TLDR: If you want a closed-back that is a little bass light, with an intimate presentation and some nice air and midrange, and with a wood aesthetic; then look no further. Else, don’t even think about it.
This is an opinion piece on the Disco headphone by Kuba Audio, a closed-back over-ear headphone designed and assembled in Brazil. They retail for 750 BRL (roughly 140USD at the time of this writing) and can be bought directly from them. Full disclaimer: I’m not a reviewer nor a very experienced audiophile, but since I’m one of the few Brazilians on the Forum I decided to write a little about this headphone. I bought this out of my own money and have no affiliation to Kuba Audio in any way. If you are familiar with this product and want to give your opinion, please feel free to add or contrast anything written here.
A little about Kuba: it’s a start-up company that began around the end of 2014. One of the creators is a guy named Leonardo Drummond, creator of the audio forum / Youtube Channel called “Mind the Headphone”, an Audiophile passionate about headphones quite like us. The Disco was the first product of the company, which has also ventured into IEM in a partnership with Audio Dream, another Brazilian company of Custom IEMs. They are more targeted towards professional musicians and audio engineers. They have also recently launched the TWS “Mali” in their more “consumer-oriented” line.
Build: this is probably the most interesting part of this headphone, at least for me. The cups are matte plastic, with not the greatest fell but sturdy enough. From my understanding, the drivers are some OEM Chinese ones, as is the cable. The headband is made of wood, designed and made by a furniture manufacturer from my country. You can get in black or a “light oak”, which is what I had, and IMO is freaking gorgeous. The pleather pads, which are the third interaction, are also designed by them together with the Brazilian manufacturer. The top part of the headband has some cushioning, with foam and some more pleather. There is no indication of Left and Right, and this is because both drivers are identical and it’s how you plug that cable that determines the side. The cable is a dual 3.5mm, not that good indicated, but that’s a minor complaint. The headphone comes with a small sack, and you can get a small (and good-quality) travel bag for extra 70 BRL (~13 USD).
This design comes from what is exciting about this headphone: the whole product can be disassembled with one screwdriver, and everything was thought out for being replaceable and user-serviceable. Kuba Audio sells with open prices every component so you can service yourself, or will do it for you either as part of the 5 years warranty or for a small fee. Also, the idea is that any revision made to the headphone can be upgraded if you want. This alone made me buy this product, and it’s part of their design philosophy so I really try to support the company for this reason alone.
Comfort and Fit: this for me was a mixed bag. The cups are inside some “guide holes” on each side of the arch for height adjustment. The headband is on the clampy side, but I think you can survive this if you are ok with the Sennheiser clamp. The padding on top doesn’t do much for me, but that is not a problem as my head doesn’t touch the immediate top of the headband. YMMV, however, depending on your head shape. The pads are ok, for my ears they touch a little outside of the concha because of the round shape, but again YMMV. One nice thing is, in the current revision, the inside of it has the kind of “fold” that alleviates this “on-ear” feeling a lot. They use the “lip” system so I believe you could swap for a BW round or something similar, but I have not tried as I particularly don’t have any pads fitting it.
Sound: Now I don’t have measurement equipment, so I can only pick this by ear. They have a very “closed back” sound, with the characteristic “reverberation-like" sound that gives an echo effect in some closed-backs, and also the limited soundstage also expected from it. The tonal balance, however, is very different from a typical closed-back at this price point IMO, so this is the most interesting part.
But to explain this, I need to talk about another feature of this headphone: it has a “bass control” slider on the side of the cup. This controls some tiny holes in the chamber of the driver to regulate the bass of the driver. Believe it or not, it works, although maybe not as well as they intended. Most of what I will describe related to sound is in the “second bassier” position. In my listening, any other position completely kills the bass, and the “more bassier” position makes the thing muddy and bleeds into the mids.
With that consideration, this has a very tight and well-controlled bass, but without rumble or a nice dynamic. This headphone is somewhat bass light, even in the massier configuration, and if you’re a bass head simply look elsewhere. Sub-bass doesn’t exist for the most part, although I don’t see any distortion of things like that when trying to play lower notes. Mids are the star: male vocals lack a little in body but are clear and don’t feel lacking in any way. And female vocals are great, with a lot of presence and definition. Upper mids and treble seem just enough, maybe a touch bright for some but overall nice and with good definition. The upper treble is hard for me to comment on, but it sounds inoffensive and overall ok IMO.
The soundstage is the narrower I’ve ever heard, and that’s one of the things I quite didn’t like. The intimate presentation is nice in some cases, but as soon as you enter complex records everything sounds off for me. The imaging and separation are pretty ok, but the lack of soundstage means sometimes the instruments can superpose and this causes them to sound off and unnatural in these situations. Also, I sometimes feel kind of “oppressed” by the sound, like I am in a clamped room the sounds are more close than I wanted. It’s a very weird sensation that I never felt with another can. Dynamics and impact are between ok and meh, kind of depending on the bass configurations.
Amplification/source pairing: so, when I had these I had yet to receive the Element II and, when comparing between other sources I found them to be not much revealing. Going between the DAC X6 and BTR5 there was a difference in clarity and treble, but nothing incredible. But after around 2 with this new amp, I changed my mind. A good amp can open the soundstage significantly, add to dynamics and impact, and make spatial recreation much more realistic. Now I’m curious as to how much this headphone scale, but I guess the Element II is the maximum for now.
Ok, conclusion time. So, overall, did I like them? Well, I refer to these headphones in the past because no, I didn’t like them. I sold them to a friend who is beginning in the hobby. She, however, loves them and is very happy with it. So I would say it is more a preference thing than a performance thing, and this is more true yet when considering the location. Let me explain: I would say they do ok if compared to other options on the international market; since, however, most of these options aren’t available directly here in my country, things change. They compete here with Bluetooth headphones and other similar very entry-level stuff. Now consider that, because of taxes and market conditions, usually Brazilian pricing is 10:1 to the USD instead of the current market exchange of 5:1, and this headphone is in our market against less than $100 counterpart. And this trashes them completely, no competition except by maybe some of the koss stuff, which again isn’t available locally in my country.
If you’re a Brazilian, please try them. Even if it’s to after gift them for another audio enthusiast/potential enthusiast, as a form of getting them to know what difference good sound makes. As for my fellow from all the other countries: I don’t know many closed backs who are intimate and more mid/treble focused, so if that’s your thing I can recommend this. If not, then look elsewhere. If you’re interested, I don’t know if they ship worldwide, but I can definitely help you guys in contacting them or, in the last case, buying and forwarding them for anyone interested.
Edit: got contacted by Leonardo and he explained to me the pads are Actually designed by them with the manufacturer, which is also from Brazil. This means only the cable and the drivers are outside the country. Really impressed by that! Also, rewritten some stuff on the conclusion, as it wasn’t quite what I meant, but no change to the overall impressions.