I own the LCD-4z of the review.
Between my beloved Audeze i20's with the genius Cipher lightning cable and accompanying iPhone app and the positive reviews emphasizing the qualities I find important, I decided to add the LCD-4z to my collection.
I live in an audiophile desert so it is practically impossible to listen to all the equipment I might be interested in.
I am embarrassed to admit, I was so exited to get those headphones from the Audeze authorized dealer that I went to the UPS distribution center to pick them up at 10am instead of waiting until 7pm when I would normally get home.
I had my beloved Chord Hugo 2 and Sennheiser HD800 with me for a quick listen at the UPS parking lot before going back to work.
During the first song my jaw dropped and not in a good way. The low frequencies were strong and satisfying but the midrange was muffled to the point were I couldn't follow lyrics that were crystal clear on the HD800 and the highs were shrill and piercing. After swapping headphones several times (and adjusting for volume) I decided, this is one of those products that transform from a moth to a butterfly after a proper burn in. I also thought it would be a good idea to have my friend Sonis listen to the entire setup to make sure I am not missing anything.
Without a word on my thoughts, I dropped them off to Sonis's house. A few hours later I got the exact same thoughts I had from Sonis. That's not good.
Took the LCD-4z to my dedicated listening room, hooked them up to a DAC/head amp I wasn't using at a time, connected them to a server and hit repeat on one of my Tidal playlists. After 24 hours I had a quick listen and there was no meaningful sound improvement. That's not good.
The LCD-4z burned in for a solid week with no discernible sound improvement at the end. The moth is still a moth. Back to Sonis for his expert thoughts.
His assessment was identical to mine. That's not good.
The dealer directed me to Audeze. After helpful emails exchanged with Mark, at technical support, I got a prepaid return authorization (first class treatment). Before I sent them back hoping there is something wrong with my particular set, I called Mark to get his thoughts on the voicing of the LCD-4z from his point of view. After a very polite conversation of my entire experience and his assurance that Audeze will make right anything that might have being missed, I persisted on his thoughts about the sound signature differences between the HD800 and the LCD-4z. To my surprise Mark told me the midrange of the LCD-4z can not produce the clarity of the HD800. That's really not good.
I send them back hoping there is something wrong with my particular set.
A few days later I got the "good news":
"After some testing, we have determined that your headphones were out of spec, and we'll be replacing the drivers on those with a new matched set". Fantastic.
When I got them back I thought there was a mistake. They sounded identical to the phones I sent back to Audeze. After another solid week of burn in, no meaningful improvement to the sound.
After an other email exchange, I was told that:
"Unfortunately, this seems to be a case of these headphones just not being right for you. While these were tested thoroughly before they were sent out to you and found to be within specifications, If you'd like to send them in and get them inspected once again, I can arrange that. I can't guarantee that the results will be drastically different if further repairs are made.
(first class again)
Conceivably the second set of matched pair of drivers could be off or the cable might be defective or....
After a three month ordeal I had enough. These are not $399.00 headphones, they retail for $3,995.00
After the experience, Sonis and I had a heart to heart about his responsibilities as an honest reviewer and both of our responsibilities to the audiophile community.
Sonis did the brave thing in the interest of our community and called it as he (and I) heard it.
Sonis as an electrical engineer in Silicon Valley and incredible recording engineer, knows what he is talking about. His recordings are amazing and one in particular is the best recording of a live Jazz band I have ever heard. It surpasses the highest resolution "Jazz at the Pawnshop" by a magnitude. In my Chord Spectral Wilson JL main system it is frightening.
Incidentally before I got my beloved Hugo 2, in a sea of glowing reviews, there was one reviewer who had a completely opposite view. "He" took a lot of flack for it. I took it into account and still got mine. As much as I love my Hugo 2, I still understand and appreciate the points "he" was making. If I feel like concentrating on "his" negative points, I see them. I get it.
The only absolute in our passion for music is sitting in front of a live, preferably, unamplified band. Everything else is a compromise to some degree.