Apple gained outstanding attention with their new fully wireless Airpods revealed in September last year. When the €129.99 PKparis K'asq earbuds popped into the studio we equated the design as being inspired by the former. Contrary to our first assumption, with a little research we came to understand that they were released long before Apple’s eerily similar creation; even featuring the famous multi-purpose storage and charging box companion. So is this French design a worthy competitor in the fast moving totally wireless music on-the-go market?
Design & Controls
Wireless Bluetooth earphone and earbud designs are challenging in detail and have often been interpreted with the ear pieces themselves being connected via a cable, as is the case with the excellent £180 RBH EP-SB earphones, or without a wired connection, using software to sync the pair. PKparis have cut the chord without utilising software - meaning not only do they need to communicate with the device but with each other instantly - so thus need turning on individually. This is done by holding down the play/pause button on the side of each earbud. Also present are volume up/down keys; and these can skip songs when held down. Furthermore the bundled black, white and orange interchangeable silicone wraps mark all the controls for easy usage when in the ears, via either hand, and portray an original refreshing appearance. The general styling of the shells is distinctive with their rectangular shaping and dazzling aluminium trim.
Comfort & Microphones
Deceivingly these do look like earphones, but actually they’re earbuds - the tip doesn’t sit within the canal but instead a rubber earpiece locks around the top of your ear and the tip sort of plugs what is basically an airlock around the remaining space over the canal. Finding the perfect fit took a while for each of us but we have realised that this is essential for ultimate sound. With three sets of S,M,L earpieces and tips, we discovered that an arrangement of sizing generally suited our ears and once we found the setup that works, ear fatigue was very low. Following 3-4 hours of constant use there can be mild irritation, but their lightness makes them harmless and there is no lasting irritation when popped out. The microphones are easy to use and immediately come into action when your device receives a phone call - the performance is crisp and clear.
Battery Life & Charging
PKparis claim the batteries last for 5 hours and we’ve found that statement to ring true; with generous volume at that. Tiny earphones that have no wires at all are incredibly easy to lose, so PKparis have created a place for them to live and wirelessly charge within a neat aluminium box; thus promoting a further 8 hour playtime. Whilst we’ve tried always to store our earphones away for safe keeping and the slide-out mechanism of the box makes this easy, it’s just not always possible in certain situations. So they’re occasionally thrown into a jeans pocket or worse - a bag! This is where such a design proves challenging, as they can get totally lost if dropped in the studio and we don't even want to imagine dropping them in a dense public area. We’ve also had to remove everything from a bag to recover one. Bear this in mind!
The PKparis K’asq earbuds establish an enjoyable wireless musical presence and capture stereo separation brilliantly! ‘Undone’ by Fatai has an intro of what sounds like simple knocking on a stage floor and the ambience of this rhythm from left to right preserves this liveness. Actually the PKparis K’asq earbuds lend themselves incredibly well to the live persuasion of music, because the high ranges are scaling and the mid range is quite plain. Ben Howard, Jack Johnson, Norah Jones and many other musicians' live performances sound really raw and powerful through the K’asq’s.
Now, when we steer in the direction of pre-recorded music, a striking early point is that a lack of bass emphasis is the most evident criticism of the overall audio output. ‘Firefly’ by Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga is a good demonstration of a disciplined, energised and sizeable crisp and clean output. However, whilst the audio never gets to the point where frequencies become a mash rather than a collaboration, it can be painful not to have just a few notches more bass response amongst what is well engineered and pleasing audio playback. ‘Shape of You’ by Ed Sheeran is another good example of this; with terrific vocal pronunciation, excellent definition from the instrumentals and great projection into the ears, but it lacks attributes from the darker details due to the restricted bass. Volume levels will satisfy most ears and doesn’t reverberate. The seamless built in noise cancellation, claimed to have an impact of up to 40%, does seem to work rather well to block out TVs and other speaker systems, and does a good job in urban environments to dilute hustle and bustle.
The K’asq earbuds lack of any wires and long 5 hour battery life make them ideal as pleasurable and quite essential pop-in and out fuss-free commuter companions. They generally allow full enjoyment of your music library, and with a little more fire from the bass these would be near perfect. Also well worth a mention is the handy stylish storage box that also wirelessly charges them on the move, making this product complete - just remember to keep them stored within it!