disclaimer: KBear generously sent me the KB10 for review. I did speak to their rep prior to being sent these and informed them that I had already reviewed the TP10 and A10 versions and unless this was a different tuning, that I saw no reason to review it again. What arrived on 7/15 is yet another A10 variation. The KBear KB10 shares all of its details except the faceplate with the Tripowin TP10 and the CCA A10. (See the graph below and you can draw your own conclusions.)
Unboxing / Accessories:
We start with the slip cover style white box that KZ and CCA fans will recognize immediately, with graphics on front and data on back. Inside the clear plastic shield with the earpieces shown and the bagged cable and tips underneath great us. The package includes 3 sets of tips, the cable, warranty card, and earpieces. Pretty standard at this price level. No case is provided.
The KB10 uses a polished metal outer shell with a blue transparent plastic inner shell allowing the user to see some of the internals. I do think the faceplates on the KB10 are the best looking of the triplets so that is a point in favor of the KB10. Size wise, the shells are fairly large so may cause fit issues for small ears. I found them to be roughly the same size as the As06 or Zs10. the main body is fairly thin, although the nozzle is on a peaked portion of the shell which fits into the ear canal and means I end up using a size smaller tip than usual because of the shape. Nozzles are aluminum and mate with an internal 3d-printed sound guide instead of using sound bores. Connectors are the raised bi-pin design as has become common recently and when paired with the provided cable, tip up wear is the only option.
Drivers are a 22955 for low frequencies, and a pair of 29689 for mids, with a pair of 30095 high frequency drivers rounding out the group. Nominal impedance is listed as 15Ω with a sensitivity of 98dB/mW. I suspect the sensitivity is rated a bit low as I had no trouble getting the KB10 to perform without external amplification from a phone and didn’t detect much of any scaling when it was used with higher power sources.
The cable is pure KZ with the 90º 3.5mm jack followed by a 4 wire braid leading to a splitter that is entirely too low on the cable and should be moved up about 5-6 inches. It has no chin slider, and terminates with bi-pin connectors with pre-formed earhooks but without memory wire. The microphone on the right side hangs just below collar height for me and rubs when I move so can be noisy during calls.
Sub-bass is present but well behind mid-bass in the overall and comes off feeling fairly lean as roll off is fairly pronounced below about 75Hz. s Mid-bass has good thump with quick attack and decay to help keep it clean and more texture than expected. I think this is common for BA bass drivers as they tend to trade low end extension for cleaner, tighter, mid-bass. The upside is there is no tendency to get muddy as tracks get faster and more complex. The downside is bassheads will probably want to look elsewhere as bass is near neutral and certainly wont please that crowd.
The lower mids transition smoothly and linearly from the mid-bass and then begin to climb forward as you move up. True mids are forward of the bass and upper mids and lower treble are both very forward. Vocals cut through the rest of the signature quite easily as a result, but come across as strident at times and do show a tendency to sibilance if given and provocation at all. Guitar comes across with an almost assault like quality that while fun at times, is unrealistic at others. Overall, timbre is not quite on and as a result the KB10 sounds unnatural at times.
The overly aggressive nature of the mids continues into the Treble and comes across as splashy and harsh. I found the A10 to be quite fatiguing which limited listening time even at modest volumes. The upside is the detail level in the treble is really quite good, the downside, the A10 comes across as having too much top end and sparkle turns to metallic quickly. The treble shy will want to avoid the KB10 as even with EQ its signature remains bright as it is simply tuned that way.
Soundstage / Imaging:
Sound stage is wider than deep with limited height as is very typical of items at this price point. Imaging is solid with good instrument separation and seating the orchestra is fairly good although at times things that should be front/back are beside. Layering is also quite good and I found no tendency to get muddy or congested as complexity increased.
Thoughts / Conclusion:
If my write up so far has sounded a lot like that of the Tripowin TP10 or CCA A10, there is a reason, these three are the same IEM. Not only are they the same shell with a slightly different faceplate, they are the same drivers with the same impedance and sensitivity and to top it off, the plots run on my measurement rig are indistinguishable from one another as shown below. These tests were run as the models came in and are roughly a month apart in date. No tuning of anything was done to improve the match. My rig is set to the same settings for all tests so differences in amplitude will give some hints as to how easy or hard to drive an in-ear is vs always setting 1kHz to 85dB. (These happen to hit it pretty well, but dumb luck rather than intention).
For that reason, I’ll restate my TP10 summary below:
The KB10 is a great example of a good effort that is marred by a singular flaw. In this case, the flaw is tuning. Starting with the upper mids, the KB10 is way too forward and the treble gets outright harsh at times. Diligent EQ can help, but does not completely remedy this and as such unless you just really like an aggressively bright sound, these are probably best left on the shelf. The upgrade cable on the other hand, I highly recommend for anyone looking for an improved design for iems with the now popular hooded bi-pin style connector. (I’ll have another review of the KBear cable posted shortly).
- Bass - 6/106/10
- Mids - 4.5/104.5/10
- Treble - 4/104/10
- Soundstage - 6/106/10
- Imaging - 5/105/10
Pros: Price point for a 5 driver BA is insanely low.
Cons: Same IEM as TP10 and KB10 models with varying prices. Very bright signature that gets harsh fast.