Audeze LCDi4 In-Ear Headphones - Reviews
Pros: Headphone-like Presentation, Soundstage, Imaging, Dynamics, Bass, Driver Speed, Very Low Distortion, Accurate Timbre with DSP/EQ
Cons: Price, Comfort, Finish, Dip in Upper-Midrange without DSP/EQ
Following the success of their entry into the portable in-ear market, with the introduction of iSine 10 and 20, Audeze has added a flagship IEM to its line-up called the LCD i4. The i4 follows the same form factor as the iSine series, but borrows some of the technology gone into Audeze’s full-size flagship, the LCD-4. This has allowed Audeze to achieve a higher level of performance on the i4 than the iSine series.

i4’s build feels very solid as its housing is made of metal. The front and back metal casings are glued together to form one sturdy unit. While the build is solid, the finish does not offer a premium quality, as glue marks are visible between seams.

The included cable is well made and follows a design that focuses on utility over looks. It seems sturdily made that it can take a beating or 2. Despite being sturdy, the cable is light, flexible and free of cable memory ensuring very good ergonomics. The cable can tend to tangling if not wound into a small coil for storing or. Having a wider coil should help prevent tangling. The connectors on the i4's end are the 0.78mm 2-pin connectors found on most IEMs. The source end comes with a 3.5mm Single Ended termination.

The included case is made of brown leather that does a decent job for storing and carrying. It fits the i4 comfortably inside it. While the i4 is sturdily built, the leather case doesn’t have sufficient padding nor is hard enough to offer good protection for the i4. I would rather store and carry my i4 in a hard pelican case that provides good protection.

The fit and comfort of the i4 is dependent on an individual's ear anatomy. It should fit the most population but I can also see the solution not fitting ideally for a small crowd. The key to getting a comfortable fit is, to find the right tip and the correct angle of the ear hooks, such that the ear hook actually rests on your ears and helps distribute weight evenly. Else the entire weight of the unit will burdened at the point where the eartip meets the ear. While 12g is not much, it can become uncomfortable over a period of time without an ideal fit.

One other possible comfort issue is, when the rear of the i4 touches/presses against the ear pinna for a prolonged time which can cause soreness at the area of contact. Periodically resetting the position of the i4 in the ear, or taking breaks every 30 mins could also solve this.

As for isolation, i4 offers none. You could wear the i4 and have a normal conversation. Although it lacks isolation, it doesn’t leak sound like open-back, full-size headphones.


If you have read that the i4 doesn’t sound like an IEM, you’ve read it right. It does not fit into the traditional IEM category, as it borrows some design cues and features of full size headphones, such as; the large planar-magnetic driver and the open-back grill design. For these reasons, i4’s presentation actually bears resemblance to that of full-size headphones. For starters, the stage and the presentation of the i4 is very grander and airier than what is found on IEMs. In addition, it is able to adjust its presentation that ranges anywhere between intimate and super spacious. And so, its presentation feels more natural.

The imaging is another specialty of the i4. Making use of a 3D and open-back space, i4 is able to locate instruments at various depths and heights within the stage, giving the impression of unexplored layers in stage (especially for someone coming from IEMs). Separation is done very effortless in the abundant space and leaves no possibility for congestion. But still it maintains a very coherent and focused presentation as the size of the instrument images it presents are quite large.

It is important to know that i4’s stock tuning is not the final intended tuning of Audeze. I will explain why in the next section. But for this section, I will describe the stock tuning. i4's stock tuning can be described as balanced, except for a lack of presence in the upper-midrange (2kHz to 6kHz). While the lower-treble is not a victim of this dip, it is a touch subdued than neutral. As a result, i4’s overall tone is neutral-warm in nature. Despite the upper-midrange dip, what helps restore balance in the top end spectrum is the good treble extension, and a small peak in the mid-treble.

Bass is one of the areas where planar drivers shine and i4 doesn’t shy away to display its talents here. Its a powerful and dynamic bass, despite being neutral in quantity. What helps the i4 achieve this is, its 30mm driver, that extends well into the sub-bass frequencies without roll-off. The bass is linear throughout and so it doesn’t tilt towards excess warmth or darkness. The balance in the bass tuning yields a very accurate tone and timbre in the bass. Having a very low distortion in the bass region helps i4 achieve excellent speed while still maintaining the warmth. Its a very high quality bass, that combines the speed of the BA, but retaining the extension and authority of a DD.

Apart from yielding a solid foundation, the bass also makes sure, it supports the full mid-range with the necessary body and warmth. While the mid-range is neither thin nor thick, it could use a touch more warmth and body from the bass. The lack of the upper-midrange results in the device sound a little dull and lacking in transparency. The main victims of this are the female vocals and instruments whose fundamentals and overtones lie in the upper-midrange frequencies. So female vocals and instruments like piano and acoustic guitar, sound delicate and lack a bit of energy. While the bass and lower-midrange help offer the size and warmth for the instruments, the upper-midrange dip makes these instruments sound flat as they lack density and weight (that is usually provided by the 2-4kHz range).

i4 has a very interesting treble because, it is not an accurate, but its tone is very pleasant even on the stock tuning. Although the treble lacks a touch of presence in the lower treble region, it is quite linear and extends all the way into the upper treble, resulting in very good extension. This extension and a tiny peak around 10kHz make up a tiny bit for restoring articulation that is otherwise lost in the dip. It is not a very sparkly or a bright treble. And so the i4 is quite forgiving of poor recordings. At the same time it may lack some excitement that a sparkly treble might offer. When i4 is paired with a DAP or cable (Leonidas) that have a prominent upper-treble, the phone starts to show a bright tone.

While I cover why DSP/EQ is needed for the i4 in the next section, here is how it sounds with Audeze's Reveal Plugins/Roon Presets. Upon engaging the plug-in, i4 immediately starts to sound more accurate in its signature. The upper-midrange is restored which improves a lot of aspects in the presentation. The mid-range becomes more defined and clear. The vocals and instruments gain density and no longer have flat images. The treble becomes more linear without any sacrifice to the extension. So the overall resolution is retained, while the overall treble is a touch smoother. Bass gets a tiny boost and that results in a tiny bit of warmth. This warmth also makes sure it counters any brightness added by restoring the upper-midrange. Similar results can be achieved using your own EQ settings. See next section for my recommended EQ setting.

As stated in the previous section, the stock tuning of the i4 is not Audeze's final intended tuning for the i4. This is because, i4’s physical design doesn’t allow Audeze to quite achieve a perfect headphone-target-curve. A headphone-target-curve is a frequency response corresponding to how the frequency response of a flat sounding speaker will be perceived at the eardrum. While there are different philosophies and approaches to arriving at a headphone-target-curve, it is essential for a headphone to follow this tuning for it to sound correct.

Besides the design constraints, Audeze managed to get close as possible to a headphone-target-curve. This allows users to enjoy the i4 even without the DSP or EQ. However, the DSP built into the Reveal Plug-Ins and Roon Presets for LCD i4, applies a EQ to the digital signal that it essentially corrects the tuning of the i4 and gets its frequency response to Audeze's version of headphone-target-curve.

The EQ recommendations from KMann at Audeze and other members on the i4 thread, basically tries to mimic the EQ correction in the Reveal Pug-In's or Roon Preset's DSP. While a manual EQ doesn't quite yield the same result as the DSP, it gets close enough. Next best thing to the DSP is using a Parametric EQ. With a 10-Band Graphical EQ, it doesn't give you the necessary frequency bands to make the adjustment. Here are some EQ recommendations for Parametric EQ and simple 10-Band EQ. Please use this as a baseline and adjust the frequencies according to what sounds good to your ears.

1) 180Hz, +3dB, Low Pass Filter, Q=0.8
2) 1.4kHz, -4dB, Band Filter, Q=3
3) 2.5kHz, +8dB, Band Filter, Q=1.5
4) 4.2kHz, +3dB, Band Filter, Q=1.5
5) 7.7kHz, -2dB, Band Filter, Q=2
6) 10.2kHz, -3dB, Band Filter, Q=2
7) 16kHz, -3dB, Band Filter, Q=1


1) 31Hz, +1dB
2) 62Hz, +2dB
3) 125Hz, +2dB
4) 2kHz, +6dB
4) 4kHz, +3dB
5) 8kHz, -2dB
6) 16kHz, -2dB

To read further on this subject, please read page #2 of Tyll’s iSine 20 review on Innerfidelity. Although, the discussion is on the iSine 20, LCD-i4 shares the same philosophy as the iSine 20 when it comes to its design. Audeze has confirmed that i4’s and iSine20’s tuning are not 100% same.

The cipher V2 cable for the i4 is terminated with a lightning connector at the source's end and is purposed to be used with iOS devices only (iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad). It tends to tangle a little bit but not much. The cable's Y split is actually a console, which houses a DAC/Amp. This DAC/Amp console also has 4 buttons: 1) Volume Up, 2) Play/Pause/Answer/Decline, 3) Volume Down and 4) Mute/UnMute.

The purposes of the DAC/Amp in the cipher cable are 2 fold; 1) The DAC applies an EQ correction (similar to the Reveal Plugin and Roon preset) prior to the digital to analog conversion. 2) The amp gives a slight boost to the analog signal, so that the i4 doesn't feel under-powered.

While the DAC in the cipher cable may not be as good as devices such as Mojo or a iDSD, the fact that it helps the i4 achieve a balanced tuning, helps the i4 achieve accurate timbre makes the cable a very compelling accessory, especially if you are someone who values timbre.


One of the wrong message that seems to have been perpetuated in the forums is, that i4 requires a powerful source to sound good. While i4 could totally take advantage of high-end desktop amp's performance, it really doesn’t require a lot of power to be driven well. Rather, what it needs is a, transparent source. With the iPhone or Macbook/PC, you get what you would expect. A decent sound quality that is neither top notch nor too bad.

I mostly used the i4 with my Lotoo Paw Gold and a Sony WM1Z. I engaged High Gain on both devices so that it gave me enough headroom for volume adjustment and also to eliminate any chance of i4 lacking required power in Low Gain. Between the 2 DAPs, I preferred the pairing with the 1Z as it presented a more pleasing tone with some warmth and smoothness. 1Z also helped the stage of the i4 to really shine. 1Z only has a 10-Band EQ, so I couldn't do an extensive EQ correction. I applied the EQ setting that I have shared in the previous section and it did the job quite well. It wasn't necessarily accurate in tone or realistic in timbre, but it was a more pleasing experience.

The pairing with the Lotoo Paw Gold can be a matter of taste. On the one hand it provides PMEQ with which one could arrive at a better EQ correction for i4. Also, the device by default has a very realistic timbre and is very dynamic. On the other hand, LPG's tone is quite bright and the upper mid-range is slightly stressed. So it affects the effortless presentation of the i4 a tiny bit. Because i4 has a space spacious stage, LPG's aggressive presentation doesn't affect the i4's overall presentation like it affects my Zeus. So the i4 doesn't necessarily become aggressive, but does feel a little stressed.

Because of i4’s neutral warm tone and the fact that it doesn't need a whole lot of power to be driven well, the earphone is not picky when it comes to source pairing. But if you are a desktop user, a music application supporting Audeze’s Reveal plug-in or using Roon and using a good DAC in the chain would yield best results, as you would get the benefit of the fidelity of a good DAC, while at the same time, the EQ in the DSP helps achieve a balanced tuning. The most popular DAC pairing for the i4 seems to be the Hugo 2. While I did not have a chance to test the i4 extensively on the Hugo 2, I did try it briefly at a friend's house and reviewed the Hugo 2 back in August. Given Hugo 2's accurate timbre and presentation, it should be a great pairing with the i4.

Please note that, with DSP/EQ, i4’s tuning is more balanced, that it sounds more accurate in tone and timbre than either Zeus or HD800S. The note structure is also generally better on the i4 with good weight and body than the other 2 phones. The following comparisons are to provide an idea on how the stock tuning and the general presentation of the i4, compares with the Zeus and the HD800S.

i4 vs Zeus-XIV-ADEL:
While it is not fair to compare the Zeus to the i4, this comparison is just to give an idea on how the i4 differs from IEMs. i4 sounds considerably large in its soundstage and presentation than the Zeus. The spatial separation of instruments is better on the i4 in accordance to its spacious stage and airiness. Regarding the presentation, i4 sounds more natural than the Zeus. i4’s overall tone is warm while Zeus’ follows a neutral tone with a touch of brightness.

The bass department is i4’s strength while it is Zeus’ weakness. Zeus’ BA bass is technical in nature but it doesn’t stand a chance against the powerful and dynamic bass of the i4. The bass tone is accurate on both while the bass instruments on the i4 have a more natural sense. Zeus’ places the midrange forward, while i4’s is neutral in placement. Zeus’ midrange comes across a bit thin in comparison to the full bodied midrange of the i4.

Zeus’ upper midrange has better clarity and transparency than the withdrawn upper midrange of the i4. One of Zeus’ strengths is its vocals as it presents very powerful vocals. On the i4, while the male vocals sound really good, its female vocals lack some melody in the overtones. Lower treble is sparkly on the Zeus, while it is slightly smoother on the i4 due to its slight lack of presence. While the i4’s treble extension is better, Zeus displays better resolution and detail retrieval in the treble region because of better isolation. While Zeus’ treble is not too bright or harsh, it is not quite as forgiving as the i4.

i4 vs HD800S:
In this comparison, the places have shifted. This time around, it is unfair for the i4 as the HD800S presents a larger and a more natural presentation than the i4. Some members had stated that i4’s stage rivals some of the full size headphones. But 800S certainly does not belong to that list. 800S has a tendency to sound withdrawn on certain tracks as it could pull the presentation all the way back to the rear. But the i4 manages to maintain the required forwardness in the presentation.

Although 800S's tuning is much more complete than the i4’s tuning, the 800S is generally more bright in tone. While i4’s default tuning may not be perfect, its overall tone is more natural because of its warmth. The midrange body is also fuller and natural on the i4 compared to the thinner midrange on the HD800S. Similar to the Zeus, HD800S upper midrange is clearer with better density in the vocals, than the vocals on the i4.

HD800S’s bass sounds equally authoritative due to its larger driver size. But i4’s bass is more cleaner and is free of distortion compared to the slightly mushy bass on the 800S. The 800S bass is not generally wooly but it feels so when in comparison with the i4. In the treble, 800S is considerably brighter and thinner. It is also over-articulated and is not accurate or natural. i4’s treble is more linear and is more natural although it is still not accurate.


- For the premium price, the finish of the unit could be more robust. Especially the may the plates re bound together using glue feels inadequate for a item of this price and stature
- More varieties and shapes and sizes of earhooks and ear tips could be designed and developed to make the earphone more comfortable
- Lacks isolation to be a perfectly portable device
- If you are someone not interested in using DSP/EQ, the stock tuning may not suit your needs

The i4 is probably one of the best set of portable headphones I have heard until now. So it comes highly recommended from me. But as the facts stand, in order to tap the true potential of the i4, it requires some DSP/EQ and a decent source. And so, it may not be the ideal earphone for everyone. If you are someone who likes to enjoy the default tuning of your gear, there is a possibility that the i4's stock tuning may not work for you.

Also, the i4 needs isolation to make sure the details are not compromised. It may not make sense to accept the i4 as an IEM as it lacks isolation. But it should be seen as open-back headphone in a very portable form. So if isolation is paramount, once again the i4 may not work for you.

On the other hand, if you are looking for a very portable headphone and are willing to engage DSO or EQ, and if isolation is not important, I heartily recommend the Audeze LCD-i4.

With a headphone-like presentation and a warm tuning, i4 presents a very enjoyable listening experience in a tiny form factor, that fits inside a 1010 Pelican case. While the DSP/EQ is not absolutely necessary, engaging it brings balance to the tuning, which in turn makes the timbre very accurate. As a result, the Audeze LCD i4 sounds literally flawless, that this has become my new reference headphone. It is not the type of reference that is clinical or analytical. But the kind of reference that is close to neutral in tuning but with the right timbre of instruments and vocals.

One could argue that engaging the DSP/EQ can be viewed as a hassle. But we audiophiles go to great extents to get the best sound out of gear. In the case of the i4, all it needs is some DSP or EQ to get to perfection. The initial setup may be a bit inconvenient. But once setup, the result is exponentially rewarding.
Is the ipod touch + cipher cable the best combination possible for this in case I want to stream (spotify, qobuz, tidal, etc)?
I'm thinking of getting this as my office set (I don't need super isolation cause then I can't hear when someone calls me) and at home I listen late at night when isolation isn't required :)
Absolutely. I use the i4+cipher cable with my iPhone for streaming all the time.
Pros: great sound. absolute high end audio representation. great build quality
Cons: price & fit may not be for everyone


In ear monitors have been popular as of lately with new companies bringing out their new top of the line in ear monitors. In ear monitors usually use dynamic or armature drivers. However, planar magnetic drivers commonly used in higher end audiophile grade headphones is not something you’ve seen before in an in ear. Audeze being one of the innovators and leaders of this kind of technology decided to make one. As of today, they have three in total. The isine 10, 20 and LCDi4. Today, we are reviewing their top of the line in ear headphone.


This unit was sent to me by Audeze for the purpose of this review. My reviews will always be unbiased

ABOUT Audeze

from their website:

Audeze’s origins go back to 2008 when founders Sankar Thiagasamudram and Alexander Rosson met engineer Pete Uka who developed specialized flexible circuit materials for NASA. They quickly realized the material might be perfect for headphones. That’s when Dragoslav Colich, who has 30+ years’ experience in designing planar drivers, joined the team as CTO to create the LCD-1 headphone.

Then we created the legendary, award-winning LCD-2 and LCD-3 headphones, and the higher-efficiency LCD-X and XC models. More recently, we made planar magnetic technology accessible to a wider audience with the EL-8 and SINE series headphones. Audeze turned to their strategic partner Designworks, a BMW Group Subsidiary, for the cutting-edge industrial design for the new headphones as well as the Deckard DAC/Amplifier.

Audeze feature proprietary planar magnetic designs with extremely thin-film driver materials and powerful custom magnets. Planars overcome many limitations inherent in typical cone drivers; our lightweight diaphragms are, for example, faster and more responsive than heavier moving-coil or dome drivers. Planar magnetic diaphragm also have a voice-coil circuit spread across the diaphragm surface. The diaphragm’s voice-coil circuit interacts with the magnetic field to produce an electromagnetic force that moves the diaphragm back and forth creating the sound you hear when energized by an audio signal.



  • Specifications
    Style In-ear, universal fit
    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)

Bay bloor radio in you are in Canada.

Here internationally


First off, I would say the build quality is as expected at this price range, excellent.

It is made of high quality magnesium, light, and just gorgeous. the drivers are gold plated as you can see.

For those who found Audeze headphones really good sounding but just way too heavy to wear, this may just be something that may float your boat.

Cabling is simple with 2 pin connectors and this does mean you can use third party cables, if that is your thing.

But the stock cable is a beautiful silver plated copper that just screams "I am the best"

I did feel like the tips included were all too big for secure fit and nozzle were too big for and typical spin fits or comply foams.
Also, it takes a bit of getting used to securing a good fit with the hooks provided.


THE FIT: Fit is everything with the LCDI4, you will love it if you can or you will hate it if you cannot. It is a big hit or a miss type of scenario. I would imagine Audeze will improve this in their future line ups.

SOUND ISOLATION: These are semi open back and does leak, despite what others say about these not leaking… which I found odd unless you listen to your music really quietly. These do leak and it was proved in my tests. You can do this easily… you can just turn your music off and talk to other without taking the LCDi4s off your ears, you will be able to hear everything perfectly fine. Try asking at least 10 individuals if they can hear your music.

PAIRING: These are not the hardest to drive but they are still planar magnetic and need some good sources and amps to really shine. For the best performance, these really need to be powered by a good amplifier. check out my amplifier suggestions.

SUGGESTED USE: Probably around the house or in the office where it doesn’t matter if a little bit of music leaks out. If you are the type of person that is not keen to share your music taste, this may not be the right choice.


review without EQ

LOWS – incredible rumble, incredible punchy bass with great extension and air added to the whole mix. It feels realistic and dynamic. I have not heard a better low end in such an in ear design. although this may be incomparable to some closed designs, it exceeds all expectations in its own way.

MIDS – focus is great. the mid is very engaging and fun to listen to. little nuances can all be heard with ease. very realistic representation of string instruments. its specialty is making you feel you are inside a small hall with the artist you love, all by yourself.

HIGHS – well extended, great representation, great tonality. never heard better in a planar.


  • biggest I have heard in a set on in ears. as wide or wider than most headphones out there.
  • Imaging was spot on and dead accurate
  • Separation was incredible. I could hear the instrumental positions clearly and with confidence.

One of the best headphone out there. do not underestimate these just because they are small !
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Pros: Full size reference level sound size in IEM package!
Cons: Plastic hooks, doesn't isolate, needs a solid amp
When Audeze introduced their iSine series about a year ago, there were actually three different models announced: the i10, the i20, and the LCDi3. Most of you however, probably remember reading only about the i10 and i20 since those pairs were the only ones in actual production and ready for review. I myself reviewed both pairs and to make a really long story short, walked away considerably impressed. Not only do both models outperform most IEMs in their class, but rival many full sized headphones too.

Fast forward to today: Audeze just recently announced they are finally shipping their LCDi reference model, now renamed the LCDi4. And by "reference", I'm talking about $2499 worth of reference, a relatively unheard asking price for a pair of universal IEMs outside of a few esoteric, boutique brands. So given all of the above, you are probably asking yourself: Is the LCDi4 really worth its asking price? Does it sound anything like its big sibling? And are they really worth almost four times the i20's asking price? Good questions.

Reference Level Performance
In terms of performance, Audeze claims the i4 gives a flat bass response from 900Hz all the way down to an earth shattering 5Hz! On the flip side, they are also capable of reproducing frequencies up to 50kHz. But here's the real kicker, and this is key: It does all of this using a single driver. Why is this important?

Most high-end, ultra-expensive IEMs use a multi-driver design; vendors typically stuff a dozen or more tiny balanced armature drivers in a shell and then work diligently to get their crossovers in sync while still keeping everything in phase. It is very difficult to get right, and the truth is most really don't. One of the big advantages with Audeze's iSine design is that there are no crazy crossover schemes or half a dozen (or more) drivers to keep track of. The iSine acts and sounds like a full sized headphone all within the confines of an IEM-like form factor. Pretty amazing if you think about it.

Note that the LCDi3 was renamed to the "4" since the majority of technologies contained within were developed first for its full-sized counterpart, the LCD-4. In fact, it shares the same proprietary film used to make the transducers in the LCD-4 as well as its patented Fluxor and Uniform voice coil technologies. In addition, the i4 is hand assembled with both sides matched to within +/- 1dB of each other. Again, when the drivers are placed this close to your ear drums, keeping all that sonic brouhaha in phase becomes paramount if you want reference level performance, and the i4 is clearly up for the task (at least on paper).

Fit and Finish

As you can see, the overall design of the i4 is similar to the i20, featuring a handsome golden mesh grill enclosed in a black inner hexagonal shell. What's also particularly nice is the upgraded cable Audeze ships with every pair of i4, which features premium made, braided silver-lined OCC copper with Kevlar threads. Slow down killer, it's not that I think this cable will make the i4 sound any better; but it is rugged, and doesn't easily get tied into knots. That's something I can't say about the i20's cable, which though is somewhat tangle proof, can still get itself into trouble from time to time stuffed into that pouch.

Speaking of which, the leather pouch that comes with the i4 is a nice upgrade over its little sibling's packaging. However, it still doesn't address my original gripe with the pouch design which is durability. I would be hard pressed to zonk the i4's pouch in a backpack knowing full well they could get minimally damaged, and most likely crushed, during any kind of significant impact. As you can see, the same is not true for my Roxanne's case made out of carbon fiber.

I also have another gripe with the iSine series and now particularly with the i4: the hooks. In it themselves, they work well for the most part and are certainly good enough for government work. However, with the i4 fetching a boutique price tag, I strongly feel Audeze needs to do better in this department. First off, they are plastic and will break. Period. The hooks that came with my i20 review unit broke after several months of light use and I see no reason why the i4's iteration of them will be any different. Secondly, they are plastic. Surely a more exotic material such as carbon fiber, both for its ruggedness and exclusivity, would better serve the i4 given its price point. Finally, you can lose them. I've had the hooks fall out of the pouch several times while taking them out. Just make sure you have a spare set of hooks stashed away somewhere in case you one because you will.

In terms of comfort, the i4 weighs in at a paltry 12g and almost feels non-existent once you match hook to ear. And this is where the use of plastic for the sound ports I believe was ultimately the right move. The form factor for these is unquestionable atypical, and weight does matter. Moreover, trying to shell a planar magnetic in exotic materials could lead to other unforeseen issues. Put simply, this shell design worked swimmingly well for the i20s, so I don't blame Audeze for re-using it for the i4s.

With all that said, I do empathize with some of the Head-Fi crowd grumbling that the i4's magnesium shell could be a bit more snazzy instead of being so utilitarian. Ultimately, you have to judge for yourself what's more important to you: the fact that are in a plastic housing or that they sound phenomenal despite it?

An All Juice Diet

Another aspect of i4's design is that unlike other portable headphones and IEMS, they need juice - the more the better. With a full-sized impedance rating of 35 ohms and the ability to handle up to three glorious watts of output power, don't expect much from your i4 out of most smart devices and mainstream DAPs. For example, plugging the i4 into my Pixel yielded a pleasant but clearly muted sound.

However, the i4 does sound glorious through the Chord Mojo as well as the Schiit Jotunheim and iFi Audio's micro iDSD. So again, don't be shy about plugging these into full-sized desktop amps. They will thrive when you do so. I actually did the bulk of my listening through the Mojo at work and the iCan Pro at home. Just to give you a sense of how power hungry the i4s really are, I had to flip the gain switch on the iCan Pro's single-ended 3.5mm output to get the volume to a comfortable listening level. Again, their headphones not IEMs, and need to be treated as such.


Let me get this off my chest right now: The i4's are by far and wide the greatest sounding pair of headphones for their size I have ever heard. Think all of the fantastic transparency you get out of a traditional IEM or CIEM but layer on top of that gobs of deep and tight bass, a silky lush midrange, and finally, a planar with treble that is nothing to sneeze it. However, repeat after me, "Their headphones. Not IEMs. Headphones." Yes, they do fit in the ear so that technically makes them an IEM but Audeze is very clear that the iSine series are really a type of in-ear headphone because they don't offer the same kind of isolation performance as your typical IEM, and the i4 is no different. So trying to compare them to my Roxanne's or some other high-end IEM is frankly not a fair comparison.

In fact, it is this taxonomic distinction that has a lot to do with how the LCDi4 is priced: Audeze believes that the LCDi4 can replace many full sized headphones and in fact be the only pair of reference headphones you'll ever need. And after many weeks with them as my go to, I believe that is not too far from the mark. Most of my listening had me switching back and forth between a pair of Focal Utopias, the i20, and the i4, all through the iCan Pro and Mojo.

If Australia's Voyager were not based in the Land Down Under, I think they would be bonafide rock stars. Regardless, they are in my book one of the best progressive metal bands on the planet and their latest, entitled Ghost Mile, is nothing sort of superb. If you haven't heard of Voyager, I highly recommend perusing Steel Druhm's excellent review of their latest over on Angry Metal Guy as a primer.

Switching back and forth between the i20 and i4, one thing became abundantly apparent: The i4 does everything the i20 does but better, faster, and smoother. If you thought bass was deep on the i20, it pales in comparison to the i4. For example, when the kicks come in during the opening of the track "Misery Is Only Company," your whole body feels it through the i4. It's a very visceral and immediate response, and I am absolutely convinced now that Audeze's claim of the i4 being flat all the way down to 5Hz is spot on. Same is also true with the its transient response; if you thought the i20s were fast, you haven't heard fast. Take for instance the track "Lifeline," where the drummer is riding the hats quickly while a competing bass line is vying for your ears attention. The i4's transparency is not only in a different league than the i20 but is on par if not even faster than the Utopia (not shocking given it's form factor and thus the amount of air the i4 has to move). And then there is the song "What A Wonderful Day," where the band sounds down right electric on the i4 as opposed to the i20.

Meet this year's Surgical Steel. Akercocke's comeback record absolutely lives up to the hype, and will no doubt land on many a year end list. I've written about them before, but if you still haven't yet discovered literally the UK's best kept secret, then their latest release, entitled Renaissance in Extremis, is a fine place to start.

Most of my time was spent between the i4 and the Utopia. Both offer plenty of bass, with the i4 doing a better job overall of rocking your socks off. Where things get interesting is in the midrange, and this is where one's definition of "reference" can make or break the i4. I found the i4's midrange to be a lot warmer and downright lush at times compared to the Utopia, which tends to be more neutral and in-line of what my ears expect. I suspect a bit of EQ on the i4 side could tame some of that midrange fuzz if you so choose but the lushness is hard to argue with at times. In terms of soundstage though, the Utopia still sounds bigger than the i4, which again is not surprising given their respective form factors.

Perturbator is going down as one of, it not my favorite electronic artist of all-time. Everything this Frenchman touches is pure gold. And though his medium of choice is dark synthwave, he composes some of the most aggressive sounding music on the planet. His latest, a surprise EP entitled "New Model," also marks a stylistic departurea as well, eschewing the fast and furious style compositions for a more atmospheric and in many respects, darker approach. And like most metal, Perturbator likes his music heavily compressed, typically clocking in the sub-DR4 territory, i.e. perfect review material fodder.

In some ways, the i4 offers a richer experience albeit a less accurate one. Both the Utopia and the i4 are insanely fast, with again a nod to the i4. However, the Utopia's more balanced approach allows the music to breath more and thus keep a track like "Tainted Empire" from spiraling out of sonic control. Though I must admit the bass out of the i4 is really astonishing, and will get your head nodding instantly. If I listened to mostly hip-hop and electronica, the i4 would win every time on this aspect along.

Final Thoughts
The LCDi4 in many respects may very well be Audeze's greatest achievement to date. And though the i4 is not a true replacement for a top tier can like the Utopia, or for that matter its bigger brother, the LCD-4, it is within striking distance, which is why I feel its current value proposition is more than justified given its level of performance. What is most astonishing to me is that the i4 offers a robust, lush sound all delivered through a soundstage that I thought not possible in a headphone of this size. And if you are an existing iSine user, start saving pennies. The i4 is a huge leap above its siblings.

But bare in mind that you really need a meaty amp to drive these puppies in order to maximize their potential which does limit their portability. And although I feel the hook mechanism is their weakest link, they do work. In fact, if I had to live with only one pair of headphones that I could carry around with me wherever I go, the LCDi4 would be it. That's why it easily earns our top honors.