Jump to content
  • The Computer Audiophile
    The Computer Audiophile

    Subjective: Audeze LCD-4z Headphone Review

    As you may know, these headphones weren't in my review queue until about one week ago. I don't usually review headphones because the topic is a bit out of my wheelhouse and covered much better by our resident headphone experts. However, in the interest of the Audiophile Style community, Audeze, and my own curiosity, I felt the need to follow up the review published September 4, 2019 by @Sonis, with my own purely subjective review. In addition, we have simultaneously published our own objective review of the LCD-4z with measurements and explanations by @mitchco (who was sent a pair of LCD-4z headphones directly from Audeze).

     


    I used the exact same pair of Audeze LCD-4z headphones used by Sonic in his review. Not just the exact same model, but the exact pair. They were shipped to me along with the exact same pair of Sennheiser HD800 headphones used for comparison in his review. I will use both headphones in this review for the sake of consistency and because it illuminates major differences between the two products and enables readers to better understand what each headphone does for music reproduction.

     

    Driving the headphones, I have a Benchmark DAC3 B connected via balanced XLR cables to a Benchmark HPA4 headphone amp. Both were sent to me directly from Benchmark at the request of Audeze. I gladly accepted them and agreed that using a known DAC/amp combination would aid in the review process and ensure a known level of performance. Audeze also sent me a Chord Hugo2 DAC / headphone amp to use during my review. 

     

    DAC3_B_Silver_02_2000x.jpeg  HPA4_Silver_340_2000x.jpg

     

     

     

    Over the last week I've listened to everything under the sun. Every kind of music, every instrument, every original master vs remaster, etc... in an effort to hear as much as possible through the Audeze LCD-4z. I wanted to find its strengths and weaknesses. I'll start my subjective listening impression with a track I've been listening to since August 1991, Pearl Jam's Black. This is my favorite track of all time. If I was on a desert island with only one track, this would be it. 

     

    Pearl Jam's Black was remixed in 2004 for release on the band's Rearviewmirror greatest hits album (Qobuz link). This is the definitive version of the track. Listening through the Benchmark DAC / amp combo, the LCD-4z had a very distinct sonic signature. The overall sound was pretty colored, with the mid-range up through the highest frequencies sounding quite compressed, while the bottom end was much less defined than other headphones. Let's walk through the track, available on most major streaming platforms, to give readers a sense of what I heard and when I heard it. 

     

    At 0:25 the vocals, guitar and drums kick in to get the track going. I could immediately hear a compression as the vocals and instruments sounded blended together. Eddie Vedder's voice didn't have the range that I know is on this track. The second very noticeable shortcoming I hear through the Audeze LCD-4z is the lack of air around the cymbal / hi-hat throughout this part. There is a synthetic sound to the cymbals that is reminiscent of MP3 because it's missing important sonic details. 

     

    At the track moves forward past 1:00, Vedder's vocal is the main "instrument" heard through the LCD-4z, like it is pushed very forward in the soundstage or like there's an equalizer bump right in his range. Yet, at the same time there is this compression of all sounds at and above his vocal range. I can only describe this as a compression sandwich. The vocal is compressed as are the other instruments at or higher, but the forward vocal is beneath the rest of the instruments that lay on top. To put it another way, the vocal is one distinct instrument and everything above this is one distinct instrument. They are sandwiched together at this point in the track. 

     

    At 1:58, there is a drum transition from the chorus to the second verse. Through the LDC-4z there is clearly something amiss. These drums have very little delineation between them and they sound very compressed with no atmosphere around them. The opposite can be heard through the Sennheiser HD800 headphones. I can identify each drum head as it's hit and I can place each drum in Dave Krusen's drum kit within the soundstage. The sound of this track is absolutely stunning for Pearl Jam fans. 

     

    When the track continues past the two-minute mark, Krusen's rhythm on the cymbals and hi-hat are airy and completely separate from the other instruments, but only on the Sennheiser HD800. This is not the case through the LCD-4z. 

     

    At 4:06 both the guitar and piano play the oh-so-familiar outro that has grit, grime, and an elegant piano sound through the HD800. Through the LCD-4z the sound is a jumbled mess. I hate to say it but Black doesn't sound like this now that is has been remixed. In a way, the LCD-4z put a spin on the sound that makes it similar to the original 1991 release.

     

    Switching tracks and versions to Jeremy off the 24/88.2 remaster of Ten from 2009 (Qobuz link), the LCD-4z shows its sonic signature right on the opening bass lines and continuing through the song. The best way I can describe the bass is pretty loose and lacking definition. Each pluck of the string and finger slide to change chords is clearly audible through the Sennheiser HD800. Not so through the Audeze LCD-4z. I don't understand enough about headphone design to know why, but I always thought a planar transducer would provide the ultimate in detail. This is absolutely not what I experienced through the LCD-4z. The bass throughout Jeremy's 5:18 is quite sloppy sounding and similar to one note bass heard through less than good subwoofer implementations. 

     

    Listening to Ike Quebec's Blue and Sentimental track of the Blue & Sentimental album at 24/192 from Qobuz (Link), I initially thought I heard some redeeming qualities through the LCD-4z. I like the sound of Ike's sax and heard Paul Chambers' bass as deep and authoritative. This was a fun sound although not what I consider the most neutral. Then I switched to the HD800 and thought wow, what a difference. I can see how the LCD-4z would be enjoyable on this album, but the HD800 sounded far more nuanced and neutral. The sound of Philly Joe Jones' hi-hat and cymbal taps are delicate with texture through the HD800. I just don't hear that texture and humanistic lifelike sound through the LCD-4z. The LCD-4z sounds a bit like a vivid setting on a TV would sound, some colors / frequencies bumped while others aren't. With respect to the cymbals, the loudest hit is certainly present, but all the micro details and nuance that sends one's mind into the recording venue is gone through the 4z.

     

    One example at 3:00 of the first track one can hear a guitar loud and clear, but it over powers the cymbals and hi-hat. It's overbearing, with loose bass laying the foundation. There is no air or texture to the cymbals. The presentation through the Sennheiser HD800 is completely opposite. Sure the guitar is more up front than the other instruments but the base groove is just that, a nuanced groove not a lumpy low range sound. The cymbal work from Jones is delicate and airy like a butterfly keeping time for the rest of the band. 

     


    Conclusion

     

    I went into this review with a very open mind. I had a very positive feeling about planar drivers due to their speed and the physics behind the technology. In fact, I own a pair of Audeze LCD-XC closed back headphones. I was well aware that Sonis didn't like the LCD-4z, but I didn't let that cloud my judgement at all. I owed it to the Audiophile Style community, Audeze, and myself to give this headphone a fair shake. I think it would've been easier to fall in love with this headphone because the people at Audeze have been so great behind the scenes, sending a pair of headphones for review and making sure I had proper amplification etc... Audeze truly believes in this headphone and that can be convincing in and of itself. If I'd have disagreed with Sonis, no harm, no foul. We have different tastes.

     

    However, I'm in agreement with Sonis about much of how the LCD-4z sounds. Although I didn't use the same adjectives as he did and I don't consider the sound wretched, I don't believe the LCD-4z is a headphone I could enjoy for long. The sonic signature was just too much for me. The coloration was the equivalent of watching television with a sepia tone filter. I can see how it's neat to some people, but it isn't my cup of tea. 

     

    I look forward to hearing other products from Audeze because I still believe in its technology and know the company puts more into R&D than many HiFi companies combined. Hopefully a better experience for me won't be too far off in the future. 

     

     

     

     

    Product Information:

     

     

     

     

     

    Associated Music:

     

     

     

     

    Associated Equipment:

     



    User Feedback

    Recommended Comments



    I want to thank Chris for taking the time and the considerable effort to give a critical listen to the Audeze LCD-4z headphones. Of course, I’m delighted that Chris and I found an almost identical sonic signature to these phones, and vindication of my findings, is, on a personal level, very satisfying. Like I have said to my critics all along, I have no axe to grind with Audeze, the manufacturer of these headphones, and, in fact, in the past, I have heard a number of Audeze’s headphone models and found them to be exemplary of what a high-end phone pair should be: comfortable, well made using the best materials, and, most importantly (for me, anyway) sounding very much like real music! That the LCD-4z model does not meet the goal of “sounding like real music” is unfortunate, and at $4000, a price point where there are many jaw-dropping headphone models from which to choose, this failure is all the more troubling. I wrote my negative review of these phones because I felt that the Audiophile Style community needed to be warned that if they bought these phones, they’re going to be disappointed. These days with most purchases in audio being done on the Internet due to the decline in brick-and-mortar stores, audio buyers need all the information that they can get to make a wise and satisfying purchase. Hopefully, Audeze will see clear to introduce a v.2 version of the LCD-4z, and perhaps these will actually sound like a $4000 headphone.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    Hi Chris, thanks for the review. Just wondering if the 4 out of 5 stars correctly reflects your conclusion.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    1 hour ago, KenG said:

    Hi Chris, thanks for the review. Just wondering if the 4 out of 5 stars correctly reflects your conclusion.

    The stars are given by readers rating the article. 

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    Chris

     

    Is it safe to assume from your comments that you have a different opinion of the LCD-XC headphones that you own?

     

    Chris

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    Excellent all around to read this, Sonis review and commentary. As a reader of reviews I'm always hoping for honesty and not fan boy adoration. This certainly fits that bill.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    On 9/27/2019 at 2:16 PM, The Computer Audiophile said:

    The stars are given by readers rating the article. 

    Duh...I'm a space cadet!

    Thanks.

    Great review!

    Has anyone here ever done a straight up review of the HD 800?

     

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    14 minutes ago, Gus141 said:

    Awesome reviews by @The Computer Audiophile and @mitchco (and the previous @Sonis review as well). It reminds me of the time Tyll slammed the Sony MDR-Z1R cans. I love a good and honest review (both objective and subjective).

     

    Cheers

    Gus

    Thanks Gus. 

     

    This was an interesting adventure. I had no idea how my listening impressions or the measurements would turn out. The enjoyable part was that it didn't really matter because we only write honest reviews and I didn't have to worry about covering bases or couching my opinion in a way to save a manufacturer from something.  The outcome certainly matters for Audeze and consumers, but in terms of writing the review, my process was the same as always. 

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    8 hours ago, Sonis said:

    I had one for a while last summer (2018). Compared directly to the Schiit Yiggy (which is a “ladder DAC” while the DAC3 is a single-bit, Delta-Sigma DAC), I found the Benchmark to be lacking in detail, and rather homogenous. Not bad, you understand, just not as good as either the Yiggy or the Chord Hugo2. I have an Oppo  UDP-205 Blu-Ray/media player and it too (like the Benchmark) uses the ESS SabreDAC Pro DAC (although the Oppo supposedly uses a more advanced model). I found that they sound very similar.

    The Yigg and Hugo2 are not under consideration, as neither operates as a preamp. 

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    1 hour ago, audiobomber said:

    The Yigg and Hugo2 are not under consideration, as neither operates as a preamp. 

    Remind me again where I asserted that they did operate as a preamp? The Benchmark is primarily noted as a DAC with a headphone amp. The fact that it has a couple of line-level inputs does not, in my humble opinion, a “preamp” make.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    On 9/28/2019 at 3:34 AM, cgiammona said:

    Is it safe to assume from your comments that you have a different opinion of the LCD-XC headphones that you own?

     

    +1

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    On 9/27/2019 at 9:34 PM, cgiammona said:

    Chris

     

    Is it safe to assume from your comments that you have a different opinion of the LCD-XC headphones that you own?

     

    Chris

     

    4 minutes ago, LTG2010 said:

    +1

     

    The LCD-XC is a different beast. The closed back headphone is very different from the LCD-4z but I also don't really compare the XC to something like the HD800 because the designs are so different. I believe creating a closed back headphone is like starting a race with one's legs tied together. It's hard to overcome the issues with closed back design. I like the XC and keep them around, but don't use them as a reference headphone. I dislike the 4z, but this is a reference level headphone at reference level prices that doesn't perform as well as its peers. 

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    On 10/1/2019 at 3:03 AM, Sonis said:

    Remind me again where I asserted that they did operate as a preamp? The Benchmark is primarily noted as a DAC with a headphone amp. The fact that it has a couple of line-level inputs does not, in my humble opinion, a “preamp” make.

    You said nothing about preamp operation. I was merely clarifying the fact that my short list only includes DAC/preamps only, as I've sold my preamp. The DAC's you preferred to the DAC3 are not under consideration. 

     

    The DAC3 has analog and digital inputs, gain control and multiple outputs. According to the manufacturer: "Benchmark DAC1, DAC2, and DAC3 converters are designed to directly drive power amplifiers and speakers." 

    Please explain how that is not a preamp.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    2 hours ago, audiobomber said:

    You said nothing about preamp operation. I was merely clarifying the fact that my short list only includes DAC/preamps only, as I've sold my preamp. The DAC's you preferred to the DAC3 are not under consideration. 

     

    The DAC3 has analog and digital inputs, gain control and multiple outputs. According to the manufacturer: "Benchmark DAC1, DAC2, and DAC3 converters are designed to directly drive power amplifiers and speakers." 

    Please explain how that is not a preamp.

    In your previous post on the subject, neither did you. You merely asked if one of us was going to review the Benchmark3. I responded that I had already evaluated one (as a DAC/headphone amp), and found it not my cup of tea. The manufacturer can call it anything they like, but it’s not enough of a pre-amp for me. The couple of line-level inputs on some Benchmark models looks to me like almost an afterthought. I mean, even Benchmark calls it a DAC3, not a “Preamp3”.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    On 9/30/2019 at 10:19 PM, audiobomber said:

    The Yigg and Hugo2 are not under consideration, as neither operates as a preamp. 

     

    The Hugo 2 includes a remote control and can be used to directly drive an amp.  

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    22 minutes ago, kennyb123 said:

     

    The Hugo 2 includes a remote control and can be used to directly drive an amp.  

    True, but without any line-level or phono inputs, it can’t be considered a “pre-amp” which seems to be what Audiobomber is on about!

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    3 hours ago, kennyb123 said:

     

    The Hugo 2 includes a remote control and can be used to directly drive an amp.  

    Thanks for the info but not enough inputs for my system. I don't need an analog input but it would be nice to have. I do need two Toslink inputs, one coax and USB. 

     

    Here's an opinion that contrasts with @SonisThe Hugo 2 doesn't quite deliver the best sound in this price range – that would be the incredible Benchmark DAC3 HGC. The Benchmark delivers that sound at a lower price - $2,195, a good $500 cheaper than the Hugo."

    https://www.themasterswitch.com/review-chord-hugo-2

     

    The DAC3 is listed A+ by Stereophile, with the Dave. The Hugo 2 is not listed, the TT is rated Class A.

     

    It's difficult to assess the SQ situation without being able to home trial (I live in a smaller city, a long way from the action).

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites



    Create an account or sign in to comment

    You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

    Create an account

    Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

    Register a new account

    Sign in

    Already have an account? Sign in here.

    Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...