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This is the 27th in a series of reviews dedicated to the concept of 32Ohm Audio as embodied by the store of that name in downtown Portland/Oregon and described here - Ed.

Srajan Ebaen
Financial Interests: click here
Source: Ancient Audio Lektor Prime, Apple iMac 1TB with AIFF files up to 24/192, Weiss DAC2, iPod Classic 160GB, Sieben Technology dock, Onkyo ND-S1 digital-direct iPod transport
Headphones: ALO Audio recabled Audeze LCD-2, Sennheiser HD800, beyerdynamic T1 and AKG K-702; stock audio-technica W5000 and Grado PS-1000; HifiMan HE5LE with optional silver wiring and grill mod; stock HifiMan HE-6 [on review]
Headphone amps: Trafomatic Audio Head One; Woo Audio Model 5; Burson Audio HA-160; Burson Audio HA-160D [on review]; Meier Audio Corda Concerto; Antelope Audio Zodiac+ [on review]; Firestone Audio Libby [on review]
Cables: Complete loom of ASI Liveline, Furutech GT2 and WireWorld Starlight USB A-to-mini-B cables [on loan], LaCie and Entreq Firewire 800 cables, Entreq USB cable, Black Cat Cable Veloce S/PDIF cable [on loan]
Stands: 2 x ASI HeartSong 3-tier, 2 x ASI HeartSong amp stand
Powerline conditioning: 1 x Walker Audio Velocitor S
Review Component Retail: $945

Pronounced odyssey, Audez'e is a startup venture between two American headfi enthusiasts with still regular day jobs who aim at building (one of) the world's greatest headphones. That last part is mostly what others have said about their LCD-2 (and many without the qualifier). This includes ex HeadRoom boss Tyll Hertsens who has since left to fly solo as a headphone-obsessed lab rat. He measured the LCD-2 at CanJam in his portable chamber and pronounced that it had the rather best square wave response of any earspeaker he'd seen. That's fine praise from someone who'd know this better than anyone.*

Aside from forum chatter however, little else was to be learned. The website was a bit shy on detail. Production seemed permanently back-ordered by one month. When personal headphone shrink Ken Ball of ALO Audio whispered that the LCD-2 was probably his favorite too, an encounter with these planar-magnetics was as surely in my cards as death and taxes. That's because Ken's two other favorite cans are mine too - beyer-dynamic's T1 and Sennheiser's HD800 both recabled by him. If blog posts were any indication, in the minds of many cognoscenti the Fabulous Four of currently living (not discontinued) headphones were these very three. For the forth many seemed to vote for Hifi Man's HE-6. I was booked for the latter's review already. It too was an ambitious effort at an orthodynamic new king. As you can see, my card (number?) was so very up.

* Anyone perusing these measurements with expectations of prettiness will be shocked. Given how many popular models Tyll included in this set of graphs, it's clear that a measured flat response would never correlate with subjective linearity given the direct coupling of these radiators with just the ear cavities. Most of us trying to correlate Tyll's measurements with listening impressions should find themselves utterly stumped. Knowing how to interpret them is very different from expecting nice straight lines and smooth curves ...

Ken had warned months ago that supply would be limited and demand high. He had a pair set aside in case I wanted one. As soon as my finances recovered from moving house, I asked for an invoice and to dispatch the unit once again with his special 8-conductor chain mail cable. Having heard and compared Sennheiser's HD800 stock cable to his and the same for AKG's K702, I'd gotten my beyer-dynamic T1 that way too and the Audez'e would follow tradition.

With a permanent review sample thus secured, my next task was learning just what I'd acquired by mail order. I knew very little about Audez'e, their history or any background on this project. I'd seen photos. I knew the LCD-2 would be physically heavy—no problem, I'm no air guitar slinger—and that I didn't care for what looked like an exposed foam strip on the head band. But Ken assured me that final production would address the foam. Anyway, hard-boiled 'philes don't give a twit about such twat (I do). 'twas time to connect with Audez'e and get all the relevant intel straight from the horse's mouth.

But first here's what I had from retailer Ken when I originally learned of the Audez'e, plus what accompanied his final they-were-shipped email. "The orthodynamic headphones many of my friends have favored over the years—mostly Yamaha models—were to me rather dark and typically harder to drive. I can remember thinking that many of them sounded like a sock was stuffed into the cups. I wanted to remove the sock. Not my cup of tea really. Plus, the magnet/aluminum-film sandwich driver design hasn't really been favored in recent decades.

"Enter two guys from LA, Alex Rosson and Sankar Thiagasamudram of Audez'e. I met them at the 2009 CanJam show in Los Angeles. They were showing their LCD-1 headphone, a very generic-looking headphone that did sound quite nice but really did not get my attention - until a friend of mine let me borrow one for a week sometime after the show. Since then Audez'e has been working very hard at making improvements to the design, showing the prototype LCD-2 at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest in October 2009. The new design lost its generic plastic cosmetics and took on a more retro-futuristic steam-punk look. After listening to it more at RMAF, I began to appreciate what my hardcore ortho friends were after with such headphones. The more I listened and tried to unlearn the candy-caramel sugary glitzy-zingy top end of what most all dynamic headphones had to offer, the more I really could not put my finger on these LCD-2s. Their sound was very thick and had that typical ortho character - yet only the LCD-2 seemed to lose the sock.

"Alex and Sankar pushed on and delivered a production test version to Kevin Karth and I a few months later. This headphone was even better on looks and sound. I ended up buying one and spent many hours listening. Slowly I was being lured into the smoky lush organic sound of the LCD-2. Where this ortho has distinguished itself from all others is, frankly, across the board. But clearly attack, speed and the massive deep controlled bass are its mantle pieces. I ended up listening to all my old favorite music as though it was all new again. To me that's the ultimate compliment for a headphone.

The Fostex drawing of their ortho diaphragm shows the basic principle. An aluminum, copper or other voice coil is etched onto a stretched polyester, polyamide or mylar film to which is then applied an array of magnets to drive the film. Think Magneplanar on the ears and you've got it.

"Audez'e is still a start up and their headphone is handmade. While this shows, it has come a long way from the first one. What they do very well is make that planar driver. It is very impressive. I agree with your T1, HD800, K702, Grado etc. ranking. I find the Audio-Technica W5000 too bright. I also liked the Hifi Man HE-5LE but found it rather difficult to drive on a number of good headphone amps and I hate to say it but thought it edgier and brightish. There it is again. Everyone will hear something different. I am worried that your preferences might find the LCD-2 too dark. When I first heard the prototype I thought them to be very dark. But now I believe that we all are so used to very sweet top-end colorations from almost all high-end headphones that we need to be almost reprogrammed. I think this is why I fell in love with the dammed LCD-2. They allowed me to reassess the listening experience on another level. I cannot wait to hear the HE6s though. Also notable for the price is the orthodynamic Fostex TR50."