Build Quality and Ergonomics:
The LCD-i4 has Audeze’s typical hexagonal form with a body made out of Magnesium-alloy. They are very lightweight (23g) for their size, remember, these have 30 mm drivers. On the front of the monitors you can see a gold embossed Audeze logo. Which feels like it’s made of aluminium.
The bottom of the i4’s is fully sealed and closed. At the end of the nozzle, which connects to the body, you can spot a ring. This ring is here to attach to the ear-hooks. Pick the one that fits your ears and put it on there. You can glide the hooks to your desired position.
Quite atypical for an IEM is the nozzle-length. It’s pretty long, but the LCD-i4 can’t be inserted too far into your canals, as the body of them will give you the signal when to stop. On top of being rather lengthy for a nozzle, it’s also bigger in dimension compared to other IEMs. This makes tip-rolling a nightmare, as most bores aren’t wide enough for the i4. The LCD-i4 uses a 0.78 mm 2-pin connection for the cables. One thing you might notice, is that it uses reversed polarity. So any aftermarket cable you want to use should have matching polarity.
I find the LCD-i4 to be very comfortable. Yes, it did take some serious getting used to. Once you managed to acclimate to the new style, it becomes really comfy. The i4’s sit nicely next to my ears and the only thing I notice is the downwards-facing cable when I move my head.
All in all the build quality of the LCD-i4 is good, but for the price it could be more robust in my opinion. The matte black finish of the Magnesium-alloy gives it a classy and timeless look.
People who paid close attention might have spotted that I pretty much took the last chapters almost 1:1 from the LCD-i3 review. The reason for this is, the LCD-i3 and i4 are almost identical in specifications, package and build. The most obvious difference in optics between the two is the colouring.
Since the LCD-i4 is an open back monitor it limits the use-cases drastically. I could never use these outside my own home in a noisy environment. Sure, you can pump up the volume so high that all other noises are unheard, but that’s not recommended, unless you want to harm your own hearing. The LCD-i4 is intended as a high end companion in a package of an IEM but with the sound of a full-sized headphone. Let’s find out if Audeze could pull this one off.
Right off the bat, it is important to note, that even Audeze themselves will tell you, that the LCD-i4 is not perfect from start. It needs some correction, and for that they provide the Cipher/Lightning cable or their Reveal+ Plugin. Both will add some equalization to the LCD-i4. We will go over them a little later in this review, but will focus on the standalone performance of the i4 now.
The first thing one probably notices about the LCD-i4 is the impressively open stage and portrayal of music. It manages to construct a sound stage that is structured like the one of an over ear headphone. The LCD-i4 destroys the limits of traditional IEMs in that regard. It pulls the listener into the scene where everything happens outside of your head. The musicians are performing in a holographic manner in front of you, with great separation and imaging.
The LCD-i4 has a very organic and physical bass. It goes very deep if need be and does so with loads of rumble and resolution. Lows on the i4 have wonderful texture and layering. You get an impactful, fast and punchy bass that does not leave anything to be desired. For an IEM this reaches impressively deep. Bass is natural, dynamic and oh so damn fine realistic. The body and weight is just about perfect. Mid and upper bass are slightly more pronounced than sub-bass on the LCD-i4. There also is a slight boost in the lower midrange, that can be best heard with deep male vocals and bass-heavy string instruments.
The midrange has a good dose of warmth in it for an organic touch. There is superb texture and resolution in each and every note. Lower-key instruments and vocalists have wonderful weight and density. Male singers and bassy instruments have an almost vibrant sound in them, which gives them high density and physicality.
Mids are natural and apart from the lower mids a bit recessed. Vocals have great emotions and air in them to not sound compressed or closed in. This is very often an issue with overly warm headphones and In Ears. However, some vocals can sound a bit pushed back and even nasal at times. Instruments sound realistic with excellent timbre. There is a very nice level or richness in the midrange, that makes listening to acoustic pieces a whole lot of fun and pleasure.
What the LCD-i4 absolutely excels at is stage construction and control. I don’t know what possibly could make the LCD-i4 sweat. It keeps things organized even when the music can get sort of messy. The i4 manages to stay in control at all times during information overloaded scenes and complex situations. It has impressive resolution and renders at a very high rate. The background is very dark, which enables the musicians to perform in their own spotlight.
Treble to me is a double-edged sword. On one hand it is very clean and it provides a lot of air to the spectrum. But on the other hand, it can be a bit dry and forward in the upper registers. Some of the edges in the high notes can become a bit hard and sharp. Highs however have very good energy, crispness and extension. The i4 goes wide up in the frequency range. Lower treble to me sounds richer and more pleasing to the ear than some of the higher up frequencies.
With the Cipher cable you get a built-in DSP correction for the LCD-i4. Using this one adds a layer of warmth and gives a more pronounced sub-bass. There is bigger body throughout the midrange and some additional air in the vocals, which gives them more space to breathe. With the Cipher cable Audeze enhanced the upper midrange energy of the i4 as well. Bass is a bit thicker and bolder in appearance too.
For Roon users like myself, there is also a way to use the DSP presets without having to rely on the supplied Apple cable. Audeze worked with the great people of Roon Labs to include all their presets for their headphones in the DSP section of Roon. This means, you can add the Audeze recommendations to any DAC of your own. I personally used it with many different sources at home, but found the best partner to be with my Hugo 2.
In Roon you even have the extra options to add some wetness to the sound of the LCD-i4, should you want to tinker with that. It’s a nice little feature, but I haven’t really used it much to be honest.
The review continues on the next page.