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KB Ear F1

Rating:
3.5/5,
  1. DallaPo
    KB EAR F1 | 1*DD | Rating: 8
    Written by DallaPo
    Published Jun 25, 2019
    4.0/5,
    Pros - clear and clean mids and highs
    degree of detail
    analytic listening
    Cons - bass extension
    sometimes unpleasant peaks
    overdriven at high volume
    Intro
    KB EAR sends a Single-Dynamic Driver and a Single-BA Driver into the race to get started with its product list. The latter is scolding F1 and surprises with its unusual design. A Bellsing driver is installed, which should cover the entire frequency range. The F1 doesn't bother at all with a powerful and deep bass to score but focuses on the midrange and voice reproduction and a good resolution high frequency range. This was also to be expected with a single BA driver, especially with this price tag.

    Handling
    The first thing that stands out is the unusual design. It resembles a pistol and is completely cast out of resin. The F1 is available in an amber transparent version and in black. Unfortunately there is no elevation at the sound openings, which consist of metal, so that not every tip holds on to it and gets stuck also sometimes in the ear. The F1 seems unbreakable at first sight, due to its workmanship and compactness and I can't claim anything to the contrary even after intensive use. In addition, no one should have difficulty using it, which works equally well with the cable down, or over the ear. The comfort leaves nothing to be desired.

    The packaging is similar to that of the OPAL, but instead of 3 pairs of silicone tips, we get nine in total and a silver-coated copper cable. So a scoop has already been put on it.

    The F1's isolation is excellent. If the seat is correct, neither anything penetrates to the outside nor to the inside, which requires special care in road traffic.

    Sound
    You should be aware that you can't expect an exceptional bass, but it plays surprisingly low and very clean. However, you can also force it to its knees at higher volumes, making it overdrive and inaudible. If you don't overdo it, you will get a defined bass, which acts primarily in the mid bass but still gives you an idea of the sub range. Of course I wish for more punch and more base, especially on drums, or bass guitars, but I can also get a lot out of this lightness and precision. The F1 is less suitable for hip-hop or electro.

    The mids are the strengths of the F1, voices are reproduced cleanly and naturally. Seldom can a sibilant slip through, or at higher volume it can be a bit unpleasant, but this is a rare side effect. The mids are clear and flat, but without getting boring. In general, one can speak here of a rather balanced, flat signature, which pushes the mids a bit and drops rapidly in the high frequency range after 10 kHz. This takes some time to get used to if you come from a clear V-signature, but then you quickly recognize the potential of the mids.

    Despite the fast drop after 10 kHz, the highs still have a lot to offer in the upper range, and subjectively one would attest them an even greater expansion. They look airy and light, but occasionally tend to have unpleasant peaks. The level of detail is really high for the single BA driver and it's fun to discover the smallest details in the music. However, especially in the high frequency range it sometimes sounds a bit too metallic (cymbals).

    In terms of space, the F1 also does a lot right, even if no concert hall is to be expected here. Nevertheless, instruments are well separated and voices are pleasantly intimate and natural. Compared to the dynamic driver, however, the F1 lacks some dynamics and is more suitable for analytical listening, especially when it comes to mids and highs.

    Outro
    What F1 and OPAL have in common is their quite bright tuning. But the F1 sounds much rounder and more musical than the OPAL. Here the tuning of the single BA driver is right and fans of analytical, quiet listening will get their money's worth. The F1 is a cheap, but technically well done entry-level single BA. It impresses with its clean and clear presentation of the musical content, but also does not completely neglect the low frequency range, which might have been expected. But you should always keep an eye on the volume. For me it is a welcome alternative in the Chi-Fi universe because of its sound characteristics, but also because of its design, in order to treat the ears to other impressions.

    ___________________________________________________________
    More reviews: https://david-hahn.wixsite.com/chi-fiear
    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CHIFIEAR/
  2. Wiljen
    KB Ears F1 - A promising start for KB Ear.
    Written by Wiljen
    Published Jun 8, 2019
    3.0/5,
    Pros - warm, non-fatiguing signature with forward mids.
    Cons - Early roll-off at both ends, can get congested on complex tracks.
    [​IMG]

    disclaimer: The rep from Kinboofi recently asked if I had an interest in a new company named KB Ear and if I would like to try a new single BA in-ear from them. I quickly said yes and Kinboofi provided the KB Ear F1 for review. If you have an interest in these, they are available through Kinboofi’s amazon store at roughly the $35 price point.




    Unboxing / Accessories:

    The Box is a sliding cover design with picture, model and logo on front and details on the reverse. Inside is foam tray with the earpieces and two set of tips showing. A small box with the KB Ear logo sits below the foam and contains the remaining accessories. A total of 6 sets of tips come with the F1. 3 resemble the KZ Starlines while the other 3 look more like spin-fits. Having both narrow and wide bore tips provided is a nice touch, but some indication of the expected impact of using each tip style would be wise. Typically the wide bores increase bass impact while the narrows are more neutral. We can assume the same here.

    kbear-F1-box-front.JPG kbear-F1-box-rear.JPG kbear-F1-box-left.JPG kbear-F1-box-inside.JPG kbear-F1-kit2.JPG



    Build/Fit:

    The F1 has kind of an odd shape and it takes a minute or two to get past that. The shells are L shaped transparent acrylic with the nozzle exiting one end of the L and the mmcx connector at the opposite. The entire body of the iem will fit on a US penny (sans Nozzle) just to give a size reference. Fit is easy as the body is smaller than most and is somewhat reminiscent of the Campfire Comet. Obviously materials and sounds are quite different, but shape lends to a similar fit. Isolation is good as the tips sit fairly deep. The F1 can be worn tip up or tip down with the one caveat being that if worn tip down, the vertical portion of the shell may be very snug to the side the head on larger ears. They fit snugly on me which prevents them from shifting, but not tightly enough to be uncomfortable so I am probably about as large a person as the F1 will fit comfortably in tip down mode.

    kbear-F1-ba1.JPG kbear-F1-ba3.JPG kbear-F1-ba5.JPG kbear-F1-feature1.JPG


    Internals:

    The F1 sports a single Bellsing 32257 balanced armature driver with an nominal impedance of 22Ω and a sensitivity of 105 dB/mW±2db. The F1 is easy enough to drive from a phone and scales some, but not dramatically with higher power sources. The Bellsing seems to be a fairly close clone of the Knowles 32257 which is a vented (damped vent) BA in thier RAB series which is designed for high efficiency systems in small enclosures. The vent is clearly visible in the photos on the underside of the earpiece. The BA is very small and is roughly the same size as the metal nozzle used.




    Cable:

    The cable on the F1 is very similar to those of the TRN models and some of the recent Nicehck models as well. The cable starts with a straight jack with a brushed aluminum casing. A short strain relief exits the jack and then yields to a 4 wire braid of silver plated copper wire with a clear casing. The braid runs to the splitter, also made of brushed aluminum and then exits as two wire twists to the earpieces. The cable does not have earhooks to facilitate tip-up or tip-down wear. The cable terminates in clear housings with mmcx connectors that appear to be gold plated. The cable is fairly typical of items at the price range.

    kbear-F1-jack.JPG kbear-F1-splitter.JPG kbear-f1-mmcx-2.JPG


    Sound:

    [​IMG]

    Bass:

    I’ll admit to expecting a single BA iem to be bass lacking. I’ll also admit, I was only half right. Sub-bass is indeed quite limited, but mid-bass is better than anticipated with both good control and reasonable quantity. There is a little perceptible bleed into the mids that gives the F1 a warm overall tone reminiscent of the Campfire comet while not being pronounced enough to hide much of the details. I do think the Comet is more detailed than the F1, but tonally the two are more similar than not.



    Mids:

    Mids are very much the focus of the F1 with a big push forward beginning as you come out of the bass range and plateauing at the true-mids. That plateau stays level until we reach the lower treble where another rise kicks in. Vocals are forward and well rendered although I found lower register vocals to be a bit more natural than their upper register counterparts. Acoustic guitar is also well presented and a bit more realistic than its electric counterpart. Detail and dynamic range are not class leading but not enclosing either. The mids are one part of the F1 that KB ear got right for sure.



    Treble:

    The lower treble has a bit of a spike at around the 3kHz mark, but while it contributes a bit of extra energy to the signature it is not so pronounced as to be fatiguing and with a slight adjustment of the EQ it can be brought back inline fairly easily. I found that a -3dB at 3k worked for my ears and left enough energy to give vocals the desired presence without pulling too much life out of the signature. Upper treble rolls-off rapidly above about 9kHz which provides enough top end to let snares have a satisfying crack but stops short of giving enough top end to really make cymbals sound realistic. A bit more energy in the 10-12kHz range helps with the cymbal realism but even EQ is not much help here as the driver itself doesnt seem particularly sensitive in this respect.



    Soundstage / Imaging:

    Soundstage is wider than deep and only of average dimensions. Instrument separation is directly related to how complex a track is. The F1 does better with pop and rock than with orchestral pieces as the higher the instrument count, the more cramped the F1 can begin to feel. Imaging is also limited as a result of the separation issues. With less complex pieces, imaging is fairly accurate but when pieces start getting complicated, imaging is often crowded into the available space and feels congested and inaccurate.



    Thoughts / Conclusion:

    I was given two models of KB ears to review at basically the same moment by two different vendors. Kinboofi provided the F1 while KB ear themselves sent me the Opal. For two models coming from a new brand, they have little in common. The cables and tip selection are very similar, but that is where it ends. The Opal is a single dynamic driver in a teardrop shape, while the F1 being reviewed here is a L shaped single vented BA. Ambitious to take on two different technologies and to start with a minimalist approach of using a single driver and tune the system rather than just adding another driver. KB Ears should be applauded for that approach and I hope they will continue on that path. A lot of multi-driver models lately are proving that it is harder to get right than the manufacturers anticipated and a return to sanity from the “How many BAs can you fit in a shell challenge” is nice to see. The F1 has a lot of the issues that single BAs are typically known for, but manages to offset one (the low end roll-off) by use of a vented BA. Overall, it represents a solid value at its price point for those looking for a mid-forward in-ear for rock and pop music. Those who enjoy classical will probably want to hold off for now and see what KB Ear releases next. If they continue to improve, it should be a good one.

    images

    1. kbear-F1-feature3.JPG
    2. kbear-F1-internals.JPG
    3. kbear-F1-internals4.JPG
      Ymer Niros and B9Scrambler like this.