Full Disclosure - I may be biased by my lovely wife recently gifting me this custom-made wood and glass display case for my LCD2C. Still, I think EQ had a positive influence as well!
2 months ago I reviewed the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro in comparison to the Sennheiser HD 600 and the Audeze LCD2C. As a result of that review, I developed some impressions that stuck with me until recently:
I generally prefer the DT 1990 (EQ’d) as a good all-rounder
The LCD2C while fast on the transients has a wetness that hurts overall clarity and makes it suboptimal for orchestral and metal music. That wetness does make it very smooth and adds a euphony to certain music like choral works. Its tonality is warm bordering on dark but still natural sounding because of the smooth frequency response and not oppressively dark because of the bump in the treble.
The HD 600 is a solid set that nevertheless falls behind both the DT 1990 and the LCD2C because of more congested imaging on busy passages and muddier bass. Not mentioned in that review, I’ve since noticed a pervasive grain that makes it sound less smooth than the other two (especially the LCD2C) and despite being overall very neutral it suffers from a bit of extra energy in the low treble that can become sibilant (not extreme, but noticeable).
Well, recently I started getting more serious about EQ using my MiniDSP E.A.R.S. It occurred to me that I was a bit unfair to the LCD2C in that I EQ’ed the DT 1990 to correct their flawed treble response but didn’t really help out the LCD2C with similarly substantial EQ. I also didn’t bother to EQ the HD 600 at all both because it sounded so neutral to my ears and because of its reputation for neutrality.
As a result of my more intensive EQ efforts, the LCD2C now shares the top spot with the DT 1990 as my favorite pair of headphones and I’ve come to appreciate the following about EQ:
Unsurprisingly, EQ works well for modifying tonality and can be used to make any headphones sound “neutral”. In particular, taking a deliberate approach based on measurements of the specific pair of headphones seems to yield generally pleasing results.
Through conventional wisdom I had come to fear over-equalizing because of its impact on distortion. I couldn’t hear any such impact and my measurements of the LCD2C support what I heard. Please note that these measurements were taken at the average levels at which I listen, which are lower than the usual testing levels.
The objectionable aspects of the HD 600 and DT 1990’s treble response are completely resolved by EQ’ing them down.
What I heard as wetness in the LCD2C was actually a combination of real wetness (i.e. reverb) together with a dark tonality that added to my perception of thickness. Fixing the dark tonality with EQ significantly transformed my perception of this wetness to the point where I no longer think of the LCD2C as “too wet”. With this out of the way, I can properly appreciate its smoothness, speed, extended bass and overall very natural sound.
Congestion seems to be noticeably affected by frequency response. The LCD2C, which already separated quite well, has even better instrument separation when EQ’d. Equalizing the HD 600 helped clear up its congestion quite a bit too, though it still doesn’t surpass the other two in this regard. I suspect there’s just something fundamental to it that holds it back, though perhaps with more focused work on this aspect of their performance, I could make even further improvements with EQ.
The HD 600’s graininess was not particularly affected by EQ. Perhaps this is just fundamental to its sound, or perhaps the DT 1990’s lack of grain is due to a dip in the presence region?
The HD 600’s bass response isn’t particularly elevated and so didn’t need tonal correction, I think it just sounds a little muddier because of higher distortion, which I can’t fix with EQ. I did not try to elevate the sub-bass because I feel like the bass is already too muddy and adding more energy there doesn’t seem like a good thing.
The DT 1990 doesn’t sound good to me when matching the Harman response too closely. I don’t know if that’s due my bias of having known and liked it as a slightly trebly headphone in the past, or if the aggressiveness of the EQ required to make it fully neutral interferes too much with its fundamental behavior.
EQ’d, the LCD2C is simultaneously fast but smooth, detailed without being sharp, with deep, textured and punchy bass, a balanced and natural midrange and enough treble to sparkle and shimmer when required by the music, though without ever approaching fatiguing. It’s no soundstage monster, but since I’m addicted to crossfeed I hardly care. The imaging and separation though is very good (though still a tad behind the DT 1990). Like the DT 1990, the EQ’d LCD2C sounds excellent with well mastered music but more than the DT 1990 it maintains its pre-EQ ability to make poor recordings sound good too. I’m very pleased!
LCD2C EQ Specifics
The EQ settings for the LCD2C ended up being very simple, just two peak/dip filters.
- -2.4dB at 766Hz with Q=1
- +6.4dB at 4045Hz with Q=1
The notch filter at 766Hz turns down the fullness of the LCD2C’s sound a bit which I generally like, but when I want a little fuller sound I can just toggle this filter off.
The peak filter at 4kHz fills in the upper mids and lower treble even out the overall response, which gets rid of the darkness and brings the LCD2C in line with the HD 600’s neutrality.