Audeze LCD-4z Headphone Review

What do you do when you have what many critics in the hobby hail as one of the finest headphones in the world – the LCD-4 – but lament that they are difficult to drive from anything than the most grunt-worthy amplifier? If you’re Audeze you have your engineering teams go back to the Planar-Magnetic open-headphone drawing board and come up with something that sounds just as good, but that can be driven by not only any portable or desktop amplifier on the market, but could be even be powered by a smart phone. Enter the LCD-4z.

In a world where you are asking consumers to drop $3,995 USD for a set of cans, it has to be difficult to tell them with a straight face that they now need to drop even more coin to adequately drive them and with the LCD-4z you don’t need to spend those extra dollars (if you’re happy with the sound from your current head-amp, or smart phone). Sure, many of the buyers who sought out the original LCD-4 knew what they were getting into (audio professionals with pro-audio gear or hardcore headphone enthusiasts) and most likely had a head-amp capable of driving the power hungry (recommended power level capability of >500mW, 200Ohm-impedance, 97dB/1mW sensitivity) older brother to the 4z, but there are many buyers who want the best headphones now and are happy to worry about a dedicated amplifier rig down the road. This is where I’m sure the 98dB/mW, 15-Ohm impedance 4z comes into play and from a sales standpoint.

When the LCD-4z landed on my doorstep, I was floored at how gorgeous they were to look at and to feel – they oozed über high quality and there isn’t a millimetre on them that isn’t an example of perfection in fit and finish. But, on the head they are a different beast from the LCD-3 I fell for several years ago, nor did they feel anything like the LCD-2 Classic I have on hand now, they had the same incredible sonic attributes I had come to expect from the LCD line, but they had significantly upped their game in the comfort category. The fact that my first listening session out of the box happened with my iPhone 7S and its Lightning adaptor was no coincidence. Sure it was sitting right there on the table next to my laptop, but I wanted to see if this new 4z was really capable of delivering reasonable (with a headphone of this calibre) oomph, slam and speed from something as pedestrian as an iPhone: the short answer is yes, the longer answer is more complex and has to do with $4k sonic expectations.

Design and Build Quality

Every Audeze headphone I’ve tried has impressed me with their design, construction, materials used and attention to detail, the LCD-4z makes no departures there, instead, where it leaves the other LCD designs behind is in the implementation of the “non-resonant” magnesium driver surrounds and the typical overhang weight I’ve always associated with the LCD line. Compared to the aged, 30-year-old Macassar wood/chromed steel-alloy housing and surround of the LCD-4, the 4z not only looks sleeker, it feels more svelte too. The 4z has the typical LCD yolk design, but like the 4 and the LCD-MX4, it incorporates a far more robust construction, rounded edges – instead of sharp or “stamped-like” – and a smooth semi-matte black finish that speaks to its higher price point. The leather earpads provided are butter-soft, deep-seated around the ear and like the ultra-lightweight carbon-fibre and perforated-leather headband, are incredibly comfortable for longer listening sessions without any hot spots that I noticed over a several weeks of heavy rotation.

The braided, silver-plated OCC (Ohno Continuous Casting) copper two-tone black-and-white cables (cryo-treated) don’t bunch up and the Rean micro-XLRs slid into their recessed connector sockets smoothly with a solid ‘chunk’ to the locking mechanism. Ditto for the Neutrik quarter-inch plug and the eighth-inch adaptor. I found the 2.5m cable length to work great at home, but too long for mobile use when I went for walks with either my iPhone 7S or an Astell & Kern A&norma SR15 portable driving the 4z. The cable is available separately for those looking to upgrade from what they have via the Audeze website for $599 USD.

Driver Topology

According to Audeze the 4z features their patented Fazor Element Waveguide to assist in reducing sound wave diffraction, their “most advanced diaphragm design” which consists of the company’s “exclusive nano-scale film [which] actually weighs less than the air it displaces.” Audeze says the benefits of these technologies “include faster response for better transient/impulse response, imaging, and the flattest, deepest, most accurate bass response of any headphone available.” They go on to claim that the Double Fluxor Magnet Arrays “nearly doubles the magnetic force: bringing the magnetic flux to 1.5 Tesla, nearly doubling the power driving the diaphragm for improved transient response and far greater resolution.” This type of nomenclature sounds fantastic to me… and in real-world listening I cannot refute these claims. The 4z are a slam dunk with spy-satellite resolution and detail, beautiful timbral and tonal colorations, lasting decay off upper-register notes (piano and keyboard in particular), a real sense of speed, deep, powerful bottom end and most importantly to me; real human-imbued musicality, rhythm and timing to their playback capabilities. They pretty much give you exactly what you’re feeding them from without flourish, attenuation or goosing.

Audeze LLC
3412 S. Susan St, Santa Ana California 92704, USA
(714) 581-8010

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.