In this post we’re taking a first look at the new LCD-i3 by Audeze. It’s their newest planar magnetic In Ear.
Disclaimer: This is part of our Picture Sunday series, where we give first impressions on new gear we have in the queue. If you want to check the previous ones, you can do so here.
My relationship with Audeze products goes back to when I started to get soaked into the higher end headphone scene. I’ve been a lover of good audio long before I’ve been able to dip my toes into the waters of less affordable gear.
Audeze as a brand has always struck me as one of the front-runners in the game of high fidelity headphones. I always wanted to like the LCD-2 and LCD-3, but their weight has always been a concern for me. When I owned the EL-8, that was not an issue for me. I could wear it for hours. I know it isn’t the most regarded Audeze headphone, but at the time I felt it was very nice. It needed some quality amplification and a proper cable to make it really sing though.
In the past two years, Audeze has been hard at work getting the weight down to a minimum. We have seen some new headphones of theirs using Magnesium-alloy as housing material. This is a clear step in the right direction for me, and I am sure many others will agree.
Since my EL-8 days I have been shifting my focus more on smaller packages, In Ears have stepped foot into my life and ears. It’s wonderful having high quality audio on the go, but there aren’t many IEMs that can play with the big over-ear boys. A full sized headphone will always win in terms of pure sound quality to me.
Near Ear Monitors
Audeze has released a number of In Ears with the iSine 10, iSine 20, LCD-i4 and now the LCD-i3. Although, I would not call these as In Ears. They’re more or less “Near Ear Monitors”. Just like the K1000 or Mysphere 3.X does not count as a headphone to me.
The LCD-i3 is the successor of the iSine 20, which Lieven reviewed a couple of years ago. I have received my LCD-i3 in late August, and from first listen I knew it is something different. The nature of the i3 gives it an expectedly open sound stage, impressive layering and imaging. The overall signature is slightly darkish, but depends a lot on what signal you feed it. The LCD-i3 is a 30 mm planar magnetic monitor, that demands quality power. Its sensitivity of 110dB and 20 Ohm impedance suggest it’s an easy to drive product. While it reaches high volumes fast, it does scale with proper amplification.
Audeze provides more than just a complete package. You’ll get so many accessories it’s impossible to argue with that. They also supply a lightning cable, which includes a pre-set DSP that changes the signature of the LCD-i3. I’ve seen people complain that there is no USB C cable in the package, and I agree, it would be great to have that option too. I’d love that for my OnePlus 5t phone.
With the DSP cable, the LCD-i3 becomes more dynamic, with bigger bass body. Mids retain their clarity, but gain a bit in body as well. Overall, I’m pretty impressed with the performance with the DSP cable straight out of my iPad Air running Roon. Still, I wish to use other sources and hope Roon releases an update with the LCD-i3 DSP settings soon.
The LCD-i3 is something unique. It offers a sound that’s not like any monitor I have tested so far. Its stage presentation is something that really surprised me from the first second. I am looking forward to listening more in the upcoming weeks and to write up my thoughts about this beauty. It’s still a good few more weeks down the road, but we’re getting there, so keep your eyes on Headfonia for the full review!