This is my first earphone from KB Ear. Following the popularity of their KB06, F1, and Diamond, I got interested in their KB04, which reportedly offers some refinements over its predecessors. Let’s find out!
Packaging/Accessories: The KB04 arrives in a simple but sturdy and attractive packaging. Black and green dominate the color scheme, with white lettering. Mine is the non-mic version. Six pairs of tips and one shirt clip were supplied.
Build Quality: The KB04 is made of polished die cast alloy. Very impressive for this price range. The fit and finish is excellent. The cable is thin but is very supple with almost zero microphonic. The 2-pin connector snaps in positively, and they’re best left plugged in, in my opinion. There is very little to hold on to if you want to remove them. Going down, there is a rubber chin slider that actually holds itself therefore making it very effective. At the other end is the L-shaped plug with gold plated contacts.
Fit and Comfort: The KB04 is meant to be worn over the ear. As you can see below, the tips have different shapes. The black tips are umbrella-shaped, while the grey ones are more of ‘pitted olive’-shaped. I find the medium grey tips and the large black tips equally comfortable. The factory-supplied tips are nicely made. Isolation is very good, and noise leak is minimal. I feel the all-metal construction is contributing to the great noise blocking if this IEM.
Listening Preferences: I listen to anything from jazz, blues, world music, to classic rock and reggae. Martin Miller Band, Chrisye, Steely Dan, Kings of Convenience, Queen, Emi Fujita, Michael Franks, Bruno Mars, and others lent their music for this review.
Sources: Spotify and YouTube HD via 2016 iPad Pro to represent portable setup. FLAC, WAV, and 320kbps MP3 with Vox player on a 2011 MacBook Pro and Burson Playmate to represent desktop setup for scalability.
Tuning/Sound Signature: With the KB04, one cannot address the matter of sound signature without addressing the ear tips. The two style of tips change the sound quite considerably. In general, the black umbrellas bring what I perceive as the more ‘neutral’ tuning with a slight bass boost. Meanwhile the grey olives brings a V-shape sound signature, with a little bit more bass boost to give it a ‘fun’ flavor. My music genres are better suited with the black umbrella tips, therefore this review is based on my impressions with the large black umbrella tips. The overall frequency response is smooth with no annoying peaks. You can enjoy two different tunings just by changing tips, that’s a win in my book!
Soundstage and Imaging: Soundstage on the KB04 is above average for a budget IEM. On good live recording tracks, the KB04 renders a semi circular stage in front and around your head. It definitely extends beyond your left and right ears. Even intimate recordings feel more open and airy. I love it. Instruments are placed firmly, and stereo effects such as panning is rendered nicely by the KB04. I can say that soundstage and imaging is one of the strong suit of KB04.
Lows: The lows on the KB04 is thick and plentiful. It extends to the sub-bass territory, without bleeding much to the lower mids. Running bass lines are rendered effortlessly. Kick drums and electric bass are also rendered with satisfying punch that makes you tap your foot with the rhythm of the music.
Mids: Midrange on the KB04 is neutral and rather laid back, in my opinion. Vocals are taking a step back, and forms a wide, slightly diffused image. Could it be the crossover point of the DD and the BA? Perhaps. Having said that, there is good clarity and detail in the midrange. They reveal layers of instruments within the midrange, which helps you to appreciate multi-instrumental music. Electric guitar has crunch and bite that will surely satisfy any rock and blues lovers.
Highs: The highs on the KB04 can be described as smooth and sweet. It has enough detail to be lively, but never harsh. It has good detail and its timbre is quite natural, which is commendable for a budget balanced armature handling the highs. It is not prone to sibilance nor does it have sharp peaks.
Scalability: Despite the low impedance and high sensitivity, they beg to be driven with a lot of gusto. Please don’t do them the disservice by plugging them to your mobile phones and then expecting them to shine. Feed them with clean, hi-res files via a good DAC and a decent amp, they’ll return the favor in spades. Trust me on this one.
Conclusion: I can easily recommend the KB04. It offers a more mature sound signature compared to the majority of IEM in its price range. It is well built, comfortable to wear, and offers a variety of tuning with some ear tips rolling. It does girl-and-a-guitar and your classic jazz trio beautifully, but multi-instrument, high-paced music is where the KB04 truly excels. Take it a step further and feed the KB04 with clean, high-amplitude signal, and you will be pleasantly surprised.
Note: This unit was purchased from AK Audio Store in AliExpress. I received some discount on this purchase, in exchange of this review. With that said, I am not affiliated with the manufacturer or distributor of this product, nor will I receive any commission if you purchase anything from the AK Audio Store. The above is my honest personal opinion, and subject to change as my knowledge, experience, and associated equipment grow. Please feel free to comment with any input or question. Thank you for reading!