Top-of-the-line. You don’t see that term thrown around a lot on MajorHifi. But if any headphone has deservedly sought the descriptor, the $3995 Audeze LCD-4 may just be the top of the top-of-the-line headphones.
Imagine: a monstrous cardboard box, sealed tight with thick packing tape. Inside its depths, a heavy dust-proof, water-proof, blast-proof rugged plastic case. Inside the plastic case, a pair of luxurious headphones, a bright blue 1/4” stereo cable with dual-entry mini-XLR connectors, and a pair of little white gloves to wear when handling the headphones.
This is the LCD-4. It’s built like a dream, with wood accents, and a stainless steel vented plate on either earcup. The padding is real leather – deep and soft. The cable is ensconced in a thick rubber coat.
Putting it on your head, you can feel the weight of expert craftsmanship and premium materials.
But how is the sound?
|Transducer type||Planar magnetic|
|Magnetic arrays||Double Fluxor magnets|
|Transducer size||106 mm|
|Maximum power handling||15W (for 200ms)|
|Sound pressure level||>130dB with 15W|
|Frequency response||5Hz – 20kHz extended out to 50kHz|
|Total harmonic distortion||<1% through entire frequency range|
|Efficiency||97dB / 1mW|
|Optimal power requirement||1 – 4W|
The specs show us it has a fairly wide frequency range, good volume, a relatively high impedance, and some low distortion. It’s going to need and amp, and for my review I paired it with the Hifiman EF100 – a hybrid model checking in at just under $500. Put them together and you have a match made in audio heaven.
There’s a night and day difference between the LCD-4 and every other headphone you’ve ever listened to, and it happens in the low end. Like all planar-magnetic headphones, this one offers an extreme level of detail in the low end, but it’s doing it better than any other model I’ve come across. The bass is fat – obscenely fat. It’s thick and filled out and detailed. There’s a certain weight, or gravity to it. Almost like impact, but it’s so well-controlled. It’s like no other bass. There’s particularly good control, without any bleeding whatsoever. Even on the most difficult of tracks, the LCD-4 keeps it’s low end clean and defined.
The mids are full and articulate, with zero distortion and excellent clarity. Vocals, strings, woodwinds…everything stands out as clean and accurate. There’s no bleeding towards the low end, no honk or hints of tin. It’s a damn good midrange.
On the LCD-4, the highs are well controlled, without piercing or clipping. There is a level of detail that is best described as exacting. While most headphones of this type often suffer in the highs from dampening, the LCD-4 doesn’t give me the same impression. It sounds like it should, about as accurate as you can get aside from being right there with the musician.
Exhaustive. The best I’ve ever heard, but I almost felt fatigued just trying to place all of the instruments around me in any given piece of music. Eventually, I had to let go of the desire to quantify the soundstage and just accept that it’s almost too good to describe. Or, perhaps, the best way I can describe it is to say it’s more like a soundscape than a soundstage. There’s more space and definition than I can put into words; you have to hear it to understand it.
The LCD-4 is one beast of a headphone. It might be a little heavy. And it’s definitely not for the discerning audiophile who is constrained by his budget (unless that budget goes up to four grand). But there’s something amazing about this level of quality, from the build to the comfort to the actual sound. It’s accurate, detailed, with a deep bass that doesn’t sacrifice midrange or high-end detail. The only real fault I could find with these headphones was that the gloves it came with are too small to fit my ginormous hands. If this were a review of the gloves, I’d give them zero stars, then drive down to Bay Ridge and toss them off the Verrazano. But since there are actually headphones in the box, I had to make this review about them.
Well, they deserve the price. And if you can afford to, you should seriously consider buying these headphones. Whatever you listen to, you’ll hear the quality of these headphones leaping out at you. Of course, if you’re looking for something to pair with a low output device like a phone or a portable music player, these may not be the headphones for you. But this is the only reason I can think of for not recommending these headphones. Otherwise, get the amp, get the headphones, and get busy getting down with whatever kind of music you like best.
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