Fit and comfort
Cons: Nothing as far as sound, and especially for the price.
The cable is not the best, and really hinders the performance.
Hey there folks,
Today I will be sharing my thoughts about a very special iem, the KB EAR 2020 KS2, and I would like to thank KB EAR and especially Wendy, for sending these out. These were provided to me free of charge for my honest review, and I can't thank KB EAR enough for giving me the opportunity. I have to admit, I was not expecting much, and the outcome was quite surprising.
First off, let me introduce myself. My name is Wes and I am addicted to music and gear that makes it sound good. I favor the musical side of things vs. the analytical, and listen to a wide range of genres. I like a little extra emphasis in the bass and upper mids lower treble, and especially love good bass and vocals. Some of my favorite artist are, Agnes Obel, Beck, Ottmar Liebert, Nora Jones, Rodrigo y Gabriella, Max Cooper, Christian Loffler, Pink Floyd, Stevie Ray Vaughn and many others. So, you can see I listen to Rock, Pop, Acoustic, Jazz, Classic Rock, Blues, and Electronica.
So for this review, I wanted to keep it simple, as there are already a bunch of highly detailed and formal reviews of KS2. The KS2 is a hybrid iem, with 1 DD and 1 BB. The price of this iem is around $25 USD, so it is a very attainable iem for anyone.
The packing is simple, clean, and just about perfect for the amount of money.
The iems are a plastic resin and super light weight. The cable is also lightweight, and is all copper with very little memory and mechanical noise. All in all, for $25 USD the build quality is great, and I have no complaints.
Fit and Isolation
The KS2 fit my smallish ears just perfect, and the seal is quite good, lending to really good isolation. The vents for the dynamic driver are on the inner side of the iem, so there is good isolation even on windy days. Overall, I have no complaints.
The bass is elevated hits hard, digs deep, and has good tactile punch you can feel.
The mids take a step back, due to the fun V shaped tuning, but are still quite clear and articulated.
The highs have good extension, but never get harsh, and have just the right amount of sparkle for my taste.
Overall the KS2 with the stock cable have a very fun, warm and forgiving V shaped sound signature, with an expansive soundstage, and for the money are an outstanding value no doubt. However, where things get interesting is when I changed cables and tried them on my iBasso DX 160. First off, the stock cable is the weak link, and once I put a better cable on them, things balanced out better in the mids and the KS2 jumped to another level of performance. Also, when I hooked them up to the iBasso DX 160 they lost a lot of the fun sound I was hearing, and got a little bright in the upper mids and lower treble. They just sounded off, when connected to my player. So, I hooked them back up to my cell phone, the Samsung Galaxy S10+, and put my favorite silver cable on them, and the magic happened. Connected to my phone, using Quboz HiRez and the Satin Audio Athena 8 wire cable, the sound is warm and smooth, yet dynamic and impactful, with much better balance and clarity in the mids, and the soundstage got deeper and wider. I totally get why KB EAR suggest using the KS2 with a mobile phone and not a player. I am so impressed with how fun these sound, while still being quite capable, that they just became one of my daily drivers. I especially love the KS2, when I go on my daily walk. They have a fun sound, that works well with every genre I throw at them. I can put my playlist on and never have to skip a track because it sounds harsh or irritating, and they sound better from a cell phone, so I don't have to carry 2 devices. So, for those that are interested in an affordable yet capable iem, with a fun sound signature that pairs extremely well with just a mobile phone, I say the KS2 is a must have. I really cant believe how much enjoyment I get from the KS2, for such a small amount of money. Bravo KB EAR!
It's not long since KBEAR released their excellent KB04 hybrid which could be described as a "Diamond Lite". It delivered a good proportion of the Diamond's performance at a fraction of the cost. Now we have another 1DD + 1BA hybrid at an even lower price, the KS2.
Where the KB04 had a quality metal housing, the KS2 is built from resin. It features a 10mm dynamic driver with composite diaphragm, partly PU and partly bio-cellulose. The balanced armature is described as a "high end custom unit" and is placed within the nozzle.
The KS2 comes in a small rectangular box with an image of the IEMs on the front and specifications on the back. KBEAR has dropped the black and green colour scheme and it is now black and white. The earpieces are nestled in a card cutout below which is a branded box containing the cable and three sets of spare eartips. There is also an instruction manual.
The earpieces are quite well made in solid resin with a dark green transparent finish revealing the components and a KBEAR logo in the centre. "KS2" and channel identification is written on the side. The nozzle is gold-coloured and quite long. There is a white plastic 2-pin socket and a small pinhole vent for the dynamic driver on the underside.
The cable is a standard 4 core braided type similar to that supplied by KZ with a chunky plastic Y-split and no chin slider and is thus prone to tangling. The connectors are a 2-pin angled and hooded type with short pins and the termination is a 3.5 mm right angled plastic plug.
I found the pre-fitted tips too big as the nozzle was quite long so replaced these with the smaller size ones and used the supplied cable. Thus equipped, I obtained a very comfortable fit and seal. I used an Xduoo X20 DAP as the primary source and also employed a Huawei smartphone and a CD player. The immediate impression was of a bold V-shaped signature with powerful bass and an energetic treble with good extension. Mids were recessed but still fairly present and the overall tonality was warmer than neutral in the bass and brighter in the high frequencies. The soundstage was a particularly good feature, being large in all dimensions and especially in width. This amounted to a "fun tuning" not dissimilar to the KZ ZS10 Pro.
The KS2 delivered an impressive bass with a powerful sub-bass presence. This continued into the mid-bass which displayed good punch and impact. "Windjana" is an instrumental album by Tony O'Connor evoking the Australian landscape. The first track, "Skyland" begins with a deep bass drone accompanied by didgeridoo and percussion. The KS2 certainly delivered a satisfying rumble but it did rather dominate the proceedings with the other elements somewhat overshadowed. The detail could also have been clearer. In Karl Jenkins's "Benedictus" from "The Armed Man", the basses and cellos had good weight and depth but lacked a little separation. The deep bass drum strikes displayed good decay and impact and the positioning and imaging were very good here, courtesy of the wide soundstage.
The lower mids were recessed and gained some warmth from the bass. This produced a slightly distant feel which helped to enhance the width of the soundstage. The upper mids were brighter going into the treble and there was occasional harshness here on certain material. Kostia's "Girl from Barcelona" is a lively piano solo and the instrument showed good impact with the lowest notes rich and warm and the upper register possessing some extra brightness. The overall effect was exciting, though perhaps not wholly natural. Classical music was bold and expansive, sounding more like a blockbuster movie score than perhaps it should, and reminded me of the KZ ZS10 Pro's tendency to "grab you by the lapels" urging you to listen! "Alborada del Gracioso by Ravel certainly shone in the recording by the Minnesota Orchestra. The KS2 revelled in this track and the slightly over-the-top presentation really worked resulting in an extremely entertaining performance.
The KS2 did display the upper mid/lower treble emphasis found in many dual hybrids and this produced a brighter than neutral bias. This threw solo elements forward in the mix. The lead synth voice in "Aquarhythmie" by Richard Vimal dominated the track and occasionally sounded sharp but there was good detail in the accompaniment with all the elements readily audible. The performance of Rossini's String Sonata No. 1 by the Age of Enlightenment Orchestra was sprightly and incisive. The violins were somewhat brighter than usual but this extra brightness helped to highlight the counterpoint which was easy to appreciate. The bowing detail was crisp and clear.
The KS2 possessed a large three-dimensional stage. This was partly helped by the recessed mids but imaging was good. Separation in the bass was not as clear as in the higher registers but the spacious presentation was very appealing. As expected, film music sounded very good on the KS2. The ambience of the recording venue in "Come Back to Us" from Thomas Newman's score to 1917 was very well-rendered with the solo cello floating above the orchestral backing with a believable sense of space and the overall warmth of the tonality helping to preserve the atmosphere.
The KS2 is a classic V-shaped IEM with a appealing dynamic and exciting character. Its presentation will not suit all genres but it performs well, especially at the price. It does face stiff competition from the recent rash of new dual-driver releases such as the CVJ CSA (which is more neutral) the KZ ZST-X and KBEAR's own KB04, at a slightly higher price. The latter is better made with a full metal jacket, has a gentler V profile and improves on the KS2 with superior layering and detail. Spending a little more would bring models like the KZ ZS10 Pro into the equation which has a similar profile but better detail retrieval.
Classical music lovers may need to look elsewhere, but if electronic music, rock and pop is your thing, the KS2 represents excellent value as an entry-level Chi-fi IEM.
Pros: Sub-bass and general quality of the lower zone.
- Remarkable scene and instrumental recreation.
- V-shaped profile, fun and somewhat softer.
Cons: Distant and not very expressive mids.
- Something unreal in the treble.
- Absence of bag or box of transport.
- Very typical cable and few tips.
- Again, V-profile.
As I have recently done, I'm going to look again at some IEMS of the Shenzen brand, KBEAR. This time, it is the new model KS2, a hybrid that mounts a dynamic 10mm driver and a BA driver of its own manufacture. To this set, an electronic crossover has been added, to take full advantage of the potential of its drivers. Unlike the model previously analyzed, the body of the IEMS, is not metallic, but transparent, made of high density polycarbonate. In addition, the capsules have a semi-custom shape, which provides such good results, in terms of ergonomics and isolation. The KS2 is a V-shaped IEMS, very easy to move, very suitable for mobile use and for everyday use. In the following, we will see, in greater depth, all the benefits of this affordable product.
Drivers type: 1 DD of 10mm (biological diaphragm + PU) + 1 BA custom
Frequency Response: 20Hz - 20kHz
Connector Jack: 3.5mm
Capsule Connection Type: 0.78mm 2Pin
KS2s come in a small box, wrapped in cardboard, mostly white. Its dimensions are 80x123x36mm. On the front side there is a realistic picture of the capsule, the brand and the model. A detail that has caught my attention is that in this photo, the silicone type that comes in the IEM, is transparent. Inside, the tips included are made of black silicone. In the back of the box, there are the specifications in several languages, as well as the information about the brand: address and e-mail. The sides of the cover are black and show the logo, in silver letters, and the model chosen, in this case "Green no Mic". After removing the cardboard, a transparent plastic sheet protects the contents. The capsules can be seen through it, embedded in a dense white mould. Under it, there is a box, also white, with the logo in black. Inside are the rest of the accessories, in short:
The two capsules.
3 pairs of black silicone tips, sizes SxMxL.
1 pair of black silicone tips, size M, more spherical, placed in the capsules.
The 4-strand cable, made of tinned copper.
For the price, the accessories are the minimum, but there is no carrying bag, something essential to store the IEMS, even if it was a cloth bag.
I'm not a big fan of this type of cable, but it's the typical one that everyone mounts, so it's the norm. Fair enough.
Construction and Design
The capsules are made of dark green translucent polycarbonate in the model chosen. The shape is semi-custom, whose external part has that silhouette similar to the African continent. In the center of that face, there is the logo of the brand, in white ink. The whole capsule is very rounded, with its edges smoothed. Above all, its inner face, where its forms are very curved. On it, there are two small holes, one near the nozzle, which coincides with the center of the dynamic driver, and another one closer to the edge. Next, on that side edge, there is the model name and the indication of the channel, in small white letters.
The nozzle is metallic and gold, its length is 5.5mm. The base is a small ring, with a diameter of 6.4mm. The inner cylinder, measures almost 3mm and its diameter is smaller, 5.1mm. Finally, the outermost ring, has a diameter of 5.9mm and its length is almost 2mm. Its interior is protected by a dense silver metal grid.
The capsules mount the two-pin connection, 0.78mm, on a transparent plastic plate, which protrudes a little over a mm, from the body of the IEMS.
The KS2 uses two drivers: a custom BA driver, for the mid and high frequencies. The other is a 10mm dynamic driver, moving coil, with a composite diaphragm (PU + Biological Diaphragm). It also installs a precision electronic frequency divisor.
Finally, the cable is the classic 4-strand tinned copper cable, with a transparent plastic coating. It is heavily twisted and relatively docile. Its connector is angled and consists of a black plastic oval piece. On it, in relief, you can read the mark. The splitting piece, also plastic and black, is Y-shaped. It has no pin. The sleeves of the 2Pin connectors are slightly angled and are of the same material and colour as the rest of the parts of the cable. Near them, there are typical guides on the ear, whose shape is more closed than it would be convenient. Both pins are semi-hidden in the connection cavity. Each connector has a letter, which is difficult to read as it is in fine relief, identifying the channel.
The construction is very correct, no faults are observed. The cable is very similar to the other products in the segment and performs its basic function. The design is based on a typical stand, which gives it a smooth and pleasant shape, without being really original. In the end, we are talking about a product whose price is around 21 euros, at the time of writing this review. For all this, the quality is quite good.
Adjustment and Ergonomics
As usual with this type of capsule, for those lucky enough to have a common morphology, among which I'm, the adjustment is very simple and safe. The fixation is instantaneous and durable. There is hardly any friction with the parts of the ear and it does not move easily, nor does it fall out. The orientation of the mouthpiece can provide various forms of insertion, depending on the tips used. In my case, I have been able to use, successfully, from large tips, for superficial insertion, to tri-flanges, to obtain a greater immersion.
Due to their construction, their weight is very light, which makes them very pleasant IEMS for continuous and daily use.
The KS2s have a V-U profile, with a very deep low zone, emphasis on sub-bass and mid-high. The treble has a slight tendency to relax, but maintaining the extension. Its face is not explicitly warm, nor clearly bright, but has a more balanced and neutral tendency.
The lower zone of the KS2 is perceived as deep, with a not very rough texture, I would even say quite smooth, for the energy it possesses. It has a notable extension in the sub-basin zone and feels well executed, without being forced, nor unnatural. As usual, at KBEAR, the bass has good speed and response, it is able to reproduce complex bases, with good definition, which shows the great resolution capacity it has. On the other hand, although it is very capable of representing all the notes of the range, recreating many planes, its descriptive capacity is perceived as somewhat limited: the smoothness of its texture, is not able to reflect all the nuances and details of the bass, due to a somewhat simple representation of the area. However, given the price range, the general feeling of the area is very pleasant, as well as accurate, inclining its emphasis on the lower area, lightening the middle area.
The midrange is worthy of an almost U-shaped profile, quite liberated at the bottom, distant at the center and emphasized at the top. This is a simplistic way to summarize the range, but, in these KS2s, the profile is clearly shown. The voices are felt at medium distance, with a good dose of clarity, following that smooth texture, which doesn't give a lot of detail, but a good drawing, as well as a pleasant timbre. The definition is not very high, since the reproduction is easy, but harmonious, without inconsistencies, nor too much sibilance. In this sense, it seems that, in the KS2s, an attempt has been made to attack the critical point, passing the lime, slightly, over it. Although, in spite of this adjustment, it is sometimes necessary not to go over the volume, if one wants to keep this upper-middle zone under control. The resolution level continues in the same line as the lower zone, quite appropriate to its musicality, but somewhat limited for lovers of more analytical mids. The KS2 is not an IEMS for critical listeners, it is quite tolerant of many genres and all types of recordings, but without entering into a very explicit field, without losing sight of the musicality and the fun factor.
However, a great virtue of the KS2, is its ability to recreate three dimensions: despite the but commented, is very capable of locating, in a very spaced and distinguishable, both voices, as, especially, instruments, distributing them to the width and depth of the scene, providing them, even, of good height.
The treble has a particular sonority: it is not supposed to be bright, but it is easily perceived. Their pitch keeps them present, close, but not totally crisp or sharp. Anyway, there is a good amount, like a good IEM in V, but I think we wanted to stabilize its incidence in the rest of the sound, managing not to completely polarize the result. That's how it feels very much on par with the bass boost, finding a balance, quite decent, between both extremes. In this way, the KS2s are not critically high-pitched. They feel thin, but also have good extension and energy, but are not perceived as being purely fatiguing and that is something that helps their use to be quite prolonged.
Perhaps the worst part of the high zone is the one that provides a somewhat more unrealistic sonority, in the flashes of voices and instruments. And the best part is the ability to reveal micro details, without being too disturbing.
As I have previously mentioned, the KS2s provide a good recreation of the scene, for their price range. Both depth and width are particularly good. The stage is quite coherent, perhaps one of its best virtues, with a remarkable capacity for instrumental positioning and detail, even at a three-dimensional level. In this way, there is an ample amount of air and space. In the perception of the elements, height, distance and width can be glimpsed, but without the image being totally surrounding. Even so, the level shown is remarkable, but without being too impressive.
The initial differences are obvious. Starting with the fit and ergonomics, the KS2s are lighter and more adaptable. Following the volume, the KS2s are more sensitive. When it comes to sound, despite the fact that both have a V-profile, the KB04 has a greater tendency to brightness and less emphasized bass at its lower end. Continuing with the low end, the KS2s execute the bass in a smoother way, while the KB04s have a more perceptible texture, perhaps their greater enhancement in the mid-bass, affects in this sense. Despite the similarity of both zones, I find the bass of the KS2 drier, smoother, deeper, but also less expressive.
In the mid-range, the differences persist: in the KS2s, the voices are more distant and less full. In the KB04 they are closer, more complete, but also brighter, with the danger that this entails. The energy in the upper mid-range is slightly higher. But the biggest difference is in the tuning of that part: I had previously spoken of a somewhat more unrealistic sound in the KS2. You can see that here. The female voices are more explicit and complete on the KB04, while on the KS2, they are polished, more trimmed, in a way that they don't show as full. In the KB04, they are more vivid and natural looking, but the problem is that this greater clarity can cause more hearing fatigue. The instrumentation has more sparkle and presence in the KB04, presenting a brighter recreation, at times thinner and more defined, but less distant and less smooth than in the KS2. This makes the overall sound of the mids more realistic and natural in the KB04.
The treble begins in the same path as the final midrange, being more crisp and defined in the KB04, recreating a greater amount of detail and nuance. It is clear that it is a more persistent, sparkling area, but it is also more vivid, dynamic, more exciting and revealing. The KS2 still shows that slightly more erratic tuning, which wants to avoid falling into the persistence of the KB04, but without achieving the best musicality and coherence in this range.
The more direct sound of the KB04, generates a more focused, more boxed, which does not expand so much laterally, nor in height. The more relaxed sound of the KS2 does have more openness and extends, more freely, in all directions. It has more depth, a less cut width and its height is more evident, as it manages to recreate a more ethereal and large sound. The KB04, with its higher energy in treble, defines the sound in a way that does not allow it to escape, sounding all together more rigid and packed. In contrast, there is more air and distance in the KS2.
Within the same brand and similar profile, KBEAR has presented two slightly different tunings: A brighter, more defined and somewhat more classic profile for the KB04. While for the KS2, my opinion is that they wanted to create a more U-shaped IEMS, giving more energy to the lower end, softening the mids and highs, to create a more relaxed sound, not so explicit and less persistent, which offers a more obvious emphasis on recreating a larger and more open scene, not on the details.
KBEAR brings out a new model and redefines, slightly, both ends of the sound range. On this occasion, the sub-bass is emphasized and the treble is re-tuned. The result is something different, although, the best thing is the scene and the separation. The KS2 is a slight redesign of the V-profile, with a remarkable low zone (especially the sub-bass), treble with good level of nuances and a great stereo image, for its price level. They are comfortable and lightweight, although, a carrying bag is missing. Their characteristics make them a good ally for daily use and for those who enjoy these virtues. They are even highly recommended for neophytes, who will find in them a good touchstone, which will help them to scale in this hobby. And the best thing is that they only need a Smartphone to enjoy them.