Shozy Black Hole ($799): The Black Hole is evidently a very different type of sound to CK and basically all-else with its open-back design. The BK is a brighter leaning earphone with an upper-midrange bias. The CK has a bigger and deeper bass with more slam and pressure. The BK is quicker with a faster attack and decay in addition to a leaner tuning with higher separation. It doesn’t have the same dynamics, but great timing and separation. The CK has slightly higher control that enables it to be more defined despite having more emphasis. The midrange is brighter, thinner and more open on the Black Hole. It has noticeably larger and more forward vocals yet, despite all of this, the Black Hole actually has a slightly warmer and more euphonic tone which balances this out to some degree.
The CK meanwhile, is more conventional, more balanced with a bit more body. The Black Hole has a more atmospheric treble. It’s slightly crisper but less focused and balanced in quantity compared to the CK. The Ck sounds a touch more forward in the lower-treble despite not measuring so, perhaps due to the difference in design. The Black Hole is thinner in body and neither specialise in sparkle or top-octave extension to my ears. The Black Hole has a much larger soundstage while the CK has more conventional imaging. The Black Hole has slightly better separation.
Oriveti O800 ($799): The O800 is similar in overall balance, but offers a more fuller, smoother and much more coherent voicing with more gusto in the midrange especially. The CK has a deeper, harder-hitting bass with more sub-bass authority. The O800 has a bit more fullness in the mid-bass, it is quick and punchy with good dynamics for a BA earphone. It is even faster and more composed on complex tracks than the CK. Still, the CK has more natural decay and excellent control, it is more textured and sounds a lot more dynamic yet. The midrange is natural in voicing on both earphones, the O800 has less bass so its midrange stands out a little more. The O800 has a more inviting light warm tone and greater vocal body and size for a more powerful voicing.
It has a smoother articulation and much higher coherence in the midrange alongside much better layering with a darker background. The CK is more open with greater clarity and definition but also sounds a touch thin and strained by comparison. Neither are especially treble forward, the O800 has a bit more bite and snap here in addition to better top-end extension. The O800 odes have better background detail retrieval and more sparkle in its top octave. The O800 also has a slightly wider soundstage and noticeably stronger depth. Its imaging is more coherent, and its presentation is more layered. The CK has much better separation compared to the full and smooth O800 which can make it more appealing on first impression.
GAudio Nair ($799): The Nair offers a highly linear and balanced sound, probably the most so at this price range. The CK has better bass extension and dynamics, it offers a bigger sub-bass with a lot more slam and impact. The Nair is more even with a more natural voicing and higher coherence. Being all-BA, it lacks the same extension, power and dynamics, but offers higher control and definition. The Nair has a more natural midrange in all aspects. It has a bit more body, is slightly smoother and generally more coherent and accurate in timbre. The CK has more clarity and openness. It has higher definition at the cost of diminished body and vocal size, a more delicate articulation at the cost of a little rasp.
Both have a clean tone and great separation that said, the CK manages a natural voicing even by comparison to the Nair, it is simply a lot more coloured. The treble is slightly more energetic on the Ck and more even on the nair, both have similar presence. The Nair has more body and texture in the foreground, the CK a little more bite and crispness. The CK offers slightly better extension but neither offer much sparkle or huge headroom. The soundstage dimensions are similar as is the imaging performance, the Nair is a bit more layered and stable. The CK has higher separation.
NXEars Opera ($799): The Opera has a warmer tonality and more mid-bias, it has a very different sound. The CK has much stronger bass extension and greater dynamics down low. It has more quantity, being more balanced with the midrange with a lot more impact and slam. Meanwhile, the Opera is much faster and more defined with higher separation, but it sounds a little laid-back relative to the midrange. Both are subjectively natural in voicing but with vastly different approaches. The Opera is warmer and fuller with much larger vocal size. It sounds a little boxier due to its upper-bass hump so I wouldn’t say its timbre is more accurate than the CK overall.
Still, it also offers a fuller and more substantial note structure in addition to higher coherence and better layering. The CK is much more open with vastly higher clarity. It sounds a bit strained and doesn’t have the same body, size or warmth in return. These earphones really scratch different itches and I can see one preferring either. The Opera has a more forward lower-treble, granting it more bite and crispness but also a thinner treble instrument body; note that due to its warm and full midrange, articulation isn’t so much of an issue here. The Opera is more detailed and offers better extension. It has a larger soundstage and much sharper, more holographic imaging. The CK offers much better separation on the flipside.
Astrotec Phoenix ($799): A quick disclaimer, I do prefer the Phoenix with a layer of swab over the nozzle that helps tame its high-end peaks. The Phoenix is a fuller and more powerful sounding earphone with a more energetic high-end while the CK is more balanced and natural in tone. The Phoenix has a bigger bass, similarly with a sub-bass bias but to a larger degree. Its bass is not as quick and controlled, it is slower with greater note weight and slam in addition to bolder texture through the mid-bass. The CK is hard-hitting and more concise, it has higher separation and definition especially for a more detail presentation. The midrange is more coherent on the CK whereas the Phoenix is more defined by its large upper-midrange peak.
The Phoenix sounds slightly more open but also a touch more strained with smaller vocal size. Though its has a bigger bass, it also has much higher contrast which hurts its coherence. Both are subjectively natural in voicing, the CK sounds noticeably more even and natural that said. The Phoenix has a more vibrant and forward treble with its estat tweeters. It has noticeably better fine detail retrieval and extension with greater sparkle and much more micro-detail. The Phoenix has much thinner instrument body in return. The Phoenix has a larger soundstage with more depth. The CK has more stable imaging and better separation.
Little Dot’s unique approach to their first flagship IEM is highly commendable. This isn’t another reiteration of a target curve and, in turn, it may not present the widest appeal. Still, it offers a sound with plenty of merit housed in a design that is easy to like. The compact metal shells are easily some of the most comfortable in-class and the cable is of superb quality, its balanced nature offering great flexibility on top. Though a little thin and not the most coherent or expansive, the Cu KIS provides some of the best bass performance I’ve heard even well above its asking price. The highly articulate, defined and snappy low-end is something bass lovers won’t want to miss. And yet, this is not to call the CK a bass-head earphone for it offers admirable tri-frequency balance overall. Sure, the midrange is a little thin and raspy, the slightest bit strained on some tracks, but it is also highly defined and open whilst upholding a natural voicing. The treble is smooth with blips of emphasis for energy and engagement though doesn’t steal the show by comparison. Regardless, I laud Little Dot for 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 you’ll want to try this holiday season!
The Cu KIS is available from Little Dot US (International) for $729.99 USD at the time of writing. I am not affiliated with Little Dot and receive no earnings from purchases through this link.
Track List –
Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
Bob Segar – Night Moves
Childish Gambino – Kauai EP
Courtney Barnett – Tell Me How You Really Feel
Dirty Loops – Next To You
John Mayer – New Light
H.E.R – I Used To Know Her
Kehlani – While We Wait
Lee Suhyun – Alien
Mac DeMarco – This Old Dog
MAMAMOO – TRAVEL
Missy Higgins – The Sound of White
Nature TV – Emotion Sickness EP
Nirvana – Nevermind
Radiohead – Pablo honey
Steely Dan – Aja
The Cranberries – No Need To Argue
The Marshall Tucker Band – The Marshall Tucker Band
The Rolling Stones – Hot Rocks
Tori Kelly – Solitude
Weezer – Weezer
Vaundy – strobo
ZICO – THINKING Part.2