sayafarid

New Head-Fier
KB Ear Neon - Colour The Uncoloured
Pros: Build
Cable Haptics
Tonality
Cons: Veil
Cable Connector

Neon0.jpg

Intro

In the chase towards the ‘flattest-sounding’ IEM, there has been a lot of manufacturers and brand names that showed off their tuning expertise to be offered to the mass market. Most of them have a different approach to deliver somewhat close to the Diffuse Field Neutral sound signature. Yes, it is not a Harman’s target and it is less appealing for the general consumer but rather a niche tuning catered to a very specific crowd. But a target curve is just a target curve. The whole listening experience is also weighted by other factors.

KB Ear really did their homework with the Neon and it was a really interesting feat having them compared side by side to some more pricier, similarly tuned and similarly configured IEMs. It will definitely appeal to a specific group of audiophile but will also provide a new listening experience for the more adventurous ones. This review unit was provided by KB Ear.

Packaging

Packaging is fairly simple. The black sleeve with the neon-colored wording really pops out and actually gives me some sort of a neon-light-district vibes. The IEM itself is packed neatly inside, nestled securely in foams. Supplied along with the Neon are 3 sets of silicon eartips, a set of foam eartips and a nicely made carry case. It’s a fairly simple packaging here but the presentation is different from what I was accustomed to.

The shell is made of resin with an aluminium nozzle and while the color choices might be questionable, it really does reflect its name. The overall design itself suggests that it should perform at its best with a deep fit. And I mean a very deep fit somewhere similar to that of the Etymōtic’s deep. The cable supplied with the Neon is one of the best stock cable that I have experienced so far. The behaviour and feel of the cable just speaks for itself = quality. It is also worth noting that the connector is uniquely marked with a bulge which makes it easier to differentiate the left and right IEM (the bulge should be pointed forward when in use).

The only caveat I had with the Neon is the cable connection. It is secure enough until you are used to using them deep inside your ears. Once, the entire Neon was left inside my left ear while trying to pull them out. Yes the whole IEM, not just the eartips. LOL! Most probably it was me not being extra careful but the connections really should been more secure considering the design approach.

Neon2.jpg


Functions & Specifications

  • Material: Resin Shell with Aluminium Nozzle
  • Transducer Type: 1x Balanced Armature (Knowles ED29689
  • Sensitivity: 105dB/Vrms @ 1kHz
  • Impedance: 14ohms @ 1kHz
  • Frequency Range: 20Hz – 20kHz

What’s In The Box

  • KBEar Neon
  • Silicon Eartips (S, M, L) x1
  • Foam Eartip (M) x1
  • Carry Case

Sound & Tonality

Despite the fun sounding name and interesting shell colour choices, the Neon carries a neutral sound signature (which is an uncoloured sound). Accompanied with an arguably BA-natural tonality, they’re leaning close to the Diffuse Field Neutral but somehow manages to maintain the balance between being too analytical and too fun, which is a very wise decision.

Source Used

Xduoo X2S > Xduoo XQ-10 > KBEar Neon
Foobar2k > IFI micro iDSD Black Label > KBEar Neon

Bass

The Neon does extend into the sub-bass region but they are by no means rumbly or elevated. It’s just there. Mid-bass is neutral but is also somewhat ‘thumpy’. Yes, ‘thumpy’ in a way that it tries to provide some sense of energy on the lower end to avoid from sounding too anaemic (they’ll still sound anaemic if you’re used to more fun signature, YMMV). Upper-bass however is clean but somewhat blunted in speed. The bass on the Neon is not the most detailed despite sounding clean and textured but it is at least typical of a Diffuse Field Neutral tuned IEM.

Mids

The transition from the upper-bass to the lower-mids is good and as expected from a single BA driver, there’s no audible bass bleed here, obviously. The mids is forward but somehow they sound veiled. Don’t get me wrong, the detail retrieval is OK but there’s some kind of muffle which retracts the full potential of the Knowles ED29689. But on the plus side, that slight veil avoids the mids from sounding hollow. Upper-mids is tastefully done to be engaging enough without being thin and far from being shouty.

Treble

Lower-treble is clear and almost…almost crunchy sounding. It somehow lacks the energy to proper complement the upper-mids. Treble is fairly detailed, controlled and peakiness is a non-existent which renders the Neon suitable for longer listening sessions. The brilliance on the upper-treble is good but they’re rolled off quite a bit early, resulting in a less airy presentation. Nonetheless, the treble is inoffensive and will suit most people who prefer the characteristics of a neutral, somewhat accurate ‘reference-tuned’ IEM.

Soundstage

The Neon do sound a bit closed in. They are slightly wider than deep but lacking in height. If the stage is slightly taller, it would render the Neon to be almost holographic sounding (with constraint from the stage depth). Still, a good soundstage presentation nonetheless considering the asking price and the limits of a single BA driver that’s being used.

Imaging & Separation

On to some more technicalities, the Neon paints the spatial cues in a well defined and precise image despite the small-ish soundstage. Separation however is not rendered as beautifully as the imaging itself. It can get rather congested, which also affects the layering to be somewhat more 2-dimensional. While these two should come hand in hand, it may be due to the veil that took its toll on the separation as opposed to the size of the soundstage.

Driveability

The Neon is relatively easy to drive and its behaviour is pretty much similar to one of the more highly regarded IEM…more on that in the comparison section. Truth be told, they don’t quite scale very well with more power being fed. There are slight improvement but rather insignificant.

Synergy

Similar to most neutral-sounding IEMs, they’re source sensitive and are very fond of warm sources. Reason being is that warm sources will balance out all the uncoloured part of the sound spectrum to be more pleasing, immersive and fun to listen to.

Comparison

*disclaimer: comparison is made based within the niche area of “neutrally-tuned” IEM, and not based on the general consensus.

FiiO FA1

The FA1 is FiiO’s take on the single-BA IEM market which utilizes a Knowles ED33357 accompanied with a more ergonomically designed shell. The sound signature is balanced-neutral and can at least be an all rounder if need be (YMMV). Bass sounds more natural and smoother on the FA1 but detail retrieval is excellent in comparison to the Neon. Mids have more body (read:lush) and clearer on the FA1 which renders better detail retrieval than the Neon. Treble is more exciting (still a safe treble) and airier on the FA1 despite being the more ‘balanced’ sounding IEM.

On to some technicalities, soundstage on the FA1 is rounder and taller. But then again it’s not a night and day difference since it’s still a single-BA, derived from the same base model. Layering is perceptibly similar on both despite the FA1 being slightly deeper. Imaging and separation is noticeably better, well distinguished and more accurate on the FA1 as compared to the Neon. In short, the FA1 is more comfortable, slightly balanced sounding with a slightly better technical performer than the Neon.

Etymōtic ER3SE (stock filter)

The ER3SE is similarly designed to be a minimalistic, deep fitting IEM and built with an aluminium shell as opposed to resin shell on the Neon. Well, these are the guys who pioneered this particular niche IEM-scape after all. Bass is similarly neutral but more detailed and wonderfully textured on the ER3SE. Mids are more transparent and detailed on the ER3SE but almost sounding hollow as compared to the Neon. Treble is safely tuned to give enough energy and sparkle but are similarly rolled off for both the ER3SE and the Neon.

This Etymōtic is my current benchmark for technical performance under the $200 mark. To be fair, the Neon is not that far off in some region. Soundstage is similarly closed in for both IEMs but the ER3SE has a more evenly distributed width, depth and height which renders them to be more holographic sounding. Imaging and separation on the Neon is clearly outpaced by the ER3SE. Not to mention the layering on the ER3SE is more defined and polished. All in all the Neon is a good, cheaper alternative for one to experience something almost similar to the Etymōtic.

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For Who

In my humble opinion, those who prefer Diffuse Field Neutral signature will most likely grow fond of the Neon. Standing between the lines of being anaemic, sterile and monitor-ish sounding IEM, the Neon is indeed one of the less ‘fun’ IEM which targets a specific group of people. I mean, yes it’s a niche tuning but IEMs that bear this particular sound signature are very versatile to begin with. The Neon do benefit from deep insertion similar to the Etymōtics so potential buyers be wary.

Stars & Verdict

Unlike a single-DD IEM, a single-BA IEM is arguably the more unfavourable configuration for most people due to the known limitation of the driver. But in the real world application, as long as the IEM caters to your sound preference and use case scenario, it should be more than adequate to provide a satisfying listening experience (given that you like the signature). Despite its quirks, it’s not too much to say that the Neon is quite a competitive IEM (considering its price) within the niche single-BA, neutral-sounding IEMs realm.

4 Stars

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G777
G777
sayafarid
sayafarid
Thanks man..currently don't have the 30ohms..on 75ohms they're slightly leaner tho. Will have amother go once I can get my hands on one of the 30ohms (provided that I still have the Neon, lol).
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G777
G777
Based on the graph, 80Ω gets it very close to the Etymotic target. 30Ω will have slightly less of an effect. I think what you hear with your 75Ω adapter is pretty much as good as it gets. :)

baskingshark

Headphoneus Supremus
KBEAR Neon Review – Rarefied Neon Gas
Pros: Unique midcentric tuning (rare in budget CHIFI).
Good accessories.
Excellent isolation.
Good timbre for a pure BA set.
Laid back, non fatiguing tuning.
Fast and clean midbass.
Good technicalities.
Easy to drive.
Will make an affordable budget stage monitor.
2 pin connector, better lifespan than MMCX in general.
Cons: Subbass and higher treble roll off.
Insertion depth affects the sound and comfort a lot -> varying impressions as such.
2D soundstage (wide soundstage but sounstage depth/height below average).
Lack of edge definition/bite – may be pro or con depending on personal preference.
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DISCLAIMER

I would like to thank KBEAR for providing this review unit. It can be gotten here: https://www.aliexpress.com/item/1005002637520309.html


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The KBEAR Neon is a unique midcentric set, featuring good timbre, isolation and technicalities. It does have a subbass and higher treble roll off as per most single BA sets, but otherwise is a recommendation for vocal and mid lovers. There’s not many single BA or midcentric sets at the budget CHIFI segment, so this is a refreshing tuning for vocal and acoustic genres.


SPECIFICATIONS
  • Driver configuration: Knowles 29689 full frequency Balanced Armature driver
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz – 20kHz
  • Impedance: 14Ω
  • Sensitivity: 105dB
  • Cable: 2 pin
  • Tested at $49.99 USD


ACCESSORIES

Other than the IEM, the KBEAR Neon packaging comes with:
  • Foam tips – 1 pair
  • Silicone ear tips – 3 pairs (S/M/L)
  • Carry case
  • 4 core 4N copper silver plated cable – well braided, non tangly. Slight microphonics, but perfectly usable sonic wise.
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Accessories wise, quite good for the price, I’ve seen worse in pricier IEMs, cough cough TRN VX. Everything is rather usable OOTB here, so no need to mess with getting aftermarket tips or cables, which can add to costs (looking at you BLON BL-03).

For the purposes of this review, the stock tips and stock cables were used, so as not to change the sound signature with aftermarket gear.


BUILD/COMFORT

The KBEAR Neon is a bullet shaped IEM following the legacy of the Etymotics housing, and is meant to be worn cable down. The housing is light and each earpiece weighs in at an amazing 2.3 grams.

Do note that insertion depth of the KBEAR Neon makes a humongous difference in the perceived sound, and also for comfort. This may also account for the different impressions that various consumers/reviewers will find with this set. With a shallower insertion, the KBEAR Neon’s bass is rather anemic, vocals are in the background and the soundstage becomes wider. With a deeper insertion of the KBEAR neon, the bass and upper treble are boosted and the sound seems better for me, things don’t sound so hollow or distant. One might need to try smaller sized eartips (either stock or aftermarket) to get a deeper fit, so it is not a case of using the usual sized tips you are familiar with on other IEMs.

Of course this is a YMMV situation as we have different ear anatomies and comfort levels for deep insertion IEMs. Though even with a deeper insertion on the KBEAR Neon, I find the comfort is acceptable for me, it isn’t as “violating” or deep fitting as the Etymotics series IEMs. For comparisons, I couldn’t use the Etys for more than a few minutes due to ear discomfort and ear abrasions (though granted the Etys had one of the best passive isolation in a non custom IEM and they did sound good). I’ve managed to use the KBEAR Neon for a few hours with the deep insertion method, without much issues.

As per most cable down IEMs, there are some microphonics, but this can be mitigated to some extent by using a shirt clip. Another tip I learnt in this journey, is that some folks use cable down IEMs as over the ear IEMs to minimize microphonics, it does look weird but it gets the job done, though it might wear out the cable at the bent point over the ear, but detachable cables can be replaced anyways, so no biggie.

I liked that the KBEAR Neon featured a 2 pin connector, I had my fair share of mishaps with MMCX type connectors after switching cables once too often.

The only issue about the 2 pin connector of the KBEAR Neon, is that one may inadvertently connect it in a reversed polarity, causing out of phase issues. The KBEAR Neon housing can be rotated, there’s a dot on the IEM to signify the orientation of the IEM housing, so just make sure both dots are facing up or both are facing down. As per convention, the red dot is meant for the right earpiece, left dot is meant for the left earpiece. I didn’t hear any difference when both dots were facing up versus both dots facing down, but according to KBEAR, the dots are officially meant to be both facing down:

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Anyways, if the music is out of phase, it is pretty obvious, music seems to be coming from behind the head and sounds weird. Alternatively, just use some free online links to check if your IEM is in phase, eg
If music is out of phase, just reverse one side’s housing and you should be back in phase.


ISOLATION

Isolation on the KBEAR Neon is excellent as per an unvented BA set. One of the better passive isolating IEMs I’ve tried so far.


DRIVABILITY

I tested the KBEAR Neon with a Khadas Tone Board -> Topping L30 amp, Sony NW A-55 DAP (DMP-A50 FEv2 Classic Mr Walkman Mod), smartphone, Shanling Q1 DAP, Tempotec Sonata HD Pro, ESS ES9280C PRO DAC/AMP, and a Khadas Tone Board -> Fiio A3 Amp.

The KBEAR Neon is easy to drive, no amping or heavy powered gear required. The Neon runs off practically any weak source. Though as usual amping can increase soundstage, microdetails and dynamics a tinge.


SOUND & TECHNICALITIES

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Graph courtesy of KopiOKaya (IEC711 compliant coupler). 8 kHZ area is probably a resonance peak.


The KBEAR Neon is a midcentric set. Tuning is towards laid back, especially when shallow insertion is used. As per most single BA (balanced armature) IEMs, there is a subbass and higher treble roll off, resulting in limitations in extension of the FR at both extreme ends. Thus, bassheads best look elsewhere for your subbass rumble, and trebleheads best look elsewhere for your sparkle and air. But the Neon’s midcentric tuning is very well done, there’s really no harshness or peaks in the tuning, it’s a very agreeable and smooth midcentric set.

Having said that, one must be aware that midcentric tunings are very niche, they shines in vocals and acoustics genres, but they are not the best for bass forward music genres, eg EDM. Nevertheless, there aren’t many single BA types or midcentric tuned sets in the budget CHIFI arena, so the KBEAR Neon is pretty unique in this aspect.

The KBEAR Neon’s midbass is neutral and the subbass rolls off very early, as per the single BA physics. What the Neon cedes in bass quantity, it aces in quality. The midbass is very fast and tight and textured. It is the literal definition of “Fast and Clean” bass, with no midbass bleed. Mids are the star here, being boosted, but not harsh or shouty. It is a very transparent mids that lets all the vocals and instruments shine through, midlovers and acoustic/vocal lovers will have a field day. There isn’t the harsh 2 – 4 kHz area that plagues a lot of budget CHIFI tuning, this is a non fatiguing set. Treble wise, there’s slight sibilance, but it is still considered a safe treble for me, yet retaining good microdetails, though it isn’t the most airy treble, as per the higher treble roll off in most single BA sets.

Note weight on the Neon is on the thinner side, but that allows the single BA to move quite fast without any dulled transients. Timbre is surprisingly good for a BA set, it won’t beat a well tuned single DD in the timbral accuracy department, but it is one of the better sets for timbral accuracy for a pure BA setup that I’ve tried. Timbral accuracy on the KBEAR neon definitely trumps the garden variety KZ in timbre for sure. Acoustic instruments and vocals sounded quite natural in timbre, with maybe only a slight “plastic” quality in stringed instruments.

On one side of the KBEAR Neon housing, one can see the Knowles 29689 BA serial number, so this set does use Knowles drivers. But of course driver brand and even driver count is secondary to tuning and implementation, as we can see that some TOTL sets (cough cough Campfire Solaris) use Bellsing BA drivers, and some purported Knowles sets don’t sound anything special. But the Knowles house signature does shine thru in the KBEAR Neon, featuring a well rounded note with good technicalities, without needing to boost the upper frequencies to cheat and get the details in. As per some Knowles BA sets, there is a slightly blunted edge definition/bite in notes, this may be a pro or con depending on your personnel preference.

On to technicalities. As this set is a deep insertion type IEM, as per some Etymotics, soundstage is kinda 2D. Soundstage width is good, but height and depth are below average. But what the Neon cedes in soundstage, it makes up for in good left/right imaging. I’d take a set with precise imaging and more intimate soundstage, over a set with big soundstage but fuzzy and nebulous imaging. Details and instrument separation are good for this price range, the KBEAR Neon doesn’t use the typical overly boosted upper mids/treble cheatcode that a lot of budget CHIFI use to boost clarity and give fake details. The Neon manages to get the details in without going to shouty territory, and yet being quite a chill laid back tuning that one can use for hours without fatigue. Think of a monitoring type sound signature with good details, in fact I think the KBEAR Neon can be a good entry level stage monitor due to its isolation, good fit and good technicalities.


COMPARISONS

Here are some comparisons with single BA types. As hybrids/multi BA and single DD IEMs have their own strengths and weaknesses compared to single BA types, they were left out of the comparisons. I apologize as I don’t have any Etymotics IEMs with me now to do A/B comparisons, I returned them some time ago as I couldn’t tolerate the deep “violating” fit, but suffice to say the KBEAR Neon is much more comfortable for me than the Etys series.


Westone UM1 (1BA) ($99 USD)

The Westone UM1 is a 1 BA set that is tuned warm neutralish (but with a treble roll off). The Westone UM1 comes in a conventional bean shaped design, that is worn over ears instead of cable down like the KBEAR Neon. The Westone UM1 has worse isolation.

The Westone UM1 has worse details, imaging, instrument separation and clarity and has a more compressed soundstage width. The Westone UM1 has worse timbral accuracy. Both sets have a subbass roll off as per most single BA types, but the Westone UM1’s bass has a slight midbass bleed and is not as tight/textured/speedy.


Acoustic Effect TRY-01 (1BA) ($130 USD)

The Acoustic Effect TRY-01 is a 1 BA bullet shaped Japanese set that is also worn cable down. It has a non detachable cable (this may be a dealbreaker for some) and also has poorer isolation. The Acoustic Effect TRY-01 has slightly better technicalities and soundstage depth/height, but is more than double the price. Subbass extension is slightly better on the Acoustic Effect TRY-01, though the KBEAR Neon comes with better accessories.


CONCLUSIONS

The KBEAR Neon is a unique midcentric set, featuring good timbre, isolation and technicalities. It does have a subbass and higher treble roll off as per most single BA sets, though there’s not many single BA or midcentric sets at the budget CHIFI segment, so this is a refreshing tuning for vocal and acoustic genres. The KBEAR Neon’s sound is also quite drastically affected by insertion depth, but even with deeper insertion, I don’t find it as ill fitting as the traditional Etymotics types.

I have an admission to make, I’m not a single BA fan. I’m a single DD (dynamic driver) guy for general music listening, as they tend to give better timbral accuracy and tonality/coherency at the budget/midfi CHIFI segment, when compared to BA sets. BA bass that isn’t vented (in general), tends to move less air and have less decay, thus resulting in a less natural bass sound than traditional DD bass. In addition to the higher treble and subbass roll off, single BA types may be weaker in technicalities, when compared to multi BA/hybrids, as expected of a single BA physics limitation. Even if I do use unvented pure BA type IEMs, I use them for stage monitoring exclusively, due to their better isolation (generally unvented) and better technicalities than DD types.

However, despite my biasedness against single BA sets, the KBEAR Neon is a set I think is a keeper, as it shines in vocals and acoustic genres and can also perhaps be a budget stage monitor for stage use. Anyways most of us in this hobby have a few pairs of IEMs lying about, to suit different sonic signatures and music genres, and I think for those who don’t have a midcentric set in your Pokemon collection, the KBEAR Neon is a worthwhile set to consider. Just be aware that midcentric tunings aren’t all rounder, but they will really shine at vocals and acoustic genres.

adriansticoid

New Head-Fier
KBEar Neon: A Breath of Fresh Air
Pros: Excellent price to performance ratio
Great overall build quality
Unique design
Cons: Sound very dependent on eartips and fit
Low quality stock tips
Introduction:
The Neon is the second model from KBEar having a single balanced armature driver setup, with their F1 being the first. It has an SRP of 49 USD. The Neon was provided to me for free by Mei of KBEar in exchange for this review. You can purchase it now from your favorite audio gear sellers.
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Specifications:
Impedance: 14 ohms
Sensitivity: 105 dB
Frequency response range: 20 Hz - 20 kHz

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Source:
Poco X3 paired with iBasso DC03 and Shanling UA1

Test tracks:
Africano - Earth Wind and Fire
Dark Necessities - Red Hot Chili Peppers
Gurenge - Lisa
The Chain - Fleetwood Mac
Monsters - All Time Low
Ours - Taylor Swift
Stay - Mayday Parade
Snuff - Slipknot
Yesterday Once More - Carpenters
So Slow - Freestyle
Aurora Sunrise - Franco
Attention - Pentatonix
Blue Bird - Ikimono-gakari
You're Still The One - Shania Twain
Anyone Who Knows What Love Is(Will Understand) - Irma Thomas
Salamin - Slapshock
AOV - Slipknot
Hey Jude - The Beatles
The Way You Make Me Feel - Michael Jackson

Build:
The shell is made of transparent resin, with a metal nozzle that has a quite larger diameter than most IEMs. Inside you can clearly see the single Knowles balanced armature that they used along with its model and serial number. There is a blue and red dot near the female pins that indicate the left and right side respectively, and when inserting the cable into the driver, the dots should be facing downwards for the correct polarity.

The cable is a lightweight 2 core silver plated copper that is moderately soft and pliable, the plug, splitter and chin slider are made of metal, and with the male pins, KBEar reused pins that were originally for cables that are worn over the ear. Due to this, the L and R indicators are upside down.
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Now before I talk about the sound, I should say that the stock tips did not fit me well. Spinfits were the first tips that came to mind that I thought would fit well and be comfortable. I was right. However, the Spinfit made the sound suffer due to its long stem resulting in a shallow fit. I changed the tips to Acoustune AET06 with a shorter stem, resulting in a deeper fit, and the sound improved drastically.

Now let's get to the sound.

Lows:
The lows have a slightly laid back presentation. Subbass is presented in a tight manner, has a below average reach accompanied by a moderately fast decay. Midbass presence is neutral and at just the right spot, having adequate weight to its punch.

Overall, the lows of the Neon will leave you wanting for more if you are a person who loves bass and/or isn't accustomed to a neutral or flat tuning. That being said, there is still room for improvement should KBEar make another single BA model with a flat signature.

Mids:
The mids are forward and intimate, although it has a hint of being nasal on some tracks. Male and female vocals have an elevated thickness, but still, both sound very articulate, lively, and natural. There is a peak somewhere in the upper mids that you will sometimes hear and interpret it as being slightly "shouty" but it is rare and pretty much negligible.

Overall, the mids make this IEM shine. It is Neon's main strength. It's quite rare for an IEM in this price range to have this quality in the midrange department, therefore making the Neon unique.

Highs:
The highs are neutrally placed and natural sounding. Sibilance was not perceived across all tracks. The decay is a bit slow and is well extended. However, because of the forwardness of the mids, the highs may sometimes get drowned out by it, especially when a number of instruments starts playing. Very noticeable in genres like metal or rock.

Overall, the highs give the Neon a decent amount of clarity and a good level of sparkle that adds an energetic vibe to what some may consider a boring tuning.

Soundstage and Imaging:
The stage has an above average expansion with a very good sense of depth. Imaging is accurate. Layering and separation is good on acoustic tracks but it starts to degrade when the treble gets overwhelmed by the midrange.

Conclusion:
In the budget section of IEMs that is saturated with warm and V-shaped signatures, the Neon is a breath of fresh air. The overall design, especially the type of sound that the Neon will give you, is quite rare in this price range. With lows that will not give you headache, and highs that will not cause fatigue, I recommend this to anyone who wants something smooth and different.
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ywheng89

New Head-Fier
KBEAR Neon Review
Pros: Price performance ratio
Non fatigued easy going signature
Vocal really shines
Cons: Stock eartips definitely ruined the experience
Nothing much other than that
Lacked the rumble as expected from single BA
KBEAR Neon Review

Intro


KBEAR Neon is KBEAR latest IEM with a 1BA driver configuration. It is claimed to be F1’s successor. Equipped with a single Knowles 29689 Balanced Armature driver and it retails for $49usd.
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Source

Tidal(Mixture of MQA and Hifi Quality Songs) -> iFi Zen Dac -> KBear Neon

*Disclaimer
-This review is done using stock cable and the ear tips are Sony's M Sized hybrid long silicone as I found that stock ear tips made the vocal sound very hollow and everything else seemed very boxed in. Hopefully KBEAR will take this into consideration and improve on this for the successor, also do note that i am wearing it with the deep insertion method.

Sound

I will do a breakdown as follows in describing how it sounds. I have had a fairly good experience using them for the past few days. I would describe Neon as a neutral and un-colored IEM.

Bass

The presence of the bass is just enough in my opinion. I’m always going after quality rather than quantity. The bass is what you will expect from a single BA if you ever heard a single BA before. It is fast, punchy and tight. Rumble and extension is nowhere to be found as this is a single BA after all. Basshead you should look elsewhere.


Mids

This is the part where Neon will shine in my opinion. Tonality and timbre is clean and good. Vocal doesn’t sound recessed nor too forward. Just right. It feels very natural albeit it has a slight tinge of BA timbre, but still good overall. No bass bleed as far as I listen to. Norah Jones’s Come Away With Me is very enjoyable as the vocal really stand out.


Treble

Treble doesn’t sound sibilant or piercing at all. Slight roll off to my ears. It also feels smooth and you can easily listen to it all day long without feeling fatigue. Detail and clarity is good but at times it will feel a little congested when there are a lot of instruments playing at the same time. Gurenge by Lisa for example, exhibited this behavior.

Soundstage/Imaging/Separation

There is nothing much to shout out about the soundstage. I would say it is pretty average. Not too wide or nor too narrow that it made you feel “boxed” in, also depending on how you actually wear them, deep fit or normal fit, it will affect the soundstage in some way. Normal fit will make the soundstage a little wider, as for deep fit, the soundstage will feel a little boxed in. In my opinion it lacked the height, the soundstage feels rather like a straight line to my ears.
Separation is average and as mentioned above, it does get congested when there are a lot of instruments playing at the same time. The imaging is alright as well as the instruments can be pinpointed easily.


Specifications

Sensitivity: 105dB
Impedance: 14Ω
Interface: QDC (I have tested with 0.78 and it works as well, QDC is basically a 2 pin as well as far as i know)
Plug type: 3.5mm
Frequency range: 20-20kHz

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Final Thoughts

Overall an enjoyable IEM that puts a lot of emphasis on the vocals especially. Jazz, or tracks that focus solely on vocals is heavenly, for everything else, it will do just fine except for EDM which is to be expected because of the limitation of the single BA in Neon. This is a very good IEM for its price. If the upper treble can be boosted just a little and the low extends a little, then this is definitely a killer for the price. Despite all that, I would still recommend this to someone who is looking for something smooth and easy where you can just plug in and listen. However, the stock eartips is recommended in order to have the best experience/performance out of Neon, i would suggest you to spend some time to tip roll and find one that suits you. Trust me, it makes a lot of difference compared to the stock eartips.

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Nimweth

Headphoneus Supremus
Neon: It's a Gas!
Pros: Neutral balanced profile
Resolving mids
Expansive soundstage
Excellent fit and seal
Cons: Bass light
Dip in upper treble
Some sharpness in mids
The KBEAR Neon is the latest model from the company and is the successor to the F1. Like the earlier model, it is a single BA design. The F1 employed a 32257 type in different versions including Bellsing. The Neon uses a Knowles ED 29869 BA as found in the TRI Starsea.

The Neon comes in similar packaging to the Lark with a colour sleeve showing Chinese characters within a Neon-effect border within which is written " KBEAR Neon". Also featured are "The vocals hit the soul" and "Single BA in-ear Hi-fi earphones" in Chinese and English. The reverse has a list of specifications. Removing the cover reveals a square black box with a gold KBEAR logo. Inside you will see the IEMs sitting in a foam cut-out and two black boxes with gold writing, one long box containing the accessories and another containing the case. The contents include:

* KBEAR Neon IEMs
* 2-pin silver plated cable
* 4 pairs of grey silicone tips (S, 2 x M, L)
* 1 pair of white silicone tips (S,M,L)
* Carrying case
* User guide

The carrying case is finished in a grey textured material with a white KBEAR logo and has a zip closure. The presentation and accessories are excellent for the price and put companies like KZ to shame.

The Neon is a "bullet" style IEM. It has a transparent body through which the components can be seen and is available in three colourways, red/blue, black and purple. The nozzle is fairly long and there is a decorative silver ring with KBEAR branding just below the nozzle. The 2-pin socket is on the rear of the body and protrudes to accept a hooded connector. There are red and blue dots on the underside indicating the channel and polarity.

The cable is silver plated copper with hooded connectors, a straight silver coloured metal 3.5mm plug and metal Y-split with a ring chin slider. It is worn cable down and is very comfortable with little cable noise.

The Neon was tested principally using an Xduoo X20 DAP but a CD player and smartphone were also employed. The stock cable and medium tips were used which resulted in an excellent fit, isolation and seal. A burn in period of 100 hours was used to settle down the components.

First Impressions
The Neon displayed a largely neutral profile with a conservative sub-bass presence but with good speed and resolution. Mid bass through to upper mids were flat with a moderate rise into the treble which possessed good detail and clarity. There was a dip in the upper frequencies after which the level recovered and supplied some sparkle and air. Transient response was quick and agile. Staging was well above average with good separation and layering.

Bass
As may be expected from a single BA, there was a relative reduction in the bass level but there was still a good sense of weight and depth although there was a roll-off in the sub-bass region. Mid bass had good impact and speed whilst maintaining rhythmic integrity, and did not bleed into the midrange.

Jonn Serrie's "Le Tresor" was a good example. Its deep sub-bass foundation was hinted at rather than fully realised but there was good definition, texture and speed. Some of the atmosphere was lost but what remained was very clean and musical, freeing up the mid bass, allowing the piece to breathe and showcasing the overlaying acoustic guitar solo very effectively.

The deep pedal notes of the organ in Albinoni's "Adagio in G minor" possessed good texture and there was a sense of weight but the extension was just a little shy, robbing the piece of its impressive foundation. The timbre of the basses and cellos in the version by the Guildhall String Ensemble was believable with admirable clarity and detail and the piece retained its cohesion even though some of the impact was lost in the lower frequencies.

Mids
Arguably the star of the show, the Neon's midrange was neutral and accurate with good timbre for a BA. There was a moderate rise in the upper region which added some clarity and soundstage, layering and imaging were all very good.

"A Chloris" by Venezuelan composer Reynaldo Hahn is a beautiful duet for cello and piano in the style of Bach. In the performance by Julian Lloyd Webber and John Lenehan, the Neon gave a very good account of itself with excellent clarity. The timbre of the instruments was generally natural and lifelike with only the higher notes of the cello having a sharper "BA" tonality. The atmosphere and ambience of the performance was faithfully reproduced.

Rosanne Cash's sensitive recording of "This has happened before" demonstrated the superb vocal abilities of the Neon. The reverb on her voice, acoustic guitar, Dobro and steel guitars were all convincingly portrayed, and combined nicely to produce an emotional performance worthy of the phrase "The vocals hit the soul". This was ideal material for the Neon.

Treble
The Neon's treble was generally clean and well defined with good detail. There was a notable dip in the upper region before recovering in the extreme HF. This resulted in some variation of timbre but there was still a decent sense of sparkle and "air".

"Many Chinas" from the superb "Vapor Drawings" by Mark Isham begins with bright and detailed percussive elements on each side of the stereo image displaying excellent width. The Neon reproduced these very clearly with precise detail. When the bass, trumpet and keyboards joined in, the whole piece gelled together very well with excellent separation producing a satisfying musicality.

Pachelbel's famous "Canon in D major" can surely not have had a more elegantly paced presentation than that by the J. F. Paillard Orchestra on Erato. The slower tempo revealed so much more of the counterpoint and throughout the piece, the harpsichord continuo was clearly audible and the violin solo placed centre stage displayed excellent timbre.

Soundstage
Along with the mids, the soundstage was perhaps the best feature of the Neon, being expansive in all three dimensions and exhibiting good separation and layering with imaging also being above average.

"Walking in Space", by Amin Bhatia from "The Interstellar Suite", features binaural effects depicting an EVA or spacewalk. It starts with a representation of an airlock being activated and the astronaut beginning his activity, which is then followed by a cinematic musical theme on synthesisers. A huge stage was created by the Neon with the sound effects displaying accurate positioning and delicate sequenced electronic details moving across the image. The whole effect was spacious and very captivating.

The superb series of classical pieces by the Minnesota Orchestra on the Reference Recordings label always display an impressive soundstage. Ravel's dynamic "Alborada del Gracioso" is no exception. Eiji Oue's interpretation is full of drama, orchestral colour and impact and the Neon revelled in the piece with a convincing spread of the orchestra and a believable sense of the hall ambience, forming a solid three-dimensional image which was wonderfully entertaining. The positioning of the concertante instruments was precise and there was a very natural perspective. With just a little more depth and power, it would have been nigh-on perfect.

Conclusion
The Neon improves on its predecessor, the F1, in every way. It has a more extended bass (though still somewhat light), the midrange is clearer and more defined where the F1 was occasionally veiled (this will depend on the BA), and the treble is more extended. Soundstage is much more impressive. The Knowles unit is more refined and linear, and the presentation, fit and cable are also superior. The team at KBEAR and TRI certainly know something about tuning. If the dip in the upper treble could be fixed and a little more extension in the bass could be added, this would be a giant-killer! As it stands, the Neon is still a very good IEM at the price and eminently recommendable.

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RikudouGoku

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Well tuned DF-neutral
Good timbre for a BA iem
Neutral and uncolored
Decent bass texture for a single BA
Vocals (especially female)
Non-offensive treble
Tailor made cable
Cons: Questionable QC (channel imbalance and missing tips)
Deep fit recommended to maximize sound, not that comfortable (for me)
Imaging and separation can't handle fast/busier tracks
BA bass
Slight BA timbre across the range
Upper-treble roll-off
Might be too boring for some
20210610_163608.jpg


Disclaimer: I received this review unit from KBEAR, thank you very much.

Price: 50 usd

Specifications:


Sensitivity: 105dB

Impedance: 14Ω

Interface: QDC

Plug type: 3.5mm

Frequency range: 20-20kHz

20210610_163908.jpg

Accessories:

Carry case

(Missing tips in my unit)

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Cable: 2 core SPC cable that is basically tailor made for the Neon due to it being very lightweight and without ear hooks. L/R markings are transparent and very hard to see though and since I wasn’t able to measure it due to the QDC structure, I compared the graph for the stock cable vs cable A3 that has a very low resistance.

graph (42).png

And there wasn’t any FR changes, either because the BA responds like this or because the stock cable measures similarly. In any cases, it isn’t required to change the stock cable as it works and looks great (IMO), but the chin-slider is non-working though.


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Build: Resin build with aluminum nozzle and mesh. It’s a very small build and is also very lightweight. L/R are identified by the colors.

Fit: Bullet style fit and you can use it in 2 ways; either you use it like a normal bullet iem and use a normal sized tip that works for you or you can use it in a deeper fit which is achievable when you use the smallest tip size that you can still get a seal with. It sounds better to me with the deeper fit and that is what I am using and evaluating.
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(Final Audio F series guide: https://snext-final.com/en/products/detail/F7200.html )

Comfort: It’s a BA iem, so that means it has no vents and it is noticeable with its pressure build up. Although thanks to its bullet fit/size, it is better than other BA iems in this regard. So, if you are sensitive to pressure build up, you should stay away from the Neon. Personally, I can handle it but it isn’t really comfortable and I need a break after around 1 hour (and the deeper fit than normal isn’t something I like that much in terms of comfort).

Isolation: Very good isolation due to the ventless body, but not as good as the other BA iems since this is a bullet iem. Still a lot better than average though.

Setup: Schiit Asgard 3 (low-gain, volume around 8-9 o´clock), Final Audio Type E Tips S, stock cable 3.5mm

Lows:
BA like bass with the speed and tightness, that is very flat and clean, and IMO too little quantity for my taste´s. Extension and rumble are very poor so it’s not an iem for bassheads, but it does have decent texture and quite good timbre despite all that.

Mid-bass: Metallica – fight fire with fire (01:11-01:52), very clean due to it being very fast (especially the decay) and tight like BA´s usually are. Texture is lacking as with most BA´s but timbre is very impressive although there is still some BA timbre in it. The (02:55-03:01) section with the chopper is hearable and very clean.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Pretenders (01:18-01:47), decent texture despite having very low bass quantity. Very clean due to the speed and tightness and timbre is good.

Sub-bass: Djuro – Drop that bass (01:15-01:30), poor extension and rumble like a typical BA. Punch quantity is also very low with too fast decay while it is very tight.

Will Sparks – Sick like that (03:08-03:22), Too little bass quantity and texture but is clean due to the speed and tightness.

Mids: Very good vocals in both timbre and tonality (especially the female vocals). They are neither recessed nor forward as well as being very clean. Vocal lovers should enjoy this a lot and overall naturality is very good and very little BA timbre in it.

Female-vocals: Hiroyuki Sawano – OldToday (01:25-01:52), Vocal and instrument tonality are very good. Vocals have the brightness they need while the instruments got some warmth to them. Although the vocals could be a bit more forward. Details and clarity are very good here. Timbre is actually very good here.

Yuki Hayashi – MightU (01:58-02:55), very good tonality with both vocals and instruments. Although the vocals do need to be more forward here. Timbre is also very good here.

Evanescence – Bring me to life (01:18-01:35), not sharp or shouty but is a bit fatiguing.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Crescent (02:07-02:26), sharp and the imaging and separation are struggling here.

Male-vocals: Hiroyuki Sawano – Pretenders (00:57-01:17), very good tonality and timbre with both instruments and vocals, although the bass do need some more quantity.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Scapegoat (00:57-01:17), both vocals and instruments need to be warmer but timbre is good.

Treble: Linkin Park – Shadow of the Day (03:24-03:42), electric guitars are a bit sharp.

Deuce – America (03:03-03:16), while not particularly sharp, it is quite chaotic due to the imaging and separation.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Lose (string version) (01:22-01:59), Cello timbre, texture and detail are very good but tonality could be warmer. Violin tonality, timbre, texture and details are very good but treble extension could be better as it is rolled-off.

Hiroyuki Sawano &Z (02:18-02:57), tonality is good as well as the timbre. It is very clean but lacks bass quantity here.

Soundstage: Average soundstage, nothing special here.

Tonality: DF-neutral, very good tonality as it is leaning too much towards warmth or brightness despite having as little bass and the treble it got. The upper-treble roll-off helps it in not being as bright as it would have otherwise. Timbre is very good for a BA iem but there are still some hints of BA timbre, especially in the bass.

Details: Good, thanks to the tuning giving it an advantage here.

Instrument Separation: below average, struggles with faster/busier tracks.

Songs that highlight the IEM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=za8aapTmp44 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3jf_Z68c4LQ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nvn56poVykI https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z7rOS9rd4sY

Good genres:
acoustic/vocal music, rock/metal

Bad genres: EDM, Hip-hop, R&B, pop, Trance



Comparisons:

IEM: Audiosense T180 Pro, stock tips L, cable C1 4.4mm
graph (46).png

Bass:
Djuro – Drop that bass (01:15-01:30), similar extension but rumbles a bit more on the T180 Pro. Punch quantity is also higher as well as more textured on the T180 Pro but is faster and tighter on the Neon. Tonality is a bit more accurate on the T180 Pro but better timbre on the Neon.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Pretenders (01:18-01:47), more quantity and texture on the T180 Pro. But tighter, faster and more natural timbre on the Neon but more accurate tonality on the T180 Pro.

Metallica – fight fire with fire (01:11-01:52), a lot better timbre across the range on the Neon and isn’t sharp on it either, with more distinct bass strikes as it is quite muddy on the T180 Pro despite having similar speed and tightness. More bass quantity on the T180 Pro while the Neon is more textured. Better tonality on the Neon.

Mids: Hiroyuki Sawano – OldToday (01:25-01:52), better timbre and tonality on the Neon, although the vocals are a bit more forward on the T180 Pro. Detail and clarity are similar but better separation and imaging on the Neon.

Evanescence – Bring me to life (01:18-01:35), more fatiguing and sharper on the T180 Pro.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Scapegoat (00:57-01:17), somewhat similar tonality but better timbre on the Neon and a lot cleaner.

Treble: Linkin Park – Shadow of the Day (03:24-03:42), sharper, brighter and more fatiguing on the T180 Pro.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Lose (string version) (01:22-01:59), Cello tonality and texture are better on the T180 Pro but better timbre and details on the Neon. Violin tonality, timbre, texture and detail are better on the Neon but similar treble-extension (rolled-off).

Hiroyuki Sawano &Z (02:18-02:57), better tonality, timbre and detail on the Neon.

Technicalities: Shiro Sagisu – Hundred years war (02:24-02:57), similar soundstage but better imaging, instrument separation, detail and timbre on the Neon.

Overall: Besides a few bassier tracks (not suited for them anyway) the Neon is outclassing the T180 Pro.


IEM: Aiderlot M5, Elecom EHP-CAP20 tips L, stock cable 3.5mm
graph (47).png

Bass:
Djuro – Drop that bass (01:15-01:30), similar extension and rumble. But tighter, faster and more textured on the M5 but timbre is a bit better on the Neon. Tonality is more accurate on the M5 as well as more detailed.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Pretenders (01:18-01:47), very similar quantity but faster, tighter and more detailed on the M5. While timbre and texture are a bit better on the Neon. Tonality is a bit more accurate on the Neon as well as the M5 is too bright.

Metallica – fight fire with fire (01:11-01:52), brighter and more fatiguing on the M5 but a lot faster, tighter and cleaner bass on it. While timbre and texture are a bit better on the Neon.

Mids: Hiroyuki Sawano – OldToday (01:25-01:52), more forward vocals along with better vocal tonality on the M5. But vocal timbre, along with instrument tonality/timbre are better on the Neon. Detail and clarity are a lot better on the M5 though.

Evanescence – Bring me to life (01:18-01:35), brighter and more fatiguing on the M5.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Scapegoat (00:57-01:17), better tonality and timbre on the Neon. But a lot better detail and clarity on the M5.

Treble: Linkin Park – Shadow of the Day (03:24-03:42), sharper and more fatiguing electric guitars on the M5.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Lose (string version) (01:22-01:59), Cello tonality, timbre and texture are better on the Neon while it is more detailed on the M5. Violin tonality, timbre, detail and treble-extension are better on the M5.

Hiroyuki Sawano &Z (02:18-02:57), a bit better tonality and timbre on the Neon. But a lot more detailed on the M5.

Technicalities: Shiro Sagisu – Hundred years war (02:24-02:57), a lot bigger soundstage on the M5. Imaging, instrument separation and details are also outclassing the Neon on the M5. Timbre is a bit better on the Neon though.

Overall: The M5 is as you expect, have a lot better technicality. But the Neon is actually a bit better tuned and the tonality is more accurate for my library than the M5. If you want something brighter and more technical, then the M5 is a clear upgrade over the Neon but if you prioritize uncolored sound and more natural timbre, the Neon is actually better.

IEM: Blon BL-03 (mesh mod), Radius deep mount tips L, cable B3 4.4mm
graph (48).png

Bass:
Djuro – Drop that bass (01:15-01:30), a lot better extension and rumbles a lot more on the 03. Punch quantity is also a lot higher on it as well as more textured and with more natural timbre. Faster and tighter on the Neon so it is cleaner but tonality is a lot more accurate on the 03.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Pretenders (01:18-01:47), a lot higher quantity, more textured as well as a lot better timbre and accurate tonality. Faster and tighter so it is cleaner on the Neon though.

Metallica – fight fire with fire (01:11-01:52), a lot more quantity, texture and better timbre/tonality on the 03. But faster, tighter and cleaner on the Neon.

Mids: Hiroyuki Sawano – OldToday (01:25-01:52), instrument tonality and timbre are a lot better on the 03. But better vocal tonality as well as bit more forward on the Neon but better timbre on the 03. Similar detail though.

Evanescence – Bring me to life (01:18-01:35), more relaxing and less fatiguing on the 03.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Scapegoat (00:57-01:17), instrument and vocal tonality/timbre are a lot better on the 03.

Treble: Linkin Park – Shadow of the Day (03:24-03:42), more relaxing and less fatiguing on the 03.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Lose (string version) (01:22-01:59), Cello tonality, timbre and texture are better on the 03 with similar details. Violin tonality is better on the Neon but better timbre while detail and treble-extension are similar.

Hiroyuki Sawano &Z (02:18-02:57), a lot better tonality and timbre on the 03.

Technicalities: Shiro Sagisu – Hundred years war (02:24-02:57), similar soundstage but deeper on the 03. Detail is similar but imaging, instrument separation and timbre are better on the 03.

Overall: The 03 is the better iem for my library and preference but if you prefer something less bassy and more vocal focused, the Neon is better.



IEM: KZ DQ6 (DIY Foam mod), Elecom EHP-CAP20 tips L, cable A6 4.4mm

graph (49).png

Bass: Djuro – Drop that bass (01:15-01:30), extends a lot lower and rumbles a lot more on the DQ6. Punch quantity is also a lot higher on the DQ6 and more textured with better timbre. Faster and tighter on the Neon but more tonally accurate on the DQ6.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Pretenders (01:18-01:47), a lot more bass quantity and more textured on the DQ6 with better timbre as well and more accurate tonality.

Metallica – fight fire with fire (01:11-01:52), a lot more bass quantity on the DQ6 as well as more textured with better timbre. But faster and tighter bass on the Neon.

Mids: Hiroyuki Sawano – OldToday (01:25-01:52), better vocal tonality on the Neon as well as a bit more forward. But better vocal timbre, instrument tonality/timbre on the DQ6. Similar detail though.

Evanescence – Bring me to life (01:18-01:35), more relaxing and less fatiguing on the DQ6.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Scapegoat (00:57-01:17), better vocal and instrument tonality/timbre on the DQ6.

Treble: Linkin Park – Shadow of the Day (03:24-03:42), a bit more fatiguing on the Neon.

Hiroyuki Sawano – Lose (string version) (01:22-01:59), Cello tonality, texture and timbre are better on the DQ6 with similar detail. Violin tonality is better on the Neon but better timbre and treble-extension on the DQ6 while texture and detail are similar.

Hiroyuki Sawano &Z (02:18-02:57), better tonality and timbre on the DQ6 with but cleaner on the Neon.

Technicalities: Shiro Sagisu – Hundred years war (02:24-02:57), soundstage is a lot bigger on the DQ6. Detail is similar but better instrument separation, imaging and timbre on the DQ6.

Overall: The DQ6 is the better iem for my library and preference but if you prefer something less bassy and more vocal focused, the Neon is better.





Conclusion:
The Neon is a well-tuned single BA iem with good timbre. But struggles with faster/busier tracks when it comes to the separation and imaging. A specialist iem for vocal/acoustic music for anyone that want to try a more budget BA iem. But if you don’t care about the driver configuration, the Blon 03 and the KZ DQ6 are the better iems at least for my library. There are concerns about the QC on the Neon due to the channel imbalance (and the lack of tips in my unit) but Wendy has promised that they will improve the QC: https://www.head-fi.org/threads/rik...-list-music-list.925319/page-52#post-16402397

Thanks for reading.

Graph:

graph (51).png


Cable source:
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet...zTm4ei7HEfP8AI1zxswrMw2ho/edit#gid=1801072063

Reference/test songs:
Last edited:

OspreyAndy

100+ Head-Fier
KBEAR NEON
Pros: Highly Scalable
Faithful to Knowles DF Neutral Tuning
Cons: Build quality could be better. It looked like a toy!
Nasal and chesty Mids might not appeal to all
In stock form, NEON is "okay" at best

KBEAR NEON: The Scalable Canalphones​

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FOREWORD:​

By now you would already have read tons of review on this NEON. As such I will not be focusing too much on the “out of the box” nature of this highly anticipated BA offering from KBEAR, their 2nd single BA variant apparently.
What makes this NEON special is the usage of Knowles ED 29689, the very same BA used in Etymotic ER4 series. I am an Etymotic fanatic and zealot. Etymotic is my religion and I started using the ER4S and ER4P since 2006. A long audio journey which evolved into a very emotional attachment which is further cemented with the newer version – the ER4SR. When we talk NEON, there’s no avoiding the reference to ER4 series. The reason for this is simple, it is apparent that the design ques for NEON is of a barreled infuser intended to pump sonic bliss right into your eardrums. This is an archaic design that was first pioneered by Etymotic 30 years ago and still being widely used today. Having said that NEON is something I classify as a “Canalphones” as opposed to the normal term used by many (which is IEM).

Now, being a Canalphones also mean there’s some quirks around the usage of such devices. You cannot expect to wear this NEON like any other IEMs. It takes some ritual to wear them properly. As any Etymotic or even Shure users would attest (Both Etymotic and Shure utilizes Narrow Long Muzzle), it takes some commitment and practice to get it right.

WEARING IT RIGHT:​

  • To get the best out of NEON, it is especially critical to invest substantial amount of time and effort to pair it with proper tips. And I would recommend this be started with the smallest tips provided. The reason being, to ensure great seal with ideal placement, the nozzle of NEON need to be inserted deep enough. This cannot be achieved if the tips are too large in proportion to your ear canal diameter. Or if you force it in, it is guaranteed to induce great discomfort and outright pain. In my own scenario, I was able to use the smallest silicone tips that came with the NEON; however, I could only wear it for about 1 hour max as the pressure was building up uncomfortably due to NEON muzzle being exceptionally large for a deep insert Canalphones (in fact the LARGEST nozzle ever employed in any barrel type Canalphones). To mitigate this, I was lucky to have several unused 5mm bore sized S tips from my other IEMs. And I was able to get one that is small enough to allow for comfortable deep insertion and still wearable for over 2-3 hours. For the record I normally wear my Etys even up to half a day plugged in – achievable with the use of SpinFit CP800 sized S. If you see the photo of me wearing it, the entire barrel of the NEON is inside my ear canals, only the connectors are visible.
  • On top of that, the ritual of wearing this type of Canalphones may include dabbing the tips with some lubricants to enhance seal and comfort. Then wearing the NEON itself would be best done by opening the mouth to stretch the jaw during insertion. When the mouth is closed the facial muscle will then contract and secure the grip on the NEON tips.
  • 20210611_093945_HDR.jpg

  • Another thing worth to mention, again the muzzle size of NEON is big. In fact, I think it is too big for a funneled type Canalphones. So, if you observed one of the close-up photos, you could see how small the ER4SR muzzles are in comparison. To balance this out, I picked small tips that also have smaller bore as noted in the photos. Sonically this have huge influence in sound presentation as I would describe later.
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  • How to know if you are inserting it right? The first thing that would be apparent is the size of soundstage. If the staging feels wide and spacious to you, chances are you have not inserted it appropriately deep enough. My own experience with Etys and Shure, they all share this common trait of boxed in headstage. But perhaps some do enjoy the perceived wide soundstage but usually at the expense of imaging, resolution, and dynamics. Mids would sound recessed and dull.
  • Related to the subject of wearing it right, with proper seal one of the biggest advantages for this type of Canalphones is the isolation. By my estimation NEON once sealed offers no less than 30db of external sound suppression. Perhaps even as high as 40db because I am literally oblivious to the surrounding sound – similar to when I wore my Etys and Shure phones. Isolation is one of the reasons why anyone would want to have NEON, you can enjoy music at lower levels due to sound being funneled in directly and without being tarnished by external noises.

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PLAYING IT RIGHT:​

When one decides to do a review and impression on an item, the item in question must be given the best opportunity to shine and be presented properly. So, happen that I have over 20 USB DAC/Amps in my possessions that is part of my #donglemadness venture. After doing initial check-ups, I opted to use the Ovidius B1 for the critical listening stages. Ovidius B1 is my personal favorite and a unit that I adore so much for being stellar in technical and musical element. Also being the most transparent dongle among them all. The second part of this review, I also used NEON with the rest of the dongles to see how it perform with different sources. Of course, all my tests are done with Deezer Offline FLAC 44.1/16Bit. Playlist used is this: https://deezer.page.link/gReABjcxnLv4rLrq9
With just an impedance rating of 14 Ohm, NEON is super easy to drive and will be super loud even at 35/100. So be careful with the volume knob, LOL.
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The Sound: In Stock Form​

I will make this quick. I was not too impressed, not like my pants dropping on the floor kind of WOW. It was just okay….
  • The timbre, it is definitely DF Neutral with slightly nasal tonality especially in the mids. I would say that the NEON is closer to being analogue sounding compared to the familiar Etys sound. And I see this as a plus actually because it reminds me a lot to my other Etys, the ER2XR which I equally love.
  • Treble quality and textures are definitely Knowles standard. Solid with fast attack and decays. However, I sense slight recessed presentation that prevented NEON from being outright sparkly or razor sharp. This is a two-edged sword as to some who are NOT familiar with Etys or Beyerdynamic sound, it is a blessing as it will be unlikely one will get Treble sibilance from NEON. The other aspect of this, Trebleheads will immediately notice this and will lament the “laid-back” presentation.
  • Bass. It is fast and amply impactful. This is no Canalphones for basshead. The attack is fast and prompt with equally fast decays. Bass extensions are quite commendable however I must admit it does feel a bit rolled off shorter that what I am used to (for Knowles BA). Sub-Bass exhibited great textures and vibrant seismic response, the Mid-Bass tightly punchy and commanding when needed be (depending on the songs played)
  • Mids, at first, I was taken aback by how chesty the Mids sounded like. On some songs the Mids were outright nasal and thick. But then as I continue to listen my ears gets attuned to this thick mids presentation. It is thicker sounding than ER2XR Mids. Texture wise it is quite engaging especially if you are the type that enjoy solid mids with focused nuances. Male and Female vocals are naturally intimate and engaging. Yet even here I sense some sort of veil that I can’t shake off, I expect better transparency coming from a Knowles 29689.
  • Dynamics are spot on for Knowles 29689 BA. It is not as vibrant as a DD would and this is expected. But then the reason for using a single BA is not because you want to be floored by its moderate dynamics. What it does admirably being a BA is the speed at which dynamics fluctuate
  • Speed, if anything, speed is one of the primary reasons why one would choose BA over DD. My love for BA was due to this speed element, I just hate congested passages. Being able to deftly handle multiple layers that can go as high as 280 BPM will determine how proficient a listening device is. NEON passed this test with flying colors.
  • Resolution and transparency. Hmm, how do I pitch this. The veil that I mentioned earlier? That’s already a tell-tale that I was expecting crystal clear presentation and not getting it – a bit worrying for a Knowles 29689. However worth to mention that I am practically nitpicking here because I know this BA is quite capable of reference grade resolution and transparency. So, there must be something that’s not quite clicking here……
  • Soundstage and imaging are as per expected for this type of Canalphones – it is still in your head sort of headstage and boxed in presentation, not everyone can live by this design. If there’s any consolation the same can be said of single BA Etys and Shure. Separation lines are well defined with precise enough imaging and placement. Spatial projection is not quite holographic as one would expect from single BA. As I mentioned earlier, if you do get big soundstage from NEON, it is because you are wearing it not deep enough. And again, I would say to some this may be perfectly fine. However, the tradeoff will be some resolution and imaging being sacrificed.

So, there it is, NEON in STOCK form. At best I will give it 4 stars overall.
However! This is not the end of the road…..stay on and find out how a 4 stars performer transform itself into reference grade worthy equipment.

The Sound: With Simple Tweaks​

  • The veil that I have described earlier, was primarily caused by too low an impedance being used by NEON. At 14 Ohm it is way too low for a BA. Even the lowest resistance Etymotic use on their Knowles 29689 was 25 Ohm with the ER4P. You see, on this particular type of BA the impedance value imparts great influence on the sonic characteristics. For ER4P, Etymotic chosen 25 Ohm so that the ER4P will exhibit thicker body in the lower registers hence producing not too skinny bass responses. In contrast the ER4S was set at 100 Ohm! And recently the newer ER4SR came with 45 Ohm minimum.
  • So, to see if my theory was correct. I conducted a second session and replaced the stock cable with my custom OFC unit which has integration with inline resistors to add 47 Ohm on each channel. And there it is! All the veils gone!
  • With the veil gone now I can audibly hear better presentation of Macro and Micro details. This is the performance of a Knowles 29689 BA that I am familiar with. Razor sharp imaging and pristine separation lines. Coherence greatly improved that is highly transparent and resolving. Even the decays for Treble and Bass are nicely presented now with succinct nuances.
  • With just a simple addition to the impedance value, the true prowess of Knowles 29689 is realized. This is the sort of sonic presentation that one should be getting from a properly implemented single BA.
  • What remains unique to NEON is the rich and chesty Mids. Now even more engaging and pleasurable to listen to

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Scalability:​

NEON also exhibited stellar abilities to scale with the sources. I would say that anything from JCally JM20 and above would pair with it perfectly. NEON sounds the widest and most spacious with THX Onyx, the smoothest with Lotoo PAW S1 and A&K PEE51, very technically competent with HiBy FC3, Hilidac Audirect BEAM 2SE, X1 and Questyle M1. Warmest sounding with Shanling UA2, Hidizs S9, JCally JM04Pro and Tempotec Sonata BHD. So, as you see this NEON is super flexible! That’s because it is exceedingly transparent and will faithfully present the nuances of the source being fed. Of course, to me personally, NEON sounds world class with Ovidius B1 😉

Verdict:​

I love this NEON, not in its stock form, but the one which runs on 14 + 47 = 61 Ohm Impedance. NEON will appeal for those wanting to have the precision, resolution, speed, imaging, and transparency of the venerable Etymotic ER series at much affordable prices. The quirk is that I will insist on using the impedance adapter that will push it above 45 Ohm at least. A 30 to 75 Ohm will do. However, it must be understood that the higher the impedance, chances are bass thickness will be impacted – it will be less meaty sounding and potentially sterile too. So best to try keeping it below 90 Ohm.
The golden question is….how does NEON actually compares to Etymotic ER4SR?. well truth be told it is not easy to equal an ER4 BA. Etys developed this ER4 series 30 years ago and has placed great innovation and engineering into it. When I A/B Neon with my 47 Ohm ER4S tuned with Red Filters, the ER4SR audibly handles everything with matured finesse that is hard to beat. However, if I am not comparing them side by side, the NEON is spectacular in its own right (I am talking about the non-stock NEON). I daresay NEON performs respectably enough to place itself 2/3 of what ER4SR can do. And that’s mind boggling really.
Finally. Admittedly NEON is NOT for everyone. To have a NEON you must consider if you are willing to embrace and be committed to endure the quirks of using single barreled BA Canalphones. For example, one can skip all these hassle by just simply opting for HZSound Heart Mirror – but then Heart Mirror is a DD despite exhibiting uncanny nuances towards Knowles BA sound. A non-stock NEON will still be superior in the speed, imaging and timbre coherence over Heart Mirror.
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NymPHONOmaniac

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Imaging, Clarity, Fast attack, realistic overall tone, mid bass punch, female vocal, micro-details
Cons: Poor bass extension, not really musical (subjective), lack of edge and snap to attack, no treble sparkle (lack of extension again), average construction, need deep fit to get best sound (subjective?)
KBEAR NEON REVIEW (Deeeep Way)


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TONALITY: 7.5/10
TECHNICALITIES: 8.5/10
CONSTRUCTION-DESIGN: 7.5/10
SOUND VALUE: 8/10



PACKAGING
is nice. The box has a cool ''Blade Runners'' vibe to it. Accessories are generous enough. Carrying case is good-looking. 4cores SPC Cable too looks good enough.

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CONSTRUCTION while mostly pleasant to the eyes is questionable in terms of built, with imperfection there and there and a nozzle that goes unglue after a week. The cable is Ok'ish. But Everything is made of plastic. And 2pin connectors arent very secure. And the fit...

THE FIT
Their multiple ways to insert the NEON in your ear canal, but some people including me think the ''Etymotic way'' is the best.
It consists of inserting the NEON very deep in there. Once you find the second seal part in your ear canal- the deep one- the real 3D detailed presentation begins. A shallow fit can either tame or boost the bass and soundstage, either way, it sounds more distant and hollow than the Deep Way.
It worth it, but Be careful about going deeeeeeeep.

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-----------------

SOUND

I decide to do this review with the NEON deeeeeeeply inserted in ear as it should (?) if you want to achieve its full potential.

TONALITY:
Vivid neutral with a slight emphasis on mid-bass, and an important mids range and mid-treble boost.

TIMBRE: Smooth bright, very transparent, a bit saturated, and artificial in texturing.

ATTACK: Fast but can got shouty with a fast busy track. In other terms: it shoots sound extremely fast but it lacks a bit of snap and natural decay.

SOUNDSTAGE-IMAGING: Soundstage is very impressive and unique, it feel as if it blossoms in the middle of your head then go out with 3D layers of sound surrounding you from every side, the bass can be in the back of my head while the vocal is in my head and the details of the highs in stereo out of it. Really, you must hear it to understand and this is the first reason why I live the ''deeeeeeep fit revelation''!
Imaging, with well-recorded music, is crisp and airy, with a lot of clean space between instruments. Again, uniquely impressive!

BASS is rolled off in sub-bass extension, but mid-bass is round, just enough weighty and punchy, with great separation and attack speed. Sub-line can be heard, well separated from the kick drum, but dry and thin in body. What can move a bit of air is the kick, but with fast decay that avoids any bleed. The tone is realistic, texture too.

Mids are open and transparent, very well separated and centered but a bit thin and brightish-dryish. Sax, piano, vocal all lack body density. From upper mids and up it's where the sweet tonality spot begins. Female vocal has great definition and presence.

Highs ,even if non-sparkly and lacking some bite and decay, are the star of the show for me, just after female vocal. They are airy, dig a good amount of micro details and never harsh or splashy. Snare is super thigh and crisp, percussions clear and not too upfront and when needed. It's near analytical treble, with slight roll off begining in 12khz region, so some instrument might lack of brilliance to them.

PS:
Shallow eartips fit way sound is a bit smoother and more distant, still boosted in mids.
Clarity is OK but imaging is abstract, the attack is slower and lack more snap too, all in all it doesnt offer an impressive sound experience compared to the ''Etymotic way''.


COMPARISONS

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VS Audiosense T180 (single Knowles RAF-32873, 40$)
Less deep soundstage, inferior imaging. Timbre is more grainy-brightish. Bass have less weight. Both are mid and treble-centric but T180 dig less micro details and feel more shouty and harsh in upper mids. Vocal aren't as well extracted and busy tracks can easily go messy. T180 are more comfortable and better built, but in term of sound, they are less refined, clean and extended in bass & treble.

VS Akoustyx R-210 (120$, single custom Knowles BA):
Warmer, more forwards, with more natural timbre and wider, tapestry-like soundstage. Bass is thicker, warmer and less controlled and well separated. Overall sound is smoother and less clinical-analytical than NEON, but less out of your head and holographic too. NEON have dryer, thinner timbre and is more accurate in positioning-separation. Anyway, at the end i find RE-210 more musical and coherent, sounding more like a dynamic driver with weightier more weighty bass, more natural piano, violin, sax, vocal etc. Oh, and no deep insertion fit needed (not possible, like the T180). To be noted that in term of technicality alone, the 70$ cheaper NEON seem superior.


CONCLUSION

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The NEON isn't an IEM for everyone, its sound signature is axed on clarity, mids and treble and can be improved with an audacious IEM insertion technique that only Ety fans know the secret.

Still, with right fit, it's level of technical prowess is high for the 50$ price and can deliver an impressively crisp holographic sound experience that I rarely or ever heard from any other IEM...will I try to Deeeeeply insert All my IEM now, to know if I can retrieve this impressive sound spatiality experience?

I don't think so. But I think some courageous audiophiles will.
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bryaudioreviews

New Head-Fier
Love vocals and mids? You are at the right place 🎧🎶 - KB Ear Neon Review
Pros: - neutral tuning
- textured, fast, punchy bass
- open, detailed, midrange
- good BA timbre
- wide soundstage
- great IEM design and accessories
Cons: - very midrange and vocal-focused
- soundstage lack height and depth
- stock silicon tips aren't the best.
KB Ear Neon is KB Ear's latest IEM with a 1BA driver configuration. It is equipped with a Single Knowles 29689 Balanced Armature driver and it retails for $49usd. Its box comes with 3 pairs of silicon tips (S,M,L), a pair of foam tips, a 2pin 3.5mm cable, a case, and the IEMs itself.

Overall, pretty impressed with the unboxing experience. IMO the box is well designed and the accessory set is pretty decent.

With that out of the way, let's start the review.

*Disclaimer: This review is done using the included stock foam tips instead of silicon. Why? Read on further to find out…


PROS
✅
:​

  • I would describe the sound signature here as neutral. It is a mid-focused set with an emphasis on mids and vocals.
  • Bass here is BA bass, which means that it is textured, fast, dry, and punchy. No bass bleed detected. Foam tips (as per usual) loosens up the bass a bit, making it not as tight. Not a problem for me though.
  • The midrange is the star of the show here. I would describe the midrange here as detailed, open, well-articulated, and slightly warm. As expected from a BA driver, image separation is great and everything is rendered wide. If you are looking for clear mids with good image separation and detail, for $49usd, I think Neon is pretty good.
  • Vocal presence is good (if stock foam tips are used). Vocals, especially female vocals, are placed forward in the mix, which makes the Neon very good for vocals and acoustic tracks. I thoroughly enjoy using Neon for genres like indie pop, acoustic, or any songs that place heavy emphasis on vocals.
  • Timbre here is pretty natural for a BA, thanks to its slight warmth in the mids. Doesn't suffer from "glassy BA timbre".
  • Treble is smooth and slightly dark (again, thanks to foam tips). It is non-fatiguing and great for long listening sessions. No hints of sibilance can be detected too. Great!
  • Soundstage is rendered wide and open! Works well with the midrange here.
  • Left-right positional imaging is good. However, I do find front-back imaging to be lacking.
  • Love the design and colour choices of the Neon! Very fun and unique looking. Stands out from the crowd.
  • Great presentation and box design. Love the neon lights and the vibes that the box gives out.
  • Very good accessory set. Great portable slim case. I love the cable here as it looks and feels premium! Both silicon and foam tips are provided too.


CONS
❌
:​

  • Very midrange and vocal-focused. Looking for best bass and treble? This ain't it.
  • I would describe the soundstage here as being like a long, thin line. Despite Neon having a pretty wide soundstage, it lacks depth and height. Not the best for games as everything in front sounds like it is coming from behind.
  • Stock silicon tips aren't the best. I HIGHLY recommend using stock foam tips.
  • Foam tips roll off treble and loosen the bass. Thanks to this, treble lacks air and bass lacks tightness.
  • Sub-bass missing and bass could go deeper. But it is 1BA so I do not expect it to have Dynamic driver's bass capabilities.


WHY YOU SHOULD USE FOAM TIPS INSTEAD
🧊
:​

  • With stock silicon tips, vocals (especially female vocals) sound hollow, distant, and compressed. It sounds like everything is coming from behind.
  • After changing the tips to the included stock foam tips, everything becomes better. Vocals sound fuller and more forward, mids have better clarity, and everything just sounds… correct.
  • Yes, common foam characteristics like rolled-off treble and loose bass are there, but I think the trade-off for better clarity, better vocals, and better mids is well worth it.


IN CONCLUSION:​

I think that KB Ear Neon is a pretty solid set of 1BA IEM for the price. I find that its midrange and vocal presentation works really well with genres like Indie, Bedroom pop, Chinese/Japanese/Korean vocals, acoustics, instrumentals, and many more midrange/vocal-focused genres.

One caveat though, and that is you need to use included foam tips. As mentioned above, the stock silicon tips that come with Neon aren't the best.

If you are looking for a neutral-sounding IEM that is mids-focused and sounds great with vocals, KB Ear Neon should definitely be in your shopping cart.

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