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The Zenith of Headphone Planar Technology and Headamp Design from Audeze: World Premiere Reviews of LCD24 Headphones and King 2 Amplifier

08-01-2019 | By Robert H. Levi | Issue 104

audeze lcd24 headphones

As an audiophile and headphone aficionado for over half a century, I was only aware of two ways headphones could be operated until 2008:dynamic headphones and electrostatic headphones. Grado, Beyer, Sennheiser, and Sony owned most of the market share of dynamic cans, while Stax and Koss produced electrostatic models. Headamps dedicated to either format was up to the provider of the cans, or merely a convenient quarter-inch phone jack in your preamp, tuner, or tape player. You would be shocked by the poor quality of the cans in use in recording studios in the last century. When Telarc decided to set up full-range monitors in their remote recording venues back in 1977 and forget about headphones, I was delighted. That is one major reason their recordings sounded more realistic and musical than anyone else except Sheffield in the last quarter of the century.

Then in 2008, Audeze was formed and planar technology was applied to the manufacturing of the headphones. To quote Dr. Dragoslav Colich: 

"Audeze's origin goes back to 2008 when Dragoslav Colich, aka Dr. C, met with Pete Uka, whose flex circuit manufacturing company was a supplier of diaphragms for large planar magnetic transducers. Dr. C was CTO. Pete introduced two more people to promote the Planar Magnetic Technology developed by Dr. C. A partnership was formed. Mr. Uka would manufacture diaphragms while Dr. C as a CTO would adapt his expertise in Planar Magnetic designs and manufacture headphones through his own company - Dragonfire Acoustics. Alex Rosson was appointed CEO while 4th member, Sankar, became COO of Audeze. Both were also doing sales and marketing. Soon after forming Audeze, the LCD1 was created, with a great market success. The LCD2 followed as a new benchmark for sound quality and accuracy; then later came the sophisticated LCD3, LCDX and LCD-XC. Alex is no longer working for Audeze but still remains a shareholder.

Initial diaphragm material provided by Pete Uka was replaced with new space-edge film technology (originally developed for NASA for space applications) and new Laser Etching technology for creating diaphragms circuits was developed. Along this development, Audeze has joined forces with the Warner Music Group, and a new company with the same name of Audeze was formed, where Dr. C, Alex, and Sankar were employed full time. Manufacturing was transferred from Dragonfire Acoustics to the new Audeze.

Implementing new materials, diaphragm manufacturing processes and Dr.C’s Fluxor Magnet technology has propelled the sound quality of headphone designs to a new level, culminating with the advanced LCD-4, i-4 and, now, the LCD-24."

I spent ALL of my time with Dr. Dragoslav Colich, known as Dr. C. to the industry at large, who is the scientist that is, as far as I am concerned, the engineer responsible for modern planar headphones. He is brilliant, articulate, friendly, and never stops creating improvements in definition, tweaks, styles, and applications which give the user the gift of live music. His LCD-X Cans have been in my arsenal for five years and his latest LCD4 and LCD4Z amaze all who hear them, even on portable DAPs.

The Planar Technology utilizes the entire diaphragm to produce all frequencies of music simultaneously with powerful specialized magnets moving a space-age film only about 1.5 microns thick. It is as fast as electrostatics, dynamic as dynamic drivers, and almost distortion-free. 

The Open Back LCD24

The goals are to refine and improve the LCD4 by reducing the weight and the number of magnets, thereby opening up more diaphragm area for music. As a result, speed is increased, dynamics increase, and distortion is lowered. Transparency is improved, and neutrality is enhanced. Comfort is enhanced, too.

The resulting LCD24 is slightly less efficient, but ran easily on every DAP I could try. Though still similar overall, the advantages of the LCD24 are apparent. Compared to my LCD-X, the LCD24 is superior in every parameter. Think 2D versus 3D. Think Stax 009 with added dynamic punch, power, and authority. Think iTunes versus Qobuz. The LCD24 is a breakthrough in headphone realism, clarity, definition, and spatial cues. 

LCD24 Specifications

  • Style: Over-ear, open-back
  • Transducer type: Planar magnetic
  • Magnetic structure: Proprietary magnet array
  • Phase management: FAZOR
  • Magnet type: Neodymium N50
  • Diaphragm type: Nano-scale Uniforce™
  • Transducer size: 106 mm
  • Max power handling: 5W RMS
  • Max SPL: >130dB
  • Frequency response: 5Hz – 50kHz
  • THD: <0.1% @ 100dB
  • Impedance: 15 ohms
  • Sensitivity: 98 dB/1mW (at Drum Reference Point)
  • Min power requirement: >100mW
  • Recommended power: >250mW

Note the very low impedance of the LCD24 and easy to drive low power output level needed to enjoy these. The impedance is about a quarter to one half of the impedance of any other top planar models I could find or research. The LCD24 is easier to drive, lowers headamp distortion, and maximizes definition as a result. I find specifications in headphone measurement actually matter in their real-world use. The LCD24 is a breakthrough design.

Audeze is producing limited numbers of the LCD24 so they will NOT be available through dealers. You must buy direct from Audeze.

Do not fret, my friends, Audeze will take good care of you! Right now, LCD24 Headphones including the unique Audeze developed oxygen-free silver-clad copper cable will cost $3500! Here is a manufacturer who truly cares about our hobby and its customers. 


I tried my Stax 009 Headphones in direct comparison with the LCD24. Though very smooth and detailed, the 009's were surprisingly thin and polite on the same material. Every audiophile who compared these two pointed this out. Whether LP, CD, SACD, or Qobuz, the results were the same. The LCD24 is more exciting, powerful, and delicate, with more color and blood than the 009. The surprise in this comparison was how smooth and delicate the LCD24 could become with sympatico material. You hear zero clunkiness and lumpiness with the LCD24, almost as if these cans are some new way to produce music not previously available. No other planar cans known to me at present can duplicate the overall performance of the LCD24. 

In addition to doing everything the 009 cans do with more intensity and textural color, there is no real performance comparison below 500Hz. The LCD24 fill in the heart of the music in these lower frequencies. The power and majesty of the symphony, big band, and bass drum come to life and occupy real space with the LCD24. The 009, while sounding most pleasant and detailed, is not up to dynamics and excitement of the task.

I hesitate to list all the cans I compared to the LCD24, as my system variables made some cans smother or more dynamic than might otherwise prove true in your system. Example: The unique Manley Labs Absolute Headphone Amp allows the user to tailor cans to perform any way you like. I was able to make the Sennheiser HD800, Grado PS2000e, Final Sonorous X, and HIFIMAN HE1000se perform in amazing and realistic ways with the Absolute. The Manley minimized the differences while maximizing performance. This tells you how important the selection of a headamp has become.

Through my reference EAR HP4 Tube Headamp, which I consider to be the current state of the art, the LCD24 Headphones were fantastic! Uncolored, unrestrained, and with limitless definition, the LCD24 was magical and mellifluous. The state of the art powered by the state of the art in my book. The EAR HP4 is not the only state of the art headamp design, however. More on that later.

With my Berning MicroZotl2 Headamp, the elegance of the LCD24 bloomed significantly. I had no idea a planar can could perform like this, but surprise! Its greater efficiency, compliments of Dr. C, bring the LCD24 to full majesty, even with less than powerful sources. With only one-watt tube output, bass slam on the LCD24 was a knockout!

The Astell & Kern &ultima SP1000 ran the piss out of the LCD24, and was exciting and musical. My Double DSD recordings were most believable and romantic. Air and space were greater than I remembered on other cans. That slight mechanical sound of the SP1000 was minimized by the LCD24, which was a very good thing. The more efficient the cans, the less hard the output stages in these DAPs have to work.

As far as I can tell, as have the cavalcade of audiophiles who have joined me to grade these beauties, the LCD24 is new, special, and a stand-alone design resulting from at least four previous generations of Audeze designs. Though I am certain Dr. C will not stop here and accept the laurel wreath for his current success, the LCD24 is the leader of a very small pack of timeless headphone designs.

The King2 Headphone Amplifier

The LCD24 presented a problem. Maximizing them at a realistic price point is difficult based on the products on the market today, particularly tube headamps. Audeze had a $4500 price point in mind, all or partially tube-based. Enter Bascomb King, one of America's top designers of tube and solid-state gear, and now a consultant to Audeze. After the very fine effort of the hybrid King Amplifier comes the King 2, a revised and perfected hybrid design, perfect for the LCD24. At $4500, it is a fantastic bargain and musical masterpiece. 

According to Audeze

"The King was designed exclusively for Audeze by legendary circuit builder Bascom King. It’s a two-stage hybrid design featuring a pair of twin-triode E88CCs input tubes, a differential P-MOSFET driver, and MOSFET output devices. The King uses N channel MOSFETs that allow perfect device matching that yields faster response times. The amplifier exhibits low impedance, low distortion, and wide frequency response along with its 20 watts of music power (at 8 Ohms), characteristics that create a breathtakingly spacious and emotional listening experience." 

Go here for the whole story and pictures: https://www.audeze.com/products/amplifiers/king-mkii.

Note: the picture of the inside of the box with the man's hand on the front looks nothing like the actual gorgeously finished King 2 design with horizontally mounted tubes.

The King 2 will power two headphones simultaneously without strain or any mechanical noise, whatsoever. The unit performs precisely the same with one or two pair of cans attached. It is a construction tour de force. The 6922 JJ Premium gold pin tubes supplied, matched, and tweaked to the circuit, could not be improved upon by just dropping in NOS hyper-expensive pairs. The perfection of this design is to use the best of current tube technology and dial out the artifacts. I accidentally reversed the supplied tubes while tube rolling and got hum on the left channel. After trying all the usual fixes, I simply reversed the matched tubes, and all was silent again. Now that is new.

Compared to my reference EAR HP4 Headamp, differences in the King 2 performance, with identical cables and sources and with volumes matched, was very hard to distinguish with the LCD24 or any of my reference cans. I noticed a slight rounding of the edges in the mids and highs enhancing musicality with the EAR and a slight increase of clarity and airiness with the King 2. The bass took on small changes in character, deeper and more detailed with the King 2, while being richer and weightier with the EAR. I could live with either presentation. 

The King 2 has balanced and single-ended inputs, but is not a true balanced design. Consequently, you need not worry about that connectivity issue and single-ended operation is perfect. It was sensitive to power cord selection. I found the Kubala-Sosna Emotion and Elation power cables to work brilliantly. The UITaudio Power Cord was superb and a touch quieter, I think. The Cardas Clear Beyond XL PC was outstanding and smooth. 

Balanced interconnects included the wonderful new Cardas Clear Beyond Cables and the excellent UITaudio cables. Single-ended cables included the Kubala-Sosna Emotion Cables and the UITaudio Cables. Also used were the WyWires Gold balanced interconnects with their wide-open sound staging and low noise.

I could not detect any microphonics in The King 2 amp design, so placement should be irrelevant. I did detect a small improvement in airiness in the highs of the King 2 if you remove the top plate and leave it off. ARC gear is famous for this. Every one of my audiophile buds heard it, so why not leave it off?

The large horizontal output indicator on the front panel is a cool light show. For me, it is irrelevant and too hard to read. Nothing really beats an analog meter. In homage to the 21st Century, it is appropriately Tesla-like.



With designers, David Berning, EveAnna Manley, Tim de Paravicini and now Bascomb King doing brilliant work in powering headphones, the convergence of personal listening and two-channel high-end audio is in full swing. The old-style cans based solely on detail and loudness are now fully replaced by those based on musicality and definition. Dr. C insisted tubes are included in Audeze's all-out assault on the state of the art in headamps, and he is to be applauded for this and more. John Grado personally attended CanJam in LA, and remains fully committed to improving and perfecting his creations. All of the great audiophile houses designing for two-channel are pushing major resources at personal listening and its many variants. What great fun for us!


Audeze's LCD24 Headphones and King 2 Headphone Amplifier are a spectacular and superbly matched personal listening pairing. Fully state of the art together or separately, acquire them together and you are done. The LCD24 explodes with musical authority with only a few hundred milli-watts of power. The King 2 will power all headphone efficiencies and all impedance's of all non-electrostatic headphone models, with elegance and ease. If you currently own Audeze cans and want to upgrade to the best of the best, the current opportunity to buy the LCD24 direct from Audeze and save money is extremely attractive. Congratulations to Audeze for developing the decade's top benchmarks for neutrality and definition of real music in your home or on the go.

Most highly recommended!

LCD24 Headphones 

Retail: $3500; sold direct from Audeze, and includes travel case and audiophile cable. May be ordered with any termination you desire. Standard is stereo quarter inch phone plug.

King 2 Headphone Amplifier

Retail: $4500


3412 S. Susan St, Santa Ana

California 92704, USA