Today we’re checking out Kinera’s newest earphone, the H3.
The entry level earphone market has seen a massive influx of products that offer ridiculous bang for your buck. The 100 USD price point has gotten particularly competitive this year with products from Simgot, Magaosi, TFZ, Oriveti, and many more coming out to positive impressions and fanfare. Kinera’s decision to dive into this price point with a triple hybrid, of which there are already quite a few, means they’re going to have to bring something unique to the table to really stand out and make their name.
Does the H3 have what it takes? Let’s find out.
A huge thanks to Steve with Kinera for seeing if I would be interested in checking out their new earphone, and for setting me up with a complimentary review sample of the H3. The thoughts within this review are my own and do not represent Kinera or any other entity. There is no financial incentive for writing this review.
At the time of this review the Kinera H3 retailed for 99 USD and could be picked up via their store on AliExpress; https://kinera2017.aliexpress.com/store/3102002
If not keen on using AliExpress, Penon Audio carries them as well; https://penonaudio.com/KINERA-H3?search=kinera
Be sure to check them out on Facebook too: https://www.facebook.com/kinera2017/
My Gear and I:
I’m a 30 year old professional working for what is currently the largest luxury hotel chain on the planet. I have a background in Psychology which probably explains my somewhat dry writing style. My entry into the world of portable audio was due primarily to a lack of space for a full-sized stereo system during my university years, and truly began with the venerable JVC HA-FXT90. After reading pretty much the entirety of IjokerI’s multi-earphone review thread, reviews from other established writers, and thus being greatly inspired, I took a chance and started writing my own.
Fast forward a couple years and I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to write about products for wonderful companies like HiFiMan, RHA, Accutone, ADVANCED, NarMoo, Mixcder, Brainwavz, Meze, and many more. I don’t do it for money or free stuff, but because this is my hobby and I enjoy it. If my reviews can help guide someone to a product that makes them happy, I’ll consider that a job well done and payment enough.
Gear used for testing was a Shanling M1, HiFiMan MegaMini, and my TEAC HA-501 headphone amp. I listen primarily to various EDM sub-genres (liquid drum and bass, breakbeat, drumstep, etc.), hip hop, and classic rock. While I enjoy a variety of signatures I generally lean towards slightly warm with elevated treble and sub-bass, an even mid-range response, and reduced mid-bass. Lately I’ve been enjoying more mellow and relaxed products with a bass tilt. Two of my favorite in-ears, the Echobox Finder X1[i] with grey filters installed and the Fischer Audio Dubliz Enhanced are good examples of my preferred signatures.
Packaging and Accessories:
The H3’s textured, black cardboard box, adorned with gold letting looks quite classy and has a very involving, tactile feel in hand. The magnetically sealed flap opens and closes with a reassuring snap. Lifting it reveals a foam insert which houses cutouts containing a 1/4″ to 3.5mm adapter, an airline adapter, and a fairly large, rectangular clam shell carrying case. Underneath the case is a business card thanking you for choosing Kinera and a fairly basic manual covering the earphone specs, safety reminders, maintenance tips, the correct way to insert the cable into the earpieces, and warranty information. Within the case you find the H3 itself and spare eartips. The full accessory kit included with the H3 is;
– H3 ear pieces
– 1 cable
– Sony Hybrid clone silicone eartips (s/m/l)
– 1/4″ adapter
– airplane adapter
– clam shell carrying case
– Velcro cable tie
Overall it’s a fairly basic accessory kit. The included Sony clone tips are of good quality, and without the real thing on hand to compare with I would never have been able to tell the difference. The case is spacious and plenty large enough to hold everything that’s included. The airplane and 1/4″ adapters are handy, pending you’re going to take the H3 with you on flights and hook it up to a desktop system via a 1/4″ output. If you’re not planning to use those they’re a somewhat wasted inclusion that would have been better left out in place of something more useful, such as a mobile cable or a more extensive tip selection.
Build, Comfort, and Isolation:
The H3 is a pretty sexy earphone, there’s no denying it. My particular example is sitting here looking stunning with it’s red/black color scheme, accented with Kinera in gold lettering. Damn, they look good. Adding to the visual appeal is the opaque inner body which allows you to catch a glimpse inside to view the inner workings and layout of the well-tuned single dynamic, twin balanced armature setup. I also appreciate that the fit and finish on my example is nearly flawless, with the only blemish I could locate being a small strip of uncolored acrylic where the black backing and red inner housing meet. It’s not something you would notice unless you’re deliberately hunting down flaws.
Another bit of visual flair in the H3’s favor is the braided 6N silver-plated copper cable terminated in 0.78mm, 2-pin connectors. The braid is tight and consistent below the y-split, but a little loose above, particularly on the right side. I love that Kinera went with preformed, flexible ear guides instead of memory wire. In my experience it’s just as effective in keeping the cable in place, but is much more comfortable and less fiddly. The straight jack also gets a big thumbs up as it can easily be disassembled should you damage the cable and need to make some repairs, or decide to re-terminate with a 90 degree angled jack.
The H3’s beautiful design, clearly inspired by custom in-ear monitors, also happens to be exceptionally comfortable. All the curves in the body are smooth and laid out in a way that ensures they perfectly conform to my outer ear. Just insert and give the H3 a slight twist which locks them in place. Their design also ensures they are very stable during heavy activity. Keeping in mind that they are not sweat resistant, I could easily see someone using the H3 for working out or some other strenuous activity, because they’re not going to be falling out.
Given how tightly they conform to my outer ear, the H3 is one of the most isolating earphones I’ve come across. Toss on some Sony Isolation Hybrids (foam/silicone combination) and these drown out external noise almost as well as a couple active noise canceling earphones I’ve got on hand, those being the Mixcer ANC-G5 and OVC H15.
To counter all this overwhelming positivity, I must point out a couple minor QC issues that cropped up. Note that I haven’t seen mention of these two items in any other comments or reviews. In the ear piece itself, when removing the cable the metal contact/sleeve pulls out slightly. The straight jack’s strain relief doesn’t fit as tightly as it should, and as a result can be pulled out of place and up the cable. Neither of these issues have stopped me from using the H3, nor have they gotten worse after weeks of heavy use.
Overall the H3 isolates well, is wonderfully built, and visually is an absolute stunner. Minus the aforementioned QC issues, my only concern about the H3 is the lack of a lip on the nozzle. When trying out alternate tips I found some had a tendency to slip off. Not an issue unique to the H3, but a mild annoyance nonetheless.
Frequency Response: 20-20000 Hz
Sensitivity: 101 dB
Cable: 6N silver-plated copper with 2-pin, 0.78mm connectors
Tips: Due to the nozzle design I didn’t really have any success tip-rolling with the H3 since none of my wide bore tips would stay on. Alternate tips that worked were Dunu’s Heir-style tips from the Titan 1, KZ’s “Starline” tips, and HiFiMan’s compact dual-flange tips. None of them affected the H3’s sound in any significant way. While all testing was done with the stock mediums, Dunu’s tips were the most comfortable for me.
Source: I didn’t find the H3 particularly hard to drive though it did seem to scale nicely when moving from something portable like a phone or Shanling M1, to my desktop amp the TEAC HA-501. Through the TEAC the H3 sounded quicker across the board and it’s treble presentation was tighter and cleaner.
The H3’s two balanced armature drivers and one dynamic driver deliver what I hear as a warm, slightly skewed v-shaped signature with the lower mid-range being the least prominent aspect of it’s sound. It makes for an exciting listen, and one of the better options in it’s price range.
Treble has shown itself to be well extended with an airy, detailed, presentation. Given the H3’s stock sound runs a little bright, treble heavy tracks can be quite fatiguing, especially as the volume increases. One quality I appreciate is that while the H3 is very detailed in the treble regions, its not unforgiving. This could be seen as both a positive and a negative, but to me it’s a plus. I can use the H3 with poorly recorded or low quality files and I’m not overwhelmed and distracted by flaws in the track. They’re there, but not brought to the forefront.
Mids on the H3 are pulled back a bit, particularly the lower mids with some male vocals coming across quieter than they should. This is most notable with much of the hip hop I listen to where male vocals fail to stand out and instead occupy the same space as the background instrumentals. Female vocals fare better and display the prominence I would expect within the context of a track. Although the H3’s mids are slightly recessed, their weight and thickness somewhat makes up for the set back placement.
In the low end is where the H3 truly excels to my ears. From the perspective of quantity, the H3 carries with it a healthy, robust bassline. It’s got some serious mid-bass punch backed by an addictive sub-bass rumble that routinely had me seeking out tracks with a sub-bass focus. The balance between mid- and sub-bass is tuned so neither takes a more aggressive stance. The H3’s bass is also highly textured and fairly rapid, making it an awesome pairing with the liquid drum and bass mixes I listen to on a routine basis.
The H3’s sound stage displays more width than depth, with channel transitions being very clear and stepped accurately. While not massive, the excellent imaging and separation qualities make this a very engaging earphone. During my initial impressions I had a feeling these would be quite effective for accurate sound positioning in gaming, an impression which ended up being fairly accurate. They perform in line with two earphones I routinely use for gaming, the Fisher Audio Dubliz Enhanced and Brainwavz B100, and almost serve as a go-between for the two very different signatures of those earphones.
Overall the H3 is a very crisp and clean sounding earphone with a good amount of refinement to it’s signature. I prefer a more forward mid-range but the detail and clarity this hybrid set up brings to the table makes this tune more than adequate. It would also be nice if it’s treble was less prominent. It seems unnecessary and doesn’t really add anything, falling into that trap of advertising it’s a hybrid by emphasizing the detail and clarity a BA can bring to the table.
Audbos K3 (119 USD): The K3 is a solid all-round earphone with fantastic build quality, a great accessory kit, and a competent u-shaped tune. It’s a great sounding earphone, but the H3 is better. I find the K3 to have a warmer, darker presentation than the H3. This makes them less immediately engaging but better for longer listening sessions. While still quite detailed, the H3 shows off better retrieval and improved texturing. This statement is especially applicable to the low end where the K3’s lack of punch and texture is quite apparent. The K3 doesn’t have the end-to-end extension of the H3 either, resulting in a more mid-bassy presentation. The H3’s sound stage is also larger and more dynamic than the K3s.
Where the K3 makes up some ground is in it’s accessories. The included tips are some of my favorites due to the sticky compound and proven durability. It also comes with two cables terminated in MMCX which you can argue both for (widely supported) and against (durability). The primary cable is especially nice, and is one of my favorites due to the flexible yet dense sheath and well-shaped preformed ear guides. Audbos’s semi-hard carry case is a notable step up in quality over the H3’s, with it’s faux-leather exterior and soft, spacious interior adorned with two large pouches for holding everything securely in place. While I greatly prefer the K3’s accessory kit, the H3’s excellent sonic performance takes my preference.
Fischer Audio Dubliz Enhanced (109 USD): The Dubliz Enhanced has been one of my benchmark products in this price range since reviewing them back in April. They do everything well and nothing poorly, all wrapped within a warm, non-fatiguing yet very detailed signature.
As you would expect from the statement above, the Dubliz Enhanced and the H3 are very different beasts. The H3 is significantly brighter than the Dubliz. Comparing the two back-to-back the H3’s extra shimmer and sparkle up top makes for a much more exciting, but also fatiguing, and less natural listen. Without hesitation I can say the Dubliz Enhanced has a significant edge in the mid-range. It’s much more forward, authoritative and lush, giving up nothing in terms of detail and clarity to the H3. Bass is a much more even comparison with the two performing about on par. Quantity is quite similar with the Dubliz having a more prominent mid-bass hump. While the H3 has a more airy presentation, the Dubliz sounds larger and displays greater variance on the same tracks in how far it will distance sound.
Build is also quite different with the Dubliz having a solid aluminum shell in a more traditional and versatile barrel shape. Fit and finish is clearly in Fischer Audio’s camp. While I found the H3’s custom-like shape more comfortable and much more secure, it’s size and unique shape means it’s not going to work for everyone. The Dubliz should offer more universal appeal in terms of fit.
Given the great variation in signature and design, I find these two earphones complimentary. If I want an exciting listen I’ll listen to the H3. If I want something more mellow but no less detailed, I’ll choose the Dubiz Enhanced. Edge goes to the Dubliz for the more natural presentation and forward, lush mid-range.
TFZ Exclusive King (99 USD): The King is less bassy and has a much more prominent mid-range (especially lower mids) with a similarly enthusiastic treble presentation. I found the H3 to show off more sparkle in the upper ranges, giving cymbal hits a more engaging sound. Neither sounds quite right since the King is a bit dry in it’s presentation, but I prefer the H3’s presentation. The biggest knock against the H3 in this comparison is the recessed mid-range which really stands out when flipping between the two earphones. Detail is nearly on par but male vocals simply sound too far away and quiet. Guitars also have a rawness and texture to them that’s missing on the H3. The H3 is significantly bassier but retains the speed and punch of the King, while improving on raw extension. The King has the larger sound stage, without question, though imaging and layering qualities are quite similar. Neither sounds even remotely congested.
They are both beautiful looking products with great build quality. Since I haven’t run into any QC issues with my King (fixed cable version btw) I’ll have to give it the nod. Security in fit and comfort are clearly in the H3’s wheelhouse though, especially given the weight the King carries. Accessories are about even. I like the variety and quality of the King’s included tip set, but the H3’s carrying case offers much more protection than the King’s soft, faux-leather baggy.
It’s hard to say which one of the two I prefer. The H3 is better fitting and more comfortable and I appreciate it’s bass presence and smoother, more refined sound. The King’s mid-range really highlights the H3’s recession and shortcomings in that area, however. I suppose the King would be better for more serious listening, while the H3 would make for a more livable daily beater.
TFZ Exclusive 5 (92.90 USD): I find the 5 a more fitting comparison to the H3 given it maintains nearly all of the positive qualities of the King while adding in a more robust low end. This results in a signature that’s more in line with the H3’s.
Once again the 5 is less bassy than the H3, but not to the same extent as the King. It’s bass feels a touch less nimble than the H3’s and less balanced with it’s focus shifted more to sub-bass regions. The 5 has lots of heft and weight behind it’s bass though, a quality I find quite unique to that earphone. The H3’s treble presentation is brighter, thinner, and more sparkly than the 5. The 5 shares the King’s slightly dry sound and as a result the H3’s treble is more engaging for me, though I also find it more fatiguing. The mid-range is once again the area where the H3 doesn’t cut the mustard. While the 5’s mids are not quite as forward as the King’s, they’re still much more prominent than the H3’s. Maintain the lush texturing of the King and add in the unique weight and heft of the 5’s presentation and the H3 falls short of the mark. Sound stage is much closer with me giving a slight edge to the 5.
Despite being much smaller, the 5’s ear pieces are all metal and as a result significantly heavier than the H3 and it’s use of lightweight acrylic. The 5’s design to my ears is more ergonomic and more comfortable than the King but it still falls short of the H3, never feeling quite as secure and unobtrusive. As much as I like the look of the 5, it’s much more subtle than the H3, lacking it’s attention grabbing qualities. The 5’s accessories are pretty much the same as the Kings, so I’m split there.
When it comes down to it I prefer the competing 5’s sound but the H3’s design and comfort.
The H3 has proven itself an excellent entry into a very competitive segment. The custom-like design looks absolutely phenomenal to my eyes and it’s well-thought out ergonomics make the H3 one of the most comfortable earphones I’ve come across to date. This backed by a refined, v-shaped signature that compares well with other offerings in the segment makes them a pretty easy recommendation. I only wish the mid-range was pulled forward into the mix where it wouldn’t simply play a supporting role.
If this is an indication of the quality of products Kinera can bring to the market, I’m excited to see where they will go next. For now, if you’re considering a new earphone around 100 USD, Kinera’s H3 should be vying for your attention.
Thanks for reading!
***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Some Test Tunes:
Aesop Rock – Skelethon (Album)
Daft Punk – Random Access Memories (Album)
Elton John – Yellow Golden Brick Road (Album)
King Crimson – Lark’s Tongues in Aspic (Album)
King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black (Track)
Supertramp – Crime of the Century (Album)
Infected Mushroom – Converting Vegetarians (Album)
Infected Mushroom – Legend of the Black Shawarma (Album)
Gorillaz – Plastic Beach (Album)
Massive Attack – Mezzanine (Album)
Fleetwood Mac – Rumors (Album)
Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels (Album)
The Prodigy – The Day is My Enemy (Album)
Tobacco – F****d Up Friends
Felt – Felt 2 (A Tribute to Lisa Bone)