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.
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.