Audeze LCD-4 – Review
At last, the day has come! Audeze has released a new flagship. After owning and hearing both LCD-3 and LCD-X, I was really curious and anxious regarding to what this company will provide us with a new flagship and here we are.
Build quality and Looks
These headphones certainly look gorgeous. Everything about them says luxury item.
The new Audeze flagship is a pleasure to the eyes.
The wood is even more finished than the one from LCD-3 and it also comes with suspension-type carbon fiber and leather headband which greatly increases to comfort compared with the older models.
While, they are not light headphones, this headband manages to distribute the weight and pressure evenly, increasing the comfort in the process.
With the older LCD series, the headband sometimes created a pressure point in the middle and could get a little uncomfortable after a while.
This doesn’t happen with LCD-4, but keep in mind that the headphones are not light, so it could get uncomfortable for some people because of that.
Specifications and Technology
The new flagship brings some very interesting new technology to the table.
The main ones are :
- Flux density 1.5 Tesla – These are quite powerful magnets
- Large ultra-thin nano grade Uniforce diaphragms
- Double Fluxor magnetic arrays
The magnets are not only powerful but have even force distribution along the diaphragm because of the uniforce diaphragm circuit but also because of the fluxor magnetic arrays.
From what I understood when talking to Sankar, the diaphragm is extremely thin, and I am talking about micron level thickness, 1/2 microns to be more exact.
To make it more clear how thin it is, bacteria cells generally range in size from less than 1 to 10 microns long, and from 0.2 to 1 micron wide.
That is just amazing.
The review unit is actually the revised 200 ohms LCD-4. The first iteration which had 100 ohms had some driver failures because of the very thin diaphragm, problem taken care of Audeze in this revision by adding a very think aluminium layer/deposit on the diaphragm to make it more resistant.
If you have bought the 100 ohms version, you can upgrade it for free to the new revision.
After hearing about the thickness of the diaphragm, I must admit I was a little afraid not to make the sound too ethereal, with lesser impact and slam as I often heard in electrostatic headphones and another planar magnetic headphones, like HiFiman HE-1000 and Stax headphones that also known for thin diaphragms.
After hearing them, I am very happy to say that it’s not the case with LCD-4 which also have tactility, energy and slam.
From an engineering perspective, LCD-4 are a clear step up from the older LCD-3 and a big achievement on its own.
|Transducer type||Planar magnetic|
|Magnetic arrays||Double Fluxor magnets|
|Transducer size||106 mm|
|Maximum power handling||15W (for 200ms)|
|Sound pressure level||>130dB with 15W|
|Frequency response||5Hz – 20kHz extended out to 50kHz|
|Total harmonic distortion||<1% through entire frequency range|
|Efficiency||97dB / 1mW|
|Optimal power requirement||1 – 4W|
However, let’s get to the what everyone wants to know, the sound!
The tests were performed with MSB Analog DAC with Quad USB + custom lps , Audio Gd Master 9, Sennheiser HD800, Sennheiser HD800s, Audeze LCD-3.
The review tests spanned over a month now. I noticed some improvements over the break in period but nothing major.
The soundstage decompressed a little and it became more holographic in a few days of listening.
From the first listen I was very surprised to see that I am reaching much higher volumes with Master 9 than I would have expected.
These headphones need serious amplification. I’ve turned up the volume knob up to 88 on some songs with Master 9 which has 9W in 40 ohms (2.1w in 200 ohms). According to this graph, that means approximately 50% the power of Master 9, so 1050mw in 200 ohms (4.2w in 50 ohms). That’s a lot of power.
LCD-4 needs serious amplification to really shine!
I’ve tested them with the balanced cable it comes with, but also with Toxic Cables Silver Widow.
The stock cable is quite nice and it’s certainly not average quality. You can read more about it here.
At first I liked the stock cable more than the silver one from Toxic Cables as it has more slam on the bass section but keeping good articulation and speed.
After more tests, I’ve also come to appreciate the silver cable which has more details in the treble area and faster transients and sound in general .
It might be a question of tastes, but the stock cable that comes with LCD-4 is very good.
If you want to know how LCD-4 compares to HD800, HD800s or LCD-3, you can read it here.
Susanne Vega – Tom’s Dinner Live
I was there in the concert with Susanne Vega on the scene. The realistic presentation was astonishing from my perspective and I’ve never heard such a real life like experience on headphones before. There were all kind of sounds from spectators moving around, laughing, singing along and they sounded incredibly real from tonality, very subtle details to a very natural and deep soundstage. Not to say that Susanne’s voice is still haunting me.
You should also try listening to this version of Tom’s Dinner with no instruments. The voice is so real and it’s incredible that you can hear how it bounces around the scene’s walls in such a natural way. Furthermore, the voice is amazingly present, smooth and detailed, as you can hear the lips moving while singing.
Noisia – Reptilians
A friend of mine shared this song with me a few months back. I had HD800 at that time. I was like, hmmm… ok…wth is this…weird taste he has. I listened to it with LCD-4, and I was floored. I also tried some songs from this album. Give Alpha Centauri song a try, but be patient until the rumble begins.
It’s hard to describe the experience LCD-4 gave me. It’s like a roller coaster, a full experience. LCD-4 on these songs pushes/ pulls you around like a piece of feather. The bass is incredible. If smashes the floor with you. It takes you and smashes with you in all directions throughout the song. The feeling is incredibly intense. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced something like this before. I knew the songs with HD800 and they completely took me by surprise with LCD-4. It’s like I heard them for the first time. These songs are kind of null on HD800.
The experience is so intense that at the end of the song I actually felt tired from roller coaster experience. At one point in the song it’s like you get ran over by a huge tire.
After which a bunch of small dudes come and club you down with small wooden bats :)) .
Best bass I’ve ever heard! Not to say that the speed and impact of the transients are exemplary.
Duke Ellington – Cherokee
Incredible experience. LCD-4 doesn’t have such a huge soundstage as HD800, but it’s very deep and sounds incredibly natural to my ears, while on HD800 it sounds artificially bigger. The instruments on this song are something else on LCD-4. The textures and natural tonality are so real, so palpable that if I close my eyes I’m there. You can hear the breath and air from the trumpet, you can feel it in your ears. I tried to listen to HD800 on this song but it sounded off tonality wise to my ears compared to LCD-4.
Dawn and Hawkes – Right on Time
The guitars are spot on with LCD-4. The attack on every pluck is full of energy and impact, leading to a very tactile presentation. What I want to add here is that the decay is very detailed and naturally articulated with very good detail and control. I must add that I’ve heard some details that I’ve never heard before, not even with HD800, details on the chord extension and how the fingers touch the guitar strings.
You can also hear the body of the guitar which such detail and natural tonality that you become one with the guitar.
I’ve never heard such lively and full of energy chords before. LCD-4 took my listening experience to a whole new level.
Aurora – Half The World Away
I’m shall be trying to describe the sensation these headphones gave me on this song as I’ve got numerous chills on it. The voice is flowing directly into my soul, being so clean, so well textured, so life like so decompressed and intimate in the same time. Whenever the backup voices entered the scene it soften me more and more.
The instruments around are subtle but full of life, showing excellent microdynamics and details. At the end when the voice lost itself in the echo, I just melted on my chair. The experience was so intimate, so sensual and relaxing that I can safely say that LCD-4 have the best mids I’ve ever heard and I am counting my short encounter with Sennheiser Orpheus at Canjam 2015 from Essen, Germany.
Pink Martini – In stiller nacht
I’ve never experienced such feelings with any other headphones until now. I’ve been in many choir concerts and LCD-4 offered me an amazing life like experience.
The voices are mesmerising, incredibly well separated from each other as you can hear every voice from the quire and concentrate on with with incredible ease.
You can see each and every one move and touch their lips from the amazing details these headphones have on the midrange section. The soundstage is deep, holographic and as I said before very natural.
Vlatko Stefanovki – Romanian Rhapsodie in A Major Op. 11/1
In the beginning of the song there are some noises from the concert hall, some movements, someone coughing, micro details very well reproduced by LCD-4, but also in a very deep soundstage.
The instruments are alive and vibrate with textures and details, especially the ones that find themselves on the left of the upper midrange, treble region the the frequency response which are more present and detailed on HD800 which also has a taller and slightly wider soundstage and offers a more exciting experience on that region which is abundantly populated by instruments on this song .
Both LCD-4 and HD800 performed very well on this song and I would understand why someone would prefer the Sennheisers here, even though, personally I still prefer LCD-4 because it manages to put me better into the scene and offered a more life like experience .
Spanish Guitar – Long Spanish Nights
Every pluck shines with energy and sparkle. The transient response on LCD-4 is awesome, showing very good speed but very strong attack leading to tactile and energetic listening experience. I had more encounters with electrostatic headphones and I feel that LCD-4 managed to achieve the speed of stats but also keeping the slam and energy of good planars. Amazing achievement from my perspective.
Every pluck also loses itself in a deep and natural soundstage, also showing great detail, overall maybe even more detailed than on HD800, especially in the extension and articulation of the notes.
It’s hard to say which ones is better in the detail region on this song, as HD800 has more details on the spacial cues after of note and the plucks are have slightly more sparkle, while on LCD-4 the articulation of every pluck is better extended, showing more energy and weight. On LCD-4 it’s also quite clear when the fingers touch the chords.
Rodrigo Y Gabriela – Angelica
This song was quite engaging but I felt that here HD800 hit harder on every note with a stronger and swifter attack but also clearer leading edges, while LCD-4 had more weight after each note and a longer but still fast and natural decay. Both headphones were very good on this song but HD800 was more effervescent here. The old HD800 still have some aces down its sleeve.
ACDC – Thunderstruck
This song is impressive since the first seconds with LCD-4. When the voices start to rise in quire, it manages to create a increasingly tense and energetic atmosphere that lead me to a rock on / head-banging mood. When the drums started they hit with authority, great impact and excellent extension. The voice was rugged, full of rock energy and vibrating textures.
The electric guitars are quite nice but from my memory LCD-3F gave a little more energy here, a euphonic vibration that made them rock masters because of this reason. LCD-4 are more neutral in this aspect with faster notes, but maybe not as euphonic on rock as LCD-3, even if from a technical perspective they surpass the older model.
Paganini – Caprice for Solo Violin No. 1 “The Arpeggio” in E Major
The violins, the speed, the scene are amazing on these song and LCD-4 did a great job with each of them. I found the violins to sound incredibly natural and well textured and the speed of the notes were no match for the new headphones from Audeze.
Listening with HD800, I noticed more detail and presence in the treble/last part of the upper midrange, creating a more effervescent listening experience, while LCD-4 offers more body to the violins and a more natural sound.
Giving both headphones to my father who is a very big fan of classical music, he reached the same conclusions as I did, but he ended up preferring HD800 on this song for the treble energy and I ended up preferring LCD-4 for the natural tonality it offered.
I think that the bass is the best I’ve heard in any headphones until now. It has tremendous slam, control, detail and textures. On the right songs it managed to swipe the floor with my ears, metaphorically speaking of course, and I meant that in a positive way, of course.
From my perspective these headphones are a wonderful masterpiece because of this region and how it manages to reproduce it.
I think that the feelings they managed to offer me surpass even the ones achieved with Sennheiser Orpheus at Canjam which were my reference in this section.
Even though LCD-4 lose some presence on the last part of the upper midrange, in my opinion, they are the best headphones in the world in this area.
Every instrument is so lifelike, so well textured, so detailed that these headphones manage to paint the picture of the sound into my head.
Don’t get me started with the voices. I’m going to dedicate another paragraph just for them.
Ok, this might not be in the same league as with the bass and midrange section, but in my opinion the treble is quite smooth, natural and detailed, more so than on previous Audeze models.
It’s not as present as the other frequencies which didn’t bother me too much but I can see why a “treble head” would like more here.
I also find it very natural and pleasant overall and even though it’s a little recessed, it doesn’t take away from the “life like” experience LCD-4 is capable of.
There’s no surprise here for me, LCD-4 kept the Audeze house sound, and even improved this section compared to the older models and not by a little.
Maybe some that expected a different sound signature would be disappointed, but I however am a fan of this type of sound and welcome it.
Every passing day with LCD-4 makes me feel like the treble is very detailed and natural, and maybe this is the way it should really be.
The voices with LCD-4 are completely mesmerizing. Only Orpheus managed to impress me in a similar manner and I even think that LCD-4 might have surpassed them. I gave the headphones to my wife on a song from Lara Fabian and I’ve seen tears in her eyes in less than 10 seconds. It was a record! I’ve never seen her so emotionally impressed before and in such a short time.
She continued listening for more than 10 minutes with tears in her eyes all this time.
I understand her perfectly. The voices are flowing with incredible clarity, liveliness and textures directly into your soul. You can feel the singer’s breath, the emotion in his voice, leading to a very emotional and sometimes sensual and intimate experience.
The transient response is in my opinion excellent. The attack is strong and full of power, followed by very articulated, detailed, fast and natural decay. This leads to a tactile and energetic listening experience.
I think that Audeze managed to achieve something very interesting here.
I’ve had some encounters with electrostatic headphones like 009, 007 and a stax 404 but also with very expensive electrostatic speakers, and I must say that LCD-4 reminds me of them when it comes to transient speed, but manages to keep the impact and slam of a good planar, which is quite amazing from my perspective.
The soundstage might not be as tall or quite as wide as with HD800 but it’s very deep, very holographic and natural. On most songs I sincerely feel better integrated in the scene with LCD-4 than with HD800 which sometimes seems to unnaturally amplify the soundstage.
It’s easier to feel there with the spectators or the singers on the scene when I close my eyes with LCD-4 than with HD800.
These headphones impressed me in this department as well. The details are quite amazing from the bass area and up to before the last part from the upper midrange and I think that they even manage to surpass HD800 on these parts of the frequency range on many occasions.
For example the guitar plucks have a more detailed extension on LCD-4 and you can also clearly hear the fingers touching the chords. The voices are very well articulated and detailed, but you can also hear the singers touching their lips while singing, or the movement of the tongue in their mouth and their breath swooshing inside your ears.
There are also subtle cues in the scene, like someone moving at the back of the orchestra or the scene, a chair / instrument squeak, someone taking a breath, details that are subtle and very naturally reproduced so that it makes you be a part of the scene.
The tonality another thing these headphones manages to amaze me with. Everything sounds so natural, so real life like that I often find myself closing my eyes and being transposed in time or teleported into the concert hall.
These are the most technically advanced planars I’ve ever heard. The imaging is considerably better than the previous Audeze headphones and they come really close to HD800 in this regard which still hold the upper hand with clearer leading edges overall.
These headphones are a opened window to the music. With HD800 it’s like watching a super resolution 4k or 8k screen, but with LCD-4 it’s like opening a real window and watching the scenery, no sign of grain whatsoever.
What I love about LCD-4 is the balance Audeze managed to achieve between technical sound and musicality. They are very tactile with strong and fast transients. The guitar plucks are just amazing.
You can hear the fingers touching the chords, the strong attack of the pluck, and incredibly detailed vibration of the chords. They’re also very clean and transparent.
No sign of any grain, it’s just you and the music. LCD-4 shows excellent transparency. Sometimes, the sound is scary real.
Don’t get me started about the voices. You can hear the singer touching his lips, moving his tongue in the mouth, taking breaths, etc. The vocals are incredibly well textured and have a flowing characteristic.
The soundstage isn’t as wide and tall as on hd800, but it has excellent depth, and sounds very natural to my ears.
The details are just amazing, and I can say that I’ve heard many occasions where LCD-4 were more detailed than HD800 (except for the treble region and upper midrange).
Also the dynamic range is awesome. I listened to some opera and I almost fell of the chair when the singer suddenly raised the voice.
I can’t get decent sleep lately. Since I’ve received them, I often find myself at 4:00 am with LCD-4 on my head with the same thought I’ve had for hours, “This is the last song, then I go to bed!”.
Indeed, I really love these headphones as they really struck the right buttons for me.
Are they perfect? Well, they do have spots that some may consider weaker and in my opinion, those spots are the last part of the upper midrange and the treble which are not as present and detailed as with other headphones like HD800 for example, but still very enjoyable from my perspective.
I consider the treble a clear improvement over the older models from Audeze, natural and detailed enough not to take away from my listening joy, but I can see why some people would like more here.
Regarding the level of engagement and dynamics of these headphones, they really stand out in these departments of well, but I cannot stress enough that LCD-4 needs serious amplification to really shine!
The conclusion is that I absolutely love these headphones as they offered me the most lifelike musical experience I’ve ever encountered until now and from my perspective this is what it’s all about.
I know, these headphones don’t come cheap at all. Are they worth it? Well, this is your decision, but I sure recommend you give them a try. For me, these are the best headphones I’ve ever heard and they might just be the best headphones in mass production at the moment.
- Superb bass with excellent depth, control and detail
- Excellent design and build quality
- Best midrange I’ve ever heard
- Smooth and natural treble with more detail than the older Audeze headphones
- Haunting life-like voices
- Excellent imaging
- Excellent transient response with strong attack, articulated / detailed and fast but natural decay leading to a tactile & energetic sound presentation
- Deep, holographic and natural soundstage
- Excellent details
- Excellent transparency
- Very good dynamic range
- Most natural tonality I’ve heard that combined with other features really creates a lifelike sound
- Treble could be a little recessed for some
- Needs serious amplification to really shine
- The last part of the upper midrange is not as present as the rest
- Few can afford it
i’ve the master 9 too.What can you tell about these new LCd-4 and the LCD-X? How much better is the LCD-4 compared to the LCD-X driven both in balanced mode by the master 9?? Thanks!
I didn’t have them side by side but from memory the differences in performance are not quite small.
Also I think that lcd-4 is more similar to lcd-x in type of sound than to lcd-3.
I would love a bit more background on the V1 vs the V2 of the lcd-4s. I am an owner of the V1 and not wholly sure I want to “upgrade”.
Sorry Tom, I don’t have the V1.
The best bass in any headphones???
May be you do not know the Abyss 1266…
If you read “really” carefully, you would see that I wrote : “I think that the bass is the best I’ve heard in any headphones until now.”
Indeed, I did not hear the Abyss, so my affirmation is valid. However I did hear most the important headphones.
Looking at the measurements though I don’t think that it goes deep enough.
Question, did you listen to LCD-4? From what system?
Yes, your affirmation is valid, and my affirmation (you do not know the Abyss) also…
Try to listen the Abyss…
Vitus scd 025
Abyss 1266 (and other headphones…)
darTZeel CTH 8550
Nordost Odin cables
Finite Element Master Reference
🙂 Will try to do so, I’ve been curious about those headphones for a while now.
Didn’t get an opportunity to listen to them yet.
So you also tried LCD-4 on the same system?
The LCD3 has a “veil” sensation that covers the music and make things sound thick and boring.
So what about the LCD4 in terms of the “veil” issue? Is it thick like the LCD3?
To explain the “veil”, listen to the LCD3 and while playing the music just change to HD8″”S. In this way you will understand what I mean by “veil”.
Please let me know 🙂
Compared to HD800 it does feel like it has a veil on the treble, yes, but less than LCD-3.
So if it has a veil, how come it can be considered as reference headphones?
Did you have the chance to compare the LCD4 and HE1000?
HD800 is the reverse of veiled and I think that more than 60% of the headphones on the market can sound veiled after HD800. It’s a love or hate situation with those headphones. I didn’t hear the LCD-4 near the he1000, but from the brief experience I had with those headphones, I didn’t really enjoy them. The bass was just a wall of bass and the sound was too ethereal, too boring…
Maybe the V2 is better.
Great review as always, thanks. When are you going to review Audeze’s King headphone amp? I’d be interested to hear your views on this amp with the LCD-4’s.