- Great sound, fresh, vivid, very detailed, analytical, punchy in the lows, but soft in the highs.
- Remarkable separation.
- Very good design, beautiful in its most expensive model.
- Comfort and level of workmanship.
- Very good cable, mouldable and manageable.
- Outstanding quality/price ratio, in its most economical versions.
- The zipped case is too big and not very useful.
- Few accessories, few tips.
- With such a good cable, a balanced connection option is missing.
Link to the Store
For the second time, I have the pleasure of reviewing some IEMS from the KiiBOOM brand, that heterogeneous collective of multidisciplinary enthusiasts. This time it’s the Evoke model, the top of their range. Well, actually, so far they only have two models, the Allure and this Evoke. Their driver configuration is the classic triple driver: 1DDD + 2BA. The dynamic driver is 10mm and has a liquid crystal polymer diaphragm (LCP). «The Evoke has been designed to prioritise acoustic precision, which means a tonal signature similar to that of studio monitors. This translates into a thunderous sub-bass impact that maintains midrange neutrality for accurate tonality on instruments and vocals. It’s the closest thing to a physical studio monitor with subwoofer in a headphone design.» For the mids and treble, specific genuine Knowles BA drivers are used. The capsules are 3D printed using European medical grade resin, used for hearing aids. After printing, each capsule is matched, sanded, polished and finished by hand. The cable used consists of 4 strands of OFC copper, silver plated, uses 2Pin 0.78mm connections and a 3.5mm SE plug. Let’s take a look at the rest of this model’s goodness in the following review.
- Driver Type: 1DDD (10mm) + 1BA for midrange + 1BA for treble.
- Frequency Response: 20Hz – 44kHz.
- Sensitivity: 108dB.
- Impedance: 15 Ω.
- 4-strand OFC silver-plated copper cable.
- Jack Connector: 3.5mm SE gold plated.
- Capsule Connection Type: 2Pin 0.78mm gold plated.
Like the previous model, the KiiBOOM Evoke comes in a fairly large box, sized 189x147x86mm. Its colours move in the range of pinks, blues and purples. On the main side is the capsules’ drawing, in its outline of white lines. This representation is not the Evoke, exactly. The brand name and model name is highlighted in large, white at the top, also in white. There is a small description of the contents on a label on the same background, in the lower left corner. On the back face is what could be the brand’s mascot, an owl with headphones on a skateboard/keyboard. A brief specification and other branding can also be read. The box is made of thick cardboard that opens like a chest. Inside is a huge zippered case, protected with foam. It has metal brand lettering on the bottom. Inside are the IEMS and the silicone tips. The box is very large and the interior layout is not usable for storing the IEMS with a DAP or something similar. I think the internal shape makes the case not very useful. The contents are minimal:
- The two KiiBOOM Evoke capsules.
- One 4-strand silver-plated OFC copper cable.
- Three pairs of silicone tips, sizes SxMxL.
- A huge zippered case.
Each capsule is protected by a transparent plastic zip bag. The silicone tips also come in a separate zip bag.
The cable exceeds expectations, but they only have a 3.5mm SE plug option. Again, the case is of little use due to its large size and interior design. And only one set of silicone tips is insufficient, considering that this is a more expensive model than the previous one.
There are three different colours to choose from. The colour of this review is Emerald, which retails for $199. There are also two other colours to choose from: Turquoise and Jacinth, which are priced at a lower price of $169.
Construction and Design
The capsules of the KiiBOOM Evoke are made of European medical grade resin, 3D printed, sanded, polished and finished by hand. The model in this review is the Emerald, whose outer plate is made of a mixture of crinkled gold foil and a kind of emerald green stone with black veins. Admittedly, the face is a real eye-catcher. On the right capsule is the brand logo, in shiny silver lettering. There is nothing else on the left capsule. The shape is semi-custom and the outer face resembles the African continent, but with a narrower, slimmer lower half. The profile is relatively thick, black, smooth, polished and shiny, moulded to fit human morphology. On the upper face of the rim is a hole covered with a metal grille. On the adjacent face is the 2Pin 0.78mm connection, fully recessed in the capsule, inside a translucent rigid plastic plate. The inner side has the classic protrusion on the edge. The model name can be read on it in gold lettering. There is a more pronounced valley in the centre down to the projected base of the nozzles. In it are inserted the metal mouthpieces, the lower diameter of which is 5.4mm, while the rim is 6.3mm in diameter. The length is 4.1mm. A dense grid protects the interior.
The metal parts of the cable are the same as those of the Allure cable, except for the pin, which is a metal ring with two holes. The sleeve of the gold-plated 3.5mm SE plug is metallic and hexagonal. It has a slit in the first third and a grub screw to secure the cable inside. The brand name can be read on one side. The splitter piece is similar, but smaller. It has guides on the ear and the 2Pin connectors are metal cylinders, with a ring as an indentation. The 2Pins are external and come out of a black rectangular piece of plastic.
The cable consists of 4 coiled strands of silver plated OFC copper. It has a very attractive shiny milky colour. It is extremely docile and soft, handles with excellent ease, can be bent very easily and has no tendency to get twisted into shape. It is a pity that such a good looking and handling cable does not have a balanced option.
The Evoke Emerald model is very beautiful, attractive and eye-catching. The crinkled gold foils are shimmering and together with the emerald green they form a very suggestive, almost seductive combination. The semi-custom shape in shiny black resin and the silver cable do the rest.
Adjustment and Ergonomics
The semi-custom shape is an absolute winner here. The profile of the capsules fit me very precisely and the moulded rim helps in this respect. The top protrusion does not bother at all and helps to enhance the perfect fit in my ears. The mouthpiece may be a little thick for a medium insertion, although its projection might help in this regard. In my case, the fit is superficial, using my big silicone home-made tips, with a big core and a foam-filled interior. With them, as usual, I get a perfect seal, a precise, durable and occlusive fit, which allows the best of the bass to be extracted by the expansion of the foam inside my ear canal. The details, mids and highs are also enhanced by the wide core of the tips and the proximity of the mouthpiece to the outside of the tips. It is clear that this type of large, home-made hybrid tips tries to combine the best of both worlds, foam and silicone, to achieve the best fit, greater isolation, a higher occlusive capacity that guarantees a more physical and punchy bass, as well as an open, clear and detailed sound, thanks to the large inner diameter of the tips. The design of the Evoke capsules allows to enhance the use of these tips, obtaining a very full sound, as well as a firm, fixed, non-rotating, durable and comfortable fit for hours.
You could say that the KiiBOOM Evoke have a decreasing W profile, where the first two peaks are pronounced and the last one is more recessed, almost flat. There is a good amount of energy in the sub-bass and in the beginning of the mid-highs, while the treble gradually decays to offer a slight sparkle of air. The result is an energetic IEMS in the first two phases, being soft in the third. But there is enough initial sparkle not to be considered warm, dark or anything like that. There is enough excitement in the lows and mids to lift the sound, then show control in the highs.
I’ve enjoyed the KiiBOOM Evoke for weeks now, but I’ve also been alternating them with two bass monsters, the Hidizs MS5 and the 7Hz Legato. That has caused my enthusiasm for bass to grow, although it has minimised the impact of the Evoke’s lower range, but only in presence. As a first impression, the Evoke may seem powerful in bass, if compared from a neutral point of view, it is. The bass of these IEMS start from very low and present a good level of energy on the kick drum, providing a very pleasant, yet powerful, physical sensation. In the very low frequency pure tone test the result was stellar, assuming great technical ability mixed with unusual realism. The lower LFOs are clearly sensory, virtually inaudible but full of energy, a testament to the realism and naturalness of their execution. As the hertz advance, the Evoke’s skill, dexterity and performance are exemplary, offering a physical, vigorous, yet fast and dynamic bass. In raw, unfiltered passages it moves like a fish in water and is able to draw several bass lines without mixing them, colouring them or creating confusion between them. It maintains definition in all of them and is able to generate very well layered layers thanks to its excellent resolution. It is clear that the Evoke has plenty of definition and resolution, but it also has speed and a fast decay. In addition, the bass is very clean, does not mix with the mids and the driver division is perfect. Really, one is able to notice how the drivers work separately, with no musical difference or distance between the bass, mids and treble. In this respect, the musical cohesion is very good, but the frequency division works to ensure the best specialisation of each driver in its own performance.
As a good technical driver, texture is present, but it is medium-grained, overcoming a degree of bland smoothness that would lower its appeal and also its note. Fortunately, this is not the case and the Evoke is able to embellish the bass lines with a pleasant, slightly marked roughness that is not rough or abrupt. The result is in line with what the Evoke is all about, a blend of power, skill, naturalness and realism.
Thanks to the excellent feeling of frequency division and good integration, the mids sound completely clean and free of bleed. On the one hand, the sub-bass oriented tuning helps this situation, but the BA driver dedicated to the mids also helps in this respect. However, I would not like to appeal to the pejorative sense of BA timbre, because in this case that is not the situation. It is true that the sonority of the mids is close to technical splendour, very clear and transparent, but this does not have to be at odds with musicality. On the contrary, the midrange is luminous, broad, rich and very detailed. But also very pleasant and harmonious. But I want to make it clear: the Evoke meets my requirements in the midrange in both technical and analytical aspects, without being cold or soulless. There is a clear ability to maximise resolution and definition, something I really appreciate and look for in both sources and IEMS. And here it comes across naturally and unabashedly. The Evoke exudes technical skill and musicality in equal measure. However, they are not midcentric IEMS. Even their mid-range, especially in their first half, is not very full or dense. Indeed, in contrast to other, warmer IEMS, the first mids are kept at a distance, full of cleanliness and transparency, but never sounding dense or oppressive. The W tuning frees this early part from a more prominent presence, but places them at a distance where they are never missed. Likewise, they are able to maintain enough energy and strength to stand out on their own. The male voices are not a marvel of body or physicality, but their articulation, speed and dexterity, as well as their ornamental richness, are excellent. This ability shines through in the female voices, gaining volume from the thrust of the tuning, once past the central inflection point. In them the detail is doubled, the level of resolution and allied with the high level of transparency, a level of detail and nuance is achieved that appears and disappears with great speed and dynamism. This contrast between speed, detail and enormous clarity is very pleasantly surprising. Everything is explicit, but without sounding overloaded. The cleanliness is exuberant, as is the clarity and transparency. This minimises proximity to the listener, but the musicality and realism allow everything to sound uniform: details do not overlap the fundamentals, nuances do not overwhelm the voices, but the blend is harmonious and coherent. The result is a splendid mid-range, very explicit, though not in the foreground. Although, it is possible that there are instruments and situations, aided by the excitement of the upper-mids, that sound more projected and energetic. This can happen in higher female voices, guitars, and other instruments whose fundamentals are in this zone. This higher force can enhance certain elements, but without breaking up the musicality of the whole, although it can add a little spice to the mix, offering a more splashy, vivid and sparkling staging, but without going over the sibilance barrier or sounding too piercing. This more critical aspect is where the BA character comes to the fore. On the edge, its sharpest timbre can be felt, for in the face of such insightful separation, everything glistens, both the good and the bad. But fortunately, for skill and ability, there is much more good to enjoy than bad to suffer in these Evoke.
Although it has a treble-only BA driver, it has been tuned to be smooth. Focused on the first half of the treble, it helps to expand the midrange detail, while adding a point of smoothness and control to the overall package. I think KiiBOOM wanted to make the effort of restraint in the second half of the high end to avoid greater evils. As I say, the explicit character of the Evoke could have lost musicality if the treble were more energetic or elevated. The sparkle, the penetrating ability and their power could have adversely affected the ensemble. However, they have chosen to cut back around 8kHz, to gain smoothness and control. The treble might sound a little dry due to this cut in projection, but there is enough ability in the driver to still sound credible and detailed. It is also true that this clipping can affect the midrange, adding a sterile overtone, but it also helps the sound cleaner as it avoids unwanted sibilance and echoes.
On the other hand, the extension is not so limited and BAs always have a little heart and all these frequencies appear inside them, even if they are more attenuated. Last but not least, there is more than a fair amount of air, which safely adorns the high range of the Evoke.
The scene is wide, oval, with good stereo representation, depth and height. The sense of envelopment is not very high, nor is it too three-dimensional. It stands out much more for its explicit and analytical capability, as well as for its level of separation, clarity and transparency. The outstanding definition and resolving power are guilty of extending and widening the scene. It never sounds unreal, although it is not very vaporous or ethereal. There is plenty of light, air, distance, silence and, above all, separation. Clearly, this is a very detailed ensemble, with very fine, subtle, delicate notes, very well executed and defined. It is what I mean by an analytical, yet musical ensemble, highly enjoyable to my ears.
With such precision the image is so precise, it is easy to locate the elements on a macro level. The elements are presented coherently, well placed and well defined. Although perhaps some more physical or corporeal representation is missed.
We are going to make things difficult for the KiiBOOM Evoke with one of the best rated IEMS of recent times. This is the LetsShuoer S12, a famous planar magnetic model. Aesthetically, the capsules of the S12 are smaller and metallic. It is true that they have a particular shape, but they weigh very little and fit quite well. Most importantly, they are not fatiguing over the hours. The Evoke have that classic semi-custom shape, they are bigger and thicker. Their fit is more snug, but I understand that it can be tricky for those with smaller pinnae. At the limit of continuous use, the smaller size of the S12s works to their advantage. But for everyday use or light sport, the more durable and snug fit of the Evoke may work better.
When they were first released, the S12s were priced similarly to the Evoke in their most basic version. Now, they are at a knockdown price, also because of the Pro version of the same. I wanted to analyse the basic version because of its greater resemblance between FR.
The profile of the S12 can be categorised as a U-shaped, or almost W-shaped crescent. It has a larger lower range and presence in the bass-midrange, something that gives it that feeling of greater density, physicality and wall of sound. The treble is more extended, especially in that part where the Evoke’s are more washed out or softer. In general, planars have a wider frequency range. However, they require a greater amount of energy to sound at the same volume. The peaks in the S12s are higher than in the Evoke, which is noticeable in the bass, which is bigger, and in the treble, which has more energy, presence and extension. In a one-to-one comparison in bass and sub-bass, you can notice the different sonority of one and the other. The Evoke has that more classic dynamic driver timbre. But the S12s have a more prolonged energy, with a fuller, wider body and a bit more punch. It’s very deep and punchy. The Evoke is more concise, thinner, not as physical, but with less punch and good recovery. Both in the lows and in the mids, the S12s produce a feeling of a wall of sound, of density and sound full of energy and power. The Evoke is more delicate and analytical. There is more separation in them, also more silence and darkness between elements. So much power, body and density can be more tiring on long listens with the S12s, while the Evoke can be a bit more penetrating because they are sharper and more analytical. What is clear is that they are smoother in the treble than the S12s. The over-information in the high end of the LetShuoer can work against or for them, depending on the individual. However, the Evoke’s are more secure in this respect. The high-mids of the Evoke can be a bit louder, but that’s because of the lows’ lows’ offloading and cleansing towards the mids. The S12s can be a little warmer and generate a little more mid-bass punch. The Evoke shines where the S12s don’t and vice versa. If you’re looking for a very well defined, sharper, finer, more delicate, more skillful, more descriptive, detailed, higher resolution and critical sound, the Evoke is your IEMS. If you’re looking for something more relaxed in detail, more dense, full-bodied, a little warmer but more expansive, the S12s will be what you’re looking for. It’s not that the S12s don’t have detail, but in the Evoke they are more evident and finer, also clearer, more transparent, cleaner and more separated. In terms of scene, those are the differences: the S12s are more homogeneous, with a more frontal representation, but deeper and more cohesive. There is better laterality and a more precise presentation, as well as more height in the Evoke, though with less depth. Neither are prodigies in these respects, but I prefer the Evoke for its greater separation and projection in height, something that gives it a more three-dimensional and ethereal feel.
I can’t judge the KiiBOOM Evoke by the sum of my numerical ratings, because their overall performance is above and beyond them. First of all, KiiBOOM has to their credit one of my favourite IEMS in the $100 range and their second model is able to fill in the gaps or shortcomings that the Allure had. If KiiBOOM decides to make a superior third model that combines the virtues of the Evoke and the Allure, the result could be impressive. But, back to the Evoke, these are classic triple drivers (1DDD + 2BA) with a tuning in decreasing W, whose lows are pronounced at their lower limit, being very clean and precise. The mids are balanced, slightly thinner, but delicate, full of detail, definition and high resolution. Without a doubt, the Evoke is a set with a very high capacity for extracting detail and information. Yes, I consider them analytical, but I like them. They combine very good bass, relatively present, with a high descriptive capacity, while their treble is more relaxed, hence their decreasing W profile.
KiiBOOM repeats the presentation, again with a huge zippered case and only one set of tips, which is too small for the price. The cable is very good, perhaps among the best for its flexibility and brightness. A balanced option is missing, though. It’s a pity that minor aspects, such as the accessories, tarnish such a good and beautiful sound, as well as a beautiful design, which can be chosen in three different versions, two of them cheaper. And this is where the Evoke raises its price/performance ratio. For $169 for the Turquoise or Jacinth version, you get a sound whose value is superior to the whole, a real gem for its price.
Sources Used During the Analysis
- Aune X8 XVIII Magic DAC + EarMen ST-Amp.
- Aune Flamingo.
- EarMen Colibri.
- Hidizs AP80 PRO-X Red Copper LE.
- Earmen Angel.
- TempoTec Variations V6.
- xDuoo XD05 BAL.
- Xduoo Link2 BAL.