Audeze LCDi4 In-Ear Headphones Review


Performance
Build Quality
Comfort
Value
PRICE $2,495

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Extraordinary sound quality
Planar magnetic in-ear
Open-back design
Minus
Doesn’t block external noise

THE VERDICT
The Audeze LCDi4 sound like no other in-ear or full-size headphones. Audeze has once again radically changed the way we hear music.

I’m going to come right out and say it: The Audeze LCDi4 are hands down the best-sounding in-ear headphones I’ve heard. They’re the most transparent and open, have the flattest tonal balance, and the bass—OMG—is deeper and faster than any other in-ears on the planet! The LCDi4, like Audeze’s other in-ear headphones, the iSine 10 ($399) and iSine 20 ($599), redefine the in-ear category. They look, fit, and sound like no other in-ears.

The LCDi4, iSine 20, and iSine 10 each feature 30mm planar magnetic drivers, and their Fluxor magnet arrays are all the same. It’s the i4’s diaphragm that’s different. It’s one-quarter the thickness and weight of the iSine 10/20’s diaphragms, so the LCDi4’s impulse and treble response are cleaner. The iSine 10 and 20’s drivers’ “voice coil” is made from a layer of aluminum foil adhered to the diaphragm; to further keep the weight down, the LCDi4 uses a thinner layer of vapor-deposited aluminum on the diaphragm. The i4 looks more upscale than the iSine models, thanks to the LCDi4’s snazzy magnesium grilles. They’re essentially an in-ear version of the full-size Audeze LCD4. The new headphones come with a luxurious leather carry case.

All other in-ear headphones on the market are closed-back designs that hush external noise; the LCDi4 is open-backed, so it doesn’t. That’s why these aren’t the best headphones to travel with or play in noisy environments. But the upside to the LCDi4s’ open design is that you can safely walk or bicycle with them on because you can hear the world around you, and you don’t have to take them out of your ears to have a conversation. I found the LCDi4s comfy to wear for extended periods of time, but as always, your mileage may vary.

The iSine 10 and 20 were game changers in 2016, and unlike any other in-ears I’ve reviewed—so how could the LCDi4s top them? The compar- isons were finished in short order: The iSine 10/20s are still astonishing, but the LCDi4s are an alto- gether more refined, transparent device, even when plugged into something as mundane as my iPhone 6S’s 3.5mm headphone jack. When I returned to the iSine 20s after spending time with the i4, the 20s sounded cloudy and veiled. Still, the LCDi4s won’t play super loud with smartphones, even with the latest version of Audeze’s Cipher cable that features a built-in digital converter for use with the iPhone’s Lightning connector. But it does take the LCDi4’s sound quality to the next level with even better bass extension/definition, transparency, and treble purity versus the 3.5mm plug connection.

218aud.2.jpg

I could get the LCDi4s to play louder and sound great with my Astell & Kern Kann portable music player. But the one area where the LCDi4s came up short was visceral power; the sound won’t satisfy or deliver “slam” in the way Audeze or other brands’ full-sized headphones do. The LCDi4s, even with their prodigious bass capabilities, still don’t kick butt.

On the other hand, the LCDi4s are the first planar magnetic headphones I’ve heard that sound like electrostatic headphones in their vanishingly low distortion and extraordinary clarity. But unlike electrostatics, you can use the LCDi4s with any smartphone with a 3.5mm headphone jack, or an iPhone with a Lightning connector.

I squeezed in some time to compare the LCDi4s with HiFiMan’s flagship RE2000 in-ear headphones ($2,000), and the HiFiMans’ sound was more inside my skull. I missed the LCDi4s’ vast, beautifully focused soundstage, deliciously transparent midrange, and clearer top end, and the LCDi4s’ low-bass articulation and power handily trumped the RE2000s’.

The Audeze LCDi4s run $2,495, which may give even well-heeled audiophiles some pause. Buying this or any high-end headphones without an audition could be a risky pro- position, so if you don’t have a local dealer handy, no worries—Audeze sells the LCDi4s and all of their headphones direct from their website with a 30-day return policy.

COMPANY INFO
Audeze

X
-->