Audeze LCD-i3 Review

Audeze LCD-i3 Review

An atypical range, to say the least in the world of headphones, the Audeze LCD-i series offers to integrate all of the brand’s know-how in planar transducers (ortho planar) is fully open in-ear models. The Audeze LCD-i3 is the youngest siblings, halfway between the iSine ten (which we have already tested and loved) and the ultra-high-end LCD-i4. Atypical models and all in compromises.

Cleverly imagined, the packaging of the Audeze LCD-i3 immediately impresses. The small cardboard box, covered with woven material, houses a beautiful plexiglass bell. This includes the headphones enthroned in a thermoformed foam base and semi-rigid nylon carrying case in which all the accessories are stored.

In addition to their silicone tips, the headphones are supplied with two complementary attachment systems:

  1. An outgrowth that lodges in the conch, which is not very effective here.
  2. A rigid hoop-ear loop is allowing a better hold.
  3. The LCD-i3 comes with a set of three different cables: a 3.5mm jack terminated model, a Lightning cable (Apple), and a Bluetooth receiver cable connecting the two headphones.

These last two cables adopt Audeze’s Cipher sound processing circuit. Note that these two cables are usually sold alone. According to our measurements, the Bluetooth model is compatible with the AptX HD codec, and its battery can last a little more than 8 hours.

Esoteric ergonomics and comfort

If the Audeze LCD-i3 impresses with their design, they are also bordering on the grotesque as they seem disproportionate for in-ear headphones. The very large 30mm planar transducer imposes as much as it scares. But, at least, the finish is simply flawless, marked by a structure mainly in plastic but without any defect. The connection sockets to the cable use two conventional pins on each earpiece but are based on a non-standardized keying principle.   

On the other hand, comfort is a big black point, even a reason for non-adoption for some users. The cannula even narrowed into a funnel, is particularly wide. This feature is added to the significant weight of the transducer itself, which often makes the port unbalanced, the earpiece constantly wanting to come out of the ear canal. Even with the hoop earrings, the finding is not brilliant. These allow the headphones not to fall, but do not prevent the cannula from moving with the tiniest movements of the jaws, then losing all the bass. Regardless of the silicone mouthpieces used, the ear canals must be large enough.

The sound insulation is not brilliant and even almost completely zero, but this point was expected. Despite their in-ear structure, the LCD-i3s are completely open to the outside. As the membrane cannot be damped effectively, Audeze has chosen to leave it fully open under load. Thus, the attenuation of exterior noise is almost non-existent. And to make matters worse, sound leaks are just as important.

Sound reproduction that can reach new heights

Sound performance can be seen through the prism of two types of cables: with or without the Cipher module. This processing module influences the quality and the sound signature.

With the jack cable, the sound from the headphones seems quite dull, even with a good headphone amplifier. Without being technically bad or unpleasant, we feel that the potential is still untapped. The bass and midrange are very balanced, but the treble is a little too far behind, struggling to develop the sound space and ventilation in general.

Everything changes greatly with the use of the Lightning cable or the Bluetooth Cipher cable. Listening is almost transfigured because much more alive, but above all, infinitely airier. Therefore, the personality of the headphones can be expressed. Like the planar headphones in this price range, the Audeze LCDi3s appear as quiet forces, with bass slightly emphasized to gain in impact.

The Audeze LCD-i3s then develop a slightly dark signature. The bass quality is undeniably above the fray of in-ear headphones, whether in terms of depth or detail. But above all, the size of the transducers allows them to be disproportionately large, going well beyond the scope of simple headphones. Furthermore, and contrary to what is usually practiced, Audeze chooses with its models not to favor bumps in the lower mids. Listening is thus relaxing but knows how to retain certain energy and immense precision at the bottom of the spectrum.

The mediums are not to be outdone, with a texture and a reproduction of the timbres at the height of the excellent Hifi headphones. The voices are precise, deep, slightly placed forward. The highs are also very defined but slightly smoother and hilly past 6 kHz. Like the imposing LCD-2 helmet, we tested the Closed-Back version. The LCD-i3 is not sharp but rather soft, pleasant without showing slowness.

These headphones are imperial in musical genres like classical or jazz, all styles airy and well mixed. Give them some space. They give it back a hundredfold. It’s simple. The Audeze LCD-i3 offers a soundstage as vast as the brand’s Hifi headphones: the performance of a real living room headset in a pocket-size. And what about their level of detail, their ability to reproduce the tiniest nuances? Add to that the excellent performance of the Bluetooth cable, and these headphones might be the perfect in-ear … when it comes to sound reproduction.

Almost, because more energetic styles like electro and hard rock show a little the limits of planar transducers, the problem is not so much their technicality as their signature, a bit too wise to fully convince listening to styles fit in.

The Audeze LCDi3 are, therefore, real oddities in the audiophile landscape, headphones just as impressive as large Hifi headphones but not so suitable for nomadism. Great concessions, but also immense qualities.

Specification

  • Type: open planar in-ear headphones
  • 30mm planar transducers
  • Damping: anti-vibration magnesium chassis inherited from the LCD-i4
  • Fluxor magnet array and Uniforce diaphragm
  • Frequency response: 10 Hz – 50 kHz
  • Impedance: 20 Ohms
  • Sensitivity: 110 dB / mW
  • Max power permissible: 500 mW RMS
  • Max SPL:> 130 dB
  • Total harmonic distortion (THD): <0.1%
  • Cables: standard model 3.5 mm jack; Cipher Lightning; Bluetooth cipher
  • Silicone tips: 3 sizes smooth silicone, three sizes ridged silicone

Included: 3 cables, Nylon carrying case, ear hooks, Fine Ears (protuberance for the ear conch), cleaning tools, clothing clip.

 

Audeze LCD-i3 Review
Audeze LCD-i3 Review

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