Audeze have continually redefined standards in audio with their strong ethic for R&D and sheer innovation. The LCDi4 represented the first full-size fully open-back in-ear planar magnetic ear phone which shall be the focus of this review. Touted as a ‘mini LCD-4’ the LCDi4 incorporates a super thin diaphragm material with Fluxor magnet technology to deliver a coherent IEM akin to the latest iSINE series.
Priced at $2495, the LCDi4 is by no means cheap but is aimed to compete with full sized counterparts in a portable form factor. A 30 mm single planar magnetic driver is the transducer within the LCDi4 model with Neodymium N50 magnets arranged in a Double Fluxor Magnetic Array to produce audio signals with ‘unrivalled accuracy’ and power.
The Audeze LCDi4 come in a smart and compact packaging with a latch design that opens to reveal a glass panel housing both the in-ear monitors alongside a leather travel case. Included within is a premium LCDi4 SPC cable, cleaning brush, lapel clip, 4 black ear hooks and Earlocks as well as smooth and spiral ear tips (in small, medium and large sizes).
Overall, the Audeze LCDi4 packaging and accessories are plentiful allowing an abundance of choice for the most comfortable fit. The packaging itself is not too ostentatious which may be to some people’s liking – however for those looking for a statement piece may be yearning for an unboxing experience akin to that of Vision Ear’s flagship products.
Build & Design
The Audeze LCDi4 is one of the most unique pair of in-ear monitors – its design is rather intriguing with a black hexagonal main body (made from magnesium) with the serrated lines to reveal a gold gauze protector hiding the inner driver workings. The Audeze shorthand moniker is displayed proudly on the bottom of the faceplate which ties in nicely with the geometric design that the monitors exude.
On the underside of the faceplate, the words ‘Planar Magnetic’ and ‘Audeze’ can be visualized either side of the angled nozzle. Audeze have opted 2 pin 0.78 mm connection system allowing for a range of aftermarket cables to be paired with the LCDi4. Audeze have included a wedge in the stock cable to allow for easier connection and to avoid reversing polarity owing to the reverse connection of the sockets.
The Audeze LCDi4 features a 30 mm driver – scaled down from the full size LCD-4 series of headphone. Nano-scale diaphragms are suspended between patented Neodynium magnets to deliver fast and accurate transient responses expected from planar technology.
The Double Fluxor Magnetic Array allows for a powerful open magnetic circuit to couple power with precision. The Audeze LCDi4 achieves an impedance of 32 Ohms with a sensitivity of 110 dB. While not the most efficient, the LCDi4 can be run from a plethora of digital audio players.
The LCDi4 comes equipped with a 1.2m stock OCC silver-plated (SPC) braided cable with a filament structure of 26 AWG OCC copper and wire and 5N silver plating.
The cable itself has been cryogenically treated and directionally orientated to enable best possible signal transmission.
The cable is generally of good build quality with a 2 pin 0.78 mm connection system and terminated in 3.5mm gold-plated TRRS plug.
Users have option to purchase a Cipher Bluetooth Cable with Mic which transforms the LCDi4 into a wireless Bluetooth headset. With 24-bit audio resolution and support for SBC, AAC, aptX and aptX HD codecs, the Bluetooth cable is designed for the modern audiophile in mind.
There is an in-line remote control with volume buttons to allow for quick and convenient access to controls. Impressively, there is also onboard proprietary DSP to maximize the audio potential of the LCDi4 in-ear headphones. An internal lithium ion battery allows for eight hours of continuous playback time.
Fit & Isolation
The LCDi4’s design is unique with a large hexagonal main body and elongated nozzle. Despite its size, the LCDi4 weighs in at just 20 grams allowing for comfortable prolonged listening. Since the LCDi4 has a larger size and angled nozzles, Audeze have included hooks designed to snap onto the outer shell of the earphones. This allows the earphones to be held in an ‘over-the-ear’ design.
While there are more comfortable models out there, Audeze have done well to secure a stable and relatively comfortable fit for the LCDi4’s rather unusual and full open-back size.
Featuring a whopping 30mm planar driver, the LCDi4 outputs a well-versed planar sound with responsive bass, a balanced sound with an uptick of frequencies north of the 7k frequency range. The in-ear monitors offer a large sense of scale perhaps helped with its larger semi-open design. Overall, the response is smooth and Audeze have done well here to define vocals amidst an orchestration of well separated notes.
With the help of the larger transducer, the LCDi4 capably outputs revered bass with both power and finesse. It is a bass which straddles along the lines of neutrality without borrowing warmth from elsewhere. Perhaps some may prefer more voluminous bass akin to the Campfire Audio Atlas or the 64 Audio Nio, however the LCDi4 yields a solid foundation which extends well into sub-bass territory.
In this respect, the LCDi4 combines the best aspects of the BA precision with the extension of dynamic drivers. In ‘Friends’ by The Carters, the bass line never detracts from the midrange frequencies and stops on the dime with excellent control and punchiness.
Following on from the bass, the LCDi4 remains largely linear in the lower midrange section with vocals in this region remaining clear, relatively forward and balanced. At the higher frequencies, the LCDi4 loses some energy which does slightly detract from the overall balance of female vocals as well as acoustic guitars.
Nevertheless, the soundstage is outstanding with vocals which float from the peripheries with excellent panning from left to right. In this respect, the LCDi4 represents an IEM with perhaps the largest soundstage I have come across. The tonal character here does not provoke warm or cold hues but adapts well across a wide variety of genres. While some users may not be fans of EQing stock sounds, the LCDi4 does respond magnificently to EQing of the upper midrange which restores some energy and bite in this region.
Despite the LCDi4’s excellent extension and articulate treble, it is very forgiving of poor recordings. This allows it to be listened to hours without developing the characteristics fatigue which plague some other models. Overall, the LCDi4 renders outstanding tonal transparency and this is true across the frequency range. If there was any critique, like the upper midrange – there could be more emphasis on the lower midrange to bring it line with the rest of the higher frequencies.
Soundstage & Imaging
As mentioned, the Audeze LCDi4 offers some of the best soundstage and imaging that an in-ear model can offer following its unique design. There is excellent projection of sonic cues in the elements of height, width and depth. Unlike smaller IEMs, the LCDi4 can come across as speaker like with the right pairings of digital audio players or DAC/Amp combos.
Compared to the Tia Fourte (another soundstage beast), the LCDi4 is more laidback in its presentation of notes which ebb and flow compared to the Fourte’s more forthright pinpoint localization of sonic cues.
Shure KSE1200 ($1999)
Where the Shure KSE1200 employs electrostatic technology, the Audeze LCDi4 makes use of planar dynamic drivers. Comparing the two, the KSE1200 delivers unrivalled levels of responsiveness, decay and resolution. However, the LCDi4 is certainly no slouch here with respectable levels of definition, speed and resolve. The KSE1200 is the more neutral offering of the two with an almost ‘colorless’ signature whereas the LCDi4 crafts more body in its bass with more defined highs.
64 Audio Tia Fourte ($3599)
Both the Tia Fourte and the LCDi4 offer some of the largest soundstage available for their size and portability. However, while the Tia Fourte employs a hybrid of balanced armature and dynamic drivers, the LCDi4 opts for planar. The two IEMs differ in their sound with the LCDi4 sounding relatively more laidback whereas the Tia Fourte is more forthright in its presentation (especially at the higher end of the frequency range). The 64 Audio Tia Fourte boasts a larger and more authoritative bass at the expense of a more controlled ‘LCDi4’ output of low frequencies.
The Audeze LCDi4 represents the culmination of innovation and redefining standards in an open back planar magnetic in-ear monitor form factor. Like the Audeze Euclid, the Audeze LCDi4 offers a balanced tonality with outstanding responsiveness, coherence and resolution. The sound is also one of the most open and spacious from any in-ear headphone rivalling that of full-sized counterparts.
The build quality is fantastic with a magnesium lightweight shell and gold gauze protection. The Cipher V2 cable along with the in-built DSP plugin allows another layer of customization transforming the stock experience. No doubt Audeze have won a lot of fans with this unique in-ear headphone. While not a standard in-ear monitor, the LCDi4 showcases a new breed of mini-headphone which represents a high-standard of sonic capability, portability and customization.
Audeze LCDi4 Specifications:
- Style In-ear, semi-open
- Transducer type Planar magnetic
- Magnetic structure Fluxor™ magnet array
- Phase management FAZOR
- Magnet type Neodymium N50
- Diaphragm type Nano-scale Uniforce™
- Transducer size 30 mm
- Maximum power handling 3W
- Maximum SPL >130dB
- Frequency response 10Hz – 50kHz
- THD <0.1% @ 100dB
- Impedance 30 ohms
- Sensitivity 100 dB/1mW (at Drum Reference Point)
- Power requirement >50mW