Audeze is known for bass quality. It is kind of a staple in the audio community that the term’s bass and Audeze go hand in hand. Yet, in this case, I feel like justice was not done in a quantity sense of the word and that is more than understandable here.
Why? The MX4 is a monitor headphone and not one intended for bloom or exaggeration. This is a studio engineer’s headphone, an attempt to seize critical response as per the track you are listening to. In that regard, the bass quantities of these types of headphones generally are modest at best.
Here, the MX4 showcases a lacking depth and sense of broadness that I am familiar with on the inside of pretty much all of the other LCD models of the past. It wasn’t until the LCD-X was released that I felt like the bass quantity of an Audeze model took a hit and swap for critical response. And that is just fine. No points are being taken away in that regard.
It is just that for very bassy tracks, typically found in Dubstep, R&B and even the more lucid and slow house beats that I am fond of (nothing more than a slow drum beam with extremely deep bass that is soft and soothing) that this headphone lacks in. For pretty much any other genre selection type that isn’t bass focused, the LCD-MX4 will sound very pure. Yes, this is for purists. Quality is extremely clean and almost liquid-like. For the price, it is among of the best and most clean feeling lower regions I’ve heard since the older Stax 007 MK1.
Bass Dynamic Impact
Unfortunately, with a purist tonality and setup comes a bit of a kick factor in terms of ‘wince’ and shoulder shrugging dynamism. The MX4 can slam a bit too rough if the track calls for it, so be careful with volume needs on tracks that aren’t recording so nicely, or if the track just happens to be showcase excessively hard piano key strikes, or drum high hat crashes.
Also, I’d avoid very bad Dubstep with this model, due to poor sounding bass quality trackside that also slams harshly. All of that will be relayed with solid force to your ear through the more purists transfer of tonality in the LCD-MX4. Most critical listening headphones, most accurate headphones for that matter, seem to perform this feat the same way: harsh track dynamic impact will be harsh on you as a listener. So if you are prone to wince and want a softer appeal to the entire presentation, this headphone isn’t for you.
If you need that in your mixing or prefer to feel that in your music listening sessions, then this is a wise choice. It will relay that dynamic kick factor fairly well and show you if the track is harsh, or soft on slam factor.
Along with excellent low end, Audeze is also known for lush midrange experiences. Again, in this case, the MX4 is more of a purists view of that and not one that I would consider of a musical flare. The accurate and critical view is the opposite of what I enjoyed about the LCD-2 and the LCD-3 pre-Fazor editions.
Subjectively, I enjoy thick and meaty midrange with a soft approach. The MX4 is the opposite of that and set up for purists. In turn, the experience feels quite raw. Voices and specific mid-centered instruments feel like they are lacking body and definition to someone who wants more heft and weight to the entire spectrum. That tonal-density factor on a purist headphone general is of a thinner appeal overall.
It isn’t a bad thing. A lot of people love the Sennheiser HD800’s tonality as a purist headphone. So too, I think those types of preferences will be satisfied here in the MX4 also. Specific and well-recorded vocalist tracks sound very intimate. Although, the MX4 is not quite as forward feeling as I thought it would be.
There are some mixing and monitoring Plugins for an array of PC and Mac software, such as Foobar2000 and Jriver. They did help with the midrange forwardness in what it was capable of when using those apps. But, on a stock and 0 EQ that is totally flat or even disabled, the LCD-MX4 feels more moderately placed in terms of vocal presentation. It is a bit relaxed in that regard. Quality, of course, is sublime and immense pure feeling.
To date, I think this MX4 is the most prominently expressed treble response headphone in Audeze’s arsenal. Expect solid bite and brightness up top when the track really calls for it.
There is a massive difference between what is presented in quantity in this MX4 vs any of the older LCD incarnations of the past. I don’t feel the MX4 to be lacking treble quantity, nor do I feel it to be even remotely a dark sounding headphone. In fact, the opposite is true. I thought the treble was the most prolific quality of the headphone which is the first time I’ve said such a thing about an Audeze headphone.
Plentiful, and on the upper end of moderate in terms of quantity potential are qualities I want to hear in a purists headphone like this. What I am enjoying is that it doesn’t slam as hard as I thought it would and that dynamic kick and slam factor isn’t a problem until the track is just horrendously impacting, to begin with. The MX4 feels on the bright side, at least most of the time. So too, it becomes just a bit fatiguing over a short period of time.
Quality, again, is very good and interesting to listen to when the track is also offering something with a little bite and zing to it. Although quality is very good, I wouldn’t rate it excellent. I feel like Zach ZMF Auteur is equally as good, but in a different manner than the MX4 in the treble end of the spectrum. Where purity reigns supreme in the Audeze, with more brightness, the Auteur at $1599 offers noticeably more substance factor, density, and solidity, but all without any hint of fatigue.
The positive side of that comparison? Outside of all of the headphones I own, the Auteur was the only one that was on the MX4’s level anywhere outside of staging qualities. Audeze has a very good sounding treble headphone here, I’m happy with it.
Staging and Imaging
The LCD-MX4 is still an Audeze here and despite Audeze purposely altering staging to feel more room-like, by their own words, the headphone still feels like an Audeze in terms of stereo imaging prowess.
True, the treble lends a hand to airiness factor and that is certainly improving some of that fluff and air to the void your ears pick up on. But, the width factor is still a problem. The depth of field is excellent, as it generally is with an Audeze Planar.
Stage-forward is never a problem. Stage-right and stage-left are a problem and the midrange lacking forwardness and intimacy do not help with that sense my ears are picking up on. Is this a problem? Well, yes. If sound staging property is your thing, then this is also not for you. Grab an HD800 instead from Sennheiser. The LCD-MX4 lacks width factor and I really want Audeze to evolve their sound signature and step it up in the imaging department.
To date, it is the only area that they’ve not improved enough on in their products. From quality to build and comfort, accessories, and even design, everything but stage width and vastness were addressed. And I feel like that is because Audeze’s are generally intimate and midrange/bass focused products.
In this case, the MX4 isn’t really midrange focused and has a less meaty feeling lower and middle field response than the previous models. That becomes an issue for anyone looking for more vastness to the image. Is it better than the LCD3 and last generation in terms of that? Yes. It sounds a bit wider and more open than an LCD3. But, still not something I would consider at all suited for someone who wants that dynamic space in the void.
Substance and Planar Vibes
When I think “planar,” I think most of us get a sense of physical tactility and density factor that comes along with most of the planar drivers out there. They simply feel a different texture and substance than most Dynamic or Electrostatic headphones that exist. I expected more substance and heft to the entire spectrum on the LCD-MX4, but it feels a lot like the LCD-X in that regard and not the LCD-4, which I know to be more physically prolific and imposing in that regard.
Density factor, that thickness and weighted feeling that comes with most Planar drivers, is not so prominent in the MX4. True, it is still there, of course. But, when considering the price and the purposeful meshing of the X and the LCD-4 by Audeze, I would expect the best of both worlds to be present in this MX4.
Sadly, Audeze opted for the less dense feeling than the LCD-X’s presentation and tonality type. That, again, is not a bad thing. It only means that if you like that Planar vibe and substance of the older series models and the more expensive LCD-4, then this is something you might not enjoy as much. If you liked the LCD-X, you’ll like this. I’ve no doubt on that sentiment.
Planar substance factor isn’t near $3,000 level for me and I’d expect more density factor and physical density from top to bottom than what I am hearing. Even with my Airist Audio Heron 5, a solid state amp known for excellent density factor, the MX4 still feels overly lacking by comparison to something like my ZMF Auteur, which isn’t even a Planar.
I am spoiled by excellent physicality factor lately. But, for $2995USD, and knowing this is a planar model, the MX4 simply needs to sound of a higher heft factor. Try not to take that as the headphone sounds thin. It certainly does not. It is well within what a planar generally sounds like. It just feels like the price to performance ratio of physicality to price is a bit off. If they do issue another model that is similar to a purist listening experience, I still want more physical density factor and more of a strong sense of a planar vibe.
The MX4 is 20Ω. It runs fantastic right off my iPhone SE and honestly, I do not feel it to be underpowered. I don’t really feel like anything changed much in the way of performance, at least, outside of realism factor and perhaps low-end quality. Midrange and treble seemed unaffected in the comparisons of my good portable players vs some of my nicer upper-middle tier amplifiers. That is a wonderful thing.
You can run directly off a good portable source and not need much else. Yes, there is a step up to Summit level amplifiers, such as my Feliks Audio Euphoria tube amp, but in this case, I felt like tube amps made it sound a bit too raw up top in the treble areas.
My solid state Heron 5 was my amplifier of choice for home rig needs. Without critical listening on the brain, I always use my Heron 5 amp which is sourced by an Oppo 205 DAC and Foobar2000 WASAPI output.
For critical listening, I swap some of my warmer and fun tubes out of my Euphoria and drop in neutral feeling tubes. When they happen, the MX4 can really showcase flaws in the track and is more prone to bad recording static. That is exactly what engineers would want. When the track is exceptionally well recorded, the critical purist in me is immensely satisfied.
Bottom line, you don’t need much power to drive the LCD-MX4 well. A solid portable player is really all you need there. You’ll benefit from excellent quality amplifier sound traits and not the driving force behind it. I’d recommend you stick with a good solid-state amplifier so you are less likely to hear the generally sweet tonality of specific tube amplifiers out there. Unless you want to impost exaggeration into the MX4 like I do, on a subjective level and for personal enjoyment.
Audeze stunned me with the MX4’s excellent treble response, I truly did not expect it and that was a refreshing taste to my ear. I need Audeze to start improving sound staging and imaging as soon as possible. They’ve proven they can up the quality game everywhere else. Let’s shoot for the first true competition to an HD800 in imaging and from Audeze in a Planar! That is my wish for the next flagship from Audeze.
Beyond that, the comforts of Audeze are all improved and from a purists perspective, the LCD-MX4 is a solid choice for a mixer in the studio. It is a very pure and clean experience that can be harsh when the track calls for it, or exceptionally smooth when the track is recorded as such. It is a real hit and miss for critical listening, but that is how it is supposed to be I guess. From an engineers needy point of view, the MX4 will suit you very well. I’d worry about weight and clamp pressure over time though if I were sitting in a booth for 12 hours a day wearing this headphone.
Audeze has done well with this model. It really does feel like a hybrid LCD-4/X fusion with some qualities of both. Musicality chasers won’t enjoy this. However, purists and critical listeners will. The tonality of the headphone is hyper-pure and very clean feeling. If anything, I’d want more bass depth and response when things are very low on the track. Perhaps, also, more imaging properties. Good job, Audeze. I’m not a purist and I still enjoyed the MX4 and all it has to offer.
- Over-ear, open-back
- Transducer type Planar magnetic
- Magnetic structure Double Fluxor™ magnet array
- Phase management N/A
- Magnet type Neodymium N50
- Diaphragm type Ultra-thin Uniforce™
- Transducer size 106 mm
- Maximum power handling 15W
- Maximum SPL >130dB
- Frequency response 10Hz – 50kHz
- THD <0.1% @ 100dB
- Impedance 20 ohms
- Sensitivity 105 dB/1mW (at Drum Reference Point)
- Minimum power requirement >100mW
- Recommended power level 1 – 4W