Current testing methodology is v1.2
July 5, 2022
3.31 x 3.31 x 1.22 in
I think about the Moondrop Quarks a lot. For a tiny $10 earphone, it does a lot with what it has and it produces some of the most impressively well-balanced sound signatures at its price.
Naturally, it would only be reasonable to start looking for an earphone that’s capable of challenging it. I eventually happened upon the KZ Ling Long, which I feel improves the Quarks across the board. But since my good friend Querho already reviewed it, I was going to have to find something else.
Enter the KB Ear Little Q, a sleek and slim bullet-style IEM priced at just $8.
Could they beat out the Quarks in a head-to-head collision? Probably not but I found the Little Q to be more than the “little” in its name would suggest.
KB Ear Little Q
A compelling challenger to the once-unyielding dominance of the Moondrop Quarks
Microdynamic driver earphones are few and far between, and ones worth your time are even fewer and further between. The Moondrop Quarks may have been the only great ultra-budget choice for a while, but the KB Ear Little Q seeks to change that.
Even though it draws a lot of inspiration from the Quarks, the Little Q has a voice that more than sets it apart—a warm, smooth tone that could be just enough to convince some listeners to make the switch.
- Headphone Type: Closed-back in-ear monitor
- Driver Type: Single 6mm dynamic driver
- Frequency Response: 20 – 20,000 Hz
- Sensitivity: 118 dB
- Impedance: 32 Ohms
What’s in the Box?
- KB EAR Little Q earphones
- 3 x pairs of ear tips (S, M, L)
Stuff I like
- Relatively smooth and warm V-shaped sound signature
- Fun, thumpy low end
- Feels like nothing in the ears
- Light but solid metal housings
Stuff I like less
- Sparse accessories package
- Bass bleeds a bit
- Treble detail could be better
- Cable isn’t very agreeable
Comparable products to consider
My ultra budget IEM benchmark. Punches well above its weight class and is an excellent starting point for EQ to figure out what kind of sound you like.
A Bit of Background
KB Ear is one of many drops in the ocean of Chinese IEM brands. And like all of those other brands, there’s not much of a history that I can either dig up or talk much about.
HiFiGo has an abridged account of KB Ear’s origins, describing them as a company launched in Shenzhen by a group of audiophiles that wanted to create something to their standards. But if this story sounds familiar, that’s because it kind of is – from Moondrop to Simgot, many of these brands have all had their start in Shenzhen, China.
Now, what does that mean for KB Ear’s story? Not much. But it does mean that they aren’t especially unique.
The Little Q, however, is a bit more interesting, sitting as one of the cheapest models in their catalog, with a price as low as $7 depending on where you look.
I was a bit surprised when the KB Ear Little Q came in the mail – the things looked awfully familiar. It took me a bit to figure out (mostly because I’d already tossed away the box), but the Little Q’s packaging is practically the same as the one used by the Moondrop Quarks.
While I don’t have photos of the Quarks’ box to compare directly, the Little Q practically copies the packaging, even down to the way the earphones are set inside the box – stuck through holes in a cardboard insert with the rest of the cable tucked behind it.
The included accessories are also just as sparse, with nothing else but silicone ear tips in three sizes.
The similarities between the Moondrop Quarks and the KB Ear Little Q end there, though. While it isn’t immediately noticeable because of how light it is, the housings of the Little Q are made of metal, which feels a bit nicer.
While a lot of people do want a bit more heft in metal earphones (myself included), I feel like KB Ear’s approach here makes sense since it means the earpieces don’t pull too much on the cable when dropped.
This feels like it shouldn’t be a problem, but when you’re working with a cheaply made cable in an IEM that costs under $10, minimizing the chances of damage helps quite a bit. I had this concern in the FAAEAL Poppy, which had this exact combination of rather weak cable and weighty housings.
Fit and Comfort
The lighter weight also contributes a bit to the wearing comfort of the KB Ear Little Q, since the cable-down design means there isn’t anything being supported by your outer ears the same way an around-the-ear cable would.
Sure, you could also just wear the cable around your ears, but we’re using this as intended.
Another thing I like about small earphones like the Little Q is their wearing comfort. Small earpiece housings mean there isn’t much that makes contact with the outer ear, and the light weight means you can barely feel they’re there at all.
As IEMs go, they definitely aren’t for everyone.
Small earphones typically want you to stick them in the ears to ensure they stay in there, which I know a lot of people don’t like. The Little Q is also a little bit longer than something like the Moondrop Quarks, so they fail the “can I lie on my side with them” test.
In contrast to the aggressive, loud, and fun sound I usually consider a V-shaped signature, the KB Ear Little Q is quite a bit milder. With a warmer bass and treble edged off a bit, it almost has a more mature vibe to its sound, but the earphones still hold more of that fun vibe.
Let’s dive in.
As mentioned, the KB Ear Little Q has more of a warmer, smoother bass than the typical V-shaped signature. The bass bump is centered around 60 Hz, which gives the overall sound a ton of thump and sub-bass power.
I’d say it’s almost too much bass at times – the sub-bass lines in Geoxor’s “Ephemeral” rumbles with a lot of might for a micro-dynamic driver – but I’ll admit it’s a heck of a lot of fun to listen to.
The KB Ear Little Q’s midrange is pushed back as is the case with sound signatures like these, but maintains good clarity and smoothness with no major peaks.
Electronic genres are a strong suit as expected, but these earphones also aren’t too bad with softer genres. The bass does come off as boomy and overpowers the midrange a bit, as it does in songs like Charlie Puth’s “Marks on My Neck“.
This is also more pronounced when Little Q tries to render female voices in bassy songs. K/DA’s vocals in “MORE” are very notably pushed back during the chorus sections as the bass shoves its way through to the front of the stage.
Despite having more of a V-shaped sound signature, the treble on the KB Ear Little Q is a bit tamer than what I’d expect, so it’s pretty crisp without getting too sharp. They sounded quite nice on Complexive’s “Intentions”, where the song’s generally bright mix kept the treble well balanced against the bass lines.
However, the Little Q has a bit of trouble controlling its treble the further up the frequency range it goes. I noticed a dip at 10 kHz and a bit of a peak at 12 kHz as well as a noticeable bump from 6 to 7 kHz.
That last bump is a bit of a sensitive spot for my ears and I personally don’t like hearing it emphasized as it taints the overall treble tone. It’s noticeable in songs like Baekhyun’s “Stay Up”, where the hi-hats don’t quite have the sparkle that I expect, instead having a lower bite that almost sounds like the Little Q doesn’t have much treble extension.
The KB Ear Little Q doesn’t impress much when it comes to its soundstage. But let’s be reasonable here; given its price tag, we probably shouldn’t expect it or any other IEM of its class to do much more.
Small and in your head, it sounds more or less like any other IEM at this price, and that’s by no means a bad thing. It still projects a stereo image, at least.
The value proposition of an earphone as cheap as the KB Ear Little Q is both hard to deny and difficult to justify at the same time.
On the one hand, these cost $8 to $10 depending on where you look. Sound-wise, they’re on the upper edge of what you can pull off with a BOM cost like this (at least, without selling the thing at a loss), and if that isn’t a bargain, I don’t really know what is.
On the other hand, this IEM is competing with a lot of other very compelling earphones both at and around its price range.
Sure, if you only have $8 to spend on earphones, the Little Q is tough to beat. But you also have options like the TRN MT1 and the KZ EDX, both of which sit right at that sub-$10 range and also offer the benefits of an around-the-ear earphone style – removable cable and all.
But doubling our budget here, while that sounds like a big jump, is just another $8 – and that opens you up to some seriously good earphones like the KZ Ling Long and the Moondrop Quarks.
And if you eke out just a few more dollars after that, you gain access to things like the Moondrop Chu II and a whole new tier of IEM.
If you don’t have that money, that’s fine – the Little Q is more than competent enough. But if you have money to jump up to that next big tier, I suggest going for it. You’ll probably be spending close to the Little Q’s price in shipping alone anyway.
The KB Ear Little Q, despite the name, is not little by any means, standing in opposition to the great Moondrop Quarks which have been the benchmark for great IEMs at around the $10 mark.
Its more energetic V-shaped sound signature is quite the jump from the smooth, almost mid-centric tone of the Quarks, but the Little Q can hold its own in terms of its detail and technical ability.
While I’d like to compare both more directly in a future dive, the bottom line for the Little Q is that, for an $8 earphone, it’s already quite good, and demanding more from it would be a bit unreasonable.
This post was last updated on 2023-11-27 / Some images from Amazon Product API & some links may be affiliate links which may earn us a commission from purchases.