Audeze launched their LCD-4 open-back planar magnetic headphones recently which is their statement headphone for summit-fi priced at $3995.
Disclaimer: The Audeze LCD-4 sent to us is a sample in exchange for our honest opinion. We thank the team at Audeze for giving us this opportunity.
To read more about Audeze products we have reviewed on Headfonics click here.
I found that the LCD-4 is a top-notch performer in the high-end headphone pool today. Its bass is unmatched with its deep, flat, and extended qualities that are very difficult to find in any other headphones.
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Ever since the conception of the LCD-1 in 2009, Audeze has been a chief player in the audiophile headphone market today. Audeze specializes in planar magnetic headphones much like Hifiman and MrSpeakers.
Planar magnetic or planars are known for their excellent bass control and speed, which makes music appreciation very much satisfying and pleasurable. The signature LCD look with the perfect marriage of metal, leather, and wood makes the LCD-4 reminiscent of its predecessors while offering a wholly new definition of luxury in the finest way possible.
Planar magnetic headphones are composed of printed diaphragm circuits with magnetic arrays that hold a magnetic field parallel to the diaphragm. Feeding a signal to this circuit allows a magnetic force to move the diaphragm back and forth to produce sound.
Due to the magnetic force going evenly to the diaphragm surface equally, planars allow for faster and accurate response to the signal than conventional dynamic headphones which move through a voice coil. With the lightweight diaphragm, lower distortion can be achieved along with longer-lasting sound durability with less moving parts compared to other headphones.
Audeze offers its flagship, the LCD-4, as the outcome of 40 years of planar magnetic technology advancements with their own research since 2009. It uses a nano-scale diaphragm with Audeze’s patented Double Fluxor Magnet Arrays that are unique to the planar offerings in the world of headphones today.
The diaphragm material originated from NASA which gave Audeze the ability to produce a strong, lightweight and resilient film that could withstand harsh conditions. The outcome of using this thin diaphragm allows quick response time which gives the headphone extended, flat and precise bass response.
The magnets used in the headphone allow for very strong magnetic flux, rated at 1.5 Tesla which holds the record for the most powerful open magnetic circuit. This also means greater control for the diaphragm with the minimum amount of distortion.
In addition to this, the LCD-4 is also equipped with Audeze’s Fazor technology that guides sound waves to reduce resonance and distortion leading to a more accurate waveform, better high-frequency extension, phase response, and imaging.
The headphones are also conscientiously crafted with the use of 30-year old Macassar Ebony wood rings, that are very smooth to the touch when finished. Previous offerings have featured cocobolo and mahogany wood which are sometimes available for purchase at very limited amounts. The headphone also sports a very sleek and lightweight carbon fiber headband design, with pads that hold a very supple leather texture. The LCD-4 has chrome disc plates, that give a reflective surface.
The headphone comes in a heavy-duty case with Audeze’s logo at the front. Inside, the foam is custom cut to accommodate the headphones, cable and warranty card. There are white gloves provided to ensure proper handling of the headphone.
The LCD-4’s plate is also redesigned with a chrome finish, unlike its older counterparts that have a powder-coated finish on the discs. This can be prone to fingerprints although the white gloves provided do ensure minimal smears on the chrome surface. Along with the plate, the headband has also been changed with a carbon-fiber structure to guarantee maximum comfort.
There is an ongoing notion that the Audeze LCD series are amongst the heaviest headphones available today. Their old designs used rubber, foam, and lambskin leather as headbands which produced hotspots on the head with extended periods of use.
With the LCD-4 sporting the third iteration of the headband, it can be best said that comfort has improved as well. Deviating from lambskin or microsuede (leather-free) leather used by its lower counterparts, the carbon fiber headband improves on weight distribution while still becoming a lightweight material in itself.
The new headband uses carbon fiber with leather and fabric lining that improves from the old model which used heat-treated spring steel with foam. The pads are flexible and soft that give the user a proper seal without feeling too much clamping.
After owning several Audeze LCD headphones in the past, I found that comfort and posture are directly related to each other to ensure comfort for extended amounts of listening. Slouching or moving one’s head down puts a strain on the cervical part of the vertebrae which can be very painful even with 30 minutes of use.
The LCD-4 is known to range from dark to warm, depending on the year’s revision. The variance of the LCD-4 is most obvious in the treble region as some headphones may have extreme elevation in some frequencies compared to identical models. Though overall, the LCD-4 does have a signature soundstage that gives its iconic status.
It is a headphone that does bass surprisingly well with a presence that is unmatched by any other headphone. The sense of weight and prominence of each note gives the LCD-4 a very immersive experience that is hard to come by. Its midrange can be as smooth as the LCD-3 though it lacks the effortless evenness on the midrange-treble transition. I think the LCD-4 can be said as a more resolute version of the LCD-3 as well, at the expense of the LCD-3’s ability to be more intimate and euphonic due to its overall smoother qualities.
This becomes the strongest suit pertaining to the LCD-4’s entire showcase. Extension and technicality of its bass profile are surely world-class that it is difficult to find fault in how Audeze produces bass. This can even apply to the most badly mastered songs as it is able to salvage what is left in these tracks when it comes to bass response. It can extend deep when it is needed and it also presents itself quite well that each song sounds as engaging as it was intended to.
Genres like Electrofunk, House, Drum, and Bass, all become alive with these headphones with how bass-filled they are. To sum, the LCD-4 definitely has one of the most satisfying sound signatures out there when it comes to “fun” genres like Pop or Electronic Dance Music (EDM). These genres give the listener a good understanding of what Audeze’s lineup is all about while definitely being regarded as a non-neutral, forgiving headphone in their collection.
The midrange of the LCD-4 is perhaps the LCD-4’s weakness as it may be slightly recessed by other people’s standards. This makes the LCD-4 closed in for some, although due to the driver variations, it is a very difficult issue to assess. There are also rumored annual silent revisions of the LCD series, although Audeze had been publicly announced in the past stating that the LCD-4 in headphones can be tuned to these updated frequency responses free of charge from the company. This does give users the incentive of getting the LCD-4 for future-proofing purposes.
Overall, despite the flaw in the midrange, this headphone exhibits decent imaging with a believable soundstage. The added weight in each note makes the LCD-4 a one-of-a-kind headphone that gives the advantage of having decent micro-detail and definition of a high-end headphone on top of having actual texture and body in the music. There is a lack of air that is present to more open headphones but the headphone does not sound closed in any way.
The treble is perhaps the greatest improvement of the LCD-4 over all the other LCD series models. There is a good balance between treble, midrange, and bass that makes the LCD-4 what it is, but it is still not as clean or controlled as headphone models from other manufacturers. There can be treble distortion depending on the revision as some may be better than others, although it is not as severe as some of the LCD-2, 3, or X’s that I have heard.
Owning several headphones, I think the way the music is presented with Audeze is very different from how brands like Sennheiser or Beyerdynamic do it. When switching from one headphone to the LCD-4, the listener may think that the headphone may sound a little off and this has been my experience as well. With this in mind, I think there is a broad generalization that should be said, the LCD lineup requires someone to listen to for a couple of songs as you get acquainted with it.
The LCD-4 is perhaps one of the most demanding headphones out there when it comes to peak performance and power. Its high impedance of 200 ohms coupled with the 97dB efficiency implies that a high output amplifier must be used. Having this prerequisite makes the LCD-4’s amplifier choice pairing a bit constricting although it can be very beneficial once the appropriate pairing is discovered.
Out of personal experience, headphone amplifiers from Schiit have paired quite well with the LCD series along with HiFiMan planars. The LCD-4 may not be the most revealing headphone out there though it does benefit from a good source pairing like any other high-end can. Added power on the LCD-4 allows improvement in overall control which translates to more responsive bass, smoother mid-range and less darkness in the treble region.
The HD800 is the perfect companion to the LCD line-up and the LCD-4 is no exception. With modifications like the Super DuPont mod, the HD800’s treble can satisfy the imperfection that the LCD-4 may have. Besides this, the HD800 excels mostly in micro detail and air that may not be present in the LCD-4.
Like the LCD-4, the HD800 also benefits from high wattage amplifiers while being a revealing headphone as a tool for source assessment. It is perhaps one of the most polar opposites of the LCD-4 as it especially lacks body and presence despite having apparent depth due to its immersive soundstage.
The SR-007 is definitely a unique headphone as it has actual bass for a STAX offering. The main difference is that STAX may have the bass impact but no actual body or soundstage placement, which can make it sound a bit too unnatural for certain individuals. The SR-007 also requires a separate amplifier on top of its steep price tag which can make it high priced after amplifier choice is considered.
While I find the SR-007 being a headphone that is difficult to disqualify from the high-end lineups, I think that it is for those who feel okay with having multiple sources while being non-committed to one high-end setup. STAX can definitely have near-perfect micro detail and resolution which makes you feel like you are in the front row of a performance with any genre of music thrown at it. Its presentation of music can be regarded as extremely grandiose with a lot of finesse and euphonic elements to it.
The LCD-4 is the union of the three LCD models, the LCD-2, 3 and X, then improves on it. It may lack things that these headphones can do individually, like the LCD-3’s midrange smoothness for example, but it takes the better parts of each headphone and combines them into one.
The LCD-4 may not be as lush as its counterparts but it brings forth more resolve than any of them combined. It is definitely the default upgrade to those who wholeheartedly enjoy the Audeze sound, while not wanting to deviate from its sound signature. Interestingly, while the LCD-3 and the LCD-X are wildly different with how they sound, the LCD-4 is still the clear cut choice for anyone who is in between upgrades from these headphones.
The music I listened to with the LCD-4 composed of a lot of electronic, indie, and jazz music which is a big percentage of my music collection. I particularly loved listening to music from Cosmo’s Midnight, Tyler Touché, and Cleopold that the LCD-4 that gave my music a liveliness that I do not get from the HD800, which is my main headphone.
In addition, the bonus of having the LCD-4 being forgiving allows for a greater enjoyment in music genres that may be known for its poor masters. While the LCD-4 excels in a whole variety of genres, I did not find the LCD-4 the most excellent choice when it came to jazz or vocal-oriented genres, although it performed very well when compared to other similar headphones.
I found that the LCD-4 is a top-notch performer in the high-end headphone pool today. Its bass is unmatched with its deep, flat, and extended qualities that are very difficult to find in any other headphone.
Unlike other high-end headphones, the amplifier choice can be limited due to its planar design and very high impedance. Being able to find an amplifier that pairs well with it may be difficult though, it is quite rewarding as the LCD-4 drives music with authority and liveliness. It excels in “fun” genres that allow you to enjoy and move to the music with little ease while being forgiving when it comes to bad recordings.
The improved carbon fiber headband design and plush ear pads give great comfort to the headphone which had been a recurring problem with Audeze in the past LCD headphones. The LCD-4 also takes on several elements that make up the LCD series lineup while combining it to one headphone. Its chrome design with carefully crafted ebony wood rings gives the headphone a very tasteful look while providing hefty accessories that match with it perfectly.
With the LCD-4, the embodiment of luxury is here.
Editorial Note: The only change LCD-4 has undergone is when they switched from 100 ohms to 200 ohms that resulted in a lighter diaphragm. During the change from the 200 to 100 ohms, Audeze also introduced a gasket to relieve any pressure on the diaphragm. There have been no changes since then.