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Hands on: Audeze LCD-i3 in-ear headphones review

Exceptional earbuds from the audiophile brand

What is a hands on review?
audeze l d-i3
(Image: © TechRadar)

Early Verdict

The Audeze LCD-i3 could be among the best earbuds we've ever listened with, thanks to an innovative open-back design and planar magnetic drivers – and the choice between wired and wireless listening only sweetens the deal. Still, they're extremely expensive, and battery life could be a lot better for the price.

For

  • Incredible sound
  • Option for wireless or wired listening
  • Support for Bluetooth 5.0

Against

  • Battery life isn't great
  • Extremely expensive

Incredible audio fidelity is something we usually associate with high-spec over-ear headphones, but earphones like the Audeze LCD-i3 prove that audiophiles don't have to stick to chunky cans to get the sonic fix they need. 

Boasting the choice of both wired and wireless connectivity, these pricey wireless earbuds build on the success of the brand's popular iSINE 20 headphones. 

We had the chance to briefly test them out at the Bristol Hi-Fi Show 2020, and we think we might be in love...

Price and availability

The Audeze LCD-i3 in-ear wireless headphones are available to buy for an eye-watering $899 / £849, which works out at around AU$1350. 

That price far surpasses most of the wired earbuds we've tested – even our top true wireless earbuds, the Sony WF-1000XM3, retail for less than $350 / £350.  Audeze is no stranger to releasing highly specced and highly priced earbuds however; its LCD-i4 earphones, cost a staggering $2495 / £2399 (about AU$3760).

audeze lcd-i3

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Design and features

These aren't your average earbuds, and as such, they don't sport a design that you'll typically see on the shelves of your favorite department store. 

The first thing you'll notice about the Audeze LCD-i3 is their open-back, grille-clad housings and large ear hooks, which are designed to keep the buds securely in place in your ears.

With an all-black look , the silver Audeze capital 'A' logo adds a luxe touch to an otherwise industrial design.

audeze

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Audeze has strived to make the LCD-i3 as flexible as possible, with the option for wired and wireless connectivity: so, either plug them directly into your phone or PMP (personal music player), alternatively, you could hook them up to the included Cipher Bluetooth 5.0 module. 

This detachable device turns the LCD-i3s into a pair of wireless neckbuds, bringing the ability for 24-bit high resolution payback over Bluetooth with integrated support for aptX and aptX HD, alongside an inbuilt microphone for taking calls and an inline remote.

Battery life is only about 8 hours however, which isn't amazing for neckbuds. 

audeze lcd-i3

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Audio performance

The successor to Audeze's popular iSINE 20 headphones, the LCD-i3 sport magnesium housings and a special grille design that's made to "reduce unwanted resonance".

Inside the buds are planar magnetic drivers, which are made to offer superior audio resolution than their predecessors, delivering up to 130dB of powerful sound. 

We spent a little time with the earbuds, putting them to the test with London Grammar's "Hey Now," and we were blown away by the audio quality on offer here. A full, gorgeously sonorous vocal stole the show, with lots of breathy air in the higher register giving the soundstage a sense of space. 

The bass was astonishingly powerful too, with echoing percussion giving the sense that sound is coming at you from all angles – no mean feat for in-ear headphones. The treble frequencies, while gentle, had plenty of detail and dexterity. 

audeze lcd-i3

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Early verdict

The Audeze LCD-i3 sound breathtakingly good – as you might expect for earbuds that cost nearly $900 / £900 / AU$1400. 

Sure, cheaper earbuds offer mod cons like true wireless connectivity and noise-cancellation, but few can claim to deliver true audiophile sound quality.

That high price point may make them a pretty big investment – particularly for in-ear headphones, which are typically cheaper than over-ear headphones – and we'll have to spend a bit more time with the LCD-i3s before we can say whether that investment is truly worth it. 

What is a hands on review?

Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.