Katz’s Corner Episode 14: Guest Listeners Shoot out Audeze LCD-4 vs. Focal Utopia

This story originally appeared at InnerFidelity.com

[Editor's Note: Through a long and tedious process it was found that the Focal Utopia and Audeze LCD-4 reviewed here at InnerFidelity in numerous articles were found to be not representative of currently manufactured product. This article is therefore not entirely indicative of our current impressions of this product. To get a complete understanding of our evaluation the reader should start with this summary article and work back through the articles leading up to our current understanding.]

It’s nice to hear different listeners’ perspectives: Each listener brings something different to the table. I learned a lot about how different people perceive sound and their preferences when putting together this post about experienced listeners listening. Our quintet of expert listeners consists of:

  • Aaron Gandia, chief engineer of Phat Planet Studios in Orlando; he is a recording, mixing and mastering engineer and also an audiophile-grade loudspeaker designer. He’s produced two excellent loudspeaker systems which impress me with their tonal accuracy and impact.
  • Matt Davis is my intern; he is a professional mastering engineer, a musician and an audiophile; he has a BS in music engineering, a Master in Music Technology, and is studying for his masters in Electrical Engineering.
  • Andrew Diaz is one of my mixing engineers, with a discerning ear, he’s a graduate of Full Sail. He’s learned a lot from me about how to mix recordings, how to analyze subtle sonic differences, balance instruments and produce space and depth in mixes. Andrew’s working with a team of professional musicians looking for a Grammy, let’s wish Andrew the best!
  • Paige Coley has an A.S. degree in Music Production and Sound Technology. She’s a musician, member of a rock band, producer and mixing engineer.
  • Veit Renn is a music producer and engineer. He’s a great vocal producer, was the producer for N’Sync and Back Street Boys and many other styles including straight ahead jazz and smooth jazz. You can find Veit’s credits at allmusic.com or rennmusic.com. He is also a professor at Full Sail University teaching audio engineering techniques.

There’s a lot to learn about these two phones from expert listeners’ nuanced responses. More than one of my listeners is sitting on the fence about which headphone he (or she) prefers, very much depending on the application. Each listener has a different preference for attributes such as detail and space. I present them in the order I interviewed each participant, and also the order in which they listened to the headphones since I alternated which was auditioned first for each musical cut.

Photographer Mary Kent kindly produced lovely formal portraits of all but one of the participants with her Nikon and excellent eye. I took Aaron Gandia’s photo with my Iphone. Let’s meet and greet our herd of hearers.