Disclaimer: After recently reviewing both the K2 and Kc2 offerings from BQEYZ, Elle reached out to me about reviewing the new KB100 model with Bluetooth cable. I was provided this sample in exchange for reviewing it. Thoughts here are purely mine.
Unboxing / Accessories:
The box is a black pressboard of slip-top design and is tastefully understated. A tray containing the buds themselves and the additional sizes of ear-tips (3 total) greets the user when the lid is removed. The Bluetooth cable, usb charging cable, and manual are hidden under the tray. Overall a pretty simple kit but sufficient considering the retail price point.
The earpieces themselves are all metal with a bi-pin connector recessed in the top with a forward rake. The shells are sort of semi-teardrop and are reminiscent of the NY-06 shape although more squared off. L/R is clearly marked immediately beneath the connector on the outside of the shell. On the inside of the shell are 3 vents, two below the connector and 1 immediately behind the nozzle. The Nozzles are fairly deep with a cone design at the base that keeps tips from sliding further down the nozzle. They do not have a lip to prevent tip sliding but I had no issues with the supplied tips staying in place. Seams can be seen but not felt without using a finger nail and no uneven spacing or gaps are visible.
The KB1 sports dual dynamic drivers, a 6mm handling the sub-bass and a 10mm handling mid-bass up through mids with a single BA assigned to handling the higher frequencies. Impedance is listed as 15Ω with a sensitivity of 105 dB/mW which makes the KB1 easy to drive using a cellphone if attached via wired cable (Not provided but standard .78mm bi-pin) and allows for extending battery life when combined with the Bluetooth cable as it does not require especially high power to push these to listening levels.
The provided cable is twisted pair silver plated copper cable coming from the control box to the earpieces with a pre-formed earhook leading to the bi-pin connectors. The control box itself has 3 buttons on the face with a small LED at the end nearest the right earpiece. This LED serves as a power/charging/pairing indicator. The Control buttons show – (minus), a phone logo, and + (plus). When paired with the Cayin N3 they served as back (-), play/pause (phone), and forward (+). When paired with my cell phone I could make the +/- work as either forward and back or volume adjust depending on the app in use. The case on the remote is aluminum but finish is matte black rather than the satin finish of the earpieces. The microphone is easily seen up the upper end of the remote and is exposed through a ring of circular ports with one larger central port.
BT is listed as version 4.2 with aptX and AptX-LL but range is relatively short with line of sight being critical to proper operation. I found that I could not walk the house and maintain connectivity if there was any wall or heavy object between the source and the earpieces. I think this is a deliberate trade off for extended battery life as I found the battery to last between 3.5 and 4 hours when used at a moderate volume. I would settle for a bit worse battery life and a bit better range if the option to adjust this exists. Also worth noting with regard to the battery, when the battery runs low it simply turns off. If you power it back on at that point it will say in English “Power On, Battery Low” and then turn off again. It would be nice if the battery low prompt could be down before the shutoff to give the user some warning as why their music just abruptly stopped.
Sound: (Having reviewed the K2 and Kc2 first, I was expecting a similar signature – what I got was a bit of a surprise).
The Kb1 is a bass focused tuning. Sub-bass is authoritative wish good extension at the low end. Mid-bass is forward of the rest of the signature and lends warmth to the overall signature. Mid-bass bleed is present but not to the degree of obstructing too much of the lower mids. The KB1 does respond well to EQ and the mid-bass can be brought down into more linear alignment with the rest of the signature but bass-bleed remains present
While definitely recessed, the mids still muster good detail and reasonably good clarity considering the mid-bass bleed. The upper mids in particular are very well rendered and give vocals a natural voice.
The lower treble builds on the accentuation of the upper mids and provides a well rendered presence range before falling off fairly sharply above about 6.5kHz. This valley in the treble makes the KB1 very polite and no tendency toward harshness or sibilance is present. A 12kHz peak brings some air and sparkle into the signature but is still behind the lower peak at 5 or so kHz so does not overpower the rest of the signature. Again EQ can be used to push the trough between 6 and 12 forward a bit and the resultant signature is a little brighter and more enjoyable to my ear. It also makes the KB1 seem a little less bass oriented with a bit more detail.
Soundstage / Imaging:
Soundstage has good dimensions and is one of a very few at this price point that I don’t think sounds wider than deep. Overall the stage is well rounded without any glaring differences in height, width or depth. This may be the single strongest point of the KB1. Imaging and layering are both good making it easy to identify the positions of each instrument on the stage and identify movement within the tracks.
Cable Comparisons: (The BQEYZ Cable is sold separately as the Z1)
Construction is better on the BQEYZ cable than the TRN but the TRN was less sensitive to distance from source and obstructions. Battery life is longer on the BQEYZ than the TRN by about 35-40 minutes depending on listening levels.
BQEYZ is better built with higher quality components and has better battery life but connectivity is roughly equivalent as both suffered drop-outs at approximately the same distance from source.
Thoughts / Conclusion:
Lets split the conclusions into two parts:
First, the cable. Construction is certainly better than the lower priced cables we have gotten used to from other manufacturers and is on par for what we have come to expect from BQEYZ. I think in an effort to improve battery life they may have gone a step too far in reducing power to the transmit/receive circuitry and as such the distance from source suffers. If you are going to use these with the player in your shirt pocket this shouldn’t present a concern but if you are going to walk around an office with your source on your desk, better choices are out there.
Second, the Earpieces. Again, every bit as good as we have come to expect from BQEYZ. Construction is top notch and sound is better than we can reasonably ask for on a sub-$40 item. The big V sound signature will appeal to many and the sub-bass punch will bring bass lovers to the KB1 as well. Those looking for a bright headphone will either want to EQ the KB1 a bit which it handles very nicely, or look for something with a bit more treble in the signature. Those with an aversion to treble harshness and sibilance will find the KB1 a nice mix of enough air to feel open without enough treble to feel overly forward or harsh.
For arguments sake, the KB1’s score suffers due to cable concerns. The cable earns a 5 while the Earpiece earns a 7.
Pros: Good battery life
Cons: very limited connection distance