Pros: Beautiful aesthetics, solid build, removable cable, multiple color choices, no microphonics, comfortable, excellent bass quality and quantity, excellent soundstage positioning, excellent highs.
Cons: Very picky about source, lacking in tip selection, mids to upper mids can be grainy.
Style: Universal over-ear IEM
Tonal Balance: Mildly bassy
Listening Set-Up: MusicBee (WASAPI) -> OPPO HA-1 & Sansa Clip+
Included with the LUF-4B is a clear waterproof Otter Case, a set of medium and large silicon mushroom tips, a pair of medium sized foam tips, a cleaning tool and a velour carrying case.
Design and Build Quality
The LUF-4B are built with care and a knack for design. The aesthetic options should please even the most finicky of customers while the build should inspire confidence to hold up when handled with care. The fit is comfortable and they IEMs easy to insert, though the lack of included tips in an IEM this expensive is saddening. I hope LEAR considers adding some double-flanged and triple flanged tips as well as a small option.
The LEAR LUF-4B are shaped in the way that I see many other high-end universals shaped. Bulky, but they conform nicely to the shape of my ear. The version of the LUF-4B I received appears to be one solid transparent plastic housing with a faceplate that is seamlessly attached with no way of taking it off. There are no weak points on the housing for it to come apart that I notice. The nozzle protrudes a bit showing off two small ports that are flush with the housing on both ear pieces as are the pine receptors on the top of the housing.
The craftsmanship is quality in the design of the housing, though I did receive my LUF-4B with the channels reversed, the right ear actually goes in the left and vice-versa. LEAR offered to fix this for me immediately, but I declined as the pfix was as easy as swapping the cables. These are handcrafted and little mistakes can happen, it’s how a company handles the mistake that does matter and LEAR was quick to offer a fix. Everything else that makes the housing is astonishingly well put together.
The cable is braided and flexible with a memory wire around the ear. The cable feels flexible enough to not be concerned with it being stressed, yet strong enough to not worry about it breaking. The stock cable terminates in a straight 3.5mm gold plated plug and the cable has a cheap, but working, cable cinch made from a piece of clear plastic tubing.
The lack of tip selection is a big oversight in an IEM of this price. There should be a few sets of tips to ensure maximum comfort in various sizes and shapes. Fortunately I was able to find a great fit with one large tip and one medium tip, others might not be so fortunate though. Once I found the proper tips I found the LUF-4B incredibly easy to insert and position. I have no problems getting a seal. Once sealed the LUF-4B provide more than adequate passive isolation with no music playing and outside noises are completely blocked with music at a reasonable listening volume. The fit is comfortable with the stock tips, I can wear these for extended periods though the IEMs don’t disappear. I feel them around my ear and in them. The IEMs do feel secure though and microphonics are not noticed in any way.
The sound of the LUF-4B leans bass heavy without interrupting the presence of the mids or highs. The bass is tight, deep and punchy with mildly forward mids and well extended highs. The soundstage is on par with a full-sized closed headphone, intimate but not claustrophobic.
I would imagine that most people who are interested in purchasing the LUF-4B over the other versions would do so because they crave big and quality bass. The LUF-4B are certainly very capable of putting out the finest quality bass that I’ve heard in an IEM to this date. My favorite test track for bass has become Jay-Z’s Holy Grail, this is due to the huge shock going from the piano and vocals to big rumbling, hard-hitting, window shaking bass. It’s immensely satisfying but I find that most IEMs can’t fully dig down without either distorting or coming off less than detailed. The LUF-4B extend fully down giving the fullest extent of sub-woofer like bass that I can imagine an IEM is capable of producing, if there is another IEM more capable in the sub-bass than these then color me impressed. There’s no loose rattling, no sloppy lingering notes, and no one-note experience. The bass is tight and rumbling, yet controlled and quick to switch to the next note with good detail. If I were judging the LUF-4B on sub-bass alone I would recommend these.
I just praised the heck out of the sub-bass and the mid-bass isn’t far behind. Tight, clean, punchy, and textured nicely, I find the bass, as a whole, to be extremely satisfying. When listening to non-bass heavy songs such as Moonage Daydream by David Bowie the kick drum is certainly present, as are the tom hits, but I feel that they bring even more energy to an already energetic song and fill up the sound. I could understand why someone wouldn’t like the enhanced bass of the LUF-4B though when listening to songs that don’t focus on the bass, it could be a bit distracting and out of place, potentially making the song seem congested.
Mids and Highs
With the good comes the bad, or at least the mixed bag. The mids exhibit grain which is noticed rather harshly in a few songs that I’ve tested ranging from modern pop and rock songs to classics like the Steely Dan album Aja. Listening to David Bowie’s Moonage Daydream still I notice only hints of grain though, and the guitars sound lovely. Unfortunately when the mids are off they are off and I find the songs unenjoyable to listen to. I find that there’s a slight recession in the mids, mostly in the piano range, and sibilance is slightly enhanced by the LUF-4B. The mids can really distract from the listening experience in some cases and it’s noticed through my Sansa Clip+ as well as my Oppo HA-1.
The highs fair much better than the mids. In-fact the highs are slightly forward, clean and well extended. Horns, bagpipes, guitars, and so forth all sound great on here. The quality of the highs rivals that of the bass and I say that with big praise.
The soundstage of the LUF-4B won’t blow you away in width, but I find that the depth is more than above average in my experiences with IEMs and the positioning of instruments and sounds in the headspace is spot on. I was listening to a track with a far off ambulance horn as I was walking around my block, I looked around for the ambulance before realizing it was the song. There’s a real sense of placement with the sounds. Instrument separation is average though, the instruments don’t bleed together, but they feel close to each other.
The LUF-4B have so many positives about them that I could rave about for days. The things done right with the LUF-4B are really done right. The mids are the only weak point of the LUF-4B for me and they aren’t even consistently grainy, which is something that interests me as to why. The LUF-4B make excellent portable basshead companions for those who want deep and tight bass, just be warned that you’re not going to get that sub-woofer rumble, these are IEMs after all.
So who should consider purchasing these? I feel that any EDM lover would find themselves enjoying these, notably those who enjoy atmospheric drum and bass or dubstep, tracks with heavy and moving sub-bass lines. Rock music and other vocal forward music is hit or miss on these. I feel that these would make an excellent compliment for someone who has a bass light IEM looking for a pair with some umph in the lower end.
The LEAR LUF-4B carry a $635 manufacturer MSRP and at this time can be ordered through LEAR directly. More information here.
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