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The KBEAR NEON: a single BA...

Hi all! Welcome back to The Neighborhood! Today’s we’re taking a look at the KBEAR Neon thanks to KeepHiFi. This is a single driver, BA driven, earphone, which is pretty rare in the IEM game, and KBEAR has been killing it lately with a number of their other offerings, so I know a number of people are interested in this one. So, let’s go ahead and… get InToit!

So, I know KBEAR seems really excited about these, but ultimately, I’m not holistically sure why? So, let’s get one thing straight right off the bat. I’m going to be pretty biased against these from the start. These seem like a shallower fitting clone of an Eytimotic to me, and honestly, I’m not a huge fan of the fit and ergonomics of the Eytimotics; and, like that those earphones, I am not a huge fan of the design here.

These are designed to be worn in a “wear-down” fashion rather than being wrapped around the ear, and although there is enough length from the y-split that one can attempt to wear them over-ear if one desires, it still fits in my ear rather awkwardly; if it is worn down or otherwise. For me, because of the shallow fit, the IEM just juts out of my ear too far. If I were designing a single BA IEM, I would want it to disappear into my ear more than these do.

The placement of the c-pin connector on the end of the barrel and the angle of the bulky cable QDC-style connector also adds to the problem, as it extends the IEM even farther out of one’s ears. The cable, while nice from a sound and feel perspective, was woven inconsistently in my case, with a tighter weave in certain areas and a loser weave in others. I did like the smaller, and slimmer, 3.5mm termination on the cable though, and the metal chin sinch also functioned well and integrated well into the cable.

While the tips the Neon comes with sound mostly fine, but the silicones are not only a bit stiff for my preference, but also, they are rounded in nature and contribute to the fit becoming unseated and unsealed quite easily. Additionally, the foams were nothing to write home about. Tips that I liked more with this set were SpinFit 145 and Final Audio Type E Ear Tips. The nozzle of these is also excessively long, and this makes tips fitment less than ideal for a number of after-market, alternative tips.

Positively, the Neon does come with the new KBEAR case, which I do like quite a bit, as it is neither too thick nor to small, and makes for a great portable carry. There is plenty of room inside of it for the Neon and a second IEM if one desires.

But, what about the sound? Well bearing in mind that these are a single BA, I don’t hate them. These do a number of things surprisingly well, but they are also somewhat limited as a result of their single BA design, and they will favor the preferences of a certain type of audiophile.

Let’s go ahead and talk about this thing’s biggest weakness. The bass. These are most definitely “team no bass,” and not a bass-head IEM by any stretch of the imagination. There is some extension here, but not a lot, and very little impact whatsoever. Keeping in mind that these are a single BA, the bass actually isn’t that bad, but its’ not good either, and it is BA bass.

The midrange is well-distributed, and is a strength of this earphone. In other words, the Neon is mostly a mid-forward set. Sonics border on shout at times, but I never found things to cross the line into shouty per say. The box of the Neon touts this unit’s vocal prowess, and while vocals are well separated and sound slightly larger in their scope compared to the rest of the mix, I never found vocals to be super amazing on the Neon either. Let’s just say that vocals are better than average, but not special.

The treble is nice, airy and well extended. Psychoacousticly, the treble seems to build in intensity towards the air-range, and my guess is that this may be due to some kind of mild dip in the early treble. Nevertheless, the treble feels generally representative and ambient. Block strikes, rim shots, and high-hat hits come across with clarity, but aren’t overly assaultive.

The soundstage is slightly above average width, and decent depth and height to it, but like the bass, soundstage varied with insertion depth. Generally, I received more bass, and less stage with additional insertion, but there was a “happy spot” with regard to both comfort and sound if I was motivated enough to play with the fit until I found it.

Separation was average to slightly below average, and instrument distinctiveness and placement was mostly average. The stage in shape appeared to be slight concave arch to my ear. On most sourcing, timbre is slightly bright and with a very mild glare or sheen to it. Yet, this was also amp dependent, as I thought the timbre was better on the Matrix mini-i 3 Pro that I just reviewed, or will review shortly. Nevertheless, sounds sometimes have a crispy snap to them, while at others sonics are somewhat gritty in their texture. There is also some mild top end harshness that most won’t notice, but would be remiss of me not to mention it. Note weight, is generally slightly thinner than average, but so is detailing and resolution. So, detail and resolution are good for the price of the Neon at under $50 dollars, and this is more than likely due to KBEAR being willing to go with a solid, single Knowles BA rather than a lower quality one.

So, while I like what the Neon does in terms of its use of a single Knowles driver and its frequency response, for the most part, I would like a bit more bottom-end, and a bit more weight to the presentation overall. Fans of a single BA might flock to this one, and while I get the appeal, it’s a bit too lean and anemic for my tastes, even if I like its air. In the end, the Neon seems to be a bit of a missed opportunity by KBEAR to me. If it had a slightly beefier tuning, and a more ergonomic, over-the-ear, form factor to it; say something like the Shuoer Singer; with a slightly smaller barrel and the c-pin oriented on the side, I think KBEAR could have had a bigger hit on its hands. At least I would have liked it more, but, as always, your mileage may vary? And with that, I’m out… for now.

*Thanks to KeepHiFi for sending in the KBEAR Neon for Review!

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