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Kiwi Ears Singolo: Romanticising the Past

Disclaimer: I would like to formally thank Kareena from Linsoul for providing us with a unit in exchange for an impartial and honest review. On behalf of the team at the Headphone List, we thank Kareena for their generosity and trust in THL.

TLDR:

The Singolo is an intriguing entrant into a Chi-Fi marketplace littered with derivates of single (or multiple) Liquid Crystal Polymer (LCP) dynamic drivers. However, its never-before-seen miniaturised resonator architecture, ‘reverb-heavy’ and lush tonality make for a romantic and balanced listen.

Pros:

+ Proof-of-concept architecture does as marketed – eliminate problems in the sub-bass region from a heavily elevated bass-shelf.

+ Fun and lush tonality with thick note-weight that mitigates significant mid-bass bleed.

+ Commendable micro-detail retrieval for the price point.

Cons:

– Weak accessories package.

– Silicon tips are flimsy and lack structure.

– Upper-mid vibrato lacks gusto and energy for female-vocal presentation.

– Safe tuning lacks that ‘wow’ factor

Introduction

Kiwi Ears (no, they don’t hail from New Zealand) is a Chi-Fi contender from Shenzhen, China – the unofficial tech capital of Asia’s most populous nation. The largesse of products they’ve released have customers singing paeans to their name, such as the universally loved Kiwi Ears Orchestra.

Kiwi Ears prices their releases modestly; a far cry from the eyewatering summit-fi objects of desire that seasoned audio veterans crave. At a fraction of the price, their products have attracted universal acclaim for epitomising ‘bang for buck’.

The sands are shifting. With living costs untethering from the realities of stagnating wages, people want performance for a fair price. Kiwi Ears, like other Chi-Fi brands, are answering the call to arms.

Crinnacle, a revolutionary masthead in the industry for his jaw-droppingly IEM measurements database, alongside his sometimes caustic ripostes directed to brands we shall not name, has collaborated with Kiwi Ears to release a proof-of-concept IEM at a sub-$100 price point: the Singolo.

The Singolo can be purchased directly from Linsoul, Amazon.com, or Kiwi Ears’ Official Online Store.

Technology

Kiwi Ears Acoustic Resonance System (KARS)

While KARS as an acronym doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue like velvet, the purpose of KARS is straightforward: KARS comprises a miniature acoustic architecture, designed to passively manipulate the phenomenon of Helmholtz Resonance to precision-tune the Singolo’s 11mm LCP dynamic driver.

In this instance, the KARS system is purportedly used to tighten the bass shelf on the Singolo, disciplining the driver and exerting control over the volume of airflow displaced within the chamber.

11mm Custom LCP Dynamic Driver – Fabricated in Japan

Unlike off-the-shelf components, the 11m LCP Dynamic Driver features customised front-and-back acoustic chambers to work hand-in-hand with KARS. According to Kiwi Ears, the end product (sonic output) is purely from the driver, with zero active crossovers colouring its sonic performance.

Specifications

  • Model: Kiwi Ears x Crinacle Singolo
  • Drivers: Custom 11mm Dynamic Driver + KIWI Acoustic Resonance System (KARS)
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz- 20kHz
  • Sensitivity: 108dBSPL/mW
  • Impedance: 32 ohms
  • Earphone Material: Resin
  • Cable Length: 1.2 meters
  • Cable Interface: 0.78mm
  • Plug Type: 3.5mm Mini-Jack
  • Inner Nozzle Diameter: 4mm
  • Suitable Ear Tip Size: 4-4.5mm

Unboxing

The Singolo comes in a basic package with an outersleeve. All its accompanying copy, frequency response and proof points can be found adorning the outersleeve.

Apart from that, Singolo’s inclusions are somewhat disappointing. In a world where the Truthears Hexa exists for an identical retail price, the Singolo’s spartan offerings leave little to be desired. I would’ve liked to see a protective case in the sub-$100 price category.

Design

The Singolo’s entire chassis is fabricated from resin that has been 3D-printed into a generic mould. The Singolo comes in two distinct colourways- Black and Blue, each with a unique ‘wood-grain’ patterning. Today, I’m reviewing the blue variant.

At the $79 mark, the Blue variant is beautiful and well-finished. There is no observable seam between the synthetic wood faceplate and the IEM chassis. The resin’s exterior is smooth to the touch, with no rough imperfections or scratches.

Because the resin used is free from visible distortion or bubbles, Singolo’s custom 11mm LCP dynamic driver and KARS can be seen in all its glory, unobfuscated.

Comfort and Ergonomics

The Singolo’s all-resin body is featherlight and easy to wear for prolonged listening sessions. The mid-length spout sits snugly in my average-sized ears, creating a snug seal without effort. Because there are no coarse protrusions or defects on the shells, the Singolo is adequately comfortable for use anywhere.

The only criticism I have is for the included silicon tips. The provided silicon tips are slim, flimsy and structurally weak. Because of this, the tips bend and crinkle without maintaining their pre-requisite structure. This is the primary Achilles heel that hinders a snug seal.

Isolation is reliable and above average for a dynamic-driver-powered IEM. There is a small vent situated near the KARS for expelling built-up pressure within the Singolo.

Thankfully, the existence of this vent does not compromise its ability to isolate extraneous ambient noise. The roar of the train is masked fairly well from the Singolo.

Wind noise is always the bane of any dynamic-driver IEM, seeping into the ‘listener’s periphery’. The Singolo does a fairly good job at keeping wind ingress at bay, save for the occasional distortion and warble.

In short, the Singolo performs admirably in terms of comfort, isolation and long-term wear.

Cable Quality

The Singolo’s cables are fabricated from silver-plated copper, with a single core on each channel. The termination end is 3.5mm unbalanced, ensuring universal compatibility with all media devices. For exclusively balanced listeners, don’t forget to bring your own 2.5mm or 4.4mm cable to the party.

The stock cables are thin and flimsy, which doesn’t instil confidence in their longevity and long-term feasibility. The lack of physical strain reliefs on the 2-pin 0.78mm ends is another red flag that rings the durability alarm bells.

However, it is remarkably easy to unspool and coil, with excellent malleability and a lack of memory retention. This is the kind of cable you can grab, unwrap and go without giving it much thought.

Moreover, the decision to exclude memory wire also aids its long-term comfort. The lightweight structure of the cable, paired with the lack of downward pressure on the outer earlobe creates a conducive environment for all-day listening.

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ABOUT AUTHOR

Picture of Kevin Goh

Kevin Goh

Raised in Southeast Asia’s largest portable-audio market, Kevin’s interest in high-end audio has grown alongside it as the industry flourishes. His pursuit of “perfect sound” began in the heydays of Jaben in Singapore at the age of just 10 years old. Kevin believes that we live in a golden age of readily accessible, quality audio.

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