Lear BD4.2 – The Dynamic/BA Dually

The Sound

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.

The Conclusion

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. 

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Back before he became the main photographer for bunches of audio magazines and stuff, Nathan was fiddling with pretty cool audio gear all day long at TouchMyApps. He loves Depeche Mode, trance, colonial hip-hop, and raisins. Sometimes, he gets to listening. Sometimes, he gets to shooting. Usually he's got a smile on his face. Always, he's got a whisky in his prehensile grip.

34 Comments

  • Reply August 20, 2014

    sindri1980

    Hi,

    Very interesting review. Thanks!
    I have the Shure SE846 and I am considering getting my first pair of CIEMs soon.
    Could you please compare briefly the Shures vs Roxanne, Noble K10 and this Lear model?
    I listen mostly to modern music (no jazz, no classic), lots of electronic stuff, so I enjoy a powerful bass, but also nice mids and treble, also a good soundstage.
    Are they a worthy upgrade from the Shures? (Source is a Chord Hugo, btw).

    Thanks again,
    R.

    • Reply August 20, 2014

      ohm image

      Sindri1980,

      Thanks for chiming in. Alas, Roxanne, Shure were returned long ago. If you’re really into velvety mids, Roxanne. If you’re into a bit of tweaking with incredible resolution in every part, and don’t mind massaging a finnicky relationship with ear tips, Shure SE846. I’m not finished reviewing the K10, but I can say this: it is the closest to the Lear in terms of presentation.

      Both are somewhat laid back in comparison, neither hot in the mids, nor ultra detailed in the bass. But the Lear is ever so much more smooth in the midrange while embodying a much more compact feeling stage.

      Jazz really really is great with the Lear. In fact of the above, it’s hard to say which is best, but I’d put Lear and Roxanne on a level. If you’re keen on electronics, I think Lear has the edge over the Roxanne, but the Shure and the K10 to my ears beat the Lear for electronic. For me, soundstage width and apparent precision are king with EDM/IDM/trance.

      The BEST part of the Lear is that they are not that difficult to drive. A Hugo, as great as it is, is absolute overkill.

      • Reply August 20, 2014

        George Lai

        I think with customs, the number one factor is refits or reworks so it is imperative to see how many of these the manufacturer allows and within what time frame. I shall not name brands but check with friends who have the brand you are interested in, how many times they needed refits.

        • Reply August 20, 2014

          ohm image

          Probably I should mention that from now on. I had no trouble with the Lear, but I suspect that another of my ear impressions was misshapen. So far, great service on every one of my customs, both for review and personal.

          • Reply September 3, 2014

            rob

            That’s where cosmic ears fit service shines. It adds a fair bit of time to the process but is well worth especially for newbies.

      • Reply February 8, 2015

        James

        So would you say that overall the K10 would be better for generally different types of music and has the edge over the Lear for EDM and Trance due to the width and precision of the soundstage?

        I loved the Velvets on the balanced mode btw, didn’t really like the warm mode.

        I’m having such a difficult time deciding between the Lear, V6 xcontrol and the K10s based on your reviews.

        What I’ve gathered is that k10s are organic and based for more jazzy like genres and on the warm side, Lear is the most balanced and works better across all genres due to the neutral signature and the VE6 is neutral but may sound a bit thin with vocals being a bit thin or recessed in comparison to the other phones?

        I also like to listen to a lot of British alternative rock like arctic monkeys, franz Ferdinand etc.

        Cheers
        James

        • Reply February 8, 2015

          ohm image

          You have done a great job reading my reviews. Great job. For trance alone, VE6 hands-down. That goes for all electronic, pop, certain live performances, dubstep, etc., but after that…

          If you value sweetness more than neutrality, the K10 is probably a good bet. If you value neutrality first with a hint of softness and ultra-smooth transitions, the Lear is the ticket.

          And for british alternative rock: it’s either the Lear or the K10. My preference would be the Lear, but only by a hair.

          • Reply February 8, 2015

            James

            Fantastic! What awesome response time and equally awesome answer. That helps me out a great deal!

            Just wanted to say you’ve got a really nice website and have been pumping out numerous reviews in good time.

            Keep up the good work!
            Love how your reviews are honest and you don’t leave out any details good or bad 😉

            Cheers
            James

  • Reply August 28, 2014

    Patrick

    Good review and nice looking ciems Nathan. Btw. I’ve got a question at you guys. With 300$ what should I buy? shures se series (se425, se535) sennheiser (ie8,ie80) or go above a little higher and going with cosmic ears… was ready to get 1964ears, but yeah a little to expensive right now. Prefer a neutral, maybe warm setup with great precision and a good bass (quality over quantitiy) highs are normally good enough, atleast for my ears.

    • Reply September 4, 2014

      ohm image

      Those are all very good choices. You’ve done yourself in by putting them all up. SE425 is a win-win earphone for sure. IE8/80 are nice if you can find good fit. I personally prefer other earphones, but that is just me. If you dig warm and liquid sounding, SE535 is great. If you want more space and a drier presentation of warmth, the Senns are great choices.

      • Reply September 4, 2014

        Patrick

        thanks for replying ohm, will go with se425. I’m mean a win-win can’t be ignored 😉 Hope to see/hear more of your review and podcast – P.

        • Reply November 11, 2014

          ohm image

          New podcast coming this week… and plenty more reviews from L, me, and everyone. Thanks for the heads-up.

          • Reply September 7, 2015

            Patrick.C

            Time pasts really fast. But I just wanted to let you know that I went with the shure se535 and a unknown brand named audiofly. Their quadrable ba in-ear af180 took my interest and both do their job excellent at universal iems.

    • Reply January 13, 2015

      ohm image

      By the way, Patrick, I’m Nathan.

      • Reply January 14, 2015

        Patrick.C

        Did I mistake you for someone else Nathan? I’m confused right now.

        • Reply January 14, 2015

          Headfonia_L.

          He just said he is Nathan because he posted with his ohm air account and not his personal one.

          May I ask where you are from? Somewhere in Europe I am guessing.

          • Reply January 14, 2015

            Patrick.C

            To be precise in the heart of west europe 😉 Switzerland – chocolate and cheese L.

          • Reply January 15, 2015

            ohm image

            I like how my branding is all whack. You’re calling this my ‘ohm air’ account, not my ‘ohm image’ account. Actually, I think I don’t have a ‘Nathan’ account. Not sure I should, either.

            Welcome Switzerland.

            • Reply January 17, 2015

              Patrick.C

              Thanks for replying Nathan and another quesiton, what happend with mike?

              Last summer I read my first article on this site “Philps X1” and now it is like he isn’t here anymore. Do you guys know something?

              And also the structure from our comments aren’t really chronologically anymore…

              • Reply January 17, 2015

                Dave Ulrich

                Mike runs the headfonia store and I believe another as well. That, quite understandably, takes up most of his time. I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of seeing a guest spot by him at some point, but L took over running the site as Mike’s attentions are else where. L and Nathan are doing a damn fine job of it, too!

                • Reply January 17, 2015

                  Headfonia_L.

                  Thanks Dave 🙂

                • Reply January 17, 2015

                  Patrick.C

                  Thanks for telling me those information dave. I really appreciate it.

                  That he runs at the moment two shops cost time, but if he likes it, he should do it 🙂

                  And yes L and N are running this website really frequently, can’t get enough.

                  Regards Patrick

              • Reply January 17, 2015

                Headfonia_L.

                Like Dave said, Mike left the site like a year ago and I took over with the help of Nathan. Mike is now running 2 shops in Jakarta and has more than his hands full. He did promise me a guest review though…

                • Reply January 17, 2015

                  Patrick.C

                  Good to hear, if he has fun, we shouldn’t interupt.

                  Now I’m curios what he’s guest review will be and also “guest review” have we the reader a possibility to release a article about a hi-fi gadget?

                  I’m thinking about speakers. I know a specific route, but it would be pretty interesting what you think.

                  • Reply January 17, 2015

                    Headfonia_L.

                    If a reader has an interesting product and he can write decent texts, we can always talk about it. But speakers aren’t something we review on Headfonia, I’m afraid

                    • January 17, 2015

                      Patrick.C

                      Don’t worry it was just a idea, mabye in the near future about a product who hasn’t got much attention.

                    • September 7, 2015

                      Patrick.C

                      Hi Lieven is the reader review still a thing? I have a pair of Audiofly AF180 and Shure SE535 with my Fiio X3SG and X5 as portable dacs, a stationary amp (alpen+qugir) and a classic ipod. Different genres, aftermarket cables to talk etc. Found this thread by coincidence after checking my disqus account.

                    • September 9, 2015

                      Headfonia_L.

                      I’ve had other requests as well, I’m not saying no. I just have no time for the moment. sorry

  • Reply December 27, 2014

    Shoghi Sadeghi Afshar

    So is the BD4.2 the king for Trance? Or is the UM Merlin, 1Plus2, K10, VE6, EM32, Primo 8?

    • Reply December 29, 2014

      ohm image

      Hello Shoghi, I’m sorry but I don’t own the UM Merlin. That aside, I can say without hiccup, that if trance for you is about contrast, the VE6 is your ticket. If it is about bass and its filtering into mids, the EM32 is it. If you are into other genre as well as trance, the BD4,2 may be awesome. Ditto the K10. But trance alone, the BD isn’t king. VE6 is.

  • Reply May 11, 2018

    yukrates

    in 2018 still recomended for 850 dolars?

    • Reply May 11, 2018

      ohm image

      Still an incredible earphone today.

      • Reply May 13, 2018

        yukrates

        in massdrop noble kaiser price is 899, i listen frank zappa, mew, yes.
        i think lear could be better, what do you think?
        my last iem was inear sd 3, i want an update.

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