The first thing I did after plugging in my BD4,2 was turn up the volume. The difference in sensitivity between them and nuforce’s Primo 8, is stunning. Quite honestly, I detest overly sensitive earphones. Primo 8 sounds great, but volume ramps up too far too soon. You hear hiss from the vacuum of space. Ditto another favorite, the Ultrasone IQ.
BD4,2 resists hiss (yes, I did just do that). Background noise from typically hissy sources mostly disappears. What’s left is the music. An added benefit is that portable amps can spit out comfortable voltage without exacerbating channel imbalance.
BD4,2 was made for portable amps. In fact, feeding this earphone, portable amps that typically I wouldn’t recommend for use with earphones become absolute charmers.
My delight goes far beyond that, though. In what I think is its most natural form (a twist of the screw to 50%), the BD4,2 is a clear, natural-sounding earphone. Its clarity is best felt in its intertwining of each frequency band. Unlike Primo 8, which favors a wide, airy midrange, BD4,2 favors a more traditional balance.
Treble voicing is ever so slightly laid back, but carries good energy to the top. That energy translates to a sense of speed. Both forward and retreating edges are sharp, contrasty, and dynamic. This sound is wonderfully mated to trance and fast IDM/EDM music.
While you can’t fault BD4,2 for sounding too open, you couldn’t peg it as a closed-sounding earphone. It rides a careful balance, providing just enough space, almost scared to advance outward, but certainly not going to get stuffy. Sound staging extends vertically more noticeably than it extends out. Still, at the odd time, musical elements jump out from dark areas of your hallway.
Don’t worry, it won’t happen that often.
Part of the reason for this is that, in its most natural setting, contrast between bass and treble, isn’t off the charts. The two just play nicely with mids. Bass rides the comfy chair, while mids hover above, and treble massages the flanks of either frequency. It’s a comfortable, easy-to-get-jiggy-with sound.
I’ve done my best to pin down the BD4,2’s most magical bits. I’ve had it in and out of my ears for about two months. Still, I’m left with the barest of assumptions. It could be that I appreciate the vertical arrangement of audible elements. It could be that I appreciate fast attack without the sometimes-typical detractions of scratchy treble.
It’s not just that.
What BD4,2 has going for it is lower level. Those dual dynamic drivers afford such naturally decaying, full, and round bass. I wouldn’t say that lows are overly detailed. But they roll in a way that they simply can’t from balanced armatures. If Primo 8’s mids captured my attention in a new way, BD4,2’s bass does nearly the same.
And when you crank that knob, dear me. Suddenly the world is all lows, thrumming against your cranium. Mids spark somehow underneath and through that cranial arc, treble does its thing. But when you screw that knob, bass is huge. Strangely, it isn’t splotchy or bloomy. Pumped either way up or way down, the experience is coherent.
The speed and delivery of mids change only barely. But bass absolutely slams. It is here where BD4,2 loses its edge for trance. There is just too much boom boom. Still, when paired with a good source, none of that overflows into IMD distortion.
BD4,2’s drivers can take a serious pounding. The question is, can you?
Dial that tuning port down to 65% and voila! we’re back in business. I’m a bit more sensitive to bass than some other people. While I may not be able to stand a setting of 100%, you may. And if you can stand it, you’ll have a lot to enjoy. LEAR have tuned this earphone to take a licking, while resolution and control keep ticking.
I have mostly enjoyed modern live jazz performances such as Arne Domnerus’s Jazz at the Pawnshop, certain classic folk albums such as Tea For the Tillerman, and a large selection of orchestral music. But if you’re teletubby, Armin Van Buuren sounds damn fine, too.
You see, BD4,2 has power where it’s needed, and good extension. Contrast is about par, and space is a unique vertical array all LEAR’s own. This earphone does nothing at all bad. But what it does better than any earphone in the price range is drive a coherent transitional grace into music, that is nearly impossible to describe.
At first listen wanted nothing more than to enjoy Simon & Garfunkel’s Bookends. A few days later, I had wandered back to jazz and trance. The BD4,2 is one of the most effortlessly adaptable earphones on the planet. It does trance, jazz, hip hop, and whatever the hell John Denver is, without the slightest complaint. But like all renaissance men, it won’t do jazz quite like the more genre-specific Primo 8.
Tralucent introduced me to the magic of hybrid earphones. Ultrasone made them comfortable. But BD4,2 seals the deal. As much as I dig certain balanced armature earphones, there’s an element of touch, of grace, that ultimately is missing. And I hadn’t realized it until my time with LEAR began.