Katz’s Corner Episode 14: Guest Listeners Shoot out Audeze LCD-4 vs. Focal Utopia Andrew Diaz
Saturday afternoon was a wake up call. The Oppo HA-2 was completely discharged. I had left it on, figuring it would charge while powered, but I was wrong. Even when fed from a USB splitter with a high current charger connected to the USB A male, the Oppo will not charge when it is turned on. So sadly, we cannot use the Oppo HA-2 as a desktop DAC or it will discharge if left on. It only takes an hour to fully charge it and then it seems to last a day, but I could not take a chance. Since the Deckard DAC’s line output is muted when a headphone is plugged in the front, it cannot be used to simultaneously feed phones and a second amplifier. So I switched over to my Forssell Technologies MADA-2, an audiophile-quality 2-channel professional ADC and DAC with all-discrete analog section (no IC opamps).
Andrew Diaz’s Listen/Eval
Morph The Cat by Donald Fagen (see episode 13 for descriptions of all these recordings)
Utopia: After comparing it to the speakers, these phones sound a bit more direct, sharper, more constrained, not as open. The clarity and punch are very good. It's a very punchy song. The main thing is the Focals have less space compared to the speakers.
LCD-4: These have much better use of the space; I can hear the space a lot better replicated in these headphones, referencing to the speakers. Overall I hear good punch, but not as punchy to me as the Focals. The LCD-4s are a better replication of the speaker. On this cut I like the LCD-4s better because space is the number one thing in this song.
You Lied, by the 52nd Street Blues Project
LCD-4: Compared to the speakers, it's missing a bit of that high mid, definitely the presence is less, definitely in the claps. Her vocal sounds very rich, I love the vocal presence here. On this song I think the winner is the LCD-4s as far as translation to the reference speakers.
Utopia: The bass instrument and the claps are more present in these headphones. But I feel like it started getting in the way of her vocals. I felt compared to the LCD-4s that I was missing the lower range of her voice. Overall these are brighter and sacrifice the lower ranges.
Ray Charles and Norah Jones, Here We Go Again
Utopia: I feel like there's a harsh vocal presence boost around 5-6k that's not enjoyable to the ears. I feel it handles male vocals much better than female on this track. It's strong in the highs but weak in the lows.
LCD-4: Definitely has richer lows. The imaging on the LCD-4s is fantastic! I'm loving these headphones. Good use of space; all round I'm blown away by the comparison.
FB Pocket Orchestra, I Lost My Girl from Memphis
Audeze: This track is definitely strong in the highs, but the LCD-4s handled them very well without taking away from the lows at all. You can definitely hear the tuba. Her vocal was not harsh at all. I'm not getting ear fatigue. Overall a good balance. Compared to the Focals, I'd say it's money well spent. Great translation to the speakers. I'm really impressed.
Focal: You can hardly hear the tom resonance in these. The tuba was hardly in there. There is hardly any separation between the instruments on this. The imaging is lost. I'd be disappointed if I spent $4000 on these.
Alejandra Robles Angelitos Negros
In the LCD-4, there's those lows back again - were missing from the Focals. The main thing I am concentrating on is the reverb decay, the overall space. Listening to the decay I feel I can hear it all the way down in the LCD-4s but it seems to cut off at some point in the Focals, I'm not hearing the full reverb tail.
Lindsey Webster Back to Your Heart
LCD-4: These headphones are so dynamic! On her voice when she goes down to a lower range I can fully hear it in the LCD-4s. It doesn't sound like it's being filtered like it does on the Focals.
Utopia: These are not translating the lows at all compared to the LCD-4s. They don't get down to that range. Has a nice bass instrument presence. But definitely not as dynamic. Hardly comes close to the LCD-4 in dynamics. Even the high hat sounds like it's lacking in some definition. The clarity is real nice on the Focals, but I don't feel I'm getting the full extent of her voice.
Doors, Love Her Madly.
Focal: The guitar on the left channel starts to get a little brittle, harsh. The bass instrument has a good presence overall. The Focals sound like they've done something to them that's hindering the sound quality from translating as well as possible.
LCD-4: Pretty much the same verdict as on the other songs. Everything seems a lot more natural in these than in the Focals. Compared to the speakers it's pretty much right on. The panning of the guitar seems pretty accurate compared to the speakers as the guitar sounds almost like it's behind you because it's pushed so far to the left. Overall I have to give it to the LCD-4s because the translation to the speakers is so accurate compared to the Focals. Andrew Diaz’s Ratings
Scale: 1-10, with 10 being the best it can be
|Attribute||Audeze LCD-4||Focal Utopia|
|Comfort||8, due to the weight. They don’t clamp as well on my head.||9 – as soon as they sit, the cups aren’t as wide as the Audeze|
|Accuracy bass- sub 20-40||10||5|
|Accuracy Mid bass 50-80||8||5|
|Accuracy Upper bass 80-110||7||9|
|Accuracy Low mids 200-1k||10||7|
|Accuracy mids 2k-5k||9||10|
|Accuracy Upper mids 5k-8k||9||6 too present|
|Accuracy Treble 9k-12k||9||8|
|Accuracy Extreme Treble 13k+||10||9|
|Enjoyment Factor (Wow!)||10||7|
|Stereo Imaging||10||6 not there for me|
|Size of images/soundstage/separation||10||7|
|Any harshness (10 means none)||8||5|
|Design and look||9||8|