Katz’s Corner Episode 14: Guest Listeners Shoot out Audeze LCD-4 vs. Focal Utopia Paige Coley
Paige Coley Listen/Eval
Donald Fagen, Morph The Cat
Focal Utopia: A little more truthful to me. More smack in the snare. More detail between all the instruments. The warbling in the voice I heard more on the Focals. Compared to the loudspeakers, I hardly hear any tonal difference. [BK note: Paige’s remark that the Focals sound more like the loudspeakers than the Audeze initally took me aback until in discussion I realized that she has downrated the Audeze compared to the speakers because the Audeze have more sub bass and perhaps a bit more mid bass than the speaker and I think for her bass masks the detail that she seeks.]
Audeze LCD-4: These are smoother and easier to listen to but I didn't hear all the detail as clearly. If I was listening for pleasure I might miss the warbling on the vocals. The bass seems a bit muddier on these. Compared to the loudspeakers it's more of a lingering bass. I would prefer to listen to this on the Audeze but mix it on the Focals, because I want the detail for mixing but for enjoyment, sometimes the drums are a bit harsh on the Focal.
You Lied by the 52nd Street Blues Project
LCD-4: Things seem to flatten out dynamically more, I didn't notice when she goes off mike. You can feel the bass more in these. These sound more like she's around me instead of in front of me. Seems like there's more lower mids for the female vocal and it also seems to bring out the ambience for her voice. There's more chest voice.
Utopia: I noticed more changes in her vocals. I noticed when she goes off mike more. These are all round brighter. These sound like she's in front of me. Sounds a little more high midrangey to me. Still, the Utopias resemble the speakers more for me, but it doesn't mean that I like them more.
Ray Charles and Norah Jones, Here We Go Again
Focal: With the Utopias I feel like I'm looking at something. The ambience isn't there as much. It has more high midrange that makes things a little more intelligible. I can feel more how the bass is moving on these. These still sound more like the speakers to me.
Audeze: The LCD-4s make me feel like I'm inside of something. The Audeze feel "smokier". The ambience in this one is more obvious. I feel like these are lying to me. But these shine (enjoyment) with that particular song/mix/arrangement.
FB Pocket Orchestra, I Lost My Girl From Memphis
LCD-4: That was nice to listen to. The toms are much more impressive on the Audeze. I don't know if these are sustaining too much? I started on the Audeze and then switched to the Focals and it felt like I was first listening to the full range of something and then suddenly listening to just the tweeter.
Utopia: I feel like I wasn't hearing the tom solo completely. Missing the low end sustain of that instrument.
Alejandra Robles, Angelitos Negros
Focal: Brighter (as usual). These felt more direct as opposed to immersive. These made her sound smaller. These have more punch, impact. These are harsher on the vocal, it made me want to turn it down.
Audeze: More immersive. More chest voice. More bass in general. Vocal still got loud on the peaks, but not as harsh as with the Focal.
Lindsey Webster, Back To Your Heart
LCD-4: These offered a lot more ambience. I didn't notice anything negative about the snare [see her Utopia snare note below]. I'm surrounded by the bass, etc. and so I didn't notice her vocals as much.
Utopia: I actually prefer the Utopias on this mix even though the LCD-4 is more immersive. The upper midrange boost in the Utopia helped me focus in on the vocals and enjoy it more because I had somewhere to focus. Since the bass is subby in the mix it's tamed in these and I prefer that for this mix. The snare felt boxed in, however. Her vocal is more attractive to me on these phones because I like the presence in her voice.
Doors, Love Her Madly
Focal: I enjoyed it more in these. I didn't notice the little organ solo reverb on these. These kind of glued the midrange more together. The intro felt kind of flat, however.
Audeze: There are definitely some things that are more enjoyable on these...on the little organ solo you can hear the reverb more. These made his voice sound a little more awkward because the vocal sits on top of the mix more. The intro on these, however, grabbed me more.
In conclusion, I think these headphones are for different occasions. The Audeze are more immersive, but sometimes harder to focus in on the details or the vocals or the articulation of each instrument. The Focals are more articulate. For my Iphone, regular listening playlist I'd probably go for the Audeze more often than the Focal because of the Audeze's immersive experience. However, I think that the Focals stylize the more midrangey songs in a certain way that makes it attractive to me.
Paige Coley Ratings
Scale 1-10 with 10 being the best it can be
|Attribute||Audeze LCD-4||Focal Utopia|
|Comfort||6 (too heavy)||9|
|Accuracy bass- sub 20-40||7 (a little too much)||6|
|Accuracy Mid bass 50-80||7||6|
|Accuracy Upper bass 80-110||7||9|
|Accuracy Low mids 200-1k||8||8|
|Accuracy mids 2k-5k||7||8.5|
|Accuracy Upper mids 5k-8k||10||6|
|Accuracy Treble 9k-12k||7||7|
|Accuracy Extreme Treble 13k+||7||7|
|Any harshness (10 means none)||9||8|
|Design and look||7||10|