KBear Ink Mk2
Hello, this is my full written review of KBear’s latest under $100 budget offering, the “KBear Ink MK2” or “Ink2” as I’ll refer to it. I was able to review the OG KBear Ink (OG Ink Review) last year in 2022. There was actually quite a lot of buzz surrounding the original Ink as it took the general shape and design of the highly regarded KBear Believe as well as the KBear Diamond. Both sets were very popular, and while they had some issues, they were both considered good buys and both were considered unique for different reasons. As fate would have it the OG Ink simply didn’t live up to the older sets, or the moderate “hype” that it seemed to generate. There were some issues with the tuning and while it wasn’t a bad set it was simply surrounded by some great iems in the price point. Something I alluded to in my review at the time.
In comes the KBear Ink Mk2. This latest Ink took the community by surprise as I posted some pictures and a little blurb about it on some Facebook groups, and nobody seemed to have a clue that it was real. In fact, I was told I was wrong at one point. The truth is, Ink Mk2 is very real, and I must say it is a refreshing take on the series. That said, at least aesthetically, one might mistake the Ink Mk2 with another set that I already mentioned… The Believe. I’ll explain more later but the faceplate is almost identical to the Believe’s faceplate.
KBear / TRI
KBear/TRI has been in this hobby for quite some time now and have truly cemented themselves into the lore of the Chi-fi universe, or thee… “Audioverse ” as I like to call it. They’ve come out with many very well-tuned and beloved iems over the years and they continue to release iems at a fairly rapid pace. KBear’s sub brand “TRI ”, the more luxury version of the brand, does seem to enjoy more success as the prices begin to rise past $100. However, the budget offerings from KBear do just very well, and even a few past that $100 barrier. Basically, KBear has a firm hand in the market and in my opinion a good KBear is good for the hobby.
I want to thank KBear for providing the Ink MK2 or “Ink2 ” (as I’ll call it for review purposes) for a full review and feature at Mobileaudiophile.com. I’ve not been asked to speak a certain way about this product, or asked to shed it in a positive light, and certainly wasn’t offered any money. Mad props to KBear as I can respect a company who has enough belief in their product to subject it to the scrutiny of a review. With that said, let’s take a close look at the KBear Ink Mk2…
Ink MK2 Pros
-Great nostalgic design (reminiscent of KBear Believe)
-Bass region (tight for its size)
-Nice extension in the upper treble
-Definite improvement from the OG Ink
Ink MK2 Cons
-Fit may be a problem for some
-Upper mid glare
-Treble sensitive may not enjoy
-Bass may be too much for some
-Resolution could be better
-Slightly lean texture
-Stage size is more intimate
The KBear Ink MK2 comes in a longer rectangular box which is covered in a sleeve with a graphic of the honeycomb design as well as “Ink” written at the bottom. The unboxing is actually one of the better unboxing experiences under $75. Anyways, once you slide off the sleeve you are met with a much more class looking box with one solo KBear logo in the middle. Take the top lid off and you’ll see the carrying case as well as the tough looking Ink MK2 sitting pretty in a formed plastic tray. Next to the Ink2 earphones are two pairs of eartips. Inside the case you’ll also find the cable, the rest of the eartips, a nozzle cleaning tool and a microfiber cloth. Not a bad accessory list from KBear. Trust me I’ve seen far worse.
I’ve always liked the KBear cases, and we’ve seen this one before. It’s a solid built case which is covered in what feels like faux leather material. The color is like an orangish-brown color with the KBear logo imposed on the opening magnetic flap. As far as cases go the KBear case is one of the better ones you’ll see under $100. In fact, it is the same case provided with the KBear Believe and many others. Very elegant with nice stitching holding everything together. The case is just large enough to fit your earphones and perfect for putting in a bag. A felt internal liner protects your precious earphones as well and the magnet on the flap is actually strong. I don’t use cases usually, but I will likely find use this one. Nice addition KBear.
What’s nicer than the case… is the eartips. Believe it or not. Well, I should specify that “for me” the eartips are the nicer of the two. The reason… KBear 07 tips BABY! Thank you KBear! The best tips in chifi (my humble opinion) are actually included. Also, yes KBear gives you an entire set. Granted, one pair is the extra small tips (Who wears those?) but I adore these tips as no other tip on earth fits me quite the same. Except of course the twenty knock off KBear 07 tips out there, but I digress. It’s a very nice addition. KBear 07’s usually add some punch to the low end without making anything muddy. They are semi-wide bore with very firm flanges and a very stiff inner bore. This all helps the sound to come across more open. The upper mids usually get a slight boost as well. In the package you also get some decent wide-bore tips (s, m, l), colored red and gray. They have a slightly flimsy flange, hard inner bore. Very nice tips as well and I will use them with another set down the road, I’m sure. Anyways, nice tips KBear.
The cable provided with the Ink2 is a Silver-Plated Copper Cable of pretty good quality. Comparable to a $15 upgrade cable I’d say. KBear makes nice cables as I have quite a few of them and the included cable is not bad at all. The included cable is an 8 core 26 awg, 5N Oxygen-Free SPC 2-Pin cable which ends in a 3.5 brass colored jack. The cable is glossy-looking black in color and looks pretty awesome with the Ink2. Now, for balanced listening I did swap it out for a blue colored Tripowin Zonie cable which pairs so very well aesthetically. It too is an SPC cable and terminates with a 4.4 jack. Truthfully, any 3.5 single ended listening that I I used the included cable as it looks tough, sounds just fine, and isn’t microphonic at all and very pliable and easy to deal with. Not bad.
Build / Design / Internals / Fit / Drivability
If any of you readers have ever put the KBear Believe in the palm of your hands than you know exactly how well the Ink2 is built. It’s beautiful friends! Built with fine materials and built very robust as well. The Shells are made from CNC aviation aluminum. Very sturdy and durable feeling. The faceplates are adorned in this deep blue which glistens within the carbon fiber design pattern and is covered in resin to provide a great look (more in the next section) and feel. The Ink Mk2 is one of the better builds in the price point for sure.
Okay friends, I am on a sort of nostalgic little hype train at the moment as I adored the KBear Believe. Like a total Jack A&$, I sold them off a couple years ago. However, I’ve always wanted another set. I suppose the Ink2 will have to do. To be honest, there is very little which differentiates the two iems in terms of its design. The only difference is a deeper blue on the new Ink2 and a golden center logo on the faceplate rather than the silver logo on the Believe. Almost identical. This is not a bad thing. Anyways, the contrast of colors is designed so very well. The gold of the nozzle is sharply defined by the black of the Shells. The way the deep blue on the faceplates plays peek-a-boo with surrounding lights as you twirl them in your fingers is also so dope! Truly a nice looking set. Great job.
KBear decided upon using a 10mm DLC (Diamond-Like-coating) Dynamic Driver which is an upgraded version of the same driver used in the KBear Diamond, Ink, and the TRI X-HBB KAI. This diaphragm is said to be flatter than the others with less distortion in the upper regions of the mix.
The Ink2 is rated at 16 ohms with a sensitivity of 102 dbs which makes them a very nice earphone for driving with less powerful sources. Let’s put it this way, the Fiio UTWS5 (50 mw @32 ohms) drives the Ink2 with ease. So, you can only imagine how easily a setup like the Qudelix 5k does on balanced listening. Very well. Also, synergy with the 5k (ES9219C dac chip) is fantastic. There is obvious scaling as well. Stepping up to the slightly more powerful Ifi Go Blu was nice but the synergy with the 5k was better in my opinion.
Using a dongle dac should be fine and all you truly need. You certainly don’t need the dongle I used in the Moondrop Dawn 4.4. The Dawn is a very powerful little dac/amp and the way these two sings together is very nice with the Dawn’s CS43131 dac chip; they just seem to mesh well.
Stepping up to the Ibasso Dx240 I liken it to a Moondrop Dawn 4.4 on steroids. The iBasso DX240 uses a ES9038Pro dac chip and is bolstered by the Amp8 MK2 module. Truly a beast of a device which plays off of the Ink2’s warmer tonality beautifully. I also used the Shanling M6 Ultra quite a bit. The M6 Ultra has a slightly lusher and slightly more velvet sound which reacts well with the Ink2. However, I think I enjoyed the iBasso DX240 a bit more than the Shanling M6 Ultra in this case, but both sound fantastic. Thankfully, the Ink Mk2 reacts well to more power and does scale pretty nice which is something I could not say for the OG Ink. The sound becomes better separated, more engrossing bass replay and a perceivably wider stage. Of course, we are talking about incremental changes folks. However, they are changes, nonetheless.
For the average listener who simply wants to enjoy the Ink Mk2 and doesn’t have the funds for a Dap; all you need is a decently powered dongle dac. You really don’t need anything super powerful as the Ink Mk2 is pretty easy to drive and really doesn’t take much to bring to good fidelity.
*Note: prior to critical listening I made sure to burn the KBear Ink MK2 in for a total of about 75 hours. All. Of my listening was done using flac files stored on my devices. The majority of my critical listening was done using the iBasso DX240, Shanling M6 Ultra, or the Moondrop Dawn 4.4.
Ya know, the original Ink was so close. They just had some flaws in the tuning that simply kicked them out of contention from being a true consideration against the rest of the iems under $75. KBear seemed to embark on a quest to right that wrong with the MK2. For all intents and purposes, I do believe that they succeeded. The sound is much easier to digest. The OG Ink had some pretty harsh upper mids that brought on quite a bit of glare, as well as the highs were pretty sharp. If one wanted, they could modify the original to a decently nice sound, but that’s for another post. The Ink MK2 is a definite upgrade, no doubt about it. Now, does the Ink2 stand strong against some of the monsters in the price point? That is a question of subjectivity I believe.
The Ink2 most certainly has a V-shaped even possibly Harman type sound signature with an emphasis in the low-end, particularly the sub-bass. They have a boosted upper-midrange and an emphasized treble region. The tonal color is what I call warmish-neutral, with a warmer low-end and a brighter top-end. The bass hits hard and does so efficiently. Basically the bass is tight for its size. The mids are slightly recessed yet still is able to create a nice stage presence listening to my library of test tracks. Vocals are distinct for being pushed a hair back. The bass doesn’t muddy the waters at all as the mid-bass doesn’t add any real detrimental bloat and drops off at a good place in the mix. The treble region definitely has an emphasis, yet the frequency caps out at the pinna gain area in the upper mids and lower treble and slowly descends through the upper treble with nice extension. The Ink2 provides a nice technical performance for a fun sounding single DD in this price point. Details are decently illuminated in the treble and the midrange for what the Ink MK2 is.
One aspect of the Ink MK2 which I think has been tidied up a bit has been the bass region. What we have now is a slightly cleaner bass with better textures to the sound. The bass region has nice density. To me, the bass region is the selling point if the Ink2. The greatest majority of emphasis lies in the sub-bass, but the mid-bass is not without representation. The bass is not wooly, one noted, or hollow, and actually comes across with pretty nice transient behavior. The leading edge on the attack has a bite to it which is nice and there is more of an atmospheric decay. I wouldn’t call it “long and drawn-out” but enough to sound realistic. Honestly this is a fun bass which comes in just under basshead in my opinion.
The sub-bass has good extension into the lowest of lows as it owns the majority of low-end priority. There is a nicely deep and haptic drone when called upon. In the song “Paradigm” by The Head and Heart the song begins with a gnarly bassline which is great for checking out just how much of that tactile buzz your earphones can manage. In the case of the Ink2 I hear a very deeply weighted and textured replay of this song. The bass as a whole is pretty composed and not too overpowering, so not to veil the spectrum. With the emphasis in the sub-bass, it allows for the “feels” down low and still enough slam in the mid-bass while it frees up the midrange a bit.
The mid bass has sufficient slam as evidenced in “Humble Beginnings” by Bazzi. The bass drops roughly ten seconds into the song and the Ink handles it with a clean and forceful boom. “Groove” by Ray Wylie Hubbard starts off right away with a grizzly and dirty sounding bass guitar riff which sets the tone for the song and man the Ink2 resonates with this track. One could say it… Grooves. Sorry. There is a crispness to the note edge while having very nice solidity or tactile mass. Just as it should sound in my opinion. Perhaps a bit of coloration, but never overdone as the timbre sounds nice in this region for a fun iem. What these tracks show is that the Ink2 can BANG! Not in a wooly way and not in a way that is too slow or muddy. It’s a big bass, it’s a clean bass and it’ll get your feet moving.
All in all, the bass most certainly has some heft to it which adds a dynamic touch to the overall sound of the Ink2. The bass region carries with it some authority and keeps things pretty tight per its quantity yet remaining atmospheric. This is perfect for genres which require more oomph to the low-end. Like I’ve stated, the bass doesn’t really ever “muddy the waters” so to speak. Despite that I’m sure there will be those who view this amount of low-end activity as a con. Obviously on bass heavy tracks there will be some masking of other frequencies but the actual bass itself has a nicely concrete sound with decent note definition. In true “Believe” fashion, yet please don’t be confused, the two are not equals in this area.
Downsides to the Bass Region
The con with this bass is that it will likely be too much for some hobbyists. Let’s be honest, this bass is meant to be fun… and that’s it. KBear isn’t trying to sell the Ink2 as an ultra-resolving iem with loads of details. This is a line of iems which was made for one reason and that’s to move your feet and make your head bob in enjoyment. Still, this will not be for the lean and tight bass lovers out there.
The midrange has a somewhat musical nature to it. Coming off the OG Ink I think that KBear certainly made improvements. The biggest improvement I’ve seen is in the overall ease of listening, as the OG was pretty peaky and sibilant. Granted the new Ink2 does peak out a little but to a much lesser degree. Timbre is better as well. The midrange has a nice crispness in some scenarios yet is pretty smooth at times too. I wouldn’t call the midrange the strong suit of the Ink2 either. It’s recessed a bit but vocals and instrumentation still has plenty of presence within the stage.
I find the midrange to have adequate note weight, though in some areas there is some thinness depending on the singer and track. It isn’t for those who enjoy a lusher and warmer midrange. KBear did a nice job by not drawing such a focus to this area of the mix. Vocalists and instruments are not so far forward that they’re in your face. Truthfully, I think the Ink2 is tastefully done without any weird grain or digital sounding artifacts in my music. Personally I enjoy a midrange that is a hint closer and more vivid but all things considered I’m not missing much.
The lower midrange presents male vocals as slightly warm with a moderate note weight. With that said, I hear a crisp male vocal with pretty good note definition. Resolution is about average I’d say (whatever that means), yet there is some nice separation of elements in this region. Baritones like Avi Kaplan sound slightly laid back in the track “First Place I Go“. He does have a nice reverb to his voice, and it comes across dense and resonant with a smoother articulation to the rise and fall of his vocals. Higher pitch male singers like The Avett Brothers in the track “Morning Song” on the other hand sound rather crisp, clean and with good clarity. The surrounding instrumentation rounds out the stage with a decently detailed representation of strings and percussion while having a nice imaging of the stage.
Listening to “The Gambler” by Home Free (Acapella group) sounds fantastic on the Ink2 with clean cut vocals and a somewhat 3D-like stereo image. Each male voice seems. well outlined, as if a knife edge creates the distinction. Of course, some of this is due to the recording, but the Ink2 still has to pull it off. Each male voice sounds nice on this track and you do get a taste for every type of male singer on “The Gambler”. Tracks without a lot of confusion with nicely spaced vocalists sound great in the Ink2. “The Alabama Moon” by Drayton Farley is a track which plays very well on the Ink2 as his voice is very distinct and separated from the acoustic guitar which plays alongside. His voice is a bit thin but also there’s a vibrance to it. In more congested tracks the resolution gets a bit more blurred, but we should expect such things at this price.
The upper mids appear to be decently energetic and only slightly pronounced, yet also not really recessed either. I certainly wouldn’t call them forward, though there is some shimmer and sparkle. I find females to be a pinch thin. Please don’t confuse this with sounding bad either. Females don’t sound bad on the Ink Mk2, but they do sound ‘polite’… even with the emphasis. I wouldn’t call them bodied or lush, but I would call them svelte, thin just sounds… ‘frail’ to me. However, in that thinner profile I also hear a crisp sound with good vivaciousness when called upon. Not really natural, I would instead call them “off-natural”. Kinda like what “off-white” is to white. Nothing which is a con in my book as far as timbre goes.
In the song “High” by Caitlyn Smith, this woman absolutely shows her vocal prowess. Listening with the Ink2, at the 48 second mark she gets ‘ever-so-slightly’ lost in the surrounding melody when the breakout chorus erupts. Other than that, she sounds very expressive and accentuated along with the rest of the instruments.
Part to a whole
The midrange is certainly not the focal point of the Ink2. The midrange almost sounds like a part to a whole that is neither too overshadowed nor highlighted. Still, there are some tracks in which vocals seem to stand out a slight bit more on the Ink2. Songs like “Honey” by John Legend or “Black Mascara” by Raye to name a couple. However, vocals react the best on acoustic tracks on the Ink2. There are also songs where resolution takes a hit. Tracks with more congestion, songs with big and proud electric guitars and beefy kick drums blaring away can melt the sound together a bit. This shouldn’t be a deterrent as many iems have similar issues or shortcomings. The bonus is that I don’t hear any definitive sibilance, or any real timbre issues, and for the most part the Ink2 sounds pretty melodic. Well done KBear.
Downsides in the Midrange
There are some slight subjective issues with the midrange. I hesitate to call them issues as they are simply preference qualities which some may not prefer. The midrange isn’t the most energetic or foregrounded and basically is not a vocal-centric iem and certainly not a mid-centric iem, so keep that in mind. The midrange is a bit withdrawn and even slightly thin as well. Also, this isn’t the most detailed midrange sound I’ve ever heard. All in all, it isn’t bad.
The treble has a healthy boost to it and can become a little peaky if presented with the right track or recording but for the most part it is held well in check. Honestly, for the most part I find the treble to be pretty prominent with some brilliance to it. Though it isn’t the most refined treble I’ve ever heard, it also isn’t smeared or sheened-out in treble mess. It’s actually pretty clean (for the price) and separated with some nice body to instrumentation. Being this is a V-shaped sound with an emphasized upper 3rd of the mix the treble does pick up some details along the way as well. I wouldn’t call it a robust treble but there is body to the sound with adequate treble punch.
I found the extension into the highest of highs to be nicely panned-out on the Ink2. The secondary harmonics of a cymbal strike are pretty clear and not too splashy, and they decay rapidly enough. In fact, the transient attack/decay up top can be nimble at times. Take the track “Secrets” by Billy Strings. The Ukulele, Mandolin and Guitar work is absolutely rapid fire from the jump and the Ink2 sounds pretty capable to handle this type of track. Billy and his band are so very talented and create these mellifluous melodies that ting along at breakneck speeds at times. I find that not every set can replay this track perfectly. Not that the Ink2 plays it “perfectly”, but it does the job and it doesn’t sound like congestion.
I didn’t notice any annoying sibilance or, like I stated… anything really sheened-out in treble glare. What I mean by that is anything shrill or any ultra bright mishmash of shine that makes you turn your volume down. Can they get bright? You betcha. There are some tracks which bring this on easier than others but for the most part what the treble really adds is “some” levity to an otherwise pretty fun sound. The treble contrasts the low-end in a way that evens out the spectrum. The Ink2 is a nicely tuned V-shaped iem in my opinion.
Downsides of the Treble Region
Listen, we know what we are getting from the Ink gen 2 by this point… Right? Honestly, the treble region is actually pretty well done for a single DD with a V-shaped sound signature. I would say that the treble can be a hair thin and possibly too bright for someone who is treble sensitive.
The stage size is not the selling point of the Ink MK2. The width of the stage is narrower in my head space compared to other similarly priced iems. Despite that, the height and the depth of the sound field is only about average. I definitely wouldn’t call the stage size a reason to stay away, but it simply isn’t this “big experience” like some sets can surprise you with. In spite of that I should add that the size of the stage seems full to me. As though the macro-dynamics present on the Ink2 are enough to provide a full experience inside of the narrower psycho-acoustic stage. Also, my music sounds just fine on this set.
Separation / Imaging
Like I’ve said a few times in this review, the separation of instrumentation as well as voices is not bad providing the track isn’t too congested. The truth is that the Ink2 actually separates and partitions off elements of the stage nicely for a V-shaped tuning. Imaging also sounds good. I found left to right imaging is spot on, as it should be, but front to back depth isn’t as obvious. All things considered, the Ink2 are actually quite nice in this regard. Things do become a bit masked over in congested tracks or songs with more of a beefy low-end I’ve noticed; however, this should be expected.
The Ink2 isn’t the most resolving iem out there, nor was it tuned to be. This was made to be a fun & dynamically charged iem tuned to be musical and compete with other V-shaped iems under $75. The Ink Mk2 was not tuned to be a detail monster which can resolve the tiniest of subtleties but rather provide a pretty clean and controlled newer take on this lineup of iems. It wasn’t made for anything but jamming out with a smile on your face. Nor should any of you expect it to be anything else. The bass is bigger, single DD, again it’s V-shaped, not the most resolving either and so we should temper expectations. With that said I do think that the Ink MK2 does just fine for what it is.
KBear Ink OG ($69)
The OG KBear Ink was released sometime last year, and I was able to spend some quality time with the OG Ink for a Review. This was an exciting release for me as I adored the lineup of past KBear iems starting with the KBear Believe. However, I couldn’t give the OG Ink the best marks as it did have some tuning issues that were hard to get past for me. The Ink houses an 8.8 DLC single Dynamic Driver and uses basically the same shell footprint yet with a different design. They are both very nice looking iems.
There isn’t any huge difference in this region between the two KBear brothers. The biggest difference to me is the speed of the new Ink MK2 seems perceivably quicker and the new Ink MK2 has a bit more in quantity than the previous Ink. I found the OG Ink to simply to be a bit fuzzier on note edges but both sets offer a very nice bass response.
This is where we begin to see some real evident changes which are for the better on the new Ink2. The previous Ink was overly boosted in the upper midrange to lower treble area which made listening to the Ink a painful experience on the right tracks. Looking at the graph comparison I can promise you that it is a liar. It appears that the level around 3k has dropped only slightly on the new Ink2 but in reality, there is a big difference to me. Kbear took the edge off. They did this in a couple ways. First, they boosted the bass which almost drew focus away from the glare but also, they brought that 3k down to manageable levels. Other than that, note weight for male vocals and female vocals has more substance and is a bit thicker and cleaner. The new Ink is a nice midrange upgrade from the old in my opinion.
Another slight upgrade lies in the treble region. The new Ink2 has a more detailed approach, if you want to call it that. There is a bit more treble punch, but it isn’t super noticeable. Also, anyone purchasing the Ink2 who previously owned the Ink OG will likely not be purchasing this set for its ability to resolve details. However, there is also much less sibilance on the new Ink2. To the point that it isn’t even noticeable to me.
All things considered this isn’t even close friends. The latest Ink MK2 is a certain upgrade from the original. This is one instance where the company listened to feedback and delivered. This actually should have been what the OG Ink should have been in the first place.
TRI X-HBB KAI ($75)
The TRI X-HBB Kai was a collaboration between the Hawaiian Bad Boy from “Bad Guy Good Audio Reviews” of YouTube fame. Truly one of the slickest looking iems in some time and certainly in the price point. The Gold-on-Blue is SICK LOOKING! I really enjoy the Kai and think it is massively underrated for what it is. The Kai employs a 3rd generation Single 9.8mm DLC Dynamic Driver. I never got to review this handsome set as I had too many reviews pop up at the same time and simply couldn’t. However, my partner Mahir at Mobileaudiophile.com was able to review and you can see that HERE. These two are different in a few ways but they both have a fun signature, and both are built exceptionally well and look flat-out awesome.
The Kai comes across with a warmer tonality anf the Ink2 quit a bit brighter due to the rise in the upper frequencies. Both sets are V-shaped to a degree, and both have a fun signature. Note weight is lusher and fuller on the Kai but the Ink2 seems to have better detail retrieval.
This is another funny graph situation. The graph would tell you that the Ink MK2 offers quite a lot more in quantity compared to the Kai. Despite that, in real world listening this simply isn’t the case. In fact, I hear just as dense a rumble on the Kai as I do the Ink2. In fact, they are very much comparable. Possibly the new Ink has a slightly tighter bass, but the difference is not something you’d spot in casual listening. Which, I’m assuming is all anyone will do with either of these two V-shaped iems.
Male vocals come across less pushed back on the Kai with a more distinct presence and a warmer hue when listening to male vocals. Just a little bit cleaner of a male vocal to my ears. As far as females are concerned the Ink MK2 has quite a bit more shimmer and has a lot more luster to females. They are brighter but also more resolving. The Kai stays a bit more laid back though they have a lusher sound with better note body. The Kai has a smoother sound through the whole of the midrange whereas the Ink MK2 is a bit crisper and better defined. I’d say for vocals the Kai sounds more organic to my ears.
This is a place where the graph is most definitely NOT lying. The Kai has noticeably less of an emphasis compared to the Ink MK2. The Kai is much less fatiguing but also much less exciting up top. Also, the new Ink MK2 has a more explicitly detailed sound by comparison. This is to take nothing away from the Kai, at all. These two simply are tuned different from each other. The Kai is made for long listening sessions and sounds great while the Ink MK2 has the brighter treble with a more uplifted sound overall.
This is a preference battle between these two. Basically, if you enjoy a warmer and smoother sound with a fun side you may be partial to the Kai. Or do you prefer a more sprightly, more energetic and fun sound? If so, then maybe the Ink Mk2 will align closer to your preferences. Both are enjoyable, but both sets have different takes on what “enjoyable” sounds like.
Simgot EA500 ($69)
One of my favorite iems at any price is the Simgot EA500. This is really not very fair as I am stacking the Ink MK2 against one of the best sets under $100, let alone under $75. My review of the EA500 is HERE. Just a phenomenal iem and a stellar performer who gets top marks in its price point. Maybe. The EA500 comes equipped with a Dual Cavity, Dual-Magnet, 10mm 4th gen DLC Single Dynamic Driver. It’s built like a tank, a gorgeous one at that and sounds very close to neutral in tonality with natural timbre.
The differences between the Ink2 and the EA500 are pretty large. In fact, both of these sets serve a different fan base, possibly different genres of music yet both do very well with their respective tuning. One looks more mature and classier and the other looks a little bit more badass and cooler. Take your pick and choose your preferred tuning. Do you like balanced, neutral and clean, or fun, bassy and dynamic. I can tell you right away that both sets offer a nice budget look at both styles of listening. The relevance as a comparison is mostly due to the price and the fact that they are both single DD’s. Honestly, these two couldn’t be more different but I suppose it can only help in comparing the two.
Starting off with the bass I can hear a much greater emphasis on the Ink2. The bass hits much harder on the Ink2 with a much deeper haptic drone and buzz down low. Also, there is much more slam on the new Ink2, and I’d venture to say that bassheads will gravitate much easier to the Ink2. That said, the EA500 has a more quality low-end with a punchier sound while still giving a good rumble in the process. It’s just toned down to allow other frequencies to thrive a bit more. The EA500 has better surface texture to the sound with better macro-details. Pick your poison down low friends, both sets offer different approaches to the bass, and both do a very nice job at that.
The EA500 is simply cleaner, in all facets of the midrange. The Ink2 has a thicker note weight to a slight degree, but the EA500 comes across more resolving, more present, precise, and more balanced and structured. I’d say the midrange is one of the EA500’s strong points and between the two it sits more forward in the stage and has a more realistic timbre. I do hear a bit more shimmer and sparkle listening to the Ink2’s upper midrange. Besides that, the EA500 has better separation, imaging, details, and is more realistic sounding to me.
The Ink2 certainly has a more uplifted treble, but the EA500 is more even and better controlled. Let’s not forget, these are both tuned differently and are actually not the easiest to compare as they both serve different listening styles. That said, the EA500 has the punchier treble, smooth yet crispy and technically more adept at bringing the smaller details to the forefront. I have to give the nod to the Ink2 in the area of treble extension though. I do hear a bit more info up top, but it isn’t some great deficit. Of course, a lot depends on what type of tracks you are listening to. Bass heavy tracks do cover some of the info in the highest of highs but mostly the Ink2 seems to illuminate the upper treble region a bit better.
The Ink2 has a much brighter and thinner treble region which some may say is a tad forced in comparison. There is a huge rise on the Ink2 around 2k to 7k. We are looking at a big difference which makes a huge impact on your listening experience. Certain instruments sound less natural on the Ink2 as well. The EA500 is simply more of a neutral and balanced sound whereas the Ink2 has a lot of coloration with quite a bit more treble sparkle.
All things considered
Welp, there you have it. This may not have been fair. First, I’m comparing the Ink2 against a set with a totally different tuning and with a set that is widely considered one of the best under $100. Still, I would say the Ink2 is possibly the more fun iem with bigger and deeper bass which does wonders for bass heavy tracks and genres whereas the EA500 simply cannot compete in this area. You could make an argument that the Ink MK2 offers a better fit as well as a more comfortable fit. One could also make the case that the Ink MK2 is the better looking of the two. So, there are upsides and downsides to everything, and I hope this helps explain the Ink2 at least a little bit.
Is it worth the asking price?
This is the million-dollar question, or rather the $69 question. Is the Ink MK2 worth the asking price of $69? The short answer is maybe. The tuning has to agree with you and lately we’ve seen the audio world moving closer to a neutral and balanced sound. This is more old school, bassy and fun. Still, it is a nicely tuned set for those who enjoy a more traditionally popular sound. So, if you are someone who digs that dynamic V-shaped sound then I’d say without question the Ink2 is worth every penny. Really, for a … the Ink Mk2 is tuned very well. So, the answer to this question relies on you, the buyer.
I will say that there are certainly some very well-done sets within the same price point which will compete very well against the KBear Ink MK2. I will not list them all but there are some which also offer a bigger V-shaped sound with loads of bass and a big rise up top. Nevertheless, the Ink Mk2 has some very redeeming qualities. It is built exceptionally and is truly one of the dopest looking iems. On top of that, the Ink2 is accessorized very well with a nice selection of tips, a classy and fine looking KBear case and a nice cable for the price. The bass is tight, deep, impactful, clean for its size and very well done. The mids aren’t pushed back as far as most V-shaped sets and the treble is actually pretty clean and adds nice levity throughout the mix while playing off the bass very well. Add in the sound is mostly non-offensive and the Ink2 is very easy to drive. Honestly it is a very nice set for anyone jumping down the rabbit hole.
Good reasons to buy
Again, the answer lies with you. I think that the Ink2 does everything pretty darn well and you won’t be let down so long as a few parameters are met, which I already outlined. For me, I think with all that you get… it’s a no brainer. Now there are sets at a lesser price which do compete tuning wise and can get you that fun sound but yet build quality is nowhere near the Ink2. Not to mention the looks department as the Ink2 looks flat-out dope. In truth, the Ink2 is almost a fashion statement, it is bonkers how solid and nice they feel in hand and how cool they look in my ears. My son already asked if he could have them. I was wondering why he was staring at my ears. So, if I was putting my money down on a $55 iem with a horrible cable, and a chinsy build, with less accessories I could definitely see myself forking out the extra $20 for something which more aligns with my particular taste. That said, there are some fantastic iems under the price of the Ink Mk2 that perform very well against it.
Note: all ratings are based upon my subjective judgment. These ratings are garnered against either similarly priced sets or with similar driver implementations or styles. In the case of the KBear Ink Mk2 ratings below, that would be $50-$75 iems in any configuration. Please remember that “ratings” don’t tell the whole story. This leaves out nuance and a number of other qualities which make an iem what it is. A “5” is exactly average and please take into consideration the “lot” of iems these ratings are gathered against. $50-$75 US is a small pool in the grand scheme of things and so seeing ratings above a “9” is understandable.
-Build Quality: 9.9
-Fun Factor: 9.2
Overall: 8.5 🔥
To conclude my full review of a very solid iem within its price point I want to again thank KBear for their kindness. They have never asked me to twist my words or say something that I don’t honestly believe and for that they have my respect. They have also never offered me a dime for my reviews which is good to see. Truly they have done well with this set and created an iem which boasts a very fun sound, built like a champ and will look fly in your ears moving throughout town.
Also, please! Do yourself a favor and check out other reviews from people that align with your listening style and possibly from some people who don’t. It’s always better to get a good understanding about a product before you shell over $70 for an iem. I’m guessing here but I’d say that the majority of hobbyists consider $70 a lot of money. Not everyone has the funds for something like a hobby. Most people are simply trying to feed their families and so this purchase matters quite a lot that they get it right.
Again, check out other thoughts, not just mine. Yes, I give you my exact feelings towards every product which graces my ears but not everyone agrees with me. That’s just life. We all have different likes and dislikes, we have different gear, even different abilities to actually hear the music. However, most importantly to me is that not everyone has been down the same audio journey.
Thank you for reading my thoughts, writing these little blurbs about audio devices is a joy for me, it’s therapeutic as well and I get to talk about one of the best hobbies… of all hobbies. I think most of us can agree to that. So, thank you and please take good care.