Comprehensive accessory set, Versatile cable system, Compact and highly ergonomic design, Sensational bass quality, Natural voicing, Great separation, Nicely balanced sound
Coloured midrange, Body on the thinner side, Soundstage expansion and treble extension bested by many competitors
Little Dot provide another unique and highly competitive addition to the sub $1k price class. Don’t let the naming scheme or company’s lack of IEMs heritage concern you, the CK is surely a model with great appeal!
I think a lot of us have come across Little Dot in some manifestation. The company has been making sources for a decade and a half now with great success. It came as a surprise then, when the company launch 4 IEMs that were a complete departure from the company’s area of expertise. Furthermore, two of these models are positioned firmly in the premium market, the Cu Cen at $529 and the flagship Cu KIS (CK) at $729. Both implement some fascinating acoustic design to justify the price, the KIS is especially intriguing sporting a 4 hybrid-driver setup with two dynamic and 2 BA drivers. Though new to IEMs, the company invested heavily in their first offerings. The KIS was developed over 18 months with over 14 rounds of beta listening tests and 86 revisions to the original design since its inception. The result is a model the company feels is ready to compete at flagship levels.
The Cu KIS is available for $729 USD making it cheaper than most flagship designs. You can read more about it and treat yourself to a set on Little Dot’s US website here.
I would like to thank Ian from Little Dot very much for his quick communication and for providing me with the Cu KIS for the purpose of review. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review. Despite receiving the earphones free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.
- Driver Type: 2x 10mm DD, 2x BA Tweeter
- Distortion: <0.05% @ 1kHz
- Frequency Range: 12 hZ – 40 kHz
- Impedance: 18 ohms +/- 2.7 dB
- Sensitivity: 105 dB +/- 3 dB
Behind the Design –
Multi-layer Looping Structure Housing
The KIS utilises and unconventional driver setup and some trick acoustics. It sports dual dynamic drivers with a A.D.L.C diaphragm (Amorphous Diamond-Like Carbon) similar to those seen on CFA’s DD earphones. The four drivers both operate in pairs to lower distortion and the internal acoustics are designed to reduce resonances. This is a coaxial setup which aids phase-coherence and imaging. In addition, meticulous air vent placement, 3 per shell, optimises the impulse and frequency response of the dynamic drivers. It surely appears that a lot of thought went into this design.
Dual A.D.L.C Dynamic Driver Setup
Where in previous years, high-end models skewed towards BA designs, we’ve seen a trend towards highly rigid DD diaphragm materials lately which has opened up avenues for more high-end DD designs. A.D.L.C diaphragm designs are surely at the pinnacle alongside Beryllium not only for its excellent mechanical properties but also the method in which it is manufactured, permitting the ability to deposit in micron thickness. This results in a sharper transient response due to the thin, lightweight nature of the driver in addition to enhanced rigidity that reduces modal breakup and, in turn, distortion. The CK utilises dual A.D.L.C drivers independent acoustic chambers. Though the company was unable to specify to me, it appears from their literature that the drivers are in an isobaric configuration that enhances efficiency and lowers distortion.
Little Dot provide quite the unboxing experience with their new in-ears with an abundance of accessories in order to promote an ideal ergonomic experience. Opening up the hard box reveals two carrying cases within foam inlet. The top is a metal clam shell case with the model number and logo. Beneath is a large plastic case similar to those included on older 64Audio IEMs. It has heaps of space and can accommodate a small DAP or other accessories. In drawstring bags, Little Dot provide a plethora of ear tips (7 pairs) and adaptors. The earphones come from factory with a balanced cable terminated in 3.5mm TRRS, in the box are 3 adaptors for 4.4mm and 2.5mm balanced and 3.5mm single-ended. Buyers also receive a shirt clamp with cable clip.
The CK is a refreshing change of pace from most IEM designs, returning to the button-style housing shape popularised by Phonak PFE and Oriveti IEMs a few years ago. And this is a good thing, for the shell design proves incredibly compact and comfortable, complementing the natural curves and folds of the ear. Similarly, the build quality impresses, with eye-catching maroon anodized aluminium exterior and fairly-tight tolerances across its 3-piece construction on top. The earphones are light and compact but feel sturdy and more than equipped to brave the rigours of daily use. Perhaps one qualm, the printed logos on the outer faces may wear off over time unlike etched patterns.
Up top are 2-pin 0.78mm connectors with a guide post that slots into a recessed connector on the cable side. This provides some additional support to the connection whilst still permitting use with aftermarket cables – albeit, they will protrude more than most due to the outset connector. The cable itself was custom designed for the CK with curated alloy to provide the ideal sound profile. It has a 4-wire braid construction and sturdy, but not cumbersome thickness. Metal connectors and ample strain relief impress as does the supple and memory-free nature of the wires themselves. Interestingly, it does use a balanced TRRS 3.5mm termination and comes with adaptors in the box. However, as this is not a common standard, misplacing these adaptors may become troublesome so a 4-pin connector like that used on Fiio and Dita’s cables may have been preferable if more cost prohibitive to implement.
Fit & Isolation –
With its round, smooth design and ultra-compact dimensions, the Cu KIS is one of the most comfortable universal IEMs on the market. It barely contacts the outer ear and achieves a very low-profile fit with the right ear tips. In turn, hotspots are a non-issue and they essentially disappear in the ear even after extended listening periods. Fit stability is also good on behalf of slightly longer and tapered nozzles that promote a deeper fit and strong seal. Some driver flex is apparent but did not cause damage or performance degradation during my months of testing. Isolation is above average for a hybrid earphones and suitable for general portable use during commute on public transport. However, I would want for more in especially noisy environments such as air travel or the metro system and would advise frequents to look into a fully-sealed or custom option for these use cases.