Hot on the heels of their popular Diamond in-ear monitor, Chinese manufacturer KBEAR are back with another budget earphone model. This one is called the KBEAR KB04 and it will be the subject of our review today. The KB04 is a dual-driver hybrid with one dynamic driver and one balanced armature driver. Let’s see how it performs.
Disclaimer: This sample was provided for the purpose of an honest review. All observations and opinions here are my own based on my experience with the product.
KBEAR KB04 Review
- Sturdy construction
- Detachable cable with recessed 2-pin connectors
- Clarity and detail
- Value for money
- Occasional harshness and sibilance
Package and Accessories
A familiar-looking box is the delivery system for the KB04. It’s the same style box that some of KBEAR’s other budget models came in. It’s black with green trim and an image of the earphones on the front and specifications on the back. Inside is the good old black foam insert we all know and love, holding the earpieces and a couple of pairs of black silicone eartips. Let’s take a look at the box contents then shall we?
- KBEAR KB04 earphones
- Detachable 2-pin 3.5mm cable
- Shirt clip
- 3 pairs of black silicone eartips
- 3 pairs of grey silicone eartips
Build and Design
Die-cast zinc-alloy shells are the order of the day for the KB04. The design might look familiar, as it seems to be inspired by one or more recent iem models (Tin Hifi P1 and Shanling ME500). The electroplated surface of the housings is polished to a mirror finish.
There are 2 pinhole vents on the inner side of the shell, one near the L and R marking and another near the base of the nozzle. A nice bit of weight generally feels good in the hand and it’s the same with the KB04. They’re not heavy but they feel substantial and durable.
On the top side is a recessed 2-pin connector socket and as per usual, a metal grille covering the nozzle opening to keep your funky earwax out.
Comfort and Noise Isolation
For my ears, I find the KB04 to be very comfortable. The inner side of the housings has a similar form as the KBEAR Diamond which also fit my ears pretty nicely. As is the norm, all the provided eartips were constructed for large hamsters making them all far too small for my ears. Thankfully, I have a large cache of personal tips on hand so I was easily able to get a good seal. Noise isolation is about average, neither particularly good or bad – meaning they’re good enough for most normal environments including commuting.
Included in the package is a generic detachable 2-pin cable. It’s a twisted 4-core SPC type with glossy black insulation. It’s a pretty decent cable overall and has good handling with very minimal microphonics.
Sources used for testing include the Shanling M5s and FiiO M6. The KB04 is an efficient iem and is thus very easy to drive. It works just fine straight from a smartphone and does not require any additional amplification.
The KB04 has a fairly typical sound signature and one that every manufacturer seems to be trying to emulate in recent times. It’s slightly V-shaped with a boosted but linear bass response, slightly recessed midrange and lifted upper midrange and treble. It has a lively sound that focuses on dynamics and clarity with a top end aimed at revealing more detail.
Boosted north of neutral but still reasonably tame, the KB04’s bass is a good mix of tightness and punchiness. The transition from mid-bass to sub-bass is quite linear which gives it an authoritative and powerful sensation without causing any mid-bass bloat.
Kick drums have a nicely defined leading edge and a fairly fast attack while a natural decay gives it a satisfying weight. In GoGo Penguin’s “Atomised”, the double bass is full-bodied, textured and you can clearly hear the vibration of the strings. At the same time, the song’s thick kick drum hits with rigorous impact but doesn’t cloud up the lower mids.
The immediate impression one gets from the mids is of clarity and a pleasing tone. It’s quite rare to find such a smoothly presented yet clean midrange at this price point and it’s something the KB04 can be commended for. Vocals and instruments have good density and body that sounds quite natural if not entirely accurate.
Listening to Frederick Delius’ “On Hearing The First Cuckoo In Spring” (London Philharmonic Orchestra) the strings are a touch too full for absolute realism. But it gives them a slightly romanticized sound which one could argue is necessary alongside the KB04’s lifted treble band.
Here is where the KB04 treads a fine line between impressing and annoying. Fortunately, it almost always lands on the impressing side of said line. However, there is occasionally some sibilance and sharpness, particularly in the attack of certain percussion instruments. One example is The Pineapple Thief’s “No Man’s Land” where the cymbals in the crescendo (from 3:29) sound tizzy and are painful to my ears with the KB04.
Another one I struggled with was Scarface’s “Game Over”, where the snare’s attack is overly sharp, most likely from the 5kHz peak. Admittedly this is partly due to the way the song is mastered but it’s a song I grapple getting through with these earphones. Fortunately, the occasions when this happens are few and far between so, for the most part, the treble is well extended and detailed with a good amount of airiness.
The soundstage is moderate in dimensions. It has more width than depth but having said that, it does have a decent sense of depth to it. There is a surprising amount of instrument separation for a budget hybrid iem despite the thickness in the low end and fullness of the midrange.
BLON BL-03 ($26 USD)
The BLON BL-03 (review here) is a single CNT (carbon nanotube) dynamic driver iem. It seems to me (just speculation) that the KB04’s sound was at least partly modelled on the BL-03 and the added treble emphasis was an attempt to make an improved version of it.
In terms of sub-bass and mid-bass, both iems are close in quantity. However, the KB04 mid-bass has a tighter snap with a cleaner attack. This comes from the KB04’s 3kHz elevation.
The BLON’s core midrange is more forward but lacks the clarity of the KB04. However, the BL-03 sounds less forced and more natural throughout the midrange. In addition, it’s more cohesive and less clinical sounding.
The BLON has a more subdued upper midrange and treble. This gives it less clarity but on the plus side, it doesn’t have any of the sharpness or sibilance that the KB04 exhibits. In terms of soundstage, both are similar in dimensions but the BLON sounds more natural, while the KB04 has superior instrument separation.
KZ ZS10 Pro ($33)
The ZS10 Pro (review here) is a 5-driver (1DD+4BA) hybrid iem. It has a bold sound that is upfront across the entire spectrum and makes for an exciting listening experience. The ZS10 Pro has more bass presence plus a visceral sub-bass rumble. This adds extra body to the ZS10 Pro’s presentation and a slightly warmer tonality.
The midrange has more fullness and it’s more forward in the mix, along with the bass. As a result, the treble doesn’t feel as bright, as there are more lows and core midrange to act as a counterbalance. Despite the fuller midrange on the ZS10 Pro, the extra drivers are able to work together to maintain a similar level of resolution and separation as the KB04.
It’s in the treble where these 2 iems most closely resemble each other. As such, the ZS10 Pro can also exhibit some sharpness and sibilance every now and then. But because of its more robust low end, the contrast is not as stark as it is on the KBEAR.
It has been quite a big start to the year for KBEAR. First, they had success with their Diamond and Knight models and I would consider the KBEAR KB04 a good one as well. It has a very clean and resolving sound with ample detail and above-average instrument separation. Furthermore, it has metal housings and good build quality. Where it really shines is in its value and at just $26 it’s great value for money.
- Impedance: 16Ω±10%
- Earphone sensitivity: 104db±3db
- Frequency response range:20Hz-40KHz
- Plug Type: 3.5mm L Bending
- Cable: silver-plated copper
- Cable Length: 120±5cm
- Colour: gunmetal
- Earphone connector: 0.78mm Pin connector
- Driver unit: 1BA+1DD