Thanks to joe-siow, I had the opportunity to try out the LCD-2r2 on my rig for about two weeks. I've been very happy with my Sennheiser HD800 for more than a year, so much so that announcements of the LCD-2, HE-5/5LE/6 and Stax SR-009 did not interest me. But I was a bit curious as to how the LCD-2 would sound, and in my hands for a short period of time was the second revision of the LCD-2. The source I used for this review was an EffectiveAudio-modded Cambridge Audio 840C and the amp was a lightly-modded Woo Audio WA22. I spent some days rolling tubes to find a good combination, and in the end I used either:
Mullard GZ34 metal base, Brimar CV1988 and Tung Sol 7236 or,
United Electronics 596, Tung Sol 6SN7GT round plate oval mica and GEC 6AS7
First thing first, the construction. After using the HD800 for so long, the LCD-2 feels really heavy! But weight is deceiving, and surprisingly I found myself wearing them for 3 hours straight with no major discomfort. The soft leather earpads breathe a little so you don't sweat so much, and the strong clamping force is forgotten after about 30 minutes. I wear glasses, and fears of getting the earpads creased or poked by my glasses turned out to be unfounded. The leather headband and wooden trimming suggest fine hand-crafted workmanship, unlike the futuristic-looking HD800 with its use of plastic. Mind you, the HD800 is still well built, but the LCD-2 oozes sophistication and class.
Listening to the LCD-2r2, the bass struck me first. It goes deep, hits pretty hard and has a very enjoyable mid-bass bump. Kick drums explode with force, and the LCD-2 is capable of deep, tactile, rumbling bass that's wonderfully textured. Sure, the HD800 might be able to go lower with the right tubes, but rarely is it capable of bass that resonates this well. And neither is the bass bloated, leaving the midrange untainted. The only bass-oriented headphones I have right now are the AKG K240 Sextetts, and they can only dream of what the LCD-2 is capable. Colour me impressed.
The midrange was also quite impressive, being lush and creamy, yet transparent and detailed. Detail retrieval here does not lose out too much to the HD800, and the lower midrange suits acoustic guitars and male vocals very nicely. Surprisingly, I had mixed feelings for female vocals; Diana Krall and Jheena Lodwick retained their soul, but Eva Cassidy and LiSA sounded a bit restrained. The upper midrange also sounded a little flat when faced with brass instruments like trumpets. Perhaps I'm a little harsh in this area, after all my gold standard for midrange is the Audio Technica AD2000, which has still not been dethroned after all these years. While the midrange is not perfect to me, I would unreservedly give it high marks here.
Now the treble, yes it is not as extended as the HD800. But I wouldn't have it any other way. Bumping the treble up would spoil the overall presentation in my opinion, and while it doesn't have the bite to showcase cymbals, hi-hats and triangles at their best, it doesn't leave me wanting more. The construction, bass and midrange of the LCD-2 give me the impression of laid-back easy listening, and more treble would ruin that. I would say that the treble has sufficient presence and more is not needed.
I've often read that the LCD-2's soundstaging is nothing to shout about, but one of my tube combinations gave me a very wide, expansive soundstage with pretty good precision, approaching 85% of the HD800's width. It cannot match the HD800's 3D imaging, but there is plenty of air around instruments without sounding too diffused. Depth is perhaps it's weakest point here, but that's just nitpicking. Despite all the text bashing the LCD-2's soundstaging, I found it enjoyably wide and precise. Absolutely no complaints here.
In terms of speed, the LCD-2 cannot match the HD800 and AD2000, but it still manages to squeeze out quite a lot of details. Listening to some of my soundtracks, I could hear the fingers plucking on the guitar strings, and on one occassion someone dropping something plasticky on the floor. Tonal balance is shifted to the warm side of things, making it very enjoyable for jazz, pop, ballads and certain instrumental tracks. I was also surprised that it handled my J-rock tracks with aplomb, considering the somewhat tame treble.
So who should consider the LCD-2 over other equally impressive flagships? Those who like jazz, pop, guitar and rock I suppose. But if you're the type who just likes to chill out on a sofa, cup of tea in one hand, ready to melt into the world of soothing music and leave the ordinary pedestrian world aside for one moment, the LCD-2 might just be what the doctor ordered. Or perhaps the LCD-3 if what people's initial impressions are true.
Once again, thank you joe-siow for the LCD-2r2 loaner. While I'm still an HD800 fan through and through, my feelings for the LCD-2 have changed from mild curiosity to great respect.