The KBEAR ST1 is the latest budget IEM from KBEAR. This single dynamic driver earphone has an old school vibe and is currently priced at $16.
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.
Simple, attractive design
Lightweight and comfortable
Frequency Response Range: 20 – 20000Hz
Packaging & Accessories
The KBEAR ST1 comes in a small square box with a black cardboard sleeve. There’s an image of the earphones on the front and a list of specifications on the back. Inside, the actual box is black with a circular transparent window. What you get inside is pretty much what you’d expect to find with a budget IEM: KBEAR ST1 earphones, 3 pairs of silicone eartips and a fabric carrying pouch.
Like a blast from the past, the KBEAR ST1 adopts the tried and true bullet shell shape. The shells are made from polished aluminium alloy. They have some knurling around the middle of the casing to improve grip and provide some visual interest.
Each piece has a colour-coded ring towards the back of the shell: blue and red for the left and right respectively. These make it easy to identify each side as well as adding visual flair. A single vent sits on the top just behind the coloured rings. Internally, the ST1 has a single 8.7mm dynamic driver with a polymer PET diaphragm.
The ST1 has a fixed cable with a black sheath and matching aluminium alloy Y-split, chin slider and straight 3.5mm plug. It handles fairly well and is resistant to tangling. However, it does have a fair amount of microphonics but fortunately, it can be mitigated by using the chin slider.
Bullet-shaped earphones are generally great for comfort and the ST1 fits that description. The shells are lightweight, coming in at just 5g each and the only part that touches your ears is the eartips. Passive noise isolation is pretty good too, as long as you have the right eartips and get a good fit.
The KBEAR ST1 has a V-shaped signature with boosted bass and treble levels. It has what I consider to be KBEAR’s typical level of clarity (i.e. above average) and good detail retrieval. ST1 has warm bass notes, a fairly neutral midrange and a lifted, somewhat forward treble.
The bass is boosted well above neutral but is not excessive. It’s a bass designed for engagement and fun but still has fairly good speed and definition (in the context of the price). Both the mid-bass and sub-bass are fairly level with each other, delivering plenty of punch and rumble.
The midrange is fairly neutral in tone, although it does inherit some warmth from the bass. Due to the emphasis on the bass and treble, the ST1’s mids are moderately recessed. The level of clarity is good, however, during busy segments, the sound can become congested as the mids are pushed back by the highs and lows.
Due to its clarity and near uncoloured tone, the ST1 midrange is especially good for acoustic instruments. Male vocals tend to blend in with the bass on bass-heavy music. Female vocals are clear but also lose some of their forwardness when the bass and treble ramp up. As a result of the lifted 6-7kHz range, vocals can become sibilant.
ST1’s treble is a mixed bag. For the most part, it’s reasonably calm except for the 6-7kHz area. When sounds happen to fall into that area it can cause sibilance and some sharpness. On certain songs or albums, the sound can become quite fatiguing if you’re sensitive to that region.
The soundstage has a small-medium size with a good, rounded structure. There’s not much layering in the depth: most sounds come from the centre image right in front of you. As a result, the positioning of instruments is either to the sides or directly in front of the headspace in a cross shape. Instrument separation is sufficient at this price point.
The KBEAR ST1 is an IEM with an old school shape and a fun v-shaped tuning. It has an engaging full-bodied bass and warm/bright presentation. It’s not a game-changer but at the low asking price, it’s likely to be an upgrade over those generic earphones that came with your phone.