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Headphones

Audeze LCD-MX4, the Audiophiliac high-end headphone of the year

Audeze again advanced the state of the art again with the LCD-MX4 headphone.

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The Audeze LCD-MX4 headphones.

Audeze

I will never forget the first time I heard an Audeze LCD 2 headphone. No other headphone up to that point was more powerful, more viscerally alive, or had the tonal brilliance of the LCD 2 at 2010's Rocky Mountain Audio Fest show in Denver. In my review I said the LCD 2 redefined the state of the art. It certainly did.

Audeze has since produced many other standout designs, but the LCD-MX4 I'm covering today is in every way a better sounding, better designed and built LCD Series headphone. It's a stunning piece of work and while I knew it was good from the get-go, it took some time to fully appreciate how far the LCD sound has come.

There's an ease to it, which is another way of saying the sound is neutral. Play audiophile music from MA Recordings or Reference Recordings and the LCD-MX4 will transport you to the session. With live recordings handclaps sounded just right -- the fleshy, hand slapping sound few other headphones (or speakers) play well.

The sound is a magical confection of effortless transparency and rich tonality. Bass is powerful, so Dave Holland's meaty bass on Miles Davis' funk-jazz Jack Johnson album had terrific presence. Each pluck was distinct, there's no flab or bloat down there. The MX4 sounds great at any volume level, and when you push the volume way up the LCD-MX4 will never falter. If you enjoy loud, you'll cry uncle long before the LCD-MX4 does.

As for the bass, midrange and treble balance, it's so smooth I didn't think about it. When I did, the sound veered towards the rich side of neutral, while the Sennheiser HD800S headphone goes the other way towards cool. I prefer the LCD-MX4's harmonically more developed stance, but you might opt for the HD800S, it's a matter of taste.

The Audeze LCD-MX4 headphones have a fresh look.

Audeze

Fans of Audeze headphones will be quick to note the LCD-MX4 has a fresh new look, the softly rounded cast magnesium ear cups look snazzier than the older LCD 'phones bulkier looking 'cups, and the carbon fiber headband contributes to the headphone's somewhat lighter weight than other full-size Audezes. The headphone comes with a rugged travel case.

The LCD-MX4's planar magnetic design focuses 1.5 Tesla of magnetic flux on the massive 106mm, but lightweight 20 ohm impedance diaphragm. The headphone comes with decent quality braided cables terminated with a 6.3mm or XLR headphone plug, the headphones also come with a 6.3mm to 3.5mm mini-plug adapter cable. The LCD-MX4 is hand-crafted in Southern California, the price is $2,995 in the US, £2,799 in the UK and AU$4,299 in Australia.

I used a few different headphone amps over the course of this review, the Pass Labs HPA-1, Mytek Brooklyn and the new Monoprice Monolith Liquid Platinum (I'll review the Platinum in early 2019). I also plugged into my iPhone 6S headphone jack, and very much enjoyed the LCD-MX4's sound, which is one of the reasons I haven't upgraded my 'phone, I'd miss that 3.5mm jack!

If you've never tried on a set of Audeze LCD Series headphones, you'll be in for treat when you feel the way their generously sized real leather pads coddle your ears. The pads are comfy, and head clamping pressure feels just right without my glasses, but when I put them on the pads' pressure was too high for extended listening session. The open-back design doesn't subdue external noise, you hear the world around you.

The LCD-MX4 is good, but to find out how good I popped on my Hifiman HE1000V2 planar magnetic headphones, and the sound turned leaner, lighter in tone, but on the upside the soundstage dimensions expanded. Returning to the LCD-MX4 the sound drew closer, more intimate, with more body and more presence. Vocals were more natural and had more substance. These two are equally high resolution 'phones, yet their tonal and soundstaging differences were more than I expected.

The LCD-MX4's low bass power and impact handily trumped the HE1000V2's, but the LCD-MX4 isn't as comfy to wear for extended periods of time. Soundwise I'd sum it up by saying the 'MX4's richer, more natural sound balance clicked for me, both headphones are top shelf performers.

The Audeze LCD-MX4 is the Audiophiliac high-end headphone of the year, and it certainly is very expensive, but headphones built as well as this and sound like this one are never cheap. That said, Audeze offers a wide range of more affordable models, including the LCD 2 Classic that debuted early this year at $799 in the US, £899 in the UK and AU$999 in Australia.

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