Alpha & Delta KS3

Sound analysis.

I analyzed KS3 sound performance using LGPT as a source while playing a variety of my favorite test tracks, such as Agnes Obel “The curse”, Sandro Cavazza “So much better” (Avicii remix), C-Bool “Never go away”, Ed Sheeran “Shape of you”, Galantis “Hunter”, Iggy Azalea “Black widow”, Indila “Boite en argent”, Robin Schultz “Oh child”, David Elias “Vision of her”, and Michael Jackson “Dirty Diana”.  As recommended by manufacturer, I let KS3 burn in for 100hrs.

I found KS3 to have a balanced sound signature, with a little extra kick in the low end and some roll off of upper treble which gives these IEMs a more organic tonality, making them sound more natural yet still resolving.  The low end has a good control, mids have a decent retrieval of details with a rather high level of clarity, and the treble is well defined and natural but not too extended or airy.

Soundstage is wide, above the average for sure.  I find there is more depth to the staging, with the sound being more out of your head where you feel like being a little further away from front row performance.  Imaging is good, instruments and vocals position is convincing, nothing gets congested.  The layering and separation of the sound is also good, not necessarily outstanding, but it’s in line with a tuning signature of these IEMs where the sound is more natural without too much air between the layers.

Bass is linear with a powerful impact, deep sub-bass rumble and punchy mid-bass; and depends strongly on a good seal. Average speed, and good control without spilling into lower mids.  Lower mids are neutral, with enough body to keep the sound balanced and clear, and at the same time providing a nice separation between the bass and the mids.  Upper mids/vocals sound very natural, relatively detailed, with a nice clarity, thanks to 2-3kHz well controlled bump.  Lower treble does have some emphasis around 6k, but only to give the sound better clarity and definition, with no hint of sibilance.  The treble itself is natural and well defined, but not very extended or airy.

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Comparison.

In these comparisons, I stacked up KS3 against a few other single DD IEMs in a similar price/performance category.  In every comparison IEMs were volume matched, and I tried to focus on a technical and sound breakdown comparison.

KS3 vs A&D D6 – I find this an interesting comparison since both are from the same company, in the same price range, and even using the same cable, though in D6 it’s not detachable.  Both have a nearly spot on soundstage expansion with above average width and slightly out of your head depth, putting you a little further away from the stage.  Bass also has similarities, but you have to keep in mind that I was using D6 with an eartip pushed all the way in to cover the front vent, the mod to elevate D6 bass response (otherwise D6 bass is neutral). So, with front vent covered (D6), they both have a similar low end impact with a strong mid-bass punch and good sub-bass extension.  With a mod, sub-bass even a little more lifted in D6.  Lower mids in both are neutral, giving just enough body to keep the sound balanced. Upper mids/vocals are on a brighter side, have good retrieval of details and clarity, but KS3 has a better control around 2-3k region, while D6 is more boosted in there.  The biggest difference is in lower and mid treble where D6 has a more elevated 6k peak, giving “s” a little sharper pronunciation, while KS3 has it under a better control.  In mid-treble, D6 has a lot more pronounced 12k peak, making treble a lot more crisp in comparison to KS3 where the treble is more natural and less pronounced.  For my own personal taste, I prefer KS3 tuning better, plus removable cable is a bonus on top of it.

KS3 vs iBasso IT01s – Soundstage between these two has a lot of similarities, in both width and depth.  With IT01s having a more neutral signature, there are quite a few noticeable differences here.  KS3 bass is more elevated, especially in mid-bass region, definitely a lift over neutral IT01s bass.  While both have mids that sound relatively natural, KS3 mids have a more forward presentation while in comparison the IT01s mids pulled slightly back.  In treble, KS3 is more natural and not as extended or airy, while IT01s treble is more pronounced, crisper, and airy in comparison.

KS3 vs Simgot EN700Pro – While both have a similar soundstage depth, I hear KS3 to have a little more width in this comparison.  The sound here has a lot of similarities, and a few minor differences.  Both have a bass with a similar sub-bass extension where I hear the rumble on the same level, but in mid-bass KS3 has a little more impact and tighter more controlled performance.  Both have a neutral lower mids with just enough body for a linear transition of lows into mids.  The level of detail retrieval and clarity in upper mids/vocals is very similar as well, but EN700Pro pushes it a little more forward, being just a touch more aggressive when compared.  I hear more difference in treble here, with EN700Pro having a little more emphasis on “s” and having a crisper mid-treble, while KS3 having a more natural treble definition with a little less airiness.

KS3 vs Mee Audio Pinnacle P1 – Another single DD iem, but with more differences than similarities. Soundstage here has a very similar presentation with more depth, placing you further away from the stage.  With bass, both have a similar quality, but KS3 quantity is definitely more elevated while P1 bass gets lost under vocals and treble.  If I focus strictly on upper mids/vocals, I can hear a lot of similarities with a natural detailed presentation, but due to a difference in bass quantity, KS3 vocals are more balanced, while P1 vocals are more forward.  Treble is where you hear a huge difference, with P1 pushing it harsher, crisper and more sibilant, while KS3 being a lot more controlled and natural.

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Pair up.

With impedance of 16 ohm and sensitivity of 105dB, the same as D6, KS3 is very easy to drive, but needs volume to be pushed higher since sensitivity is on a lower side.  Also, I didn’t hear any hissing in any of my pair up examples.

Lotoo PAW Gold Touch – the sound sig is balanced with a natural tonality.  Soundstage has above average width with a nice out of your head depth.  Bass has a powerful impact here, but not overwhelming, mids are natural, organic, and treble well defined and natural as well.  I use this as a baseline pair up for comparison.

Shanling M0 – soundstage has a nice out of your head depth, and width is a little more expanded. Bass has a powerful impact, goes deep with a nice rumble, and punches strong through the mix.  Mids are clear and detailed, a little more forward here.  I also hear treble with a little more airiness, being a touch crisper in comparison to LPGT.

iBasso DX120 – soundstage has a nice out of your head depth and above the average width.  Bass hits harder here, and I also hear a little more sparkle in treble which makes overall sound to be mildly v-shaped in comparison to other pair ups where it’s more balanced.

Cayin N5iiS – soundstage has a nice out of your head depth and above the average width. Bass also hits harder here, even more sub-bass rumble.  Mids are clear and detailed, sounds very natural, balanced.  Treble is also well defined and natural.  This pair up reminded me a lot of LPGT but the bass hits stronger here.

Hiby R6 – the impact of 10 ohm output impedance is non-existent here; the sound is the same as with other DAPs where you hear a nice out of your head soundstage extension with nice above average width.  Bass has a nice impact and extension, not too overwhelming, mids are clear, detailed, natural, and treble is well defined and controlled without too much sparkle or airiness.

A&K SP1000 SS – this pair up was a bit of a surprise to me.  The soundstage is similarly expanded as with other sources, more out of your head depth and a nice wide above average staging width.  Bass has a nice impact and extension, elevated but not overwhelming.  Mids have plenty of clarity, and treble has a great definition and control, but also adds more sparkle and even some airiness. Usually SS has a smoother treble rendering, so I was a little surprised it actually enhanced treble response in this pair up.

Samsung Galaxy S9 – Similar soundstage expansion as with other sources, having out of your head soundstage depth and nice above average width.  Bass has a little more impact here, but still well balanced and not overwhelming, mids are natural and detailed, maybe a little smoother, and treble is well defined, natural, and under control.

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Conclusion.

As I mentioned in my D6 review, I have been focusing on so many flagship IEMs that overlooked a number of other budget releases.  Of course, we all have a different definition of “budget”, and I even got yelled at recently for referring to a pair of $200 IEMs as a budget one.  It’s all part of a relative price comparison, and I don’t know what else to call KS3 considering its introduction price of under $100 on IGG, which btw includes a premium 8-core SPC cable A&D sell separately for over $60.

KS3 looks premium, feels premium, and sounds damn good for its price tag.  I’m used to dealing with multi-BAs and exotic hybrid configurations, but here it was just a single dynamic 6mm micro-driver with an impressive balanced natural tuning which had a perfect amount of bass, clear, detailed mids, and well controlled treble definition.  With a very comfortable fit and non-fatigue natural tuning, I was able to keep these compact IEMs in my ears for a long time, paired up nicely with different sources, where I even forgot they were in my ears.  Nicely done, and I look forward to what else Alpha & Delta team going to come up with next!

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2 thoughts on “Alpha & Delta KS3

  1. You have nice toys. I’ve been thinking about these since reading about them on Head-Fi. You made me want them more now. How do I explain this to my wife?????

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    1. Very simple. Just tell her you read Tw6 reviews of different $3k daps, $1k cables, and $2k-$3k IEMs, and you ended up ordering just a pair of $99 IEMs instead. I hope she will appreciate that 😉

      Like

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