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You can buy the Audeze either in a shiny black wooden box or travel case. I received the former – large, elegant and black with a gold lock. Inside it was padded in soft velours. Apart from the cans one finds two sets of detachable cables – one 6.3mm terminated, the other 4-pin XLR. At the other end the cables are fitted with locking 4-pin plugs for each channel. An interesting feature are the angled connectors which make moving your head around much easier. Another smart detail are the sloped ear pads made of lambskin leather with specially molded foam for just the right amount of firmness. The LCD3 are quite large and at 550g very heavy. Such significant weight comes mostly from the wooden Zebrano ear cups. The ear pads and headband are dressed up in the same lambskin. Long story short, the LCD3 are very attractive elegant looking headphones that seem very well made.

My first actual usage impression was surprising as compared to the HE-6 (the heaviest of HiFiMan’s models) these were significantly heavier plus put more pressure on my ears and head. In terms of comfort I plainly preferred the HiFiMans. Weight was only one thing. The other were the velour pads which I favored over the leather. Plus there was my prejudice (phobia?) against anything I could really feel on my head (that includes a hat... there‘s probably some treatment for that). With the HE-6 it was much easier to forget about them. On my private list points for cosmetics went to the Audeze (wood and leather surely are more elegant than plastic and velour although with the HE-6 you get two sets of ear pads and one of them is made of some leather lookalike). The American cans also got points for their sloped ear pads and angled connectors but the HiFiMans amassed points for comfort.

Audeze states that one key advantages for their design is the superior diaphragm. Most including HiFiMan use Mylar with special aluminium or gold traces. The Americans use a material called Lotus and a special alloy for the conductive traces claimed to give "greater control and lower distortion". The 6.17 square-inch circular and flat diaphragm is sandwiched between rows of push/pull neodymium bar magnets. When audio signals passes through the diaphragm, it moves in and out to displace air. Because of their large size and super-low mass the planarmagnetic drivers are supposed to generate significantly lower distortion than conventional designs. To my ears that certainly seemed to be the case.

Design and theory are one thing, sound another. Before I describe my experience with the LCD3, I must repeat that I liked the HE-6 so much that it was hard to imagine anything better. Different perhaps but superior? Since I received a brand new pair, I let them burn in for a week. The first real session was conducted with the Accuphase E360, an impressive amplifier with high-quality headphone output. What I remembered most from the very difficult-to-drive HE-6 listened to 6 month earlier was their extremely clear and transparent sound with very good imaging and powerful well extended bass.

Now the LCD3 with the Accuphase delivered amazingly smooth, rich and colorful dense sound with lots of information which in general I would describe as a bit dark. It seemed that the HE-6 and LCD3 went opposite ways. The former champion speed and transparency, the latter smoothness and saturation at the cost of transparency and a minor but real loss of detail. Obviously that was the sound as delivered by a system, not just the LCD3. I suspected that some features of the system accumulated to where the final sound did not benefit. I loved the smoothness and richness but needed more transparency and detail. I was listening to one of the best cans in the world so I had a right to demand more.

Since I’d listened to the HiFiMan with my Lyr, I decided to use it again on the Audeze. This is a really nice powerful amplifier that delivers far better performance than price would indicate. Surely it was not the best possible fit for either HE-6 or LCD3 but it would be a constant in my comparison. It delivers up to 6 watts into 32Ω and whilst the sound of the Audeze with it wasn’t as sophisticated as with the Accuphase, it gained much in dynamics, energy and—this I found particularly interesting—transparency. There wasn’t the same fabulous richness or smoothness from the Accuphase and some details got lost in the background but others were more distinct than before. Now the sound was truly good and I could easily live with it were it not for this annoying little voice that kept dreaming of more. Since Schiit’s new Mjolnir  wasn't yet available I had to look for an even better amp.

The next choice of Burson HA-160D was pretty obvious. It’s in fact three devices in one – D/A converter, preamplifier and head amp. It is quite popular around the world and with Audeze fans as Burson and Audeze organized a tour of the LCD3 + HA-160D which sent this combo to six 6moons readers for user feedback. The Polish importer DC Components was kind enough to lend me a unit. This type of device has advantages like space savings. All you need to add is a laptop and cans for a complete system. The downside might be putting a few devices into one enclosure because you might not like all of them equally. Some compromises are inevitable when packaging such a multi-tasking component.

When I started to listen to the LCD3 with the Burson, I thought the sound a bit dull and slightly less spacious than before. This impression was constant regardless of source including quality players like the Ayon CD5s and Soulution 540 or a computer delivering signal via USB cable to a USB/coax converter like the Soulution 590, Stello U3 or Lampizator. I wasn't very happy so decided on something else. I’d use the Burson as just headphone amp with an external source of Soulution 540 and computer with the best USB/coax converters I knew (the Soulution 590 and TeddyDAC which I bought after its review). Even though the Audeze were much easier to drive than the HiFiMan I still found the high-gain output a better match. Now the sound opened up. It no longer was dull and the treble was clean and crisp. Finally there was nothing, not even a tiny bit of dullness that could distract me from enjoying the music.

The presentation was very fluid, dynamic, with powerful thunderous linear bass, a rich smooth colorful midrange and wonderful sweet crisp shiny treble. That confirmed my previous suspicion that the HA-160D was a very good head amp and preamp but a somewhat compromised converter. I admittedly confronted it with the TeddyDAC which alone costs more or less what the entire package from Oz demands so the comparison wasn't fair. Again  the Burson is not a poor DAC. No one can deny its musicality. It’s simply outclassed by the Teddy or Auralic MX+.