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.
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?
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.