Audeze LCD-i4 Review

Audeze LCD-i4
MrSpeakers – Ether 2 (1PM; 1,999$)

 

 

The MrSpeakers (now called Dan Clark Audio) Ether 2 is almost equally hard to drive than the LCD-i4. In comparison these two brought out one thing for me: the i4 is tough competition. Just like the LCD-i4, the Ether 2 asks for quality amplification and is not satisfied with just about any source. Give it a proper amping and you’ll be rewarded.

Both models have a warmed up signature, but the Ether 2 puts in even more warmth in the sound than the i4. The Audeze reaches similarly low, but does with a more controlled grip. Bass has more texture and higher resolution on the LCD-i4, but it sounds bigger on the Ether 2. The MrSpeakers headphone gives male similar attention with good physicality and an organic sound. The i4 however sounds airier and more open here, the Ether 2 has a tendency to become nasal and chesty, while the Audeze always has the right amount of air in them to prevent that.

The i4 sounds more open in general, it separates instruments better and sharper. It has a darker background that enables musicians to be enjoyed with great spotlight. The Ether 2 here falls short in comparison to me. It can sound a bit mushy and too interwoven for my taste.

Mids on the Ether 2 can also sound recessed, just like on the i4, but with the over-presented warmth, this is a bigger issue to me than with the Audeze. The LCD-i4 has a better tonal balance in that regard. It manages to stay in control in complex scenes better and portrays music more in a holographic manner than the Ether 2, which has a more intimate presentation.

The Ether 2 has a calmer, more relaxed treble, that can provide good clarity in the upper end. It does not sound as hard-edged as the Audeze and stays safer in the 10-16 kHz regions. The i4 I need to tame in those frequency areas, but the Ether 2 I do not. If anything, I would boost the treble slightly and reduce some warmth to make it more balanced.

Conclusion:

The LCD-i4 has been in the market since May 2017. This review went live almost three years after its introduction, but even after all this time, the LCD-i4 still is a very solid piece of equipment and very relevant in the flagship scene.

Audeze has created an almost timeless monitor, that redefined the possibilities of what an In Ear Monitor can do. Although I don’t agree on the term IEM for the LCD-i4, it is one of the very best in this category. The i4 presents music like no other monitor I have come across and is probably one of the best I have heard to date.

The LCD-i4 is a monitor that can absolutely take it up with the big boys with its open, natural and high quality performance. It does sound very good on its own already, but with some EQ-tweaking it can become an absolute beast. Spot on timbre, precision, speed and a natural sound. What more could you want?

Audeze LCD-i4

Audeze LCD-i4

To me, the LCD-i4 is what I bring when I want a headphone performance in an IEM package. Together with the Chord Electronics Hugo2 it is an unbeatable portable combo, that convinced me a lot during many listening sessions. The Audeze LCD-i4 is pure pleasure on many levels and it’s an easy choice for me to add it to our Best UIEM list.

It is remarkable. Simple as that.

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A daytime code monkey with a passion for audio and his kids, Linus tends to look at gear with a technical approach, trying to understand why certain things sound the way they do. When there is no music around, Linus goes the extra mile and annoys the hell out of his colleagues with low level beatboxing.

    5 Comments

    • Reply January 23, 2020

      Adrien

      You barely answered your guiding question: does it compare to full-sized headphones? I would have liked to see a comparison with the LCD3 and the LCD4. Cheers.

      • Reply January 23, 2020

        Linus

        HI Adrien,

        thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.
        You’re absolutely right.
        I might have to revisit the LCD-i4 properly and include a comparison to headphones I have at home. Unfortunately the LCD3 and LCD4 aren’t two of those. And any comparison that’s not done in my own apartment with extensive listening isn’t accurate to me, sorry. I’ll see if I find the time to add a proper comparison to the Meze Empyrean (LCD-i4 can compete imo) and other cans.
        Please bear with me and have some patience in the mean-time. I have a full-time job and two kids that I invest most of my time into. 🙂
        Have a great weekend!
        Cheers

    • Reply January 23, 2020

      Adrien

      Fantastic! Looking forward to your updated take on this model. I think a lot of us readers wonder whether the i line could be a suitable replacement for the heavier, clunkier full-sized models. Enjoy the week end, and your family time too 🙂

      • Reply January 23, 2020

        Linus

        I agree with you.
        In my opinion, yes, the i4 and i3 can replace some of the heavy weights. Especially in terms of audio performance and portability. There aren’t many headphones that really run well with portable gear. The only exceptions I know of from experience are the Empyrean and Abyss Diana V2 (review coming very soon). But others don’t play too well with trans/portable gear. Stuff like the HE1000se, Diana Phi and others really need you to be strapped to an amplifier. The beauty of the i3 and i4 is, that they sure do scale with big gear, but they sound bloody fantastic with say a Lotoo PAW Gold and other DAPs already.

        Thanks Adrien! I hope you’ll have a great weekend as well. For me and the kids it’s museum time again. They love it. 🙂

    • Reply March 15, 2020

      Alex

      Hello,
      I’d like to ask how it compares to a18t described here:
      https://www.headfonia.com/review-64-audio-a18t-18-ba-orchestra/5/

      My problem – I am thinking about lcd-i4 and u18t.

      My assumption – since a18t is custom made CIEM and you wrote “The model will not go back.” you still posses this monitor. And lcd-i4 was review 2 months ago so the impression might be fresh enough to compare those.
      My second assumption is a18t is very comparable to u18t – but here I’d need some more research to confirm it. Nevertheless, the comment from your side would be much appreciated.

      Best,
      Alex

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