KBear Qinglong ($69)
Today I am reviewing KBear’s latest iem in the “under $100 ” price segment, the KBear Qinglong. I was able to purchase the Qinlong on Amazon US for the sale price of $59. I recently reviewed the KBear Ink, which had gotten some up and down reviews. Some like it, some others… not so much. There were some certain issues with the Ink sonically, even though aesthetically it is a great looking iem. I believe that KBear may have purposed to right the wrongs of the Ink when they set out to create the Qinglong. Of course I cannot confirm this. KBear has completely revamped the look and style as well as the Internals. Let’s take a look at the Qinglong everyone…
Later comparisons: KBear Ink / TRI X-HBB Kai
-KBear/TRI carry case
-Deep & tight bass region for its larger quantity
-Sounds great with more power (possibly also a con)
-Stage size is not bad at all
-Not tuned to be technically proficient
-Treble rolls off way too early
-Forget about cymbals/hi-hats
-Separation of elements within a stage
-Fingerprints everywhere (not really a con)
-Cable could be better for $69
-Where are the KBear 07 tips KBear?
-Needs power and higher volume to get the best of the Qinglong
I purchased the Qinglong through Amazon US and just like Amazon does… it got to me in one day. Gotta love it. Anyways, the box you receive are almost a cube in shape. Covering the box is a sleeve with what appears to be the back-end of a Dragon graphically imposed on it. Remove the sleeve and you are met with the Iems themselves sitting in foam cut-outs. Once you remove the Iems and lift the foam, you’ll see the normal KBear/TRI carrying case. Inside the case is the eartips, the cable, and a nozzle cleaning tool.
The provided eartips I was a little let down by. I feel that for $70 KBear could have at least offered the KBear 07 tips. Instead, they give you three sets of conical style narrow bore white silicone tips. They also give you three sets of white, wide bore, shallow fit tips. You will find these tips in any chifi package, nothing special. I should add that I did not use any of the included tips but instead went through my multitude of tips searching for the best sound but finally ended up using the tips I normally end with… the “KBear 07” Large tips.
I don’t like the cable very much, but it is usable. You’ll notice in the picture that I have Kbear’s own “KBear Chord” cable attached. It is a much better cable than the included cable. The included cable is a flat gray colored 5N Oxygen-free Copper and Silver-Plated cable with 2 pin connectors and terminating with a 3.5 single-ended jack. Not the prettiest and certainly not the best cable to use aesthetically speaking with the Qinglong. Of course, the included cable isn’t the worst. Much better than any KZ cable and pretty close in quality to the cable provided with the Tripowin Olina. Please know that I am not bashing the cable as it really will work fine with the Qinglong.
The case provided in the packaging is the exact case provided with most any KBear or TRI product. As you can see it is the same leather type case of very good quality. The flap stays nice and tightly closed by way of an embedded magnet yet opens relativley easily. Inside the case is a felt type lining to keep the Qinglong from getting too scratched up. This case is a very nice addition, of course if you’ve purchased your share of KBear iems than you likely have more than a few hanging around.
KBear constructed these beautiful shells using a 5-axis CNC process using an Aviation Grade-7 Aluminum and finished with a chrome electroplating finish which is extremely durable and pristine when polished. No doubt the Qinglong is just that… pristine. Also, it is a fingerprint magnet. Keep a soft rag with you if it bothers you. The Qinglong is built like an absolute beast and is obviously durable and well put together. From the 2-pin socket to the beautiful nozzles the Qinglong screams “bold”. One issue you may have are the miniscule scratches over time, it is just the truth. Most iems with this high polish will get those hairline scratches and there isn’t much you’ll be able to do about it.
I love the look of this set as it is freaking DOPE! I’m very positive the look isn’t for everyone but thankfully I am not everyone. Subjectivity and likes and dislikes I suppose. Anyways, the graphic on the Shells is a nice touch as you can see in the pictures attached. There is a Matte finish on the silver squares which run along the curvature of the Qinglong’s outer shell and creates a nice look. “KBear” is imposed on the Shells as well. I think the look is pretty nice but I’m also a sucker for high polished metal. Looks nice KBear.
Internally KBear decided upon a High Performance 10mm single Dynamic Driver with a PU-PEEK dual layer Composite Diaphragm. They also adopted a powerful N52 NdFeB-based magnetic architecture and an ultra-high-tension DAIKOKU voice coil.
“Supposedly”… KBear tried out multiple driver materials during the creation process. Using diaphragm materials such as DLC, LCP, Beryllium plating as well as Carbon PET but chose the PU-PEEK as none other material could get their desired result. That’s what KBear advertises anyways.
This is always a portion of the review which I ponder simply leaving out due to the subjective and unique make-up of each of us God-created souls. Basically, we are all different. What works for me, may not work for you. The Qinglong takes on a normal chifi iem shape and it fits me just fine, isolates pretty well too. Will it work for your ears? Possibly.
The Qinglong are pretty easy to drive on paper. Rated at 32 ohms and with a sensitivity of 108 dB’s @1kz you shouldn’t have much of an issue driving this set to good volumes with most any source. I would simply add that if you have at the very least a decent Dongle Dac much like the Fiio KA3 or the IFi Go Blu which both were partially used in this review… you should be more than fine. However, I don’t think you actually get the most out of the Qinglong until you give them a lot of power.
Adding more power…
Using the Ibasso Dx240 or the Shanling M6 Ultra on High Gain was probably the best synergy that I heard with this set. The DX240 uses the ES9038 Pro chip and has a ton of power (1 watt with Amp8 MK2). The Qinglong reacted nicely with the more neutral but wholly dynamic sound of the dx240 against the warmer sound of the Qinglong. I absolutely believe that the Qinglong comes alive a bit at higher volumes and greater power. I will speak a bit more on that in a little bit.
Quick Sound Impressions
Before I dive in, I let the Qinglong burn-in for around 60 hours. I have no idea if this helped or not. Initially I had some good thoughts about this set but as usual once I began actually critically listening… I began to notice some things I didn’t at first. This review may sound like a rebuke of the Qinglong at times however, in truth, this set can be quite nice. The Qinglong is not tuned in a way which I completely enjoy but someone will love this set…that’s for sure.
The Qinglong is V-shaped iem with a warm tonality. The bass region is quite boosted with a mid-bass emphasis. The low-mids are full with some bleed over from the bass. The upper mids are either forward and thinned out, recessed and pretty flat, or even downright wonderful depending on the track being played. I really think that a lot will depend on the music that you listen to. There is a definite steep rise in the pinna gain which is boosted quite a bit and may offer some fatigue but also gives the Qinglong some much needed levity to counter the rise in the bass region. As far as the treble area is concerned, there is a drop-off in the presence region after 5k where the tuning takes a downward sloping nose-dive and then never fully recovers after that. The Qinglong is generally an easy-going listen that is mostly non-offensive.
You will read an on-going theme from here-on-out; the Qinglong absolutely comes alive with more juice. With more power, most of the issues I just stated are corrected… to a degree. Keywords are…”to a degree”. This could be a good thing or a bad thing, thus you’ll see a ‘pro’ as well as a ‘con’ listed regarding power. If you are a higher volume listener with a well powered source than this likely isn’t an issue. If you are a lower volume type of cat ‘without’ a powerful enough source, I suspect you will think the Qinglong is majorly lacking. I should also note that power doesn’t correct it all and I still hear some deficiencies.
The low-end of the Qinglong is quite nice. I hear a more rotund and deep sub-bass which isn’t at all fuzzy or hollow. Leading edges are not super-fast or hard surfaced, but the Qinglong has very nice impact. Couple that dense impact with a decently quick decay/sustain (for a single DD) and you have the makings of a very well put together and FUN low-end. The mid-bass slams pretty hard but I would not consider the Qinglong a basshead iem either. I believe it just sits below that level of boom. There is a satisfying and forceful thud on kick-drums and a good and guttural growl listening to bass-guitars when a track calls for it. The mid-bass does bleed over into the midrange a little bit adding warmth to males which I will quickly cover in the midrange.
Nice Bass region
I wouldn’t call the bass ultra-defined, but it isn’t muddy, or one noted either. The Qinglong offers a good thump and rumble for tracks demanding it and for genres which cater to a good haptic vibration or boom. “Survivor’s Guilt” by Saba sounds fantastic on the Qinglong, deep, sonorous, textured and really comes across as a quality boosted bass in the budget sector. I do hear decent surface texture to the whole of the bass region, but it also doesn’t have the most rigid & hard-edged attack and fast decay. I don’t hear a concrete leading edge to basslines or bass drops but instead it’s more like a concrete edge with a light pillow covering. A very dense thud if you will. Not bad by any means and still satisfying and does well to support tracks which require a deep and robust low-end.
The lower midrange has a bit of spill over from the mid-bass which adds weight and warmth to male vocals. Along with added warmth the Qinglong has pretty good clarity. There is a recession in this area, yet things aren’t pushed too far back. Most males are represented pretty well in my opinion. Females on the other hand are kind of a mixed bag. Lower female vocals sound a bit recessed and dull and simply lack good energy whereas higher pitched Sopranos will come across with almost too much energy…sometimes. They sound maybe a bit too thin at times and also a hint of unnaturalness can be heard. The saving grace is that females are pretty clean with evident texture to the inflection in a woman’s voice and a certain emotional draw is not completely absent either.
Midrange as a whole
As a whole, the midrange has the slightest veil and doesn’t have a very open feeling to my music when listening at lower power or lower volume. Just a titch withdrawn for me. The midrange lacks that clean delivery and feels almost disjointed in the upper midrange to a degree at lower power. Giving more juice (Shanling M6 Ultra on High Gain for example) almost balances things out. Check out Mahir’s review of the Qinglong here, where he examines this issue, and which prompted me to try a bit more power than low gain.
No doubt that when I give a bit more power the Qinglong does respond well. It turns the midrange from something which sounds dull, slightly veiled, and even peaky into a more open and more cohesive sounding midrange. Subtle macro-details emerge on more simple tracks and clarity gets a boost as well.
What treble? Lol. I kid but really there is a very steep drop-off into the unknown past about 4k. You get a peak in the pinna-gain around the upper mids to lower treble and then it’s a sled ride down a steep hill. I will keep this rather short; the treble drop-off attenuates quite a bit of information up top. Forget about upper harmonics of cymbals & HI-Hats as they sound as though they’ve been cut in half. Same goes for upper harmonics of violins for example, as they simply don’t have the life that you’d want them to have. Altogether the treble region simply isn’t boosted enough for my liking.
The treble does actually open up a hair with more juice. I can say for sure that it isn’t as lifeless as it was. Yes, the downward sloping roll-off is still way too early for me but I can at least not completely condemn this set. There is still a lack of info up top, but macro details do arise a bit with more power as well as the dynamism of the sound as a whole.
Just missed the mark
The bonus is that this is a smoother treble and there isn’t a chance at any sibilance and the Qinglong really is not a fatiguing set at all. You may have moments of glare on certain tracks but that will not be the norm. I suppose for my own tastes I would want some more air up top, some more levity and coolness to the sound. I feel KBear just missed the mark in this area and really could use a bit more emphasis in the presence region and then a less steep downward slope through the mid-treble on-out. Maybe just a bit more info past 10k would help.
Soundstage / Separation / Imaging / Details
I actually hear a decently sized stage on the Qinglong. Normally this type of tuning is not one which would stretch out an imaginary stage, but I don’t hear anything really lacking here. The width is above average as well as the height and there is even some decent depth. A little juice doesn’t hurt at all either and will broaden the size and scale of the stage a bit as well. Stage size is not an area where the Qinglong is lacking.
Separation / Imaging
The separation of elements within the stage is not groundbreaking. Any complicated track will sound complicated on the Qinglong. If things are kept simple the Qinglong seems more apt to make sense of the information easier. The imaging isn’t horrible though. Left to right is decently compartmentalized, centered vocals with the caveat that the track being played isn’t some chaotic mess of sound. Qinglong is not tuned to be a technical wizard, but it isn’t the worst I’ve heard, not by a long shot. Really, the imaging is not bad at all and for the most part the psycho-acoustic picture that I get when listening to my library is kept in decent control and naturally spread-out.
Again, I will repeat what I’ve been saying, so long as the song being played isn’t too complicated the Qinglong can pull out some subtleties in a track. Acoustic tracks seem to suit the Qinglong pretty well. Also, once this set opens up a bit the details do begin to emerge. Obviously, one would not purchase this set for its technical capabilities but also the Qinglong isn’t completely void of details either.
KBear Ink ($69)
The KBear Ink (I reviewed here) is a single Dynamic Driver with an 8.8 mm DLC Diaphragm. There was quite a bit of fanfare for a hot minute over the Ink, which quickly died down when some not-so-great reviews began to make their way throughout the community. The sound of the Ink is a definitive V-shaped tuning with big bass and an overly emphasized treble region and decent extension.
Starting in the bass, the Ink has more in quantity but doesn’t have the quality of the Qinglong. Both sets are boosted, and both can really dig deep but the Ink simply has another gear as far as sheer boom goes. One thing to note is the cleanliness of the Qinglong which is apparent and quite a contrast next to the Ink. There is better resolution within the Qinglong’s low-end with a more textured and separated sound. The Qinglong has better timbre in the bass region as well sounding closer to natural than the Ink.
The midrange of the Qinglong also sounds a bit more natural and naturally weighted in male vocal delivery. Granted, the margin isn’t great. Female vocals are more spirited on the Qinglong with more energy and aren’t as dialed back as in the Ink. I do prefer the Qinglong quite a bit more for vocal delivery and the midrange as a whole.
The treble region is unnaturally boosted on the Ink and in my opinion creates a number of issues throughout the spectrum which I believe KBear tried to solve with the Qinglong. However, in doing so they rolled off the treble so much that it is one extreme to the other. That said, I would take the Qinglong every day of the week. The Ink can be unbearable with a peaky sheen which can be grating to the ear on the right track. For instance, “In Bloom” by Nirvana will have your ears ringing for a month if you push the volume on the Ink. The Qinglong handle this track very well but with attenuated cymbals. Still, I enjoy the ‘easier on the ears’ Qinglong.
I do believe that the Qinglong is likely a response to the negative feedback of the Ink, but I cannot be certain. The overall frequency response is very similar, but the Ink is simply exaggerated in some areas whereas the Qinglong is dialed back in the same areas. The Qinglong is much easier on the ears, has more of a natural detail retrieval and has much more natural timbre and a faster transient response. For myself, I would take the Qinglong between the two.
TRI X-HBB Kai ($79)
The TRI Kai is a collaborative effort with HBB aka The Hawaiian Bad Boy of youtube renown. His channel is “Bad Guy Good Audio”. So far, he hasn’t had many misses in his tuning ventures and in my opinion, he absolutely nailed the tuning of the Kai. I love this set. I actually purchased this set to review, but like many of my purchases I simply didn’t have enough time in the day with other priorities. All good though, I’ve been enjoying this set for casual listening and actual musical enjoyment.
The Kai has a 3rd generation single Dynamic Driver with a 9.8 mm DLC Diaphragm. It is a beautiful looking set which is tuned wonderfully. I would probably consider the Kai a U-shaped iem with emphasis in the bass region as well as a slight rise in the upper midrange. The Kai is a smooth sailor with great timbre and an easy-going nature which is non-fatiguing through-and-through.
The sub-bass of the Kai is deeper and penetrates with a slightly more juddering and sonorous haptic energy, but I do think the Qinglong have the Kai’s number here as quality is concerned. The Kai has an even softer note edge and is less agile or tight in delivery (by a miniscule margin). Mid-bass of the Qinglong has a little more presence and hits with a bit more slam. The timbre on both is nice but the Qinglong does the bass region very well as attack and decay is a hair quicker. Not to take anything away from the Kai, I thoroughly enjoy the low-end of the Kai, but I also think that the Qinglong excels in this area.
Male vocals sound more natural on the Kai, but both have nice note weight. I’d say resolution on the Kai is a bit better as well. I simply enjoy the Kai more in this area for the more effortless and realistic sound. Moving onto female vocals the Qinglong are more recessed than the Kai and more unnatural to my ear. The Kai have this smooth and easy sound in this region with good emotional energy. Perhaps they lack some shimmer and extension but there also isn’t anything which brings upon any glare like the Qinglong can have.
The treble of the Qinglong has a large lower treble boost and then a steep roll-off but the Kai has a very natural downward slope through the highest region. The Kai is just so smooth. It isn’t a detail monster, but it is a very nice set for long listening sessions. The Qinglong lose more information past 5k which really puts a nail in this comparison for me.
The Kai, in my humble opinion, is simply a better set for the money. Both are built exceptionally well and look very nice, but sound is what we are actually judging here. The Kai represents the entire spectrum, and I cannot say that for the Qinglong. If anything, I would say that the Qinglong delivers bass a bit better than the Kai and may have a more detailed midrange, but that is only by the thinnest of margins. The Kai simply sounds much more cohesive and complete and are much better for the asking price.
Is Qinglong with the asking price?
I suppose the best question to answer is if the Qinglong is actually worth the asking price of $69 or not? If I were answering this question for myself then I would have to answer that with a no. No, I don’t believe that the Qinglong are worth the asking price. Especially since I can get equal to or greater sound quality from much cheaper iems. Now, I don’t think that I could get better build quality but…we are in this hobby for the sound, aren’t we?
Truthfully, I kept the comparison section to only KBear/TRI products because there are quite a few single DD iems for less money which sound better, which represent the whole spectrum better. I would take the $19 QKZ X-HBB (I reviewed the QKZ X-HBB Here) over the Qinglong, or the $35 Kiwi Ears Cadenza (Mahir’s review of the Cadenza here), which is leagues above the Qinglong and there are many more examples which could follow those two.
Not quite for me
I am not here to beat up the Qinglong and to put this set down as I really do think it has many redeeming qualities, also I am very well aware that many people ‘will’ and ‘do’ actually love this set. Remember I answered that question for myself. So, if a very well built and aesthetically pleasing single DD with a warm and smooth tonality and great bass is something which is up your alley…well…then I suppose maybe the Qinglong is well worth the asking price for you. As for myself, the KBear Qinglong just missed the mark.
I say all of that but in the same breath I was able to actually really enjoy the sound of the Qinglong after some time, and power. There is a certain charm to the sound when the Qinglong is playing at its maximum capabilities. There is a richness to the sound and for certain genres I imagine that the Qinglong will exceed some expectations. So, is the Qignlong worth the asking price? For myself, probably not, for you…maybe.
To conclude this review, I want to urge my fellow hobbyists to check out other reviews and try to read, listen to or watch other people’s perspectives regarding the Qinglong. After all, I am only one man. Yes, I write exactly what I hear and nothing more, but I haven’t been down the same audio road as everyone else. I have my own set of ears, with my own gear, and my own preferences. Thankfully the good Lord made no two of us alike. So please check out other thoughts and hopefully this review at least aided you in a purchasing decision. I also want to thank anyone who has read this far. Please take good care and thank you.