LCD-4z

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NO SMOOTHING is applied to the shown plots. Most measurement sites have some smoothing applied which ‘irons flat’ sharp peaks and ‘wiggles’. I do not use smoothing because some info about sound quality is lost when plots are smoothed.

Aside from a small correction of the microphone itself also some correction in the lowest frequencies is applied to the plots to compensate for the perceived loss of bass when using headphones. This is described HERE in more detail.
A ‘horizontal‘ frequency response curve on the shown frequency response plots on this website thus indicates a perceived ‘flat’ tonal signature.

ALL measurements are made with a good SEAL on a flatbed measurement rig.
The shape of your head, bone structure, pad size, pad ‘softness,  (compliance), hair or no hair and or wearing glasses may (drastically) change the frequency response of some headphones, so… your personal experience may differ substantially from these plots.

Frequency response (tonal balance) is the most sound-determining aspect of headphones. A horizontal line shows audible neutral response in the plots on this website. Deviations in different severities at different frequency bands have an effect on the sound character.
The bigger the deviation the stronger the effect.

Below an aid to help determining the sound character of headphones with relation to the frequency response.

sound descriptions mine

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Audeze LCD-4z

LCD4z

The Audeze LCD-4z is an open orthodynamic headphone. It retails for around € 4,900.-
Despite the efforts of using magnesium and carbon this headphone still is quite heavy in weight (610 gr. without the cable)  which may put some people off.
Despite its weight it still sits comfortable due to the large pads.

The headband is made of carbon and pads are soft and made of real leather.
The cups are made of magnesium and rounded off around the edges. Similar looks as the LCD-MX4 but with gold accents instead of silver/white.

This headphone is designed to be driven directly from portable sources. Because of this the impedance is very low (around 15Ω) and the efficiency is quite high (107 dB/mW). Even higher than the HIFIMAN Ananda. As a result just a small voltage is already enough to create a decent SPL.

It is intended for home and studio usage as the open nature of the headphone doesn’t make it suited for commuting. Of course it is transportable in its case and can be listened to on various lcations directly from a phone, tablet or laptop.
Given its sound quality it really should be driven from better DAP’s.

It has a 4-pin mini XLR connector on each cup and thus has a cable with a Y-splitter in the middle terminated in a 6.3mm TRS jack. A small converter cord from 6.3 to 3.5mm TRS isn’t supplied which is rather strange as this headphone is designed to be driven from portable devices..
A missed point could be that instead of the 6.3mm TRS a 4.4mm TRRS jack wasn’t used.
I guess the audio world isn’t embracing this well thought out connector.
The cable is a bit short for desktop duties and too long for ‘portable’.
What would it cost to include 2 different length cables with 3.5mm and 6.3mm plugs ?

specifications:

Type: over ear, open
Usage: home and studio usage
Driver type: orthodynamic
Pads: replaceable, slanted soft real leather pads
Inner pad dimensions: depth: 35mm rear, 26mm front side, H: 65mm, W: 48mm
Collapsable: No.
Headphone connector: 4-pin Mini XLR (marked with colour code ring)
Cable entry: dual sided
Cable: replaceable,  1.8m. 6.3mm TRS jack with 6.3 to 3.5mm adapter cord
Driver size: 80mm diameter, active area 65mm x 50mm with Fazor.
Nom. power rating:  5W (15W peak power)
Nom. voltage:  8.6Vrms (15V peak)
Nom. current:  570mA (1A peak)
Max. S.P.L. 126dB (@ 8.6V)
Impedance: 15 Ω
Efficiency: 98dB/1mW  (107 dB/1V)
Weight: 610 g.
Clamping force: low/medium
Accessories: sturdy travel case, 1.6m. cable with 6.3mm TRS jack.

Sound description:

The overall sound is realistic but slightly ‘laid back’. Bass is very well extended but on the lean side. Quality of the bass is excellent and integrates nicely with the mids. The mids sound very ‘open’ and forward. Just like all LCD Audeze models it is slightly lacking in ultimate clarity and presence. On poor quality recordings this can be a blessing but on finer quality recordings one can hear the ‘laid back’ character as if one is further in the audience as it were.
Treble quality is excellent. Very smooth never sibilant or harsh. Just excellent overall.
One should not expect anything less at this pricepoint though. This can really be considered as a much easier to drive LCD4.
It has better ‘sound quality’ than the lower priced LCD2 series.

Measurements:

Below the frequency response of the LCD-4z (Left, Right)FR LCD4Z

Channel matching is excellent as it should be at this price point. Only in the upper treble there are some differences but these could well come from somewhat different seating on the test rig.
The frequency response shows a neutral-ish tonal response from 10Hz to 1kHz with a small ‘forward’ tilt to it. There is a mild mid-range emphasis.
Bass as well as sub-bas is there and of high quality. This is not basshead type of bass but sound good/convincing with well made recordings. Older rock and pop records may sound a little too bass shy.
While the mids are quite neutral it does lack ‘clarity/presence’. The dive towards 4kHz is responsible for this. That dip is somewhat smaller in reality than how it measures because the so-called Concha-gain. This will make this measured dip audibly smaller than it looks. It is still there though, just not as deep as the plot suggests.
Treble extension of the LCD-4z is good but is on a slightly too low level when one is looking for your typical detailed ‘high-end’ sound with clear cymbals.
These headphones could do with some EQ and it looks like Audeze agrees as they supply their own EQ program.

Seal

Seal can be an issue with closed-back headphones but is usually less of a problem for open headphones. Breaking the seal (improper fit on the head) usually means a loss of (sub)bass. The LCD-4z is not very different than most other open headphones in this aspect. Perfect seal, with thin armed glasses, with thick armed glasses and with the seal broken (cup lifted slightly).seal

One can easily say there is no audible loss of subbass and certainly not of bass with these headphones. An excellent result. The differences in the upper treble are most likely from a different position on the test rig when lifting the cups.

The Audeze line-up has quite a few models that differ somewhat in tonal balance and nuances. The most obvious comparison would be to compare the LCD-4z with the LCD-4 and LCD-MX4. 4z=bl vs mx4=rd vs 4=gn

As can be seen the differences in tonal balance are not very big between all models but definitely are there. The LCD-MX4 has a more ‘forward’ sound because of the 4dB boost around 900Hz. Both the LCD-4 and LCD-4z have a smaller peak (+2dB) and a bit higher up. The LCD-MX4 has about 5dB less lower treble and thus is a little more subdued in the treble. The LCD-4 and LCD-4z have almost similar treble response. Perhaps with a nod to the original LCD-4 which requires a good amplifier.

I have no measurements available of the older LCD-2 but do have the measurements of the LCD-2 Classic which is supposed to be closer to the sound of the original LCD-2.
Below the LCD-2 Classic and LCD-2 Fazor versus the LCD-4z.4z=bl vs 2cl=or vs 2F=teal

The LCD2-Fazor is the most ‘neutral’ of the bunch. The LCD-2 Classic has a similar emphasis around 1kHz as the LCD-MX4. The LCD-4z seems to have the best treble extension of the lot. Subjectively the LCD-4z is the best of this bunch (not surprisingly).

Below the difference between the LCD-4z and the LCD-3F LCD4z vs LCD3

The LCD-3 is the more ‘neutral’ one in the lows and mids and slightly more ‘laid back’ but has a lot more treble. The LCD-4z is a bit easier on the ears. The LCD-3F is perhaps a bit too emphasized in the treble and becoming too ‘ethereal’.

output resistance / damping-factor

As this is a planar dynamic headphone the frequency response will not be amplifier output resistance dependent when certain higher output resistance amplifiers are used.
To test this the headphone is measured via a low impedance amplifier (0.2Ω) and a high impedance amplifier (120Ω). On a higher output resistance amplifier the output level will be considerably lower. To compensate for this the amplifier is cranked up to the same level (21dB at 1kHz in this case) as the low impedance amplifier. This way the plots are overlay-ed and it is easy to see if the tonal balance changes.R120

Well this is clear. The tonal balance does not change when higher output resistance amplifiers are used. As the attenuation is rather high because of its low impedance there will be more distortion present when using tube amps. Solid State amps will show lower distortion as long as clipping levels are not reached. I saw no change in other areas either.

Note that this headphone was measured at ears-unlimited-logo where unavoidable background noises were present in the demo room. Distortion levels and spectrum plot performance may thus be better in reality than shown on the plots.

Below the distortion plots of the LCD-4x. (only right channel shown)
The distortion products are shown in dB.dist LCD4z L

Below the same plot except shown in percentages.dist LCD4z L percent

The distortion is impressively low and drops below the capabilities of my test rig. Only just below 7kHz there is something going on. This band is very narrow so might not be problematic. A small resonance is visible in the CSD as well.

  • The 2nd harmonic distortion is most likely below the 0.2% shown in the plots. This is due to the limit of the measurement rig which is reached.

 

Below the CSD of the LCD-4z (Left and Right channel are superimposed)

CSD 4Z

The driver seems to be pretty well damped and is not showing all kinds of resonances above 4kHz that are seen in Hifiman headphones for instance.

Below the spectrum plot of the LCD-4z (Left channel).spectr 4z

This plot shows no deal breaking issues at all. Bass and mids are quite clean. The dark blue signals are already 50dB below the signal so very low and as indicated below may well be coming from the not very quiet demo room the measurements were made in.

  • The small signals around 1.5kHz may well not be  from the headphone but are most likely sounds present in the demo room it was measured in.

By lack of oscilloscope shots (not enough time to measure that) below a step response plot of the LCD-4z. (Left channel)step 4z L
The initial rise doesn’t reach the 0dB line at all. It remains about 7dB below the mids (the peak around 0.3ms). Bass extension is very good as indicated by the just slightly downwards sloping horizontal trace. The midrange emphasis (the ‘hump’ around 0.3ms) is clearly visible which will make voices and certain instruments stand out (sounding ‘forward’ yet lack in clarity.

summary

The LCD-4x is an excellent sounding headphone with a top sound quality. It can be driven from low power sources and plays well from them. It has about the same sound quality as the LCD-4 but that one needs a good amplifier.
Its price is on the high side… on the very high side. It’s weight is high too despite light-weight materials being used.
The LCD-4x has a luxury feel and looks to it. Fitting in this price point.
There is plenty competition in this price class so looking around is obligatory.
While the sound quality is excellent there are two downsides. It may be a tad too ‘laid back’ in the upper mids and some may find the bass to be excellent in quality but perhaps lacking a bit in quantity. Nothing a little EQ (from Audeze itself or other solutions) can’t cure though.
When the weight and price is not an obstacle the LCD-4z is a headphone that should be auditioned along with some other TOTL headphones.

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