disclaimer: I purchased the KBear Knight from OPA Audio store at a reduced price for purposes of this review. I have received no compensation for this review, nor do I have any financial interest in either KBear or OPA. For more information on KBear products, you can visit their website or to purchase the Knight, visit the OPA Audio Store.
Unboxing / Packaging:
The Knight comes packaged in a slipcover style box with an image of the earpieces on the front and the specifications on the reverse. Slipping the cover off reveals the earpieces in a foam surround and the accessories hidden beneath a flap in the lower section. The kit is fairly sparse with 4 sets of foams, a shirt clip, and a user manual in the package alongside the earbuds themselves. Before being too critical, we need to remind ourselves this is an earbud that retails at roughly 15USD.
The earbuds themselves are all metal construction which is somewhat surprising at the price point. The design is basically a vertical stick that the cable passes through and a side mounted cone that holds the driver itself. both the upper and lower tip of the stick are bright polished metal as is the grill on the driver enclosure with the rest of the housing being flat black. The outer face of the stick has the KB Ear name and L and R indicators making for quick indexing. The lower end of the stick is cone shaped and acts to protect the cable, however, no strain relief is present where the cable exits the housing. Venting for the driver is difficult to see in the pictures, but 3 small vents exist above the junction point with the stick roughly half way between the junction and the grill attachment. For me, when worn tip down the vents were exposed but when worn tip up, the vents could become blocked if I wasn’t careful when I positioned them in the ear. This may be something to keep in mind if you prefer tip-up wear.
Cables are non-removable and listed by KBear as 68 strand silver plated oxygen free copper wire in a clear housing. The jack is of the straight variety with a brushed aluminum housing with a knurled section at the top to offer better purchase. A single wire exits the jack and runs to the splitter which is also brushed and knurled aluminum. There is no strain relief on either side of the splitter, nor is a chin slider included. A velcro cable tie does offer some cable management which is nice since a case is not provided.
The Knight is a single 15.4mm dynamic driver listed as an N52 magnet with a CCAW voice coil and a bio-composite diaphragm. Nominal impedance is listed as 32Ω with a sensitivity of 109 dB/mW. I found the knight easy enough to drive with a smartphone or tablet but it does scale some with better sources both qualitatively and quantitatively so while an external amp is not absolutely required, you may find the Knight performs better when paired with more potent sources.
For purposes of this review, I did not use any of the foams provided as I find they do impact the signature.
Sub-bass is more present than expected as open designs often struggle in that aspect. While certainly not a basshead model, the Knight delivers enough rumble to keep things in proportion and doesn’t feel at all lacking for cinema use. Mid-bass is slightly elevated above the sub-bass and is near linear all the way through the lower mids which gives it good definition and not a lot of overlap or bleed present. Decay is slightly slower than attack which contributes a bit of warmth but stops short of obstruction of details. Overall a very pleasant bass with the only complaint being a bit less detail and texture than some of the more expensive models.
The mids on the knight are certainly its strongest point. Lower-mids are linear with the mid-bass and have good weight and clarity which gives lower voices enough body to sound natural. True mids take a slight step back but not enough to sound recessed and strings are still presented well as is acoustic guitar. There is a bit of climb in the upper mids, but not as pronounced as some others and female vocals don’t sound markedly in front of their male counterparts but do stand in front of other instrumentation. I did find that clarity suffers a bit with foams and if I was going to use them with the Knight I would recommend finding some doughnut models that interfere less. While the knight lacks a bit of detail some of the more expensive models have, it does manage a better tonality than many and I prefer vocals on it to some much more expensive models like the EBX.
Ok, you knew it couldn’t be perfect and here is where it comes back down out of the stratosphere. The treble is a bit grainy and uneven at moments, but still manages to be better than anticipated. The lower treble falls back from the upper mids fairly quickly and keeps the Knight from getting harsh. Female vocals are pleasant and not cutting even on tracks that lean that way. The knight adds a bit of energy back first around 5kHz and then an even larger step around 7kHz-9kHz where it helps keep it from sounding enclosed. These do a good job most of the time but can occasionally sound mildly disproportionate (particularly the 7kHz range). Treble detail is reasonably good and again better without foams than with.
Soundstage / Imaging:
Ranking stage size on earbuds is difficult as the genre generally is known for having great stage dimensions. The Knight does have good stage dimensions and seems to operate more around your head than in it as a result. The stage is deeper than wide and not as well proportioned as some at higher price points but the knight makes the most of the stage it has with better instrument separation and layering than it deserves at the price point. It does break down some on extremely complex fast tracks, but again at $15 really? Imaging is also good with spatial cues being well rendered and movement easily followed.
Thoughts / Conclusion:
At $15, its hard to identify a group that does not need these in their collection. I guess if you already own one you might not need another, or if you are completely deaf, they might not be of much use, other than those, I’m at a loss to find a reason not to recommend these. Build is impressive for such an inexpensive product and the sound quality is well better than anticipated. Nothing is too far in front or behind anything else and the clarity and detail are better than expected. To me the biggest selling points of the Knight are that it has a very natural tonality and somehow makes delivery of the music seem relaxed and easy.
Pros – all metal housing, good tonality, very natural signature
Cons – lack of weight makes them feel cheap, clarity could be improved, only moderate detail