This is a follow-up to my recent Playback review of the Audeze LCD-2 planar magnetic headphone (click here to read the review). First, bit of background is in order. Just as I was putting the finishing touches on the LCD-2 review, I discovered that Audeze had, on July 3, 2011, announced a running production change in the LCD-2 model—a change that involved the introduction of what the firm terms its new “Revision 2” drivers. Rather than offer a paraphrase, let me quote the text of Audeze’s two-part announcement, which appeared in the “Blog” section of the firm’s website: www.audeze.com.
“The LCD-2 headphones were introduced in Oct 2009. Even among Planar Magnetic headphones, these drivers were quite different with a unique structure and design. The LCD-2 has gone through several minor cosmetic changes, but the driver has remained unchanged so far.
Now we are introducing revision 2 of the driver. The LCD-2s as a model remain the same. Newer LCD-2 shipments from middle of June (2011) have revision 2 of the driver.
Does the sonic signature change?
Revision 2 transducer has the same mechanical construction as original transducer, but uses newly developed, thinner and more reliable diaphragm material. Overall sound signature remains similar. Low frequencies stay flat, but are tighter and even more extended (flat to 5 Hz), midrange is smoother and more transparent, while high frequencies are more extended, detailed and more pronounced. With Rev. 2 we are addressing concerns of many customers who feel that original LCD2 has darker high frequency signature than many top of the line headphones.”
“Several customers have emailed us asking for more details (on the new drivers). Here is some more information. We want to be open and transparent with our customers on the changes we are doing.
We have not changed the overall balance or frequency response of the headphones. We love the original LCD-2 sound signature. The new LCD-2s show a similar frequency response curve and it should, because that is the design intent. The new drivers use a thinner raw material. Thinner raw material results in less mass of the diaphragm. Less mass of diaphragm causes greater acceleration and better impulse response. Better response in driver results in higher resolution and extensions in both ends of the spectrum and better imaging. The highs are more pronounced because of greater detail. We are not boosting the high frequencies. Perhaps using the term "Darker" in the previous post conveyed the wrong information. There is a significant difference between boosting high frequencies (peaky response) and pronounced highs. As we mentioned earlier, we love the original LCD-2 sound signature and this is an improvement over it. We are not changing the nature of the headphone, but rather finessing it and this is one of the reasons we decided to stick with the LCD-2 name.”
Given this turn of events, Audeze graciously offered to loan Playback a second set of LCD-2 headphones equipped with its new Revision 2 drivers, so that we could evaluate sonic difference for ourselves. Naturally, the arrival of new drivers brings two key questions to mind:
We will tackle both questions in this follow-up review.
If you haven’t already read our full-length review of the original LCD-2, now would probably be a good time to do so (see the link above), since my intent is to discuss the effects of Audeze’s new Revision 2 drivers in the context of the core sound that I’ve already described for the original LCD-2.
What differences can listeners expect from Audeze’s Revision 2 drivers?
Our finding was that the new drivers do change the overall sonic signature of the LCD-2 to some extent though in comparatively subtle ways (think more in terms of evolutionary rather than revolutionary changes). Some of those changes influence the response curves of the headphones in small but audible (and measurable) ways, while others change the LCD-2’s ability to resolve low-level details and its ability to respond to fast-rising transient sounds in the music.