Review - Kiwi Ears Allegro

Review - QKZ x HBB Khan

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TLDR version on YouTube: TDLR - Ep.163 - QKZ x HBB Khan

The QKZ x HBB Khan were sent to me by Linsoul in exchange for the publication of this review. They did not request anything specific and I will, as always, aim to be as unbiased and sincere as possible.

You can find the Khan via Linsoul here: https://www.linsoul.com/products/qkz-x-hbb-khan

As with all links that I publish, the above is non-affiliate.


Intro…

The Khan is another collaboration between HBB (of Bad Guy Good Audio Reviews) and QKZ, however, as we will see, this is a bit of a different approach than previous tunings by HBB. Coming in at around 40€ (at the time of this review), placing them inside the ultra budget category (sub 50€), the Khan feature a 10mm dynamic driver for the bass along with a 7.8mm dynamic driver for the mids and highs.

Aimed at being easily driven by cell phone devices (and other small dongles), the Khan has an impedance of only 10 ohms and a sensitivity of 117dB. This easiness to drive, along with the reduced price, makes them a set that can easily be thrown in a pocket or bag for day to day use.


Presentation…

The QKZ x HBB Khan arrives in a box that is nothing really special, although they have restrained from showing quite as much info and publicity than they did on the previous collaboration, the QKZ x HBB.

Upon opening the box, we find something that is quite unexpected (at least for me), in the form of a large gold coin. One side of the coin shows the HBB logo, while the reverse side shows the QKZ logo. I have no idea what the reason is for including the coin but it certainly makes it a little different as far as unboxing and contents go.

Obviously we also get the IEMs, along with the cable, three sets of silicone tips and a rigid storage/carrying case. The case doesn’t exactly feel like a high quality case, made of fairly indelible plastic, but it is more protection than a simple bag, which is about all we can really expect for the price.


Build and Aesthetics…

The shells are 3D printed and very reminiscent of the QKZ x HBB, featuring the HBB logo in gold on the right IEM and the QKZ on the left, both behind a transparent covering but opting for a grid type design rather than the lightning found on the previous model.

The build doesn't scream high end but there are no obvious flaws on my set and I have no complaints about the build at this price point.

Comfort is decent although I did find myself opting for larger tips which seat the IEMs slightly further out of my ear canal as I couldn't get a correct seal sith deeper insertion (at least with the included tips). I did wear them for long periods though and felt no discomfort.

The cable is rather generic and cheap feeling, although the 3.5mm and the splitter are both metal, with a swirl (or spiral) pattern on them. Again, no complaints at this price point.


Sound…

All tracks mentioned are clickable links that allow you to open the reference track in the streaming service of your choice (YouTube, Tidal, Spotify, etc.)

Here is my usual comparison of the Khan against my personal preference target:

Now that is certainly a break from all the similarly tuned sets we have seen recently! 

I expected the bass on these to give me fatigue in a very short time, yet, to my surprise, that wasn’t the case. In fact, I found that these IEMs inspired me to listen to more EDM and Hip-Hop than I have listened to in a long time. I have never really been a huge EDM fan (although at the right time and place, I have enjoyed a lot of EDM) but I was heavily involved in the Hip-Hop scene for many years (a story for another day) and while I still listen to HH, it had been quite a while since I spent a long session (actually multiple sessions) listening exclusively to HH. The tuning of these IEMs actually remind me of the tunings I used to go for in car audio many years ago, where people could hear me before seeing me.

Anyway, let’s get on with the review and take a look at them with my usual test tracks and following the usual steps.

Rather than focusing on the subbass, I am going to mention the low end as a whole, due to the way the upper midbass dip interacts with the lower bass regions. This makes for a very present but also very clean low end. “No Sanctuary Here” provides a very impressive low end rumble, making the bass seem as though it is felt although it stays clear. 

That dip around 200Hz does disconnect the bass regions from the mids but it doesn’t do so in a way that seems strange. I sometimes get the feeling that on some sets that have a dip in the midbass can make it seem like someone has set the crossovers wrong on a subwoofer+mains set up, yet the Khan doesn’t give me that impression. It does have a negative effect on some tracks that utilize the roll of the midbass into the lower mids, yet works in favour of other tracks that have a larger presence in those deeper bass regions. The same dip also serves to avoid the boominess found in the low end of things like “Crazy”, where the guitar can become overly reverberant in its lower notes.

The midrange does certainly take a step back in comparison to the lows (and highs). I wouldn’t choose these IEMs for a lot of my vocal and instrument based music as I feel that the vocals don’t have as much presence as I would like, yet female vocals do seem to cut through slightly better than male vocals in this regard. With simpler tracks, this doesn’t really come across as an issue but more complex arrangements, such as “Whole Lotta Love”, does seem to overshadow the lyrics to some extent.

The higher midrange is not very present, with the usual climb actually peaking around 3.5kHz to 4kHz, this will accentuate that slight step back in vocals but also keeps things rather smooth.

The higher ranges are actually a lot smoother that I would have expected by looking at the graph. There is a good amount of presence in the high end but is not very “airy”. The sound doesn’t become overly harsh but can seem a little fragile on occasions. Sibilance is in check (as tested with the usual “Code Cool”) but is not subdued, so it will depend on the track.

I can’t say that I find sound stage to be anything above average, as with the vast majority of IEMs to my ears, yet the Khan does a decent job of utilizing that space and keeping things well place, allowing me to identify different layers without too much issue. 

Details are not the strongest point of these IEMs, especially those found in the midrange, yet the lower ranges do work well to preserve those that are found in this range. It is not an overly blunted soung in general, in other words, they don’t make you feel like you are missing out on a lot of detail, but they do not stand out either.

Isolation is not actually great in the low end, yet the presence in the same region will mean that you will not notice external noise when listening to music (especially the genres that seem to work best with the Khan). The rest of the frequencies are around average.


Conclusion…

The QKZ x HBB Khan are sort of a double edged sword. On one side, it is refreshing to listen to something that is a break away from so many similarly tuned IEMs in this price range, yet on the other side, I find that it restricts the genres that I would actually use these for. 

I can’t say I enjoy them with the majority of my acoustic music (which is a lot), yet I do find that I enjoy them for Hip-Hop and EDM. I am not someone who listens to much EDM or Hip-Hop (at least not recently), so that means that, while they did inspire me to spend more time than usual with these genres, I wouldn’t choose to use them on a daily basis.

A large positive is the price, which means that they are not an expensive set to have around for an alternative tuning for those times you do feel like a bit of bass centric music. I also find that they do not fatigue me, due to that dip in the midbass, so I can enjoy them for more than a few tracks (something that was not possible for me with the QKZ x HBB).

If you are someone who listens to a lot of Hip-Hop or EDM, I think that they are well worth trying out for their price tag. Yet if you are looking for a budget set of all-rounders, then I don’t think these fit that bill.


All FR measurements of IEMs can be viewed and compared on achoreviews.squig.link
 
All isolation measurements of IEMs can be found on achoreviews.squig.link/isolation

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