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Lear LCM-5

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Introduction

LEAR (an acronym of "Listen & Learn Everything. Acoustic & Audio Revolution) is a Hong-Kong based audio-products manufacturer founded in 2008 (which has recently also opened an HQ in Japan). The company makes portable headphone amplifiers, some different types of cables and adapters and also custom-fit in-ear-monitors ("CIEMs"), but in the past, they've also made some universal IEMs too. LEAR is owned by one the most famous audio stores in Hong-Kong, "Forever Source Digital", which also distributes LEAR's products. In 2011, LEAR has introduced their CIEMs line. They are proud of it because they say that it is the first CIEMs line to be fully developed, tuned and manufactured in Hong-Kong. About a year afterwards, LEAR released their flagship CIEM, the acrylic-material-made LCM-5, which sports five balanced armature drivers per earpiece with a 3-way crossover. One of the drivers produces the bass, two others are responsible for the midrange and the left two are treble drivers.

 

Technical Specifications:

  • Frequency response: 20Hz-22kHz
  • Impedance: 28 Ohm @1 kHz
  • Sensitivity:  122dB @1Mw
  • THD Ratio: Below 0.6% (20Hz-10kHz)
  • Driver: 5 Balanced armatures per earpiece (1 Bass, 2 Midrange, 2 Treble)
  • Crossover: Passive 3 way

Building Time

 After getting my ear-impressions done by my local audiologist, I've emailed a few photos of them to my contact at LEAR, Tatco, so he could confirm that they're good enough to make my LCM-5 from. A few hours later I've received a reply from him confirming that my impressions are indeed good to use for CIEM manufacturing.

 

My right LCM-5 monitor next to the right impression

 

After hearing from Tatco, I've sent them to LEAR, and they've arrived within exactly a week (a thing which I was quite surprised by, as it was only a few days before Christmas, when the post is usually very slow). I was then informed by Tatco that the standard building time is between 14 to 21 business days. LEAR nicely kept their promise (in that busy, full of holidays part of the year), and my LCM-5 was ready on January 22nd, and a week later I had the package containing them at my doorstep. You can watch a video that shows how LEAR builds CIEMs in their lab right here.

 

 

 

Packaging- The LCM-5 comes in a not too large sized black cardboard box, which reminds me a bit of Apple's packaging. On the box's front we have the company's logo, printed in silver-letters, while on its back side we have this written in the same silver-letters: "Designed, Tuned and Made in Hong Kong".

 

 

 

When opening the box, the included OtterBox box can be seen placed inside a black-cardboard "niche". Under the box, the customer would be able to find also a quite detailed, English-written user manual.

Accessories

 

 

LEAR includes with the LCM-5s a nice amount of accessories that would surely help the users. The included accessories are:

 

 

OtterBox 1000 Series Box- the included box is very tough, sturdy and strong, and I can't imagine it breaking. It doesn't only protect its contents from shock, but from water too, which is a rather nice and important thing to have. The box is very hermetically sealed, which makes it a bit hard to open in the first few times, but after a while its opening mechanism becomes a bit more smooth and easier to open. The OtterBox isn't too large in size – it is about the size of my 4th generation iPod Touch, and its height is around 2-3 centimeters, so it is quite portable. Inside of it there isn't too much space to put anything other than the included accessories. You might be able to in it also a small player like the Sansa Fuze or something similar in size, but nothing bigger than that.

 

 

Compact Soft Pouch- inside the OtterBox we get a small and soft fabric-made pouch, which the CIEMs were inside when I received the package. It is quite thick, but it will still protect the LCM-5s only from scratches and from small-height fallings.

 

 

The OtterBox and this pouch are a great combo together; the pouch provides protection from small damages that might happen because of movement inside the box, while the box provides protection from dangerous fallings and from water.

 

 

Cleaning Tool- this is the standard cleaning tool which has a metal loop in one of its sides and a small brush in its other side. It is very important to clean your CIEM's bores frequently in order to avoid malfunction of the drivers due to ear-pollution entering into them.

 

 

 

Cleaning Cloth- in addition to the previously mentioned cleaning tool, LEAR includes also a microfiber cleaning cloth so you could clean also the LCM-5's shell too (the cleaning tool is to clean the bores). The included cloth isn't of a quite good quality, as mine has started to come apart after a short time of using it.

 

The included accessories are quite nice in my opinion, but it would've been better to get a higher-quality cleaning cloth that won't come apart so soon after receiving it.

 

Building Quality

 

the LCM-5s are really well built; there is a very minor number of bubbles in the acrylic shells, and those that are there are quite tiny and un-noticeable unless you look very closely. The shells' surface is extremely well polished, it is just really smooth. The cables inside the shells seem to be quite thick and well fixed to their place in order to make them durable enough for intense use.

 

 

There are three bores in the tip, each one of them bringing out a different part of the sound – one is for the bass, the second one is for the midrange, while the last one is for the treble.

 

 

Like most of the CIEMs, also the LCM-5s utilize user-replaceable detachable cables, their socket being a flush Ultimate-Ears two-pin standard one, which means that you'll be able to find lots and lots of after-market cables for your LCM-5.

 

 

With the earphones themselves you get a nice 1.3 meters long, which is handmade according to what I read. The part where the pins are placed in has a black sturdy plastic coating on it, on which the side indicators are placed on: a red dot for the right earpiece and a blue one for the right earpiece. The cable isn't too thick, and it has a black shiny plastic coating on it, which makes it a bit tangle-prone. It looks very similar to the cables that are used by Brainwavz for many of their IEMs (it even has the same Y-Split), but apparently, it is of a better quality. The cable ends with a 3.5mm gold-plated and angled plug, with a nice strain-relief to it.

 

 

 

Design

 

 

LEAR offers the customer lots of design-options and colors. The customer can choose the colors of the faceplate, the body of the sell and the tip; the customer is able to choose a different color for each one of them in both ears (complete customization). The colors are to be chosen from a large variety, which you can see over here. You can also get a laser-printed artwork on the faceplate at an additional price, plus you can choose if you'd like to have the company's logo on the faceplate or not. Now, I'll get to the "special faceplate designs" that are offered by LEAR: the first of them is LEAR's "True Texture Faceplate", which is a carbon-fiber-like (it is not real carbon) 3 dimensional printing on the faceplate. Virtually, LEAR is able to make such faceplates in any color, but Tatco (my contact) recommended choosing a solid-black or a transparent gray colored "True Texture Faceplate" for the best looking result.

 

 

The second "special faceplate" is the recently released "True Wood Faceplate", which is a faceplate made of real wood (unlike the "True Texture" one which is only a look-alike). LEAR offers five different wood-styles which the customer is able to choose from for their faceplate.

 

 

Both "special faceplate designs" are around 50 more bucks in addition to the LCM-5's basis-price. My own LCM-5 pair is designed as follows: a solid black "True Texture" faceplate on both earpieces (with LEAR's logo on it), a "Wine Red" shell for the right earpiece and a "Deep Blue" shell for the left earpiece (how original I am, right?) and clear tips for both earpieces. The colors look awesome in my opinion, just like I expected and just like in the pictures. Also the faceplates came out gorgeous, and they look really like natural carbon. You can see pictures of some LCM-5s right here.

 

Comfort & Ergonomics

 

the LCM-5 next to the ACS T3

 

No universal IEM can compete with a custom IEM in terms of comfort, so I've decided to check the LCM-5's comfort level by comparing it to the comfort level of one my other CIEMs, the ACS T3. It should be noted that the T3 is a silicone-made CIEM, while the LCM-5 is an acrylic-made one. The results of the comparison were that the T3s are a bit more comfortable than the LCM-5s and that the LCM-5 felt a bit tighter than the T3, but the acrylic LCM-5 was a lot easier to insert than the silicone-made T3.

 

Although not a huge difference in comfort, it's still a quite noticeable one in my opinion. I still find the LCM-5 very comfortable for long listening sessions (moreover due to their quite low-weight), so no one should be bothered by that. I noticed that they have a slightly longer tip than most of the other CIEMs, but I didn't feel it while wearing them. It is important to note that LEAR offers a "re-fit period" of 30 days from the day of arrival, so if you've got any problems with the fit, LEAR would help you fix them for free. Like most of the custom-fit in-ear-monitors, also the LCM-5 is designed to be worn with the cable up over the ear; the supplied cable is very light and it is almost not felt while wearing the LCM-5.

 

Isolation & Microphonics

 

the Etymotic HF5 next to the LCM-5

 

The LCM-5 isolates really well, better than all of my universal IEMs aside from Etymotic's HF5, which proves that Etymotic are indeed the kings of isolation. It will have no problem to isolate most of the noises, but really loud low-frequency sounds might still be heard (although in a lower volume than without the LCM-5). The included cable is silent – there are almost no microphonics. That is both due to the fact that the LCM-5s are designed to be worn over the ears and because that the cable is very lightweight and smooth.

 

Sound-Quality

 

The gear that I have used during the reviewing process is my 4th Generation iPod Touch, which is loaded with mostly iTunes Store M4A files and 320 KBPS files. For most of the time, I've listened to the LCM-5s directly out of my iPod, while I've also tested it with amplification, provided by Firestone Audio's Fireye HD & HA amplifiers, connected to the iPod's dock input through a generic LOD to 3.5mm adapter.

 

 

 

The LCM-5s are extremely easy to drive due to their 28-ohms impedance and moreover due to their very high 122dB sensitivity. That means that you'll get great volume levels from any device that you'll use these with. I listen to these straight out of my iPod at around a third of the volume, which I usually find quite low, but with the LCM-5s I find it to be quite high.

 

The five BA drivers that are placed in each earpiece produce a neutral (with a slight bass and warmness addition), balanced, and almost transparent sound-signature. We'll now move on to a more detailed description of each one of the sound's parts:

 

Bass- like I have already mentioned, the LCM-5's tuning includes a slight boost to the lower frequencies. If the track that you are listening to has a big amount of bass you would not feel that something is missing from it with the LCM-5s, except if you are a bass-head; these would surely not fit any bass-head. The impact is a bit too soft than what I like, although that would probably differ from a person to another. Other than that, I have only good things so say about the bass' technical abilities; I find it to be extremely fast (might even be the fastest that I've ever heard), very well detailed, and both the clarity and cleanness are nothing other than top notch. I was also quite impressed by its extension, which I feel that is quite deep down the spectrum.

 

Midrange- the quite "dry" mids are in about the same line of the bass – they do not feel emphasized above (forward) it or recessed under it. They're very clear, clean and transparent. Vocals in high-quality recordings sound exceptionally great, but those in low-quality recordings sound quite awful; these are not forgiving IEMs by any means.  The vocals feel quite rich and lush, crisp and well bodied. They (the vocals) are impressively detailed, and every tiniest vocal nuance can be easily heard. The timbre is nicely done, but there are some IEMs in my collection that have a more natural and realistic sounding timbre than the LCM-5's one. The mids keep the neutral approach of the sound by not being too bright or too warm sounding; they are rather in between, being un-colored.

 

Treble- the highs are not too bright, but they're still bright enough to satisfy most if not all of the users, and they're quite balanced next to the other frequencies. The treble appears to have about the same great clarity, transparency and cleanness levels as the midrange, but it possesses a bit more analytic qualities. I was glad to hear that the sibilance level is between a minor to an un-noticed one (with high-quality recordings), mainly thanks to the somewhat smoothened treble. When it comes to low-quality tracks, a bit more sibilance can be heard, but that happens with most of the IEMs. The TWFK drivers (which LEAR used as the LCM-5's treble drivers) produce a very nicely extended treble with excellent detailing and micro-detailing in these extremely-high regions too.

 

Sound-Staging & Imaging- The LCM-5 has an above average sized sound-stage for an IEM, a one which I'd call three-dimensional (though a bit less 3D than the M-Fidelity SA-33's sound-stage). The depth is really great and the height is nice either. On the other hand, the width is a bit less impressive, but I find it decent and satisfying enough. The imaging is quite realistic, so the instruments' and the vocalists' positioning seems to be quite precise and true to the source. The instrument-separation is unbelievably good, most probably the best that I've heard in an IEM until the time of writing this review.

 

the adapter

 

The "Monitor Sound Tuned Adapter"- Together with the LCM-5, LEAR released also an adapter which was designed with them in mind (so LEAR does not promise that it would work with any other IEMs), which is supposed to make the LCM-5s a completely neutral "studio-monitor", while bringing out of them extreme clarity, cleanness and detailing levels. I didn't really believe to these promises, as I'm already used to hear audio-products manufacturers coming out with some huge ones, which aren't usually true. I was happy to discover that the adapter actually does what it is promised to do, and that LEAR is not one of those lying companies. When connecting the CIEMs to the adapter, everything becomes a lot colder and analytical, and the technical abilities are increasing by a great bit. You can now hear every small nuance in the sound, it becomes cleaner, it has some extra crisp, and both clarity and transparency are nothing short of amazing. The bass has a smaller amount, but it becomes faster, the midrange has a better resolution to it, and the highs are even more extended than usually. When using the adapter, the impedance goes up to about 180 Ohms, but it should be noted that this adapter doesn't only add impedance, but it has a lot of other components inside of it.

 

 

Because of the high impedance with it, an amplifier is needed when connecting the LCM-5's to the adapter. To summarize, I was very impressed by the adapter and I'll recommend getting it together with the LCM-5's if you are more of an analytical type of listener. Its price is about $50 and you can choose from a few different connector-types and lengths.

Final Conclusions

 

LEAR has done a great job with the LCM-5s, and apart from a few quite minor disadvantages, I was very impressed by them sound-wise. At $900 there isn't a "bang for the buck" value in products, but rather products that sound good enough in comparison to their price; the LCM-5 is surely a product of this kind. LEAR tuned it with a neutral and a "reference" type of sound in mind, but it is not boring or lifeless sounding by any means, and it surely has an enjoyable sound-signature. Also, I was very happy to discover that these are un-fatiguing, even after some quite long listening sessions. The most noticeable thing in the LCM-5's sound is the clarity, which is just stunning, moreover with the adapter connected.

 

 

Purchasing Info- The LCM-5's price (according to the currencies at the day of the writing) is about $875, and it includes free color-choices. You also have to add about $25 more for the shipping, so the basic price is around $900. For an extra 50 bucks you can also get a "True Texture" or a "True Wood" faceplate, and for another 50 dollars you can get the "Monitor Sound Tuned Adapter" too. You can purchase it through the company's website, with PayPal payment.

 

I'd like to thank LEAR for providing me with the review unit.

 

This review was reposted from my reviews & news website "It's A Headphones Thing". Check it out for some more IEMs and Headphones reviews, here. http://iahpt.wordpress.com/

Posted

Pros: Exceptional clarity rivaling the best I've heard, very good build quality, adapter option for a different take on things

Cons: Gets bright sounding with the wrong gear, doesn't do so well with poor recordings

 

 

 

 

 

This thread is now updated to a full review. Some of the posts that follow were done prior to the full review being posted, so if things seem a little confusing, it's because the review was added later. 

 

Starting from the beginning: Lear is a custom IEM company out of Hong Kong. You may recall the name from my prior review of their mid-range LCM-2b model. This new release is the flagship LCM-5, with the 5 referring to the 5 balanced armature drivers in each side. 

 

On price: the LCM-5 costs 6,888 HKD plus 200 HKD for shipping. That works out to just over $900 as of today's exchange rate. For that price one can select from a variety of colors in translucent or solids, and a free "Lear" logo is optional. On my LCM-2b the logo was a standard engraving, but since then they have apparently upgraded their equipment and can do a nice metallic electroplate printing. It's shiny silver and looks pretty nice. Another option is their "True Texture" faceplate for 398 HKD. It's rather unique, almost 3 dimensional in nature, and looks somewhat like Carbon Fiber (though it isn't). It's like they "stamped" the texture into the faceplate. Good stuff. It is limited as to which colors it works on. I got mine in black.

 

Also available for 888 HKD (shipped) is their "Monitor Sound Tuned Adapter" which I got along with my LCM-5. This is a special adapter that supposedly tunes the IEMs differently, offering a variation in sound signatures. I haven't been able to confirm just what the heck it does but I suspect it is an impedance adapter at the very least. 

 

 

 

 

DESIGN

I got my LCM-5's in different colors - right side is in a very light blue, so light that it almost looks clear from some angles, and then sometimes looks teal green in certain lighting. The tips are clear, a small upcharge, and then I got the True Texture faceplates and the Lear text. My left piece is the same but in a deep translucent blue. 

 

I'm exceedingly impressed with the way they look. Just like my LCM-2b, they are practically flawless. 

 

I look inside and see the drivers but so far haven't identified them. If I had to guess, I'd say the low frequency driver is a CI variant, the mids are 23689s, and highs are TWFK, all from Knowles Acoustics. But I could be (and probably am) way off on some or all of those. I haven't actually asked Lear yet nor have I taken out the flashlight/magnifying glass to really get a better look. 

 

Lear lists the specs as follows:

 

Frequency response: 20~20kHz
Impedance : 28ohm @1000 Hz
Sensitivity : 122dB @1mW
THD Ratio: Below 1% (20~18kHz)
Driver: 5 Balanced armature (1 low,2 mid,2high)
Crossover: Passive 3 way

 

Notice that sensitivity rating - that's about as high as you'll find on any IEM, and it really is a brutal load for some larger/more powerful desktop amps. The Apex Butte for example did not give me near enough volume travel with this IEM - it went from too quiet to LOUD!!!!! in a very short turn of the knob. And there was a very clear hiss in the background which I would consider a dealbreaker if that was my only amp. Thankfully other amps are capable of driving this load. 

 

The adapter makes them far less sensitive. I'm able to use them with various tube amps I have on hand without causing major hiss or other background noise. I haven't made up my mind exactly what it does to the sound just yet, but at very least I appreciate it making the IEM usable on a wider range of gear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
BUILD 
Once again Lear shows impeccable build quality. From the cool True Texture faceplates to the shiny chrome-look logo to the clear, blemish free shell, the LCM-5 is even more well built than my already-impressive LCM-2b. This is the kind of build one should expect from a CIEM in the $1000 range, but sadly it is not always delivered. 
 
I will say that I've noticed an increase in quality from major IEM companies, compared to several years ago. I think when UM, Heir Audio, and Lear can show up making exceptional customs, it reminds the big players like UE, Westone, and JH that they need to step up their game. And I believe they have for the most part. But that doesn't take anything away from Lear, who apparently has the process under wraps.
 

 

 

 

 

 
ASSOCIATED EQUIPMENT
Source: Auraliti PK90 music server with NuForce LPS-1 power supply, Cambridge Audio 840C
 
DAC: Anedio D2, Violectric V800, Yulong Sabre D18, Yulong D100 mkII, Matrix Quattro, Grant Fidelity TubeDAC-11
 
Amplification: Violectric V200, Yulong Sabre A18, Analog Design Labs Svetlana 2, Icon Audio HP8 mkII, Yulong A100
 
Portable stuff: Sansa Fuze and Clip+, iHiFi812, QLS QA350, Leckerton UHA-6s mkII, Meizu MX 4-core, iPad 2
 
The home rig is supplied by a CablePro Revelation power conditioner and CablePro Reverie AC cables. Interconnects are NuForce Focused Field and Signal Cable Analog Two, digital cables also from NuForce and Signal Cable. 
 
LCM-5 was burned in for several hundred hours prior to listening (I was busy). I used the stock cable a few times and it is nice enough, but honestly 99% of my listening was done with the exceptional Heir Audio Magnus 1 cable since I find that cable so ergonomically perfect. Lear also has their own upgraded cable for an extra fee but I didn't try that out for myself. 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
LISTENING
The Lear LCM-5 is unique in the Lear collection: while the LCM-1, LCM-2, and LCM-3 each come in three configurations (Bass heavy, Flat, or Clear), the LCM-5 has only a single version. Apparently Lear felt that the capabilities of the 5 drivers were such that it had an ideal tuning in mind, and thus didn't want to upset that balance by offering different versions. Keep in mind though that the adapter cable does in fact change the sound, so essentially you get two versions in one.
 
My initial report will be concerning the LCM-5 by itself, sans adapter. The first thing that stood out to me was the intoxicating clarity of the upper mids and highs. It sounded so clean and so transparent that it really shined a spotlight on the quality of the recording. That wasn't always a good thing, as some albums are so packed with grit, grain, and glare that they aren't fun to listen to. Other headphones may accentuate those flaws less, and some will actively seek to hide them. Not the LCM-5. The flip side of that experience came when I tried some of my favorite reference albums. Marta Gomez - Cantos de Agua Dulce (24/96), Alison Krauss and Union Station - Paper Airplane (24/96), Eric Clapton - Unplugged, Bill Evans Quintet - Interplay Sessions (XRCD), Herbie Hancock - River, the Joni Letters (24/96), and many others. These all sounded exceptionally clear, to the point where it might just be the best I've heard in this particular area. And remember that I do own some reference level CIEMs such as the Heir Audio 6.A LE and UM Merlin, and have owned or heard many others such as JH13 and UM Miracle. In this one area, I feel like the LCM-5 just might surpass them all. It seems roughly comparable to the HD800 or the Stax SR-404LE, not just in terms of clarity but also transient response. Some people value this more than others and if this is your thing, the LCM-5 is hard to beat. 
 
I'm going to stay focused on the upper mids and highs for a while because they really deserve some attention. Anyone familiar with IEMs knows that they can't just deliver a completely flat frequency response from 20Hz to 20kHz. The ear doesn't work that way. To compensate for the fact that the drivers are firing from within the ear canal, and thus not interacting with the outer ear, good IEMs need to have some type of boost in certain spots in order for the resulting sound to be heard as natural. If the IEM measured flat, the perceived sound would be very dull and not actually "flat" according to your ear. 
 
As you can see, there are some areas where the human ear is more sensitive to certain frequencies - and then some areas where we are less sensitive. The LCM-5 seems to be tuned in order to counteract that and thus give a flat, natural response. But of course this is nothing new and many IEM makers have their own take on how to accomplish this. I will say that the LCM-5 is exceedingly clear and transparent sounding, so they did accomplish that aspect of their intended goal. 
 
Mids on the LCM-5 are somewhat dry in that they don't have extra bloom to them. Some IEMs aim for a warm, romantic sound, and the LCM-5 largely avoids that. At the same time it doesn't have that "thin" sound that some IEMs have. It's nicely balanced for both male and female vocals, though if I had to choose I'd say it is somewhat tipped towards the "crisp yet full-bodied" side of things rather than "slow and smooth". Attack and especially decay is very well controlled but not overly speedy - it is capable of sounding as fast or as slow as the recording dictates and the associated equipment can handle. I tend to dislike it when IEMs have a deliberately rapid note decay, in an attempt to sound "accurate". This, to my humble ears, leads to timbre that is less convincing than it would otherwise be. 
 
Even compared to a mostly neutral competitor like the UM Miracle or Heir 4.A, I feel like the LCM-5 has more content in 2kHz to 5kHz range. This makes for a more noticeable "snap" on snare drums, more "bite" on trumpets, and more "splash" on cymbals. On an excellent recording where there is no inherent grain, this can sound very convincingly real. Unfortunately not all recordings are perfect... so a lot of times the LCM-5 just ends up spotlighting how poorly done the song is. 
 
This is definitely an IEM for the detail lovers out there. Due to the very high resolution and clarity levels, it essentially lays bare the micro-details in the recording. Hearing a metronome in the background of a pop song, or pages being turned by an orchestra, or coughs from the audience at an acoustic performance, can really enhance the "you are there" part of the experience. It helps that the soundstage presentation is very realistic - almost enveloping the listener in the performance. It's not quite the most expansive I've ever heard, but it does rank among the top overall for combining accuracy with size - especially depth. It's very immersive and fun. 
 
All of this would become tedious if the bass impact was insufficient, as is the case with lots of "reference" type IEMs. Thankfully Lear has tuned the LCM-5 to have a very slightly tipped up low end that hits just hard enough to sound natural without overdoing it. It isn't quite a "basshead" sound, but should satisfy most users with its depth and texture. In volume it reminds me of the Heir Audio 6.A LE, though in character it is a bit different (which I'll discuss later). Worth noting is the fact that getting good bass out of the LCM-5 requires a fairly nice setup. When I simply plug in a Sansa Clip+, the presentation tilts more towards the bright and cool side. The "lowest" I like to go with the LCM-5 is the Meizu MX 4-core, but even so I still prefer to use a portable amp. With the Leckerton UHA-6S mkII in the mix, things shape up nicely. Bass hits with more authority and I really enjoy the overall experience. 
 
On a related note, this IEM is very sensitive to noise. At 122dB for 1mW of power at 1kHz, this thing is more sensitive than most other IEMs out there. Thankfully the impedance is not very difficult - 28 ohms at 1kHz. Contrast that with the Lear LCM-2b which dips down to 10 ohms at 1kHz, meaning an amp with low output impedance is essential. The LCM-5 is not as concerned with output impedance (anything under 5 ohms should be fine) but it will absolutely show any noise, hum, or other undesirables in the output stage. A few amps that I had previously found to be rather quiet, such as the Audinst AMP-HP, turn out to have a bit of background noise that I hadn't heard before. So not only does the LCM-5 require amplification to reach its full potential, it also demands that amp to be exceedingly quiet. Then again, the target market for a $900+ custom IEM should be assumed to have access to a quality source. 
 
Overall the LCM-5 is characterized by a high clarity sound that remains engaging. Calling it somewhat bright might be partially accurate but it doesn't paint the whole picture, and is usually a byproduct of an inferior signal chain. If the treble was of lesser quality I'd be disappointed in the tuning, but as it stands the highs are so clean and so transparent that it really is enjoyable (again, depending on the recording). And the rest of the spectrum is reproduced in a natural and engaging manner that moves this IEM beyond the realm of purely analytical. So while I make several allusions to the HD800 in this review, the LCM-5 actually has more of an "all-purpose" sound than that model - similar in some ways but more engaging in the lower regions. 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
ADAPTER
Now for the adapter - Lear advises that this is not a mere impedance adapter (though it does increase impedance to roughly 180 ohms at 1kHz) - it uses passive components specifically designed for tuning the LCM-5, so it isn't for use with other IEMs. Combined with the increased impedance, sensitivity drops significantly, so the adapter really isn't good for most portables (though perhaps some of the more potent portable amps would work). 
 
I tended to use the adapter at home, and mostly paired it with tube amplification, though I did try multiple solid state amps as well. I like the fact that impedance is raised to levels high enough where practically any amp is an option. Even some OTL tube amps will be acceptable, which is not usually the case with IEMs. 
 
In a nutshell, the adapter seemed to turn up the brightness a little bit, while also reducing the overall impact of the bass by a small amount. The result is a sound that I don't particularly enjoy when paired with a brighter system, but does pair quite well with warmer gear and especially most tube amps. Care must be taken in system matching: I don't love the results when using my Cambridge Audio 840C as a source, feeding a Yulong A100 amp. Both of these components lean towards the analytical side, and with the adapter the LCM-5 becomes just too bright for my tastes. Even without the adapter, things sound a bit better but still not ideal. When I replace that solid state amp with an Icon Audio HP8 mkII tube amp, the sound is very nice indeed. Once bright highs become smoother and more enjoyable, and the bass, while still relatively neutral, has a sweeter and more textured feel to it. Things get even better when adding a warmer DAC like the Yulong Sabre D18 and drafting the Cambridge 840C into transport duty. In short - the LCM-5 again takes on the attributes of the signal chain itself itself. This wouldn't be possible without the adapter, since the LCM-5 is far to sensitive to use on its own with this amp. I get similarly enjoyable results when using my reference Analog Design Labs Svetlana 2 SET amp, as well as a low priced Project Sunrise tube amp. Where the 10 ohm output impedance of the Project Sunrise amp is a poor match for the LCM-5 on its own, the adapter makes it pair up very well. It is possible to use the LCM-5 without the adapter when pairing with most solid-state amps, but the adapter plus smooth tube amp combo is a real winner. 
 
My contact at Lear tells me that the LCM-5 was tuned for a smooth, natural sound, non-fatiguing, with slightly boosted bass (which they feel is preferable to a purely neutral response). They designed the adapter to help tune the sound more flat, being therefore useful for studio work or for people who just like that type of sound. My definition of smooth and natural must be slightly different than theirs since that's not exactly the way I would describe the LCM-5. Or maybe my hearing is just different. But that doesn't mean I don't enjoy them a lot. The adapter is a perfect match for warm and smooth amps, especially tube amps, and it allows the IEM to be used in systems where it otherwise would not fit. On paper it seems a little odd that increased brightness would be a good thing. In practice, it just works. A very good idea from Lear.
 
 

 

 

 

 

 
SYNERGY
In case I haven't made it clear enough by now - the Lear LCM-5 sounds exceptional when mated to the right gear, but it can also sound edgy and bright in the wrong system. What you generally want is a smoother sounding component - not necessarily dark, though darker gear will work if that's what you have. Otherwise something neutral but smoother on the top end is desirable. DACs and amps which tend to get shrill or sound thin will not pair very well. 
 
COMPARISONS (done without the adapter)
Heir Audio 6.A LE: The 6.A is a spectacular reference-type IEM. It's almost totally neutral by my definition of the word, but does have a bit of extra grunt on the low end in order to make things more lively. In comparison, the LCM-5 is warmer and more lively, with increased "bite" in the upper mids and extra sparkle in the highs. They have roughly the same amount of bass by volume but the presentation is different. The 6.A bass is ultra-clean, textured, nuanced, refined, while still having some slam to it. The LCM-5 can dig a little deeper into the sub-bass region, likely due to the sheer size of the driver, but the overall presentation of the bass is smoother and less detailed. Don't get me wrong - it's still accurate, and is certainly far from the one-note bass you'll hear on some other IEMs. It is just a tiny step behind the clarity of the excellent 6.A LE. That's not bad company to trail behind, and I suspect some people would actually even prefer the trade-off of a little articulation for the slightly improved extension. But both IEMs are quite good at what they do. The 6.A shows its edge when dealing with subtleties, and the LCM-5 counters with a more rewarding sense of slam. Each is a good fit for its respective presentation - I wouldn't like the 6.A bass as much if paired with the overall sound from the LCM-5, nor would I like it the other way around. 
 
The mids of the LCM-5 are somewhat more immediate than the Heir. There's a certain "zing" to the upper midrange that can be either exciting or annoying depending on your preferences. Vocals are brought more forward and presented in a more intimate way, as if the singer took a few steps towards you. Both are very clear and very convincing in their own way. 
 
Highs on the LCM-5 are somewhat hotter than the 6.A. When I start with the 6.A as a baseline, then switch to the LCM-5, it sounds exciting but also bright and somewhat fatiguing. Yet after listening a while and adjusting to the sound, it seems great, and I wouldn't change a thing. Then I switch back to the 6.A and that model sounds muffled and boring. Listen for a while and it becomes clear again. The brain has a funny way of adjusting to things, so it really does make A/B comparisons difficult between these particular models.
 
The Lear unit has the edge in soundstage immersion. The 6.A is extremely accurate with regards to imaging, but the LCM-5 is able to match that while giving more depth to the presentation. This is unexpected because the more forward vocals would suggest inferior layering, but it doesn't work out that way. The LCM-5 is closer to the Heir 8.A than the 6.A in soundstage size, though the 8.A beats the Lear at its own game. 
 
Overall I think the 6.A remains my favorite for general listening. However, the LCM-5 certainly has its strengths, and at times I prefer its razor-sharp clarity and open-window transparency. I know some people who would almost certainly prefer the Lear presentation over the 6.A, so it really comes down to preference. Both of these are masterfully tuned IEMs that fully capture the intent of their designer - it's just that the designers had different goals in mind.
 
 
Other good candidates for comparisons would be the JH13 and the UM Miracle. All three models are vaguely neutral but have some level of slightly aggressive or hyped upper mids/highs. Unfortunately I sold my JH13 a while back and only had the Miracle as a demo loaner for review. From memory, I'd say I like the LCM-5 more than the JH unit, but I'd have to have the Miracle here for direct comparisons to make a judgement on that one. But just the fact that the LCM-5 competes with the likes of these is an indicator of its high level of performance. 
 
CONCLUSION
Is the Lear LCM-5 a top-level custom IEM? Without a doubt. Is it perfect for everyone? Of course not. But no IEM or headphone is. Having said that, the LCM-5 will appeal to certain people in a way that not many other CIEMs do. If you like crystal clear highs, or the HD800 (when properly driven), or Stax in general, and tend to listen to quality recordings on quality gear more often than not, the Lear LCM-5 should definitely be on your radar. Feed it something good and it will reward you with stunning, lifelike playback that sounds convincingly real. 
 
Adding up the score, Lear is two for two in my book - their LCM-2b is a very solid entry level unit in the $400 price bracket, and now their LCM-5 is a strong competitor in the flagship arena. After experiencing their products, their customer service, and their build quality, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend them. 
Lear LCM-5
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Description:

LCM-5 is the latest masterpiece from LEAR and which is built and designed with 5 drivers, 3 ways crossover and 3 individual sounds bore. The precision matched 1 low, 2 mid and 2 high drivers with the proper designed passive 3 way crossover, which ensure the lowest full band distortion and group delay from the drivers and passive components. 3 individual sound tubes to separates the different frequency between the driver outputs. To ensure the most comfortable, accurate and neutral sound, we tuned the LCM-5 under the actual hearing concept, which the listening experience is similar to what you can hear from the actual environment! The LCM-5 will impress you by the most natural and balanced sound which you may never imagined! However, LCM-5 is not just limited to the natural and balanced style, It is also designed for professionals who would need a pair of studio monitor sound like in-ear earphone (to replace the poor sealing Headphones) and works for their musical job like mixing and monitoring. To achieve the needs on both neutral and extremely crystal clear monitor sound style, a special tuned cable adapter called "Studio Monitor Sound Tuned Adapter" is available in optional . Just simply plug into it and you will be happy with the benefit from the switchable design! Mixing, monitoring and music enjoyment is just that simple and efficiency than ever. We are proud to say that the LCM-5 is designed, tuned and made in Hong Kong!

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