MDK-ESS ASK

ø8mm Dynamic Driver + Balanced Armature

$25~$30
4.5/5.0

The mysterious ASK model. They are sold under a bunch of arbitrary brands and there is no information about their true origins whatsoever. They also have an overpriced rebrand called SKALD Z3. I picked them, of course, due to their truly unique design and the fact that they have a hybrid driver setup. Was I disappointed? Not at all! I can clearly hear the Bellsing-made balanced armature at work, because the treble gets so damn sharp that sometimes it is unbearable. However, I will give credit for the great clarity and the well-mannered bass response these earphones have to offer.

My most objective critique is about the chosen connectors: IM-style 2-pin. Not only it's harder to find good replacement cables for those connectors, but they also used what seems to be low-quality IM-style plugs on the cable, which resulted in losing sound while jerking the plugs accidentally. I partially solved the issue buy squeezing the IM-style plugs a bit with pliers, but come on - I shouldn't need to be doing that.

I ordered a different IM-style cable and can confirm that a different cable solved the issue completely.

Also known as: Yinyoo Bellsing L, QKZ KD9, Fokoos ASK, SKALD Z3

Buy on

Pros

  • Excellent sound quality, with an emphasis on clear mids and treble.
  • Very comfortable to use for prolonged listening sessions (at least if you have relatively large ears).
  • A uniquely designed hybrid setup.

Cons

  • The treble can get quite piercing sometimes as a result of a sharp peak at 10kHz.
  • The IM-style connectors aren't great. I had to tweak the male plugs with a plier to get a consistent contact.
  • The cable looks sturdy, but the strain reliefs are just too rigid to be useful.
  • The L-shaped plug sometimes got accidently unplugged while connected to my phone while it's in the pocket.

Package & Accessories

Package:

Hard paperboard

Ear Tips - Single-Flange:

S+M+L, black, ø4.5mm turquoise bores

Extra:

Hook and loop fastener, generic

Build & Materials

Housings:

Plastic (glossy), ø5mm nozzles (2×ø1.5mm openings), cable connectors

Connectors:

2-pin (IM-style)

Remote:

Plastic (matte), single-button

Y-Split:

TPE, rigid strain reliefs

Cable:

Silicone-coated (smooth), 128cm, semi-soft, straight

Plug:

TPE, 90° angled, short, rigid strain relief

Comfort & Fit

You might not share this opinion if you have extremely small ears, but I had absolutely no comfort issues with these earphones. The odd shape actually played well with my relatively large ears and I felt comfortably as they were inside my ears, even for prolonged listening sessions. I'd definitely say that this is a wise and unique design choice.

Lows / Bass

The bass is very controlled, sometimes even too cold compared to the sharp and piercing highs. There's mainly some mid-bass presence and no so much sub-bass to speak of. As a result, vocals tend to sound warm and fuzzy, but electronic dance music doesn't have enough impact.

Mids / Vocals

The mids are very clear and upfront, not too upfront though. They are lively and exciting, but unfortunately they are overwhelmed by the excessively sharp treble, which results in what is perceived to be sibilance. What's more noticeable is some muddiness leaking from the lows.

Highs / Treble

Very bright and clear highs, and quite detailed as well. My main issue was with the evident pierce at 10kHz which was especially noticeable in some Hip-Hop songs with louder-than-usual hi hat and cymbal samples. I wasn't as piercing with real high-pitched instruments, but still only marginally bearable. Listening fatigue is more than likely.

Frequency Response

ASE
ASK
ASY