Review - KBEAR Lark (v2) (Sub 50€)

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Also available on YouTube in Spanish: Acho Reviews YouTube 

As I mentioned in my recent review of the KBEAR Robin, KeepHiFi sent me both the Robin and a new set of Lark in order to compare them between themselves and also compare the Lark against the version I received late last year that had not so great highs (I’ll explain more in a moment).

KeepHifi have not requested anything specific, so, as always, my review will be as sincere and unbiased as possible, however, it is always good to consider the fact that these products have not cost me anything.

You can find the KBEAR Lark on KeepHiFi here: https://keephifi.com/es/products/kbear-lark-1dd-1ba-in-ear-headphone?_pos=1&_sid=dc96b10e0&_ss=r&variant=32747787911214

The KBEAR Robin can be found here: https://keephifi.com/es/products/kbear-robin-1dd-4ba-in-ear-headphone

KeepHiFi also has an Aliexpress store that can be found here: https://www.aliexpress.com/store/5721043?spm=a2g0s.12269583.0.0.22c8ab80xdIlal

All of the above links are non-affiliate. In other words, Acho Reviews does not receive anything by clicking on the links or purchasing from KeepHifi. You can find more info here: About my reviews



Intro…

For those that haven’t read my review of the KBEAR Robin that I published recently, here is a quick rundown of why I am revisiting the KBEAR Lark almost 9 months later.

When I originally reviewed the Lark, a review that you can read here, I mentioned that the treble area had some serious problems. I am not going to go into detail (you can read the original review for that) but it turned out that there were two different revisions of the Lark (or so it seemed), where one had issues with the treble and the other didn’t. I never got to try a different set of them so I just thought that I probably had a set with the issues.

When KeepHiFi offered to send me out another set (after mentioning my previous findings) in order to compare them with the Robin, I thought it would be good to also compare them with the original set I have, to see if I really did get a bad set.

Well, first, I can certainly say that the treble is different on these, definitely better than on the original set.

Usual review…

As the only thing that seems to be different is the treble, I am not going to go through all the usual steps of creating a full review, you can read the original review for that, I am just going to focus on the differences between these and the originals, compare them to the Robin and add a couple of comparisons to other similarly priced alternatives.



KBEAR Lark v1 vs V2…

As far as I am aware, there is absolutely no way of knowing which set is which without listening to them, or if there is, I haven’t found it.

In fact, I don’t think that it is actually a v1 and v2, it is more a case of some sets that were either assembled differently or the BA driver was different, again, this is just speculation because I have not found any details on it, just various examples from different people (including measurements). However, for the sake of simplicity, I am going to call the ones I reviewed last year the v1 and the new ones I have received v2.

In the lower ranges, the sound is as identical as you can expect, considering possible placement changes when swapping between v1 and v2, along with a different choice of tips. My opinion of the bass and the mids has not changed from my original review, the only (major!) difference is in the treble.

Let me point out that the treble on the v2 is still far from perfect, but it is also a very long way from the mess that was (is) the v1.

With the v1, I opted to use the included silicon tips as I found the foams to result in too much of a thin sound. With the v2, I have found myself using foam tips. The reason for this is that, although I prefer the bass and mids with the silicone tips, the treble is a little harsh for my tastes and after playing around with multiple tips, I find that the foams reduce it just enough to make it more comfortable. Yes, I am losing a little in the lower regions in order to tame a peak or two in the highs, but I find it to be my preference with these IEMs.

The v1 presented a peak somewhere in the middle of the sibilance range, this is much reduced on the v2 but is still quite noticeable. In fact, it is noticeable with the foam tips, with the silicone tips I find it to be rather unpleasant. There is still a touch of harshness that reminds me of the v1 but where the v2 is much improved is in the extension.

On the v1, there was a very noticeable drop off after about 12kHz, something that the v2 does not exhibit. In fact, the extension of the v2 is miles better, being an extension I would expect from a hybrid set of IEMs in the under 50€ category, actually more extended than a lot of IEMs in this range.

The treble, except for that peak, is actually rather smooth, the main problem lies in that peak. Apart from the usual sibilance tests, voices like Paul Simon on Graceland can be rather harsh when volume is increased.

I have no doubt that the v2 is much better (in the highs) than the v1 I reviewed, however, I still find the treble too harsh and it still shows that metallic timbre of the BA driver in the upper ranges.

My conclusion would be that the Lark v2 does not sound broken like the v1 did but it is still a shame that the BA is not up to the quality of the DD.



KBEAR Lark (v2) vs KBEAR Robin…

Now, this is the main reason for KeepHiFi sending me the new version of the Lark, however, there is a slight problem:


Yes, that is the nozzle of the Robin inside the tip. That is not some new crazy tuning method, it is actually the nozzle that has separated itself from the shell. 

This is an issue that I have not experienced before, nor have I heard of this issue with other KBEAR units, so it is most probably an isolated incident, but let’s face it, stuff happens. All brands and models can experience some kind of issue and, to me, the most important part is how the seller/manufacturer responds to the issue.

In this case, KeepHiFi was very apologetic and was more than willing to resolve the issue by replacing the faulty pair. However, as these IEMs were sent to me free of charge, and I have already performed the listening tests necessary to both review the Robin and compare it to the Lark, I do not need them to send out a new pair.

KeepHiFi made it very clear, in my conversation with them, that they have a warranty and they will work with anyone who has issues with any of their products to resolve the situation. I really don’t think that we can expect anything more from a seller than for them to stand behind the products they sell and treat the customers fairly when something happens. They obviously are not to blame for the issue, they don’t manufacture the IEMs, but came across as being very interested in both resolving the issue and passing the information on to the manufacturer directly.

So, anyway, the sound comparison…

I am only comparing sound as everything else is the same (shape, build, etc.), the only difference is the 1DD + 1BA of the Lark vs the 1DD + 4BA of the Robin.

Now, at first I thought that the DD driver in both of these was the same, now I am not so sure. To be honest, I have absolutely no idea what driver is used in each of these, they might very well be the same just with different tuning, but I find the Lark to be more enrgetic.

In my review of the Robin, I mentioned that sometimes I found the lows to invade the mids a little when playing longer, more pronounced bass notes. After more listening, I find that it is more of the case of the DD not being quite up to the task. I don’t know where the crossover happens, in other words, I don’t know where the DD drops out and the BA kicks in, but if the DD is covering the lower mids along with the bass, the lack of speed would certainly explain the feeling I get from it.

The Lark, on the other hand, I find to be much better at resolving these same frequencies and to be more capable of staying clear when things get a little hectic in the lows (extended rumbling bass, multiple bass lines simultaneously etc.). So, what I am basically saying is that I prefer the lower range of the Lark over the Robin.

In the treble range, I find the opposite to be true. In comparison to the Lark (v2, as the v1 was just not comparable), the Robin does not have that harshness that I find in the Lark. There are still a couple of moments when some slight sibilance will raise its head but it is by no means harsh like the Lark is. The treble of the Robin is far smoother and seems much more precise, without the harshness and even the BA metallic timbre is not as apparent.

If I could, I would take the lows of the Lark with the highs of the Robin, I feel this would make for a much more balanced set.



KBEAR Lark vs Kinera BD005 Pro…

The Kinera are another set of hybrids under 50€ that I reviewed recently here. I also did a comparison of the BD005 Pro against multiple other sub 50€ offerings in that review. Therefore, I feel that a comparison of the Lark to the BD005 Pro will serve to also compare against some of the other units in that review.

First let me say that the BD005 Pro benefit from a little extra amplification, whereas the Lark will be happy running off almost anything that has a headphone jack. For this comparison, I used the Apple Dongle, which does not bring the best out of the Kinera (in my opinion) but is more than enough to run them both, probably better than the majority of phones that these will be connected to by the majority of users.

The reason I mention the source (apart from the fact that it is a break from my normal set up for testing) is that I feel that the lower regions (subbass through to low mids) are very similar on both sets when using the Apple Dongle. With a bit more amplification, such as the Atom, I feel that the BD005 Pro becomes a little more articulate and the lows to mids is a little cleaner. With the Lark, I don’t find that the extra amp really makes any difference in this respect.

The tonality of stringed instruments in the lows and mids I also find a little better on the Kinera. It is not night and day but I do feel that the Kinera seems a little more lifelike, maybe even just a little warmer.

Both sets have slightly recessed mids, maybe slightly more on the Kinera but I think that it is the fact that the bass is a little more present at times than on the Lark, making it appear more of a recess than it is. I really couldn’t say which of the two I prefer in the mids.

In the treble, neither of them are my thing. The BD005 Pro has too much treble in my opinion, however, the Lark has less treble but is harsher. At low volumes (most of my listening is at low volumes but I mean even slightly lower), I would pick the Lark as the harshness is not quite as noticeable when at low levels, however, when increasing the volume levels (not by a huge amount, just slightly over my normal listening levels), the harshness of the Lark appears and I find it more uncomfortable than the boosted treble of the Kinera.



Conclusion…

The KBEAR Lark does sound better than I said when I reviewed it back in December. As suspected, the unit I reviewed originally had issues with the treble and this new set has proved the point.

However, sounding better than the other set is not quite enough for it to sound great in my opinion. That harshness in the treble is enough to take away the enjoyment in my case. It may not be an issue for others, maybe the peak is exactly at a point that is sensitive for me, but I can only comment on what I hear personally.

Is the KBEAR Robin worth it over the Lark, which is really the whole reason for revisiting the Lark, I would say yes. I do find the low end to be a step below on the Robin in comparison to the Lark, but it is not something that makes it unpleasant enough to avoid it, at least for me. I listened to the Robin all week and at my usual listening levels, the bass was just something I noticed on tracks with heavy bass. However, the harshness on the Lark is something I notice on (almost) all music, unless I am at very low levels.

SenyorC