When we initially heard the original LCD-2 model back in 2009, it was obvious Audeze was destined for serious king-of-the-hill consideration. Since then, their constant stream of revolutionary new designs, product improvements, and innovations has been unprecedented in the annals of our industry - ‘juggernaut’ is probably an understatement. The flagship Audeze LCD-4 open-back planar magnetic headphone brings to market a supreme price tag that‘s only topped by the freakish level of detail resolution and revelatory musical insight it affords listeners lucky enough to get their ears on one.
Just as expected, the top-shelf Audeze LCD-4 model incorporates a whole host of proprietary engineering and performance advancements that clearly place it a level above other planar magnetic headphones including the previous Audeze LCD-3 model. Incredibly thin nano-grade diaphragms the thickness of 1/200th of a human hair join proprietary Audeze ‘Double Fluxor’ magnet arrays generating the most potent magnetic flux density in existence, rating a massive 1.5 Tesla of magnetic field strength. Each individual LCD-4 diaphragm pair takes a full two weeks to manufacture in the Audeze labs, a painstakingly slow and intensely expensive process.
It logically follows these design and sound quality breakthroughs come at a significant expense developing state-of-the art research labs, cutting-edge manufacturing processes and better materials science, all of which makes the LCD-4 cost around twice the LCD-3. So then does that mean its twice as good?
The answer is not quite twice as good, of course, but the LCD-4 unabashedly provides an emotionally gripping, passionate musical ride that is way more engaging and involving in the way it gets inside the beating heart of the music. It is certainly a more precise and revealing sound, yes, but one of the great magics of the LCD-4 is the supernal sense of connection and feeling of thrill you get hearing the music come freely pouring forth from these astonishing cans. Its more than the sum of its parts, more than just simply devastating sound quality. The LCD-4 feels like you are spooning right up next to the very source of musical language and creativity. It’s roaring fun to experience favorite musical milestones as deeply realistic, forceful performances occurring inside of your head like you were actually back at the show or in the studio. The French theorist Roland Barthes called it “jouissance” - the unadulterated joy of life and love wrapped up in the singular form of art and expression. Yeah, it’s that good.
Clearly, the Audeze LCD-4 major acoustic strength is the bass response which carries a colossal foundational weight but with a purity of texture and tone that seems almost unbelievable given the sheer heft and drive of the low end. Somehow, the rich bass underpinning remains properly balanced and beautifully controlled as its seamlessly rises into the mids and highs. The stout woody timbre of violas, violins and cellos never contained more chewy audio fiber than we heard in the LCD-4’s nearly-physical, tactile presentation. The double string quartet on the original George Martin stereo mix of ‘Eleanor Rigby’ reveals not only every instruments’ signature tone but also places them within a perfectly stable image that highlights Martin’s studio genius to perfection. When McCartney's voice emerges from the right channel during the verses into full-flower stereo in the “ Ah, look at all the lonely people ” chorus, the effect is like a velvet curtain rising and falling as the vocals swoop and dive in criss-crossing counterpoint against the string chart. It’s one of those stunning hair-raising musical moments that’s very difficult to experience so immersively on big speakers.
If we had to come up with a quibble with the Audeze LCD-4, it would center on the mid-treble ranges where the sound is not as uniformly cohesive and perfectly seamless as it appears throughout the rest of the frequency range. There's maybe a little less chesty presence in some vocals than we'd ideally like to hear. But given the powerhouse musical sound overall, we think its a rather modest shortcoming from a truly superb headphone achievement. Our LCD-4 goose pimples didn’t go away because a scanty sliver of the audio pie isn't totally 100% perfect. And, honestly, is there such a thing as a completely flawless headphone at ANY price? If so, please send it to us right away - we’ve yet to hear it!
As an obvious caveat, the Audeze LCD-4 is among the most power-hungry planar headphones we’ve tested to date so a top headphone amp is required to make these headphones truly shine and shimmer. The 200 Ohm impedance and 97dB sensitivity in tandem with the heavyweight LCD-4 magnet array will certainly benefit from the crucial control and lucidity a great headphone amp provides. These same extra-powerful magnet and driver arrays are the principal causes of the headphone’s fighting weight coming in at a beefy 550 grams w/o cord. That’s nearly 1.25 lbs of beastly headphone righteousness. So the fit ergonomics of the LCD-4 construction is still heavier than most full-size headphones despite Audeze’s work creating excellent earpad and headband materials that softly envelop the head as opposed to just sitting on top of it. Given the unavoidable weight factor, the LCD-4 clamping force remains quite light due to the new super-plush earpads and soft glove leather headband strap, all of which contributes to the good wearing comfort of these big cans.
Included inside the Audeze LCD-4’s indestructible padded travel case is a superb new 8.5 ft high-performance Locus Design headphone cord with solid dual mini-XLR connectors into the headphone earcups, terminated to a Neutrik ¼” stereo plug . And yes, by Jeeves, to ensure the most careful fingerprint-free handling of your Audeze work of audio art, a set of soft white gloves are also included in the LCD-4 box. Just another thoughtful touch from the classy folks at Audeze.