Audeze should hesitate hard before forking over twice the dough. Or call a bluff and walk off empty-handed grinning relieved. Thus only an actual audition settles the matter. Which Fred at the Capital Audio Fest offered with a system my Peruvian friend Nino would call hallucinante - Saskia 2 Reference turntable fitted with a Schroeder Reference arm, Emia Strain Gauge cartridge and power supply into the Crayon CHA-1 and a pair of Audeze LCD-3 [at right replete with proper color shift for Nino].

Sound 1. Whilst waiting for my upgraded Bakoon to return as the perfect 12 from Japan and take its rightful place on my nightstand, the dedicated headfi system there ran Burson's Conductor preceded by AURALiC's Vega DAC streaming digits off an AIFF-loaded 160GB iPod Classic via Pure's i-20 dock; or Toslink out from an RWA-modified ALAC-loaded Astell & Kern AK-100 (which wins on sound and ability to stream 24/192 though such files are often not what they're cracked up to be).

To compare Audeze models I simply swapped my upgraded ALO Audio leash. Locking 3-pole XLRs make that a literal snap. Being Fred's personal unit, break-in had been accomplished long ago. This was instant plug 'n' play all the way. Would it be gilding the lily? If so, did I need an even higher resolving amp à la Bakoon to maximize the differences?

Maybe yes, maybe no. The LCD-3 had a bit more energy in the presence band. Into the firm's trademark chocolaty richness this injected some wakeful chili peppers, incidentally a perfectly smooth way to enjoy real chocolate as a few years in New Mexico taught me. And smoother was this ticket. The increase in amplitude of this band was very slight whilst seemingly removing some earlier response squiggles in its wake.

Still not resolving the (to me non-) issue of insufficient treble illumination versus a Senn HD800 (which I find too nervous and sharp with the stock leash), it did manifest as a tick more visibility in the heartland of female voices and related instruments whilst adding even greater lusciousness. This already mujo plus for the original got a bit more major. So much for the yes of maybe.

The no concerned bass. Here my LCD-2 felt butcher and more awesome. Frankly their bass is as good as it gets. It's the envy of any can I've had through. With the LCD-3 I at first suspected something had gone a bit soft or south about the Burson Conductor. Was it a psychoacoustic trick? That'd be similar to color-shifting the hue by swapping the tinted mat around the photo of a red rose with another. Try it. Swap a blue mat with a green or yellow one and watch how it alters the central red of the bloom. It's an optical illusion of course. But how would you know if you didn't conduct this test? And if you did, how'd you know what was 'correct'? As far as our senses are concerned, what we perceive is how things are. The rest is theory and speculation. Cheers to trusting your ears.

To me then the LCD-2 made better bass. Perhaps shaving microns off the LCD-3's membrane diminished raw shove? In any event my first go-around ended on a somewhat ambivalent note. Yes there were differences but they were neither of the impactful sort—for that the LCD-2 was already far too good—nor were they all advances. Even factoring in psychoacoustics I suspected the bass was at best a sideways move. My naked non-psych'd-out ears actually called it backwards. Enhanced smoothness and an uptick in 1kHz energy were verifiable. Going back to my LCD-2 didn't sour me on them in the least however. I'd not feel compelled to trade up. In this system. How about another? Until the Bakoon resurfaced I could do Simon Lee's Eximus DP-1 off the big rig. Done.