All of us simply can’t wait for the shoot-out comparing the two. Well, that opportunity came sooner than I expected. Last weekend we had a mini meet at the Headfonia office, and although the dynamic kings, the HD800 and the T1 were present, all eyes were directed at the planars.
Without much delay, here are what I gathered from that meet:
Both planars are very well tuned, and the frequency balance are very good for both of them. The LCD-2 was darker, the HE-6 was less dark. Treble lovers may have a hard time adjusting to the LCD-2 as they have had with the Omega 2, while the HE-6 has better treble levels, though still quite far from bright.
There is no doubt that the treble of the HE-6 is the better one. Truly and easily the best treble sound I’ve heard, and that includes all the big heavyweight full sizes. There was no debate here, everyone agrees that the HE-6 had the treble to die for. It was clear and clean, with very minimal sibilance level. In a way not as extended as the HD800, but still more extension than the LCD-2 and the roll off point is quite high that it’s not going to be an issue with most people. How they created a treble like this is beyond me. The Beyerdynamic T1 is another headphone that has a great treble, but it just doen’t reach up to the level of the HE-6. It was clear and clean and so effortless. Almost as effortless as the Omega 2 Stax, but much clearer sounding.
The midrange is fairly debatable, although on the Zana + Beta22 set up, I did prefer the HE-6 midrange as it has a better presence, sounds fuller, and yet again sounds clearer. The LCD-2’s midrange is a little less present, was darker and had less clarity. But I won’t draw the conclusion yet as different amplifiers can change the final outcome.
The powerful bass beats of the LCD-2 won the heart of everybody. It hit hard, and it hit low. I really can’t think of another headphone that hits bass as hard, as tight, and as low as the LCD-2’s. The HE-6 had a good bass, but its punch was mostly in the upper-mid, and didn’t go as low as the LCD-2’s. The LCD-2’s bass is just awesome for heavy bass stuff like Incubus and Prodigy, while the HE-6 won’t quite cut it. For classical, however, the HE-6’s bass is better as it has a better extension, where the LCD-2’s low frequency cut off is more obvious.
(there above paragraph is a bit confusing and misleading, please read the comments section here for clarification)
On soundstage, the LCD-2 is clearly better although it sounded more closed than the HE-6. The LCD-2 had a proper imaging presentation, good depth, and a more accurate positioning. The HE-6 was more open sounding, but lacked the center soundstage focus and positioning. It had a great instrument separation, but the lay out of the soundstage is quite all over the place and not too accurate.
The last time I compared the LCD-2 was with the Stax Omega 2. Back then, I didn’t notice the frequency roll off of the LCD-2 and the lack of low level details. This time, against the HE-6, I simply can’t ignore the differences in low level details and frequency extension. As I listen to Classical symphonies heavily, these factors bothers me a lot. The LCD-2 also had reverb issues that I heard coming from the midrange to midbass frequencies, while the HE-6 was completely clean of those reverbs. However, I’m aware that the issues I outlines will be more of an issue to Jazz and Classical music listeners, and less for other genres. On the other hand, the more powerful bass of the LCD-2 is going to win a lot of Rock and Electronica fans, and the darker sound will also pair with bright recordings better.
Ergonomics wise, I liked the leather pads on the LCD-2 as it is more friendly to the skin. The LCD-2 also seals and fits better, but it also causes my skin to sweat faster. The HE-6’s pads are less comfortable, but it seals less and less sweating for long listening sessions. I didn’t weigh the two headphones, but the LCD-2 with the more powerful clamping force felt heavier on my head.
The LCD-2 was definitely much easier to drive than the HE-6. I tested it briefly on the Zana Deux, and the Zana was able to drive it without any problems, although I didn’t test it with bass heavy set-ups. The HE-6 is much tougher, though with good entry level amps like the M-Stage and the EF-5, it shouldn’t be that big of an issue.
In comparison to dynamic kings, the planars clearly fall short on many technicalities (except transients). However, while the HD800 and the T1 can be likened to automobiles like the McLaren F1 and Ferrari Enzo, the planars were more like a Corvette and a 911. You can take a Corvette and have fun with it on regular roads, where the F1 and the Enzo needs a proper road, supporting crew, a good skilled driver before you can see their true potential. Likewise, the Planars had the sound signature that works well with the majority of music, and it can still be enjoyed on lesser set-ups, while the Dynamic kings require a truly proper set up to shine, and even then it still doesn’t have the genre bandwith of the Planars.
Between the two planars, it’s hard to say which is the better headphone. Both have their own strengths and weaknesses, and both have a very good signature that will cover a lot of genres. If I need to choose just one, I think the LCD-2 carries the PRaT a little better for aggressive music, where the HE-6 have a better refinement for medium to slow-paced music. But again, both headphones have pretty identical genre bandwith, and it’s not like you can’t use the HE-6 for aggressive music, or the LCD-2 with Jazz. The HE-6 has a better treble that’ll let you hear instruments better, but the LCD-2 has a better low bass. Both are first class headphones. The HE-6 has an issue with the center soundstage, but some pairings like the EF-5, the M-Stage, and the TK2350 T-amp fixes that issue pretty well. What I can say is, don’t blame me for making the choice so hard. Buy both and sell the one you don’t like later.
Big thanks to calico for bringing the LCD-2.
Set up used for impressions:
Source: Onkyo ND-S1, Grace m902.
Amplifiers: Zana Deux (preamp stage), Beta22 (power).