Despite being a newcomer, KBEar released the Diamond with a solid shell, premium cable and astonishing sonic quality; it successfully lifted the benchmark for entry-level IEMs.
KBEar is a relatively new IEM manufacturer from China. There is limited information available regarding this young company. Adapting the concept which Toyota adopted in releasing luxury cars with the name of Lexus, KBEar has a luxury IEM division too, named TRI. KBEar is focusing on the entry level IEMs and cables while TRI is focusing on higher range models.
Despite being a young company, KBEar is ambitious to dominate the market through various approaches such as developing a luxury division. The popularity is increasing exponentially on forums like Head-Fi.
One of the most popular models released by KBEar is the Diamond, or i1. There are twelve reviews on Head-Fi alone and there are more reviews on individual review sites. Most of the reviews are positive. This tempted me, as a reviewer, to visit this well-received entry-level IEM.
Will KBEar Diamond win my heart alongside the other reviewers’?
- »Premium build quality for shell
- »Above average isolation
- »Deep and well-controlled sub-bass
- »Spacious mids
- »Natural and accurate timbre
- »High quality accessories
- »Insufficient air in the highs
- »Bass quantity might be too much, causing the soundstage to be slightly narrower on x-axis.
The Diamond comes in a rectangular black box with a gold KBEar logo printed on top – it looks luxurious in this color combination. On the side of the box, there’s an inexisting website printed. Users can find the technical specifications from the back of the box.
Opening the box, the Diamond presents itself with 2 pairs of foam ear tips and a leather hard case. Remaining accessories such as stock cable and silicone eartips are stored in the faux leather case.
Here are the accessories included in the box:
- 8 core silver-plated cable and velcro cable tie
- 3 sets of grey silicone ear tips with red bore S, M, L
- 3 sets of black wide bore silicone eartips S, M, L
- 2 sets of foam eartips, 1 white, 1 black
- Faux leather case with magnetic closure
- Instruction manual.
- Nominal impedance: 16 Ohm
- Frequency response: 20Hz – 20KHz
- Sensitivity: 102 dB/mW
- Driver diameter: 8.5mm
- Diaphragm material: Diamond-Like Carbon (DLC) coated PET
- Total Harmonic Distortion: <1%
- Shell material: Aluminum alloy
When I first received the Diamond, my first impression of the build was solid and heavy. The shell is made of aluminum alloy. The surface is smooth and well treated. I find that the shell could be a little too huge for those enthusiasts with smaller ears. The faceplate has a carbon fibre pattern, with KBEar logo printed. The overall physical appearance is classy.
Moving to the top of the shell, Diamond is using a recessed 0.78mm 2-pin. This connector is widely used in the market so this eases the cable rolling process. The nozzle is made of metal. The length is slightly longer and wider. This helps to provide a deep insertion and better passive noise cancellation.
The provided stock cable is a 8 core braided silver plated copper (SPC) cable, with 3.5mm unbalanced jack terminated. The cable is soft and supple. It doesn’t create significant microphonics while I’m moving with Diamond on. This cable helps Diamond to stand out from the Chi-Fi crowd – a lot of Chi-Fi IEMs are using sub-par stock cable to maximize the profit margin.
Fit and Isolation
The fitting of Diamond is above average because of its longer nozzle. It provides a deeper insertion for me. I have a pair of relatively big ears so the large shell does not pose any problem to me in terms of fitting. However, as I mentioned in the previous section, for those enthusiasts with smaller ears, the fitting might be a problem.
Due to circuit breaker implementation in Singapore, I didn’t have a chance to try the passive noise cancellation of Diamond. Based on the fit and insertion, I strongly believe it’s a suitable candidate as my daily commuting partner. I should be able to immerse myself in the sea of music during commuting.
To analyse the sound of the Diamond, continuous playback has been done for 100 hours to ensure the driver and cable are properly burned in. The following analysis is done based on the pairing of Lotoo Paw 5000 mk II and Diamond with original cable. No upgrade cable was used to ensure the sound analysis is accurate.
Rated at 16 Ohms for impedance and 102db for sensitivity, the Diamond can be easily driven with smartphones or entry level digital audio player (DAPs). However, due to the nature of the dynamic driver, a more powerful source is always welcomed. With more power, the dynamic driver tends to deliver a more full-bodied and richer presentation, which is more favorable.
Diamond has a warm and V-shaped sound signature. The presentation has good musicality. There is more emphasis put in the lows and highs. The mids are slightly recessed. I will elaborate more on these in the upcoming section. The warm signature makes Diamond a comfortable pair of IEMs to listen to.
The soundstage of Diamond is deeper in the Y-axis as compared to the X-axis, resulting in an oval shaped headroom. In the X-axis, the positioning of each frequency spectrum is well-positioned, neither too forward nor recessed. The imaging and separation is above average. No congestion experienced within the reviewing period.
The Diamond has good extension in the sub-bass region, creating good depth in the presentation. The sub-bass has a good amount of rumbles, which can fulfill the need of a bass-head audiophile. The sub-bass of Diamond has the greatest emphasis as compared to other frequency regions. I find the boost reduces the soundstage in terms of width, the notes are pushed too near to the audience.
The attack and decay of the bass are well-controlled. The speed is average speed of a typical dynamic driver – resulting in a full-bodied bass with the right amount of warmth. The mid-bass is slightly recessed, this minimizes the bleeding of bass to the mids. This is a good approach in tuning, especially for IEMs like Diamond with a huge amount of bass. The resolution is not compromised with the boost.
I particularly like the warm bass when listening to Jazz. The bass has a natural and accurate timbre, presenting instruments like saxophone precisely and lively. Listening to pop and rock, the rumbles from the sub-bass improve the musicality. It’s hard to stop yourself from stomping your feet with the beat. Diamond is a pair of fun and enjoyable IEMs in terms of bass.
As mentioned in the sound signature section, the Diamond has a V-shaped sound signature. The mids are recessed, as compared to the lows and highs. In terms of staging, it is slightly further from the audience. There are advantages for this tuning – the musicality is improved and listeners are unlikely to feel fatigue because of the overly shouty mids, like what I experienced with BLON BL05.
KBEar Diamond is definitely a pair of IEMs with more comfortable sonic presentation as compared to BLON BL05 because of the positioning of mid frequency.
Despite having a recessed mids and boosted bass, the mids are not being colored by the bass. The mids has a natural timbre. Positioned slightly backward, the mids have good space to exercise and flex, yielding a spacious and airy mids. The layering between mids and lows is done decently too, notes are delivered in a parallel manner – without congestion and collision.
If KBEar wishes to release an “improvised” version of Diamond, the first region to improve is definitely the highs. The highs don’t have sufficient air. It has a good amount of sparkles and presence. However, insufficient air and space in the highs eventually reduced the overall fidelity. I find the highs are stiff because of the lack of air.
The overall timbre of highs is still natural. The cymbals have a good sparkle. The positioning is between lows and mids, having a good amount of emphasis. Due to the warmth from the lows, the highs are well-balanced. It’s not fatiguing to listen to. Otherwise, the stiff highs might cause some dryness in the overall sonic presentation.
I would recommend that KBEar adopt a very “safe” tuning approach – boost the bass to improve the musicality, recess the mids to prevent coloration from the bass. These approaches can definitely win hearts from beginner listeners. To penetrate through the more matured listeners, there are room for improvements, especially in terms of highs. With the maturity in lows and mids tuning, I believe KBEar can definitely work harder on the highs.
TRN VX (USD$75)
The VX from TRN is powered by a single dynamic driver and six balanced armature (BA) drivers on each side. In terms of fitting, VX has a smaller form factor fits and sits better in my ears. It’s lighter as compared to Diamond too. The overall comfort in wearing is better with the VX.
VX has a leaner bass, compared to Diamond’s full-bodied and rich texture bass. For those who are looking for a pair of IEMs with more bass, Diamond will be a more suitable choice. VX has more emphasis in the mids and highs. More details are presented by VX. However, the musicality in Diamond is definitely a selling point when comparing VX, which sounds a little dry to me.
oBravo ERIB-8 (~USD$60)
Being the cheapest entry-level planar magnetic IEMs from oBravo, ERIB-8 has a slightly backward presentation, creating a large soundstage horizontally. In terms of depth, the 6mm dynamic driver enclosed in the IEMs seems to be weaker as compared to Diamond’s bombastic sub-bass rumbles.
Due to the advantage of planar magnetic drivers, ERIB-8’s highs are better extended and the presentation is more airy. The overall presentation wise, Diamond has a rich texture and better musicality as compared to ERIB-8. Despite it being an entry-level planar magnetic IEMs, it is a challenge to drive ERIB-8 properly. Diamond will be a better choice because of its driverability.
BLON BL05 (USD$42)
BLON BL05 is powered by BLON 2nd Generation CNT Dynamic Driver. It can be easily driven too – just like Diamond. The sound signature of BL05 is a V-shape too, but more neutral as compared to Diamond. Compared to Diamond, BL05 has a better detail presentation. In terms of soundstage, Diamond is handling it better, by a huge margin.
It’s more comfortable to listen to Diamond. The presentation is distanced farther away and positioning is more accurate. Diamond has a similar amount of bass compared to BL05. However, the decays and attacks are slower for Diamond, making the presentation warmer. The highs of Diamond are more polite while BL05’s are soaring.
In terms of fitting – with correct ear tips, the isolation for both models are above average. Good passive noise cancellation is offered by both models. Diamond has a larger and heavier shell. This could be a deal breaker for those who have smaller ears. BL05 will be the winner here.
The solid shell, premium stock cable and high-quality accessories such as the faux leather case make Diamond to be special in the price range of USD$100. In terms of sonic quality, Diamond has a well-received sound signature with room for improvements, especially in the highs. This could be the direction for Diamond to move to in their next release.
KBEar’s Diamond is retailing at USD$80. You can purchase it from HiFiGo.
I am looking forward to seeing more outstanding releases from KBEar. As a new company, they really understand what enthusiasts want. Well done on the release of Diamond, you won my heart!