Audeze LCD-4 vs LCD-3, HD800 & HD800s
This page is dedicated just to comparisons between LCD-4 and HD800, HD800s and LCD-3.
If you want to go back to the review about LCD-4 click here.
As specified in the LCD-4 review, the tests were performed with MSB Analog DAC with Quad USB + custom lps , Audio Gd Master 9, Sennheiser HD800, Sennheiser HD800s, Audeze LCD-3.
Compared to HD800
As you may know, I am a big fan of HD800 as well. They are a still a technological marvel and I’ve been enjoying them at my house for a few years now. After getting my speakers, Piega Premium 5.2, but especially the Focal Electra 1028, I found myself to listen to them on fewer and fewer occasions. Why was that?
Well, even though HD800 still sounded very good from a technical perspective, the speakers were also very advanced in areas like details, transient response, etc. but trumped the HD800 when it comes to realism and naturalness and LCD-4 are quite similar in that regard.
The flagship from Audeze managed to draw me back into the listening chair, as they posses some of the qualities I loved so much in the speakers and on some areas even surpassing them.
Let’s make a small comparison through some key areas with HD800
HD800 has a very good bass in my opinion, and its strong points are : powerful attack, very good control and speed. These being said, it just cannot keep up with the bass on LCD-4 which is another animal and also has wonderful attack and control, but also excellent depth and detail.
On some songs, the bass on LCD-4 is a monster, songs like Reptilians mentioned earlier in the review, where HD800 wasn’t impressive at all.
The midrange on HD800 is very detailed and present up to the treble region. What amazed me with LCD-4 is that I’ve heard things that I didn’t hear with HD800 in the frequency range, up to the last part of the upper midrange.
There, I said it. That’s a bold thing to say, but on many occasions LCD-4 presented more details on the midrange.
For example the guitar plucks have more detail on the articulation/extension and you can also hear when the fingers hit the chords better with LCD-4. The last part of the upper midrange however has better presence and detail on HD800.
In my opinion LCD-4 wins in this section as well and they have the best midrange I’ve heard until now in any headphones.
The treble on HD800 has better presence, detail, sparkle & energy. A treble head might prefer HD800 to LCD-4 which has a more recessed treble in comparison.
However, personally, I find the treble on LCD-4 to be quite smooth, detailed and the most important part, natural, while the one on HD800 is quite piercing and artificial.
For me there is absolutely no contest whatsoever here. The voices on LCD-4 are out of this world compared to the ones on HD800 which don’t have the same presence, are a little more distant and from a tonality perspective they just sound unnatural compared to Audeze.
The voices on LCD-4 are smooth, incredibly clean and have a very natural flow and tonality. They go straight to my heart.
HD800 still holds the upper hand here also showing clearer leading edges on some occasions, but LCD-4 comes quite close.
This is a point where HD800 really shines in speed and attack.
LCD-4 also has strong attack, but followed by a slightly longer but still fast and actually more detailed-articulated decay.
There were many occasions where I found LCD-4 to be more tactile than HD800, but I must admit that on some songs, the faster transients from HD800 pay off.
The soundstage on HD800 is taller and slightly wider, but LCD-4 has a very deep and natural soundstage. It might be more intimate, but it’s also very holographic and sounds more natural to my ears than the one on HD800 which sometimes seems to be amplified in an unnatural way.
Easier to feel in the scene with LCD-4 than with HD800.
HD800 sound quite clear, especially on the treble region, but they are a little grainy compared to LCD-4 which are a clear window to the music from my perspective and just disappear.
Compared to LCD-4, HD800 just sound off. With LCD-4 I’m there next to the singer, in the orchestra or in the front rows. To me, LCD-4 have the most life like tonality I’ve ever heard in headphones until now.
While there are some areas where HD800 still holds the upper hand from a technical perspective, LCD-4 comes very close in those particular areas and beats on other fronts, fronts that are more important in my opinion.
These being said when I put LCD-4 on my head they just disappear, the sound is just so real and natural but also very impressive from a technical point of view like details, dynamics, dynamic range, transients, etc. that you are there with your favourite artists and nothing else matters any more.
Compared to HD800S
While many of the findings are quite similar to the ones from the HD800 comparison, there are some key differences.
While the bass on HD800S seems quite fuller and present than on HD800, it still can’t keep up with the bass on LCD-4 which goes deeper and is cleaner and even faster on some occasions.
The good news is that on some songs like this one , which have lots of content on sub bass, Hd800 was kind of null from my perspective, but the new HD800S manages to make it quite enjoyable and it is accepted in the arena with LCD-4, while the old HD800 was kicked out at the entrance.
Ok, the bass on HD800S is quite fast and hits harder on the mid bass, but it has a little bloat on the sub bass region which takes away from its speed and makes it slower on some occasions that the one on LCD-4.
The mids on HD800S are a step up in terms of tonality. It’s not as dry as it sometimes feels on HD800.
From my perspective HD800s are less detailed than HD800 on the midrange, so if I found LCD-4 to be more detailed on some occasions than HD800 (up to last part of the upper midrange), this is even more noticeable with HD800S.
The treble is more linear, more present and detailed on HD800S compared to LCD-4, but loses some spark, energy and even some detail when compared to HD800. However, it is more natural and less tiring, lacking most of the famous sibilance found on HD800.
What I want to add is that the treble on LCD-4 is still closer to real life and smoother to my ears.
The voices are certainly a step up in the right direction on HD800S, as they sounded quite artificial on HD800 compared to LCD-4 and it certainly made the gap smaller between the two.
However, I still think that the vocals on LCD-4 are smoother, cleaner and have a considerable more lifelike flow and tonality.
In terms of tonality HD800S is more natural than HD800, but still not as life like and real to my ears as LCD-4 which is just amazing here.
I find the imaging on HD800 to be better than on HD800S which still has slightly clearer leading edges and to which LCD-4 comes even closer than to HD800.
In this department, the conclusions are pretty much the same as in the comparison to HD800.
I find LCD-4 to sound cleaner and have less grainy than both HD800 and HD800S.
The attack on HD800S not as strong as on HD800 which have overall faster and more accurate transients than HD800S.
The transients on LCD-4 are more powerful, with cleaner, more accurate decay and a more tactile presentation than HD800S, at least from my perspective.
In some cases where the sub bass bloat from HD800S doesn’t intervene, the transients are indeed faster than on LCD-4, but still more natural and articulated / detailed decay on the latter.
HD800S are wonderful headphones, and from some points of view, there certainly are a point in the right direction, but overall it kind of takes away from some features that made HD800 so special.
HD800S tries to make the sound weightier, natural, to take away the harshness from the treble and bring more natural voices and it does succeed, but not without sacrifices.
It lose on other levels like details, speed, imaging and transients and it doesn’t manage to equal LCD-4 in the improved areas, making also easier for the new Audeze flagship to equal / come closer to HD800S or even beat it in the areas I said earlier that it sacrificed from.
If I preferred LCD-4 against HD800, it’s even easier to prefer it against HD800S.
Compared to LCD-3
Well, this is a comparison that would make sense wouldn’t you agree? We have to how the old flagship from Audeze stands near the new one which is twice the price, so here we go on another ride.
Considering that LCD-3 really rocked hard, my first curiosity was to see how these headphones compare to each other on rock & roll.
I started listening to some rock music with LCD-3 and well, hell yeah, these babies can rock hard!
They are really special on rock as they really make me get into the music, headbanging, singing along and all. Really engaging and fun!
I really love the energy they have on the electric guitars and the euphony it brings to this type of music.
After this lovely experience I’ve put the LCD-4 on my head…..
Ok… Must catch breath…. and swipe the sweat off the keyboard. Wait what? I became the drummer hitting the invisible drums, the guitarist playing like a maniac on the electric guitar and of course the lead singer, until my wife came in the room and told me to shut the hell up. It was late…
Well, what happened? Everything opened and speeded up. The drums were more natural, a little deeper and more controlled with layers and layers of bass, everything from voice to electric guitar was more realistic with more textures and faster transients.
The soundstage expanded in all directions, but the depth is just incredible on LCD-4. There were some electric guitars that were on the same layer on LCD-3 but moved up in deeper layers with better holography as well, and as a result being a lot easier to enjoy and to pinpoint.
LCD-4 is more neutral than LCD-3 and some may find the rock a little more euphonic on LCD-3, but LCD-4 wins in every other department, from speed, details, dynamics, soundstage, etc.
One of the reason I am calling LCD-3 more euphonic is that sometimes it puts more energy in the vibration of the chords, strings, etc, while LCD-4 gives more detail and control on the string.
I can go with different types of music, but I will probably write similar impressions as above, so let’s see a little summary.
The bass on LCD-3 is a more bloomy and present, which is very fun in lots of music, especially on electronic. LCD-4 hits harder on the bass section, with iron fist control and speed but also more detail and layers. ]
Let’s take the bass notes from real instruments like drums, cellos, contrabass. The bass on LCD-4 is considerably more natural and describes the instrument’s material in more detail and realistic manner.
This is one of the reasons why LCD-4 is more neutral than LCD-3. While this may very well be a question of tastes and LCD-3 is still great in this section, LCD-4 clearly wins from a technical perspective here.
LCD-3 has one of the most seducing mids in any headphones I’ve heard, and while they were such mostly because of the euphonic tonality and flowing nature, LCD-4 keeps them seducing but because of other reasons like realistic tonality, incredible detail and transparency.
LCD-4 makes a leap here and from my perspective has the best midrange I’ve ever heard in a headphone, and I am counting my short encounter with Sennheiser Orpheus HE90.
I’ve read that some people were disappointed with the treble of LCD-4. Personally I don’t understand why. Maybe they were waiting for HD800 treble? Well, LCD-4 kept the house sound, but somehow managed to improve this section as well.
LCD-4 presents more detail, sparkle and better transient response on the treble from my perspective. Listening to Paganini and similar songs on LCD-4 offered a snappier, more engaging and full-filling experience than on LCD-3.
While the voices are fuller and very nice on the older brother, LCD-4 brings a whole new level of textures, transparency and realism to the vocal performance. While the performance was improved on both female and male vocals, I think that you can see a bigger bigger improvement on the female voices which are more present, crispier and a lot cleaner.
They are so life like and detailed on LCD-4 that you can hear the singers moving the tongue in their move, touching their lips, leading you to a very sensual and intimate experience depending on the song.
While the tonality is fun on LCD-3 being more on the warm side, the one on LCD-4 is more neutral and considerably more realistic making them the most life like headphones I’ve ever heard.
Soundstage & Imaging
When putting LCD-4 on the head after LCD-3, the sound just decompresses in all directions. It has a very immersive , holographical and natural soundstage with layers and layers of music, especially in the depth which I consider lovely on LCD-4.
The imaging is also a considerable step up on LCD-4 which has clearer leading edges and pinpointing accuracy.
While LCD-3 has a good, strong attack, the new flagship has a swifter and even more impactful one and followed by a considerably faster but very controlled and natural decay.
These being said, LCD-4 are quite faster and more energetic because of this.
I think that you got the picture, at least the picture painted by my opinions above.
LCD-3 are still wonderful headphones, and if you can’t afford LCD-4, don’t worry, you’ll be in good cups (“hands”) and if you like the Audeze house sound, they will sure not disappoint.
If you can afford LCD-4, go for it. I find the new flagship a major improvement and from my perspective they are the best headphones I’ve ever listened to.
If you want to go back to the review about LCD-4 click here.
It would be great to hear your view on LCD-4 vs HE1000
Thank you! I wasn’t impressed by the HE-1000 at CanJam. I also listened briefly to HE-6 which I might like more than their new flagship.
But well, those wore meet conditions.
Maybe on my system and more time for testing…
Hello from Canada , I read through part of your web site and like your reviews very much , What head phone amplifier do you use for your referance ?Thank you and good work ,,.
Thank you for the kind words!
My reference amplifier is Audio GD Master 9. I didn’t find / hear an amplifier that is overall better than Master 9 yet.
more than 9000 $ / less than 2kg – not bad. not bad at all.
What are you referring to?
When you discuss the energy behind ‘vibration of strings’- that is what some music enthusiasts call ‘bloom’. Also, it is funny when some value ‘control’ of sound over ‘bloom’, as that is not what is happening with the real musical instruments. HD800 are control reaks but they do sound un-natural and too spot-lit – too detailed. When music ‘flows’, it is effortless, not ‘start-stop-start’ on each sound that makes some transducers appear ‘slow’ or ‘speedy’. When music ‘flows’, you no longer perceive the sounds, and the notion of ‘speed’ becomes irrelevant. When we look at a painting, we do not see every brushstroke – as it will detract from the understanding of the whole; and I am afraid that when Audeze made LCD4 un-naturally hyper-detailed, they lost the naturally developed bloom and flow – the two things that gave ’em soul. ( I play classical piano and when I auditioned the much-hyped HD800 and the HD800S, I could not listen more than ten minues as they gave me a headache.) Cheers.
When I am talking about the energy or the vibration of strings I am definitely NOT talking about bloom which implies lower control over the membrane or driver.
Actually I am talking about the vibration and the driver’s capability of sending that energy better to the listener. Let’s just say that you put your ear near a vibrating string. Usually you also feel the string because of the air it displaces around it. This is what I am talking about with LCD-4 with which you also feel the air displaced by the string’s vibration.
I consider LCD-4 to be considerably more natural than HD800 and HD800s.
So bad you sold your LCD-X – a comparison against it would’ve been more appropriate than against LCD-3.
Indeed, as sound signature, LCD-X is closer to LCD-4 if I remember correctly.
But where are “Le francais” in this picture?
Great review and I have had mostly the same observations. Just wonder if you were you able to listen side by side with LCDX? To my surprise they were very similar in many aspects mentioned in your article. Would be great to hear your opinion.
Hello Dan a few years have past however it was your review that influence me to purchase the Audeze LCD 4 and with trying a few notable headphone amplifiers with the 4s currently I use Mjölnir Audio Bipolar mk2 and what a brilliant match it is with the 4s . There is more to the Audeze 4s that was missing with other amplifiers like the Ag audio 9 and it’s big brother the HE 9 also a Ampandsound Mogwui LE can not compete.
The Mjölnir amplifier is a real world stunner . Sorry I can’t add specifics you just need to check it out .
Hello, I own a pair HD 800S and I use them with Sonarworks to get a flat response out of them. Do you think that using both the LCD 4 and the HD 800S with sonarworks would make the differences between them much smaller or would you say that there is more to it that would make them feel different even if they both are run through Sonarworks making them both flat?
Hi, Francisco -just saw your comment which made me curious – why are you so interested in “flat”? The drum in your ear does not hear frequencies “flat” – you hear mid-frequencies best, and the lower and upper frequencies less. Our ears tuned (by evolution) to best hear human speech / voice which resides in the mid-frequencies. That is why if the headphones were tuned ruler-“flat”, you would hear mostly mids, with recessed lows and highs. So, some makers try to bump base up for a more BALANCED and EVEN sound, which is decidedly not “FLAT” (it may look flat if they use a logarithmic scale for graphics, which is, of course, not really flat)… If you research psychoacoustic curves – the way our ears hear sound – none of these is actually flat. Finally, an HD800 has a dynamic driver, while Audeze has a planar-magnetic driver – they will never sound the same even if their frequency response is perfectly matched – simply because the way they make sound is different – it is like comparing a guitar and a piano both playing same note – say “C” in the same octave – both make sound by using a string, but piano has a hummer action hitting a string and a guitar is plucked. Both play the same note, which may look similar on frequency response chart, but sound totally different. A dynamic driver physically cannot do certain things that a planar magnetic can, and vice versa. I personally find my LCD3 natural-sounding (not “neutral”, which I admit I do not really care about, but “natural” – with the bass having proper weight and impact almost in the chest, just like hearing real drum, while HD800S that I auditioned multiple times, I always found too unnatural-sounding – specifically, unnaturally-detailed and hard-etched-sounding. You do not seat at the concert thinking – Oh, this is a detailed sound…. If you know how live music sounds, you know when you hear it reproduced through a quality headphones, and HD800 has never got the “live” sound right, at least in my experience.). Cheers!
I know how Fletcher–Munson curves work and am aware of them. The thing is that I want to use the headphones for mixing records, not the DJ kind of mixing, but the whole multi track studio kind of thing. The main reason why I am so interested in a studio reference flat frequency response is because it yields better results when translating to other playback systems. Imagine a photographer editing pictures or colouring movies with a calibration profile on his monitor that´s over-emphasizing a certain colour (frequency). Odds are he´ll make decisions based on a monitoring system “playback system” that is far away from being neutral. The translation to many other screens and monitors will very probably not be as good as it could have been, had he used a calibrated monitoring system.
Same thing with headphones or studio monitors, that´s why people go huge lengths and buy systems like the Trinnov ST2 Pro and whatnot, also the reason why Audeze released their Reveal plugin. Same with converters, we want neutral, cristal clear DA – AD (Crane Song, Dangerous Music).
Hi-Fi people usually buy headphones based on their naked sound, some are bright some are butter creamy, and that´s part of the game and joy of it.
Though I have to say that your theory of headphones giving you more of what your human hearing already gives you more of doesn´t make much sense to me, wouldn´t it make more sense if you parted from a neutral sonic point, and let your ears pick what they would on the real world?
I am one to say that once you get used to reference sound and the neutrality of it, going back to the naked sound of a playback system is hard, as you will very likely miss detail in some parts of the frequency spectrum, and get too much of other parts of it.
I don´t like gear getting in the way of music, I don´t want to hear the gear, I want to hear the music. Just the music nothing else. The gear is the tool to get there, no the place to get to.
You may like things coloured a certain way, but I live for transparency and precision, that´s where the beauty is for me.
I imagine you have the LCD 4, and I congratulate you on that. I just got myself an X, and will get a 4z once I spend some time playing with the small brother, I just didn´t feel comfortable going balls deep in such an expensive headphone without some getting used to before, just in case they are not the best solution for my situation (but let´s be honest they probably are, and they just released an average calibration profile for the 4z on Sonarworks)
Anyways… I just decided to make it a 2 stops trip to audio playback heaven, just to play it safe.
It wasn´t easy for me to demo an X, I had to take a 500 km trip to Madrid, and still haven´t demoed a 4z. They had it on the shop, but didn´t want to open it for me, I bet I would have been sold the second I tried them, but I´m never ever again going to buy something without hearing it first. Speaking of which, the whole Focal lineup was a big no no for me, I just didn´t like them.
Audeze headphones are a different kind of beast, but that doesn´t make me want to part ways with my HD 800S, Sonarworks takes them up quite a few notches and their sterile sound becomes an edge when it comes to studio work environment. I mean let´s be honest, they are fantastic headphones, there are better but these are really good too. I´m so excited to get my X´s and keep working up to my 4z. YAY!
Hopefully I´ll end up having a really beautiful collection of top of the line headphones that will suit all my needs and give me perspective when making mixing decisions.
I hope you find this useful.
I am more aware of “mixing” that happens in studios using near-field monitors, which are far better suited for “monitoring” than any headphones. I mean, just think of any great album out there and how it was mastered – regardless if it was recorded in a studio or in a “live” venue with subsequent studio post-production. From what I saw, Hans Zimmer< Deadmou5 and Junkie SL all “make” their music using near-field speakers, and the mixing board engineers at concerts also seem to use their ears without wearing headphones, so I am not exactly sure what mixing you do with headphones. Then again, Rick Rubin seem to be using an Audeze LCD3 to master, while some others use cheap-axx pair of cans.
Now, just to be clear – when I speak of “natural” sound, I mean live music. I used to play classical piano, but more, importantly, I used to go to a lot of concerts – all kinds of concerts – classical, jazz, rock, metal, you name it – which is easy when you are living in the NYC. The only negative to that is that I probably could have bought an apartment much sooner if I have not spent so much money on concerts. Then again, if anything worth the money, life experiences are it.
I also have a decent stereo system, which I use daily. The ONLY reason I got myself a pair of cans (they are Audeze LCD3 not 4) is that now, having a pair of young kids, we go to concerts les frequently, and, the only time I can listen to my music happens to be in the evening when they went to sleep.
I am very particular about the “naturalness” of sound, and auditioned tend of cans – pretty much every high-end brand out there. I found out quickly that electrostatics were too “liquid”, very ethereal but with the sound that lacked the weight, the “meat” that the sound has when it emerges from a musical instrument. The dynamic driver cans sound the opposite – too cumbersome, and when they do sound detailed like the HD800, the detail sounds “etched”, not “of-the-piece” as it is with live music. Planar magnetics are kind of in-between, but not all planar magnetics are made equal. HiFiMan make everything sound “rich and creamy” – they make U2 Joshua tree sound rich and creamy like Dire Straits, while U2 SHOULD sound lean and “cold” and minimalist. Audeze, to my ears, sound the most like the music that I listen through them: Dire Straits sound like Dire Straits, U2 sounds like U2, Deadmouse sounds its electronic best, small trio-jazz sound “fool-you-there” intimate, and Beethoven symphony 5 by sounds huge and grand. Most importantly for me: 1) the sound is of-a-whole, as I do not perceive where bass ends and mids or treble begin; I think of music and not of “there is a nice detail” or “the mids are creamy”; and 2) The sound IS NOT IN MY HEAD (!!) Somehow, most headphone have this effect that the sound is inside of my head. I do not know how Audeze did it, but they sound closest as if you were listening to speakers – the sound is not localized inside of the scull, but seem to come from a proper distance, from speakers. Lastly, but still importantly, the BASS is in your chest – and, it is hard to explain how important the bass is to the entire sound structure. If you are lacking bass, if will affect how you hear the rest of the sound. Having sufficient bass does not mean it is thumping, it just means the sound if allowed to breath freer. Anyways, you will know when you encounter the sound that is “right” for you. I know that neither HD800, nor Stax sounded “right” to me. And, I know I am not interested in “neutral” because I do not know what it means, besides that some warble tones can be neutral. In real auditorium space, some musical instruments sound warmer or colder, or drier, or wetter, depending on the instrument, its tuning, the humidity of air, make-up of the wall that reflect the sound, shape of space, etc. I have never heard music that sounded “neutral”. As for music reproduction, should it sound true to recording, or true to mastering, or true to the venue (which means DGS for room) – kind of tricky. As long as it sounds like music, and I enjoy it, fine with me. Cheers!
Hey I replied on the wrong place, it´s right below this! Just wanted to make sure you got the notification.
Oh and just to make it clear, I know what you mean by your headphone sounding natural, not neutral, but I need both, neutral being more important to me than natural, and natural being that extra “if I can get it then that would be great”. Sometimes we want to avoid overly vivid playback systems as they may fool us making things sound too pretty. Again, nice to get your feedback, I need to demo a pair of LCD 4z so badly.
Mixing is almost always is done in nearfield speakers, but headphones do come in handy from time to time, horses for courses.
I am happy for you having had the chance to go to so many concerts, living in NYC really must be great, and I bet it has enriched you a lot.
I didn´t get a pair of headphones out of necessity, (necessity being not waking the kids up, as I imagine might be your case), I just rather loved the micro detail they provide and of course, how convenient they are. I really am growing on the concept the more I move on into it.
I´ve also demoed many headphones, and like you, found Audeze to be a different kind of beast. I love them, oh so much. But sometimes having more than one good headphone can also come in handy.
But may I make a question? Why do I, after reading your comment, feel like you felt insulted by my reply. You kind of copied my quote marks, asked what kind of mixing I was doing on headphones and all that. I don´t know who you are, nor do I know what you do know or do not know, so I really made an effort and tried to put out a good and complete answer just in case some bits and pieces of bit may help you. One does not know who´s behind the screen on the other side. So I hope I didn´t make you feel like that, or made you feel uncomfortable, if it happend, I´m sorry. Cheers!
My choice of words may have been at fault – I did not mean to come across as defensive, and, prior to your reply did not notice that some of my remarks may appear condescending. My apologies – this was a clear case of miscommunication.
Also, please note, I am not a salesperson for Audeze, and find it laughable when I encounter others proselytizing for the product they bought – I think it childish to insist that something is the best only because you own it. That is why I thought it important to establish the basis for my judgement, as I have no reference headphones or reference speakers.
My only reference is live music performed in real spatial setting. Any recording and subsequent reproduction will inevitably be “flavored”, starting with the type of microphone used, (even when blended with a direct input from electrical instrument to recorder, as Josh Rogozin of NPR does to capture AMAZING sound of NPR concerts as you can hear on youtube). Then, there are other factors of course like the playback source, DAC (if any), preamp, amp, cables, stable power supply, etc.
ALL headphones are inherently “flavored”; moreover the “flavor” differences between good headphones are much larger than differences between good speakers.
Unfortunately, I am personally a little burdened with being a perfectionist; to quote Oscar Wilde: “I’m a man of simple tastes. I’m always satisfied with the best.” I do not want to own several headphones only because each has a sound that is compromised in its own way. I want to own only one pair that is compromised the least. For me this means a pair that sounds closest to the way music sounds at a concert. So, after auditioning a bunch, I concluded that, to my ears, the least “flavored” was Audeze LCD3, and, to me, this was evident by a mile. There is a substantial difference is sound fidelity between LCD2 and LCD3 because LCD3 has an objective jump in resolution over LCD2 which in comparison lacks treble detail.
On the other hand, the difference between LCD3 and LCD4 is a difference in ‘flavor” and balance, not a difference in fidelity. Some say LCD4 has a better treble extension and bass extension, but I actually think it only a little bit true (a negligible amount for me). The LCD3 and LCD4 headphones are simply tuned differently. Photography can offer a good analogy: – LCD3 is like a good Nikon with 50mm lens – the photos look natural because the lens is closest approximation to the way a human eye actually sees things. Nothing is emphasized and nothing is smeared. By comparison, HD800, for example, would be a 20mm panoramic lens with sepia filter that bleaches individual tones (makes music harmonics less “colorful”), but the increased contrast makes all of the details more delineated and more noticeable. The resultant photo is less real and more analytical. The field of vision is also enlarged but less natural.
LCD4 is different still – that’s a full-on Kodachrome hyper vivid colors combined with hyper-vivid detail – with the overall effect of the headache-inducing LaChapelle photo that is hyper-saturated with information in an unnatural / hypernatural way – when everything is equally in focus. You do not get more info than with LCD3, but because of the way the information is presented 9everything is equally in focus), I found the overall balance a little weird – noticeable prominent highs (=unnatural), noticeably more prominent lows (=unnatural), less mids (=unnatural). I can see the appeal, just like Kodachrome photos have appeal.
So, yeas, from my (non-professional / just a consumer) point of view – LCD3 presents music in a compelling way, all-of a-piece that does not lent itself to easy analysis and breaking down of the sound into bass-mids-treble. Both HD800 and LCD4 are much better at that, so, for the need you stated, those may serve you better.
But when you are ready to just listen to some music – not to sounds, and not to analyze it, but just to sit back, have a coffee and a listen, LCD3 is hard to beat ( – LCD-X also sounds nice but I found them a little more “forward” and less spatial – more evenly “flat” if that makes sense).
Lastly, I got my LCD3 new, directly from Audeze for $1199. No, it was not a B-Stock, or used, or anything weird or special. (And, it came with its normal Audeze-branded bomb-proof travel case, unlike their LCD-X “creator” package). For the price of $1200 the LCD3 are probably impossible (??) to beat. To get that price, I joined Audeze email list some years ago, and they do have annual Christmas / New Year sale every year, though each time they have a different mix of models and the number of pairs they offer. Last year they put out five pairs of LCD3 for $1199; in several minutes after the original email from Audeze, i.e. by the time I visited their website, three pairs were already sold. I went ahead and bought the pair number four, and, then, out of curiosity, checked their website half-hour later, by which time all five of the LCD3’s at Christmas discount were sold out. Anyways, mine is the latest LCD3 model, with the metal headband, with improved slider locks, black lamb leather pads (not suede as in previous LCD3), and a nice braded cable that now comes with all of the LCD’s. FYI – I think their direct Christmas price for LCD-X was $799, with EL8 dropping down to $300, I think. As I said, I am not a blind fan of Audeze the brand, and do not like their EL8 and LCD2. The LCD4 were selling for $1699, if I remember correctly, but as I auditioned both LCD3 and LCD4 previously, I knew I liked LCD3 more, even though LCD4 was percentage-wise at a much better discount. The moral of the story is simple – if you want an Audeze, it pays to be patient, and at Christmas, get a pair at a nice holiday discount – just need to be quick at it once the sale goes live. Cheers!