Ostry KC06A Review

Greetings everybody, Meta-nyanya (7 is “nana” in Japanese, if you haven’t known. Also, I’m an otaku, weeaboo and anime freak, whatever you’d like to call it) here!

Ok first off, I’d like to give my apologies for neglecting this blog for more than two months! I really wanted to post something in March, but then finals and national exams training happened. Ugh, I just hate traditional Asian education, especially when it’s not even done right… Some of you may have thought that I had been ded, and if not for my awesome willpower and hopes for a very bright future, I probably would have! *cha-ching*

…Erm…Alright, anyway, let’s get to the point…

Introduction


The KC06A is an update to the KC06, Ostry‘s first ever self-released earphones, with a different external design and a slightly tuned, slightly more v-shaped sound signature, and a slight increase in cost. Prior to these pairs, Ostry have been OEM-ing for many brands such as LG, Sony, Sennheiser, etc. Mostly stock earphones and cheap earbuds, though.

Ostry KC06
The Ostry KC06 (image courtesy Head-Fi)

Regardless, the KC06 took audio forums like Head-Fi by storm and is quickly regarded as a lower-midrange giant killer, right there with the likes of the Havi B3 Pro 1 or the Dunu Titans, for its natural, open and analytical sound with a low price tag and decent build quality. Likewise, the KC06A seeked to follow its older brother’s footsteps and have in part succeeded, while attempting to cater to a wider audience

Ostry KC06A Box
The earphones’ packaging. Very weird slogan I must say.

Thus, I’ve decided to buy a pair for mom (and partly myself :P) as a gift on Women’s Day, as I haven’t shown my appreciation to her for a long time. Had to BS her about the price though. It’s by no means expensive but when you are in a society so used to stock EarPods… o_o

The Ostry KC06A currently goes for 67.99 USD on Amazon!

Aesthetics and Build Quality


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First of all, the KC06A actually has a metal (presumed titanium according to official data, but beat me if I actually know what it is. I’m not a materials expert) housing with a cool tribal pattern painted in red and white. Not many people like this aggressive look, but it worked for me and mom, while I normally like more elegant designs. The earphones are quite light, too. You can clearly feel that by clapping the two earphones together and listen to that “zing” sound. Whether this is a plus or a minus, I can’t say for certain. Usually it’s nice to be light but it can also mean Chinese-quality manufacturing (this pair IS Chinese, after all).

IMG_1801

The pair comes with 7 different pairs of eartips, this being the “default” one, with a red sleeve and a sound filter. Other eartips are plain black and are divided into two packs, each with three different sizes. There’s a bass-oriented pack and a mid-oriented pack. I’ve only tried out the stock eartips and the SpinFits (more on that later) though. In a build quality perspective the eartips are quite well-manufactured and durable though still too stiff compared to aftermarket tips.

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The cables have an unique pattern and are pretty durable, but otherwise pretty bad in my opinion. They are not braided, tangle easily (still better than stock earphones, though), and the microphonics are pretty bad on them. The Ostry KC06A is a pure musical pair, with no microphones or volume controls or whatever, as you can see on the cables splitter.

IMG_1802

The plug is also made of metal instead of plastic, and it’s also gold-plated, though with questionable quality. The gold plating is very thin and easy to wear off, definitely not like the plating seen in higher-end headphones and earphones, such as my R70x. As expected for something in this price range, actually, but there are some way cheaper earphones that are gold-plated similarly.

Fit and Comfort


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With the default eartips, fit was quite spectacular in my opinion. I could wear it for over one hour and still doesn’t feel any inconvenience. The seal was pretty good, too. After a long while however, my ear canals still feel like they’ve been stretched out a bit upon taking the earphones out, but just a bit. Not a deal breaker. In the end I wouldn’t say this pair is particularly fluffy, but they are in no way uncomfortable, either.

With SpinFit

With the SpinFits though, the right side started to come out more often with a weaker seal, but the left side works just fine. Then again, the SpinFits were one size too large for my ears (bought them for mom, after all), and for the size they still fared pretty well, though not as good as I’d hoped. If anything still, this is more of the SpinFits’ fault than the Ostry’s fault, so I won’t judge the Ostry on this. Just commenting.

Isolation-wise, this little thing did pretty well. I was pumping out music at very loud volume (by my standards anyway) and people around me couldn’t hear a thing. I myself could hardly hear anything once I take it off, either.

Sound Quality


Ok, now for the important part! Before I bombard you with strange anime music tests however, let me go through the gear I’ll be using:

Reference and Supplementary Gear

  • Reference Headphones: For the reference headphones, I’ll use my new Audio-Technica ATH-R70x! What’s better to use for review assistance than a true reference-class studio monitor?! Well, you may wonder why I don’t use something more comparable, like a pair of in-ear headphones that isn’t over 5 times more expensive? Well, that’s because… I only have one pair of headphones, guys! >_>

    IMG_1753
    If you are wondering why I didn’t review this first, that’s because I don’t think I should review my own gear, because it’ll just be plain subjective.
  • DAC and AMP: Both the Ostry and the R70x will be plugged into the Cayin C5 headphone amplifier, and… a Xonar DSX sound card. Hey, I don’t have enough money for an ODAC yet, guys! Student’s allowance!IMG_1778
  • Eartips: As mentioned, I have also equipped the KC06A with the SpinFits, so my impressions may not be true for unmodded earphones!

Alright, let’s begin! (Note: All tests are conducted with lossless music! YAY!)

 

Serenity Test: Chị tôi (15% of Sound Quality Score)

Chi toi

The first song in today’s test set will be Chị tôi (“My sister”), a very soft and popular Vietnamese ballad song by artist Trần Tiến. As always, you can click the picture for an online lossy version of the song. Let’s begin!

Wow, the spatial recognition was awesome! The instrumental separation and sountage were quite good on this particular track!

Vocals were a bit thin, but nonetheless emotional. I’d like them to have a bit more presence though. Then again, I’m comparing it to a reference full-size pair here.

Strings were also good but still a bit… flat? Details were great though.

Bass and drums were not at all overwhelming, and were quite tight, but a bit dim and wobbly, echoey. Not the best, but I’d take it over Beats-type bass anytime.

All in all, it was a great rendition of the song, though having been spoiled by higher-end pairs, I still hoped that it’d have a bit more body. However, it’s by no means bad, and for the price I’d say it’s quite good, too. Next!

 

Classic Test: Hotel California (20% of Sound Quality Score)

 Hotel California

The second song in the set is the ever-so-popular track Hotel California by The Eagles. It’s regular audiophiliac material, so it’ll weigh more than the other songs. Need I say more?

As with the last song, the speed and details were quite awesome. The guitar solo at the beginning was very lifelike and surprised me a bit, though still a bit sharper and thinner than on the R70x. I didn’t expect it to successfully convey Hotel California’s soul in its guitar, but frankly it did. Bravo!

The bassdrums and congas were another thing that really surprised me. They had quite a powerful attack, enough to get my heart rumbling without disturbing my ears.

Vocals were decent, but not as heart-touching or dynamic as on the Audio-Technicas. Recording artifacts were also undetectable. Now this may sound weird, but those recording artifacts add more body to the vocals and let you know what you are actually listening to. They may not be very desirable for regular listening, but being able to detect those artifacts are a must if you want a natural listening experience, or if you are monitoring.

The guitars shone again on the second solo, though the effects this time are not as well drawn-out, with slides and slashes being cut off and such.

The cheers at the end were detailed, though just a bit too high and loud. Just a bit. Overall it was an excellent performance this time, too.

 

Instrumental Test: Polyushko Polye (10% of Sound Quality Score)

LACA-9436_7bookOL

The third song I’ll use is Polyushko Polye, a traditional Soviet marching song composed by Lev Knipper, also known as Meadowlands. The version I’ll be using is the orchestral arrangement used in Girls und Panzer Herbst Musikfest 2015, played by the Tokyo Philharmonic, no less! Anime or not, this is my favorite rendition of the song ever, and it’s also one of the few albums/singles I have in 24-bit (though I doubt it’ll make much difference in this case). I couldn’t find a lossy version of this particular version (ironic, right?), so I made one myself, because uploading a lossless file is not really legal!

Truth be told, the reason I chose this song was to test dynamics. It only has one verse repeating over and over, but it gets gradually louder, closer, and more complex. And in that department, the Ostry… didn’t do very well. It was extremely smooth and detailed, the orchestra didn’t really sound like it was advancing, and it wasn’t quiet enough at the beginning nor was it loud and powerful enough at the end, especially the drums.

Still, that being said, it was extremely smooth and detailed! While it didn’t do particularly excellently in the original testing purpose, color me impressed by the overall very natural experience!

 

Mainstream Test: Animals (20% of Sound Quality Score)

maroon-5-V

For the fourth level of the test, I’ll use the aggressive, not-safe-for-work Animals by Maroon 5! It’s one of the songs that left a huge impression in me in my audio tests, ever since I listened to it on the Sennheiser HD598. Since the KC06A is tuned towards a more masses-oriented sound signature, this song will weigh more than the other songs. The picture links to YouTube, so don’t click it if you are disturbed by blood? I guess?

The KC06A is more mid-centric than the R70x, making it fit this song more, ironically. Other than that, the pair was quite impactful when it needs to, but nonetheless I felt that the bass was a bit… I’m not sure if “bloated” is the right word, but it still feels a bit overwhelming to me. Not Beats-level overwhelming, but still overly present. Good thing its quality was good, so it made the bass entertaining instead of disturbing, at least.

Backing choruses were also not as pronounced as on the R70x and the HD598. Can’t really expect them to be. I also felt like it was a bit more congested than the previous songs, again just a bit.

Overall, it was very fun to listen to Animals on these earphones, but from a purely analytical point of view, they could do better. However, the KC06A wasn’t advertised as an analytical pair and was instead intended for a wider audience, so I’d say it did its job.

 

Motivational Test: Firestone (15% of Sound Quality Score)

Firestone

Hooray, here’s the fun part, the techno tests! Well, for the fifth song, I’ll use one no less mainstream than the previous one, Firestone by Kygo and Conrad Sewell! I’ve been really digging it lately, after being introduced to it by one of my best friends, who’s a dancer.

Well, the reason I’ve been “really digging” this song is because of its glorious atmosphere (and dat square synth…), which can’t be accurately reproduced without stellar dynamics execution, and as mentioned the KC06A does nowhere near as well as something like the R70x in this department, so it didn’t get my body dancing as much. The square synth sounded better than enough, though, but not enough to be something… really special. Vocals were also breathy, but still not airy enough.

As always though, the details were superb, even the most subtle chimes and rattles could be heard. The drums were also executed extremely well, leading to a very enjoyable listen regardless.

 

Energetic Test: Electioneering (10% of Sound Quality Score)

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Truth be told, I’ve only listened to this album (OK Computer by Radiohead) earlier today, but was impressed by this particular track, Electioneering, nonetheless. There also hasn’t been a rock song in this list yet, so I reckoned I should just use this for testing right away!

To be honest, this album has quite a lot of recording artifacts, being from 1997 and recorded for a band called “Radiohead”, and the KC06A… smoothed out most of them, though still retaining some in the vocals. That’s the first thing I noticed. Again, not necessarily a bad thing for regular listening. It fleshes out everything a bit more, even.

I’m not sure what to say with this track, really… nothing particularly special with it. Nothing particularly bad, either. You can pretty much apply everything I’ve said about this pair here. The only notes I’d add is that the song sounded pretty “narrow” on both the Ostry KC06A and R70x, which may… help a bit with fleshing out the song’s overdriven guitars, I guess? Like I said, strangely recorded song… hmm…

Oh, and the growl-y vocals were reproduced quite well on the KC06A, though a bit… quiet to me personally, and it can also become hissy at times.

Overall it was… close enough to the reference audio quality, I guess? I don’t know, auditioning with this song just confuses me somehow…

 

Crazy Test: PSYCHIC FIRE (10% of Sound Quality Score)

Sakkaku_CROSSROADS

The seventh and last song in this set will be PSYCHIC FIRE by BiBi, an unit in Love Live! School Idol Project, consisting of seiyuus Nanjou Yoshino, Tokui Sora and Pile. Not among my favorite songs, to be honest, but if there’s any song that can destroy these earphones while still sounding decent, it’s this one. This single (Sakkaku Crossroads) is also the only single I have in 32-bit, by the way. Also, I’ve realized that this is the only true anime song in this list… does that mean I’m losing myself?! *gasp*

You know, it takes a lot just to not make this song sound like a mess, 32-bit music or not, and this pair… actually did that?! Wow! Well that’s one task down I guess? These earphones’ speed was truly formidable.

Not only that, but they successfully conveyed like about 95% of the song’s potential energy, being all electrifying and jerky when they need to (like in the dubsteppish part and the “BiBi… BiBiBiBiriiiiii~” part), and the thumpy bass really helped. Great job, Ostry! That was quite unexpected.

Still, there’s still a slightly flat… background in the vocals, and the choruses at some part (especially the “BiBi! BiBi! BiBi! etc.” part) were not as fleshed out as I hoped they would be. But still, for this price, and for THIS song, I really can’t complain!

 

Other Notes

The earphones are quite sensitive, with only 16 ohms of impedance and 102dB/mW sensitivity, so you won’t need an amp at all to get ample volume out of it.

 

Conclusion


Overall, the Ostry KC06A is a fairly well-built and well-decorated, in every sense of the word, pair of in-ears for its price, with a great overall sound quality. The sound was very detailed and natural with great soundstage, instrumental separation, speed and bass quality, if a bit high-mid  centric, leading to it being a bit sibilant and possibly flat at some songs. Dynamics were also not the greatest, but still enough to beat most other earphones in this price range.

However, some of the minor build aspects were not on par with other serious earpieces, and… that’s about it, really. This pair is pretty great.

Oh, and remember to use eartips your size!

 

Scoring


  • Build Quality (15% of Overall Score): 7.5/10
  • Fit, Comfort and Isolation (15% of Overall Score): 8/10
  • Sound Quality (70% of Overall Score): 8.05/10
    • Chị tôi (15% of Sound Quality Score): 8/10
    • Hotel California (20%): 8.5/10
    • Polyushko Polye (10%): 8.5/10
    • Animals (20%): 7.5/10
    • Firestone (15%): 8/10
    • Electioneering (10%): 7.5/10
    • PSYCHIC FIRE (10%): 8.5/10
  • Overall Score: 8.0/10 (Great buy!)

 

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