The K3 HD assumes a simpler driver setup comprising of a single dynamic driver complimented by a balanced armature transducer. This may seem like a step backwards compared to the triple driver K3 Pro, but through a more integrated driver configuration, Magaosi have created a similarly more linear sound that ends up being more resolving than their last model. Magaosi has also done some fine tuning to the HD’s tonality that makes it the clearly more technical and versatile earphone. With a super clear, detailed and well-separated sound, the HD provides a great take on the classic V-shaped sound that many have come to love. It also provides a great middle-ground between the more natural, laid-back Oriveti Basic and EN700 Bass and the brighter, more aggressive TFZ King.
I gave the K3 HD the usual 150-200hrs of burn-in prior to review and noted any outstanding changes. I don’t feel that the earphones have experienced significant change though they do sound slightly smoother to my ear. Otherwise, the earphones didn’t notably respond and they will likely sound very consistent throughout their working life.
Choosing between the two included cables was more difficult than I had thought; I would usually default to the Silver cable, but the OFC cable actually provided a more pleasing tonality to me. The silver cable did produce a slightly higher quality sound with improved resolution, notably within the high-end, and bass was more visceral while retaining the same amount of texture and detailing. On the contrary, the OFC cable provided slightly more natural, well-bodied vocals at the cost of some resolution though it was the more natural presentation to my ear. With the more attenuating silver filters installed, I personally preferred the K3 HD with the silver cable though those listen from a brighter source or prefer a more natural tone may actually find greater enjoyment with the copper cable. Regardless, the addition of a silver cable adds an extra layer of fine tune-ability lacked by the majority of competitors. In addition, the K3 HD did receive some benefit by switching to ALO Audio Litz cable, which costs over twice the earphone itself. When equipped, the K3 HD produced a cleaner background, increased resolution and improved refinement with smoother vocals and high-end instruments. I did feel that the K3 HD lacked the technical ability to discern huge changes with this cable, but investing in a modestly priced upgrade cable, not necessarily ALO’s $250 unit, can definitely produce some great ergonomic benefits in addition to tangible sonic upgrades.
This review might get a little repetitive since K3 HD very much retains the same kind of tuning as the K3 Pro. That being said, the new HD is immediately more balanced, especially within their midrange. The K3 HD offers sound tuning via two pairs of screw on filters; a grey filter that provides an un-attenuated sound that boosts resolution and treble prominence and a silver filter that slightly dampens the high end to provide what I would consider to be a more balanced sound. And as with the K3 Pro, I definitely preferred the silver filter, in fact, that filter now comes pre-installed. With the silver filters installed, the K3 HD provides a lightly v-shaped sound with midbass and lower treble lifts complimenting an ever so slightly brighter midrange.
Soundstage, imaging and Separation –
The K3 HD provides a far nicer presentation than their price tag would suggeset. They do trade the excellent width of the original for improved imaging precision but retain a nicely spacious, width biased presentation. They are more rounded than the K3 Pro and though depth remains relatively intimate, vocals and forward instruments no longer sound so compressed while maintaining a strong centre image. Width can reach outside the head on certain material and vocals sound generally intimate but have some projection when called for. Imaging isn’t razor sharp, at least not as precise as the King and most higher priced in-ears such as the 1More Quad Driver, but elements are well placed and mostly easy to locate. Separation is good, not quite to the extent of the more spacious EN700 Bass and the sligthly cleaner Oriveti Basic, but I did find them to delineate notes slightly better than the more mid-forward King. Due to their more linear tuning, they also sound considerably cleaner than the K3 Pro. When listening to David Bowie’s “Everyone Says Hi”, the K3 HD provided ethereal space and width to guitar strums with well-centred if not spacious vocals. In addition, instruments were well placed and separation between the rolling bass line, vocals and high-frequency details was excellent. The K3 HD provides a wide, separated presentation that is still lacking some depth and imaging precision though that excellent separation really enhances songs with any complexity, making them a great choice for rock and even classical.
The K3 HD’s have an average 99dB sensitivity and 32ohm impedance, the same as the K3 Pro. As such, they achieve similar levels of volume at the same level, making them notably less sensitive than the Oriveti Basic, Simgot EN700 Bass and TFZ King. The K3 HD is also relatively hiss resistant, almost silent from my Oppo HA-2 and dead quiet from my HTC 10. They don’t require a tonne of power either and their higher impedance and lower driver count grant them with less impedance swing from portable sources. Of course, the K3 HD scales nicely with a dedicated DAC/DAP; switching from my laptop’s integrated output to my HA-2 or Mojo provided a notable quality boost, especially with regards to bass definition and high-frequency resolution. That being said, like the K3 Pro, the HD is hardly a source sensitive earphone nor is it especially difficult to drive while possessing enough technical overhead to take advantage of nicer sources.
The K3 HD has a full bass response that preferences punch over pure definition and texture much like the K3 Pro. It is a well-tuned and enjoyable response that manages to be both more technical and more tonally pleasing than earphones like the Shure SE215, but in comparison to the very exemplary earphones around this price such as the Oriveti Basic and TFZ King, the K3 HD still lacks that last element. Sub-bass extension is improved over Magaosi’s former earphone, but they still don’t slam like the King and Basic. Otherwise, sub-bass is well present but has a softer impact and rumble is adequate if not ultra-defined due to the HD’s slightly slower bass response. And while the K3 HD avoids sounding sloppy, it is noticeably less tactile than quicker dynamic units and armature based earphones like the Klipsch X10. The bass emphasis has also moved sligthly lower, they now have more balance between deep and mid-bass though mid-bass still holds the greatest emphasis imbuing them with a full, weighted tone similar to the Dunu DK-3001. Upper bass is slightly lifted but the K3 HD isn’t an explicitly warm sounding earphone and midrange spill is very minimal. For my preferences, the bass emphasis is very well judged, offering plenty of fullness for more sterile songs with enough control to avoid sounding overbearing on R&B and Hip-hop. They also provide some additional warmth which grants them with an enjoyable organic low-end tone even if definition isn’t class leading.
However, this charming tonality is juxtaposed by some technical shortcomings; I must stress that all of these comments are relative to the very best earphones I have heard around this price and that the K3 HD is not at all a poor performing. Due to their mid-bass emphasis, the earphones can sound a little bloated and texturing isn’t always as consistent as more linear competitors. Bass also isn’t quite as tight as some of the better dynamics or pure armature earphones I’ve heard with slightly slower decay that keeps up with faster songs but does miss out on some details. Transience is similar to the Oriveti Basic but definition is a fair way behind that model. On the contrary, the K3 HD is more textured than the boxier EN700 Bass and the original K3 Pro though bass is the least improved frequency range over their precursor. The King also maintains its lead in resolution, detail and extension though it’s more mid-forward tones likely won’t be as accessible to most listeners as the more vivid K3 HD. Ultimately, Magoasi’s newest earphone may not produce a super proficient bass reproduction, but it is a response that works well in the context of K3 HD’s tuning; the lush bass response simply compliments the rest of the sound rather than driving it despite its notable emphasis.
Luckily, the higher frequencies are very well done on the K3 HD. While I had few qualms with the K3 Pro’s midrange in isolation, in comparison to more balanced earphones, they did come off as quite unnatural if still pleasing due to some smart tuning on Magaosi’s behalf. On that note, their strongest asset was their supreme clarity which more or less masked these technical shortcomings. The K3 HD no longer possesses that same glossiness, but in return, they offer considerably more technical ability and sound markedly more refined overall. That’s not to say that the K3 HD is not a clear sounding earphone but they are no longer an explicitly clarity focussed earphone. Upon first listen, the K3 HD was also immediately more balanced, linear and bodied than the Pro. It is still a v-shaped earphone but mids are immediate and clear while maintaining pleasing smoothness and layering. The HD also maintains impressive genre versatility due the very revealing nature of their midrange combined with a lack of outstanding peaks or dips. While the HD puts slightly more weighting on upper mids over lower mids, they never come across as over forward or over bright nor do lower mids sound scooped. The HD is more balanced overall than the EN700 Bass and Oriveti Basic to my ear, but through a slightly brighter, more aggressive tuning than the Pro, the HD manages to be just as captivating.
The HD does maintain the slightly thinner midrange tone of the K3 Pro, but vocals are smoother and more bodied. That being said, vocals can still sound slightly too thin for my liking, especially on tracks with harmonisation and some Asian albums with brighter mastering can come off as slightly artificial. So while the K3 HD does very noticeably improve upon its predecessor, they still aren’t a perfectly natural earphone. And where I felt that the K3 Pro was lacking some technical ability, the same cannot be said for the K3 HD. The King’s still have them beat in terms of pure resolving power, but the HD is much closer than the Pro and essentially every other earphone around this price. Listening to Akdong Musician’s “Play”, a very well-mastered Korean album with a brighter, more forward tone, and the HD provided improved resolution, detailing and layering over the Pro, Basic and En700 Bass. Transparency did suffer due to that clarity boost, but the HD provided a very pleasing rendition that was clear, clean and crisp without encroaching upon sibilance or fatigue. The K3 HD makes a notable leap in technical proficiency over the Pro that came before while maintaining if not compounding on its tonal strengths.
The K3 HD has the same brighter high-end presentation of the K3 Pro though the new model is noticeably more detailed and insightful with greater integration between the upper-midrange and treble. This is mainly because the HD is more linear throughout their high end, lacking the tizzy, peaky nature of the original. The HD also impressed me with their detailing, both in terms of detail retrieval and presentation. They picked up appreciably more nuance than the Simgot EN700 Bass and Oriveti Basic, even the TFZ King wasn’t as immediately revealing as the K3 HD. Furthermore, treble notes are crisp and clean with more body than the Pro and King creating a more textured and refined listen than both. Listening to Vance Joy’s “Lay it On Me” and the K3 HD handily bested both of these models with a very clear presentation of guitar strums and micro details with improved separation over both during the busier sections. And while they are quite aggressive in their presentation, the K3 HD isn’t as fatiguing as the K3 Pro since middle and upper treble notes are smoother. Of note, the Pro had a lower treble bump that made some instruments sound over-forward, especially noticeable when listening to jazz where trumpets and saxophones dominated the mix. On the contrary, the K3 HD consistently provides a more restrained yet more discerning reproduction with accurate timbre and instrument balance.
As a result of their detailed nature, the K3 HD is easily my pick for acoustic music around this price, combining the more natural tuning of the EN700 Bass with the high resolving power of the King. The K3 HD also has impressive high-frequency extension even with their reduced driver count, demonstrating the benefits of tuning over pure specification. While they still don’t extend like the exemplary TFZ King, the K3 HD nonetheless provided pleasing air to “Hermit’s Habit” from the soundtrack of Lala Land and the atmospheric effects in Radiohead’s “No Surprises”. The King did possess a notable advantage to very high-frequency details, the HD had a noticeable roll-off which made high-hats sound thin, even metallic at times, though extension easily bests the Basic and En700 Bass. The K3 HD also holds a notable advantage over the King with lower and middle treble detail reproduction. So the HD isn’t the most extended, flawless earphone and they are still far from the most detailed earphone I’ve heard in the grand scheme of things, but they do handily best similarly priced earphones in overall treble performance.
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