Audeze Arrivals

It was a big box, it was sitting in my front hallway when I opened the door and had Audeze markings on the side.

This excited me. This made me happy. It had been a long week and boxes of new gear always puts a smile on my face.

I had spoken briefly a while back with Audeze CEO Sankar Thiagasamudram about getting some fresh headphones sent to me for review and he replied that he’d send me a mix of ‘phones to try out.

A couple weeks later and after checking out the contents of said big box it turns out Thiagasamudram chose very well indeed as it contained a number of smaller boxes, all of which contained Audeze headphones I’d not previously spent any time with.

Up first was the LCDi4 in-ear planar-magnetic. This is a model that is available in limited quantities by special order and retails for $2,495 USD. Audeze packaging is second to none, with excellent hard-shell shipping and storage protection along with a cloth-lined custom leather pouch for stuffing ‘phones into a pocket when you’re not wearing them.

I’ve been listening to and breaking these in while hitting public transit and walking or riding my bike around my home city of Vancouver with the A&K SR15 and I have to say I’m blown away at how timbrally-rich, fantastically spacious the imaging is and how deep the bass goes on these IEHPs, more like the LCD-4z than any multi-driver IEM I’ve ever demoed, these had me laughing out loud during several electronica songs (cuts off 16/44 rips of Tosca Suzuki and Kruder & Dorfmeister’s K&D Sessions) at how huge a 3D sound field they were throwing.

Next up was another in-ear headphone, the iSINE20 at $599 USD. While these look close in shape and styling to the LCDi4 and exhibit some sonic similarity to the i4, they are definitely not in the same league and nor did I expect them to be at one-fifth the price of the i4. I’ve been using these so far with their standard 3.5mm cables and the Chord Mojo strapped to my iPhone 6S with great results. They also come with a CIPHER 24-bit Lightning cable for direct connection to an iPhone/iPad/iPod, but I’ve not used it yet.

A quick take of the iSINE20 is to think of them as i4s on a budget: you’re still getting great timbral accuracy, transparency to source, solid bass and spacious imaging. If I’d heard these before the i4 I’d have been way more impressed, but the LCDi4 is really something to experience. That said, these are definitely no slouch and I highly recommend them if you're looking for in-ear monitors under $1,000 USD.

Moving on to over-ear picks that were tucked away for me by Thiagasamudram, I have to say that for $799 USD the planar-magnetic LCD2 Classic has got to be one of the greatest bargains in high-end headphones of all time. This updated version sports a new lighter, redesigned suspension headband and audio jacks among several other tweaks. The Classics are incredibly transparent in their playback but retain a warmth and depth in their tonality with instruments and vocals in the presence-region that evokes a “being there” realism and invites you to turn up the volume more and more. With an impedance of 70 Ohms they are bit power hungry, but I’ve been spending the bulk of my time with them being fed either by a Naim DAC-V1 and Aurender N10 music server or the quarter-inch HXD® headphone jack of my McIntosh C2600 tubed preamplifier.

Last, but certainly not least is the mighty LCD-4Z. These $3,995 USD over-ear planar-magnetics are the shared flagship of the Audeze line and build on the company’s top-of-the-line LCD4. Differences include greater efficiency (98dB vs 97dB) and a 15-Ohm impedance in the 4Z vs the LCD4’s thirsty 200-Ohm one. The 4Z also sports a new magnesium housing making them lighter than the LCD4.

When I’m working at home and writing in the living room, having them plugged into the DAC-V1/Aurender N10 server combo is utterly breathtaking: nuanced, warehouse-sized 3D spatial cues to upper registers, jammy, gutsy midrange on everything from trumpets, electric guitars and deep resonant plucked stand-up bass notes to head-snapping percussive force on drums – be they live or electronic – make it difficult to concentrate at times.

Heading out for a jaunt around the block to walk to the dog or hit the grocery store for supplies and jacking the 4Z into the palm-sized dual-DAC, quad-core CPU A&K SR15 and still being able to experience almost the same drive the 4Z has with the V1 – that astonishing sense of effortless headroom and real weight to dynamic swings on everything from classic Neil Young to London Grammar is no small feat and one that Audeze should be commended for achieving.

So far my time with this package of headphones from Audeze has been deeply impressive and I look forward to offering up full reviews on all these models in the coming months.

COMPANY INFO
Audeze
3412 S. Susan St, Santa Ana California 92704, USA
info@audeze.com
(714) 581-8010

COMMENTS
markus's picture

In your introduction post, you state : "I have no intention of this being an elitist website catering only to those who can afford the best-of-the-best."
Read more at https://www.innerfidelity.com/content/breaking-ice#LVfLrc4KYfMvp8Ht.99

Rafe, do I get you right that your understanding of budget audio gear with good price performance ratio is in the low 4-figure to high-3 figure range?

Rafe Arnott's picture
Hi Markus,

Thanks for chiming in... but I'm confused. Who said one word about budget in this post? No one did.

I received four sets of headphones for review that I wanted to share a preview on with readers so they would have an idea of what's coming up.

I'm budget agnostic, if I get sent $100 headphones, I'll review them. if I get sent $4,000 headphones, I'll review those too.

Adam K's picture

I agree with Marcus although I would put the question in a different way: can we hope for reviews of more affordable gear or is the Innerfidelity becoming "an elitist website catering only to those who can afford the best-of-the-best". So far you have done everything to support the latter. Saying that you are budget agnostic doesn't answer the question above.

I have nothing but good wishes for you and Innerfidelity.

Adam

Rafe Arnott's picture
Hi Adam,

Yes, there will be sub-$500 reviews and probably sub-$200 reviews, but first I have to make connections with the specific manufacturers and secure review products.

This all takes time and I'm doing my best. I can say that one of the next reviews is of a product that is under $300 USD.

Cheers,

–R

Adam K's picture

Thank you. That makes sense.

Rthomas's picture

Hi Rafe,

Could you please check the weight of the LCD-4z if you have a scale handy?

Thanks

Thomas

MFHRaptor's picture

Hi Mr. Arnott,

Please don't be camera shy! I'm sure I would not be speaking about solely myself when I say that InnerFidelity followers miss the glimpses of audio awesomeness that are the video reviews of HiFi equipment, audio shows, or anything in between.

I am forever grateful to InnerFidelity YouTube Channel that first introduced me to this wonderful web journal. Please don't ignore such a wide chunk of your viewership.

We really miss you guys..

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