Lear LUF BD4.2 (universal fit version): The LUF is the universal version of the BD4.2 while the LCM is the customized version. Theoretically, they should sound about the same, although CIEMs have always performed better technically.
While the bass knob of the LCM version can dramatically change the bass, the LUF version bass quantity is also ear tip dependent. For example, bass quantity of the LUF lags the LCM version with Comply foam tips while triple-flange tips boost the bass in comparison. The spatial presentation also changes with the different types of ear tips. The LUF version doesn’t perform as nearly as well at moderate volume levels and above due to the lower clarity within the soundstage.
Sonically, the LCM version is more spacious while the LUF version is more mid-forward, with a closer and higher (above the listener) presentation perspective that doesn’t sound as natural as the LCM version. There is a large difference in presentation depth and imaging, as the LUF version doesn’t have the same spatial proportions as the LCM. The LCM version adjusts the presentation perspective to various tracks as does the LUF version, but the changes with the LUF version can become unnatural sounding due to the soundstage presentation getting pushed higher than is natural. Overall, the soundstage presentation is one of the biggest differences between the two versions.
Note presentation is similar between the two in the bass and midrange, but the LCM version is cleaner in the bass region. The treble is significantly different between the two, with the LUF version having sharper notes that lack the natural decay of the LCM version that is more detailed yet slightly less articulated. Resolution within the soundstage is slightly better with the LCM version. Transparency and coherence are better with the LCM version by a good margin while clarity, dynamics, and punch are a bit better with the LCM.
The Lear LCM custom version of the BD4.2 outperforms the LUF universal fit version by a significant margin mainly due to presentation characteristics and treble performance as the LCM version has a more accurate, spacious, and natural presentation. The LUF version can sound good when pushed by an exceptional amp such as the Portaphile Micro with MUSE2 op amps, but even with the DX100 headphone out, it isn’t the greatest performer.
Spiral Ear SE 5-way Reference: The LCM BD4.2 bass was adjusted to 1 O’clock to achieve similar quantity to the SE5. Both of these CIEMs change their presentation perspective a good deal depending on how the track was mastered; however the SE5 is more up-front and intimate. While both change the presentation perspective, average note thickness of the SE5 changes much more significantly than the BD4.2, which maintains a thinner, cleaner sound overall. Certain tracks can sound much thicker with the SE5, which is more true to the track, but offers less clarity. The soundstage presentation of the BD4.2 is larger on average and a bit more distant than the SE5, although the projection of distant sounds is close with very spacious tracks. Focus and imaging within the soundstage are similar, but the BD4.2 holds a slight advantage while the SE5 has a slightly blacker background. During playback of neutral tracks, note thickness of the BD4.2 is slightly thinner than the SE5, but overall capability is similar and they both have a very natural note decay.
Detail and resolution levels are similar, but the BD4.2 has better articulation while the SE5 has a bit more resolution within the soundstage and layering for a slightly more refined sound overall. Dynamics are close, with the SE5 having more overall capability, but the differences between tracks can flip-flop. Transparency is also close with the track determining the superior CIEM. Clarity is similar, but the thinner average notes and slightly better focus within the soundstage of the BD4.2 gives it a slight advantage.
The bass recreation of the SE5 and BD4.2 is different as the BD4.2 has more deep bass while the SE5 has more bass and mid-bass, along with more impact and punch in general. Quality is higher with the BD4.2 across a wide range of tracks, but with quality tracks the differences disappear. The midrange presentation of the two differs in overall size as the BD4.2 has a more laid-back overall sound, but both have similar proportions and presentations. The BD4.2 midrange is a bit more laid-back in comparison to the slightly mid-forward SE5. The upper midrange of the SE5 adjusts more than the BD4.2, leading to a more consistent sound from the BD4.2. The treble of the BD4.2 is typically more prominent, but the SE5 can have plenty of treble depending on the track. Quality is similar while the SE5 is more revealing of issues with poor quality tracks.
While these two have many similarities as both adjust the presentation space with the track and present a lot of detail and resolution. The ever so slightly V-shaped Lear LCM BD4.2 offers a more spacious and consistent frequency response from track-to-track with generally a cleaner and clearer sound with a brighter sound and more enhanced deep bass. The slightly mid-centric Spiral Ear SE 5-way Reference in comparison is more revealing and less forgiving with better layering and resolution within the soundstage, playing to the strengths or weaknesses of tracks and sources better and shifting the sound signature more. Both perform at an extremely high technical level with the BD4.2 offering a more neutral sound, sitting between the SE5 and something like the NT-6, and the ability to adjust the amount of bass and overall tonality to an extent while the SE5 is more true to the recording.
Unique Melody PP6: The LCM BD4.2 bass was adjusted to 50% for comparison with the active crossover PP6. The PP6 is warmer but both share a spacious presentation and overall sound. Spatially, the BD4.2 is larger yet a bit closer in presentation perspective, with better focus, clarity, and imaging within the soundstage, but the PP6 has slightly better layering. Detail levels, resolution, clarity, transparency, and coherence are all better with the BD4.2 while the PP6 is more dynamic. Overall, the BD4.2 nudges the PP6 for a lead in most technical categories, and with a smoother yet slightly more capable ADSR, the BD4.2 is more forgiving of poor tracks.
The bass of both can be adjusted, and with boost off on the PP6 and a 12 O’clock position for the bass knobs on the BD4.2 the BD4.2 has better quality with more deep bass and texturing. The warmer PP6 has a thicker overall presentation that carries across the entire frequency spectrum. Midrange presentations are a different in many ways as the BD4.2 sounds much clearer and more open yet more forward while the PP6 has better background layering. The upper midrange and treble regions of the BD4.2 have more presence for an overall brighter sound with a more natural sounding note.
While these two are somewhat similar in spatial characteristics, there are relatively large differences in the sound signatures. The Lear LCM BD4.2 is brighter, cleaner, and clearer with better detail retrieval and articulation in comparison with the darker sounding PP6 that performs well technically, but not quite to the level of the BD4.2. It is difficult for me to recommend the PP6 over the LCM BD4.2 unless you prefer a darker more laid-back sound signature and want an active crossover CIEM system
Hidition NT-6: The LCM BD4.2 bass was adjusted a little south of the halfway point to get a similar bass quantity to the NT-6. The NT-6 is brighter and more forward than the more neutral sounding BD4.2. Spatially, the BD4.2 is much more laid-back with a more open sound, better imaging, and similar focus within the soundstage. Detail levels are similar but the NT-6 articulates the details more. Notes of the BD4.2 have a slightly longer attack and release for a slightly smoother sound. The brighter NT-6 has a minimal advantage in clarity while the BD4.2 is superior in transparency and coherence while dynamics are similar.
The NT-6 deep bass is slightly boosted compared with the LCM BD4.2 while quality is similar, but the BD4.2 has better texturing. The BD4.2 has a warmer tone that carries through the spectrum. Midrange presentation is very different as the NT-6 is upfront, bringing detail to the forefront while the BD4.2’s more laid-back sound signature pushes the detail back in comparison. Upper midrange and treble of the NT-6 is more forward and prominent with sharper S’s, leading to a more natural sound from the BD4.2.
These two are quite different, as the Hidition NT-6’s brighter and more forward presentation gives more immediate feel and a focus on the instruments while the Lear LCM BD4.2 has a more spacious and distant presentation perspective with smoother overall sound and tunable bass. Both perform at a very high level, but the BD4.2 overall outperforms the NT-6, however the choice between the two should be based on use and preferred sound signature.
Hidition NT-6 Pro: The LCM BD4.2 is more laid-back than the brighter NT6P. Spatially, the BD4.2 has a larger overall space and a further back presentation perspective with better imaging while focus within the soundstage is similar. Notes of the NT6P are more aggressive in comparison with the BD4.2, which has a longer decay for a more natural sounding note, especially in the treble. Detail, resolution, and clarity of the NT6P are slightly higher than the BD4.2 due to the sharper notes that reveal more, and that detail is more articulated.
With the bass knob at 1:30 (+ 1/8th turn over 50%), the bass quantity is similar, but the deep bass of the NT6P stands out more. Bass quality is very close, but the NT6P edges the BD4.2 while the latter has a good deal more capability in the bass region. The midrange of the NT6P is more forward and revealing with an analytical presentation while the BD4.2 has a more natural sound and slightly warmer tone. Upper midrange of the BD4.2 is a bit more laid-back, as is the higher quality treble.
While in the grand scheme of things, both the Lear LCM BD4.2 and Hidition NT-6 Pro have a neutralness to them, they are also both quite different. The BD4.2 offers a more spacious and natural sound with adjustable bass while the NT6P is more analytical and articulates detail more. The choice comes down to what sound you prefer, and what you plan on using them for. Those that prefer to focus on instrument detail will benefit from the NT6P’s articulation while those that prefer a larger, more relaxed listening experience will prefer the BD4.2.
M-Fidelity SA-43: The SA-43 and LCM BD4.2 sound similar in many ways as both are spacious and have similar tonality. Soundstage presentation from the BD4.2 is larger than the SA-43, but the BD4.2 midrange adjusts to the tracks while the SA-43 presentation perspective remains relatively steady despite the track. This can lead to the BD4.2 being more forward at times, or more laid-back depending on the track. Instrument separation, detail levels, transparency, dynamics, resolution, and clarity are all superior on the BD4.2 while imaging is similar. Notes of the BD4.2 are more natural than the SA-43, which has a rougher sound in comparison, resulting in the BD4.2 being more forgiving.
With both having variable bass quantities, the BD4.2 outperforms the SA-43 with more adjustment, less distortion, better capability, and improved texturing while warmth is similar. The midranges differ in that the BD4.2 adjusts to the track while the SA-43 retains the sound signature which can result in a non-natural sounding proportion in comparison to the clearer and more focused BD4.2. Upper midrange is similar, but the BD4.2 has a bit more presence, which carries on to the treble, for a slightly brighter sound. The quality of the BD4.2 treble is higher as notes have a more natural decay.
The Lear LCM BD4.2 and M-Fidelity SA-43 share traits of a large soundstage with a relatively laid-back presentation, but the BD4.2 outperforms the SA-43 in every way. That is a strong statement, but unfortunately one of my long-time favorites, the SA-43 has been beat at what it does so well, recreate space. Add that the BD4.2’s larger space changes with each track and presents with more detail resulting in a more realistic sound, and you have a winner.
Ultimate Ears Personal Reference Monitor: The PRM and LCM BD4.2 share spacious presentations and a natural sound, but the sound signature is quite different. The PRM can be tuned to sound differently before getting your customized version while the BD4.2 bass is tunable at any time. The bass of the BD4.2 was set to about 60% of maximum for the comparison. Recreating the soundstage with a more precise sound due to better imaging and focus, the BD4.2 gives a greater sense of space in comparison to the slightly more mid-forward PRM. Notes of the PRM have a longer sustain for a bit thicker sound in comparison to the slightly more capable BD4.2. Detail levels are higher on the BD4.2 as is resolution within the soundstage leading to better transparency and coherence. The BD4.2 is more forgiving due to the more natural treble note decay.
With similar bass quantity, the BD4.2 outperforms the PRM in bass depth and note sustainment while both are close in overall note quality. The PRM is slightly warmer and thicker, which translates to the midrange presentation giving the BD4.2 the edge in clarity within the presentation. The upper midrange of the PRM is a bit more laid-back than that of the more neutral sounding BD4.2, resulting in the PRM having a bit darker sound overall. Treble is more prominent with the BD4.2 and the quality is superior in both note attack and decay.
These two offer different approaches to a similar end, offering spacious presentations with a laid-back perspective. The LCM BD4.2 outperforms or matches the PRM in technical performance in every category I rate. The advantage of the PRM is you can tune the sound to compensate for hearing loss or to your liking; however the BD4.2 offers bass tuning. The decision will come down to cost and use as the cheaper BD4.2 will please most, but sound engineers may prefer the pre-manufacture tuning capability of the PRM.
Lear LCM-5: Comparing the previous Lear flagship, the LCM-5, with the new LCM BD4.2 showcases how far Lear has come in a short period of time. The bass setting is just a hair south of 50% for equivalent bass response. Spatially, the BD4.2 is larger in all directions and much more laid-back with better imaging and precision within the soundstage. Notes of the BD4.2 are more natural with a slightly longer average decay. Detail levels are higher on the BD4.2 and while both articulate well, the difference in presentation results in a relatively large disparity in detail delivery, with the LCM-5 details being served up on a platter. Dynamics, transparency, coherence, and clarity are all superior on the BD4.2, which is also more forgiving of less than perfect tracks and allow the BD4.2 to disappear in your ears in comparison.
Bass quantity is similar, but the BD4.2 is more capable of sustaining deep bass notes and has an overall higher quality with better texturing. The midrange of the BD4.2 is much more airy, open, and cleaner as the LCM-5 can sound a bit congested in comparison. Both the upper midrange and treble of the LCM-5 are more prominent and pushed forward in comparison with the BD4.2, which has much better quality in the treble region.
The new flagship from Lear, the LCM BD4.2, makes the old one, the LCM-5, sound aged and sloppy. The LCM-5 will articulate more detail, but at the expense of the effortless and natural presentation of the BD4.2. Moving from the LCM-5 to the BD4.2 will give a much more laid-back presentation to go with the rewards of the superior technical performance.
[divider][sneak peek]Hidition Viento-R: The Viento-R and LCM BD4.2 have somewhat similar tonality but different presentation styles. The comparison was done with the bass switch of the Viento-R up and the BD4.2 bass set to 2 o’clock. Both have an openness to them, but the BD4.2 presentation perspective is more distant with an overall more spacious feel. Proportions are similar, but the BD4.2 has slightly more depth and images better compared with the width while the Viento-R has better focus within the soundstage. The average note of the Viento-R isn’t as thick as the BD4.2 note, with a quicker attack and release resulting in a slightly more aggressive sound. The BD4.2 has a slight resolution advantage within the soundstage, but detail levels are close and the better articulation of the Viento-R can give the sense of more detail. Coherence and transparency are about on par while dynamic range of the BD4.2 is a bit better.
Bass of the Viento-R is faster and punchier with a more precise feel but the BD4.2 has much better note sustainment capability. The smoother LCM BD4.2 is warmer with a thicker overall sound through the more laid-back midrange. Upper midrange of the Viento-R is a bit more prominent, but has similar integration within the rest of the frequency spectrum. The treble of the Viento-R is slightly more prominent, but the BD4.2 notes exhibit a more natural decay.
These monitors both offer sound tuning and a different take on neutral, with the Viento-R offering a well-articulated, fast, and punchy sound that brings detail to the forefront in contrast to the LCM BD4.2’s laid-back and more natural sounding notes. Picking between these will come down to the presentation of space and note, but picking up one of each will let you enjoy two separate perspectives.
Portable Sources, DAPs
Sandisk Sansa Clip+: The Clip+ pairs well with the LCM BD4.2, providing a spacious and detailed presentation that is impressive given the price. The sound is more revealing from the Clip+ than the iPhone 5, but the bass isn’t quite as well controlled or prominent. 4/10
Apple iPhone 5: The iPhone 5 has a relatively forward presentation that is very pleasant and will appease those that want something very good to pair with their phone. The clarity and resolution aren’t quite to the level of the Clip+ in the midrange and treble, but the bass has better control and depth. The soundstage presentation is not lacking, but the imaging isn’t as good as the Clip+, and the overall sound isn’t quite as musical. 3/10
Hisoundaudio RoCoo BA: The RoCoo BA presents in a way that is more reminiscent of higher-end sources, but the player makes the BD4.2 notes thinner and sharper. Spatial qualities are average as it doesn’t adding size or imaging the iPhone 5, and reduces the bass response. It isn’t bad, but far from good. 2/10
Hisoundaudio Nova: Providing a relatively forward presentation, the Nova images well but doesn’t provide background details of other mid-level sources. The Nova sounds a bit smaller and less detailed than the Fiio X3 for example, and doesn’t have the bass control of the DX50. 4/10
Fiio X3: The X3 pairs well with the LCM BD4.2 with the ability to start to show-off what the BD4.2 can do from a spatial and imaging standpoint. The X3 takes the BA portion of the BD4.2 to a very high performance level with plenty of well articulated detail, but the bass is a bit on the weaker side. Luckily, the bass can be manually adjusted to provide plenty. Compared with the iBasso DX50, the X3 has a bit more mid-forward presentation and higher resolution. 6/10
iBasso DX50: The DX50 shows its quality when paired with the BD4.2 with good spatial quality, imaging, and detail. However, the Fiio X3 outperforms the DX50 with the BA drivers, offering more resolution, clarity, and detail while the DX50 takes better control of the bass drivers. 5/10
iBasso DX90: The DX90 is a good match for the LCM BD4.2, with good control throughout the frequency spectrum, good imaging and presentation space and depth, with more resolution and detail than the DX50 or X3. The overall sound is quite musical in large part due to the spatial qualities, smooth, well controlled notes, and black background. 8/10
iBasso DX100: The DX100 is an excellent match with the LCM BD4.2, providing excellent clarity, control, and spatial qualities to push the BD4.2 to an extremely high level of performance. The DX100 is a slight step up from the DX90, adding a bit higher level of resolution and larger overall space. 9/10
Portable Sources, DAPs with Amps
iBasso DX90 ->
Ortofon MFd-Q7: This is an excellent pairing, with a more laid-back and open sound when compared with the other amps, even Lear’s own offering. There is a smoothness to the presentation, but the treble is laid-back as well for a different tonal quality. For those that don’t want as much treble and are willing to get a lower level of detail in exchange for a butter smooth and musical performance, the MFd-Q7 is a good option. 9.5/10
Lear FSM-02 V2 Class A: The LCM BD4.2 works very well with the FSM-02 V2, providing excellent spatial recreation qualities, excellent driver control, and high levels of detail and resolution. The overall presentation is a bit more spacious than the rest of the amps tested with the BD4.2, although the Ortofon MFd-Q7 competes. With the exceptional spatial recreation qualities, the result is a bit more realism and a more natural, easier to listen to combination. This is a case of the home team having an advantage. 10/10
Portaphile 627: The 627 offers very good punch and a large spatial presentation to go with excellent laying and imaging. Compared with the Portaphile Micro with MUSE2 and ADL X1, the 627 has the most punch, but the overall differences aren’t too big. 9.5/10
Furutech ADL X1: The X1 images slightly better than the Portaphile 627 with a bit more laid-back presentation, but otherwise performs about on par, with excellent levels of detail and resolution. 9.5/10
Portaphile Micro with MUSE2: The Micro with MUSE2 op amps is an excellent performer that changes presentation perspective a bit more than the other amps in this roundup. At times, the amp has a higher resolution and better layering, but the overall space of other amps is typically a hair larger. The added resolution results in a more natural sound overall that is easier to listen to long-term. 9.5/10
Source Summary: Despite the dual dynamic + four balanced armature driver configuration, the LCM BD4.2 isn’t too difficult to drive and sounds very good with lower-end sources. This is most likely due to the large soundstage presentation and laid-back nature that counteracts the typical small size and forward presentation of the entry-level sources. As amp performance gets better, so does the performance up to a point. DAC improvements also scale the BD4.2, but not as much as most other high-end CIEMs mainly due to the relatively good performance with lower performance DACs. This is somewhat reminiscent of the Spiral Ear SE 5-way Reference from a DAC perspective, but not an amp perspective. If the BD4.2 is for you, it should be as easy as grabbing your favorite source. Sure, there may be better, but the BD4.2 will pair well with most sources.
The Lear LCM BD4.2 hybrid custom in-ear monitor is a natural and neutral monitor that utilizes dual dynamic drivers with four balanced armatures resulting in technical excellence. Designed to be a neutral monitor, there is an excellent balance plus the ability to change the amount of bass to your liking. The laid-back sound gives an open, spacious feel with excellent projection that will result in looking around the room to see where the sound came from, only to realize those details are in your music!
The dynamic drivers provide as much bass kick as you could want, and the balanced armatures resolve and articulate plenty of detail, yet with a very natural sound more reminiscent of high-end speakers and headphones. Many top of the line CIEMs require great sources before their potential shows itself, but the LCM BD4.2 shows its stuff even with entry level sources. The bottom line is, if you want a natural and neutral sounding earphone, enjoy a spacious sound, and want top-of-the-line performance, the Lear LCM BD4.2 is a perfect fit.
– Technical performance at the top of the range in almost every category I rate
– Very large soundstage size
– Ability to play clearly at any volume and with the bass turned all the way up
– Shells are larger due to the drivers
View the Lear LCM BD4.2 in the Custom In-Ear Monitors Review List