A Great Partner
- Remarkable middle term in sound.
- Good accessories.
- Good value for money.
- The cable could be better, with better connectors and a little more thickness.
- The sound seems to be placed at a medium distance, preventing it from being more explicit and enjoyable.
- Bass a bit slow.
- Classic and secure tuning.
Link to the Store
KBEAR is a dynamic brand. And also resourceful, both in terms of models and design. This power and their remarkable development capacity have enabled them to create new products quite quickly. All this has to do with the relationship between the Robin and the Lark: two IEMS that are almost identical on the outside, but different on the inside. My first feeling is that the Robin is a clear and resounding answer to the Lark, a model whose first tuning was not well received (even by me). Quickly, a second version appeared that tried to appease the profile in the most critical points. I never tried it and preferred to wait for a new, better thought-out move by KBEAR. And here are the Robins. As I say and as you can see, they are practically the same on the outside, while on the inside, they have gone from being 1DDD+1BA to 1DDD+4BA, which is a very strong answer to the amateur public. They even dare to put their frequency response on the back of the packaging, as if it were a clear and resounding message: «See? We can do it better and at the same price». And my question is: Are the Robins the right answer? This and other questions will be answered in the following review.
- Driver Type: 1DDD 10mm with dual magnetic circuits + 4BA custom drivers
- Frequency Response: 20Hz-20kHz
- Sensitivity: 110±2dB
- Impedance: 18±2Ω
- Jack Connector: SE 3.5mm gold plated
- Capsule Connection Type: 2Pin 0.78mm
- Cable Material: Oxygen-free 4N copper.
- Cable length: 1.2m
- Colour: Blue, black
- Choice of cable with or without microphone.
The Robins come in a box of virtually the same shape and design as the Lark. As will be seen throughout the review, references to this model will be constant. Its dimensions are 133x148x38mm. On this occasion, the design of the front face is a series of blue tones in polyhedral cuts, with the logo in white letters, in the upper left corner and the name of the model and main description, in the lower left corner and in the same way. On the back side, the blue colour, plain and uniform, is used as a background. Above it, white letters describe the specifications, in Chinese and English, as well as the frequency response curve and the data relating to the brand, address, e-mail and website. Only KBEAR with its stylish lettering on the sides. The outside is nothing more than a cardboard box which can be removed by sliding it upwards. Then, a black, latticed box will appear, which has the logo in gold in its centre. It is like a chest, and so it opens, to house a black foam mould, in which the capsules are encased, on the top right; a long black box with accessories, placed on the left side; another rectangular black box, placed on the bottom right, which contains the box. All the contents are summarised below:
- KBEAR Robin capsules, with dark grey silicone tips, medium size.
- 1 x 4N oxygen-free copper cable.
- 3 pairs of dark grey silicone tips, sizes SxMxL.
- 3 pairs of white silicone tips, sizes SxMxL.
- 1 rigid grey zippered cloth box, with brand name and logo written in white letters on the top.
- 1 user guide in several languages.
The presentation is what you would expect from a product of this price. It is not very luxurious, but it has adequate accessories, two sets of tips and a storage box that I like very much. The size is proportionate, not too big, not too small either, although I am increasingly liking smaller packaging that doesn’t have superfluous gaps. In this sense Kbear is in the middle ground. For this occasion there is no realistic photo of the capsules on the outside of the box.
Construction and Design
The Robin capsules have a very classic, semi-custom shape, with that strong resemblance in shape to the African continent. It is almost identical to that of the Lark. The difference is in the outer plate, while on the Lark there is a hexagonal patterned part, on the Robin it is replaced by indentations or notches. This outer face of the capsule has been electroplated with a zinc alloy and its gradient colour can be chosen between blue and black. This external «tinting» is delicate and after a few days of use, you can see how the colour of the edges disappears, as a result of small knocks or rubbing. The inner side is made of transparent resin, revealing the interior and the drivers. There are two holes on this side, one coincides with the centre of the DD and the other is located more on the edge. On this edge, the rectangular 2-pin connection plate is placed superficially. It is a small piece of transparent plastic. On the same edge, but on the other side of the adjoining vertex, the name of the model and the letter indicating the channel are written in white letters. The mouthpieces are metallic and gold-plated. They have a height of about 6mm, a maximum diameter of about the same and a smaller diameter of 5.5mm. It is covered by a dense grey metal grid. As you can see, the nozzles are thick, but have a very adequate length.
Inside the capsules there are 5 drivers in each capsule. A 10mm dynamic driver, with dual magnetic circuit and custom 4BA. The material of the DD diaphragm is not specified. Of the 4 BA, one is in charge of the mid and high frequencies, a custom unit by KBEAR, called KBEAR-IF-K BA. For the high and very high frequencies, the other three BAs are in charge. They are also customised and are called KBEAR-HI-B BA units. Finally, the interior also houses a 4G electronic frequency splitter, consisting of one physical and two electronic crossovers.
As for the cable, it is a four-stranded 4N oxygen-free copper braid. The cable is relatively thin and feels like the least valuable part of the assembly: the connector sleeves are white, translucent plastic, as are the splitter and pin, the shapes of which are very common and seen on cables in much more affordable products. The common part of the cable is thin, but this feeling is accentuated after the two-wire split that reaches each capsule. Despite the beautiful colour of the copper, which the transparent coating allows to show through, the feel detracts from the attractive design and sturdy construction of the capsules.
Adjustment and Ergonomics
The size and classic appearance of the capsules, with a semi-custom external shape, with a very rounded interior and no edges or corners, provides a superficial fit, quite free of contact with the external parts of the ear. And, if it does exist, the friction is very soft, due to the smoothness of the material used. This means that, as the hours go by, it does not affect the perception of comfort provided by this model. Thus, the ergonomics are high and quite good. Once fitted, there is hardly any possibility of rotation and, with the right tips, there is no risk of the IEMS becoming detached or falling out. In this respect, due to the 6mm diameter of the mouthpiece, the channel of the used tips must be taken into account in case of changing them.
The size of the capsules is not very large, although they are a bit fat. Their weight is not very heavy, but I would say that the metal plate is noticeable. However, once they are in place, this weight is negligible and hardly noticeable.
With my silicone tips, filled with foam, although the fit is quite shallow, the sealing is very adequate and the level of insulation is high. But due to the length of the mouthpieces, narrower tips could be used to achieve a deeper insertion, although the diameter may prevent this process in narrow ear canals.
The Robin profile could vary between a u-v, even a w, all lower case. Personally I’d go with the w. There is a fairly linear low end from its middle to the sub frequencies, there is also the classic valley centred at 1kHz and some peaks in the high mids, first treble and in the first part of the brightness, with their corresponding valleys. One might think that the frequency response is fun and inhomogeneous. But up to the highs there is nothing strange or incoherent. From this point on, things get a bit more disturbed, but fortunately, the situation is more under control than in the first Lark.
The result is an entertaining profile, which is not as uneven or varied as it might seem at first glance. But it doesn’t manage to stand out completely in any range. Rather, it is the whole that benefits, rather than any one band.
The low end has a fairly linear first half, with a good incidence of sub-bass, without it being predominant. Naturally, the beginning of the mid-bass feels more emancipated, but the backing of the LFOs gives it a juicy, brazen and energetic body, resulting in a bass with a good level of energy and presence, as well as sounding quite complete. The but is its speed, without being rubbery, the result stretches a little, leaving some aftertaste, showing a slightly slower recovery, without being worrying. Fortunately, there is a fast decay from 100Hz onwards, which helps the range not to overly contaminate the upper mids. On the other hand, there is a point of colour in that the sub-bass is not as sensory as it is audible, but the effect is slight and the result is within a normal range. All this contributes to the fact that the Robins, without being clearly bass-driven IEMS, allow a clear enjoyment of bass-music and many other electronic styles, EDM and so on.
In complex bass passages, the Robins are uncomplicated and draw an easy path, with a tendency towards smoothness. This highlights that their speed is not very high in this range and that the level of definition/resolution is limited by this effect. This lower response generates a blanket of bass in those saturated passages, which may be pleasing to many, sweetening the sound and adding warmth. But the texture loses descriptiveness, tending to smooth out. In the same way, the different sound planes also get closer together, which limits the final quality of the area.
In short, the bass is pleasant, with warmth, body, a tendency from mid-bass towards sub-bass. Technically, its quality is average, standing out more in fun, colour and smoothness.
The mid-range is slightly less homogeneous, but also fun. The first half has a more exuberant body, as it drags a certain warmth and bass lingering. The instruments make more use of this part than the male voices, as they are perceived as mid-distance and a little deeper. The female voices feel subtly closer, due to the clarity provided by the emphasis on the upper mids, but without ever taking off. In this way, the vocals feel blended, sometimes behind, sometimes closer, but not in the foreground. While the instrumentation can become more predominant, without being totally in the foreground.
Returning to that emphasis on the upper mids, it is not significantly elevated, nor does it imply a complete polarised sound in that area. It is here that the tuning presents those ups and downs that combine to balance the response, although it may seem otherwise. This alternation provides a point of flash and pause, by way of control, in a particularly sensitive area. This alternation could be the other way around and we would be talking about a different sound. But it is what it is and on this occasion it is positive, because there is no excess and control predominates. The level of clarity is a little on the borderline, without completely overcoming the warmth that comes from the bass, but there is no darkness. In this way, it seems that the mids and the bass are balanced between light and dark, without there being anything that is clearly in the lead, finding a neutrality with a diurnal tendency. And I want to insist on that middle ground in which the Robins constantly move: there is nothing that is completely outstanding, and nothing that is bad. And that makes them good all-rounders, very versatile IEMS, both for many situations and for many musical genres, as long as they don’t involve the development of too many technicalities. In this sense, it is clear that, despite the 4 BAs (it is worth remembering that one is in charge of the mids and treble at the same time, and the other 3 are in charge of the high frequencies), the Robins are not analytical. They are capable of extracting a good amount of detail, if you help them a bit with volume or a bit more power, even though they are quite sensitive. So again, the Robins combine smoothness of response with a remarkable level of resolution and definition, but without reaching excellence.
In short, the mid-range is a compendium of many factors, which are mixed to find a balance in which nothing is lacking, but in which nothing stands out. Although, I must say that this is more of a virtue than a drawback, given the price range of these KBEARs, as not all of them are capable of insinuating as much as the present ones.
The dance, as in the mids, continues in the upper zone, albeit more compressed. The Robins continue with that alternating trend that combines brightness and control, some more powerful flash, to finish with a more limited amount of air. The final result is partially controlled. The first highs are maintained, until a more accentuated peak comes into play, an incidence that will depend very much on the music played, of course. All in all, the sound does not come across as bright, I would say somewhat above neutral. I don’t find the timbre wrong, although I think it lacks some freshness. At times, that alternation of flash and control comes across as too confident, losing a bit of fun. This is something that shows up in the sibilance: for the most part, its control is very satisfactory; but on some occasions it can be surprising, especially because the final ensemble is not brilliant.
On a technical and qualitative level, the treble is still in that centred line, without being exceptional, it fulfils its task quite efficiently and with very few complaints, being at the service of the rest of the ranges.
The scene is presented in the middle distance, with a width that provides good sound laterality, a fact that broadens the image, giving it a good, partially enveloping effect. The depth, without being accentuated, allows to observe elements at different distances, which is surprising in this price range. The amount of air is not very large. If it were larger, the scene would benefit a lot and would put the Robins on a higher rung. In reality, the separation is good, details are visible, while smaller and more subtle elements are hinted at, but without their resolution being complete. Still, the result is more than acceptable, not all IEMS in this price range are able to show as much as these Robins. The height is average and the spatial placement of the elements somewhat superior, although there is a tendency to perceive them at some distance. Nothing is presented very much in the foreground. The spacing between notes and their distance is prudent, but without detracting from the dynamics. Perhaps this is a point that I would have liked to have been higher, a greater dynamic would have given the ensemble a little more strength and freshness, and would even have brought out its virtues more. But the Robins are very polite and not out of the average.
TFZ Live 3
With a very similar tuning, but with a single dynamic driver, at a slightly higher price, are the TFZ Live 3. As usual, TFZ are the champions of the low range and it’s hard to beat them there, both in tuning and power. But starting with the physical and aesthetic issues, both IEMS are tremendously similar, with the Robin winning in construction thanks to its metal mouthpieces and external face. But in shape, design and size, they are very similar. The cable is superior in the TFZ, as it is inherited from its older siblings. It is thicker and has better connectors.
Among other things, TFZ knows how to build extremely efficient IEMS, with very little power they are able to generate a very energetic sound. And this is already evident in the sub-bass. If you are used to that feeling, you know what you are missing in other models. And that’s what happens in the Robins, after comparing the sub-bass with the Live 3: the punch, speed, retrieval and texture are higher in the TFZs. Also the depth is more pronounced. It’s the physical sensation that TFZ delivers, and it’s on a par with few other brands. Rewinding to talk about the profile, the Robins are a little brighter and with more prominent mids, in theory. There is more smoothness in the TFZ’s profile, except in the sub-bass area, where the emphasis is higher. That makes the mids of the TFZs a little more homogeneous, with slightly more complete, fuller and closer voices. The timbre also seems to me to be more accurate, although the distances are small. In terms of detail and separation, the Robins are superior, as they don’t have the smoothness of the TFZs. Both the timbre I am talking about and the mid-range representation of the two IEMS are different. There is more closeness in the TFZs, while the body is lighter and less contaminated in the Robins. In this way, the musical approach is different in both models and the Robins maintain that certain distance in all their elements, although the detail is more visible. In the TFZs, the power of the low end can obscure this detail, which in itself is softer. The Robins, with their higher level of resolution, generated by the BA drivers, as well as their distinctive timbre and execution, provide a cleaner, more separated sound, with better definition and distance between elements, but not as cohesive as the TFZs. This applies to the treble as well as to stage recreation, instrumental and vocal positioning. Despite the Robin’s tendency to place them in that middle distance, the spatial location is more precise and determined, thanks to their greater separation and the ability to generate a larger, three-dimensional scene.
These KBEAR Robins have to be appreciated, because it is not easy to achieve a remarkable middle ground, especially in this price range. The Robin is an IEMS that has everything and lacks very little. They don’t stand out in any particular way, but they don’t lack in any aspect either. And that is their great virtue, it is true that there are more specialised models, but it is very likely that the Robin will end up winning in other areas. In this case, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts and this is what makes this model a great all-rounder and a safe value, compared to other IEMS with a more polarised sound. You could say that Robin is the perfect companion, that ally that never lets you down. And in this world, good friends are not always plentiful.
Sources Used During the Analysis
- E1DA #9038D.
- Tempotec Sonata E35.
- Hidizs S9 Pro.
- Tempotec V1-A + Hidizs DH80S.
- Burson Audio Playmate.
- ACMEE MF02s.