Disclaimers: LEAR graciously provided the two samples for this review and even threw in art work. This came at no cost to me.
Lear’s earphones landed in Nagareyama in early July. They came in a tight cardboard box. They were handed me by a sweating courier who still can’t remember my name. It’s okay, I just call him K. Two weeks ago it was 43º in the Tokyo area. Not a single one of my custom earphones could stay anchored in my ears. Sweat, it seems, is heavier than acrylic.
The Hong Kong company have yet to rend a LEAR-shaped hole the heart of bleeding heart audiophiles. The Lear BD4,2, an earphone that puts to good use two dynamic drivers and four balanced armatures, may just be the auger that works its way to the ol’ gusher.
Both units are identical in function and technology. One of the unique things Lear BD4.2 boasts is tuneable acoustics via a screw drive. After that, there’s the metal treble/mids tubes that keep the acoustic transmittance of mid to high frequencies clean. The tube extends all the way to the driver bundle, something done by a very very select few custom earphone manufacturers in the industry.
LEAR ship both earphones in an unassuming black cardboard box. Inside it is a sturdy Otter box, and inside that, a little candy bag full of parts. There are also earphones, an elastic band, a cleaning tool, and a nicely laid-out manual inside.
LEAR’s implementation of the traditional UE/Westone-style two-prong coaxial cable is good. It is robust, well sheathed, and comprises dual twisted strands, each contained in its own reinforced skin. It is highly flexible, resistant to touch noise, and resilient against the deleterious effects of sweat and body oil. I expect that BD4,2 owners will have their cables for a long time.
And then there’s that memory wire. Worse cables exist. The Primo 8’s cable is a bloody pain to use. Still, for the entirety of this review, I made use of Linum’s excellent BAX and voice cables, which I find infinitely more comfortable.
BD4,2 boasts four sound tubes. As explained above, two are metal. They kick out mids and highs; the plastic ones handle lows and upper mids. And by god, each does a wonderful job. Rin Choi’s review illustrates to what extent sound can be tweaked merely by blocking one or more of BD4,2’s sound bores.
Unlike the Shure SE846, tuning the BD4,2’s sound is done by turning a screw drive. Twist it to the right and up goes the bass. Twist to the left and down it goes again. Stop it anywhere you want for BASS or bass. There are about 300 degrees of room in which to wiggle.
That said, BD4,2’s workmanship is a clear step down from Vision Ears’s immaculate work, and its artwork pales next to Noble Audio. LEAR printed both of my conspicuously self-serving logos, ‘ohm’ and ‘Ω’, on what appears to be a bit of cellophane below the final lacquer.
From a distance, the differences are minor. And considering the price difference between LEAR’s flagship products, and that of its contemporaries, a bit of cellophane isn’t worth ho-humming about. But details do stand out. And for 1.300- USD, better options exist.
Other details that stand out are slight: intermittent inconsistencies in finishing coat, divots here and there, and excess plastic filings stuck to the acoustic tuning port. While structurally, BD4,2 may be as sturdy as many of its rivals, its presentation is decidedly inferior.
I have one other gripe.
The first is that neither the bass nor the treble ports are large enough to wiggle the metal edge of the wax loop into. If your dirtiness clogs the bores, you’ll have to use the less precise brush end to clear out gunk. And if you are an ex-Swede sweating it out in a part of Asia that recently hit 43º, I guarantee your BD4,2’s will gunk up, in which case, you will have tried one of Rin Choi’s experiments.
For the sods cursed with a leaky body chemistry like mine, the BD4,2 is a bugger to clean.
As mentioned above, neither BD4,2 is a low-profile earphone. The custom version peaks over the edge of my conchas by about 3mm. The universal version is roughly the same size as the FitEar ToGo! 334, and is just as unwieldy.
In my ears, the universal version leans ‘out’, never resting against skin. It relies completely on the ear piece to stay put. That aside, comfort is high. In fact, because I’m free to use any ear tip I want, I am tempted to say that summer comfort can be even better than a custom earphone. It is great to have options.
Naturally, sound varies depending on the ear piece used with the universal earphone. Funnily enough, my favorite ortofon e-Q8 ear pieces and the BD4,2 don’t play nice with my ears. Therefore, I am using medium stock tips. The problem for me is that after thirty minutes, they become uncomfortable. But then I have sensitive ears.
Otherwise, the tips are well-made, and fit securely.
Continue to the next page for sound impressions.