Layman1

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Beautiful design (for my tastes), slim carry case, nice cable, soundstage, tuning
Cons: very occasional bits of sibilance or shoutiness at high volumes.
Introduction:



Today, I’ll be reviewing something very new for me, an IEM by established Chinese audio company KBEAR, namely, the Lark.
Incidentally, that’s “KB EAR”; the brand is not to be confused with popular transatlantic radio station K-BEAR” :)

All details can be found on KBEAR’s official AliExpress page (link below), and the IEM can be purchased there and delivered to locations around the globe.

https://kbear.aliexpress.com/store/5017064

I’ve posted the link to their main page above. At the time of writing, the Lark was on special offer with a 40% discount(!), so if you love the sound of this IEM, click fast! :D

The Lark features a customised balanced armature driver alongside a 10mm dynamic driver built around (and I quote!) a “5 micron silicon crystal biological diaphragm” and aircraft-grade zinc alloy ergonomically-designed shells.
See the link above for all the details :)

The RRP at time of writing was a very modest $49 ($29 on sale!), placing it – financially speaking - at what I suppose these days would be close to the bottom of entry level pricing.

My sincere thanks to Wendy Li and the team at KBEAR, for providing me with a review unit to keep in exchange for an honest review.

Well, enough of this prodigious preamble. If you want something visual, that’s not too abysmal; let’s check out the photos section below:


Photos:

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Unboxing, packaging and accessories:

The packaging and accessories are nicely done and surprisingly generous given the very limited budget they are working with here.

There’s a case made of a canvas style material. It looks nice and is very easy to use, along with being very agreeably slimline. Frankly, I’ve seen worse cases on IEM’s ten times the price, so consider me suitably impressed here.

The same goes for the cable, which – if I’ve read correctly – is a silver plated copper cable.
It has an attractive crystalline appearance which matches very well with the design of the IEM itself. Usefully, it can be ordered with or without an in-line mic.

The IEM is only available with a 3.5mm single-ended cable, but I have no issues with at that at this price point. Plus, it’s detachable, with 2 pin connectors (the 2-pin connector block on the IEMs is a ‘concave’ one that sticks out from the body), so it means you also have the option to replace/upgrade the cable, which again is only to be praised at this price!

The cable was flexible, didn’t tangle and exhibited little in the way of microphonics; overall, a well-executed piece of gear and no complaints from me!

Honestly, I have to really give some credit for the IEM design at this point. I’m passionate about good design – which should be both beautiful and flawless in function – and for my personal tastes, the Lark are far more nicely designed than most IEMs I’ve seen, even some costing $1000+. They have zinc alloy faceplates, burnished to a mirror-like polish, paired with a shell that is made from a translucent and environmentally friendly plastic material.

The colour of the shell can be chosen from a beautiful translucent pine green, iron grey, or my personal choice, a stunning purple (the mauve option).


The Fit:

They have a very good insertion depth for me personally; neither too shallow nor too deep. I used New Bee foam tips in the Large size (not included), simply because I use these on the vast majority of my IEMs for their comfort and perfect seal, as well as consistency across reviews.
All in all, they are extremely comfortable, and I have been able to wear them for extended listening sessions with no discomfort or fatigue.


The Sound:

By way of a disclaimer, I’ve been reviewing for a few years now and steadily upgrading my collection to the point where I mostly listen to TOTL ($1k+) gear on a daily basis, which is a blessing that I still in no way take for granted!
But, because of this, it’s not an easy or simple thing to drop back to something in the ‘super-budget’ range and launch into critical listening, especially having just come from something like the EE Odin or Campfire Solaris 2020!

In all that follows, I’m trying to judge the Lark according to its merits and bearing in mind the price point and the few other IEMs I’ve heard in the budget range.
I listened using the excellent iBasso DX160, with music from a wide range of genres, mostly in lossless FLAC, with about 40% of the files in hi-res HDTracks, DSD or similar.


Low end:
With a good seal in place, the Lark features a surprisingly impactful low end; I listened to Italian hip-hop outfit Poison’s ‘Dove Sei?’ (my go-to track for bass extension and impact) and the Lark presents the thunderous synthetic bass/drums of this song with a very pleasing amount of rumble, impact and slam.
The sub-bass extension is not going to match IEM’s in the hundreds or thousands of dollars, but it’s still nicely done, and I hear a little lift in the mid-bass, which brings just a touch of warmth and texture, without any undesirable bloating.


Mids:
I hear the mids as being fairly neutrally tuned, with a slight lift in the upper mids.
Especially for an IEM at this price point, I enjoyed the modest degree of note weight on offer, which helps to provide a balance to the upper mids. There’s not a huge amount of warmth or richness, but there’s certainly enough musicality to get your toes tapping along with the songs.

With Buena Vista Social Club’s ‘Chan Chan’ the Lark also passes the ‘trumpet test’ for me on this song, where a little trumpet solo appears about ¾ of the way through, and there little in the way of sharpness or peakiness to be heard here. Male vocals and female vocals were nicely presented, the male vocals having a little more body to them.


Treble:
The treble on the Lark does a good job of walking that fine line between creating air and space and becoming sharp or fatiguing. I think only the most treble-sensitive of individuals will find anything to complain about here (and I’m reasonably treble-sensitive myself).
Very occasionally at high volumes, there’s a bit of sibilance or shoutiness, but on the whole there’s just enough of a lift here to give a realistic timbre to certain instruments (similar with the mids) and to create some brightness without losing the overall smooth tonality.


Technical performance:
It’s all relative, don’t you know! Imaging and layering are pleasingly proficient for an IEM at this price, and the soundstage and separation are similarly well-executed. Most IEM’s are tuned easily enough for width in the soundstage but hearing a pleasing amount of height and depth here at this price point is quite a treat. No, I’m not going to be trading in my Solaris just yet, but I do like what I’m hearing here.

The key fact is, I can still notice details drawn out by the Lark, still feel that audiophile sense of placement and separation and, most of all, still ENJOY the music with the engagement that comes from a well implemented IEM. And let’s face it, that’s what we’re all here for, isn’t it? :)


Conclusion:

In conclusion, I was a bit wary of reviewing such a budget IEM, given the kind of things I usually listen to these days, but it’s actually been an enjoyable experience, as well as a timely reminder of how the market has developed over the last few years.

KBEAR have managed to produce an IEM that is eminently affordable, but rather than that price point bringing a utilitarian aesthetic paired with an adequate sound, I was left pleasantly surprised by the Lark’s audiophile tuning, technical performance and musicality.
Add to that the – in my opinion – gorgeous design and nice slimline carry case, and I come away suitably impressed. Well done KBEAR!

I think the highest praise I can give the Lark is that right now, if I were asked by a non-audiophile (who hasn’t had their financial judgement horribly warped like most of us veterans of this hobby!) what would be a good IEM to buy to begin their journey into that world, the Lark is the one I’d recommend.

Thanks again to Wendy Li and KBEAR. Keep up the great work.

And thanks to you all for reading :)
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Codename john
Good review. I wish more reviewers that have totl stuff gave good budget sets a chance. Respect to you
Layman1
Layman1
@Codename john - Hi there and thanks indeed! Well, it's a kind of natural progress as a reviewer I suppose.

I wrote an epic reply to this point about TOTL reviews vs budget, but then when I went to post it, found I have a 1000 character limit in my reply :sweat_smile:
I'll PM you instead, haha.
You can feel free to share it if you wish :)
WendyLi
WendyLi
Thank you very much!! I love your review!! :gs1000smile:

guicnovaes

100+ Head-Fier
KB Ear Lark Review (4k version)
Pros: -Great presentation and accessories
-Amazing Bass performance
-Very Good build quality and cable.
Cons: -A little shouty and artificial sound.
-Treble can be piercing at times
KB EAR Lark Review:


BOX AND ACCESSORIES


Impressive packaging and presentation for an EMI of just 30 USD. Small but luxurious box. Great set of accessories, with good quality cable, two packages of eartips and a compact case very well built. Build quality is also very good. It resembles the KZ ZS10 PRO, ZSX ... and some CCA models.

Lark.jpg

Lark 3.jpg

Lark 4.jpg

Lark 5.jpg


SOUND

PS: This LARK is from the first batch, therefore, it is of the "4k" version.


The Lark has a W-shaped sound, with increases in bass, mid-treble and treble.

Bass: Lark's bass has a small bump, but very controlled. The level of definition and detail in this region is very high, even compared to IEMs of any price range. In terms of quantity, the bass provides enought punch and weight to enjoy any musical genre. However, it may not please the "Bassheads". I didn't notice any leakage of bass for the mediums.

Mids: As said before, this Lark is from the first batch, so it is from the "4k" version. The midrange is more lively and energetic, thanks to the noticeable increase in the 4-5khz region. Voices and instruments like guitars, pianos and trumpets sound more lit, energetic and vibrant. On the other hand, this extra energy on the upper-mids ends up making the sound a bit artificial and can be fatiguing with some (few) recordings. Despite this, the current Lark sold have less energy in this region and, therefore, must have more balanced and natural mids.

Treble
: KB EAR Lark presents treble with a good level of detail and sharpness. In terms of quantity, it's evident that there's a considerable increase in the region of brightness (7.5-10khz), which contributes to a more energetic and vibrant presentation. However, as happens with the upper-mids, this increase occurs in an amount that contributes to making the sound a little artificial. In addition, although they behave behave in an acceptable way with most recordings, the highs can be sibilant and make the listening experience fatiguing in some cases.

Imaging/soundstage: The Lark is excelent in that regard. The presentation is quite wide for an IEM and the imaging is pretty accurate. just kudos to lark here.

COMPARISON WITH KB04

Both IEM have very similar prices and relatively similar sounds.

In terms of Bass, both present great performance, with a lot of detail, punch and control, but with different quantities. The Lark has less bass, which, in my opinion, brings more naturalness and clarity to the sound.
About Mids both behave in a similar way, however, even being of the "4k version", the Lark is more contained in this region of the frequency spectrum. Thus, KB04 ends up sounding a little more artificial. Regarding Treble, both have a very similar presentation, with peaks in the 7-9k region. As already said with respect to Lark's treble, both are quite brilliant and, in my opinion, a little overdone, so they can be annoying in some situations.

Overall, Lark has proven to be a good IEM for its price range, with spectacular bass and overall good mids and treble, despite some tonality flaws. But let it be clear agian that the current Larks sold have less activity in the 4K region, which certainly contributes to a more natural presentation of the mids.
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