Review - KBEAR Lark (Sub 50€)

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Also available on YouTube in Spanish: Acho Reviews YouTube 



Intro…

I hadn’t tried an KBEAR earphones until I received the Lark and although I had heard them mentioned plenty of times, I hadn’t really paid much attention.

I believe that the Lark are one of their latest releases (but maybe not, based on how quickly IEM models seem to appear on the market) and is a hybrid unit, using one 10mm dynamic driver and one balanced armature. Part of their advertising says that they are correctly worn, they can directly isolate most of external noise even without music playing. All I can say is that obviously I can’t seem to wear them properly because they don’t isolate any more than every other set of IEMs I have tried recently.

I suppose I am being unfair because I usually don’t mention isolation, it is just that they use it as part of their marketing so…



Presentation…

Anyways, on to the product itself.

The KBEAR Lark come presented in quite a nice black box, inside a white cardboard sleeve with an image of the IEM on the front, along with a few more images and specs around the rest of the sleeve.

The black box has the KBEAR logo on it in gold, and lifting the lid reveals the IEMs in the top right, located in a foam cutout. Located to the bottom and to the left there are two more small boxes, one containing quite a nice carrying case and the other containing the “Accessories” (i.e: tips and cable).

The carrying case is a nice break from the norm as it is rectangular instead of round, in a dark grey colour with the KBEAR logo on the top in white. The case actually seems to be of very nice quality, especially considering the price of just over 30€.

As far as selection of tips, there are a few more than is usually included with most budget IEMs. On top of the silicone tips that are installed, there are another 3 sizes of grey silicon tips and 3 sizes of white silicone tips included. 



Build and aesthetics…

Let’s talk about the build of the accessories first. The tips are better than those included by Blon (for example) and are actually quite usable. In fact, I actually opted to use one of the included sets after trying with various other sets, but more on that in a moment.

The cable is very reminiscent of the cables included by KZ with their IEMs. It is nothing special, however, it does its job and is by no means the worst cable I have received recently. If you do choose to change the cable, it is a standard 0.78mm two pin connector.

As far as the IEMs, I like the look of them. The shape is very similar to most of the KZ line up, with a metal backplate and semitransparent shell, allowing you to see the insides. In my case, the colour is “Lark Gray”, which is basically a grey tinted shell with a metal coloured backplate, darkened around the edges. The build is also very similar to that of the KZ offerings and I found no obvious issues with them upon inspection. All in all, they are not something special but they seem to be well built and look nice (in my opinion).



Sound…

After playing around with tips and trying my usual foam options (which I found to be too thin sounding), I settled on the large size of the white silicone tips that were included. I did end up going back and forth between these and the grey included tips during my listening times but in the end decided on the white ones for my detailed listening and review.

There is good extension down into the subbass territory, giving a nice rumble in traks like “Royals” by Lorde but without it being overdone. There is no real drop off that I can notice in the sub bass, although there is no boost either, meaning that human hearing will provide the natural roll off as they get lower.

In general, all of the bass frequencies seem to be pretty well balanced, without giving the impression of any specific bass frequency being boosted. As I mentioned above, the foam tips did leave me wanting more bass but the silicone tips brought the levels up to where I am happy. The song “Sun Is Shining” by Bob Marley & Robin Schultz has enough bass for me to appreciate it, without the sensation that it is heavily boosted. In fact, I went on a little EDM tour, I know I said that it is not my favourite music (and it isn’t) but sometimes I will feel like a little dance music and the Lark put me in one of those moods.

The transition from the bass into the lower mids is pretty smooth without too much of a sensation of bass bleed, this is mostly due to the fact that the Lark has enough speed and definition to be able to separate the bass hits from those lower mid frequencies. As I said, I went on an EDM journey and even hectic songs with fast low bass hits and frequency sweeps didn’t cause the Lark to fall apart.

There is a dip in the center of the mid range as these do present a V shaped signature, but this dip is not too recessed, avoiding root notes of certain voices sounding hollow. The dip is noticeable and on tracks like “Smooth Operator” by Sade, you can notice a little more bass than is needed but it is not offensive.

As we reach the higher end of the mids, there is a climb up to the 3 or 4kHz mark, making the higher end of voices not lose their presence. In general voices are well presented although they are not quite as realistic as they should be, due to a slight issue in the treble which I will mention next.

The treble is where I feel that these earphones get stuck in the mediocre category. The first issue is that there is a peak somewhere right in the middle of the sibilance zone. It is not the worst amount of sibilance I have heard on IEMs in this budget category, but it is far more sibilance that I like. For example, the song that I mention in almost every review when talking sibilance, “Code Cool” by Patricia Barber, presents sibilance in almost every sentence. The same is true with my second sibilance test song, “Hope is a Dangerous Thing” by Lana Del Rey. While the majority of IEMs have issues avoiding sibilance during the opening phrases, the Lark shows sibilance on every “S” throughout the whole song.

In addition to the sibilance, there is an additional problem with the metallic ring caused by the BA. This is something that is present to some degree on all budget IEMs that use BA drivers. KZ have actually improved in this regard as time has passed, with each of their new hybrid designs addressing it a little better and avoiding (or masking) it a little better. In the case of the Lark, the metallic ring is quite clear and is something that is very noticeable in my opinion.

Finally, as if that wasn’t enough, there is a drop off in the treble above 12kHz that is quite severe. Well, either that or I just lost 5kHz of my hearing in the last couple of days! Usually I would say that this leaves me wanting more “air” and “shine” but to be brutally honest, I don’t find myself longing for anymore of the Lark treble.

Speed and definition is decent on these earphones, holding themselves together even throughout complex passages and giving good definition to what is going on. They are not the most detailed IEMs but they are above average for their price point and I have no particular complaints there.

In the stage width and image positioning side of things, I find the Lark to do a pretty good job. “Bubbles” by Yosi Horikawa was fun to listen to and the usual “Letter” test showed a good width and image placement across the whole stage.



Conclusion…

There are so many good things about these IEMs that it is a shame that the high frequencies let them down. 

The build quality is good, the looks are good (personal opinion), the stage width and image placement are good, the bass is decent, the mids are decent, just one more step and these would have been a clear winner at their price point.

That metallic ring plays havoc with the overall timbre of anything that strays into the upper ranges, at least when they are instruments or voices that need to sound natural.

In the EDM realm, I quite enjoyed these IEMs, the treble did not affect the overall sound as much, mainly because the track I was listening to didn’t really involve many “real” instruments and also because they weren’t songs that I had listened to a thousand times like others that I use for testing. From my test track, those that are more aimed towards the electronic realm, such as “Sun Is Shining” that I mentioned,  “I Fink U Freeky” by Die Antwoord or “Shot Me Down” by David Guetta, did sound different but weren’t unpleasant.

I can understand plenty of people liking these IEMs, depending on their music tastes, but for my personal music choices, I just can’t ignore that treble, both the metallic ring and the exaggerated peak somewhere around 10kHz..

SenyorC