KBEAR Aurora – Crispy Blue
As a longtime patron of HiFiGo, they have graciously sent me this KBEAR Aurora in exchange for product impressions from my standpoint as a user.
It is best to understand that my reviews are entirely subjective from my point of view and heavily influenced by my own sonic preferences – of which I am a longtime fanatic of Diffused Field Neutral sound (more like Etymotic DF Neutral). Recently I have also developed for deeper appreciation of Neutral Balanced sound which offers a bit more of weight in the lower registers rendering organic, warm-ish sonic characteristics. Admittedly I am allergic to any signs of Bass body mass that I regard as “unnatural”. But then this is just me being me.
KBEAR Aurora being the flagship IEM for the KBEAR brand, comes in elegant and premium packaging as would be expected of IEMs of this pedigree. This includes a beautiful faux leather pouch bag, 4 pairs of Silicone Tips, Aurora Blue Silver-Plated Copper (SPC) cable (0.78 Two Pins), Cleaning Cloth and a Cleaning Brush!
Underneath the beautiful blue tinted chrome metal shells (which is 3D printed), Aurora uses single 10mm Titanium Dome Diagram Dynamic driver. Rated at 18 Ohm with 105db of sensitivity. So, it is expected that Aurora should be an efficient unit to drive.
What I find interesting is that Aurora does not use the word “coated”. KBEAR simply stated Titanium Domed Diaphragm. So, my assumption to this is that Aurora goes a bit more of being truer to Titanium based DD than any other IEMs that I have known of.
KBEAR Aurora is a moderately sized IEM. The build and design apparently have been meticulously done to provide comfort and sonic tuning. I wish the Aurora could have included a set of foam tips, as I am natively more comfortable with the foamies for better sealing and natural resonance. My ears just don’t respond well to silicone tips. So, it was not long before I swapped in my preferred foam tips after trying out the silicones for a while. Other than that, wearing the Aurora is hassle free with the braided blue cable being highly pliable and with very usable chin slider to keep microphonics at bay.
Alright I will just bluntly say this out loud. Right out of the box I wasn’t impressed at all with what I heard. Aurora was somewhat peaky bright sounding with strong metallic timbre. I also observed some very annoying grainy edged Treble decays in the extended region. However, all these gradually went away as the first 2 hours went by. By then I knew that this one will need some healthy amount of Burn-In. Being a Dynamic Driver, the factory fresh diaphragm membrane will require regular motions to loosen up any stiffness to the body. These things make sound by vibrating motion after all. Being Titanium domed suggests that Aurora will be even stiffer/denser than the regular DDs. And I believe this Aurora is also designed to be a speedy performer, which means the thickness of the diaphragm itself may be well above normal.
So, I set aside my Aurora for dedicated Burn-In with synthetic and Pink Noise audio loop on my 2nd laptop. Letting it run continuously for the next 30 hours. At the mark to 30 hours, I plugged it in for a listen and I was greatly relieved that the annoying metallic harshness all gone replaced by solid crispy sound all over. Satisfied that the Burn-In showed some positive results, I placed it back again for another 70 hours of Burn-In.
The sound impressions described afterwards are after 100 hours of burn-in with the following equipment:
- Unbranded slow rebound memory foam tips
- Samsung Galaxy S20 (USB 3.0 Power Delivery)
- HiBy Audio Player (USB Exclusive mode to bypass Android SRC)
- Traditional FLAC Files (CD Rips or Bandcamp)
- TempoTec Sonata E44 Dongle
- Ovidius B1 (3.5 Single Ended) Dongle
- Avani ALC5696 Dongle
- Abigail CX31993 Dongle
- VE Odyssey HD
- VE Run About Plus 5 (18v Amplifier)
Timbre and Tonality.
KBEAR Aurora is faithfully balanced neutral, nearing DF like neutrality especially with the foam tips worn at later stages – also pairing with equally neutral sources. The timbre is crystal clear and clean sounding, not exactly as organic as how I prefer it to be, but at least not overly bright digital-ish metallic either. What’s more important is the accuracy of tonal balance towards what I perceive as natural. Tested with Alison Krauss’ “Goodbye is All We Have”, I can hear her peaky Soprano vocals presented naturally with no hint of being nasal or sibilant. I always use this song to measure neutrality because it is so easy to skew the output on a system that is does not sound natural. The guitars and percussions all sounded realistic without any tint of coloration. I wish there could be a bit more density but then this is me being very picky, Aurora offers enough weight to the dynamic range to not sound lean – so, I can totally accept that. Solid, natural, clean, clear, and crisp is how I would describe Aurora timbre and tonality.
Controlled and solid – that’s what Aurora is. Expansive dynamic range oozes with very well controlled vibrancy that is not overdone – believable, tangible, and polished. This portrayal of controlled dynamics help to compensate for the lack of organic touch as noted earlier. It is mildly exciting as not to sound unrealistic – in fact I reckoned this similarly to what a magnetic planar would sound like, instead of the many “overly exciting” dynamic drivers commonly would behave. Being a single DD helps with coherence. I did not hear any impairment in the melding of different frequencies even on the most complex passages, it is as disciplined as it can be with proper cohesion. Being highly efficient also helps. Even with my Sony Xperia Z5 Compact 3.5mm output, I am able to enjoy a wholesome presentation, well perhaps the overall staging may be not as wide as it should be. And of course, this gets better as Aurora also exhibited good scalability to match the source
KBEAR claimed that the tuning for Aurora is to provide “rich vocals clarity, and highly detailed instruments”. Well, I must admit I will agree to them on that. First of all, as mentioned above, Aurora exhibited great natural balanced sound that is clear and concise, and this is reflected properly on Mids presentation. Aside from Alison Krauss, the breathy rich Contralto vocals of Diana Krall “The Look of Love” sounded realistic and crisp, with proper depth of decays and staging – not overly warm or intimate. Her Piano tunes equally crisp and smooth with realistic bite. The same can be said for Sinne Eeg with her Soprano-Contralto hybrid vocals and Jazz instruments. On the male side, similarly Aurora presented Morrissey and Nick Cave rich commanding Baritone vocals with natural tonality devoid of any coloration. As for the element of positional intimacy, it all depends largely on how the songs were recorded and mastered. For example, Alison Krauss, Diana Krall, and Nick Cave has always favored “in your face” performance, while Sinne Eeg and Morrissey opted for a few paces back presentation. The point being, Aurora was able to portray these accurately, transparent to the original recordings. However, depending on the preference of the listener, this natural sounding Mids may be perceived as anemic/lean for those who are used to listening to warm and rich sounding devices. Going back to Mids in general, there’s ample details and textures presented depending on the quality of the feed. Taking Russian Circles as an example, I enjoyed the crisp and polished note of guitar riffs that offered realistic tones, snappy attack, and equally prompt decays – well perhaps a bit more of decay extension would make it perfect but I am not complaining as it is now. The pattern is consistent with the other instruments and percussions – be it drums, saxophone, banjo etc. they all sounded proper and realistic.
What is most important to me, I did not hear any unwanted peaky/shouty sibilance on upper Mids as would sometimes be observed from some IEMs/Earbuds/Headphones. This can be quite a deal breaker for some.
Initially I have a mixed feelings about Aurora Treble presentation. And that simply because I am so used to the sparkly bright presentation of Etymotic ER4SR and VE Duke Treble characteristics. If I may say this, for those already familiar with HZSOUND Heart Mirror type of Treble, they may find Aurora slightly underwhelming. However, let’s look at it this way. By all means Aurora does have great Treble qualities, the one that I find lacking are the shimmery edges and smooth splashes. In exchange Aurora offered something more solid, something sharper and well defined albeit being perceived as short in extensions (due to shorter decays). There’s enough details and texture to make Trebleheads happy, for as long as the demand stay within the acceptance that Aurora focuses on natural and realistic presentation. Great transparency and clarity does help to savor the higher frequencies favorably. Yes, I said sharp and well defined – but worry not, it is still as polished as it can be on the edges as to not fatigue the listener. What is more important, there’s no erratic spikes that goes out of control. For the lack of outright smoothness as observed from the likes of TForce Yuan Li and Shure KSE1500, Aurora compensates with airy crispness which I regard as equally enjoyable and welcoming. So how forgiving is this in practicality? Suffice to say I was able to listen to many Lo-Fi Black Metal tracks from the likes of Burzum, Mulla, Cult of Fire etc. without getting my eardrums singed bloody with the shouty Treble these bands exhibited. Try listening to Burzum with a Grado SR60e or Beyerdynamic DT990 and you will understand what I meant :D.
Aurora Bass is very well disciplined and fast. In fact, if I am not reading the specs, I would have believed this being a multi–Balanced Armature Bass instead. For those loving their bass thick and gushing, Aurora doesn’t have that. What Aurora does offer is a well-behaved Bass elevation that is smooth, crisp, and impactful. Worth to note that the Mid-Bass section is a bit stronger than the Sub-Bass. Depending on tips selection, the Sub-Bass may get drowned altogether as the Mid-Bass gets stronger. With my current foam tips, Mid-Bass is still slightly more dominating, but I can hear the Sub-Bass amply enough to enjoy the lower register sensation (seismic vibe). What I do wished for a bit more would be bass decays as how Shure KSE1500 present it, but then I took a step back and realized, not even ER4SR nor VE Duke has that haha (perhaps even worse ���). Perhaps 7Hz Timeless and TForce Yuan Li does it slightly better on those decays. Okay let’s focus on what Aurora does have. Again, it is fast, properly textured, detailed, and devoid of any bleeding element. I see these as a huge plus – considering my DF Neutral sound preference which is even flatter with Bass in comparison. Any more body mass added to the Bass, and I guarantee that I will likely hate it. Aurora Bass density and vibrancy is just about right – balanced neutral.
Details & Transparency.
Aurora lived up to the expectations as how KBEAR envisioned it. While not exactly TOTL level of details competent, Aurora did not falter in presenting all the available pieces of element in Sinne Eeg “We’ve Just Begun”, that Jazz masterpiece contain tons of details all over the place. The tingling splashes of cymbals, trombones, subtle cello twangs, multi layered saxophones, taps and everything else – Micro Details! All audible and present. Being natively clean and clear, Aurora does all these with impressive agility.
As with source transparency, Aurora natural demeanor means that music feeds are presented uncolored as far as neutral balanced timbre is concerned. Perhaps from DF Neutral standpoint the lower registers can be perceived as denser than neutral flat, but these are only applicable if I choose to be a zealot. Surprisingly, despite exhibiting great transparency, Aurora is actually very forgiving to poorly recorded/mastered tracks. I am hard pressed to hear any glaring artifacts which in turn makes listening to Aurora quite bearable on some of the Lo-Fi songs I have in store (I happen to have many of them). This also mean that Aurora can be used casually for YouTube random songs playback and not be worried about getting zapped too much by crappy recordings.
On the subject of sensitivity, similar to my other highly sensitive IEMs, Aurora exhibited audible background noises when paired with powerful Dongles such as Ovidius B1 and VE Odyssey HD. These are most apparent during silent passages in between songs or notes. However, it did not bother me much because when the music plays, the noises all gone. With TempoTec Sonata E44, Avani and Abigail, clean and silent background observed. So, it largely depends on how the source is.
Speed & Transients.
My favorite part. I have already hinted this a few times earlier. Aurora is a FAST-sounding unit. The speed that which Aurora offered is on par to what I would expect from a properly tuned Balanced Armature. I have yet to observe any sluggishness or compression when handling multiple notes in complex passages or outright speedy tracks exceeding 200 BPM. I believe, the Titanium element of Aurora DD largely attributed to this speedy prowess. Being able to handle myriad of notes with deft responses ensures that Aurora will not get congested. Instruments remained in their own space without bleeding into others. So, I am very happy with this. There’s nothing like a deal breaker when a great sounding unit failed at handling complex stuffs.
Soundstage & Imaging.
Admittedly, Aurora is somewhat average in this aspect. Especially when driven by less powerful sources. For example, on my Sony Xperia Z5 Compact (direct 3.5mm), I can feel a caved in staging which is tall but narrow. Good thing is, with proper matching of sources, the staging gets wider and with proper spaciousness even with Abigail CX31883 Dongle (Avani ALC5686 and VE Odyssey HD not as wide). The very best presentation of soundstage is when I powered the Aurora with the combo of TempoTec Sonata E44 Dongle + VE RAP5 amplifier – the staging offered generous amount of width and depth with airy spaces interlaced between elements of sound.
As for imaging, Aurora is consistently very holographic and precise. Spatial imaging and layering is crispy sharp. It is easy to differentiate different layers of sound and where they are positioned at. I expect nothing less from an IEM of this pedigree.
Adaptability and Scalability.
Aurora is an already very efficient IEM. As noted earlier it sounded great with my old Sony Xperia Z5 Compact (which is notoriously known for weak 3.5mm output). However, when scaled up with better sources offering stronger driving power, the Aurora audibly scale up nicely especially in soundstage width and imaging. Driven with powerful portable Dongles like the Ovidius B1 and TempoTec Sonata E44, Aurora performed with fidelity level that is truly wholesome and satisfying. Dynamics audibly sounded denser with solid presentation and smoother highs and lows. And it gets even better when smashed further with the brute power of dedicated amplifier like VE Run About Plus 5, where everything sounded much more open with healthy amount of air between notes.
As for the cable itself, I am quite happy with the stock SPC unit. It is apparent to my ears that KBEAR has exerted careful tuning to the selection of cable for Aurora out of the box. I may eventually start rolling cables, but I honestly don’t feel the motivation to do so now, not when it is already great sounding as it is. Not forgetting how beautiful the blue cable is. And of course, not forgetting the importance of tuning for proper tips. With the right tips the sound can truly enhance the sonic indulgence aligned to individual taste.
KBEAR Aurora. With the ever-vicious competition in the IEMs market nowadays, manufacturers has been constantly pushing the limits of making better and better products. Such is the case with KBEAR Aurora, the flagship IEM for them. What I have personally experienced as a user convinced me that the focus for Aurora is to satisfy the needs for an IEM that is technically competent, clean, detailed, neutral and agile in almost every aspect of sound indulgence. Aurora biggest strength being tuned to offer matured solid sound with deftly controlled dynamics – no overcooking of anything beyond what is regarded as natural. So, I can attest that Aurora will appeal immensely for those seeking moderately bright neutral device that can be enjoyed on extended listening sessions. Those preferring thick, warm, and dense Bass may not be as convinced, neither Aurora will satisfy pure Trebleheads. But as an all-rounder Aurora will assuredly shine like the polar lights it is destined to be.