Cons: - Redundant accessories - Excessive mid-bass - Some issues with construction
Today we're checking out the Diamond from KBEAR.
KBEAR is fairly new to the scene but has already established themselves as a major player in the crowded sea of Chinese brands that have swarmed the market in recent years. Competitive pricing, quality designs, and reliable tuning are the name of the game for this brand with most of their releases being well-received within the community. The Diamond is somewhat unique in that it's tuning was the result of feedback from a prominent tuner of products from TRN, as well as a reviewer/tuner/enthusiast from within the Head-fi community. This last point is exactly why I was interested in checking out the Diamond, and asked the KBEAR rep Wendy for the opportunity to review it.
So, how is the Diamond? If you're reading this on Head-fi, you'll already have an idea from the score and Pros/Cons sections. If reading elsewhere, continue on.
What I Hear Single dynamic earphones were common in the budget realms a few years ago. Like, really common. Anything else was cause for chatter because it was new and interesting, be that a dual dynamic, single armature, or hybrid. While there are still plenty of single dynamics out there and that various prices that retain an engaging sound with various genres, like the JVC HA-FXH30, Hifiman RE2000, CA Atlas, Dunu Titan 1, Hypersense HEX02, and pretty much anything from TFZ, they're not as common as they once were. That seems to be changing with single dynamics making a comeback, and the Diamond is a very competent one.
Treble is rolled off with a small lower treble peak making it easy to listen to over long periods and fairly detailed. However, I found minute details somewhat smoothed over. While I found the Diamond lacking energy and presence in the brilliance region at first, upon comparing with others, it was less a case of a lack of presence, and more a case of the exuberant mid-bass pulling attention. This makes it feel as if the Diamond lacks upper treble counter, leaving the presentation somewhat dull. Another side effect is staging feeling somewhat small and confined. Control is also somewhat lacking leaving effects and instruments sounding slightly loose and splashy. On the plus side, notes hit with a snappy attack, decaying realistically. I'm really not a fan of the Diamond's treble presentation, even if it isn't bad.
The midrange is well weighted with an appropriate thickness, and to my ears finds a nice balance of warmth and clarity. Timbre is mostly accurate, though instruments take on a slightly lighter sound than they should to my ear. Better than most in the price range either way. Male and female vocals are both well represented. Male vocals have more presence despite losing coherence on extremely bassy tracks, while female vocals show more warmth and in my opinion sound more pleasing, more consistently. I am quite impressed with the complete lack of sibilance. Even tracks like Aesop Rock's “Blood Sandwich” and The Crystal Method's “Grace (feat LeAnn Rimes)”, are almost free of it, despite it being prominent in the recordings. I've also seen the word “shouty” being tossed around to describe the Diamond's mids. To that I say, what the fudge? To each their own I guess...
Bass is a very prominent aspect of the Diamond's sound. There is lots of mid-bass with excellent sub-bass extension and presence. Texture is good and notes are well controlled, if not a touch slow on decay. I'm really not hearing the super quick driver others have described. Despite the average perception of speed, consecutive, rapid bass notes are not muddied and remain well defined. Mid-bass basically carries every track due to it's prominence. It's nearly always present and underpins whatever is going on with it's rumbly, sub-woofer-like presentation. Cool, but it does over-stay it's welcome at times.
As noted earlier, the Diamond sounds small and confined. Sounds rarely breach the edge of your head space. Counter to early impressions where I tested only with music, imaging is above-average with sounds transferring channel to channel with a pleasing level of precision. I've really been enjoying the Diamond with gaming as a result. Big bass and good imaging is a nice combo. Layering and separation are also good too, though I'm hearing more width than depth which means the Diamond can handle truly chaotic tracks, just not as well as some others.
Overall, the Diamond is a quality sounding earphone. For my tastes I would like less mid-bass, but as is the Diamond makes for a good listen. This tuning works better outdoors and in noisy environments than in quiet areas ripe for critical listening. Makes sense given it is a budget friendly iem with a v-shaped tune for the masses, and not a top of the line, open-back, neutrally tuned headphone. Good stuff.
Compared to a Peer (volumes matched with Dayton Audio iMM-6)
Dunu DM-480 (69 USD): Starting with the low end, the Diamond is warmer and bassier with notably more mid-bass presence and similar sub-bass depth and grunt. This gives it a thicker, heavier sound, with a slower response to quick basslines. The DM-480's bass is more textured and detailed. DM-480's mids are notably more forward (upper particularly), more lean and cold, and to my ears better suited to male vocalists. Upper mids are more boosted and display mild sibilance which is not present in the Diamond. Diamond's timbre is more accurate with the DM-480 sounding somewhat metallic and artificial in comparison. DM-480 has more lower treble presence giving it a more detailed presentation, but the lack of upper treble just adds to the somewhat dry presentation. The Diamond has more upper treble presence and sparkle. Despite this, it doesn't do anything to reduce the sound stage edge of the DM-480 which sounds wider and deeper with added space between notes and instruments. Imaging is equally pleasing on them both, with the DM-480 having a negligible edge in in terms of layering and separation.
The DM-480 is more balanced and technically impressive, but gives up timbre quality and realism to the Diamond. These two qualities, in addition to a complete lack of sibilance, means the Diamond gets my vote.
In terms of build and comfort, the DM-480 is smaller, lighter, isolates better, is more comfortable, and has better fit and finish. Both look fantastic. The Diamond's cable is certainly the more premium of the two, however, and the two-pin setup KB EAR went with provides better protection from bends.
TinHifi T4 (79-119 USD): Bass out of the T4 is notably less prominent, but slightly more impressive in my opinion. Like the Diamond it hits low notes with ease, but holds back the mid-bass and dials up the texture and speed. The T4's driver gives off the impression of being exceptionally light and nimble, and feels like it runs circles around the Diamond when it comes to complex passages. That said, I can see the more weighty, thumpy presentation of the Diamond finding more fans because it's a straight up more fun way to tune a low end. The T4's mids are smoother and more refined. Upper and lower balance is improved benefiting both male and female vocals. Clarity is also a step up. Lastly, in my opinion, timbre also sounds more natural out of the T4. I was very surprised to find the T4 had less upper treble energy than the Diamond, with lower treble being similarly emphasized. Normally that would put the Diamond right into my preference crosshairs, but the midbass ends up being too distracting. The T4 also has better note control and is free of the slight splashiness present in the Diamond. Lastly, sound stage sits firmly in the T4's favour with it being much more spacious all around. However, it has vague imaging with limited channel to channel differentiation that doesn't hold a candle to the Diamond. Layering and separation are more in line though.
The T4 is definitely my preferred listen of the two thanks to it's more balanced tune and all the extra detail it provides. Can't help but be disappointed by the imaging though which the Diamond does much, much better.
In terms of build, the T4 is smaller, lighter, doesn't isolate as well, is less comfortable, and has better fit and finish. I think the Diamond has a more appealing design though, and feels like the more premium product. A big part of that is the cable. The T4's cable sucks. It is sticky, bouncy, and the loose braid is sloppy and gives the impression of cost cutting. Very similar to the P1's cable, but worse due to the stickiness. Bleh...
Moondrop Starfield (109 USD): I don't think there is much point in comparing these two because to my ears one clearly stands above the other, but people keep doing it so I'll toss my hat into the ring as well.
Bass on the Diamond is slower, digs deeper (Starfield seems to roll off slighly), and is more prominent, but the sheer presence of the midbass overwhelm. Bass out of the Diamond lacks the texture and nuance of the Starfield. Starfield also has more punch and authority to notes. The Starfield's midrange is more forward and more even in terms of upper and lower balance so male and female vocals sound more evenly represented. Timbre is similarly good with the Starfield having a very slight edge. Treble out of the Starfield is more detailed and better controlled (i.e splash free) though the brilliance region could use a boost to put it more in line with the Diamond's presentation. The Diamond's sound stage lacks the width of the Starfield's, but isn't too far off in terms of depth. Imaging, layering, and separation are all in Moondrop's backyard though, all of which are some of the best I've experienced in a sub-200 USD earphone.
The Starfield's improved detail and technical ability combined with a more balanced signature (still u-shaped though) has me picking it up over the Diamond every time, and listening for much longer periods.
In terms of build, the Starfield has a much neater, more interesting paint job and imo is one of the coolest looking iems around. Fit of the component parts goes to the Diamond though, since seams on the Starfield are much more noticeable. Comfort and isolation are just very slightly better with the Starfield for me, with foam tips making it pretty much a wash. When it comes to the cable, as much as I love the Diamond's I am a huge fan of thin and light braided cables. The Starfield's certainly lacks the durability factor but it stays out of the way and I quite enjoy it. Most will probably prefer the Diamond's cable though.
In The Ear The Diamond looks and feels like a premium earphone thanks to it's weighty metal shells with gold accented nozzles, carbon fibre face plates, and an appropriately meaty braided, silver-plated copper cable.
When it comes to build quality, the Diamond is good, and more or less on par with what I have come to expect from metal shelled earphones above 50 USD. Fit and finish of the component parts is satisfactory with tight seams, a coherent design, and a snug 2-pin port that provides a secure fit for the cable, though there are a few details that were overlooked. First is that the carbon fibre face plate cutouts do not fully fill the spaces they're nestled into, so if you look closely there are gaps. You can't feel them thanks to the thick clear coat applied over top, and unless you're looking for them it's unlikely anyone will notice, but they're visible none-the-less. Second is that the paint job around the front edge contains small wrinkles on both ear pieces. Maybe dust got caught underneath. Maybe it's just a poorly applied paint job. Whatever it is, it takes away from the visual appeal somewhat. The metal nozzle is a fairly standard size at 6mm in diameter with a prominent lip. If tip rolling is your jam, you'll feel right at home with the Diamond.
At least the Diamond is very comfortable, more so than I was expecting. When the first few images of the Diamond showed up, I was immediately reminded of the KZ AS06 and AS10 with their half-moon shape which borrowed heavily from 64Audio's designs. KB EARS take certainly looked impressive thanks to a classy colour choice and the carbon fibre face place. In terms of fit, the AS06 and AS10 were fine, but the large size made them somewhat ungainly for those with small ears. I was afraid the Diamond would be the same. Thankfully not the case. It is notably smaller and with a nozzle angle that sits more naturally in the ear. The only thing holding the Diamond back is it's weight which leaves it feeling unsuitable for heavy activity. I found the weight pulling the Diamond out of place when jogging.
Isolation is above average in my experience, at least when compared to other single dynamic earphones. With the stock silicone tips (either style), I had no issues listening at my typically low volumes in noisy areas, like the local coffee shop during peak hours. Tossing on foams tips only made it better. I'd have no issues recommending these for someone who spends a lot of time on their local transit system.
In The Box KB EAR has done a great job with the Diamond's packaging, coming up with something that looks and feels somewhat premium, isn't overly wasteful, and that does a great job showing off the product the moment you get the lid off.
The box is covered in a textured, matte black material that contrasts nicely with the gold KB EAR branding and logo on the lid. On the sides you find KB EAR's website, and on the back a sticker containing the model information. It's all very simple and subtle, and looks fantastic. Slide the lid off and you find the earpieces, two sets of foams tips, and a smaller cardboard box holding the carrying case, all set within a cardboard coated plastic tray. Simple but effective, as it shows off the product well. Within the carrying case are the rest of the accessories. In all you get:
Braided, silver-plated copper 0.75mm 2-pin cable
Faux-leather carrying case
2x foam tips
Black single flange silicone tips (M x2 / L)
Red-cored single flange silicone tips (S/M/L)
Velcro cable tie
Overall a satisfactory accessory kit and a wonderful unboxing experience. Some will complain the money that went towards the case could have been better used elsewhere, but for me the inclusion of a nice case is a win. I will say the tips are redundant. The red-cored set uses a mildly stiffer silicone with dimensions nearly identical to the black tips, and in my experience provides a listening experience with negligible differences. Maybe it was an error, but the Diamond I was sent came with two sets of medium black tips, no small. The black tips are the recommended set according to the tuners, meaning anyone that needs small tips will have to settle with a “lesser” experience as provided by the red-cored tips.
Final Thoughts KB EAR has done a great job with the Diamond. It is tuned with a widely appealing v-shaped sound that for the most part provides a quality experience. Mid-bass is much too abundant for my tastes and the sound stage too confined, but those qualities end up being not as bad as they might sound at first. Material quality is excellent and while small details needed some attending to on my sample (crinkled paint for example), I have no doubt this earphone will take some abuse and last a long time. Part of that is because of the beefy, well-matched cable. In terms of extras, I like the quality case and included tips, but the red-cored set could easily be swapped out for something different (bi-flange maybe?). They provide an experience very similar to the tuners' recommended set (black, single flange) and come across redundant.
Overall a very nice earphone and a great value at 79 USD. These are a crowd pleaser for sure.
Disclaimer Thanks to Wendy from KB EAR for sending over a sample of the Diamond for the purposes of review. The thoughts within this review are my subjective opinions based on time spent using the Diamond. They don't represent KB EAR or any other entity. At the time of writing the Diamond retailed for 79.00 USD: www.aliexpress.com/item/4000571010605.html
Driver: 8.5mm dynamic with DLC coating
Impedance: 16 ohms
Frequency Response: 20Hz-20KHz
Devices Used For Testing LG G6, LG Q70, Asus FX53V, TEAC HA-501, Periodic Audio Nickle, Shanling M0, Hifiman MegaMini
I found the Diamond easy to drive. No amping necessary. It doesn't seem to scale much either. Performance is good out of the box as long as you've got a competent source. Recommended to avoid pairing it with warm sounding devices as they may overexaggerate the Diamond's already boosted midbass.
Some Test Tunes
Supertramp – Crime of the Century
Slipknot – Vol 3 (The Subliminal Verses)
Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid
King Crimson – Lark's Tongues in Aspic
King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black
Infected Mushroom – Legend of the Black Shawarma
The Prodigy – The Day is My Enemy
Steely Dan – The Royal Scam
Porcupine Tree – Stupid Dreams