KB EAR Lark: a retune done right...
Updated: Dec 8, 2020
Hey everyone! Welcome back to the Neighborhood. It’s Your Friendly Neighborhood Reviewer with InToit Reviews. Thanks to KBEAR and KeepHiFi we’re taking a look at the Lark, and what I believed is the re-turned model, not what people are calling the “4K” model. Apparently, there are two different tunings of this earphone; one produced before October 17th, and one produced after it.
So, let’s get InToit!
Let’s start with the package. It’s a bit larger than most IEM boxes in this price range these days. And since I brought it up, let’s briefly mention the price: $30. What you get for that price is pretty extraordinary. The IEM comes with 7 pairs of silicone ear tips: 4 in a grey silicone with a medium, sized bore (1 X small; 2 X medium; 1 X large), and 3 in a clear silicone with a larger sized bore. Both sets of ear tips seem to be constructed of a similar silicone material. It is somewhat on the stiff side, but nice overall. One criticism of the tips in general was that the medium barely fit my ears, and the large was a bit too big. I eventually settled on using the medium sized tips, but if I would walk around with this IEM it would become unseated in my ear canal, which was kind of a nuisance for me personally, but as we all have different sized ear canals, your mileage regarding this may vary. But, because of this, isolation wasn’t the best for me.
The shell is shaped a bit like a guitar pick, and its back is comprised of a clear, colored, plastic resin. The set I received is described as a “Mauv” colorway, but it appears more lilac in shade to me. The nozzle is on the thicker side, and is comprised of a gold, metal casing and an opaque, filter screen. The faceplate is made of a silver metal material with an etched honeycomb pattern on one side of the fatter portion of the faceplate and the moniker “KB EAR” screen-printed down the slenderer, tip portion of the face-plate. With further regard to comfort overall shape nestles easily within my ear, but like I’ve already said, due to the tips, I did find myself adjust this IEM quite often in order to keep its seal.
The cable is reminiscent of the new KZ cables that have been coming out. The variant I was provided with does not have a microphone, but there is a microphone option that has been produced my order was placed. The cable itself terminates in an angled 3.5mm jack that has a decent amount of extension, so I’m hopeful that one will be able to use this cable with the majority of external cases for phones or tablets. Uniquely, the cable initiates in a box-style, 2-pin connector that is the same connection as the KS2, but Aliexpress labels as the “TFZ’ connection. I’m not familiar with any TFZ cables with this connection type at this point in time, but maybe some are on the way to the channel, so I’ll be interested to find out.
While this cable was nice, I was also provided with a TRI 4-core, crystal, copper, balanced 2.5mm cable for testing as well. This aftermarket cable came with its own case, was of a much higher quality than the included KBEAR cable, was soft to the touch, and was generally a joy to use; so, I it utilized it for most of my testing. Although I did also give the stock cable a quick listen, and it sounded identical to my ears.
So, I actually received two cases with this IEM shipment, one with the aftermarket cable and one with the IEM itself. And, I have to say that I prefer the case that came with the Lark itself. It is much smaller than the one that was provided with the cable, and it just feels like it will get more use from me as a result. While, I’ve been enjoying using the case that came with my Shozy 1.4 to date, this case is most likely going to replace that one, as it is of a similar overall size, and less bulky in the pocket. It is rectangular, zipper sealed, and has an internal mess compartment in the lid for additional storage. There is also a cloth loop for a small carabiner if you wish to hang it from something like a backpack or a fanny pack. There’s just enough room inside this case for the IEM and its aftermarket TRI cable, and it is pretty much a functionally perfect case from my point of view. Although, I would have liked for it to have been made out of a leather material instead of a cloth one, and I would have also liked to see a small carabiner provided in the package as well. But, for the price, I can’t really complain, as the consumer already gets a lot for their money here in the box included.
So, let’s get to the bread and butter: the sound. Overall, the sound profile here is mostly a linear one. Timbre is warm, but neutral enough, and sonics are neither too thick nor too thin. I expect that this set is actually going to be a wildly popular one, once it gets into the more hands, as it has the technical prowess to appeal to the audiophile, and a mostly relaxed sound signature, which will be pleasing to the common listener.
The soundstage is decently wide, spacious, and it has good depth to it, especially for the price-tag; but it is wider than it is deep. This IEM is also a standout in the price-range regarding imaging, instrument separation, layering, and detail. Decay is astounding, instrument placement is accurate, and peripheral details are also really good. This is one of the most technically capable IEMs that I have ever heard at, or under, $30 bucks to date.
Interestingly, these remind me a lot of the Jade Audio EA1: a single, beryllium, dynamic IEM, which I also loved. In “A/B” comparisons with that set, the Lark is mostly the more relaxed set of the two, sonics are more evenly distributed across its staging, and the stage itself is notably larger in width. Having said that, I find the EA1 to be somewhat more engaging to listen to between the two, due, in part, to the EA1 having more energy in both its top-end and the low-end, in comparison. But, these two IEMs are ultimately more similar than they are different.
Like the EA1, the Lark also does a good job of isolating and centering its vocals. However; female vocals are notably more emphasized compared to lower-toned, male vocals. And I hate to even mention it, because these characteristics are very slight in nature, but there is a very tiny amount of vocal sibilance and treble harshness in the brilliance region before the Lark’s treble begins to fall off; say around 9K. This was notable on the track: “Crash” by the Primitives from the Dum and Dummer Soundtrack. Here the guitars shimmered more abrasively than in some other sets. Having said that there, isn’t a ton of air here, but there is some, even despite the fact that I feel the treble does roll-off a bit prematurely.
The mids, on the other hand, never really seem to produce many deficits, but, like with its vocals, the mid-range had somewhat more presence in its upper midrange in comparison to the lower one. KBEAR seems to have made a good call here by lowering the 4K peak from the previous tuning, as I would not want more intensity in the upper mid-range than what is already present in this set.
These also chug, and they have good bass impact, even if it is less substantial in its amount in comparison to something like the EA1. Generally speaking, the bass on the Lark tends to be a linear one, and hides most of the time in the background amongst the other sonics; blending in mostly well, and only really pushing itself forward when the track calls for it. Nevertheless, I find these quite enjoyable with tracks from the metal genre where guitar rhythms and palm mutes drive the music forward. But it is also notable that there is apparent sub-bass roll of in the bottom-end of this set as well; but to my ears this was less offensive than the treble roll-off, and I did not mind it as much for some reason.
Overall, the Lark is a balanced, linear, mostly inoffensive set, which is rolled-off, both in its top, and bottom, ends. Resolution, detail, and technical capabilities are impressive for its price-point, and it comes with a nice accessory package, and has a solid, comfortable build. Will I find earphones such as the EA1 more engaging, I think most will prefer the Lark’s more laid-back presentation and wider sound field. And, to date, it may be the most well-rounded choice in comparison to other IEMs in the price-bracket right now.
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