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BQEYZ K2 (2+2 hybrid) in-ear monitor

Rating:
4.5/5,
  1. DocHoliday
    Southern Comfort...for $50+/-
    Written by DocHoliday
    Published Feb 18, 2019
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Very comfortable,
    Great build quality
    Natural sound
    Relatively inexpensive
    Good cable
    Smooth and fatigue-free sound signature
    Cons - Other than bass texture not much to complain about for $50.
    HTB19XJ5gMZC2uNjSZFnq6yxZpXak.jpg_640x640q90-1.jpg

    My sincere thanks to Elle Zhou at BQEYZ for reaching out to get my feedback on the BQEYZ product line.

    Full disclosure:
    I've no affiliation with BQEYZ and receive no remuneration for the review other than retaining the review sample.

    The BQEYZ K2 and KC2 arrived on my doorstep in one package, side by side. Before receiving them I had determined that I would make a concerted effort to put my own particular preferences and biases aside in order to give each model its due attention and fair assessment. I reassured myself that I would approach the task objectively; I would check my ego and habitual inclinations at the door. At least, these were my intentions before hearing either the K2 or KC2.

    About me:
    I tend to prefer a relatively neutral sound signature with a slight emphasis in both bass and lower treble, which is basically a mild "U" shaped sound signature where midrange frequencies are left intact and unaffected. I find that an absolute neutral sound signature usually lacks enough energy for the genres I enjoy most, which are Classic Trance and Progressive (early Tiesto, Markus Schulz, Otello, DT8 Project), Chill Out, Breakbeat (Hybrid & Burufunk Remixes) and 80's & 90's (New Order, Secession, The Cure, Siouxie & The Banshees, Depeche Mode). Sure I listen to Verve Remixed, Sade, Bach, Ella Fitzgerald and everything in between, but as of late the bulk of my listening pleasure is focused on the aforementioned genres.

    About IEMs:
    Take note when you read IEM reviews that when the reviewer gives his/her opinion regarding the sound that there are many factors that shape the final sound an IEM delivers to one's ear.

    Those factors include:
    1 - Shape & size of reviewer's ear canals. (shallow/deep, wide/narrow)
    2 - Shape & size of eartips (round/cone, single, double or triple flange)
    3 - Materials of eartips (silicone/foam)
    4 - Shape of IEM (and/or angle of nozzle) can cause fitment issues for some.
    5 - Source (quality of DAC in smartphone, laptop, digital audio player)
    6 - Source (power rating) is it amplified/unamplified.
    7 - The IEM itself (driver flex/trapping air in canal causing muffled sound.
    8 - The Reviewers ability to hear all frequency ranges (age plays a factor).

    Most consumers are unaware of how much weight each of these factors hold in rendering a final verdict. This is why there is such a wide variance in not only ratings, but the description of an IEMs sound. An unaware consumer purchases a perfectly fine IEM but has difficulty keeping the IEM in the ear or he/she does not satisfactorily seal the ear canal with the included silicone eartips (this is a common occurrence) and the consumer summarily dismisses the IEM as sub par. Another consumer purchases the same IEM but experiences a perfect fit and seal and has nothing but praise for the same IEM. Sealing the ear canals AND HAVING THE EARTIP FIRMLY AFFIXED to the IEM nozzle is the only proper way to use in-ear monitors. I can think of no audio equipment that is subjected to such praise or ridicule as the in-ear monitor. As if that's not enough, there is no "one-size-fits-all" when it comes to IEM eartips.

    Materials (silicone/foam) have different dampening effects on final sound.
    Shape of the eartips (olive-shaped, cone-shaped or other-shaped) can have different dampening effects on final sound based on how much space is between the IEM nozzle and your eardrum and how well the eartip has sealed the ear canal.
    The aperture of the eartip's opening (wide-bore/narrow-bore) will have dampening effects on the final sound.

    The easiest way for you to experience the different effects I am discussing is to take your current on-ear headphones or over-ear headphones, pick a song full of energy, put the earphones on and let them sit naturally over or on your ears. Listen to the music for two minutes. After two minutes, using your hands, slightly press the headphones closer to your eardrums. Notice the change in the sound. Is there more/less bass? Is there more/less treble? Did the vocals slightly slip forward/back?

    Consider that on-ear and over-ear headphones have a driver that sits approximately 1 1/2 inches to 2 inches from your eardrums and by pressing the headphones 1/4" closer to your eardrums the sound changed. Now consider that an IEM driver sits anywhere from 3/4" to 1/4" from your eardrums and the slightest changes (angle, depth, shape, material) can have up to three times more of an effect due to the proximity of the IEM to the eardrum.

    For this reason, I think it is wise to invest a nominal dollar amount on different eartips to find an eartip that works well for your particular ear's anatomy. This way you experience everything the earphone tuner intended for you to experience. Some IEM manufacturers supply multiple sizes (S/M/L) and/or materials (silicone/foam) of eartips to increase the odds that the consumer achieves a satisfactory seal, but even this is not foolproof. If this information holds any interest for you, there are a plethora of aftermarket eartip brands to look into, such as "JVC Spiral Dots", "Spinfits", "Comply Foam Eartips" or "Znari Foam Eartips", "Creative Aurvana" and others. If you really want to fine tune things, then you might find yourself doing what I do, which is scouring Amazon for inexpensive earphones that appear to have silicone eartips that have a shape that typically work well with my ear's anatomy.

    My Ears:
    You should also know a little bit about my ears since yours may differ. Below I have included two images. One image of an ear canal of typical length and the other image showing a more shallow ear canal. My ear canals resemble the more shallow of the two.

    10188260.png

    10188261.jpg

    Keep this in mind when reading this review. I have no scientific evidence to back this up but I'd bet that ear canal length can play a part when it comes to resonance hotspots.


    The BQEYZ K2:

    HTB1DOf8xcuYBuNkSmRyq6AA3pXat.jpg_640x640q90.jpg

    My BQEYZ journey began with two very similar sounding models, the KC2 and K2. I was determined to document all minor or major differences I could hear when comparing them. The BQEYZ K2, like the KC2, is a 2 balanced armature plus 2 dynamic driver configuration enclosed in sturdy but comfortable metal housings.

    My initial impression of the BQEYZ lineup was that most of the models looked a bit bulky and uncomfortable. Rest assured that I was mistaken. The K2 sits very comfortably in my outer ear. The K2's rounded corners place no pressure up, down, inside or out of my ears once I insert them. Yes, they do look as though they were chiseled from an aluminum billet but don't let the photo images scare you off; these are very comfortable in-ears.

    I Iike the high-end metal finish of the IEM but I'm not crazy about the somewhat pedestrian look of the 2-pin plastic connector. A more rectangular or square METAL housing for their connectors would compliment some of BQEYZ designs (K2 KC2, BQ3). There is NO ONE making square METAL housing for 2-pin connectors but there are IEMs that would benefit from such a design. In addition to BQEYZ's K2, KC2 and BQ3, the KZ BA10 and ZSA come to mind. Just a thought.

    The cable itself is fine; it's supple enough when you compare it to what is typically packaged with most $50+/- in-ears but the eartips leave a little something to be desired....for me, anyway.

    The 90° 3.5mm jack and "y-split" strain relief seem sturdy enough to sustain long-term abuse and BQEYZ was thoughtful enough to include a cable cinch.

    There was minimal effort employed with the packaging but really....who cares? You get basic eartips (S, M & L), a decent cable and great earphones....for $50+/-! A more premium cable and more eartips would be great but I think BQEYZ has no illusions about who their initial customers will be (the hobbyist). Many of us customize our IEMs with aftermarket cables and/or eartips. The hobbyist looks for an IEM that is well built and sounds great. Once we find said IEM at an acceptable price point we then upgrade the accessories at a nominal cost (starting with $1 eartips and/or $7 cables). For $75+/- one can obtain a great sounding yet personalized IEM. No, I won't he complaining about sparse packaging.


    Sound:

    20190123_121722-1 (0).jpg

    The eartips used for all IEMs mentioned are Tennmak "Whirlwinds" which are wide-bore eartips that keep the presentation as diffuse and open as possible.

    While reviewing the KC2 I routinely sampled the K2 for comparison purposes and, as stated in the KC2 review, I found that the K2 is essentially the same sound signature with a slight lift in the mid-bass region.

    The phrase "essentially the same sound signature" is easy to proclaim but the key word in the phrase to focus on is "essentially". I suppose the material point is how the "slight lift in the mid-bass" effects the overall presentation. Make no mistake, the presentation does differ.

    In essence, the K2 presentation is a slightly warmer and smoother KC2. The KC2 has a more neutral lower frequency presence which allows the midrange and treble to come forward and breathe a tad more. Midrange and treble are more vivid on the KC2. A picture is worth a thousand words so rather than ramble on for paragraphs this is what I am hearing:

    KC2
    BQEYZ KC2.png


    K2
    BQEYZ K2.png

    Note how the mid-bass lift effects the adjacent frequencies.


    The two areas that I am most critical of with in-ear monitors are the mid-bass region and the upper midrange region. I dislike mid-bass that oversteps reasonable boundaries. I suppose the "boundary" is in my head and is therefore subjective but, to my ears, too much mid-bass tends to reduce clarity and pilfer some of the "air" and "presence" in the higher frequencies and strident behavior in the upper midrange is simply too uncomfortable for long listening sessions. You'll likely have to keep the volume very low just to avoid any offensive behaviour. Fortunately, the K2 has been tuned properly, avoiding either of those "pitfalls".

    As stated in my KC2 review, my favorite Budget-Fi IEM for the last 18 months has been the KZ ZS6. I love it's airy and energetic nature. The ZS6's treble extension (10khz) is problematic for some folks, though I don't have an issue with it. Just be aware that my shallow ear canals may have something to do with my ability to tolerate the ZS6's treble extension. Your ears are likely completely different so insertion depth and resonance areas will differ as well.

    The K2 and ZS6 both sport a 2+2 configuration at the $50+/- price point and come with well-designed metal housings.

    K2
    HTB1SYpyFNSYBuNjSspjq6x73VXaI.jpg_640x640q90.jpg

    ZS6
    41hU+gLvkOL._AC_SY400_.jpg

    The three main areas that the K2 sound signature differs from the ZS6's sound signature are as follows:

    1) Soundstage depth
    2) Bass texture and impact
    3) Treble response

    ZS6 soundstage depth is deeper allowing more space between instruments.
    K2 soundstage depth is decent but of average depth.

    ZS6 bass texture has more body with slower decay which facilitates impact.
    K2 bass texture is more dry and clean with quicker attack and decay.

    ZS6 treble is extended to a fault and a "no-go" if you are treble-sensitive.
    K2 treble is well extended but slightly rolled off at the extremes for comfort.

    One could say that both IEMs take an "almost" analytical approach in their delivery but that would depend entirely on which other in-ear monitors you'd be comparing these two with. Both IEMs offer a great sense of detail but you'd find that the ZS6 and the K2 offer a more entertaining presentation if you compare either of them to some of the more neutral or even "balanced" in-ears at this particular price point.

    Let's move on.

    Bass:

    Despite the K2's slight lift in the mid-bass, the bass is clean and quick leaning more toward a dry presentation. The dry...ish mid-bass avoids bleeding in to the midrange which means the midrange avoids sounding congested. Vocals do have more presence on the KC2 but this K2 had more "toe-tapping" verve and punch when listening to The Police's "Roxanne".



    Similar to the KC2, the K2's sub-bass does roll off. A dry mid-bass lift with sub-bass roll off means the bass is well controlled. The trade-off, of course, is that the low frequency impact isn't as visceral as I prefer. Sarah McLachlan's "Ice (Dusted Mix) was more pleasing on the K2 (as opposed to the KC2) due to the additional mid-bass presence but what I appreciated even more was the K2's ability to lift mid-bass presence without smearing the transition into the midrange. That (mid-bass enhancement WITHOUT cluttering the lower midrange presentation) is a rarity at the $50+/- price point.



    Again, the main difference between the K2 and ZS6 lower frequency presentation comes down to bass impact. The ZS6 has a more wet and visceral god-smack type of impact whereas the K2 is determined to deliver a dryer/cleaner presentation. Both are sufficient but the deliveries are quite different.


    Midrange:

    Midrange timbre remains intact with good weight and density for both male and female vocals. Transparency and clarity remain mostly intact on recordings like Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car". The KC2 had a more forward midrange whereas the K2's vocals are a bit warmer, smoother and centered (neither forward nor recessed).



    To experience what I mean by transparency take a listen to these two different presentations of Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams". On the first recording all instruments sound completely natural. On the remastered recording you can hear how the master recording was "digitally enhanced" (i e. - splashy cymbals at the 2:57 mark and afterwards). Yes, the track does sound more dynamic but the question is on which of the two tracks do the instruments sound "more natural"? Listen to Mick Fleetwood on the drums very closely. One track sounds like a studio production and the other sounds like you are in the same venue with the members of the band. The dynamics of the remastered track are great because they breathe life into the track, but at what cost? Remastered doesn't necessarily mean better.

    Also, do take notice that with the K2 Stevie Nicks vocals remain on point (never recessed, never forward) on either recording.

    Dreams


    Dreams remastered


    In the end, the K2 exhibits zero strident behavior. The only caveat being the quality of the mastering of the recording as demonstrated above. Remastered, "digitized" ....whatever ...there are elements in the track that sound awful on a transparent sounding IEM like the K2.


    Treble:

    The K2 treble is very button-down reserved despite it's decent extension. This is ideal for avoiding fatigue and enjoying extended listening sessions. Like the KC2, the K2 effectively eliminates upper midrange stridency and lower treble pierce by scooping the troublesome area between 4500hz and approximately 11000hz. To my ears, drawing down this region too severely tends to temper the dynamics a bit giving the upper midrange a veil-like or dulling effect on vocals and higher-pitched stringed instruments. The K2 seems to deftly walk the tightrope by balancing timbre and presence with a smooth delivery. Given the choice I'll always vote for increased dynamics (for EDM) but this type of delivery is right up my alley for Bach, Vivaldi and other baroque masters. Violins, oboes and trumpets all sound alive and well-rendered with rich timbre and good presence.





    R-6886089-1428946831-2009.jpeg.jpg
    R-6886089-1428946839-2646.jpeg.jpg

    https://www.discogs.com/Vivaldi-The...Concerti-LEstro-Armonico-Op-3/release/6886089


    The sparkle present in the ZS6 is not present in the K2. That's good news for the treble-sensitive I suppose but I maintain my position that well-tamed upper frequencies could lend more realism to the overall sound signature. I do hope that the BQ3 will have that extra dose of sparkle and realism that the K2 is missing. As with ghe KC2, the "sparkle" of the bells/triangles in Toni Braxton's "He Wasn't Man Enough" were definitely missing. The percussion up top on Basement Jaxx's "Stay Close" did not have the sense of air I am used to. This is clearly due to the K2's treble roll off. A micro-detail junkie (me) will miss the sparkle and shimmer but the treble-sensitive listener (and most listeners) will be very happy with the K2's treble presentation






    Soundstage:

    Like the KC2, the K2 has a good sense of air along with its good ability to layer. Layering is good but it's mostly hindered by the KC2's average soundstage depth. More soundstage depth would give the KC2 a more dynamic presentation.

    Bottom line for the K2: decent width with average depth.

    Perhaps the BQEYZ BQ3 will improve on "soundstage depth" and dynamics with its reported "W" shaped sound signature. I'll be reviewing the BQ3 next so stay tuned.

    What about response to EQ?

    If your DAP has a very good EQ then you will find out just how well the K2 responds to it.

    When I plugged the K2 in to my Cowon Plenue and hit "BBE" the K2 shifts into high gear. More toe tapping. More head bopping. Just more fun! In fact, just as much fun as my ZS6. The Cowon's "BBE" just unleashes the K2's real potential with more visceral bass impact and better texture, slightly wider soundstage and even a slight improvement in depth; again, not ZS6 depth but the sound signature remains clean while delivering more depth. It's sufficient to get your blood pumping. Be aware though that not all DAPs are created equal; the Cowon EQ is quite extensive. You can tweak your music with an almost infinite number of setups.

    Summary:

    Everything is carefully measured to deliver a smooth and detailed presentation that never oversteps. The bass has added punch but avoids boom. The midrange avoids the uncomfortable strident behavior that other 2+2 $50+/- hybrids models display (BGVP DM5) and the K2 treble avoids pierce. The K2 goes just beyond the boundaries of having a balanced presentation but if "balanced" is your goal you should be looking at the KC2.

    https://www.head-fi.org/showcase/bqeyz-kc2-2-ba-2-dd-earphone.23272/reviews


    It is clear to me that BQEYZ focuses their attention on tuning their product line and the K2 was tuned with a sense of smoothness and kick in mind. It's a little bit warmer and a tad smoother than the KC2. You'll enjoy these more if you listen to pop or more modern genres. The KC2 is slightly more vivid and transparent for vocal-oriented genres (folk, country, bluegrass, etc.). Both models are great for Jazz so it's a toss up. Do you prefer smooth or do you prefer vivid?

    Pick your poison. The KC2 for a balanced presentation or this K2 for a smoother presentation with a little more kick. An upgraded cable isn't necessary but you can personalize your IEM by finding eartips that work best for your ears. My favorite eartips are wide-bore Tennmak "Whirlwind" eartips but eartips with a more narrow bore may increase bass response and/or increase the midrange focus.

    Some of my favorite silicone eartips are the Tennmak Whirlwind eartips.

    10187541.jpg

    https://www.amazon.com/Replacement-...nd+eartips&dpPl=1&dpID=51Sqh-+7i0L&ref=plSrch


    The K2 is what I refer to as SOUTHERN COMFORT.
    Southern (lower frequencies)
    Comfort (smooth presentation)

    These really respond well to EQ but I just press the "BBE" button (Cowon Plenue) and it's on!

    ....all for $50, mind you!

    They're quite good at a competitive price point. In the U.S. you can find the coherent, comfortable and smooth sounding BQEYZ K2 here on Amazon:

    https://www.amazon.com/BQEYZ-Earpho...Z+K2&qid=1550521797&s=gateway&sr=8-5-fkmrnull


    2019 is starting out to be a very good year.

    THE BQ3 is next and it's only February.

    Hope this was helpful.

    Doc