Review: KB EAR Stellar
In the age of in ears, how do earbuds fare against the current competition? Let's find out more about the extremely wallet-friendly KB EAR Stellar!
Disclaimer: This product was kindly sent to me by KB EAR through KeepHifi. However, this does not affect my review of the product in any way whatsoever. I was told to give my honest opinion about the product.
Having done many in-ears, KB EAR probably decided that they wanna have their own take on earbuds to reach out to a wider audience. If I am not mistaken, this should be their first take on earbuds that comes at ONLY 3.69 USD. How do these fare against other earbuds at a similar price point? Let's find out!
Sound: Mid to Mid-bass focused with laidback highs
This graph depicts how the earphone sounds to me
Driver : 15.4mm Dynamic Driver
Price: 3.69 USD
Sounds slightly veiled due to warmness
Highs too laidback for my liking
Suitable Genres: Mid-intensive like Metal, Rock or Vocals. Can also just be for general listening
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WHAT'S IN THE BOX
1 x KB EAR Stellar
1 pair of foam buds
Well I wouldn't exactly say that it came in a box, more like a ziploc bag. The included accessories are simply a pair of foam buds and the Stellars. It's a very minimal packaging and I was hoping that they could have included a simple carrying pouch to house all these items. Nothing much to talk about for the contents.
BUILD QUALITY The Stellar's housing is of a matte plastic finishing and on the site, it comes in 5 different colors: Black, Red, White, Blue and Transparent Black. I do have to say that the plastic is rather thick so given its price, it does feel rather sturdy.
The cables are thin and soft, never once feeling annoying nor weighing down on the earbuds. They are unfortunately, not detachable cannot be replaced if it spoils. The only way to replace it is by soldering.
COMFORT AND ISOLATION
The comfort feels alright for an earbud, and I do not get any irritations from the housing of the earbuds as I prefer to use the earbuds as is without the foam covers. The edges are all smooth and feels comfortable on my ears. I remember using the VE Monks and feeling rather annoyed with it as the edges of the plastic kept poking against my ears.
There is definitely no isolation with earbuds as is common with earbuds so there is not much to say about this.
Before I give a general overview of the sound, the setup I use to test are as follows :
DAP - Cayin N6ii (T01)
Cable - Stock (3.5mm)
The Stellar strikes me as an earbud that is very mid-centric, with laidback highs. The mids maintain quite a few details in it that I was not expecting from an earbud at all such as the bite from electric guitars and impact of kick drums. Vocals also sound realistic though being slightly veiled. Bass is sadly mostly lost due to the lack of isolation and can mostly be heard in bass heavier songs. The Stellars are also very easy to drive but have to be cranked up quite a bit due to loss of sound due to isolation.
Though the highs are laidback, upon closer listening, they still retain certain good qualities to it. Highs are rather crisp and have a fast decay in general, fading off rather quickly. Highs does not have much extension but with the amount of crispness in it, it really isn't that bad for what it is.
I am a big fan of the Devil May Cry series games, and with the release of the theme song for the character Vergil in Devil May Cry 5, "Bury The Light", I have to listen to it on the Stellars. The highs are mostly drowned out by the mids, but when you hear it, it does have a decent amount of crispness to it that shines just enough to be noticed without sounding sibilant. This can be heard throughout most of the song when the cymbals and high-hats are being played on the drums.
Listening to deca joins' songs in general, the Stellars lack that extension that I would have preferred. When the cymbals crash it lacks excitement, but high-hats just barely make the passing mark for me.
I was pleasantly surprised when I popped these into my ears and heard that the mids have quite a good amount of bite and impact. The crunch in those electric guitars can be heard and somewhat felt, kick drums are usually impactful and can also be felt in your eardrums! Vocals sound natural though they are veiled and don't stand out as much as the instruments.
Going back to "Bury The Light" by Casey Edwards, the kick drums stood out almost immediately as I could feel that impact in my ears. When the beat came in at 0:40, I was really pleased with how it sounded and felt. Drums also stood out a lot on the Stellars, making rock and metal songs very enjoyable. I also felt the same way when listening to Periphery's "Reptile", when everything kicked in at 1:24. The guitars were simply on point, so much bite in it! Drums were also simply amazing, it had so much impact with each stroke of the drums be it the snare or the kick drums!
Moving onto vocals, they sound rather natural but sound slightly veiled. They always felt slightly behind the instruments regardless of genre of songs. To me, it sounds like the vocals are too tamed, sounding like they could potentially have more impact but are somewhat stuck behind a cage.
Listening to Diana Krall's "Besame Mucho" shows this, though it sounds rather forward here, you can hear that there is a slight veil to it, adding a layer of warmness to her smooth voice which can be a bit too much warmness. However, to complement this, I tried this out with Etta James' "At Last" and I think her voice is not too "sharp". However, there is the issue of sounding too tamed here, since her voice is supposed to stand out a bit more but the earbuds toned it down a tad too much.
Bass on these units are a bit hard to tell since it's mostly lost due to lack of isolation. However, when it can be heard, the bass mostly linger around the mid-bass segment where it's mostly impactful but does not reach too deep.
Listening to UNISON SQUARE GARDEN's "Sugar Song to Bitter Step", the bass guitar can be heard clearly and have a good rumble to it, but it does not reach very deep. It still makes its presence known and adds a certain amount of depth to it but it sounds a tad too warm for my liking. The bass here is supposed to sound more energetic.
This is also the same for SPiCYSOL's "Mellow Yellow", mostly hearing it but it does not go low. It also tends to be drowned out by the rest of the instruments and vocals when it gets into the chorus.
I still think that it is alright to use these to listen to bass heavy songs, just don't expect it to reach too deeply and that it would be a bit harder to hear due to the lack of isolation.
I will keep the soundstage and imaging brief here as I would like to compare it to other earbuds in the similar price range.
Soundstage here is rather wide, but it's still mostly feels within your headspace. It does not reach too far wide out.
There isn't much imaging here, mostly the difference is between Left and Right channels.
I think the interesting thing here is how it compares to other earbuds like the ever-so-popular VE Monks and the Moondrop Shiroyuki. Let's first start off with the VE Monks!
VE Monks (10 USD)
The VE Monks sound rather thing compared to the Stellars. It has a slightly sharper treble (highs) compared to the Stellars but sound rather thin. Mids are also less impactful and vocals also sound more hollow compared to the Stellars. Bass is also not as strong on the Monks.
As for the comfort of these, as mentioned before, the edges of the plastic still poke against my ear and I absolutely dislike that. 5 minutes into listening on the Monks and I can already feel it, whereas I did not get that while using the Stellars for more than an hour.
The overall sound I got from the Monks are that they are more hollow and less dense than the Stellars. I believe this is to give the impression of a "brighter" and more "expanded" sound but the tuning of it sounds a tad off to me.
VE Monk (Left), KB EAR Stellar (Center), Moondrop Shiroyuki (Right)
Moondrop Shiroyuki (13 USD)
The Shiroyuki has a more expanded sound but not at the expanse of its tuning. Highs are crisper and have more presence than the Stellars. Mids have the same amount of bite to it on the electric guitars but kick drums lack that impact that is present on the Stellar. Vocals are also natural here and I think sound better here than on the Stellars due to the openness of the sound. Bass tends to fade quicker on the Shiroyuki and does not his hard as the Stellars.
As opposed to the Stellars, the Shiroyuki does not sound as thick and I think this is why it is not as suitable for Metal and Rock genres as much as the Stellars. The Stellars adds thickness to the electric guitars and kick drums, making it more enjoyable on the Stellars.
Testing out "At Last" by Etta James on these actually confirms that I was right, the vocals are more natural sounding and does not have that "tame" sound. It also lacks that veil that the Stellar has, which contributes to the openness of the sound.
I also noticed that the Shiroyuki tends to sound slightly distorted at higher volumes and the upper-mids such as the electric guitars will be too forward, sounding weird when that happens. Usually have to reduce the volume when that happens.
I was really pleasantly surprised when I first tested out the KB EAR Stellar with my metal and rock tracks but I did not think much of it. However, after comparing it to 2 other popular models in a similar price range, I actually think that they have a tuning that caters to a slightly different group of audience. If you are someone that loves your mids thick and want to listen to metal/rock on these, give the KB EAR Stellars a go! At only 4 USD, I think they sound very decent compared to the other offerings in the market!
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