"It’s the closest to the open-backed goodness of larger over-ear planar drivers" Says KnowTechie of LCDi3
June 08, 2021
"The $899 LCDi3 aren’t really headphones, but they’re not quite IEMs either, as while they fit into your ear canal, they’re pretty hecking large. Let’s see how these shrunken planars fare, and just why Audeze decided to go this route."
"Okay, we’ve covered multiple open-back planar magnetic headphones before, but this is something special. Audeze wanted to make an in-ear version of their planar drivers, but there’s one big problem – the size. See, most IEMs have a dynamic driver that’s either 9 or 10 mm in diameter, and Audeze’s planar drivers, even on the smaller headphones are 100mm across."
"To make it, Audeze took the magnesium housing from their flagship LCDi4 and put some of the internals from the older iSine range, which the LCDi3 now replaces in the lineup. It’s a smart choice without compromising structural integrity or sound quality, while still keeping the price substantially lower than the LCDi4."
"The LCDi3 changes that formula with a nice, magnetically-clasped pouch to put everything in, six sets of ear tips (three sizes of smooth, three sizes of grooved), four sets of ear hooks, two ear fins that go inside your ear for fit, a cleaning tool, a cable clip, a charging cable for the Bluetooth module, and no less than three cables. Comfort-wise, I found the ear fins paired with the grooved ear tips to be the best fit for my ears, but YMMV."
"Okay, the first thing you need to know is that the LCDi3 sounds much closer to the planar sound you’d expect from larger, over-ears than any dynamic IEM. Sound reproduction is tight and controlled, with no bleed-through between instruments or frequencies. Detail is especially impressive, although there is a slight recess in the upper-mids around the vocal range."
"That can be fixed with some EQ if you’re using the CIPHER cables. The only thing is, the EQ has bands at 4kHz and 8kHz, when you really want to be able to boost around 5kHz. A little boost on either side of this could help, or maybe a little dip at the 2kHz in the EQ to flatten out the overall frequency response would work."
"Oh, and if you thought the Lightning or Bluetooth cables would be disappointing after normal wires, think again. Thanks to the LCDi3’s ease of driving, even the built-in iPhone amplification was more than enough, as is the modest amp in the Bluetooth kit. I actually prefer the CIPHER cables slightly to the analog tuning, with a little bit more bass presence. One thing to note – the Bluetooth cable does support AptX, but iPhones don’t so it’ll sound slightly better on Android phones."
"I’m a big fan of the Audeze sound, and while the $899 LCDi3 aren’t cheap, they’re fantastic. It’s the closest to the open-backed goodness of larger over-ear planar drivers, probably because they’re the same, just scaled down on the LCDi3"
"What’s more impressive to me is that there’s not much variance in sound quality between using an analog cable, or the two CIPHER offerings, pointing to how well Audeze has managed to design these to be easy to drive. If you’ve got the cash and prefer IEMs to over-ears, this is the set for you."