Audeze LCD-4 Headphones: Jonathan Scull interview

In 2015, the founder of Scull Communications and former Stereophile journalist Jonathan Scull talked to Meniscus Magazine at Stereo Exchange in New York about the Audeze LCD-4 Headphones.  Since then, Audeze has manufactured a similar model, the LCD-4z, which retails at the same price (US$3,995) and has the same sound signature.

Meniscus Magazine: Why don’t you tell me a little bit about the four?

Jonathan Scull: Okay, the LCD-4 is Audeze’s newest headphone, their new reference headphone.  And it features a Double Fluxor Magnetic Array.

Fluxor Magnets are patent pending and they’re unique.  And they’re set up in a north/south way custom cut at the factory and they were first introduced in the EL-8 headphone, which was very successful.  But the EL-8 only had them on one side of the diaphragm.  The LCD-4 has Fluxor Magnetic Arrays, which you can find more about on our website, along with illustrations, that has a Double Fluxor Array on either side of a nano-spec diaphragm, extremely extremely thin.

And it develops 1.5 Tesla, which is the most magnetic flux available anywhere on any headphone.  Therefore it controls this ultra-thin diaphragm very precisely, and it also has the rest of the phaser elements which help to guide sound waves within the headphone and Uniforce diaphragm.

The Uniforce diaphragm is very unique in that there are gaps between the magnets.  So in those gaps between the magnets, when they line like this together, you have a voice coil that gets a little thicker and a little thinner.  Thinner when it’s under the magnet, a little thicker when it’s not exactly under the magnet so that you get a very smooth frequency response, wide bandwidth, terrific control of the diaphragm gives you a real sense of space, depth, full range sound, fantastic bass, lovely midrange, very open highs.

And I think today you need that. You need those open highs, you have things sound real exciting, really, you are there.  A lot of that has to do with dynamics and a sense of openness on top.

Most people would ask the question, the first thing is, how does it differ from the three? And I think you explained that.

Right, that would be the Fluxor Magnetic Arrays and a thinner diaphragm.

Exactly, and the second question I see a lot of people raise was, ‘Why is it so expensive?’

A lot of development went into it. The Fluxor Magnets, cutting them, it’s all hand assembled, the super thin nano diaphragms, it all costs money. And don’t forget, the Abyss is 5000, the HE1000’s are 3500, so it’s like a trend of trying to make statement products.

This is Audeze’s attempt at it, the LCD-3 with phaser is a fabulous headphone, the LCD-X and X3 are terrific. But for someone who’s looking for absolutely top of the line that Audeze can make, it makes a fabulous combination with the King headphone amp that we debuted at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest and that was a hybrid designed by Bascom King, thus the name. And that has a tube input E88CC, I think, 6922’s, MOSFET Drivers and a MOSFET output stage.

And together, think about it, let’s say you drop US$8,000 on a King and an LCD-4. What’s it gonna cost to produce that same sound with speakers in a room? Cables, room treatment, front end components, a rack, I mean, it’s 10 to one. Space is getting smaller since it’s getting more expensive. Life is getting more expensive, and in a way, headphones offer a very valid alternative to speakers in a room these days anyway. You can play Mallard at three in the morning, or the Ramones, if you have a mind.

Very loudly, yes, right.

So, the expense is all in the development. Audeze is not a huge company so it has to devote a lot of resources to coming out with a new headphone. Our EL-8’s are selling really well, that’s $699. And of course $3995 for the LCD-4.

We noticed that companies such as OPO and HiFiMan and so on are heading to what they call, lighter type headphones. What is the stand with Audeze on this issue?

The stand is sound, and we’ve come out with a new carbon fiber type headband on the new LCD-4 to make it much more comfortable for longer periods of listening comfortably. And the other thing with the weight is the Double Fluxor Magnetic Arrays. You just can’t get 1.5 Tesla of control if it’s lighter. So I think devotees who are looking for that sound, who wanna feel it, touch it, get into it, fall into the music, feel that connection that most audiophiles are looking for, it’s gotta be a little heavier to get there.

So that’s why we don’t. It’s easy enough to make it lighter. We can have a less technologically advanced diaphragm, less magnets. I mean, other headphones are using standard, off the shelf magnets. Audeze cuts them a certain particular way, that you can find out about online, all that takes time, it takes research, development, and finally, that’s what winds up weighing as much as it does and why it costs as much, but if it’s the sound you want? Those are the headphones.

Video: Audeze LCD-4 Headphones: Jonathan Scull interview
video by Kwai Chan / Meniscus Magazine