ALPHA & DELTA KS3 REVIEW :
Alpha & Delta is a young audio company from Singapore.
They have been around for about 4 years now, when they lauch their first model call the AD01. It was a dual dynamic drivers with modular metal housing leaning toward a very bassy soundsignature, wich wasn’t really audiophile targeted.
THEN they lauch the Alpha & Delta D6, wich was a big hit among audiophile, this time the sound was more bright and balanced and offer incredible level of details and a very rich mid range. The construction was as well jaw dropping, using a dual air chamber housing with a magical 10mm dynamic driver in it. And must of all, the 8 cores silver plated cable was so good that it can even make jealous way more expensive earphones in term of quality and durability. D6 still is one of my favorite earphones and stand test of time unlike lot of other earphones on the market.
The time pass, and they lauch bluetooth earphones and other budget friendly Delta series earphones, but nothing as exceptional as the D6. So, I was thinking, perhaps this company just do not want to create any new high quality iem like the D6?
THEN Dennis from Alpha & Delta tell me a secret : we just finish post-production of a new universal custom with micro dynamic drivers. It will be call KS3.
To say I was excited like a kid that just discover he have the hability to make appear candies with its mind is not even an enough powerfull metaphor. I want to heard the KS3 NOW. But I wait and wait and finally it was ready.
With such pumped up expectation, I should’nt be as much impress than I am when I hear the KS3 for first time one month ago, but in fact, this incredibly comfortable and well built universal custom just gain beauty with time as an old wine. The 3D printed shell is a work of art in term of look and fit, and finally, we have the very same ultimate quality of D6 cable but in a 2pin detachable version. This is pure joy, as I can use it with other earphones and give them a luxurious look.
Now the question is : if its so luxurious and TOTL looking and sounding, the price should be crazy high? The answer is NO, it’s still budget earphones that hit way above its price range, even more than D6. Suggested price is 150$, BUT you can grab them now on INDIEGOGO for as low as 99$.
By the way, the cable worth 100$(!!?!) by its own….and this isn’t the only accessorie so. Hum. Yeah, this-is-a-real-crazy-BARGAIN.
Let’s see why in this review.
If you miss your chance on Indiegogo campaign, you can still buy the KS3 from LEND ME UR EARS
INFO & SPECS :
Alpha & Delta KS3 3D Printed Earphones
Features: 3D printed resin housing ensuring quality and affordable universal custom housing
6mm micro dynamic driver for overall small and comfortable housing
Balanced Sound Signature
Paired with 2 pin 0.78mm 8 core silver plated copper cable
Specification and Accessories
Driver: 6mm Micro Driver
Impedance: 16 ohm
Rated power: 1 mW
Frequency Response: 10 Hz- 40 kHz
Speaker Sensitivity: 105 +/- db/mW
Cable: 1.20m 8 core silver plated copper cable
ACCESSORIES, CONSTRUCTION & DESIGN :
UNBOXING is a dream come true, because you have more than you can wish for. Firstly, the box is beautifull and have a good presentation with a little window to contemplate the KS3 sexy body. But when you open it, you feel quite spoil. There a high quality protective case. 4 pairs of high quality foam tips. 6 pairs of different type of silicone ear tips. The KS3. And. The. Fanciest cable on planet earth. As said, just the accesories worth the asking price, as if the main product was just a bonus. Yep, I feel overwhelmed by such generousity.
CONSTRUCTION is TOTL to me. I see way pricier earphones with way cheaper construction. The 3D printed housing is just gloriously glossy.This type of resin plastic molding is rarely find in this budget price range, add high quality metal nozzle and you know you have a serious audiophile iem in hands. Simply put, when you take these in your hands you know its durable high quality housing because its really hard to tell this is stick togheter, it really feel like one piece molded universal custom. Other aspect is how good is the grip, even if slippy and organicaly shaped, the housing design is molded for your ears AND your fingers, so you can insert it without ever struggling and achieve ultimate comfort. This again, is extremely rare and a proof of how seriously Alpha & Delta designer work on housing shape. There no other universal custom like this AD KS3 and I hope they patent this housing wich is genius workmanship.
As already said, the cable is phenomenal, just not for conductivity, but for durability and loo too. This is a real high end 8cores silver plated 2pin cable. It have a L shape jack with a tension relieve spring above ité The 2pin connector look very durable, as they are protect by a metal cylinder with blue and red marking for easy differenciation.
DESIGN of the KS3 resin housing is just marvellous, and I have seen and use alot of universal custom make of different type of plastic, still the KS3 stand appart and feel from another league. I guess there mroe work than we think behind the creation of this housing, because the complex shape sure could only been made with a top of the line 3D printer. Its about 2.7cm long, 1cm thick from 2pin connect part and 2cm thick for nozzle part….but this is just impossible to measure as the form is to organic and have curve and bump without any harsh angle. The 2pin connector is tightly seal in housing as well as the metal nozzle. The type of nozzle mesh it use is very intriguing and promess to share give transparent sound from housing instead oftaming it. It have 1 little venting hole above the micro driver. All this little details, again, aren’t normal for this price range but proove Alpha & Delta realyy give lot of care and attention to design and construction.
ISOLATION is great, its really block intensely well outside noise and sound leakage is minimal to non existent. I crank up the volume and test it and do not even heard nothing. I guess at normal volume nobody can hear you, even people suffering from hyperacusis in a completly silent public library will not hear you if you sit at its side.
SOUND IMPRESSIONS :
There were a time i feel obligate to love bassy sounding earphones because the audio market was flooded with them, so, i was considering it enough balanced when the mids where pushed fowards by some tuning or multi drivers tweak. Now, at 35 and listening mostly to jazz and classical, i really get enough of badly tuned U or V shaped soundsignature and will just care about the one that offer incredible bass performance like the IKKO OH1.
I was pretty sure Alpha & Delta KS3 was not going to take the vulgar basshead road and learn with there experience that they gain way more respect from audiophile crowd with there W shaped mid centric D6 model than there AD01 boomy one. Still, I was thinking KS3 would sound quite similar to the D6, but with perhaps bigger soundstage, but in fact they push balanced sound even further and choose a real monitor soundsignature, a mature one, an audiophile targeted neutral one with extra bass emphasis.
When I say neutral, i do not say completly flat and boring, just less bright and coloured in mids and upper treble than the D6, wich make the KS3 less peaky sounding and more coherent and versatile.
Clarity is what impress you first, after its how balanced and welll layered this whole sound presentation is…and after more listen a revealation happen : TIMBRE is just Perfect.
More I think about timbre rendition of KS3, more i’m blown away, how could it be so rich yet not too bright or grainy at all? Is it illusion….nope, its critical listening that get rewarded. With bright or overly coloured soundsignature, the earphones do the ‘’critical listener’’ job by trowing at you specific amplify frequencies range as well as treble tweak that will over emphase texture or attack of soundwave. For me, real good tuning is being able to stay as truthfull to original music mastering without killing musicality with a too flat rendition and the KS3 really excell in this type of neutral and lively approach.
SOUNDSTAGE have more deepnest to it than widness, and feel as your in an acoustic room with 2 big monitor speakers from each side at some distance to you. Its an immersive around your head experience, not particularly holographic, but very natural with good air to it.
LOWER END extend to 20hz but isn’t over emphased, its very controled even if you can have some rumble that do not move lot of air. In track like ‘’Canadian Hillbillie’’ by Georgia Anne Muldrow wich have big sub line in it, the KS3 show its talent offering tigh well rounded off sub that do not overshadow rest of tracks and let the kick be punchy and well defined. Unlike with too V shape sounding earphones that make sub invade whole tracks and mix with mid bass and affect vocal clarity, the KS3 sub keep its transparency and body with great agility. For timbre, its quite smooth and transparent, cello or acoustic bass sounding enough rich, but I find timbre richer in mid bass. To note : In very sub heavy and complex track, sub can show its limit at very high volume, there will be no distortion, but the rumble will became less controled.
MID BASS is really extremely enjoyable with the KS3, it have great natural impact and weight, making kick drum very realist with enough decay for a lively presentation. Here, we have something special, its subtle, but listening to ‘’Tingvall Trio’’ Cirklar album, I really enjoy drum presentation and its near neutral approach. Kick have nice tigh body and impact more some air as it should, the attack is superbly controled and timbre have just enough tichness and texture to give extra energy without feeling forced, too bright or fowards. As its ultra agile, bass do not bleed on lower mids and instead have a natural smooth transient response to it, that help KS3 to keep a balanced approach and not use colouration to push mid range fowards.
MID RANGE is fully cover with the KS3, there no artificial peaks or harshness to it. I hear it has a smooth natural curve that neither make the vocal too fowards or recessed, if there lot of instrument playing at same time in 1khz-6khz register, none of them will stole the attention of other. For some, it will make them think mids are recessed wich isn’t the case at all as we can hear with ‘’For We Believe’’ song from signersongwriter Happy Rhodes. Her voice sound rich and full, very detailed as we can hear her lips licking, as well, there multiple vocal playing at same time and its very well layered, the acoustic guitar sound in background with great clarity and brilliance. Must importantly, there no sibilance even if the vocal are nicely detailed with rich transparent timbre.
I cannot say this type of mid range approach will be enough foward for audiophile enjoying very mid centric soundsignature with less bass too, but you do not have to be afraid about vocal being too recessed at all, as its the range with more presence even if it continue its curve ascencion in high frequencies.
TREBLE extension is mind blowing, and to me, this is the most spectacular feature of KS3 micro drivers. This is tuned to offer extreme clarity with extra emphasis in mid and upper treble that give excellent grip and attack to instrument, and that, without harshness. Even if enough sharp and vivid, the highs just feel right. Timbre isn’t too thick so it not too textured or grainy and permit good realist transparency to the sound. Micro details are easy to find and there extra presence in upper range texture.
Listening to ‘’Kamelsnurr’’ from ‘’Furuland’’ experimental folk album from great Geir Sundstol norwegian slide guitar maestro, the presentation is delicate and lively, with extremely clear instrument separation that do not mix different guitars playing togheter, extracting whole complex richness of different texture, plucking cords, percussions and toms, all this with an airy yet intimate presentation is sincerly a guilty pleasure and nobody cannot be wowed by KS3 high resolution presentation here. In fact, i just cannot stop listening to it on repeat. Here, guitar note have fast decay and lot of brilliance, every single note is well defined and accurate, and other instruments have same clear treatment making the level of clarity exceptional and free of over saturation even if chords texture is very hearable it feel natural. When it use slide guitar at same time as other guitars it stay in the background, well layered and transparent, and here sens of space and deepness is even more evident.
Yep, the KS3 are exceptional in term of clarity, timbre, attack and decay, the mature tuning is extremely rewarding with well recorded music and still enough smooth to be permissive and very versatile unlike too bright or peaky earphones.
LOWER END: 9/10
MID BASS: 8/10
MID RANGE: 8.5/10
Firstly, it must be noted that the E4000 are harder to drive and will sound weak without proper amping that expand soundstage and give clearer imaging and better controled bass. So, here I compare those 2 with and without portable amp.
In some sens, we have pretty similar tuning here, that tend towards neutral and balanced with little mid bass push. The KS3 have as well upper mids push and more extended treble response.
SOUNDSTAGE feel about same widness but have more of an around your head feel with KS3 due to deeper spatiality.
BASS of the E4000 feel thicker with more natural timbre than the brighter low end of KS3, wich have less sub bass body and more mid bass emphasis. Punch feel faster with KS3 even if its far from sounding too slow with E4000.
MIDS of the KS3 are brighter than smooth E4000 and feel more pushed fowards due to upper mids presence, it have more grip and attack. E4000 have more linear and adequate timbre and sound fuller but more intimate than airier KS3. I feel we can crave more details in 1khz to 8khz with the E4000, but that KS3 will have more decay and sparkle in upper mids-lower treble region.
TREBLE is more extended with the KS3 and surely go up to 16khz before a drop unlike the E4000 that begin a drop around 14khz wich affect highs sparkle and brillance but help to give a more neutral sound approach as well as more resolved lower-mid treble rendering due to more controled highs frequencies that will never sound splashy. With KS3, some percussions type can be fowarded and other one backgrounded, but we aren’t into crazy treble peaks either and overall treble is quite organic in fact, it offer more brilliance than decay and give extra airiness to soundstage.
SOUNDSTAGE of B400 is deeper but less wide, as well, KS3 feel more airy and around you head.
BASS of KS3 have more body and impact and extend lower than faster B400, wich have softer timbre as well. Its harder to hear properly bass line with B400 than with KS3.
MIDS of B400 are more fowards and have more wide presence, they feel in front row compared to more balanced-linear KS3. Still, timbre is richer with KS3, and vocal have more body but less transparence as well. Here the B400 sound slightly breathy while the KS3 slightly bright. Both do not create sibilance and are greatly layered by surrounding instrument. KS3 being more intimate and centered while the B400 cover whole instrumental with transparent mids.
TREBLE feel a little more extended with KS3, as well as brighter, giving more richness to timbre and crips highs, B400 have extra imaging talent due to is 4BA configuration and can extract more gently the microdetails, wich are clear but not as crisp than KS3. Both have good attack, KS3 having a little more grip and decay.
AMPING isn’t needed for B400, while its very suggested for KS3 as for this comparaison I always need to play with volume to achieve same volume level.
CONSTRUCTION is way better with KS3, and i’m pretty sure anybody will consider them as the more pricier. Even if the B400 have 2 cable, they are of poor quality while the KS3 is high end 8cores SPC cable. Comfort is quite similar tough, but the KS3 are easier to fit in ears properly due to great grip the form factor give while the B400 are slipy.
All in all, both are very good iem and its hard to tell wich I prefer, but I can say the KS3 are more neutral and balanced even if bass is more present and the B400 more mid centric and agile with imaging giving an intimate holographic presentation.
VS IKKO OH1 (130$):
SOUNDISGNATURE of OH1 is a well done U shape with warm lower mids and bright upper mids and upper treble, while KS3 sound more neutral and mid centric.
BASS of OH1 is more powerfull and impactfull especially in sub department, where the note feel better resolve, thicker and with better controled attack than the struggling sub part of KS3, this give a moe energic approach to IKKO without sacrifiing to much. Mid bass is similar to KS3 but again its more full bodied.
MIDS of OH1 feel slightly artificial in treble and too warmed up in lower mids, wich give more body to low mids and some sibilance and light harshness to upper mids, KS3 again is more balanced with a smooth push in mids that give extra clarity to vocal but do not feel in front row, more well centered in midde, still, OH1 sound more dynamic and energic, giving extra separation to mid section, where KS3 linear approach and soft timbre make it lack in overall attack.
TREBLE of OH1 is quite extended but not always constant, as it colour more ranges than more neutraly balanced KS3, anyway, this give more sparkle and air, wich give more sens of space and layering, and decay and brillance…so, yes, KS3 lack some treble sharpness comapred to OH1.
SOUNDSTAGE is about same widness, but OH1 here feel deeper and airier.
SOUNDSTAGE of D6 is notably wider and about same deepnest, but feel even more airy (depending of numbers of instruments playing togheter).
BASS is dryer and more agressive, with less sub extension but a more fowards mid bass, way brighter and less well rounded up than more natural and round mid bass of KS3 that have more sub extension as well.
MIDS are brighter and more agressive, they can make sibilance as there big bump in upper mids, lower mids are less detailed than the KS3 compared to mid and upper register. Vocal feel way more fowards and this is real mid centric earphones compared to more neutral and balanced KS3. We have an analytical approach with the D6 that sure impress but can be too bright and agressive at high volume, KS3 feel richer in whole mid range and more linear, but have less sparkle and decay, still, as texture is less opaque we have better transparency and instrument separation than D6.
TREBLE is more emphased with the D6, especially around 6-10khz, this can give near too much details sometime and can be overwhelmingly saturated with it, this make the D6 dangerous for treble sensitive people, while the KS3 have just extra brilliance in highs that feel delicate and accurate. D6 lack transparency compared to KS3, as well, cymbals sound more splashy while they are ultra controled and realist with KS3. Imaging is more accurate than over saturated D6.
AMPING is more needed with KS3, but both iem like powerfull sound source to sound there best.
CONSTRUCTION is incredible with both, KS3 have very same cable than D6 but its detachable. Comfort and fit is way better than big heavy D6 too.
Without a doubt, Alpha & Delta surpass themself by creating such well tuned and constructed earphones, and I say this forgeting the price with all my honnesty. If I begin to think about the 150$ price, as a reviewer that is obsess about price value, i’m still puzzle how cheap the price is and how generous the accessories are. It’s just really to good to be true.
When it come to the sound, its how well balanced and natural that impress the must, level of control and agility in all frequencies range is just masterfully tuned. No harsh peaks, great timbre and details, beefy sub bass, smooth and present mid range, crips highs, everything is taken care off wisely and deliver an exciting lively musicality free of any artificial behavior.
The KS3 can be love by anybody, should you listen to rock, electro, classical, folk, jazz or even metal, you will be impress by how versatile and articulate the sound is. As well, this type of top notch construction in a budget price range is just unseen until now. So, if you either search for a monitor universal custom or an all arounder with well balanced musicality that offer a vivid, lively and detailed sound presentation with rich timbre that never feel forced or too harsh, i’m more than confident that the Alpha & Delta KS3 is one of the best earphones buy you can make in 2019.