The earbuds market is so flooded with worthless products all costing like one or two french fries portions, and I got so little time to waste that identifying key reference products on this category is not a trivial task for me.
Here’s my analysis of K’s Earphone “Bell-LBs” model, which I recently personally purchased for € 59,00
Table of contents
|Spot-on neutral tonality and pure organic timbre.
|Low mids and male vocals could use a tad more body.
|Spectacular female vocals.
|Sub bass only hinted.
|Very good treble tuning.
|Some occasional shoutyness on trebles.
|Beyond good technicalities.
|Non removable cable.
|Nice fast expressive midbass.
Full Device Card
|Bell-LBs sport an almost pure-neutral tonality, and a genuinely organic timbre
|Sub bass is not “completely” rolled off yet it’s not much more than “hinted” in terms of elevation. That part of actually hearable rumble is sharp and clean.
|Not elevated but not recessed either, mid bass is fast, very clean and moderately punchy
|Mids in general are wonderfully tuned, the tonality is spot-on and there’s very good note body, texture and articulation
|Bell-LBs offers good male vocals although an extra bit of warmth and body would be welcome. I’m being picky though.
|Female voices on Bell-LBs are beyond good: bodied, articulated, realistic. Timbre in particular is incredibly organic.
|Treble is reasonably extended, clean, sparkly. Some missing refinement makes them go shouty on some occasions and specific tracks. There is “some” air too, although not too much.
|Bell-LBs cast a seriously wide and high stage, with a quite modest depth though
|Macrodynamics are close to fantastic on Bell-LBs: instruments and voices are properly distributed on the scene with plenty of space and separating air
|Detail retrieval is very good, both from the highmids and trebles – where is it solely limited on passages where Bell-LBs scant into shouty territory – and from the mid-bass thanks to their speed and at least decent texturing
|Instrument separation are as goood as imaging, and fall short only on some very occasional passages due to incurred treble shoutyness
|Bell-LBs are reasonably easy to drive from the pure powering standpoint with their 30 ohm paired to above average sensitivity. Their driver is technical enough to “welcome” a good quality source though. Pairing with Apogee Groove in particular is nothing short of delicious.
|Shells appear convincingly solid, so does the cable and its termination.
|Although the shape seems odd at first look, Bell-LBs fit very well over the concha. To me, the best orientation is cable-up. I can’t decide if I prefer them with full foams or donuts… probably the former option gets my vote but by a tiny margin indeed.
|Once fitted, I find them super comfortable.
|Almost zero, as normal in the earbud category
|The non-replaceable cable is free from microphonics. Sadly the manufacturer does not offer the possibility to order the product with different terminations, 3.5mm is the sole available option.
|Full metal bell-shaped housings
|15mm single Dynamic Driver
|Fixed 1.2m single ended cable, 3.5mm straight plug
|Package & Accessories
|2 pairs of black full foams, 2 pairs of white full foams, 2 pairs of black donut foams, 2 pairs of white donut foams, 1 pair of rubber earhooks
|MSRP at this post time
|€ 123,31 list price (€ 59,28 “usual” discounted price)
vs Rose Mojito (was $ 259,00 – now discountinued)
Both are designed for with a neutral presentation in mind, but when directly compared Bell-LBs comes out “flatter-neutral” while Mojito sounds a bit more “balanced”.
Mojito delivers more sub-bass and a modest rumble vs just a hint of that on Bell-LBs. Midbass are similar in note body, Mojito offering a bit more elevation. Mids and vocals are equivalently refined and organic, very difficult to tell which is better. On both, male are “just good”, female are “wonderful”.
Neither driver ever scants into sibilance, but Bell-LBs do occasionally concede to shoutyness, which Mojito is totally free of. Stage casting is similar, Bell-LBs being just a bit deeper.
Imaging and separation are surely better on Mojito mainly thanks to the absence of treble shoutiness. Bell-LBs are way easier to drive and pair.
vs Rose Masya (was $ 129,00 – now discountinued)
Masya offer a bright-accented presentation vs a virtually pure-neutral coming out of Bell-LBs. Both buds deliver a just hinted sub-bass, with barely audible rumble. Midbass are similar, with Masya showing a bit more elevation.
Mids are better tuned on Bell_LBs which deliver thicker tone body and higher organicity. Vocals are hands-down better on Bell-LBs, female even more than male. Both drivers present a tendence to (occasional) shoutyness on trebles on some tracks, Masya more than Bell-LBs.
Technicalities are also very similar, with Bell-LBs showing just a bit more stage depth in comparison. Bell-LBs are much easier to drive and pair.
vs K’s Earphone K300 (€58,14 list, € 29,10 street price)
By design K300 indeed offer a different tuning compared to Bell-LBs: warm and V-shaped vs neutral. K300’s sub bass is very audible and delivers nice rumble, on par with quite a few IEMs actually, and unlike Bell-LBs where it is just hinted.
Mid bass is more elevated, bloomier, denser on K300 vs Bell-LBs’ leaner, faster, punchier one. Mids are obviously recessed and also leaner on K300, vs unrecessed bodied and organic on Bell-LBs.
High mids and trebles are similarly elevated on both, but obvsiouly cleaner, sparklier, airier on Bell-LBs, and brushed, warmed and inoffensive on K300.
Soundstage casting is very similar, in both cases absolutely holographic, a further bit more extended on K300. Imaging and separation are evidently much better on Bell-LBs as a direct consequence of much faster transiets all over the spectrum.
K300 is somewhat harder to drive due to its 300 ohm impedance, and less expensive.
vs VE Monk SM (Slim Metal) (€ 22,39)
Monk SM tonality is bright-neutral vs Bell-LBs being almost pure neutral. Both have just hinted sub-bass. Mid-bass is similar on both, a bit more elevated and organic on Bell-LBs.
Mids and especially vocals are monumentally better on Bell-LBs, whereas Monk SM sound deeply artificial, in addition to lean and untextured.
High mids and trebles are also arguably much more organic on Bell-LBs, shouty and fatiguing on Monk SM. Monk SM cast a deeper but narrower stage.
Detail retrieval on Monk SM is not as bad as their high mids and treble lack of refinement might imply, but Bell-LBs keep the lead with good margin. Microdynamics are also evidently better on Bell-LBs.
Both drivers are quite easy to bias power-wise, but Monk SM is way more capricious in terms of pairing (some sources excite their highmids making them sound like a portable transistor radio from the ’70ies).
Considerations & conclusions
K’s Earphone BELL-LBs are a pair a earbuds that acoustic and vocal music lovers may easily fall in love with.
They tick so many boxes at once: neutral tonality, spot-on timbre, comfortable fit, high resolving power, holographic stage casting and good technicalities, all paired with decent driveability and an affordable price.
Sure there is better at higher budget levels, but I couldn’t find anything remotely close in terms of sound quality on an almost purely neutral tonality at such a modest cost.