Review: KB EAR S1 Bluetooth Cable
Today, I will be doing something different and be reviewing a Bluetooth cable, the KB EAR S1 Bluetooth Cable. Let's take a closer look at this!
Disclaimer: This product was provided to me by KB EAR. However, this does not affect my review of the product in any way.
Personally, I am not a big fan of Bluetooth cables as I feel that such wireless technologies are not quite as matured yet. I have many friends who love their wireless products due to the convenience and lack of wires, but I did not jump on the bandwagon. However, when KB EAR reached out to me wanting me to review their latest Bluetooth cable, I thought that "Hey, you should probably just give it a try. Wireless earphones have been making a lot of improvements over the past few years. Maybe things will be better this time". Hence, I agreed to take a look at their Bluetooth cable. This is also KB EAR's first take on a Bluetooth cable so I was really excited to see what they have accomplished with it so far.
All testing done on this cable will be through my handphone, a Samsung Note 10 Plus, as I want this review to be more focused on the functionality and usability for an average person.
As this will be my first review of a wireless product, and as this is not an earphone, the format of the review will differ from my usual format.
Weight : 14g
Connectors: MMCX, 2-Pin (0.78mm), TFZ (Compatible with KB EAR KS2 too)
Battery Life: 10+ Hours
Standby Time: about 100 Hours
Charging Time: about 1 Hour
Chip: Qualcomm QCC3034 chip
Bluetooth Version: Bluetooth 5.0
Streaming Codec Supported: aptx HD
Waterproof Rating: IPX5 Waterproof
Charging Port: Micro-USB Charging Port
Price: 21 USD
Where to buy: KB EAR Official Aliexpress Store
WHAT'S IN THE BOX
1 x KB EAR S1 Bluetooth cable
1 x Micro-USB charging cable
1 x Instruction manual
The S1 comes in a really simple packaging providing all the essentials required. Though I would have liked that there's a small pouch provided for the cable for transportation. I think that would have been a good addition.
The S1 has a somewhat rubber feeling overall with metal accents on the joints where it connects the neckband to the left and right earphone cable.
The playback controls and the battery pack on the left and right side of the earphone cable respectively are made of a matte finishing plastic that has a nice grip to it. The buttons are raised so you can feel for it.
Overall, not too bad for its price I must say. Also it has a waterproof rating of IPX5 so it can definitely withstand some rain or splash on it no problem.
The S1 cable goes around your neck and rests on it, which I initially wasn't very fond of as I have tried some Bluetooth earphones that have a similar design and the neckband tends to irritate the back of my neck and it gets really annoying.
However, I never got such issues with the S1 cable and it was not a valid cause of concern at all. It was really comfortable and lightweight to wear and most of the time, I barely even know that it was there! This really gave it some plus points!
EASE OF USE
The S1 cable is really simple to use and I did not face any hiccups in any stage of using the earphone. Through each step of the process, there is a voice being played indicating whether the device is turned on, in pairing mode, has been paired successfully, low on battery and turned off.
To pair the cable with your device, with the cable turned off, hold the play button for about 2 seconds until it says that it is in pairing mode and the LED would alternate between red and blue lights. Once you have found the cable on the device, pair with it and when successful, it will indicate that it has been successfully paired.
To play or pause tracks, simply press the play button. To increase and decrease the volume, simply press the plus and minus signs respectively. Hold the plus sign for 2 seconds to skip to the next track and hold the minus sign for 2 seconds to jump back to the previous track. I think my only gripe here is that I find that holding it for 2 seconds to jump back and forth tracks is a bit long. Maybe cutting it down to 1 second would be more than sufficient.
I also noticed that you could actually pair this cable with 2 device simultaneously though this was not stated anywhere on their product listing and packaging. I decided to test the effectiveness of this multi-device pairing by connecting it to my phone and laptop. I first played tracks on one device, then paused it and played it on the other device. I found that it works better from "Phone to Laptop" than from "Laptop to Phone". There seems to be a slight delay from "Laptop to Phone", maybe because the phone doesn't do the swapping as well.
As this is not stated on their packaging, I would not fault them for it, I just wanted to see if this works. I am glad to say that it somewhat works, but it's not smooth. For future versions of the Bluetooth cable, I would suggest that KB EAR include multi-device pairing as I noticed that many people need and want that feature in Bluetooth earphones/headphones and is also a hot selling point for popular products such as the Apple Airpods Pro and Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones.
The range of this cable is really decent too. Even at the maximum range of 10 metres for Bluetooth with minor obstructions such as a concrete wall, I can still listen to my music smoothly but there is a slight lag when trying to play/pause/increase volume/decrease volume. However, that is just me testing the limits of it.
While charging the device, there would be a red LED on where the volume and playback controls are on the right of the cable, indicating that the device is still charging.
When it is done charging, the red LED would turn blue, indicating that it is fully charged as shown below.
The stated battery life on the packaging of the S1 is roughly more than 10 hours. From personal testing, the cable lasted me for 10 hours on a full charge, which isn't too far off from what was advertised. I was very impressed by the battery life of the cable, it got me through a whole day study session at my friend's place, and the trip back and forth at least. I believe that at least for most people, 10 hours is a particularly long duration and you'd at most have to charge it at the end of the day.
In the worst case scenario, if you're out studying and with your laptop or power bank with you, you could always charge it and it takes an hour or so to get it fully charged. I think that's really impressive for a product that lasts 10 hours.
However, the only downside is that it still uses a micro-USB port for charging whereas the standard these days is Type C USB. I have to bring an extra cable around just to charge it so that's a bit of a hassle.
When the battery is at roughly 20% or so, it starts to give a warning that the battery is low, which is nice. However, it tends to keep repeating the message every 30 seconds or so and it gets rather annoying. I would suggest that they could increase the duration at which it repeats, maybe every 2 minutes or so, so as to not disrupt listeners from their listening sessions.
Overall, still quite satisfied with the battery life of the cable, living up to its reputation of 10 hours which is really impressive. Once they tweak the low battery reminders to repeat itself after a longer duration, I think this product would be great.
As this is not an earphone review, I will only be talking about the general characteristics of the sound differences if any. I will try to refrain from comparing how the S1 is less superior to a wired cable because they are just 2 different products entirely, but there might be still some of these comparisons. I feel that as long as the cable is able to properly drive the earphones with not a significant loss in sound quality, that is good enough.
I paired the S1 cable with my ThieAudio Monarch as I opted for the standard 2-pin (0.78mm) option. I was surprised to hear how far Bluetooth cables have come now as there were only subtle differences in the sound as compared to using a cable.
Sure, using the default cable is still the best with the Monarch, but the Bluetooth cable isn't exactly bad for its price to be honest.
For one, I am still able to properly drive my Monarch with the S1 cable. I did notice that the S1 cable was a bit weaker in terms of bass but I think that is normal with most Bluetooth devices that I have heard thus far.
Treble was decent on the S1, still being able to properly replay most of my tracks with not much loss in sound quality. Mids were still clear and I was very satisfied with that. For the most part, I was very satisfied with the sound quality for a 21 USD Bluetooth cable, it does provide a good solution for converting your wired earphones to wireless.
I also noticed that it is very source dependent too: Playing music through Spotify versus streaming lossless files off my phone proved this to be true. Through my audio files on my phone, the sound quality was better than through Spotify, I got a deeper bass with more impact, crispier and more audible highs and the overall sound was generally more refined. Hence, it's still best to play through your audio files on your phone than through a third-party streaming app.
I wanted to put this under "Ease of Use" but felt it more appropriate here instead. Pressing the volume controls on the cable directly controls the volume on the host device. I would suggest that, if it was possible, to be able to have a separate volume control on the cable itself for more fine tuned volume controls. I find that the volume controls on my phone aren't that great. I cannot seem to find the right volume for me, it is either too soft or too loud for my ears.
Overall, the sound quality is really decent for a Bluetooth cable with not much loss in quality though it is wireless though it would be great if there could be a separate volume control.
I am really glad to be able to try what Bluetooth currently has to offer and I must say that compared to when I last tried such a device over 5 years ago, it has improved greatly. For its first product, I am quite satisfied with the KB EAR S1 cable. To me, the thing that stands out the most about this product is that how well-thought out it was: Bluetooth 5.0 with aptx-HD support, decent battery life, the notifications when using the cable and how it has a IPX5 waterproof rating.
If you are looking for an inexpensive solution to convert your wired earphone to a Bluetooth earphone that has decent battery life, lightweight and easy to use, do check out the KB EAR S1 Bluetooth cable!