Today we’re checking out the Kinera Sif, the Yang to Kinera’s Yin (SEED).
Back in 2018 Kinera released the SEED (Yin), one of a two part iems series (Yin and Yang). It was a budget friendly hybrid earphone originally intended to be a replacement for the BD005, though they had completely different signatures and seemed to coexist for a while. I liked the SEED for it’s detailed, midrange heavy sound and comfortable, attractive shell. It was fairly priced too coming in at a hair under 50 USD. The Sif (Yang) finally came to fruition midway through 2019 as the second half of this earphone duo, and takes on a very different approach to sound reproduction when compared to the SEED. I’d say it’s probably the true spiritual successor to the BD005.
Is the Sif a quality addition to Kinera’s modern lineup? Let’s find out.
What I Hear Lower treble on the Sif seems to take on most of the focus giving it good detail and overall clarity, but also a somewhat dry tonality. Upper treble isn’t particularly linear either. It feels like there is a small spike then rapid roll off. As a result, the presentation can be inconsistent. It’s not always sparkly, and can sometimes be too sharp. Notes can also be somewhat loose and downright splashy on poor quality files. Decay and attack sound nice though, with instruments being fairly accurately represented. There is also a decent amount of air between notes giving the Sif a spacey feel. While I don’t think the treble presentation is terrible, improvements could certainly be made. It gets the job done at least.
The midrange is notably more competent with vocals displaying a realistic amount of warmth and weight. Coherency is fantastic with details and words coming out clearly and with strong definition. The upper mid bump and warmth provided by the Sif’s elevated midbass make for a presentation that does an equally good job with both male and female vocals. Female vocals sound especially lush and sweet with just the right amount intimacy, at least based on my preferences. Timbre is occasionally thrown off by that upper treble spike, but for the most part I’m quite pleased with it’s accuracy.
I haven’t heard a Kinera that does bass quite like the Sif. It is well extended and heavily emphasized giving listeners plenty of feedback on the lowest of notes. It is a little on the slow side though, giving notes a very grumbly, lumpy feel. Kinda cool, but also not ideal for rapid notes which just barely avoid blending together. There is plenty of texture on tap keeping the Sif from sounding one-note. Midbass is the main focus though, and it does have a habit of softening the midrange on particularly bassy tracks. At times it can be a little overwhelming, but then I also prefer a more tame bass response, or sub-bass skew, so this presentation isn’t in my wheelhouse anyway. I’m sure most are going to love it.
Soundstage is another area in which the Sif excels. Default staging is just beside the head with effects easily breaking off into the distance. Imaging is nice and clean with smooth channel transitions, layering is fairly average, and instrument separation slightly above. It all comes together to provide a fairly dynamic and expressive soundscape that doesn’t smother the track.
Overall I’m quite pleased with the Sif. While treble control could be better, feeding it higher quality tracks goes a long way to cleaning things up. The midrange is fairly natural and coherent but the occasional bites of sibilance will bother some. The bass presentation is quite bold for a Kinera and I think will be the selling point for many. It’s not quite going to satisfy a diehard basshead, but everyone else that enjoys an elevated low end should find themselves readily bobbing along to their beats.
Compared to a Peer (volumes matched with Dayton Audio iMM-6)
VJJB N30 (29.59 USD): The N30’s dual dynamic setup provides a very different listening experience. Treble is exceptionally mellow with not a lot of sparkle to speak of. In terms of energy, the Sif is much more lively. Still, the N30 manages to retain a sound stage that rivals the Sif in width and depth. I’d give it an edge in layering, say it falls behind in imaging, and separates about the same, if not slightly less effectively than the Sif. The N30’s midrange is thicker and warmer with a more linear transition from lower to upper. It’s not as detailed nor as clear, but doesn’t stray into the Sif’s occasional sibilance. Bass on the Sif is much more impressive. It digs deeper, hit harder, has more texture, and provides a more clear, crisp image of each note
In terms of build, the N30 certainly looks awesome with it’s shiny blue, almost alien face plates. The ability to peer through the shell into the drivers and complicated looking crossover certainly adds to the appeal as well. The Sif is much nicer to actually wear though, with a more natural shape and ear guides that were formed correctly. While I like the N30’s cable, the use of uncommon DC connector plugs limit 3rd party cable options.
The N30 is a solid earphone for the price, but the extra 10 USD you’d put towards the Sif is well worth it.
CCA C10 (41.00 USD): Bass presentation between the two is similar with the five driver, hybrid C10 showing slightly better extension, and the Sif being more linear. The Sif provides more texture while the C10 has a bit more kick behind notes. Due to the Sif’s upper mid emphasis, it’s presentation is perceived as slightly more forward with increased clarity and detail and a more natural, thicker tone. Timbre is a step behind on the C10 having a more metallic, raspy tinge to it. Treble on the C10 is better extended. Neither has a linear presentation with the C10 showing bias towards lower treble while the Sif’s upper treble spike takes precedence. The Sif’s upper range presentation is tighter, with notes sounding more controlled. The C10 sounds less wide and more in the head than the Sif with less space between notes. The C10’s staging has more depth though, giving it an edge in terms of layering and separation. Imaging is similarly good with notes transitioning between channels with decent accuracy.
In terms of build, the Sif is better looking to my eyes, while the C10 feels much more premium thanks to it’s use of dense acrylics and a heavy metal alloy face plate. Their cables are quite similar with the Sif’s being slightly thicker and less tangle prone. The C10 has much better strain relief, however, so I expect it would last longer.
While I enjoy both earphones, the C10 never really won me over. It quickly gets boring, an issue I don’t have with the Sif. Plus, the Sif’s smaller, lighter shells sit better in the ear during long listening sessions and when I’m out being active.
Kinera SEED (49.99 USD): The SEED gets a lot of hate, and I just don’t get it. It has the sort of neutral-bright signature that gets wide acclaim elsewhere. Detail is there, timbre is more accurate than a lot of other budget hybrids, and it looks great. Bass compared to the Sif lacks depth and sub-bass emphasis, but has more punch and a hint more texture. Mids on the Sif are similarly tuned with an upper mid bias. Perception is thicker and warmer due to the extra mid-bass on tap, but falls behind the SEED when it comes to clarity and detail. Treble on the SEED rolls of earlier and is notably less prominent in the brilliance region giving it a more relaxed sound. Lower treble is similarly presentation between the two. It’s give the SEED the edge in terms of detail and clarity, but it falls behind in terms of sound stage having a more confined, intimate presentation. Imaging is better on the SEED though with channel-to-channel transition being more crisp and accurate.
In terms of build the two are basically the same, though the Sif gets the edge. The Sif’s housings are slightly more refined with neater paint. The MMCX ports are better integrated into the design compared to the SEED’s 2-pin setup. The cable on the Sif is thinner and less luxurious (most notably the y-split and plug materials), but it wasn’t recalled due to a discolouring issue. I miss the SEED’s bead-like chin cinch though. That thing was useful.
While I really enjoy both earphones and will continue to think the SEED is underappreciated, I can’t help but surrender to the Sif’s superior tuning. It has vastly improved sub-bass performance combined with better upper treble and a thicker more natural, if less textured and detailed, sound.
In The Ear You cannot be blamed for thinking the Sif looks familiar. It’s the Yang to the Kinera Seed’s Yin after all. The plastic housings have seen some modifications from their time with the Seed, such as the move from piano black to a lovely gloss white. Since the Sif uses a single driver and there is no need for a dual output nozzle, it has been replaced with a more traditional silver nozzle with metal grill. The 2-pin system, for better or worse, has been replaced with MMCX. The plug snap in tightly and while they rotate, there is enough pressure to prevent that from happening freely. Build quality is similar to the Seed with small improvements in the overall finish. The silver paint coating the raised Kinera branding and L/R markings is notably neater on the Sif, a good thing because in white this housing looks even more classy.
The cable has been mostly improved too. It is lighter, more flexible, and has more compact metal hardware. It’s all unbranded though, and loses some of the premium air of the SEED’s cable. The aggressively shaped preformed ear guides are a little stiffer than I prefer, but they do the job just fine and do not cause any discomfort. The lack of a chin cinch is the only thing missing, and I suppose better strain relief couldn’t hurt.
When it comes to comfort the Sif is excellent. The traditional-at-this-point, bean-shaped, low profile design has been tested by time. It conforms wonderfully to the out ear, there are no sharp edges to cause discomfort, and it simply works. The light weight of the mostly plastic design certainly helps as well. Isolation is pretty average, or slightly below. Treating them as ear plugs with the stock tips in place, sound bleeds through pretty easily. There is a small vent on the outside by the Kinera logo, so it makes sense. Compensation for the noise with extra volume when using the Sif in noisy places is something most people will have to do. That or find some third party foam tips which also helps.
In The Box Kinera is no stranger to style. In the past, their products have almost always featured amazing physical designs or unique, eye-catching packaging. The Sif is no exception. Straight up, the hexagonal shape of the box it arrives in is unlike anything I have seen from another brand. Neither is the intriguing smeary wood-grain, oil paint-like texturing that adorns it. Flip the package over and you find a more standard black panel marked with specifications, an image of the earpieces, a content list, and some social media links.
Lifting off the lid reveals a social media card inviting you to join the Kinera community, a user manual about the size and shape of a standard business card, and under those a Sif branded clam shell carrying case inside which you find the Sif and accessories. In all you get:
- Kinera Sif earphones
- MMCX silver-plated cable
- Single flange silicone tips (s/m/l)
- Velcro cable tie
Cool unboxing. Fairly standard but good quality accessories. I’m satisfied.
Final Thoughts Kinera has been playing catch up ever since the H3 was ripped apart by a few key reviewers, at least in the communities I frequent, though it certainly has it’s fans (myself included). Despite my positive feelings about the SEED, others didn’t quite feel the same way and it too added to the darkness hovering over the brand. While the IDUN started pushing feelings back in the right direction, more was needed.
Kinera’s newest budget models like the Sif we reviewed today should go a long way towards quelling naysayers. Like the Tyr, the Sif is a well-tuned earphone that goes punch for punch with other quality examples in the price range. Add to that a comfortable and attractive design, a simple but unique unboxing experience, and a solid accessory kit and the Sif is absolutely worth checking out.
I’m really look forward to seeing what Kinera has in store for us next. Thanks for reading!
Disclaimer Thanks to Nappoler with HiFiGo for arranging a sample of the Sif for the purposes of review. The thoughts within this review are my own subjective opinions based on time spent listening with the Sif. They do not represent Kinera, HiFiGo, or any other entity. At the time of writing the Sif retailed for 39.99 USD: https://hifigo.com/products/kinera-Sif-iem-dynamic-with-detachable-mmcx-in-ear-monitors-earphones
- Driver: 10mm SPM dynamic driver
- Impedance: 32ohm
- Sensitivity: 112dB +/- 1dB
- Frequency Response: 20Hz – 20kHz
Devices Used For Testing LG Q70, Asus FX53V, TEAC HA-501, Periodic Audio Nickle, ifi hip dac, Shanling M0
Some Test Tunes
Supertramp – Crime of the Century
Slipknot – Vol 3 (The Subliminal Verses)
Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid
King Crimson – Lark’s Tongues in Aspic
King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black
Infected Mushroom – Legend of the Black Shawarma
The Prodigy – The Day is My Enemy
Steely Dan – The Royal Scam
Porcupine Tree – Stupid Dreams