LCD i4 “Just like Arthur” (English Review)

Writer : Mikku
Price : 2495$
Technical Spec:
Transducer type :Planar magnetic, semi-open
Magnetic structure :Fluxor™ magnetic array
Magnet type:Neodymium N50
Diaphragm type :Nano-scale Uniforce™
Transducer size : 30mm
Sensitivity :105dB/1mW
Maximum power handling :3W
Maximum SPL :>120dB
Frequency response :5Hz – 50kHz
THD :<0.2%, full spectrum @ 100dB
Impedance :35 Ohms +/-10%
Cable :1.2m OCC silver-plated premium braided cable
Cable connectors :3.5mm stereo plug input, 2-pin plug outputs
Weight 12g (per side)

IMG_20170817_203635

First of all, I’d like to thank my great friend Theo for letting me tried his LCD i4 and Chord Hugo 2 long enough to make a review of it. Trust me folks, it was mindblowing, now let’s get to the real deal

Intro
Have you heard the legend about king Arthur of Camelot? At young age he pulled a sword from a stone which the legend said that “Whoso pulleth out this sword from this stone, is right wise King born of all  England”, he didn’t become king rightaway, he needs to prove that he’s worthy, for me this is like the story of audeze’s in iear planar headphone

Audeze new isine has make a new breakthrough using a real planar driver for in ear monitor, and for me this is the moment they “pulled out the sword”, a new breakthrough, I have heard some people talking that some of iem “sounds like planar” but none of them actually using a planar technology, but now you could really brag about some iem that sounds like planar because it is in fact using planar lol.

Audeze has proven that they are truly keeping on improving themselves, through isine 10 and isine 20 to LCD i4, the improvement is real, just like Arthur, keep on growing strong, starting from isine 10, I was quite impressed by how solid the sound was in spite of the open ness of the design, solid tight bass with clear vocals, but for me the isines especially isine 10 has major weakness in their sound, it’s their plasticky timbre sound around upper mid area, it was sooo unnatural that it was a real dealbreaker for me, isine 20 has the same problem but not as bad as the 10’s, but tonality aside,  the 20 is too slow and dark for me, what I want is actually something warmer than the 10, definitely brighter than the 20, and for pete’s sake please remove that annoying plasticky sound, and thanks god, LCD i4 definitely hit the sweet spot, even in technical aspect it’s a huge leap, but you need a leap of budget too for upgrading from 10 to 20 to i4. Through improvement from isine 10 and 20 now for me i4 now is ready to be one of the kings, the ones meant to stand above the others.

Ergonomics

I4 is definitely a huge iem definitely that makes me think… can I actually put them into iem category? Or should they be placed in earbud category? Or even headphone category?. Ergonomically they are one of a kind, just like isine 10 and 20, what audeze is making here is most likely won’t be followed by other audio manufacturers. It’s soo big that without those earguides I definitely can’t wear them, but those earguides are definitely a must have, once you used to wear them there will be no problem in comfort.

 

Compared to my 2 inears (westone um3xrc & Inear SD4), i4 totally looks gigantic, and um3x looks like a dwarf

I gotta say though, i4 has no isolation AT ALL, even my earbuds isolates a bit, but this thing.. it’s almost like they’re sucking sounds around me, for those who seeks for isolation, stay away from these, no matter how great they sounds, they just don’t isolate.

Try to take a look at those nozzles, damn they are also hugeee, I have more than 10 kinds of eartips but none of them could fit in those nozzle. So if you’re uncomfortable with those stock tips… just deal with it

IMG_20170817_204317
LCD I4’s stock eartips compared to ortofon eartips

Sound

Now this is the most critical part… how do they sound?? I gotta warn you… they are power hungry, there’s a huge difference when you plug em using a small powered DAP, they can get loud, but you won’t appreciate the bass and the vocal body, they will sounds much thinner and shouty, try using a high powered source such as HUGO 2, they will sound majestic, my review is based on what I heard using my laptop as the souce with foobar and HUGO 2 as the DAC
IMG_20170817_211716

The first time I tried them I feel a sense of disconnection between what I feel through the ergonomics and the sound I heard, they don’t go deep into your ears and isolate like regular iem, you know that feeling when you feel when you don’t wear an iem properly and immediately expect a thin and somewhat strange and unnatural sound, that’s exactly what I expected when wearing them, a sense of anxiety that they will sounds strange, but no. they sounds so solid and focused that it’s kinda strange for me, there’s a difference in what my brains expected to hear and what I actually heard.

Bass : starting from the low notes, they have one of the greatest extension, digs deep with no distortion, try to hear some orchestra song such as the famous game of thrones opening theme, you’ll feel sub bass rumble that you won’t find in majority BA driver, I can’t complain anything about the bass, simply there’s nothing wrong, in quantity there’s just enough bass to make you dance but not too much that will only make you feeling fatigue, just a right amount, as in quality they could deliver the plus point from both dynamic and BA, they sounds so controlled, deep, and tight just like BA, but in certain song you could hear a roaring rumble just like dynamic

Mid : now i4’s mid aspect strikes me with how clear and airy they sound, you’ll get this airiness that usually can only be heard in earbuds, but the articulation is on a different level, every word is so vivid and alive, also they also really balanced in tonality,  just a right amount of low mid and just a right amount of upper mid, making male vocal sounds powerful but keep the female vocal sounds sweet.

Now talking about an area that usually prone to sibilance, the upper mid, i could still find upper mid peak in some bad recordings, sibilance can also be heard from it, but it never disturbs me since you could only find em in some of really really bad recording and it doesn’t hurt as much as what dynamic driver usually does (some dynamic driver iems has some nasty upper mid peaks y’know). My usual benchmark for testing sibilance is from Garnidelia – Gokurakujoudo, and I could hear em till the end without needing to scratch my ears despite of some sibilance and that’s unexpected, I mean at this point, an audio gear with this high level of clarity usually kill my ears when I play this song but no, in a point you could say that i4 is strangely quite forgiving.

IMG_20170817_220837
(trying Garnidelia – gokurakujoudo with LCDi4)

Treble : my most favorite part, the treble, so clear, reaching up high and really controlled, almost like electrostatic, guitars, violins, trumpets, cymbals, they sounds so open without any restrain, violin’s edge like hearing celine roscheck – celtic battle dance, dayum I could definitely dance to that, I can feel every accent with smoothness texture through the whole song, gotta say this kind of free treble is really hard to reach and I usually can only found them in electrostatic gears and never thought I could hear them through planar iems. Here I thought audeze’s sound sig is dark and powerful, but not this one, LCD i4 is very different compared to other audeze’s products, even the mighty LCD4 itself, LCDi4 is the most open sounding for me, and that is why I could safely say that audeze LCD i4 is my favorite audeze product

Technicalities : Soundstage and imaging can no longer be compared to any iems or earbuds, they already feels like open headphones, one thing about the imaging that I really really love is how focused they are, once I heard “The Piano Guys – what makes you beautiful (Live)” and “Two Steps from Hell – Enchantress” using STAX SR009 and since then, I couldn’t forget how realistic they are, the claps and the echoing strings from piano guys live, also how the choir in the enchantress sounds like ghastly choir in SR009, until now I’ve tried many iems and couldn’t find anything that could give me the same sensation even TOTL iems like Inear prophile8, 64ears Tia Fourte, Fitear mh335 DW, Dita the Dream, Campfire Vega, sure they have their own selling point, but none could deliver such sensation until I tried LCD i4, my search is finally over, LCDi4 is will be up there in my wishlist and target.

Weakness

No matter how great LCD i4 sounds, I couldn’t deny that they have some fatal weakness that could become a dealbreaker for someone:

  1. They don’t isolate at all : I mean some of the people want isolation especially when using em in commute
  2. They need power : some people buy iems for their effectiveness, just use a dap and no worries, good sounds everywhere, but no, LCDi4 need power from source such as HUGO 2 or ifi idsd black label

Conclusion :

Using a right source and play them in a quite place, they can easily be one of the best audio gear out there, even full sized headphones, full extension from low to high, great clarity, with amazing soundstage and imaging, LCDi4 is truly fit to be a king

Score:

Build : 9/10
Fit : 6/10
Isolation : 0/10
Bass : 10 /10
Mid : 9,5 /10
Treble : 9,5/10
Detail : 9/10
Soundstage : 10/10
Imaging : 10/10
Layering : 10/10
Value : 8/10

Rank: SS

 

 

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