The shells are made from aviation-grade aluminium alloy. The body has a polished gold finish and the faceplates are a mix of gold and blue. In the hand, the shells feel good with a bit of heft suggesting a robust construction.
There are 2 vents: one near the base of the nozzle and another just in front of the 2-pin sockets. The nozzles have a protective mesh cover and a solid lip that holds eartips on securely.
Included with the KAI is a silver-plated oxygen-free copper cable. The cable’s components are all gold, matching the colour of the shells. It handles fairly well but the aggressively curved ear hooks can be quite frustrating as they tend to get tangled easily.
The KAI has a warm tonality. It’s loosely based on the Harman target but has extra bass emphasis and a smoothed treble. As such, KAI isn’t an especially detailed or dynamic IEM but it’s one that you can listen to for prolonged periods of time without getting fatigued.
KAI elevates the sub-bass region considerably. This means it has plenty of rumble down low which is gratifying for those big bass drops. The mid-bass is less emphasized but still boosted above neutral. As a result, there’s ample punch and impact in kick drums and bass guitars have a pleasing full hum.
The midrange is warm and inviting. Some of the upper bass bleeds into the lower mids giving them fullness and body. You hear more of a guitar’s body than the strings and it’s the same with violins and other string instruments.
The warm air permeating the mids means that they’re not the cleanest or most detailed. But they’re inviting and cozy, with rich vocals loaded with emotion. These might not be the cleanest mids but they’ll have you singing along with your favourite songs every time.
KAI’s clarity comes more from the upper midrange than the treble. As a result, the level of detail is fairly moderate yet there’s enough presence to ensure the overall tone is warm but not dark.
The treble sounds a bit confined as opposed to being spacious and airy. However, it has a pleasing, warm tone and there’s no sibilance. The upper treble is more laid back and although not the most articulate, it’s adequate and suits the overall tuning well.
Soundstage and Technicalities
KAI’s soundstage is average in size and slightly wider than it is deep. The imaging is somewhat vague, a result of the relaxed upper treble and elevated bass. Instrument separation is decent but detail retrieval is a bit lower than expected. However, the overall technical performance is fine for something in this price range.
Tin HiFi T3 Plus
The Tin HiFi T3 Plus (review here) has acrylic shells but they look every bit as premium as the KAI. T3 Plus has a faster, tighter bass with less thickness and better definition. KAI has more sub-bass presence and rumble.
Vocals (especially males) are more articulate but not as smooth on the T3 Plus. However, T3 Plus’ instrument separation and spacing are better.
The T3 Plus has a clearer and more precise upper treble, giving it more air and better imaging. It also has a larger soundstage compared to the KAI. Which one is better will depend on personal preference but I personally prefer the T3 Plus.
The Moondrop Aria (review here) has a leaner overall presentation. It has slightly less sub-bass but a similarly full midrange. Aria’s bass is faster and tighter than the KAI albeit with less impact.
The extra clarity in Aria’s midrange comes from its added core treble presence. As a result, Aria’s mids are cleaner and have added vocal presence.
Even though the Aria is known for its rolled-off treble, it has more core and upper treble than the KAI which has a warmer, thicker tonality. Aria’s soundstage is more organized with better imaging.
The TRI x HBB KAI is a solid all-rounder IEM with a good build and warm character. In addition, it comes with a good bundle of accessories and has a unique design. It might not have the most detailed sound but it’s one that will have you tapping your feet and singing along to the music. I’d recommend these to anyone looking for an engaging but non-fatiguing daily driver.