Whizzer A-HE03 Kylin: Minnow
Today we’re checking out a new Whizzer flagship, the A-HE03 Kylin.
Whizzer is still a fairly new brand with only a few earphones to their name. The A15, the A15 Pro Haydn, and now the A-HE03 Kylin. The Kylin is their first hybrid and at first glance it seems they’ve taken a positive path sourcing armatures form well-known manufacturer Knowles. If you’re going to dive into the congested world of hybrid earphones, you might as well get drivers with a recognizable and trusted name behind them. Still, parts are only one part of the equation and other brands have worked wonders with “no-name” drivers. It’s how they’re tuned and implemented that sets your product apart.
How did Whizzer do? Let’s find out.
Thank you to Lillian with Linsoul for arranging a sample of the Kylin for the purposes of review. There was no financial incentive provided to write about this earphone. The thoughts within this review are my own and do not represent Whizzer, Linsoul, or any other entity.
At the time of writing the Kylin retailed for 159.00 USD https://www.linsoul.com/product-page/Whizzer-A-HE03-IEM
The Kylin is pretty easy to drive and doesn’t seem to be overly affected by output impedance of the source device. As such, it spent most of it’s time being powered by a Shanling M0 or the Radsone EarStudio ES100 either plugged into my Asus FX53V laptop via USB, or over LDAC/Bluetooth, connected to my LG G6 ThinQ. I really don’t think amping is needed, or that it makes a huge difference with this earphone.
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 varied examples of signatures I enjoy. I generally listen at very low volumes, so keep this in mind when reading my thoughts on how an earphone sounds.
- Driver: 10mm PEK dynamic + Knowles 30017 000 dual mid/treble armatures
- Impedance: 28 ohms
- Frequency Range: 212Hz – 20kHz
- Sensitivity: 98 dB/mW
- Maximum SPL: 107dB/mW
- Cable: 1.3m, copper
Packaging, and Accessories:
Whizzer knocked it out the park with the packaging of their previous model, the A15 Pro, yet they stepped things up another notch here with the Kylin. I always appreciate quality packaging as it leaves a good impression. Whizzer is off to a strong start here.
Like many other products, the Kylin’s packaging sees an inner package surrounded by a cardboard sleeve. On the front of the sleeve is the expected branding and model designation along with a nicely modeled digital representation of the product. A notch in the sleeve down the right side shows Kylin printed in gold cursive on the matte black box beneath. Down the left side of the sleeve you find a list of contents/accessories, while on the back you find another digital image, a breakdown of the construction and materials used, as well as the specification list. It all looks and feels very premium, even more so once you remove the sleeve.
The matte black box within is wonderfully textured. Almost like sandpaper, sans the pain. It feels wonderfully tactile. Outside of the gold Kylin lettering mentioned above, there is some additional text on the lid and magnetically sealed flap printed in a contrasting glossy black. Lifting the flap and diving inside, the Kylin’s earpieces are set snugly within a large foam platter. Just below them is an ovular silver plaque on which is written “Kylin A-HE03” and a serial number. It all feels quite similar to what KZ did with the AS10 and BA10, but nicer. Beneath the foam tray which you remove via a plastic pull tab are two inserts, one holding the cable and the other a gorgeous leatherette carrying case. Inside the case are two sets of tips set within cardboard holders. A neat touch that many might overlook is that the bottom of the foam tray has a cutout holding a cardboard envelope in which lies some documentation, that being the manual and service card. In all you get:
- Kylin earphones
- 0.78mm 2-pin 5N OFC & SPC braided cable
- Clamshell carrying case
- Single flange silicone tips (s/m/l)
- Foam tips (s/m)
While you are not getting a ton of gear with the Kylin, the presentation is top notch with quality materials used. The carrying case is a standout item with it’s luxury looks and construction. The silicone tips are quite similar to those that came with the Simgot EN700 Pro and are made from a very durable, dense, yet flexible silicone that provides a reliable seal. I quite like them, just not on the Kylin but we’ll touch on that later.
Build, Comfort, and Isolation:
As with it’s packaging, the Kylin’s build impresses. The magnesium alloy shells are composed of three parts. The back shell is emblazoned with a raised, gold-colored Whizzer logo, a small forward facing vent, and a texture not unlike a finger print. The inner shell is smooth and composed with a pinhole vent to control driver flex and L/R printed for channel differentiation. The matte blue paint job on these parts is applied without fault. Lastly, you have a gold-colored nozzle with a prominent lip for holding tips on securely. It all fits together flawlessly with each part lining up as they should. Another aspect of the Kaylin seemingly inspired by Simgot’s EN700 Pro is the horizontal positioning of the circular ports for the 2-pin cable.
And speaking of the cable, it’s okay. Visually it is a nice piece of equipment with it’s two-tone copper/silver braid. Oddly, the purity rating is a step down from the cheaper A15 Pro’s cable which was 6N vs. the Kaylin’s 5N. Like the Simgot EN700 Pro’s plugs, they are rounded with a silver ring at the end where it sits flush with the housing of the ear pieces. The preformed ear hooks are topped off with golden caps, unlike most earphones which end with the guide material and nothing else. A nice bit of attention to detail. The stubby y-split and chin cinch seem to be made from aluminum alloy or similar metal with the y-split featuring the Kylin name and some tasteful gold beveling. The 90 degree angled jack is amply relieved with a 3mm extension to account for phone cases. We again are seeing some gold accents here. The cable above the y-split thins out considerably. I found it very susceptible to tangling, and it seems to retain kinks and bends more readily than is preferred. While not overbearing, some cable noise is present and is retained even with the chin cinch snuggly in place. Cold weather performance is appreciably poor with the sheath getting extremely stiff and unmanageable. For a cable on an earphone in this price range, it is a little disappointing.
The shape of the housings of the Kylin are similar in effect to the EN700 Pro and Auglamour R8 in that they are designed to sit in a vertical orientation. With the exception of the Simgot due to it’s extra width and overall girth, designs like this do not sit in my ear with the same security as other over-ear earphones since there is little beyond the ear tips to support them and hold them in place. The Kylin finds a solid middle ground between the R8 and EN700 Pro. With the right tips, it inserts and sits comfortably without any sharp edges, but requires fairly consistent readjustment to maintain a good seal. Others certainly won’t experience this and I am sure will wear them just fine. For me, comfort is good but the overall fit and stability could be better.
The Kylin’s isolation is about average. With silicone tips in place, the two vents let in some outside noise but not a ton. Typing on a keyboard with no music playing you can clearly hear the keystrokes without them sounding muffled, they’re just quieter than they otherwise would be. Listening to the Kylin amidst the din of my local Tim Horton’s, a small raise in volume is needed to counter the noise around me. As is usually the case, foam tips help considerably with boosting isolation and are recommended if you need some quiet.
Tips:Small bore tips like the CP100 from Spinfit seem to be the best match to my ears. The stock wide bore tips made the bass extra bloated and texture-less. Manufacturers have been doing a much better job of pairing tips to the product lately, but my experiences with the Kylin shows Whizzer dropped the ball here. On the plus side, you’ll have a quality pair of wide bore tips to use somewhere else if you so choose.
The Whizzer utilizes a triple driver setup with Knowles armatures handling the mids and treble. It is evident too as those are the best parts of the presentation. With a warm, heavily v-shaped signature, the Kylin has an unapologetically consumer friendly sound that should please most listeners.
Treble is light and airy with nice extension and excellent space between notes. Not much emphasis is placed on this region though, so cymbals and some other effects are downplayed more than they should be at times. It is well controlled and clear, free of sibilance and easy to listen to for long periods, even on raunchy tracks like The Crystal Method’s “Grace feat. LeAnn Rimes”. Details are crisp and well defined yet rarely ever harsh, making aggressive metal tracks from bands like Havok and Sepultura plenty listenable, even at higher volumes than I generally listen at.
The midrange sees a scoop in emphasis mostly effecting male vocals making this one of the more noticeably v-shaped earphones I’ve come across in recent memory. Listening to The Door’s “The End” sees Jim Morrison’s vocals set much further back than I am used used to. This directs your attention everywhere else as a result. Nice for those preferring instrumentals over vocals. Female vocals are fine on Jessie J’s “Bang Bang” but on Lenzman’s “Open Page”, Riya’s vocals take the back seat and have a slight hollowness to them. At least the tonality is quite good the vast majority of the time and timbre distinct with everything sounding as it should, minus the whole balance and prominence thing.
Bass is where the Kylin starts to lose me. The bass driver presents itself with more warmth and a slightly deeper tonality than the armatures leading to a disjointed presentation that reminds me I’m listening to a hybrid. It also doesn’t help that the overall presentation down here is somewhat woolly and one note with an abundance of mid-bass that overshadows the nicely extended sub-bass region. Whereas the A15 Pro was gutless in the bass, Whizzer’s hybrid follow up tosses too much into the ring without the texture and dynamicism needed to back it up.
The Kylin’s sound stage isn’t something I would consider overly wide and deep, but not necessarily small or constrained either. Pretty average in the grand scheme of things. For example, using them while playing ‘Dirt Rally’ in the cockpit view makes the car feel smaller than it is. Rocks and stones ping off the undercarriage and around the wheel wells with less distance than I’ve experienced with other earphones. Imaging is quite good with with well-stepped and accurate channel-to-channel transitions. Tracks are well layered with strong separation keeping the Kylin from feeling congested. Overly mid-bassy tracks do tip toe over into the technicals, but it is pretty uncommon.
With all the hype that the Kylin was getting around the time of the 11.11 sales, I’ll admit that my expectations were to hear something special. In the end, it is like a pretty average earphone with a fairly generic, v-shaped tune. Too much bass for my preferences, namely mid-bass, with a lack of texture being the cherry on top. Male vocals lack emphasis and the treble is quite downplayed too. It’s great in that it is easy to listen to for long periods, but it doesn’t get my blood rushing at all. It doesn’t do anything better than the competition, while falling short in a couple key areas.
Whizzer A15 Pro Haydn: Both Kylin and Haydn are very well constructed with flawlessly crafted metal shells. Haydn has a cloth and rubber sheathed cable with a unique spring style memory wire that works well enough, though I prefer the Kylin’s preformed guides. I prefer the Haydn’s cable because it is more flexible and less tangly. A huge plus for the Kylin though is the move to a 2-pin system. The Haydn’s MMCX connectors were terrible, easily detached simply by wobbling the earphone. When it comes to fit, the Haydn’s broader earpieces better conform to the shape of my ear and feel more natural to wear.
Immediately noticeable is the Kylin’s low end and how much more prominent and visceral it is than the Haydn’s. It extends better and provides more physical feedback, though it’s not as well textured or quick. Haydn’s mid-range is slightly more forward, particularly with male vocals. Kaylin’s mids are slightly warmer and smoother with a similar level of texture. Treble is more prominent on the Haydn but lacks the refinement of the Kaylin sounding rougher and less detailed. Sound stage on the Haydn is larger and deeper. Imaging performance seems similar, though the Kylin does a better job of layering and separating sounds despite a more constricted stage.
BGVP DMG (balanced filters): The DMG and Kylin both feature all-metal shells with smooth matte paint jobs. Build quality is equally good between both with the Kylin getting some additional style points with the raised logo. The DMG is pretty bland in comparison. The DMG’s cable is significantly better. It is much more plush and flexible with no memory and very little cable noise. It’s pre-formed ear guides are also softer and more comfortable, though they lack the snazzy end caps Whizzer installed in the Kylin’s cable. DMG uses MMCX plugs which are nice for the plethora of 3rd party alternatives available, though I find 2-pin systems more reliable so Kylin gets the nod there.
These two have a similar tune with lots of bass, lush mids, and clear treble, but the DMG does it better. Bass is more textured and less mid-bass heavy, though the Kylin digs a little deeper. Neither is particularly punchy. The DMG’s mid-range is a touch colder and more articulate with additional detail with a more natural tonality. Treble is a little tighter and smoother on the Kylin, and less emphasized, but feels smoothed over and not quite as detailed. DMG has a larger and more dynamic sound stage with much greater depth. Imaging is slightly more precise on the Kylin but it can’t separate and layer quite like the DMG.
Kinera IDUN: Unlike others in this section, the IDUN forgoes metal shells for a custom style acrylic. As a result, it lacks the durable feel of the Kylin, though visual appeal is still strong. The pressed wood face plates on my version look stellar up close with a ton of texture. When you flip it over you can check out the drivers and inner workings, something you can’t do on the Kylin. As with the DMG, the IDUN’s cable is vastly superior. It shares a two tone look with the Kylin’s cable but is twice as thick yet still significantly more flexible. It also avoids kinks and bends and transmits next to zero cable noise. It comes across way more premium. Only fault with the Kinera is that the plugs for the 2-pin system look like they were made for another earphone entirely. Whizzer did a much better job matching theirs to the product.
The IDUN has less bass than the Kylin but rolls off earlier. It is more textured and impactful. IDUN’s mids are cooler and more forward though timbre is more accurate on the Kylin. Detail again goes to the Kinera. Kylin seems to smooth over micro-details that the IDUN highlights. Treble on the Kinera is much more emphasized and makes the Kylin sound quite rolled off, even though it isn’t. Cymbals are just so much more energetic through the IDUN. Sound stage is similarly done on both with neither really giving me a broad sense of space. IDUN feels a little more accurate when it comes to imaging and it layers and separates with a hint more competency.
Whizzer’s A-HE03 Kylin certainly makes a strong first impression. It’s packaging is beautifully designed with lots of useful information on the exterior, and a premium feel on the interior. While it doesn’t come with a ton of accessories, those that are provided are fantastic, from the quality ear tips to the gorgeous leatherette carrying case. The earphones themselves are wonderfully crafted with a nice design and should be quite comfortable for most. The cable is a bit of a miss due to a tangly sheath that performs especially poorly in cool weather. The sound signature is nothing particularly special and is competent enough, but the overabundant and untextured bass, recessed male vocals, and lack of upper end energy keeps me from really warming up to them. Despite it’s issues, the cheaper A15 Pro made for a more technical and entertaining listen to my ears and would be my recommendation in the Whizzer lineup.
After spending a couple weeks with the Kylin, it’s turned out to be more show than go. Not a bad earphone, but not one I’m fully on board with. There are better options out there at this price range when looking at earphones with this signature.
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)