Kumitate Lab’s Focus – Brief Impressions
The KL-Focus – despite its lineage – shares resemblances to its NEXT 5 siblings in tonal balance and spatial performance. It’s a clear-sounding, dynamic monitor with an emphasis on transient response, clarity and air. But, the bass is key as well. Like the Meteo, the Focus’s bass is impact-inclined because of a mid-bass scoop beginning around 100Hz, so the warmth it imparts onto the midrange is minimal at best. This allows it to maintain both high impact and cleanliness.
However, there are drawbacks in resolution and tone. The Focus’s neutral mid-bass and lower-midrange are responsible for its transient-led signature. A note’s edge is noticeably more prominent than its overtones. So, instruments may not sound as well-rounded, meaty or rich as they should. Still neutral, but those lower harmonics are noticeably on the bottom of the mix. But, this plays particularly well with Sasaki-san’s genre of choice: Pop and EDM. It’s a thump-y bass that emphasizes the skin of kick drums, the thwack of bass guitar strings and the texture of 808 beats excellently.
Detail retrieval, stage cleanliness and dynamic contrast also consistently deliver, in conjunction with an airy, refined and well-extended top-end. The Focus reproduces cymbals, hi-hats and snare drums with outstanding crackle and pop, whilst remaining smooth at all times. Despite the aforementioned quirk in timbre, the Focus has a beautiful, realistic tonal profile, because of the linearity it maintains; in the midrange, especially. It’s reminiscent of IEMs like the Campfire Audio Andromeda, 64Audio A6t and the Lime Ears Model X, but with one key outlier: Marvellous spatial performance.
The Focus – like the NEXT 5 IEMs – is one of the best spatial performers I’ve heard yet in an in-ear monitor. Outstanding width, depth and height renders everything out-of-head; no instruments exempt. And, that depth is genuinely earned too. Rather than by way of an egregious v-shape or a prominent treble, more esoteric elements like phase and distortion seem to be at play here. This unique sphericalness and expansion that Kumitate Lab have pulled off time after time effortlessly is truly their killer app: A guaranteed, immersive, out-of-head listening experience with zero compromise.
With the bass knob set at 2 (of 4), the low-end is well-balanced; a hair past neutral. At max however, bassheads may not be pleased either, because the lift spans about 100 Hz and below. The sub-bass then is more pronounced. This boosts the “melody” of bass lines and rumble as well. However, as with the Focus’s marvellous stage, the bass follows suit spatially; displaying wonderful depth that’s truly speaker-like – again, a genuine sense of depth with both distance and engagement. At this setting however, the lead melody may teeter on being overshadowed by the sub-bass; marginally.
Nevertheless, the Kumitate Lab KL-Focus is an immensely fun-sounding IEM with the same clarity, smoothness and spatial proficiency that’s earned the NEXT 5 series its wonderful acclaim. Although it doesn’t tick the same boxes as an Empire Ears Phantom or ACS Emotion would, for example, it succeeds in elevating its mainstream signature with exemplary execution. It’s definitely a flagship to look out for, and one I can’t wait to try again in the near-future.