Kinera IDUN: Make mine a McIntosh
Today we’re taking a look at Kinera’s newest hybrid earphone, the IDUN Limited Edition (LE).
In Norse mythology, Idun was the goddess of rejuvenation, dispensing fruit that sustained immortality among the gods and goddesses of Asgard. While not clear on what kind of fruit it was, apples seem to be the popular consensus which makes “Idun’s Apple” a fitting subtitle for Kinera’s release of this limited edition model.
The IDUN uses the same general setup of the popular but divisive H3. It’s a triple driver unit with two balanced armatures and a single dynamic per side. The IDUN ditches the H3’s 2-in-1 armature for two individual armatures which cover the mids and highs. Like the SEED, their most recent release prior to the IDUN, the balanced armatures and dynamic drivers each have their own individual sound tubes which are clearly visible within the acrylic shells. The Limited Edition version of the IDUN being reviewed today will sound the same as the standard, mass produced model. What makes this version special is the use of stabilized wood for the faceplate. This gives each of the 40 or so examples released their own unique patterns. I happen to think the one I was sent looks quite fetching, though the standard pearlescent blue model has some serious appeal too.
None of this matters if the IDUN doesn’t deliver on the most important front, sound. You needn’t worry, because it does. The IDUN delivers an awesome auditory experience. Let’s take a closer look.
A massive thanks to Steve at Kinera for reaching out to see if I would be interested in reviewing the IDUN and for sending over a complimentary sample of the Limited Edition version for this purpose. This earphone is still considered the property of Kinera and will be returned immediately if requested. The thoughts within this review are my own. They do not represent Kinera or any other entity. No financial incentive was provided to write a positive response or otherwise.
At the time of this review the IDUN retailed for 139.00 USD / 185.46 CAD and could be ordered here through Kinera’s official store on AliExpress: https://www.aliexpress.com/store/product/Official-KINERA-BA-D-wired-eraphone-Idun-Standard-Version/3102002_32882550239.html?spm=2114.12010608.0.0.ff87485dNlQSvv
For at home use the IDUN was powered by a TEAC HA-501 desktop amp or straight out of my Asus FX53V laptop. For portable use it was paired with an LG G5, F.Audio S1, Shanling M1, or HiFi E.T. MA8 all of which brought it up to listening volume without any effort. The IDUN is easy to drive and does not need to be amped.
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 in my headphones I generally lean towards slightly warm with elevated treble and sub-bass, an even and natural mid-range response, with reduced mid-bass. The HiFiMan RE800, Brainwavz B400, and thinksound On2 offer examples of signatures I enjoy.
- Impedance: 32Ω
- Sensitivity: 110dB+/- 3dB
- Frequency Response: 10-20,000Hz
Packaging and Accessories:
Since this sample was a pre-release limited edition model, it did not come with any packaging. It did come with the full accessory kit though. In all I received;
- IDUN earphones
- Kinera-branded metal storage puck
- Silver-copper hybrid 8-core braided cable with 0.78mm 2-pin connectors
- Three pairs of Sony-hybrid style silicone eartips (s/m/l)
- Three pairs of medium bore single flange tips (s/m/l)
- Velcro cable tie
The storage puck is a nice edition being the same as that provided with much pricier earphones like the HiFiMan RE2000 and LZ A5. The Kinera branding and slogan (Make it Clear – Make it Real) are neatly lazer etched into the lid and look great. There is plenty of space inside for the earphones and accessories, maybe even a tiny DAP like the Shanling M0, though I don’t have one on hand to check. The Sony-hybrid style tips will be familiar to anyone that picked up Kinera’s H3 and are very soft and comfortable. The other set of tips will be familiar to SEED owners and use a stiffer, more textured material with a slightly wider bore.
Build, Comfort, and Isolation:
The IDUN LE features custom-style, transparent black acrylic ear pieces that are nearly identical in dimension to the H3. The stabilized wood face plates are flawlessly integrated, as are the slightly recessed 2-pin connectors. Within the ear pieces you can see the tidy wiring leading to each driver, as well as the individual sound tubes for the balanced armatures and dynamic driver. The nozzle has a well-defined lip that does a great job holding tips on, addressing one of the criticisms users levied at the H3.
The cable is absolutely gorgeous, just as all of Kinera’s cables seem to be, looking and feeling very similar to those used on the Astrotec Lyra Collection and Penon BS1 ear buds. The braid isn’t as tight as you’ll find some some competitors cables, falling somewhere between tight braid on the Simgot EN700 Pro’s cable and overly loose braid of the cable found on TFZ’s Series 2. Strain relief at the Kinera-branded, compact straight jack looks to be a simple piece of shrink wrap, but it works well. The y-split does not have any strain relief, though you do find a handy bead acting as a chin chin present. Leading up to the ear pieces you find some preformed ear guide that works well at keeping the cable securely held behind the ear. The plugs are the same as those used on the SEED and while they work well, I have some issues with them. Aesthetically they don’t match the rest of the design as they do not sit flush with the earpieces. There is about a 2 or 3mm gap that takes away from the sleek design Kinera applied everywhere else. The glossy black paint is also at odds with the matte black used on the y-split, chin cinch, and jack. The red and blue rings which indicate right and left channels are welcome though. I suppose it’s possible the full release will see these connectors replaced with something more fitting, but I doubt it given they’re already in use on the SEED.
When it comes to fit and comfort, the IDUN is phenomenal. The smooth, edge-free shells comform to your outer ear without causing hot spots. The extremely low weight helps too. As with the H3, I found getting the best fit was as a simple as inserting them, then giving a quick twist backwards to “lock” them in place. Once set, the IDUN never moved around or broke seal and I didn’t have to fiddle around to get them back into the perfect spot after a length of time.
As with the H3, the IDUN is one of the most well-isolating earphones I’ve come across. The pinhole vent in the back of the housing does let in some outside noise, but it is very minimal. Toss on some foam tips or Sony isolating hybrids with the foam inserts and you’ve got yourself a great way to block out the world around you. That said, both set of stock tips isolated more than well enough for use in noisy shops, transit, walking around the city, etc.
Overall the IDUN is beautiful to look at, to touch, and to wear. I also sounds pretty good too as we’ll see in a second.
Tips: While I like the Sony tips for comfort, the other included tips sounded better. The slightly wider bore seemed to balance out the mid-/sub-bass balance a bit which was skewed more towards mid-bass with the Sony tips. Tossing on something with a wide bore, like those from JVC, reduced treble and bass presence but made the mid-range shouty. Comply Comfort tips (rounded ones) were my favorite of the bunch. They seemed to reduce bass and treble presence without gaining the shouty mids of the JVC silicone tip.
The IDUN comes out swinging with a very well-tuned, u-shaped signature. Treble is emphasized most in the presence region just above 5k with emphasis dropping sharply from 8k on. This gives the IDUN a lot of clarity with just enough sparkle in cymbals, chimes, etc. to keep it interesting. It’s not a dry sound, or overly sharp. Some will surely find it bright, especially if sensitive to peaks where the IDUN’s are, but for me it’s done just right. Listening to Grand Funk Railroad’s “Inside Looking Out” the prominent cymbal work has just enough presence and is near perfectly balanced with Mark Farner’s distinctive vocal performance and Mel Schacher’s relentless bass.
The mid-range sees a slow rise from the lower to the upper mids. They come out sounding well balanced on tracks with varying vocal ranges, such as Jessie J’s “Bang Bang” and Big Gram’s “Run for Your Life” and “Fell in the Sun”. There is no lack of micro-detail either. The IDUN lets K.A.A.N’s impressive articulation and subtle intakes of breath hidden within his insanely complex and accelerated rapping come through clearly on “KAANCEPTS” and other tracks where other less accomplished earphones trip up. Timbre is also improved over the rest of Kinera’s recent lineup, especially the H3, with instruments sounding like they should. They’re not quite as accurate here as the JVC HA-FXT90, but they’re not far off.
Where measurements show the IDUN having a strong sub-bass presence, I hear a clear mid-bass focus with an even roll off as you head into the sub-bass regions. This is quite evident on Kavinski’s “Solli” where the opening bass line comes across shy and is missing presence and visceral feedback. For bass freaks the IDUN is not. The presentation is punchy and articulate though, with a realistic decay on drums. Deep cuts don’t linger too long, dropping off when they should. Texturing is also good, but I would like a little more. Grungy stuff like The Prodigy’s “Nasty” feels a little smoother than it should. Their tunes are low-fi and gritty, and I just don’t get that from the IDUN. It’s too polite.
Sound stage on the IDUN is spacious and open thanks to a slightly lean note presentation and the airy upper ranges. Imaging is excellent with the numerous drivers working well together to smoothly move sound from channel to channel with clear distinction. Layering and separation are also handled well, keeping the IDUN from sounding congested even on tracks like King Crimson’s “Starless and Bible Black” where the jazz session in the final few minutes tends to stress many earphones.
Select Comparisons: Volume matching completed with a Dayton Audio iMM-6
Kinera SEED: The SEED with it’s two driver hybrid setup has a less balanced sound with a focus on mids and treble. It has a colder presentation with less bass, particularly mid-bass emphasis. The IDUN has more upper treble emphasis giving it a more natural sparkle and air to it’s presentation. The SEED seems to toss sounds further away from the head in my experience. Sound is noticeably more layered and instruments better separated on the IDUN, though the SEED is no slouch. Even though the SEED was a noticeable improvement over the H3, timbre on the IDUN sounds more natural yet. Overall the IDUN simply sounds more refined and mature, effortless in places where the SEED sounds like it’s trying too hard.
In terms of build, the SEED is nicely constructed. The IDUN’s acrylic housings are significantly more upscale though. The SEED’s beefy braided cable is fantastic but again, the IDUN’s looks and feels more premium with it’s two tone color scheme, plushness, and flexibility. I also find the IDUN’s ear hugging shape more comfortable, though without a doubt there will be many out there that find the SEED’s more traditional shape more fitting for them.
Kinera H3: The IDUN fixes all the H3’s issues; no extreme lower mid recession, vastly improved tone and timbre, less sharp and overly emphasized treble. I love the H3 and find it’s unique and high energy sound extremely fun to listen to, but there is no doubt the IDUN is in another league. I personally prefer the H3’s low end though. It has a lot less mid-bass than the IDUN which lets the sub-bass shine. I also find it slightly more detailed in the lower mids and more textured in the bass. Sound stage is pretty similar, as are layering, separation and imaging qualities with the IDUN showing minor improvements.
Despite the similarities in build, the IDUN sclearly shows improvements. Coloring is uniform throughout the housing whereas there were some areas on the H3 where the red coloring was absent. The acrylic surrounding the 2-pin receptacle is neater and more tidy. The H3 gets points for the metal nozzles grill preventing dust, sweat, etc., from reaching the drivers, absent on the IDUN. The IDUN one ups the H3 with a proper nozzle lip.
TFZ King Pro: The IDUN and King Pro make for great competitors despite their differing driver configurations; 3-driver hybrid vs. single dynamic. When it comes to bass, the King Pro’s is better extended with greater sub-bass emphasis giving listeners a more visceral experience than what you’ll get from the IDUN. The IDUN’s mid-range is clearer and more even to my ears with better lower and upper mid-range balance. The King Pro’s mids are a little thicker and more weighty though, giving up little in terms of clarity. Mid-bass bleed is more of an issue though, lacking in the IDUN. The IDUN is slightly brighter with more shimmer and sparkle on cymbals. Sound stage on the King Pro is more expansive but is lacking the same imaging precision and depth. Overall I find the IDUN the more analytic of the two. The King Pro’s bass and fuller mids make for a more entertaining, though less technically impressive sound.
The King Pro is wonderfully built and while certainly more durable long term through the use of metal shells, it lacks the upscale look and feel of the IDUN’s acrylic shells. I appreciate TFZ’s smooth integration of their 2-pin connectors which are more cohesive and fitting to the overall aesthetic than Kinera’s. In terms of comfort, both are excellent though the IDUN’s light more form fitting shells take the cake. They also isolate much better.
Simgot EN700 Pro: The EN700 Pro is one of my favorite earphones under 200 USD and makes for a great competitor to the IDUN. The EN700 Pro’s low end is skewed towards sub-bass vs. the mid-bassy IDUN. As a result, I found that the EN700’s low end seemed less prominent on tracks where bass is supposed to be downplayed. Mids are slightly less forward on the Simgot, but have a thicker presence and carry more weight. Micro-detail isn’t quite as impressive as the IDUN. Treble on the Simgot is notable less emphasized and has a more mellow, drier presentation to it. Detail is similar. Sound stage goes to the Simgot with similar imaging quality as the IDUN. Layering and separation gets a slight edge on the IDUN. The EN700 Pro find a good middle ground between the warm, bassy King Pro and brighter, more analytic IDUN.
The EN700 Pro has a very cool and distinctive design reminiscent of planar magnetic headphones. Both are equally interesting to look at in my eyes. As with the King Pro, the Simgot’s metal shells have the long term durability down. Fit and finish goes to the IDUN due to a minor QC issue with the grills that I outlined in my review of the EN700 Pro. I adore Simgot’s integration of their cable and 2-pin connectors which is so well done, you can hardly tell they’re removable. Comfort is great for me on both with the Simgot taking a slight edge, though it isolates nowhere near as well as the IDUN.
Campfire Audio Comet: The Comet and it’s single balanced armature has a more linear tune than the IDUN. It’s more as bright but lacks the IDUN’s treble roll off and as such shows greater extension. Bass isn’t as prominent nor does it dig as deep, though mid-bass and sub-bass balance is more even. Mids are more consistent too. Sound stage on the IDUN is much better with improved layering and separation, though similar imaging accuracy. Another area where the IDUN is superior is in micro-detail where the Comet feels smoothed over and lacking.
As is the case with all Campfire’s products, the Comet oozes unique style and class, though it is definitely not for everyone. It’s stainless steel housings are flawlessly crafted with great fit and finish, though like with the IDUN the cable doesn’t integrate as well with the design as it otherwise could. As much as I like the Comet’s cable, the IDUN’s is much more premium looking and feeling, with a more plush and flexible sheath. Comfort goes to the IDUN without question. The Comet is fine, but utilizes a more traditional barrel shaped housing that sticks out a fair bit.
Kinera nailed aesthetics with the H3 and made great steps in the right direction with the tuning of the SEED. The IDUN is the cumulation of this experience, improving on the build and design of the H3 and the somewhat limited sonic focus of the SEED. It’s energetic yet smooth with engaging mids and punchy bass. Detail is impressive, as are it’s imaging qualities. Comfort and isolation are outstanding too. If I were to change anything, I would like to see the bass re-tuned slightly to show a more linear mid/sub-bass balance, and some additional texture couldn’t hurt. Connectors leading up to earpieces that better meshed with the IDUN’s slick looks would be nice too, but what they’re using here works fine.
Overall this is an excellent entry into the market, well worth consideration if you’re looking to secure something under 150 USD. IDUN has got the looks and sound to match and shouldn’t leave you wanting much more.
Thanks for reading!
***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Some Test Tunes:
Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid (Album)
Hail Mary Mallon – Are You Going to Eat That? (Album)
King Crimson – Lark’s Tongues in Aspic (Album)
King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black (Track)
Supertramp – Crime of the Century (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 (Album)
Felt – Felt 2 (A Tribute to Lisa Bonet) (Album)
Michael Jackson – Thriller (Album)
The Crystal Method – Grace (feat. LeAnn Rimes) (Track)
Jidenna – Long Live the Chief (Track)
Skrillex – Ragga Bomb (Track)
Big Grams – Run for Your Life (Track)
Funkadelic – Maggot Brain (Track)
Aesop Rock – Fishtales (Track)