Audeze LCD-4z Headphone Review Page 2

Associated Equipment

I listened to the 4z through my iPhone 7S, an Astell & Kern A&norma SR15, a Naim DAC-V1, my McIntosh C2600 Tubed Preamplifier quarter-inch Cross Feed Director headphone-out and the Linear Tube Audio MicroZOTL MZ3 (2x12SN7 output tubes and 2x12AT7 input tubes) Push-Pull Class-A, no feedback headamp/preamp/amp. Out of these setups, I settled on the MZ3 being fed from an Aurender N10/totaldac d1-direct combination via RCA for critical listening which drove the 4z to the limit of what I could handle while maintaining composure, bass impact, a smooth, linear frequency response and incredible sound stage/3D-spatial reconstruction. This is not your average listening set-up, I know, but it was without a doubt up to the task of seeing just how much resolution and – more importantly to me – musicality the 4z was capable of.

Listening

The 4z is an amazing music translator and energizes the recorded event to a level of “in-the-room” resolution and realism that few other headphones I’ve heard are capable of – even when paired with a source and amp capable of revealing everything on the file and having enough headroom on tap. Regardless of the genre of music I chose to listen through the Audeze, they never failed to reveal some new nugget of sonic information, detail or go that extra mile in timbral and tonal realism that helps to create that suspension of disbelief that as avid music lovers we love to be exposed to.

The digital advance I have of Stephen Micus’ White Night from ECM (April 27, 2019 release date, 16-bit/44.1kHz WAV) is a world music tour-de-force with so much rhythm, ebb and flow to its musical presentation that it’s impossible to not be floated along like a feather on a breeze before it. It is a dense, overdubbed, lyrical album on a constant churn of instrumentation and vocals that is deeply interwoven and closely mic’d which on lesser set-ups started to lose itself and become unwound, not so here, with the LCD-4z maintaining the coherence of the songwriting as whole. It was like I was being slowly lowered into the music; it allowed for total immersion in the experience with stunning clarity, shimmer and decay to cymbals, Indian whistles, sub-Saharan kalmia (thumb pianos) and the Armenian duduck (like an oboe) on tracks like “The River.”

Switching things up I turned to Björk’s 1997 experimental/trip-hop/electronic mash-up Homogenic (Qobuz, 16-bit/44.1kHz) and let “All is Full Of Love” wash over me in it’s dense, synth-filled undercurrent of isolationist tension. Here the innumerable electronic layers of instrumentation and throbbing bassline set the stage for the retrieval of textures from those notes most deeply buried between the lowest octaves. The sound stage was huge and deep in the vertical, horizontal and back-to-front sonic planes. The 4z separating everything out with startling clarity allowing her voice to ethereally hang above the diaspora of feedback holding the song aloft. I’ve heard this track more times than I can admit to and often her vocal overdubs and their stereo panning in the mix become fried at high volumes; not here. They remained liquid and smooth without a hint of grain – an amazing feat considering how much raw noise-shaping grit is coming through from the lower-mids and bottom end in this Blade Runner-inspired (Vangelis-like) production.

The Tragically Hip are as iconic to Canadian rock music as Leonard Cohen is to folk and dark-pop music in this country. The tumultuous, history-laden, psychological scalpel of lyrical throw downs that populate their 1993 album Fully Completely (TIDAL, 16-bit/44.1kHz) is largely unmatched in rock music (IMO) other than by themselves on perhaps Road Apples or Grace Too. Few bands ask us to ingest so much truthful information interlaced with raw storytelling talent in under four minutes of listening as the Hip do and on “At The Hundredth Meridian” we are hurled back into our chairs, smacked, told to shut-up and listen. And listen I did… again and again. I’ve never heard this album so alive and visceral as through the 4z with all the raw, emotional power lead singer Gordon Downie is capable of continuously causing goosebumps to erupt on my arms and the nape of my neck. Driving bass with real fret texture, slamming guitar licks, strumming, and breakneck-speed percussion pushing the songs forward without relent leaves you almost exhausted by the time you hit track nine – “Fifty-Mission Cap” – and try to disengage from letting the exquisite tonal and timbral colours hammer you into submission.

Conclusion

In a world where prices are ever rising and most people would simply shake their head and laugh at $4,000 headphones, Audeze has delivered us one that not only will work with our smartphones and deliver a level of sonic resolution and musical insight few other designs are capable of reproducing, they do it with style, class and an eye to practically in its power requirements. No longer bound by the limitations of being tethered to a high-headroom amplifier like the 4z it was designed to coexist with, the LCD-4z is just as at home with an iPhone or DAP while you’re at work, out for a walk or running errands as it is in a multi-thousand-dollar home rig. Enjoyable as this 4z is with less-committed sonic setups like your phone, every step up the ladder to a more dedicated audiophile listening experience proved to reveal more and more detail, space, tonal and timbral shadings, textural nuances and spatial cues from the recorded musical event. They are incredibly linear in their response, with outstanding treble, midrange and bass that never stick out on their own, rather they coalesce into a single defining entity that reshapes disparate musical bits into an analog whole.

Specifications

  • Style: Over-ear, open-back
  • Transducer type: Planar magnetic
  • Magnetic structure: Proprietary magnet array
  • Phase management: FAZOR
  • Magnet type: Neodymium N50
  • Diaphragm type: Nano-scale Uniforce
  • Transducer size: 106 mm
  • Maximum power handling: 5W RMS
  • Maximum SPL: >130dB
  • Frequency response: 5Hz – 20kHz
  • THD: <0.1% @ 100dB
  • Impedance: 15 ohms
  • Sensitivity: 98 dB/1mW (at Drum Reference Point)
  • Minimum power requirement: >100mW
  • Recommended power level: >250mW
  • Price: $3,995 USD

COMPANY INFO
Audeze LLC
3412 S. Susan St, Santa Ana California 92704, USA
info@audeze.com
(714) 581-8010
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COMMENTS
Simply Nobody's picture

Ace of Bass :-) .........

AGB's picture

Electronic sounds have no basis in reality. No matter how one spins this tale, the reader needs to know how a large orchestra and its various acoustic instruments sound. Or a string quartet which is more accessible to many at, for example, any music school. We need to know how a choir or a small jazz band in their spaces sound.

OK, I use Audeze LCDi4's, so I understand the potential of this great brand, but many readers do not. Even though I listen to mostly modern music, blues and such, and a wide variety of music, I too need to know how a product compares with referential reality. Otherwise Rafe, and I meant to send you a note a long time ago, you are doing a great job in this sphere.

Thanks.

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