V of Detail
- Precision, definition and speed of the lower zone.
- Resolution, brightness, detail and nuances of the high zone.
- Expressiveness and extension of the treble.
- Thinness of the lower-mid zone.
- In the same way that treble can be a great advantage, it can be somewhat excessive in certain situations or in more sensitive people.
- Weight of the capsules.
- Absence of bag or box for transport.
- Not the most suitable profile for long listening.
$27 at the time of the review.
Link to the Store
KBEAR is a relatively recent brand, originating from Shenzen, China. It has been growing rapidly, bringing out economic models to the market, and then creating more expensive ones. To its credit, successful models such as the Diamond or the KB06 stand out. Interestingly, KBEAR has another brand, under which it brings out more expensive models. Its name is TRI. The I3 is its most emblematic model, a hybrid IEMS, which mounts a magnetic planar unit, a dynamic driver and a balanced armature driver, at a price below $150. Under this initial premise, TRI has taken out a real Flagship, handmade, which consists of 4 electrostatic transmission units, 2 BA drivers and 1 dynamic driver. Its price is currently under $800, a price that is not within the reach of everyone…
However, on this occasion, the IEMS to be reviewed are well below this price: less than $30. A very hard segment, where, currently, reigns the so hype BLON BL-03. The model in question is the KBEAR KB04 and its name gives an idea, about the number of total drivers: 1 DD + 1 BA for each capsule, 4 drivers in total.
- Drivers Type: 1DD + 1BA
- Frequency Response: 20Hz – 40kHz
- Sensitivity: 104dB ± 3dB
- Impedance: 16Ω ± 20%
- Connector Jack: 3.5mm
- Cable length: 120cm ± 5cm
- Capsule Connection Type: 0.78mm connector
- Copper cable, silver-plated, 4-core.
The KB04 come in a small box, almost completely black. Only its base has another color: green. Its dimensions are 78x122x36mm.
On the front face, there is a photo of the capsules, the model name at the bottom left and the brand logo on the green base. Its back side is presided by the brand logo. Below it, you will find the specifications. Finally, at the bottom, you can read information about the brand: address and contact e-mail.
The box is sealed in transparent plastic. The outer sleeve slides vertically, so that it can be opened. Inside, the box is white and rigid. The first thing you find in it is the instruction booklet and guarantee. Once removed, the grey capsules appear, stuffed in a soft black foam. Under them, in the same mold, are two pairs of black silicone tips, sizes L and S. The medium tips are inserted into the IEMS. Under the mold, a white box with the logo in black, in its center, keeps the rest of the accessories, in a zip bag, transparent plastic. In summary, the content is as follows:
- The two capsules.
- 3 pairs of black silicone tips, sizes SxMxL.
- 3 pairs of grey silicone tips, red core, sizes SxMxL.
- 1 clothes clip.
- 1 twisted 4-core silver-plated copper wire, black plastic coated.
- 1 user guide (Chinese/English) with warranty card.
The box is small, sober, but designed with good minimalist taste. Both sets of tips are welcome. But a carrying case or, at least, a protective pouch is very much missed. This detail, of minimum value, lowers the score in this section.
Construction and Design
The capsules are made of zinc alloy. The first sensation that is perceived, is its weight; the second, the small size. The result is a clear impression of density. The galvanized surface of both IEMS is highly polished, offering a highly reflective and smooth finish. Its colour is bright grey. The shape of the outer face is almost triangular, with extremely rounded corners. The capsules are made of two clearly divided pieces: the outer and inner sides. The outer face has a bevelled edge and a thick, deep slit that extends all the way around, creating an island inside. The inner face is very flat. Two circular depressions stand out, inside which are the letters R and L, created in relief. Under each letter there are two holes. They are not the only ones, because at the base of the nozzles there is another one, slightly smaller in diameter. The nozzles are metallic and seem to be screwed into their base. At the equator, there is a thick ring that allows to secure the tips in a very safe way. At the outer end, its diameter is 5.7mm. The inside of the nozzles is protected by a metal grid, whose holes are elongated oval. This grid is not located at the same outer edge of each nozzle, but is slightly deeper.
The capsules are relatively small, but thick. The 0.78mm connectors are sunk a couple of mm and are located in the middle of the division of both bodies of each capsule. The base of the connectors is made of translucent plastic.
The cable has four coiled cores, the inside is made of silver-plated copper. Its exterior is black plastic. The connector is 3.5mm, gold-plated and angled. Its sheath is made of plastic. The splitting piece is a conical, small, elongated piece and also made of black plastic. The pin is a small oval piece, with two holes, one for each channel. It slides with difficulty, offering a durable fit. The two-pin 0.78mm connectors are gold-plated. Its cover is a rectangular piece, made of black and rigid plastic, in whose outer edge, a small dots can be seen, made of red or blue paint, as an indication of the channel. The cable, at this end, together with the two-pin connectors, has a semi-rigid plastic coating, which gives it a question mark shape, to facilitate its adjustment over the ear.
In short, the cable is very simple, extremely sober, but totally functional, with low microphonics, flexible and with little tendency to get tangled.
The capsules have the classic metallic grey colour, with a mirror effect. Their construction is rigid, they feel somewhat heavy; they offer a hard and very consistent look. But, in my opinion, the line that divides both parts of the capsules is too evident, subtracting refinement from the overall picture. On the other hand, the inner side, with its embossed letters and the assembly of the nozzles, seems to me to be excellent.
Internally, the KB04 uses two drivers: 1 DD for the low frequencies, whose 10 mm diaphragm is made of PU and 1 dual BA for the high frequencies. They also feature a two-way electronic crossover, with the intention of achieving a more coherent and smooth sound transition.
Adjustment and Ergonomics
A priori, the somewhat high weight could affect both the fit and comfort. The weight of the capsules, which are inserted almost superficially, may contribute to their tendency to fall out. It is therefore very convenient to find tips that allow for a firm adjustment as well as a secure fit. Luckily, the design of the nozzles and the shape of the capsules integrate very well into the ear canal, achieving a tight and precise placement without too much effort. This is when the weight of the capsules becomes minimal and the cable guides appear to be as unobtrusive as possible. A good choice of tips becomes a fundamental step in obtaining the best possible fit, which the ergonomics of the capsules can provide.
The KBEAR KB04 have a moderate V-profile. You could discuss a W profile, looking at its graph, seeing the different peaks that exist from 2kHz onwards… But I don’t think it would help to reflect anything new.
As a good V-shaped earphone, its most energetic point is between the transition from sub-bass to mid-bass. This does not indicate that the sub-bass is light, far from it, as the KB04s manage to descend quite authoritatively. However, it is true that the greatest impact is perceived in this transition.
One of the most remarkable impressions is the texture of the lower zone: it has a roughness that is perceived in the ears, as a very pleasant tickling. It is not smooth, nor anodyne, but is characterized by a particular vibration, a mixture of speed, depth, impact and definition. Without a doubt, it is a differential nuance, which raises the value of the range.
On the other hand, despite its V-profile, these KBEARs do not colour the lower zone, but have a very good control, for some IEMS of their range. The definition is remarkable and, even in the most complicated passages, they do not run out of control, nor do they exceed, maintaining the performance in a surprising way, without swelling at all. Thus, the level of definition they exhibit is very good, describing the bass with precision and that characteristic color.
The lower zone is very enjoyable, I would have only asked for a little more sub-bass to raise the depth level.
And suddenly we enter the mid zone, in the valley of the V. Then, the sound is pushed into the hollow, into a smaller and narrower confinement, simplified, thinner, less emotional and also less descriptive. The positive thing is that light is not lost and clarity becomes the best ally. Although, the smaller space does not imply congestion, it does show little body and a weaker packaging, without reaching delicate. Definition is not lacking, but the emotion is sought and does not appear, as its profile turns to the analytical side.
The high part recovers, but it decompensates the range, contributing to limit the width of the voices and to punctuate those more sharp. It follows the ascent, which ends at a critical point, at the point most sensitive to the human ear. The KB04 play, at this point, heads or tails: win or lose, over or under, is the crux of the matter. When they fall below, the result is very good. But when they exceed, as a result of certain recordings, brilliant players or negative effects of a high output impedance, the KBEARs border on sibilance, becoming fatiguing. But with warm sources and good or soft recordings, KB04s prove that not everything is black or white.
V or W? Anyway, the treble comes in and the range is fun without punching, sharp but uncut. Can it be? Yes, KBEAR proves it: micro detail and controlled brightness, definition without losing the naturalness, analytical resolution without sounding strident, expressive nuances that are not sweet, but yes, tasty. And we also talk about extension and air, clarity and cleanliness, something that is never lost, anywhere in the sound spectrum.
In this range, KBEAR has bet hard and won many KZs. It is undeniable that the range possesses emphasis and proves to be forward oriented. But, although they would not be the best IEMS for long listening, they are very suitable for energetic and detailed listening. Please note, however, that those with sensitive ears are warned against this range.
Again, the Tip Rolling, is very interesting in this regard, as a measure to refine the sound of each range, to our preferences.
The separation, in absolute terms, is superior to the scene. Due to the remarkable level of definition and resolution, a great clarity is easily perceived, which gives a good feeling of cleanliness, space and precision.
The scene, however, is not fully expanded. One must take into account the price range… The sound is not narrow, it has height and an average level of depth. The location of the instruments and details is large, but the origin is frontal.
Technically they are good, their capacity of analysis is surprising. They do not have congestion, on the contrary, they enjoy an abundant amount of air. Although, all this, does not extend the scene towards excellence.
The first comparison is obvious, against the well-known BL-03. The profile of both is clearly different: the V of the KB04 is felt from the first bass hit. They have a more complete bass, with more impact, contents and tightness, but with more amplitude and good depth. The texture and the descriptive power of the low zone, improves the offered by the BL-03. These last ones, on the other hand, offer more depth and go down a little more. But the body is superior in the KBEAR, while the BL-03 remains somewhat short in width, compared to the more present and wide area of the KB04. Undoubtedly, they are two different styles of presenting the bass: In those songs where the sub-bass predominates, the Blon will sound more natural. Meanwhile, when the low zone is more extensive, the amplitude of the KB04, will be presented as a more appropriate, accurate and fun option.
The turns change in the central area. The KB04s are lacking in the first half of the mid range. Comparatively, this void is observed as a lack of body, compared to the BL-03, which are capable of filling the voices and other instruments, of this initial part. If we pay attention to the voices, this time, the BL-03s do have a greater amplitude and are able to draw them with more smoothness, sweetness and serenity. The KBEAR polarize the voices, recreating them thinner, with less texture and a clear more crisp and bright accent, not even a trace of the smoother and more pleasant tone offered by the BL-03. Although, it is true, that that flash, a double-edged sword, gives it a point of greater detail and a spark of energy. On the other hand, it’s something that doesn’t stop one from preferring to hear the voices in the Blon.
In the second part of the mids, again, there is a change: the upper mids remain relaxed in the BL-03s, following the tone that characterizes these IEMS. They are harmless, compared to the energy provided by the KB04, in this part. The mid-high range is clearly explicit in the KBEAR, sounding clearer, more detailed and defined, also fuller. Comparatively speaking, the BL-03s tend to sound almost veiled, as opposed to the descriptive and resolving energy that the KB04s present in this half. Of course, this energy can lead to sound fatigue, and can even be a bit harsh in certain circumstances.
In the high range, again, it is appreciated how the V of the KBEAR, shines above the Blon. The high frequencies of the BL-03 are docile, softer, more controlled. The KB04 sound free and dynamic, with more presence. They are fine and energetic, crisp, defined and offer a high level of detail, nuance and clarity. However, the BL-03s do not have such explicit flashes and the nuances are drawn back, being perceived as more distant, limited, less diverse and even natural. The extension and the amount of air, is also superior in the KBEAR.
At the scene level, the KB04’s V-profile narrows and focuses the sound. The greater width of the mid zone and the greater depth in the BL-03, give it some advantage in this aspect, without this difference being very large. While the KB04 has a greater feeling of height, the width is greater in the Blon.
The separation is felt, in both, in a similar way, but the clarity prevails in the KB04, as a strong point, something that gives it an advantage in this aspect, together with the better definition, resolution and that more analytical aspect, against the greater homogeneity and harmony of the BL-03.
Both IEMS are metallic, shiny and polished, of the same colour and have a visible division between the faces of the capsules. Their shapes are different, which can clearly have an impact on the ergonomics of both models. In particular, I find the Blon more comfortable and adjusted to my anatomy, without the KBEAR being unpleasant, far from it. But, when changing from one to the other, I feel that the BL-03, fit better in my ears, being more convenient, for long listening. They are also slightly less heavy. However, I prefer the cable of the KBEAR: I like more its finish and its spiral winding, making it smoother, softer and more manageable. At the conductor level, there doesn’t seem to be any difference. You can only notice that, after the splitting, the cables that reach the capsules, seem thinner in the Blon.
NiceHCK produced quite economical IEMS, with a very pleasant profile, the result of a refinement of several hypes of the moment, managing to hit the nail on the head. The sound of the DB3 is more relaxed than that of the KB4, especially from the mid-high, onwards. Even the low zone is perceived differently, the bass of the DB3 is thicker, more prevalent; while in the KB04 they sound more concise, defined, even less intrusive. In the DB3, the bass rumbles, especially in its central zone. This is something that happens to a lesser extent in the KBEAR, whose hitting is located, agile and faster, oriented towards the deepest side.
The mid zone of the DB3 is slightly contaminated by the thickness of the bass. The situation differs in the KB04, where they feel more liberated, in this sense, and also, clearer, sharper and more vivid, due to their upper half enhancement. The voices, in the DB3, are soft and smooth. The BK04 offers flashes that go unnoticed on the DB3, polarizing the mid range and sharpening the V profile. Still, the greater clarity is an advantage, offering more nuances, better definition and resolution. The result is that the central zone of the KB04 appears to be more dynamic, sharp, but fun and explicit, when on the DB3 everything is simple, smooth and straight. In spite of this, the voices, in the DB3, have a more enjoyable warmth, sounding less thin and with a greater point of emotion.
The biggest difference between the two IEMS is in the treble: the DB3s provide a safe and low-risk area, offering a gentle but not very explicit presence. On the other hand, the KB04, bets for a more exuberant and daring presence, of greater risk. Many times, the KB04 win the battle, in this range, since only they can lose, by excess. The DB3, in this range, bets for a classic profile, inoffensive, that worries about higher flashes, that, sometimes, are also dangerous, because they are unbalanced. Meanwhile, the KBEAR don’t lie, nor only loosen, extending the area beyond; bringing, even, more brightness and air. The high zone of both IEMS is opposite: if you like risk, your IEM is the KB04. If you prefer something safer and «boring», take the DB3.
The greater clarity, analysis capacity, refinement and precision of the KB04, gives it more sense of spatiality and separation, although, in the end, the differences are not so great, in this aspect. The scenario, limited rather by the price range, is somewhat wider on the DB3, but overall larger on the KBEAR.
In terms of weight and size, although DB3s are larger, they weigh less. The adjustment is simple in both, but the bigger size, plays in favor of the DB3, because its fit is better, getting them to move less, by avoiding rotation inside the ear. In long listenings, the weight and the softer fit, favors the NiceHCK. On the other hand, although the cable is just in both IEMS, I prefer the dark simplicity of the KBEAR cable, as opposed to the undefined colour of the DB3.
I have a debt to KBEAR: initially, I did not pay due attention to it. It was because I have already been hit with some big disappointments, with other brands that have overpopulated the market, in the low price range. But, after reading many other reviews, maybe I was wrong. And I was. KBEAR’s work with KB04 should not be taken lightly. It is true that their profile is the classic V, but they have taken risks in the high zone and, I think, they have been victorious, since they have managed to get away, from the ghost of the excessive peaks and the unnecessary and unnatural brightness. However, this great work is also noticeable in the low zone: it is not easy to find the speed and precision of their bass, in their price segment; combining, moreover, a special and particular sonority.
There is risk, yes, but he who does not risk, does not win. Do you dare?
Sources Used During the Analysis
- xDuoo X3II.
- Tempotec Serenade iDSD.
- HiBy R3 PRO.
- Burson Audio Playmate.