Oscar Wilde once stated: “I have simple tastes… I only like the best.” As a reviewer, I get to listen to a lot of gear and cabling that sounds as good as other products that already exist. Not better… but just as good. For a reference-caliber audiophile product to get my attention, it must sound better than anything I’ve ever auditioned. Stated succinctly, Audeze’s $3,995 USD LCD-4 is the best sounding pair of headphones I’ve ever heard.
The LCD-4 is Audeze’s current flagship pair of over-the-ear open back planar magnetic acoustic headphones. It comes with new chromed grills, a carbon-fiber arch, and a leather headband strap. The openings are 7cm x 5.5cm and will comfortably fit any human sized ears. Although a Pelican-style hard shell travel case is supplied, the LCD-4 is meant for indoor use only. They’re not rain resistant or waterproof.
The LCD-4’s wood rings are constructed out of 30 year old Macassar ebony. This is a dense and finely textured hardwood that Audeze handcrafts to an ultra-smooth polished finish. The rings are matched by grain and colour. Similarly, the leather used in the ear pads is also matched by texture and colour.
The diameter of the LCD-4’s diaphragm is 106mm, while its thickness is less than 0.5 microns (0.5µm). For perspective, human hairs have a diameter that’s 30µm to 100µm. Inherent to the thinness of the conductive layer, the LCD-4s have a high 200 Ohm impedance. Audeze claims that the “…nano-scale film (diaphragm) actually weighs less than the air it displaces! Benefits include faster response times for better imaging, and the flattest, deepest, most accurate bass response of any headphone available.”
Audeze wanted to achieve a uniform and evenly distributed magnetic field strength across the diaphragm’s entire surface. They claim that the LCD-4’s patented new Uniforce Diaphragm Circuit creates a more consistent (i.e. near uniform) motive force within the magnetic field than any of their previous diaphragms.
The patented Double Fluxor magnet arrays employed in the LCD-4 produce 1.5 Tesla of magnetic field strength at the diaphragm. Audeze asserts that this is the strongest magnetic strength in any planar magnetic HPs currently being made. They also claim that this strength results in double the power driving the diaphragms, lower distortion, and greater sonic accuracy.
Audeze’s patented Fazor elements act as waveguides that match the acoustic impedance of the diaphragms to that of the air on both the inside and outside of the drivers where sound waves exit between the magnets. The Fazors are designed to create a smoother and more accurate exit channel for sound waves as they’re launched from the diaphragm, pass the magnets, and flow towards the ears.
When being worn, air trapped inside the ear chamber can potentially exert unwanted pressure on the diaphragms and affect the sound quality. The LCD-4 HPs use a ring of fabric material between the ear pads and the housings to “vent” this unwanted air pressure.
Want more info on the proprietary technologies used in the LCD-4? Audeze’s driver design team has released a scientific “white paper” which describes their R&D in detail.
You can view this white paper by clicking HERE or visiting http://novo.press/images/AudezeLCD4whitepaper.pdf
My review pair of LCD-4 headphones came with a 1.9m length 1/4” to dual 4-pin mini-XLR cable. The stock braided cord that was provided sounded fine and moving it while listening resulted in zero cable-borne noise.
For perspective, I tried several after-market OCC Copper (Cu) and OCC Silver (Ag) cords. To my ears, the LCD-4 HPs sounded best when using a 1.5m Audio Sensibility Statement OCC Silver (Ag) HP cable. As budget permits, to hear the full sonic potential of the LCD-4s, I’d recommend upgrading the stock cord to an OCC Silver (Ag) one.
All of the R&D, science, and engineering in the world won’t amount to a wafting air-biscuit blown inside of a mile-high Colorado porta-pottie if the end product doesn’t sound better than headphones which already exist. So… how do the LCD-4s sound?
I used a Woo Audio WA-6 tube headphone amp for all of my listening tests. I first compared the LCD-4 to Audeze’s budget $800 USD LCD-2 Classic (you can find my review of the LCD-2 Classic headphones HERE). Although both models have a similar “house sound”, the LCD-4 had deeper resolution, superior timbral accuracy, better PRaT, and far more palpable instrumental textures — especially in the bass registers. By comparison, the LCD-2 Classic sounded veiled and darker.
I also tested the LCD-4s against Sennheiser’s HD 800S, Grado’s RS-1, and Stax’s SR-009 electrostatic ear speakers. The LCD-4 HPs created the best sonics in the lower midrange, upper bass, and mid-bass ranges. They delivered unmatched clarity, startling dynamics, and goosebump inducing timbres within the midrange too. All of the other headphones sounded blurred, veiled, and far less transparent. Overall, the LCD-4 is my current reigning King of sound quality. The others are just pretenders to the sonic throne.