Based in California, Audeze have been re-defining hi-fi standards in audio gear since its conception in 2008. While their earlier models had garnered worldwide acclaim for a cohesive and mature sound, some critiqued that the headphones had a relatively heavy feel with a need for more powerful headphone amplifiers.
With more of a move towards efficiency and lighter weight designs, Audeze have captured a greater portion of the audiophile market with their accomplished products. The focus of this review will be their LCD-4z headphone which capitalizes on the traits of efficiency, a lighter weight design while still retaining a world-class sound.
The Audeze LCD-4z employs an incredibly responsive 15 Ohm voice coil allowing to be easily driven from a standard portable digital audio player. As with Audeze’s other flagships, the LCD-4z utilizes a Double Fluxor magnet array with Neodymium N50 magnets for sound output. At $3995, however, the LCD-4z represents a sizeable investment for those looking for top-tier sound without the need for dedicated amplifiers.
Audeze have opted for a more utilitarian form of packaging with the LCD-4z. The headphones arrive in a practical aluminum pelican travel case. Inside, there is a neat foam cut out which houses the headphones together with a section for the cables. The pelican case opens and closes with a lock hinge mechanism designed for securing transporting.
While Audeze have not gone for the characteristic retail unboxing experience, the packaging here certainly feels more functional.
Also included is a ¼ inch to dual 4-pin min-XLR adapter, the stock OCC high-purity copper conductor, a user guide and warranty guide.
The Design & Build
The Audeze LCD-4z forgoes wooden enclosures for a magnesium frame for a slightly more lightweight design than the original LCD-4. Each ear cup incorporates a large perforated grilled on the side to allow the transducers to become open. Each earcup also houses an inner fine golden grille protecting the headphones from any dust and debris.
Since the ear-cups are made from magnesium, the headphones are strong and non-resonant. The Audeze LCD-4z incorporates a dual headband system with a lightweight carbon fiber headband with perforated holes. The twin rod adjusting mechanism works well and joins the headband system to the yokes of the headphone housings.
Audeze have opted for a mini XLR connection system on the housings – this time, it is located on the rear of the headphones which reduces microphonics.
The Audeze LCD-4z is an open-back planar magnetic headphones which employs 106 mm drivers with neodymium N50 magnets. This is the same size as the original LCD-4 before it (however 25% lighter).
Behind the core structure, Audeze uses Fazor waveguide technology to reduce diffractions and interactions with the ear.
Patent-pending parallel UniforceTM voice coils are utilized to keep impedance low to an impressive 15 Ohms (only 1 Ohm higher than the 14 Ohms). The secondary aim here being lower distortion and better control over diaphragm movement.
Overall, the LCD-4z is positioned as a much easier to drive headphone than the original LCD-4.
While the LCD-4z is not as light as the LCD-5, the 4z shaves off 20% from the original LCD-4 weighing in at 560g.
The carbon fiber headband provides an evenly distributed pressure and is also comfortable during long listening sessions. The perforated holes are a good design approach and help to prevent heat build up.
One minor drawback is that there a slight added clamping force imposed by the deep seated ear cups. While the ergonomic-designed earcups have less contact surface area than traditional designs, the clamping force is more present compared to the likes of the Meze Empyrean or HiFiMAN HE-Series.
The Audeze LCD-4z achieves great macro-dynamism with a well-rounded sound on an established bass floor. Vocals are smooth and rich with natural warmth lent from the lower frequency sound. The LCD-4z’s tonal balance is fundamentally neutral with a sound that is both rich and full-bodied.
Owing to its larger 106mm drivers, the LCD-4z is capable of producing a strong bass that is not shy of great extension. There is no discernable sub-bass roll-off despite the gradual ramp up to the mid-bass levels. While the LCD-5 does offer the more articulate and resolving bass line, the LCD-4z has a more voluminous and commanding lower-end which invokes more of a musicality factor in its arsenal.
The bass, in keeping with the overall sound signature, is well-rounded with some fantastic authority and quality timbre. This can be seen in ‘Take My Breath’ by The Weeknd where the low-end outputs an abundantly thumping, punchy and extensive low-frequency performance.
There still remains excellent air and abundant spades of detail resolution – nothing ever sounds forced or bloomy.
The midrange of the LCD-4z is rich, well-rounded with a great sense of immediacy. While the LCD-5 hosts more tonal transparency, the LCD-4z offers a vocal-orientated sound signature with plenty of cohesion and verve.
The LCD-5 is the more analytical of the two headphones while the LCD-4z captures plenty more warmth and a slightly laid back sound. Both offer excellent stereo projection and separation with the LCD-5 having more texture and contouring of its notes.
The LCD-4z, on the other hand, possesses a larger note size and involving presence. Comparing the two, the LCD-4z leans more towards the yesteryear generation Audeze house sound, while the LCD-5 leans more towards a more category of reference-grade.
The LCD-4z has some subdued upper midrange and lower end treble which allows it to evade sibilance and ‘shoutiness’. It restores upper treble extension allowing the headphones to bask in an airy quality up top.
Users will receive plenty of detail retrieval, resolution and clarity with a timbre that is pleasing to the ear.
Soundstage & Imaging
The Audeze LCD-4z’s soundstage has excellent three dimensionality in the realms of width, height and particularly depth. It is a natural soundstage with great layering and multi-instrumental separation.
In comparison, the LCD-5 has more center stage sound with higher levels of pinpoint imaging owing to its predilection for a resolving and responsive sound. The LCD-4z however possesses the larger sound with fuller bodied notes without sounding congested or closed in. To this extend, both the LCD-4z and LCD-5 surpasses the Focal Utopia in overall soundstage size and immersion,
The LCD-5 and LCD-4z represent two flagship models from Audeze’s powerful line-up. They both share an emphasis for detailed sound infused with musicality and macro-dynamic prowess. However, there are evident differences with the LCD-5 opting for a more reference grade tuning with ultimate tonal transparency while the LCD-4z is bolder with a richer mid-vocal presence.
The LCD-5 delivers more pinpoint imaging with greater instrumental separation while the LCD-4z delivers a greater soundstage with richer vocal notes and low-end heft.
Comparing the LCD-4z to the Utopia, the former headphones deliver a great sense of staging with more immersion. The Utopia, on the other hand, delivers more transparency, resolution and micro-dynamic prowess.
At the low-end, the LCD-4z outputs a more musically dynamic performance with plenty of verve, character and authority. The Utopia, on the hands, leans towards a more analytical and resolving sound with emphasis on micro-dynamic swings.
HiFiMAN HE-1000 V2
Both the HiFiMAN HE-1000 V2 and Audeze LCD-4z feature planar magnetic drivers with a ‘weightless’ diaphragm assembly for its sound. However, the end effect differs in each headphone who have differing sound signatures.
The HE-1000 V2 invokes a wider and taller soundstage perhaps owing to its configuration while the LCD-4z feels more centered with better depth. The HE-1000 V2 has a more diffuse, airy and ethereal sound while the LCD-4z, by comparison, sounds more weighted, rich and vocal orientated.
Both headphones share great detail retrieval, with the HE-1000 V2 sounding slightly better in this aspect. The LCD-4z has the more capable bottom-end performance with a punchy and authoritative low-end.
It is great to see that there is a trend for headphone manufacturers to favor higher levels of efficiency. The Audeze LCD-4z, for example, has an 15 Ohms efficiency with 98 dB/1mW sensitivity allowing the headphones to be played from a portable music player and even a phone or laptop.
While desktop DACs and amps do allow the LCD-4z to be driven to higher levels of headroom, it is great to see that the LCD-4z is capable from a more portable device.
The Audeze LCD-4z represent an outstanding set of headphones with a performance rivalling the top flagship performers today. Audeze have created an offering which combines excellent ergonomics, comfort, premium materials and a top-class sound.
The overall sound signature is largely linear with a well-rounded rich vocal presence versed with great micro-detailing. While the LCD-4z is not as reference-grade as the LCD-5, it offers a richer sound with more musicality.
Building on from the original LCD-4, the 4z incorporates an ultra-thin lightweight diaphragm with a powerful Fluxor Magnet array for a responsive sound with higher efficiency. With this in mind, the LCD-4z is a great all-round headphone for those seeking excellent technical ability coupled with musicality and finesse to output any track.
Audeze LCD-4z Specs:
- Driver Type: Planar magnetic
- Magnetic structure: Double Fluxor™ magnet array
- Ear Cup Design: Open back
- Phase Management: Fazor
- Transducer Size: 106mm
- Frequency Response: 5Hz – 50kHz
- THD: <0.1% @ 100dB
- Sensitivity: 98 dB/1mW
- Impedance: 15 Ω