Lear LCM-5 Review
In Hong Kong a well-known distributor Forever Source Digital has there own house brand, Lear. They have a beautiful portfolio including cables, amps and a range of custom in ear monitors (CIEM). At the top of the line up you have the LCM-5 which is a 5 balanced armature (BA) driven CIEM with one low driver, two mids and two high drivers in a three way configuration with three bores. Unlike the rest of the LCM series that have different sound tunings for each model, so the three drivers has a bass, clarity and flat tuning, this comes in one version which has been tuned for a neutral and balanced sound, for the natural sound you can imagine. Here are the specifications:
Frequency response: 20~22kHz
Impedance: 28ohm @1000 Hz
Sensitivity: 122dB @1mW
THD Ratio: Below 0.6% (20~10kHz)
Driver: 5 Balanced armature (1 low, 2 mid, 2high)
Crossover: Passive 3 way
The price for this is 6888 HKD, which is roughly £550 and you will also have to pay £16 which is for a tracked shipping service, using parcel force in the UK. For this you will get the CIEMs and also get to choose the colour from a broad range. However choosing the colour is actually not as simple as picking the colour you want because you actually get to choose the colour of the faceplate, the body and the canals for both the right and left side, so you could actually add up to 6 different colours on your CIEM. You can also go for the option of their true texture faceplate that is 3-D and looks a bit like carbon fibre but is not. This is an additional option that costs £30.
When I was discussing with the Lear representative, Tatco Ma, what options I would have on my LCM-5, I decided on a red shell on my right side and a blue on the other side, clear canals on both sides and then I asked him what colour the true texture is offered in. He said we can do any colour but we have only tried black and translucent grey to good effect. I went for the grey option.
Tatco is a great and knowledgeable guy to deal with, any queries he quickly answers and he knows what he is talking about with his products. I say this because he then introduced me to his monitor sound tuned adapter. This is another upgrade at roughly £55 and is a small cable with a female jack on one side and a male jack on the other. I asked if he could tell me more about it and this was his answer that explains quite a lot. I would also like to thank him for sending me this unit to review.
Overall the process of getting these from Hong Kong where they are proudly made to the UK was quick and easy, I sent in my impressions on the 29th of September and they received them on the 10th of October. I was then informed the build time is 14 to 21 days. Well mine were finished and delivered on the 4th of November which was just over what they predicted but overall not to long, I will say though if your in the UK you are looking at just over two months to get them which is not terrible, I received the finish product after some time in customs, on the 15th of November. It was a stress free process however and I received updates along the way and a couple of pictures when they were finished.
The set-up I have used is the normal, as I have started using a new portable rig, which is the Hippo CriCri amplifier connected through a LOD to an iPod Nano 3G with Apple Lossless and MP3 on it.
I also used my old set-ups of my iPhone 4, Cowon J3 (with FLAC) and my iMac with my Objective 2 amplifier. I also have paired these with a few other amps such as the MiuAudio MRB.
Left: With VestAmp which is bright for a rather treble and brightness overhaul
Right: With the warmer E17 you get a nice full sound
The design of these is going to be great because, well you designed them yourselves. You can have artwork if you would like and if you opt for the true texture faceplate like me, I can tell you it looks very nice and feels good too. The colours of the shell are very vivid and look awesome, far from a bad discolored look. The colours are great!
Left: With a standard CIEM cable Right: With stock Cable
The cable that is included first caused me some distress. I originally thought it was identical to the cable on cheaper universal IEMs I owned but although it shares physical features it is noticeable thicker and better made. The 45 degrees jack is strong and functional and the y-split is also very sturdy. It has a cable cinch which gets the job done although does look cheap. You then have some of the problems that I am finding with the cable, it is far from being very flexible and I just wish it had more resemblance to a cable like what you get on Vsonic GR07. It also has an uncanny ability to coil up when using which is rather frustrating and it does not like to coil up the one time you want it too, in its case.
The shells are finished beautifully and faultless. Previous CIEMs have also mainly been close to flawless but there have always been a few flaws such as bubbles in the shell or a bad finish around the sound bores. These do give me one worry though. That is the fact that they are hollow inside so they have an acrylic shell and no filling. They are extremely light but I worry about dropping them on my concrete floor in case they smash. I do not plan on doing so but things happen so I do worry a fair bit!
The packaging was nice and subtle with a box that is pretty similar to what you might expect with an iPhone. The monitors come with in a soft velvet pouch that is thick but I would not trust it for protection and then a Otterbox 1000. The pouch is a nice touch helps them not get scratched or damaged in the plastic Otterbox. It is like a lining and the Otterbox is crushproof and waterproof and will protect it through the end of the world so between the two you have a nice set up.
You also get a big yellow cleaning cloth so you can spend hours polishing them to further beauty and also a standard cleaning tool so you can get the earwax out.
The fit of these is like any CIEM and you make a twisting motion as they slot into your ear. I find the process quick and it is faster than most universals and of course seal perfectly every time.
Comfort is faultless and these have the best it of any CIEMs I have had to date. The feel perfectly contoured to my ears and are so light in there. They go to a comfortable depth that is not intrusive and are just generally great here.
Isolation is again amazing although I do feel both my Etymotic HF5 and ACS T2 (Silicone) do a better job in getting rid of absolutely everything. Of course these get rid of most ambient noises you throw at it and when I say most, I mean most so I would not worry, these will satisfy the most crazy isolation needs.
By what I am about to write I do not want to cause any upsets or arguments as this topic can be seen as a sour subject. These have had roughly 100 hours now of use and burn in combined. As burn in is not scientifically proven this all could be mental and happening in my head but in the case that it does happen I recommend burning them in as in my personal experience I have noted improvements which have a massive impact on my enjoyment factor, so don’t make any irrational decisions after listening to them out the box.
The sound that this earphone produces is one of reference quality and rather neutral in signature but with a slight boost in the mid bass (very slight) and some boosts in the treble, much like it is advertised. Everything is very fast and beautifully clear and realistic sounding (if not a bit too fast) and extension end to end has impressed me. Technically these are very efficient and will no doubt impress but they are not the most suited to a range of genres due to a lack of kick and the fact they are rather brutal to bad recordings. Anything that was record badly and you will know with these CIEMs and I also found it hard to listen to compressed music and lossless is needed at the minimum. Genres like jazz and classical was just a beautiful experience although mainstream stuff and rock an alternative music felt like at times a bit of drama was missing. (Mainly in mainstream stuff as I rather enjoyed rock and alternative for the most part)
Soundstage and instrument separation:
Soundstage is more about the accuracy than the size and that is more me saying that is tremendously accurate than that it has a small soundstage. It has good height and depth and the width is just out your head but with the great height and depth it is truly three-dimensional. Imaging is very accurate; instruments are each in its own space and can be distinctively positioned to where things are. Now I do feel that the soundstage of my 4.Ai was both larger and with better imagery but only slightly and they are both extremely accurate in that sense. Another reason I have found it very nice is because it is neither too in your face or distant, sometimes parts will be distant but other in your face, it feels very nice and real.
Instrument separation is not really a topic that needs to be spoken for as it nothing short of stellar. It never let’s you mistake where an instrument is and nothing feels on top of each other. It even outdoes any of the giants in this area that I have heard including the Heir 4.Ai, Fischer Audio DBA-02 and Etymotic HF5.
The bass is here is done in a very nice fashion and making the whole sound whole and not feeling like we lack anything. The mid-bass must be incredibly well lined to neutral with perhaps the slightest of boosts, I perceive it as perhaps 1 db but do not quote me for that. I say this because compared to other IEMs that have the slightest of bass boosts like the Heir 4.Ai or UE900 this does have noticeably less but not by huge margins. The tone is not warm but it does give a nice impact that has a nice feeling weight to it but I far from being overbearing and of course it is extremely fast and detailed. Decay in the mid bass could be deemed slightly to quick and you are left wishing it lingered just a little bit longer.
The extension into the sub-bass pleasantly surprised me after seeing the FR graph on the website because that shows quite dramatic roll offs after 50 hz but I perceived when needed beautiful deep bass textures under 50 hz from kick drums bass guitars in rock and alternative music.
The bass in these is plentiful enough to keep you entertained and just great for jazz and classical and some alternative but sticking on a bit of hip hop will of course leave you wanting more bass, which makes me think it is a good job I do not listen to hip hop much.
The midrange is something that oozes detail and clarity with just beautiful micro details. The micro detail pick up is something I have never encountered to such a high degree in IEMs and I have heard many of the IEMs that people really get excited about due to the transparency and micro details (DBA-02, SE535, 4.Ai and R-50 just to name a few). Now for the most part this is a good thing but in bad recordings you do hear the under lying rubbish that we normally just miss all together.
The balance between the high and low mids is rather nice and although I do perceive a small boost towards the high mids, it is far from dominating and both female and male vocals have nice height and great natural realism in there tone. Timbre impacts nicely and does not feel to soft in the case of drums and is spine tingling-ly realistic with guitars but I do feel the decay just sometimes is not enough because the speed of the earphones just moves on way to quick.
The overall tone of this far from warm but I would not say cold either, if anything it is the nearest to bright but it is generally quite natural and un-coloured in any way. With slightly bright midranges such as with the DBA-02 a common probably is they lack height and feel very thin and un-textured but that is far from a problem here. The texture is great and the height is great and the overall sound is very well bodied.
The highs are awesome and they provide a great clarity to the overall sound and jaw dropping transparency. The low highs are the most present part of the treble leaves high hats hitting loudly. However I have never noted any sibilance and I also do not find the mid highs to be over baring or fatiguing and this leads me to believe that they have just the right boost to them. A bit lower down we has great presence of sparkle and cymbals hitting but again we do not feel any fatigue. Extension down deep is great and they give you a sense of air and feel complete. The treble remains very smooth yet awesome detailed at the same time.
Adding the Adapter:
The change is more apparent than just a some minor differences in quantities and the sound all-together is different and not just because it is more bright. It just has something added the makes it different. Treble is now sparklier and can sometime hit fatiguing levels. The clarity goes into an extreme overload and high hats are extremely loud and in the front line. The bass is tighter and lacks impact at times and extension never gets low and we lose the texture down low we have before. What we do get is a some how increase in micro details in the mid rang as well. We have an IEM that I now think is actually the closest to neutral that I have found and not just perceived so. I really think the adapter is magical and hold properties that I cannot just describe, the sound changes in way I cannot but my head round.
I will add that because of the added impedance you will need an amp now that was not needed before with these being very sensitive.
These are a complete package; there is no doubt about that. The sound is complete end to end and presented uniquely unlike anything I have yet heard and being so technically impressive. They justify the price for sure and the addition of the adapter is worthy indeed. I will say though that these are for the Etymotic fans or real analytical heads that want super detailed music. Not some one with poor quality mainstream music and want a fun experience. I am not saying that these are not enjoyable because they are, the sound amazing but are not ‘fun’. I also do not think these would work as you only IEM, I think a warmer IEM is needed as a companion, not technically as good but just to mix things up.