KB EAR KS2 review: seriously fun

KB EAR KS2 review

KB EAR is back with another affordable IEM – and this time they really nailed it. The KB EAR KS2 follows the traditional V-shaped tuning that many Chinese earphones employ, with a twist: bass extends well in the sub-bass area and therefore delivers quite a kick that makes these earphones seriously fun and enjoyable.

Disclaimer: I received a free unit directly from KB EAR. The earphones have a launch price of $23. You can use the discount code NEWKBEARKS2 to get a discount on your order!

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TL;DR: recap

Pros
Cons
Well-made V-shaped signature

Great soundstage

Very good imaging

Good detail

Recessed mids

Cable

Poor imaging

Rating: 8.5/10

Packaging & Accessories

The KB EAR KS2 come in a box that closely resembles those used by KZ. This is no accident, either: there are other elements that tell me that the KS2 are actually manufactured by KZ. The company has been offering an ODM service for a few years now, so it is no wonder to see that some companies are taking advantage of this.

Design & Comfort

KB EAR KS2

The KB EAR KS2 are evidently manufactured by KZ. I say this because of a few hints: the box, which is identical to that of KZ earphones; the cable, again identical to KZ’s offerings; the 2-pin connector on the shells; the shells themselves, with a nozzle that’s quite similar to that of earphones manufactured by KZ. In fact the KS2 appear almost identical to the KZ ZS10 Pro, with the largest exception being that it has a plastic faceplate instead of a metal one.

KB EAR KS2

Now this similarity is not a bad thing, at all. The KB EAR KS2 are quite nice with their transparent plastic that exposes all the inner components, and the “safe” general design means many people will probably like it.

The KS2 are built like most other KZ earphones, which is to say very well for the asking price. There are surely improvements that can be made on this front, but I would say that they can resist quite some wear and tear.

As I deemed the KZ ZS10 Pro among the most comfortable earphones out there, I maintain this position with the KS2 as well. I found them to still be comfortable after three hours of usage, which is quite something! Your mileage may vary as your ears might be quite different from mine, but the shape of these earphones should be quite universal.

Isolation is decent, but not much more than that. The KS2 can reduce the volume of noises somewhat, but the reduction is limited and you will still hear what’s around you clearly.

The cable is the usual one KZ provides – which is far from great in my opinion. It’s flimsy and tends to have kinks in it, so it’s clearly a cheap cable that you might want to replace with a more appropriate earphone cable.

Sound & Specs

I tested the KB EAR KS2 using mainly a Topping DX7 acting as a DAC for a Drop + THX AAA 789 amplifier. Most music files were FLACs in standard resolution (16 bit, 44.1 kHz).

KB EAR KS2

Frequency response 20 – 20,000 Hz
Impedance 16 Ω
Sensitivity 106 ± 3 dB

 

The sound signature I would expect from a KZ branded product is V-shaped, with a larger focus on bass than on treble. The KB EAR KS2 does not follow this curve, opting for a more U-shaped curve which comes out as fun and entertaining but not without its flaws.

I found soundstage to be quite large, at least for closed-back earphones in the sub-$50 range. It’s not expansive, but it’s enough to let you feel like there’s some space to your sides. There’s no depth, though, also due to the fact that imaging is only good in representing left and right positions: instruments rarely appear in the centre and in the various intermediate positions that go from left to centre and from there to right. In other words, imaging is poor and lacks in finesse. Instrument separation is adequate and in line with other products in this range.

Bass is quite emphasised and presents you with a strong mid-bass section and a present (but not as emphasised) sub-bass area. I like the fact that sub-bass is present and well extended, as it gives additional depth to the sound. Attack is blunted and as a result bass appears muffled and lacking detail; you can hear the hits on the drums, and those are also physical, but the fine details such as the bouncing of the leather on said drums or the vibrations of the strings on a bass are beyond the reach of the driver. Luckily bass never spills over the mids as it stays relatively controlled. All in all it’s a bass section that seems to be more orientated towards fun than accuracy.

Midrange is relatively balanced, although it’s a bit V-shaped: there’s a bit of emphasis on the upper region that makes instruments such as electric guitars and violins stand out more, as well as a small bump in the lower area that makes lower-pitched instruments pop out. Mids are a bit recessed compared to bass and lower treble, though this is in a limited fashion. The overall presentation is quite likeable and pleasant, with a good balance that makes it possible for the KS2 to manage quite a number of genres effectively. Detail is more than decent for this price range; as an example, the pick on the guitar strings in Daft Punk’s Game of Love is clearly audible.

Treble is what I’ve come to expect from these earphones: a small emphasis on the lower area followed by a rapid slope as the frequency goes up. There are a couple of peaks in the middle and upper areas that give treble a bit more air and space, but it’s not a gently descending curve that gives ample air to the sound. This presentation is however ideal for genres such as electronica: details in tracks such as Aes Dana’s Inks just pop out and are really easy to reach. The emphasis is such that treble sits in the front row, but it doesn’t entail such a strong emphasis that it becomes fatiguing. All in all it’s a rather pleasant listen, despite the flaws.

KB EAR KS2 Comparisons

As usual, I’m going to compare the KB EAR KS2 to other earphones in the sub-$50 range:

  • KB EAR KS2 vs Tin HiFi T2 Plus: there’s a large contrast between these two when it comes to tuning. The T2 Plus are much more bass-light, with way less bass overall and especially less mid-bass; the difference is not just in quantity, with the T2 Plus offering a tighter and slightly more detailed bass section. Midrange is definitely warmer on the KS2, with the T2 Plus offering more emphasis on the upper area; this also makes the KS2 a tad more balanced, though the T2 Plus have the upper hand when it comes to detail and speed. Treble is more extended and detailed on the T2 Plus, with a much larger sense of space and openness. Soundstage is comparable in terms of width, but it’s deeper on the Tin HiFi – which also offer much better imaging and instrument separation. It’s no wonder that the T2 Plus do better, but the difference is not too stark and this speaks favourably of the qualities of the KS2.
  • KB EAR KS2 vs BLON BL-03: the Bl-03 give much more emphasis to the lowest area of bass, whereas the KS2 focus more on the mid-bass section; this gives both earphones good oomph, but with some differences: the KS2 are more physical, while the BL-03 offer a wider range of sounds as they hit deeper notes. The overall level of detail is similar. Midrange is more orientated towards the upper area on the BL-03, which also offer a lower level of detail; again the KS2 offer better physicality. Treble is comparable in the sense that both earphones offer an initial good response followed by a rapid decline with a few peaks. Soundstage is slightly larger on the KS2, but the BL-03 offer more depth. Imaging is however generally better on the KS2, which places instruments with better accuracy. Instrument separation is similar.
  • KB EAR KS2 vs KZ KS10 Pro: the ZS10 Pro are not too far off from what the KS2 offer. They’re very similar, with the ZS10 Pro offering more detail. Bass is similar, maybe slightly more emphasised on the KZ, but with a similar curve overall. Midrange is slightly less recessed on the ZS10 Pro, but also slightly warmer. Treble is more emphasised and more detailed on the KZ, while extension is similar. Soundstage is slightly wider on the KS2, which also offers better imaging (but worse instrument separation).

Final Thoughts

The KB EAR KS2 are quite amazing entry-level earphones. They have a pleasant tuning that adds fun where it’s needed without compromising the overall signature with excessive colouration. They’re not the best out there when it comes to technical ability, but they’re still fairly competent. At less than $25, they’re one of the options you should be looking at if you want a fun, engaging sound signature that does not compromise on general fidelity – and also if you care about comfort, because these are amazing at that.

About Riccardo Robecchi

Living between Milan, Italy and London, UK, I got the the passion for music listening as a legacy from my father and my grandfather. I am currently studying Computer Science at Università degli Studi di Milano. I have also reported on technology for major Italian publications since 2011.
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