Today we take a look at and review Audeze’s flagship planar magnetic in-ear headphone – the Audeze LCDi4. The LCDi4 is a very unique product, in a sense that it’s like a mini version of a full-sized planar magnetic headphone. It’s also larger than your typical in-ear monitor or earphone, and you don’t need to plug it in your ear canal. Those are just some of the reason why I got so interested in this product. It’s unlike any other earphone or headphone in the market. By the way, the LCDi4 is the TOTL product, Audeze also has the iSINE series. They share the same concept and perhaps the internal design. But they do differ in terms of aesthetics and sound quality. There’s also a significant price difference between the iSINE 20 and the LCDi4. Unfortunately, I don’t have the iSINE 20 to compare it with. So, in this review, I’ll focus more on the LCDi4 itself, my listening experience, what I think about it in general and compare it with the earphone and planar headphone that I have. Please continue reading my Audeze LCDi4 review below and learn more about this product.
Audeze LCD-i4 Headphone Review
The Audeze LCD-i4 planar magnetic in-ear headphone is not the first of its kind. Audeze released the iSINE series first, in the form of the iSINE 10 and iSINE 20. They are like small-sized planar magnetic headphones that hooks on your ears. I think it was towards the end of 2017 that the LCDi4 was released in the market. Despite having the same concept, a small planar-magnetic in-ear and open-back headphone, the LCDi4 was totally on a different level. It has a much better aesthetics and design. I personally don’t like how the iSINE series looked. Aside from that, the audio quality and performance are what separated the LCDi4 from the iSINE series. Not to mention, the huge gap between their prices.
The LCD-i4 represents the pinnacle of both audio quality and technological innovation. This groundbreaking in-ear headphone features the same Nano-Scale Uniforce diaphragm found in our LCD-4 and 4z, paired with our powerful Fluxor magnet array to offer one of the most responsive, detailed, engaging, and immersive listening experiences in the world. The i4 will transform everything you thought you knew about in-ear headphones as you hear your favorite music as though for the first time.
The LCDi4 is not on the same series as the iSINEs, it’s not even on the same league. It’s marketed differently, and it’s marketed as one of Audeze’s flagship headphone; right beside the LCD-4 and LCD-4z. Honestly, I haven’t tried the LCD-4 and LCD-4z yet, even the iSINE 20. So, I have no idea how the iSINE 20 differs from the LCDi4 in terms of sound quality and sound characteristics. But if there is one thing I am sure of, the experience of using an in-ear headphone (like the LCDi4 and iSINE) is different compared to using a full-sized headphone like the LCD-4 or LCD-4z, or an in-ear monitor or earphone.
The culmination of decades of research and development. Featuring our Nano-scale diaphragms, Fluxor™ magnet arrays, and Uniforce™ voice coils, our Flagship series truly represents the pinnacle of audiophile technology. The LCD Flagship series embodies our uncompromising dedication to pure audio. 1.5 Tesla of magnetic flux generated by our Double Fluxor™ magnet arrays delivers a previously unheard of level of driving power that brings music to life with breathtaking clarity and depth. The thinnest diaphragms we’ve ever created, just one-tenth the thickness of a red blood cell, are laser-etched with our patented Uniforce™ voice coils to render audio with flawless precision. Welcome to the cutting-edge of elegance.
Below you can check out the technical specifications of the Audeze LCDi4 and after that we’ll take a closer look on the headphone itself.
Audeze LCD-i4 Specifications
|Style||In-ear, semi open-back|
|Transducer type||Planar Magnetic|
|structure||Fluxor magnet array|
|Magnet type||Neodymium N50|
|Diaphragm type||Nano-scale Uniforce|
|Transducer size||30 mm|
|Maximum power handling||500mW RMS|
|Frequency response||10Hz - 50kHz|
|THD||<0.1% @ 100dB|
|Sensitivity||110 dB/1mW (at Drum Reference Point)|
|Minimum power requirement||>50mW|
Audeze LCD-i4 Packaging and Closer Look
The LCDi4 comes in a nice white box; the outer white box isn’t hard, it’s probably around 120-180 gsm. Inside the white box is a hard flip-box that houses the LCDi4 and its accessories.
Above you can see the flip-box and the in-ear headphone and a carrying pouch is protected by a clear hard plastic covering.
The LCDi4 isn’t connected to its cable right out of the box. Instead, all the accessories including the cable is placed inside the carrying pouch. Inside the pouch (nylon travel case) are the 1.2m OCC silver-plated premium braided cable; a number of ear hooks and ear tips, a certificate of authenticity and a USB drive where the user guide and warranty is copied.
The Audeze LCDi4 has an open back design, meaning some sound will leak through the grills. The body or shell of the LCDi4 is made of hard plastic. I was a bit disappoint with the material used, as it doesn’t feel as premium compared to Audeze’s flagship full-sized cans. The construction feels sturdy enough, but it’s still plastic and it’s not going to be as sturdy or robust compared to a metal body.
Perhaps the positive side of using a plastic shell is it makes the in-ear headphone light. This is going to hang on your ears, not plugged or clamped; so weight is going to be a factor. Perhaps a carbon-fiber shell would be nice.
Another thing that made the LCDi4 less-premium looking is that the glue marks are visible. There are glue marks on the “A” logo and on the sides of the casing as well. I expect better finish, with attention to details, especially from a flagship-class product. I hope Audeze would look into this, especially if they plan to release a successor in the future.
The LCDi4 uses a 2-pin connection that has been recessed. It’s a good thing that it’s recessed though, otherwise the 2-pin connector is susceptible to bends or breakage if bumped accidentally. I think this is a standard 2-pin connector, since my old ALO Audio SXC 24 earphone works with the LCDi4 just fine.
The nozzle of the LCDi4 is different from an earphone or universal in-ear monitor’s nozzle. It’s larger and there’s a pointy (but not sharp) object in the middle. It’s like a mini tunnel but it’s not supposed to go inside your ear canal. The silicone tip is supposed to rest at the opening of your ear canal, not really plug it in. You could slightly plug it in for a better snug and fit, but not the whole thing. I only used the included tips for the LCDi4; since the nozzle is larger, typical earphone tips don’t work in this one.
The included cable is a 1.2m OCC silver-plated “premium” braided cable. It has 4 cores in total, two for each channel. The cable is terminated to a 3.5mm single-ended unbalanced headphone plug. The cable is light, doesn’t kink; I think it’s a good cable, definitely better than any stock or basic cables included in some earphones. Even though this is the “stock” cable of the LCDi4, it’s still considered as an aftermarket or an upgrade cable.
Audeze’s Cipher cable, including the newer Cipher Wireless, also works fine with the LCDi4. However, I prefer to use the stock cable of the LCDi4 than go wireless with the Cipher. For me, the Cipher wireless just lacks power to properly drive the LCDi4. And the built-in DSP on the Cipher wireless is not as good compared to the Reveal plugin.
Audeze Reveal Plugin
The Audeze LCDi4 doesn’t sound good or “correct” right out of the box. It needs a DSP or EQ to fix this and bring the best out of it. I think there is a dip somewhere in the 2kHz to 4kHz frequency region that is causing the dull flat sound. Audeze’s solution to make the i4 sound correct is the Reveal plugin. It’s basically a plugin that “reveals” the LCDi4’s intended sound characteristics and tuning. This plugin is free, but it only works with a few audio player / software. It doesn’t work natively with Foobar, and you’ll have to use a “wrapper”, like George Yohng’s VST Wrapper plugin, to make the Reveal plugin work with Foobar.
Reveal is a revolutionary plugin developed by Audeze which applies carefully designed filter presets specific to our headphone models. This provides the listener with an experience similar to what you would hear from high quality studio reference monitors in an acoustically treated room (but without the pesky room reflections and reverb*). The presets are not meant to fix any issues, but rather to enhance the listener’s experience. We expect some users will prefer our headphones without any DSP presets, while others will prefer the “room sound” calibration provided by these Reveal plugin presets. The choice is yours!
The Audeze Reveal plugin is not really required, but you definitely need to use it in order to make the LCDi4 sound correct and as intended. You can, alternatively, use an equalizer (EQ) to customize the LCDi4 to your liking. I find that the built-in preset EQs on audio players doesn’t “correct” the tone of the LCDi4. You will have to manually adjust each frequency band. There is a thread of Head-Fi.org where users share their EQ settings for their LCDi4. However, I find it difficult to replicate the sound tuning that the Reveal plugin produces. I was able to at least make it sound better and close to Reveal’s tuning using my DAP‘s EQ, but it’s nowhere near.
You can download the Reveal plugin at https://www.audeze.com/pages/reveal
On the next page let’s check out how the Audeze LCDi4 sounds like and my personal experience of using it for more than a couple of months.