Kennerton Rognir Closed Back Plannar Magnetic Headphones

John Massaria

Member of the Trade: JM Audio Editions/Headphone Modifications
SHORT AND SWEET - Kennerton Rognir Planar Magnetic Closed Back Over-Ear Headphones
Pros: heirloom quality, dreamy sounding - ez on the ears hours of listening to music melt by, one of the widest closed back sound stage reproduction of any closed back planar design, Drop dead gorgeous looks and construction, comfortable, head to head with 6K headphones easily, TOTL in many many ways, unique DuPont Carbon planar driver makes these sound awe inspiring and addictive
Cons: standard cord is a micro-phonic (make sure you request the twisted braided one to avoid this issue), will not play as loud as my GH50Mk2 which I still prefer for that reason, as with any planar headphone- they have a delicate planar membrane- so always handle them with care as you should anyway with any headphone, slightly heavy cup but balances nicely, Cups do not swivel
Kennerton Rognir Planar Magnetic Closed Back Over-Ear Headphones
(FULL BODY BASS EDITION)



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Head-fi member Martinrm's Rognir Above​


SIDE BAR:
If you are not familiar with Kennerton then you should be by now... they are based in Saint Petersburg Russia- a beautiful city with rich history with well educated people who enjoy the finest things in the world- be it food, construction or manufacturing- they know quality. The city is inspired by classic designs and the people have a very keen eye on the exquisite. As with most ironic companies in this world- it starts with a vision or an obsession. Kennerton's success comes from an owner with vision and obsession - bringing forth a product few have seen in our market even today - a living breathing epitome of what a hand made heirloom should be- a collectors dream- an honest to goodness treasure. Owner Valentin Kazanzhi set forth to create something not so readily available in the market place- a hand made non factory stamped out same old headphone. Kennerton brings all headphone lovers a treasure to own.

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-A SHORT AND SWEET REVIEW-

What is the goal of headphones? for me it's easy to explain. Isolation from the world and to loose myself in the music. And when I am done listening to the headphone- I love to put them back on their stand and admire the way they look. I love to show friends who never heard or seen a headphone like these before end possibly engage them in thought and conversation... I love sharing what I love with who I care about... watching their faces as I press play and watch their face light up!
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Just looking at Rognir begs me to bring them closer to me and finally for me to put them on once again and melt into the music.

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I can usually tell if I am going to like a headphone from the first few moments I put them on... with one exception, that being my Ribbon headphones from Gold Planar -GL1200 which honestly sounded dreadful before I broke them in for days on end. And as far as open backs - I seldom find myself gravitating to them first since they bleed sound from the outside in and vice versa. If I want to listen to headphones - they need to be intimate yet create an open wide expansive space and only for me to enjoy. That is the case with my IEMs and my closed backs - private sessions just for me to enjoy and not to disturb other people around me. That is not to say I will give up the open back feel in a closed back- I should not have to compromise. I need to feel transformed as if I am in a large open room as if listening to speakers... the closer I can get to my Magnepan speaker experience or my Vandersteen speakers but with a closed back the closer I know that is headphone I will love... and that's what I get with the Rognir Planar headphones... a private enthralling session with passion and love for music reproduction. Something that calls my name to slip them on and listen and get lost in the music... something that will scale up depending on the source, music and amp/dac. The Rognir Planar meets so many requirements for me as a headphone enthusiast that well its the reason I am obsessed with headphones in the first place - they check so many boxes for me.

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The Rognir comes with a beautiful braided mini XLR to XLR cable and a hard very microphonic cable I would not suggest and could suggest to Kennerton to eliminate for this cable for this caliber of high end headphone.
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Just a suggestion on that cable- the braided one is top of the line gorgeous and sounds amazing! The Rognir Planar comes with a practical carry case that most people would find useful to store them in.

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They come with two ear pads one angled and perforated (pictured) and one solid non-perforated soft lambs leather ear pad. The solid ear pad is my preference (not pictured) since it allows the most isolation and deepest bass. The angled is a bit more expansive with stage and lessens the bass- most people may prefer the angled perforated pad though... They can benefit and handle eq'ing well but don't need it to sound beautiful and alluring.



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If you think this review is going to compare a ton of headphones to this AND for me to ramble on sentence after sentence then you got the wrong review here- THIS REVIEW is the short and sweet - its a headphone that has redefined what a closed back planar design can do... music from the Rognir Planar is engaging and hypnotic and has the most satisfying allure of any similarly priced closed back and easily competes with 6K open backs in many ways... but this kind of sound in a closed back which says a lot! It's way more musical and soulful than the DC Stealth. The Rognir is a clear choice for me over the Focal Stelia as well- the Stelia for me sounds too harsh and not at all designed for long listening sessions at all- a headphone shouldn't give me a headache after 50mins pr fatigue me like the Stelia. Like I said it's a simple hard yes yes yes to the Rognir- if you love the looks - you will not be disappointed in their ability sound wise to make you smile from ear to ear each time you put them on. They satisfy without offending - they are smooth and enjoyable. The sound-stage is deep and wide and they captivate the essence of music and have soul. The bass is tight the mids are wonderfully buttery and the high end has just enough detail for you to get all the information you need to feel like you are listening to top of the line speakers privately in between your ears. WHAT THE HECK ELSE COULD YOU WANT FROM A HEADPHONE or a short and sweet review... I listened to hundreds and hundreds of hours with my Rognir - nearly everyday over the last 2 months- (my playlists are below) ... I also listen to a variety of CD, SACD and HighRes FLAC files, Amazon Muisc HD and Spotify. I used the Yulong DA1 with Separate Power supply, my beloved Ray Samules Apache Amp with upgrades and the $15K+ R2R Mojo Mystique EVO Pro and my trusty Topping D90 as well as several portable players such as the Cayin C9 (LOVE!) and Fiio Q5s. I tried the iphone but obviously that was my least favorite with the Rognir. They are a strong recommendation and can go head to head with headphones that cost 6K easily. My review doesn't need to be long now does it? That is my review- it's not longer and it doesn't need to be. The ROGNIR PLANAR are so good - if you have the money you should just buy them. You could thank me but it really isn't necessary. Just know you made a very wise investment and you will want for little else after you try them- they are love at first listen and will continue to excite you both in looks, construction and sound with soul. It offers everything a true headphone lover seeks.
- John Massaria

PORTABLE FRIENDLY: 5.5/10
SUB BASS: 8.6/10
BASS: 8.9/10
MIDS: 8.8/10
HIGH FREQ: 8.7/10
SOUND-STAGE: 9/10
BUILD: 9.8/10
SUPPLIED CORD: 6/10 and 10/10
ACCESSORIES: 9/10 (CASE AND EAR PADS ARE TOP NOTCH)
CLINICAL EVALUATION OF MUSIC: 9/10
PLEASURABLE SOUND OF MUSIC: 10/10
SCALABLE REWARDS WITH SOURCE/AMP/DAC: 10/10
COMFORT: 9/10



Tested with Ray Samuels Apache 2021 edition and my Fiio.q5s and Cayin c9, Topping D90 and Mojo Audio Mystique Evo R2R and the Yulong DA1+Power Supply Upgrade
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SIDE NOTE: So you know, I have 3 systems at my home- my speakers are Vandersteen 3a Signatures, Magnepan 3.6r and my desk top system which uses SEAS drivers in custom D'Appolito configuration. I edit videos and film on location for professionals- I mix sound for a living occasionally after I film them in person- sometimes I am handed tracks that are terrible masters but am asked to make videos from them without re-mastering the sound. My IMDB page is https://www.imdb.com/name/nm8127846/ I am not a flake or hard of hearing at all-I get sound tested by my doctor each year or two. I grew up with sound engineers in the studio who were mixing albums at The Mix Palace and Platinum Sound Recording and The Power Station, Electric Lady Studios Studios in NY to name a few. When I like something I will review it such as the Kennerton headphones I reviewed on head-fi before. If I take the time to review something it has to be meaningful- it must have moved me and compelled me to do so- I do not get paid for any reviews. I do this because I care to set the record straight on what I hear and how I felt about a particular piece of equipment.

A Knock out performance that few headphones can do so well - a great recording with the best mics and mastering- AEA Mics and Pre-amps used here and no other mastering comes close to this perfection and the presentation but really accents and highlights the performance of the Rognir along with the GH50JM Edition which are both a perfect examples of what the track should sound like at it's best for me.




ROGNIR PLANAR MAGNETIC CLOSED BACK OVER-EAR HEADPHONES​

Driver​
Planar Magnetic​
Driver Unit​
80 mm​
Frequency Response​
10-55000 Hz​
Sensitivity​
100 dB​
Impedance​
42 Ohm​
Cord length​
High quality 2 meters detachable copper cable 2 x mini-xlr / 6.3 mm​
Custom cable​
Custom litz cable 2 x mini-xlr / 4-pin balanced xlr​
Adapter​
4 pin balanced xlr / 6,3 TRS adapter​
Weight​
436 g​

€ 3,250
https://kennerton.org
custom colors are available only by request

MY PLAYLISTS ON SPOTIFY:​













Z Reviews says it all right here too -




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Gevi
Gevi
Thank you very much John, short but highly enjoyable! Any chance you got your hands on the new Dynamic version?
John Massaria
Gevi
Gevi
Much appreciated John!

macdonjh

Headphoneus Supremus
Kennerton Rognir closed-back planar magnetic head phones
Pros: Over-all sound
Build quality
Aesthetics
Materials
Cons: Price
Disclaimer: I was able to enjoy these head phones as part of Kennerton's tour. I don’t work for Kennerton or sell Kennerton products.

Introduction: I was really excited when I received word from Kennerton I would be included in their tour of the Kennerton Rognir. I’ve been curious about Kennerton ever since I finally heard about them last year. And I’d get to hear their top closed-back planar, too! I admit, I have a preference for planar head phones, and a prejudice against closed-backs. I expected to hear a small, closed-in sound stage, sound more muffled than I would think the drivers would otherwise be capable of, full frequency response (including “that planar bass”) and dynamics quicker than a dynamic driver but slower than an electrostatic head phone. I wonder what I’ll actually hear?

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The "retail" outer box (I didn't take a photo of the shipping box, that's boring)

Packaging: The Rognir was protected during its journey by three shells: the leather soft case, which was inside the retail box which in turn was protected by the plain shipping box. What I didn’t expect was how small the boxes were. Haven’t any of the Kennerton folks seen how big the boxes for high-end IEMs are? I expected a box the size of a microwave for these head phones. I think Kennerton need to step up their packaging game, at the risk of losing the Box War.

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The "sleeve" packaged around the leather case

What’s in the box? The aforementioned leather soft case, the Rognir, two cables (4-pin XLR x mini-XLR and 4.4mm Pentaconn x mini-XLR), a 4-pin XLR x ¼” TRS adapter for single ended amps and finally some marketing materials. One card shows you what you bought, two others show you what you didn’t buy (Wodan and Thekk), a hand-signed warranty/ authenticity card, and the last card describes Kennerton’s production and craftsmanship (in Russian).

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The leather carry case

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The literature included with Kennerton's head phones

Physicals:
  • Head phones: The ear cups are smaller than I expected. The inner circumference of the pads rested against the outside of my ears. The pads a cushy and the leather is smooth and soft, so it’s not uncomfortable or distracting (on-ear ‘phones are for me). The head band is comfortable and the self-tensioning adjuster is slick-looking as it slides in and out. It had barely enough range to accommodate my head, though. But barely is plenty in this case, so off we go. The dyed-wood ear cups are strikingly handsome. Overall, the Rognir is noticeably lighter than my long-term reference HE-500, but heavier than my SR-Lambda. The quality of the parts used is something you can feel. The Rognir aren’t built like tanks (who wants a tank sitting on his head?), but they are solid, the fit of the parts is close rather than sloppy, and the finish of the wood cups, metal gimbals and leather are all finely done.
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A view of the vents and the cable
  • The small circular screen above the rear gimbal attachment for each cup interested me. A small Vent? I wondered if it was partially responsible for the sound I heard being more open than I expected. A quick test: covering the screens lightly with my fingers made the bass disappear.
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Another view of the vents (I wonder why this photo inserted upside-down? :))
  • Cable: The XLR cable is four-core, fabric covered and substantial. The connector at the amp end is substantial with gold-plated contacts. The cable itself if flexible, and at least when I was lounging around enjoying the Rognir wasn’t annoyingly heavy or microphonic. The 4.4mm Pentaconn cable is also four-core, but lighter weight. Sadly, I didn’t get to use the 4.4mm cable because I let my buddy take his 4.4x2.5 adapter back before I plugged the Rognir into my DAP.
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Kennerton's 4-pin XLR and mini-XLR connectors
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The supplied cable with the 4.4mm Pentaconn connector

  • Fit, Comfort, Isolation: The Rognir’s fit was close for me- the head band adjuster was very close to fully extended. Nonetheless, fit it did. Clamping force is minimal. Not zero, the pads do seal gently to the sides of your head, but they don’t press in. Rognir is light enough I hardly noticed it even though the width and amount of padding of the head band is average. These closed-back head phones isolated me from distracting outside sounds much better than my HE-500 or SR-Lambda as you’d expect. I also pushed the ear cups gently together as I held the head phones in my lap and the music was much muted. I never did try listening with my bedroom system while my wife tried sleeping, though. Nor did I try these for listening-on-the-go riding public transit.
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This poor adapter was lonely, I didn't try Rognir single-ended.

What I Listened to: I have two desk-top systems at home and I used both of them:
  • DAP digital out -> Schiit Bifrost I multi-bit -> Schiit Mjolnir I
  • Laptop USB out -> Schiit Gungnir multi-bit/Unison -> Schiit Sys -> Schiit Aegir
For reference head phones, I have:
  • HiFiMAN HE-500 open back planar
  • Stax SR-Lambda electrostatic
I also was granted an evening's access to my son's desktop system (only fair, I think, since I bought the gear for him):
  • Laptop USB out -> Schiit Modi multi-bit -> Schiit Magni (single ended).

Alas, as I mentioned, I forgot to kidnap my friend’s 4.4x2.5 adapter, so I didn’t get a chance to listen to Rognir using a DAP. For me, that's OK: when I'm mobile, I use IEMs with my DAPs, but I wish I'd been able to comment about how Rognir fared with mobile sources.

Sound: let's get to it, right? I conducted myself a bit differently for this review. I started out simply listening to Rognir with randomized playlists of music, both familiar and unfamiliar. I wanted to get a feel of Rognir's sound on it's own merits without subjecting it to comparisons and analysis immediately.

First impressions: I listened to Rognir for six to eight hours on their own before I did any comparisons with my other head phones. Carlos Santana’s “Aqua Marine” from Marathon was one of the first songs I listened to and it was striking. The tone of Santana’s guitar was wonderful. As I’ll mention several more times: transients were shockingly fast and sharp, bass extension was quite good, but power and impact weren’t at the level I’ve grown used to from my HiFiMAN HE-500. I wrote in my notes, “I wonder if the reduced back-pressure of an open back would increase Rognir’s bass slam, I wonder what the Thror sound like?”

Miles Davis, “It Ain’t Necessarily So” (Porgy and Bess): I really like Miles’ tone when unmuted, and this song is a great example- clean and clear with just a bit of accompaniment from the orchestra. The cymbals were wonderful. Surgically sharp leading transients with a mist of decay underpinning. When listening, I thought of the term “sustain”, but that’s more of an electric guitar term.

“Speak No Evil” from Wayne Shorter’s album of the same name is a favorite of mine. A very in-your-head experience: Wayne and Herbie Hancock right in the center, Freddie Hubbard just a touch to the left. Poor Ron Carter was almost MIA, I could hear him, but his stand-up bass was almost lost behind or under the other instruments.

“YYZ” from Rush’s live album Exit… Stage Left was a treat. Articulation was on display as I heard Geddy Lee playing almost co-lead. I’m not sure I’ve ever noticed how varied his playing is in this version of the song.

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Soundstage: First let me state I am not a sound stage afficionado when it comes to head phone systems. I have heard decent imaging from head phones, but honestly, if I want to hear an expansive soundstage, I’ll listen to my speaker system. That said, the Rognir provided an intimate soundstage with the sound contained between the ear cups. I didn’t get any sense of that “outside your head” presentation others have had with other head phones and IEMs. Left-to-right placement was good. The sound stage was generally two-dimensional, though, with front-to-back queues missing. Take all that with a grain of salt or three, though, as I said, sound stage isn't a high priority for me with head phones.

Highs: On to the more critical listening and the beginning of trying to pick the Rognir’s sound apart. My initial impression is, overall, Rognir’s treble is recessed, level-wise rather than soundstage-wise, compared to the midrange. However, I came by that opinion when listening in my living room, with my Aegir providing power. Late in my review period, I switched my system up and paired my Gungnir and Mjolnir together. The treble was better balanced with the mids then. Aegir, Mjolnir, what ever amp, treble is quite nice: extended and very fast. Flutes, triangles, cymbals, violins all played with sweetness and articulation. With my Aegir, Rognir emphasizes the attack or leading edge of notes and sometimes the decay is de-emphasized. It creates a super-fast some what dry sound. With Mjolnir attack and decay were more equal. The sound was less analytical but smoother and fuller. Sometimes that ultra fast sound bothered me, other times not. If I listened for it, the Rognir could be detail monsters. Details from listening to some of my audition songs appear below.

Mids: …take center stage with Rognir. The midrange is forward of both the bass and treble. With a lot of music I listened to this, led to an imbalance to the overall sound. If I listened to certain music I was not distracted by that, but if I listened to certain other music I found myself bothered. Vocals are always up-front and clearly presented. I listened to Margot Timmins’ airiness, Emmylou Harris’ well-worn tiredness, Robert Plant’s wailing, Jim Morrison’s richness, as well as others. Miles Davis’ unmuted trumpet is a treat. Stevie Ray Vaughn’s guitar is bell-like (but oddly dry, details in “comparisons” below).

Lows: Stevie Ray Vaughn recorded a couple of my favorite songs to use for auditioning gear. Both were enlightening with Rognir. “Riviera Paradise” from In Step and “Chitlins Con Carne” from The Sky Is Crying each have very distinct bass, mid and treble parts, so it’s easy to focus. In addition, the tone of each instrument is either right, or it isn’t. Both of these songs reinforced my thought Rognir’s bass is excellent for sustained notes. Tommy Shannon’s bass is deep, warm and full. Far from being one-note thrumming, there is texture to each note played as well, no simple time-keeping, this. My notes about “Chitlins Con Carne” are similar. Sometimes it sounds like he plays with a similar touch Stevie Ray used: that “whisper” sound where in sounds like he’s merely brushing the strings rather than plucking or strumming. Where I had trouble with Rognir’s bass was bass transients, like kick drums, even fast notes on upright and electric bass. They lacked punch.

Dynamics: I’ll place this comment here since it’s kind of a mongrel, not fitting in more appropriately anywhere: I didn’t find myself cranking the volume when listening to Rognir. I generally prefer to listen at rather tame levels both to protect my ears and to reduce fatigue. Sometimes the music or the sound gets the better of me and, like the Wolf in Red Riding Hood I invite the volume up, “the better to hear you with”. I didn’t have to do that much with Rognir, I could hear just fine at fairly low levels, which was refreshing.

Transients and Articulation: I was initially blown away by Rognir’s ability to start and stop notes, present leading edges sharply enough to almost generate discomfort. I write more about this below where I point to specific songs, but I continued to be amazed at Rognir’s leading edges throughout their stay. I will note that this transient response was most prominent when using Aegir for power, they were nearly electrostatic quick. It was eerie and fun. When paired with Mjolnir those leading edges were a bit, but noticeably, rounder which lent a euphonic, pleasingly mellow air to the sound.

A couple of words about my normal bed room system. Normally I keep a Schiit Bifrost I multi-bit and Mjolnir I there. During this review I also moved my Gungnir as well. I did listen to Rognir with Bifrost in the chain. Treble from my Bifrost is harsher than from my Gungnir, bass is strong but less detailed than Gungnir presents. When I moved Gungnir to the back room I found the sound was sweeter and perhaps even more detailed through Gungnir than Bifrost. Bass was an odd mix of great and still-not-enough. With electronic tracks, like “2049” and “Seawall” from the Blade Runner: 2049 soundtrack, the bass filled the ear cups, not quite shaking the inside of my skull. But with the Stevie Ray Vaughn tracks, the electric bass was quite subdued in level. But, back to the good, Emmylou Harris’ “Wrecking Ball” was present with a fair bit of menace. And then again, still the lack of impact with bass transients. My listening notes echoed some previous impressions: Rognir dynamics were more on display with Aegir than even with the quite capable Mjolnir. Dynamics, transients and articulation are still a step above my HE-500, but when I was listening through Aegir, those qualities of the sound were two or three steps above my reference. Addictively so. I have theories about all of this, but ugh, how frustrating.

Comarisons:
  • HiFiMAN HE-500: Because my HE-500 is an open back design, I expected greater slam, especially in the bass. Judging simply by how far I had to turn the volume, they are less efficient than Rognir. While they have better balance between low, mid, and high; they are less resolving. “Deeper Well” (Emmylou Harris, Wrecking Ball) was telling. Harris’ vocals were more integrated, and “within” the music’s soundstage compared to the Rognir. Also, there is more “menace” in the song, driven be the bass synthesizer. Back to “Chitlins Con Carne”: my HE-500 showcased the bloom of each guitar note while the Rognir mastered the dynamics of each note’s leading edge. This had the effect, to me, of making the Rognir sound drier than my HE-500, but livelier and more articulate. While the rumble of the electric bass was higher in level with my HE-500, extension and detail retrieval was superior with the Rognir. Detail wasn’t absent in the bass sounds from my HE-500, just not presented as obviously, “oh, there’s that overtone!”, as through the Rognir. I think treble was an overall win for my HE-500 here, if for no other reason than it is better balanced in level. The deep synthesizer effects in “2049” and “Seawall” from the Blade Runner: 2049 soundtrack were a clear win for my HE-500 because of the higher bass output. The bass sounds in these songs aren’t complex, so the higher level of articulation couldn’t help the Rognir keep up here. “Working on a Building” (Cowboy Junkies, Trinity Sessions) served to corroborate my impressions from listening to the other songs above. Margot Timmons’ voice was up-front-and-center and drier than I’m used to. The electric bass was lower in level, which interfered a bit with an effect I enjoy in this recording: the illusion the guitar notes are physically weaving in and around the bass notes, like they’re playing tag. Drums were deliciously sharp and the cymbals weren’t as muted as I was prepared for.
  • Stax SR-Lambda (yes, the antique Lambda from 198x): Here I expected faster transients and slightly more articulation, at the expense of bass power. They are significantly less efficient that either the Rognir or my HE-500: volume knob at 12:00 or a bit higher. Listening to “Deeper Well”, the electrostats did a better job of revealing the roughness in Emmylou’s voice, she sounded more tired, more road-weary. Surprisingly, though, also lighter, not as grounded. Of the three head phones in my listening room, my Lambdas came in third with this song as far as conveying “menace”; bass extension and detail is there, but weight is missing. “Chitlins Con Carne” gave Lambda their first win in the treble. The delicate cymbals were shimmery, sparkly, bright and brassy; and at a level in the mix equal to Stevie Ray’s guitar and Tommy’s bass so I didn’t have to dig to hear them. Stevie Ray’s guitar provided a surprise: I expected the leading edges to be even a bit sharper than with the Rognir, but that wasn’t the case. The Lambdas struck a pleasing balance between initial attack and bloom. Score another for the electrostats. With this song, as with “2049” and “Seawall”, the lightweight bass (extension is pretty good, but impact is small) keeps my HE-500 in the lead here. My head simply wasn’t filled with what we’d call “room shaking bass” if we were discussing speakers or a sub-woofer. I had a consistent experience listening to “Working on a Building” again. Margot Timmons’ voice was up-front-and-center, airy and light. She almost whispers to you. The electric bass was lower in level, and like with Rognir, I had a hard time maintaining the illusion the guitar notes were chasing the bass notes around Trinity Church. But the guitar sounded sweet and drums were sharp and cymbals muted and bright simultaneously.
  • Oh! and what about the sound with my son’s Modi/ Magni stack? Highlighting with the now familiar songs: “Deeper Well”, “Chitlins Con Carne”, and “2049”. Emmylou’s voice was too smooth, that life-worn texture was gone. Bass was much improved in level, and fat-sounding, but had lost its detail, it was now kind of one-notey rumbling. Treble was still recessed compared to the midrange and the newly bumped low end. “Chitlins Con Carne” was the opposite: the treble was now at an equal level to the midrange, while the bass was both muted and one-notey. The guitar, in the middle, had more pleasing balance between attack and decay: sharp enough to be dramatic, rich and full enough to not be over-blown. “2049” now fills my head with rumbling bass which might shake the walls if I had walls in my ears.

Looking for the fit: After I’d spent several hours listening to random music and then several of my audition songs to compare Rognir to my in-house references, I started looking for music I thought suited to Rognir’s strengths. Guillaume de Machaut, “Fine Amour” is early music (14th century) and the midrange forward presentation worked in Rognir’s favor with voices. I couldn’t resist trying Vivaldi, “Spring, 1st movement”. Bass was a little light even here, but that may be my recording. First violins were presented closer to center stage than I thought right, but sounded bright and sweet, whether playing solo or en masse. Bach’s Cello Suite 2 (sarabande) showcased Rognir’s detail retrieval (hall ambience, the bow’s rosin sound, the resonant body of the cello itself), and Schiff’s low notes are well within Rognir’s range. Moving deeper into the 18th Century: Mozart’s Piano Concerto 21, first movement. First violins were to the left where they should be, except when they climbed over the second violins to cozy-up to the flute at center stage. Strange. The piano was a huge and rich presence at center stage. Not much except hall reverberation happening stage-right. Since I’ve convinced myself of Rognir’s prowess with classical, I skipped to the first half of the 20th Century with “Weather Bird Rag” by Louis Armstrong from 1923. It sounded pretty bad as you’d expect. “Tin Roof Blues” fared better. Armstrong’s entire band was still in a small bubble right between my eyes, but brass was sufficiently blatty and the stand-up bass provided a decent foundation. “Fallout” from Henry Mancini’s soundtrack to the TV series Peter Gunn has been a favorite of mine for decades. The stand-up bass is well portrayed and provides a great groove for the rest of Mancini’s orchestra to ride on. Brass is dynamic and dramatic. Sure, the sound stage is early stereo: panned hard left and hard right… “Gunslinging Birds” from the Mingus Big Band brought a return of recessed treble and bass and mid-forward sound. But oh, that trombone sounded great. “Rock and Roll” from the mighty Led Zeppelin needed just a bit more bass output to help drive the song forward. Robert Plant’s vocals were just to the left of center, clear and bright. John Bonham’s kit was just right of center and well balanced with Robert and Jimmy (I am always disappointed in how splashy his cymbals sound on this recording). “Choctaw Bingo”, one of my favorites from James McMurtry, has much stronger electric bass presence right of center, with an electric piano in the right ear cup and guitar in the left ear cup. James’ voice is up front.

Gestalt, Zeitgeist, Fahrvergnugen (and other German words meaning “the whole enchilada”): HE-500 hit hard when provided enough power, have satisfying bass impact and good midrange and treble detail retrieval. Of the three, they provide the “heaviest” sound. Rognir have preternaturally fast initial transients, are midrange-forward, have soundstaging similar to what I experience with my open-back HE-500 (almost entirely within the ear cups) and provide a lighter, more nimble presentation than my HE-500 with details presented more clearly and articulately. My Lambdas presented the lightest tone and were more balanced than either of the other head phones when it comes to leading edge versus bloom/ decay. While my Lambdas can do a little bit of nasty sound (“Right Off”, Miles Davis A Tribute to Jack Johnson: listen to John McLaughlin’s guitar) it’s just more polite than either of the planars- to the credit of the planars.

Conclusion: I’ve had to admit this to myself, I’m a bass-head. I’m not a techno/ EDM/ rap bass-head, but I like my bass up in the mix with plenty of power. While the Rognir often failed to light my fire in this aspect, I enjoyed having them in my home and listened to them for two or three hours at a time several evenings during their stay. And every time I listened to them on their own, allowing myself to relax into their sound rather than comparing them to some other head phone, I found myself thoroughly enjoying their clarity, articulation, vocals, and detailed-yet-relaxed sound. Rognir is excellent when listening to small-scale classical, small- and medium-group acoustic jazz, and classic rock. I found them less satisfying with large-scale classical, electric jazz and fusion, jazz orchestras, and more modern rock with heavy bass and “loudness war compression”. There is a lot to like about Rognir. Dynamics, transient response and articulation are all highlights. Perhaps you noticed I used three different DACs, from the same house, and Rognir made the differences between them obvious. These are the first head phones I’ve had in my house I have considered replacing my HE-500 with.

Actually, let me say that again: Rognir are the first head phones I've had in my house I have considered replacing my HE-500 with.

They make me uber-curious to hear what Thror is capable of. I’d also love to hear how much of Rognir’s performance is available from Wodan. Maybe Rognir’s cousins will travel in the near future as well?

December 16, 2021
Follow up:

I got some extra time with Rognir and was able to get a 4.4mm x 2.5mm adapter so I could try them with my DAP. I connected them to my A&K AK70 Mk II. Overall, everything I like about Rognir I still like, and what I didn't like (or was frustrated) about the bass I still didn't like (or was still frustrated). Mids were still lush and forward compared to the bass and highs. Rumbling bass was still deep, but recessed compared to the rest of the music. Bass transients were still frustratingly subdued. Highs, like the bass, were somewhat recessed compared to the mids, but had good life, good "action".

I've found my AK70 II to be pretty laid back. It's sound is pleasant, smooth, musical. When paired with laid back head phones the combination gets boring, when paired with aggressive head phones, the combination becomes more than the sum of its parts. Rognir's resolution made it a simple matter to hear this characteristic immediately. It was first noticeable in the treble. Still bell-like clear, but unlike with my Aegir, the spooky speed and transient attack were gone. My music didn't sound bad, it sounded polite and a little lifeless. I missed the electrostatic speed I heard with my Aegir (and to a slightly lesser extent Mjolnir).

While I was impressed how well Rognir were powered by my little DAP, I don't think they were at their best. I'll keep using my IEMs with my DAPs, and my over-ears with my desk top gear.
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John Massaria
John Massaria
Refreshing review love the comparisons too and entertaining write up while being constructive
macdonjh
macdonjh
Thanks for your kind words.

It was interesting reading the reviews by @ngoshawk and @Wiljen, too. I didn't read them until after I'd posted mine. I think we generally agree about the sound of Rognir. Any differences in our reactions to them can be attributed to our priorities.
Gevi
Gevi
Thank you so much for the review!
Kennerton just released a dynamic version of Rognir, I wonder how do they compare to each other

ngoshawk

Headphoneus Supremus
Kennerton Rognir: This one Octopus stole my very essence...
Pros: Looks
Sound
Build
Sound
Case
Sound is perfect for my tastes.
Is this really a closed back?
Cons: Not perfect build (so what...)
Cost
Not mine...
Kennerton Rögnir ($3367, current conversion): This one Octopus stole my very essence...

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Rögnir

Intro:
Andy Kong contacted me to see if I was interested in participating in a tour of the Kennerton Rögnir. Having a V2 version of the Magni made it a no-brainer to me. Upon purchasing the Magni, it quickly became my favorite headphone, regardless of price. It just fit my listening style of robust, but not overpowering bass, laidback signature, and a rich, warm detailed sound. The Magni is fantastic and from what I have read (yes, I did), the Rögnir is spectacular.

I will start by saying that upon first listen, I was taken in, held and not let go. The Rögnir is spectacular from the off. I had been warned by @Wiljen who gave the Kennerton his first ever 5-star rating on HeadFi. That says something if you know his very rigorous standards. Even though I am now thoroughly in love with the Rögnir, I will provide as honest a review of it as possible. It is not perfect overall, but to me those shortcomings can be overlooked once you listen. To qualify that, I had/have the same “concerns” with my Magni, and still love it. Kennerton has it going for them, and this one is one to be reckoned with.

I thank Andy for the inclusion, and at the conclusion of my time, the unit will be shipped to Las for the SoCal CanJam. I am very lucky, indeed.

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Specs:

Driver:Planar Magnetic
Driver Unit:80 mm
Frequency Response:10-55000 Hz
Sensitivity:100 dB
Impedance:42 Ohm
Cord length:High quality 2 meters detachable copper cable 2 x mini-xlr / 6.3 mm
Custom cable:Custom litz cable 2 x mini-xlr / 4-pin balanced xlr
Adapter:4-pin balanced xlr / 6,3 TRS adapter
Weight:414 g


In The Box:


Custom (wood) Rögnir
Custom Litz cable 2x mini-xlr connectors to XLR jack
4-pin balanced XLR to 6.35mm TRS adapter
Standard cable 2-xlr to 6.35 jack
Eco-leather zip case (like other Kennerton’s)



Gear Used/Compared:

Kennerton Magni V2 ($835)
Audeze LCD3 ($1995)
Focal Radiance ($1299)
Sendy Peacock ($1499)

Shanling M6 Pro
MBP/ifi Pro iDSD/iCAN
Cayin N6ii mk2



Songlist:

Alex Fox
Dave Matthews
Joey Alexander-Warna album and others
Mark Knopfler-Laughs And Jokes And Drinks And Smokes
Santana w/ Mana- Corazon Espinado
twenty one pilots
Tedeschi Trucks Band
Big Head Todd & The Monsters-Beautiful World
Mark Knopfler-Down The Road Wherever
Elton John-yep, still good, still cool



Unboxing:

My father-in-law was a Tool and Die maker for the AT&T plant in Lee’s Summit, MO from the very first day the plant opened to the very last. He worked the first shift and the last. The only one who did that. As such he was in charge of making, modifying and ensuring that the machinery worked, regardless of how it was done. Fashioning some one-of-a-kind fixes to problems that most of us could barely imagine, he was a true craftsman in every sense of the word. Some of his handmade tools are my most cherished tools, along with those from my father.

As a true craftsman, you are given certain leeway’s in order to accomplish the task. The fix may not be perfect looking, but functional for the task at hand, and there in lies the true appreciation for what he crafted. While the item may look unfinished or even a bit crude, we were talking about the inside of a major factory where functionality ruled over form every day. Period. To me therein lies the true beauty of a Kennerton. While it may not look or feel perfect in every aspect, such as perfectly matched halves or how they fit; but you simply cannot question the quality of what comes out. Especially when they go to task with close to 2000-year-old wood, which is the best form of recycling I know. Much like the hand-formed Ferrari’s of old where the builder apprenticed for years before being allowed a hammer to form that 365GTB fender, Kennerton speaks of old-world craftmanship where the end product is the goal. Yes, the Ferrari form is perfect as well, and the Kennerton’s are very, very close, and I liken their form to my father-in-law’s presence of function-first. The looks of the Rögnir are the icing on the cake. Or in this case the Karelian Birch.

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Coming in what could be described as an industrial box, the inner case of the Kennerton protects well the contents inside. You need not worry, for again the looks shy away those who might look for flash. Inside the box you have the Eco-leather case, much like other Kennerton’s, but this comes with a different patterned inside and a stitched on Kennerton logo. Opening the case, you get to the Rögnir and the included cables. Yes, plural for you get a “standard” mini-xlr to 6.35mm jack and the superb mini-xlr to XLR balanced cable. I will admit that I did not use the standard cable but once to ensure it worked. It did.

Also included is a 4-pin male XLR to 6.35mm jack adapter as well. I utilized the XLR cable as is for the majority of my listening through my iFi Pro duo. Taking the Rögnir out you get to the good stuff detailed below.

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Build/Fit/Finish:

One of the things I really appreciate about Kennerton is the use of not necessarily exotic wood (I am against that...), but the use of readily available wood, which may not be of the norm for wooden cupped headphones. The walnut version is simply gorgeous. It does help that much of my woodworking decades ago in high school was using walnut, cherry or white/red oak. But I have always had a soft spot for walnut. My father preferred Northern Michigan Cherry for much of his work, and that is gorgeous as well. But this particular Kennerton is of Karelian Birch (Betula pendula) with blue tints. Not perfect of cut nor finish, the handmade aspect comes through perfectly. In researching this wood you can find it among other things as Fabergé eggs from Peter The Great (Russian tie) and look at it genetically and epigenetically for the development of patterned wood (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21954616/). This makes sense as we move forward in headphone design, with the now de rigor of stabilized wood, which uses an epoxy of reclaimed/recycled wood. Kennerton’s approach is to not necessarily mimic or mirror that but give us the tie to old world wood. When you consider one of the most highly sought-after choices for the cups of Kennerton models is 2000-year-old Bog Oak, you understand and appreciate how they proceed with an earth-bound environmental aspect. Plus, that Bog Oak is gorgeous as well. So is this model with the Karelian Birch. The blue tints add the right amount of highlighting and the “flaws” are allowed to show, much like the Octopus on one side. This model does use Stabilized Karelian Birch, giving the blue dye a place to shine. To me though, this is not the typical “free flow” of most stabilized wood patterns such as on my UM 3DT (which is also gorgeous), but simply used to enhance the wood for longevity. Founder Valentin Kazanzhi knows what he is doing with engineering and the choice of woods, so I trust his judgement. Of late as well, the choice of wood enhances certain sounds from the signature as well. A harder cup and frame will give a tighter response, making for (to me) a more “analytical” or sharp tonality, but still very nice. Softer or more forgiving woods enhances the low end as per many manufacturers state. I do not doubt their word.

As mentioned in the unboxing, the Rögnir is handmade, and as such not of “perfect” form. This does not hinder the function in the least. I know many who would spend this amount want a perfect looking unit as well (and I have on hand three examples from a company, which are stellar in which to look and function as well...), but hearkening back to the old Ford GT, Ken did not give a darn how it looked other than the aerodynamics. How it functioned would win races. And they did. Here, that “less than perfect” look is no bother, for it gives that old-world craftsmanship look to it and I appreciate that more than a perfect look. At least for the Kennerton’s.

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You can see the polished swirl marks of the poly coating but know that is a result of the coating being worked into each part, ensuring that longevity again. Flaws in the wood, such as the namesake of this article the Octopus, are allowed to show for it does not hinder sound inside. Slight burling shows through on the top half of the outside cups, adding an ocean front (or Lake Superior for me) look to it, and you can imagine the clouds along Lake Baikal or Superior easily. As per usual of Kennerton, the fit of cups is very good, allowing for top/bottom swiveling for a very good fit on my head. Due to the new headband shape as well, there is a certain amount of fore/aft movement, which allows the unit to fit over your ears very well. Several types of earpads were included such as perforated leather and other fitting, but I stuck mostly to the original included pads, for they provided me the most bass and best fit.

The inside headband strap moves easily on metal bands, affording you a near-perfect fit with minimal movement. There is some, but we are taking about a unit, which weighs in at almost 1lb (414g). That strap is padded as well, giving excellent feel and the right amount of cushioning. Over Labor Day weekend, I wore the unit continuously for 6 hours one day and seven the next without issue. Slight adjustments were needed, but that was due to the heat. It was 97 degrees F, and we do not have AC. No bother, the music kept me engaged.

The interesting stitching/grommets on the top band keep the headband covered in case the inside band slides all the way up if your fit pushed that inside band all the way up. An interesting stretch fabric, but I like it anyway.

The included custom Litz cable is the one I would use permanently, changing only to another source with the included adapter. It is a balanced XLR, so an adapter from XLR to 4.4bal would take you a long way. Mind you the “normal” cable is very good as well. That fabric on the XLR cable though, gives you good feel without microphonics, and the length is just about perfect, if a bit too long. It lays well no matter even if it is a bit heavy.

While those cups are not perfect, they are gorgeous at which to look, and the blue tinted dye does not distract too much from the overall headphone. I prefer understated and would most likely go with the Bog Oak or one of the Walnut finishes, but the Karelian Birch is fabulous at which to look.

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Technicals:

Much of Kennerton’s expertise on previous models such as the Odin have carried on as upgrades in various headphones, and they are done well. While Kennerton has a very good appreciation in the audiophile market, I do still think it is undervalued when going against its competition. To me, they are right up there with the best, and their technical innovations may not be groundbreaking, but improve upon already worthy designs and implementations.

The Rögnir uses the following three design aspects/changes for its driver:

1. 80mm corrugated Polyimide membrane
2. Semicircular magnet array
3. Carbon fiber casing

Andy Kong, Ecoustics contribution: https://www.ecoustics.com/articles/kennerton-rognir-headphone-technology/

I will also link an excellent thesis on the technology behind the Rögnir, from Andy as well as post it on my blog for your perusal.

An 80mm membrane driver is on the larger size, but when you consider planar technology, that is a near normal size. I have another inhouse (compared below), which has an 88mm driver. With planar’s you can get away with that due to the membrane technology, which while taking up more space, is still smaller than other types of drivers, generally speaking.

With a design, which minimizes the internal structure, Kennerton found a way to reduce reflection and resonance; the killers of good sound signatures. A polyamide diaphragm, which is thinner than a human hair helps keep speed up in sound as well. While the Rögnir does need a good source of power to drive it (approximately 20-25% more volume input on my Shanling M6 Pro compared to the Cayin N6ii, E01), combine all of this wonderful technology and you get a closed back headphone, which could easily be mistaken as an open back. I can honestly state that this is the closest a headphone has come to sounding like an open back, that isn’t. In talking with a peer, we were both amazed at how this is achieved. Jesse Cook’s Toca Orilla sounds precise, accurate, vibrant, and spacious. Think of a concert at the Hollywood Bowl and you would get the idea. Open and airy but placed extremely accurately.

The included cables are numerous with the test kit. Standard is the XLR terminated to 6.35mm jack, which is a fine cable in its own right. Opt for the 4.4bal cable, and the sound rachets up a bit due to that balanced signature. Opt one rung higher (or more?) for the XLR to XLR and you get a cable, which can compete with many of the best cables around. I will admit that about 60% of my time was spent with the XLR-XLR, and the other 40% XLR-4.4bal. If I had to choose one, it would be the XLR-XLR. Construction is Litz construction with oxygen free copper (my favored sound). Woven with a soft fabric around it, the cables minimize microphonics. That said, the standard 6.35mm cable did have more than I like. And, to quibble a bit, the XLR-XLR is a heavy cable. Up there with the best heavy Focal cables. That said, it is long enough to lay well. In fact, it may be too long for some situations, so it is best to be careful where you let the cable lie. Never had an issue, but that could be I was holding and using someone else’s $3500 headphone and $500 cable...

The kit came with numerous pad options, but I admit I stuck with the stock for the whole test. I did try the others for fit and had no issues. But, after talking to @Wiljen about the pads, he suggested I would like the original ones the most. He was right, and we do share similar tastes in sound based upon pad choice. I will state that to me the stock pads have a bit of an odd shape and could use a bit more support (memory foam?) inside. To me the pads squished a bit too much. That said I never had an issue with the pads bottoming out on my head. The feel of the headphone on my cranial matter was superb. This is not a light headphone either, so to fit as well as it did was a nice surprise. I had no movement upon my head either with a hat (which I wear a lot) or bare.

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Sound:

Summary: As stated the Rögnir’s sound is as close as I have experienced to an open back headphone from a closed back. To get this level of openness and airiness between the notes and have a closed back design is incredible. A testament to the engineers in Russia who are behind this. Sometimes with an open back you get too much air and space between notes for my taste. Some Focal models while sounding quite good are too lilty or whispy as a result. Thankfully my LCD3 is not that manner and the Rögnir compares extremely well to the Audeze in terms of getting it right. Bass is taut and reaches deep when needed. Mind you this is not Cascade level of bass, but more akin to what we call the Audeze bass. Almost transparently appearing when needed. But the Rögnir has more bass presence across the sound signature. What I mean by that is the bass is always there, not hiding like that Audeze bass mentioned above. On bass heavy songs such as Alex Fox’s live To The Gypsies, the bass is spot on perfect. Mids and vocals come across with a cleanliness meant for God-level IEM’s. Many are on the same price line, and could compare evenly, such as the Fir Audio M5, which to me is amongst the best mid treatment around. Your opinion may differ of course, but to me both are world class, and I would be thoroughly satiated with both as my only units. Treble treatment is rounded off just a bit, but not to the detriment of the overall character. Vocals are sublime in their spectacular nature. Natalie Woods sounds sublime in my ears, and her sensuous sounding voice is a true treat in the Rögnir.

Moar:

To say that I like the Rögnir would be like saying that Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers are pretty decent quarterbacks. Or that Lionel Messi & Cristiano Ronaldo are decent Futbol players. They are and I do. I am seriously contemplating vacating pretty much all headphones I own to purchase a pair.

Bass is treated with aplomb. Not thunderous and deep reaching, but enough so to make you appreciate and respect how the Kennerton lays down that line. Even though the model sent (you have two choices for sound signature) was of the bass variety, the Rögnir falls a bit short for my tastes. That said, sub bass is quite good and reaches low enough to earn my respect. As stated, this is more about the whole of the signature, not one emphasis playing better than another. Texture of that bass makes up for the lack of deep reach. And as we move into the mid-bass territory, I find that the tonality is so sweet that the timbre is simply superb. It’s almost like having that deep lying #6 (defensive mid for those not attune to soccer positions) who goes about their business without fanfare. But when called upon, they boss the midfield like no other. Much respect across the league is garnered as a result of their play. The mid-bass speaks for itself, but without being overly emphasized.

The level of control across the spectrum holds into the wonderful mids and thankfully without bleed. The way the Kennerton controls the sound is all but beyond reproach. This is one fantastic unit. Much the way a Viola has a bit deeper sound and texture, the Rögnir takes control of the mids allowing those sounds including vocal treatment to come across as natural and full. Not thick mind you, but full and rich. To me it is here that the richness, which pervades the Rögnir’s character shines. Alex Fox’s Guitar On Fire comes across sweetly, but with a verve associated like my analogies above. Rich, warmer, textured to allow you to see right into the music without coloration. This is a mid-treatment as it should be. As the final point of emphasis, and a moment of “we told you so” without bragging, female vocals are slightly lifted to me, but done so in a manner that simply adds to the signature. An “ooooohhh, myyyyy” moment.

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At the top, the treble to me is ever so slightly rounded off, but there is an emphasis that makes you pay attention to it for the sound is good. At times, on brighter songs, it is a bit too much, but only ever so much. And if I can tolerate that you should be fine. Baila Bailaora signifies this of which I speak. Wonderful in note, but the staccato notes of vocal and percussive treatment can be a bit bitey. Mind you this is near-nitpickery to me. But true. Even with those “deficiencies,” the Kennerton is not strident or do I hear any sibilance, which can happen with tuning such as this. The coverage afforded allows for a true, natural tonality to pervade the senses, which to me counters any potential upper end problems. This is a very fine tuning, and even with the slightly pushed treble, still tracks and listens very well.

Soundstage belies the fact it is a closed back headphone. To get this kind of expansive sound emanating from a closed back is astounding. Were you to get a person, even a learned audio-type to listen without telling them; they would swear the headphone is an open back model. Or those who might posit a deceiving, would recognize the truly remarkable treatment in all three dimensions afforded by the tune. To me here, the depth is what makes for that expansive tone. Sometimes you get a headphone, which is wide and tall but forgotten is the depth. To me that is a shame and can promote a thin, less dense sound. Not here. That depth aides in promoting excellent width and height without being like an open stadium. No, it is presented as a whole of the parts, and separation, layering & instrumentation as a result are superb. Layers are clearly defined, and placement is as well. Call it the “just right” method of promoting a full, rich tone, that has superb timbre to boot. Sometimes with overly expansive stages, speed is sacrificed to allow that cavernous size. Again, not here. Speed of attack and decay are nearly perfect, almost giving the impression of being too quick, which could lead to a thin, analytical type of sound. Far from it, the Kennerton promotes a rich, vibrant tone, which comes across as speedy in the right direction, without those negatives mentioned.

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Source:

I write this part while listening to my Shanling M6 Pro through the 4.4bal cable. While not my favorite source of the test, it is extremely well behaved, nonetheless. Vibrancy tends to overcome the warmer, darker sound of the Shanling (which I do love). Paired here making almost a Ying/Yang relationship as even though the Rögnir is rich, vibrant and on the warm side, it pales to the house sound of the Shanling. So, the Kennerton brings the Shanling back towards a “more normal” sound, without giving up its soul of richness. Alex Fox’s Historia De Un Amor makes for an apt song. The bass line is sublime and deep, but alone the Shanling could sound almost muddy on lesser headphones and IEM’s. Not here, the Kennerton brings out that vibrant, richness of song exquisitely.

But by far my favorite offering was any DAP/MBP through the ifi Pro iCAN/iDSD duo. With the ability to add dBs at a click and add holography (not really needed) and the XBass feature allowed me to tune perfectly matching my preferred signature. This just goes to show that while the Kennerton does work and play well nicely; it works better the better the source. End game is not taken lightly here, in either source or headphone.


Comparisons:

Kennerton Rögnir ($3400) v Kennerton Magni V2 ($835):

Going from the Rögnir to the Magni might seem far-fetched, but it clearly shows the dedication of the Kennerton family. The Rognir point blank is one of the if not the best headphones I have had the honor of hearing. That said, it was the Magni, which stole me away to start. Upon purchase (V2) of the Magni, I listened for about three weeks straight. I loved the treatment of the bass, I loved the richness of character, and I loved the look. I was sold on Kennerton as a brand. Backed by many positive reviews, I really think it is but a matter of time before they are thought of in the same regard as Audeze, ZMF & the Focal Utopia. The Rögnir really must be listened to. But you will not sell yourself short with the “budget model” Magni.


Kennerton Rögnir ($3400) v Audeze LCD3 ($1995):

To me, this is the baseline for open-backed headphones. Yes, there are more expensive ones. Yes, there are probably “better” sounding open backs; but the LCD3 satiates my personal needs for an open-back, hence it is my standard. And as such, to be compared to a closed back might seem a bit off. That is until you hear how much the Rögnir sounds like an open-back. The LCD3 has that typifying Audeze richness of bass, reaching lower than it has a right to, and so does the Rögnir without sounding completely like a basshead headphone. The LCD3 sounds expansive in stage. So does the Rögnir. So on the surface, it seems ludicrous, but delving in with a hard listen and the comparison is completely valid to me.


Kennerton Rögnir ($3400) v Focal Radiance ($1299):

On the surface, this one may seem odd as well, but the Radiance was a very nice surprise to me. I really enjoyed its open sound as well, mimicking much more expensive open backs. Good depth of bass, very musical mids, and a hint of treble push, which allow that expansiveness to shine, the Radiance is a very nice surprise, and well worthy of its place in its price point. This addition was more for fun, but a pleasant surprise indeed.


Kennerton Rögnir ($3400) v Sendy Peacock ($1499):

The two here share a richness of signature, which I prefer as my favored choice. The Peacock is actually warmer of tonality and to me that is all right. Bass reaches well into the sub bass level, while mids come across as slightly lifted, but not intrusive to me. Both treble notes provided me with reduced stress levels of listening. By that I mean they were laid back, but without being flat or boring. Adding just enough to the top end to give a nice feeling of end to end performance, the treble treatment of the Peacock comes across as inviting, but neither intrusive nor that exciting. Which when taken as a whole, isn’t that bad to me. The Rögnir on the other hand is many steps up all around.

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Finale:

This could be the following and I’d be done with it: Buy one at your earliest convenience. Period.

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C
cmarsili
It is interesting to see it sounds this good given that the sound graph curve is so erratic. Something I saw on another site. Wonder if it was a defected one.
Gevi
Gevi
Fantastic review and I totally agree on your comments on wood selection/finish.
The caps' wood type can affect sound signature but selecting an exotic wood does not guarantee a premium offering.It's more likely that the premium reflects on the price than on the sound quality itself.
The meticulous treatment of a more common wood type to bring the highest aesthetic and sonic value, is where I am more interested.
This pair is a fine example and that's a reason why Kennerton is on the right path for me.
ngoshawk
ngoshawk
I agree that giving a good tuning to the wood “cavern” does as much to the tuning aspect as the density of the wood. Some would will react sonically “faster” due to the high density versus “slower” for those of low density. It makes sense to me like tuning your listening room would as well.

It is good to see many manufacturers take this process into consideration, even on the lower priced items. That said. I purchased a Bog Oak set of Rögnir and do not regret it in the least. My favorite pair of closed back by far.😎

Cheers and thank you!

Wiljen

Headphoneus Supremus
Kennerton Rognir, the Planar closed back that miraculously becomes a concert Hall
Pros: absolutely gorgeous, stage is fantastic, tuning is very engaging
Cons: somewhat source dependent, high cost.
disclaimer: I received the Kennerton Rognir as part of a review tour. I got to keep it for 14 days before sending it on to another reviewer. A big thanks to Andy and to Kennerton for entrusting me with their masterwork. It should be noted that the tour kit differs from the retail kit in that all pad and cable options available are being shipped with the tour kit to give reviewers a chance to try out all of the optional gear. When ordering your own Rognir, all of the options are customizable at time of purchase and additional pads cables etc can be purchased separately if needs change. I have no financial interest in Kennerton or any of its distributors. If you are interested in Kennerton products or the Rognir, visit their website.



Unboxing / Packaging:

The Rognir forgoes a lot of the fancy packaging of other high end models with a more utilitarian packaging but came well packed for travel and everything has its own space so no scratches, dings, marks, or other blemishes occur during the process. The Kit with the review unit includes the standard package which consists of the headphones, eco-leather case, the standard cable (6.3mm TRS) , the Premium 2m Litz caable (dual XLR mini to 4-pin XLR), a custom 4 pin XLR to 6.3mm adapter and the standard pads (ECL-R-01 lambskin). In addition to the standard kit, the tour package adds the 1.5m light weight custom Litz cable (4.4mm TRRS) and three additional styles of pads (R-02 Lambskin, ECL-02 Leather, and R-03 perforated Lambskin) all of which are angled memory foam style pads. Overall it is a very complete kit as shipped. The one item that is missing is a 3.5mm terminated cable which seems odd as it is now the most popular terminator in general circulation. Kennerton doesn’t currently have a 3.5mm terminated cable in stock with only a 6.3mm to 3.5mm adapter in the catalog. I did do some testing using a 3.5mm terminated Black Dragon (5ft) cable I had on hand from a previous audition of a ZMF headphone. The case is unique to Kennerton and offers a padded pocket of the headphones, a separate net pocket for the cable and an optional carry strap for shoulder carry if desired. The only trick they missed was putting a mesh pocket on the outside of the case for a DAP.

Kennerton-Rognir-kit2.JPG



Build/Fit:


Having seen pictures of the Rognir and knowing the particulars, I expected a certain heft when removing them from the packing material. Picking them up was the first hint that any preconceived notions I had were about to be wiped out. The Rognir does not feel heavy in the hand or on the head and was extremely comfortable when worn. I expected something more like the Ananda in both weight and comfort but was quite happily wrong on both counts. Knowing the weight is lighter than expected, one could reasonably think well maybe they are smaller than the pictures suggest. Not true either, cups are roughly the same size as the Fostex 610, Beyer T1, or Hifiman He6. Cups are available in a number of woods including bog oak, coffee beech, Purpleheart, Bubinga, walnut, and Teak. Special orders include the stabilized Karelian Birch wood used in the tour pair as well as several other stabilized woods all of which are gorgeous. As much as I like the Rognir’s color and figure, the Thekk in the Karilian Birch on the Kennerton website rings the bell for me and one of the best looking headphones made (imho). The other thing to know is that Kennerton sources raw wood and manages the curing process internally so each pair has been through rigorous testing at multiple stages along the drying, rough cutting, shaping, and finishing processes to ensure the quality and durability of each cup. What Kennerton sells as second quality would pass as 1st quality for a lot of makers, they are that meticulous. Shaping the cups is a multi-stage process in itself with the finished product having 3 graduations from pads to faceplates with a vent immediately above the rear gimbal attachment point on the side of the cup and the mini-XLR connector on the front lower side. the XLR connectors give the cable about a 15º forward tilt. Pads are attached with a flap in slot arrangement similar to Beyerdynamic models (more on those in a bit). Again, the Rognir are fantastic looking and its almost a shame that to really enjoy them you have to put them on where they cannot be enjoyed visually, but read on, they sound even better.

Kennerton-Rognir-band2.JPGKennerton-Rognir-cup.JPGKennerton-Rognir-cup1.JPGKennerton-Rognir-cup-no-pad.JPGKennerton-Rognir-feature.JPGKennerton-Rognir-front.JPGKennerton-Rognir-jack.JPGKennerton-Rognir-jacks1.JPGKennerton-Rognir-left2.JPGKennerton-Rognir-pads.JPGKennerton-Rognir-right3.JPG

Internals:


The heart of a lot of the Kennerton headphones is a planar magnetic driver designed by Kennerton and built in the same factory that produces parts for Russian military fighter aircraft. Kennerton started out with a typical planar driver and analyzed all the problems with that driver and set about fixing them. The result is a patented driver that minimized the internal structure to reduce reflection and remove unwanted resonances. Materials include a carbon fiber frame and support, 10 semi-circular neodymium bar magnets, and an extremely low mass 20µm polyimide diaphragm. By contrast, a fine human hair has an average thickness of 50µm. The driver in this 80mm planar is remarkably thin. Nominal impedance is listed as 42Ω with a sensitivity of 100 dB/mW at 1kHz (±3dB). The Rognir does need some power to drive well but had no trouble working from sources like the Cayin N3 pro and Kann Alpha using the 4.4mm balanced cable. The Burson Funk Had more than enough power to use with the Rognir with average listening volume only requiring between 25% and 30% on the volume control. I also found the RME ADI-2 had good synergy with the Rognir. Portable sources do get pushed fairly hard so battery life may be less with some other models but listening is still very possible with good headroom even when using mid-fi portable gear.

driver.jpg


Cables:

The standard retail package of the Rognir ships with an XLR terminated cable and a 6.3mm Terminated cable in the package. The XLR is a heavy woven cable using 1970s production litz cable with solid oxygen free copper cores and silk insulation. Each strand is coated with an enamel coating to prevent oxidation and insulate the strand and then an outer nylon sleeving is used to that serves as a secondary dielectric and enhances durability as well. It is an extremely well made cable and befitting of the Rognir. An adapter for XLR to 6.3 is also included for those wanting to use the Litz cable with a single ended device. It is a heavy cable and not very suitable for travel use especially when adding the weight of the adapter. The 6.3mm cable provided in the package is a single strand with a similar nylon outer coating and is fairly stiff as well but considerably lighter than the XLR. This comes closer to being portable, but a 3.5 or 4.4 terminated cable would likely be a better option. It does provide a middle ground between the XLR and 6.3 adapter and a 3rd party like the black dragon but is still both longer and heavier than I’d prefer for travel. In addition to the retail kit, the tour package shipped with a 4.4mm terminated litz cable of smaller diameter than the XLR that makes a nice travel option for those with balanced sources. All the cable options use locking mini-XLR connections at the headphone end and as such make a very solid connection. The 4.4mm cable option is not currently listed on Kennerton’s website so if interested you will likely need to contact Kennerton for availability and pricing. I also did some testing with a black dragon 3.5mm terminated cable I had from testing some ZMF headphones with the mini-XLR connectors and found it to be a good travel option for those using single ended gear as the 6.3mm cable with a 6.3 to 3.5 adapter proved both too heavy and too long for legitimate portable use. Most people aren’t going to go very far outside their listening room with a nearly $4000 headphone so this may all be moot anyway.
Kennerton-Rognir-cables2.JPG


Pads:

The pads on the Rognir deserve some discussion as those shipped with the retail kit are fairly shallow and those with larger ears may well get the sensation that the Rognir is as much an on-ear as an over-ear when using the stock pads. Kennerton shipped 4 sets of pads with the tour sample, stock – lambskin memory foam, Lambskin memory foam angled, Lambskin memory foam perforated angled, and leather memory foam angled pads. Some of these optional pads are slightly thicker and do remove the on-ear feel, but all also have an impact on the sound so one will likely want to audition pads before swapping. Luckily, pads designed for the Beyer T1/T5 and its siblings also fit as did some of the ZMF pads I had on hand so there are a lot of after-market options if the Kennerton branded ones are not a good match for the listener. I did my sound notes while using the stock pads just to keep the playing field level but found that when listening for pleasure a Dekoni made Choice Suede pad from my T1. The suede does reduce isolation some, but had less impact on the signature than some others and gave a great blend of comfort and sound for my tastes.

Kennerton-Rognir-pad-sizes.JPG



Sound:

First off, the Rognir is a closed back planar that does its level best to convince you it is an open back electrostat. Leave your preconceived notions here as what the Rognir delivers is unlike any closed back planar and maybe any other closed back you’ve heard.

Kennerton Rognir FR (raw).jpg





Bass:

Sub-bass is quite good with ample quantity and very good quality. The Rognir is not a basshead model as it doesn’t particularly emphasize the low end, but it does exercise very good control all the way into the sub-bass with the result being more texture and detail than expected all the way down into the 30Hz range before rolling off somewhere in the lower 20Hz range. Mid-bass has equally impressive control and what starts to become more evident is the tonality and timbre are amazingly good. Timpani sounds as realistic as I’ve heard on any headphone and toms and kick drums share in that as well. The combination of control and tone makes the Rognir a pleasure to listen too for bass strings and wind instruments as well as the textural elements that are so often lost or glossed over on other headphones are on full display here. These come as close to a perfect score for bass as I have ever awarded and set the bar for what bass can and should be in a monitoring headphone.



Mids:


The level of control exerted over the bass continues as you move into the lower mids meaning there is no bleed to be found an a very clean transition. The mids are arguably the strongest feature of the Rognir and while the FR chart doesn’t particularly show it, the mids stand out when listening. Male vocals have good tonality with enough weight to sound natural. Cello has great nuance and texture to the sound and guitars have a satisfying sharp edged growl when listening to rock. String tonality which is so hard to get spot on is also extremely good and while maybe a shade behind the LCD-4 in absolute detail is more natural and not quite as strained as the LCD. The Rognir has excellent transparency and seems to deliver all of the detail effortlessly. Female vocals are very mildly forward which helps them cut through the mix, but don’t seem disjointed from the lower voices and as such duets sound better than usual as the two vocals are close enough in space to sound similar to live performance. Again, mids here score near the top of my range and the Rognir does an admirable job.


Treble:


Moving up the frequency range we have bass that is near perfect, mids that are possibly better than the bass, and then we reach the treble with great expectations and for the most part the Rognir delivers. The lower treble is not elevated but maintains the superb detail and clarity found in the lower ranges. Most of the emphasis is in the 4k-7kHz range and it does make the Rognir sound a touch brighter than absolutely necessary at times. The nice thing about this tuning is it avoids sibilance and stridency that sometimes come with a lower treble push an still provides plenty of air and top end to keep things from feeling closed in. Snare rattle is nice and sharp and cymbals have good energy as well with an ocassional hint of metallic sound that may well be the fault of the recording rather than headphone. I want to believe that the Rognir is near perfect, but I did find long listening sessions somewhat fatiguing if using a source that was at all bright paired with it. For the Rognir to deliver its best, it needs a source with a little warmth and a treble that isn’t elevated as a cooler/brighter source can make the Rognir a little too bright for me.


Soundstage / Imaging:


I mentioned earlier that the Rognir was a closed back planar doing its best to make the listener believe it was an open back electrostat and the soundstage is the place that is most evident. The Rognir has amazingly good stage dimensions with good depth and nearly equal width and plenty of height thrown into the mix. It is about as holographic a stage as one could ask for and places the listener in a 3D space where they are the center of the musical world and sounds can seemingly come in from all angles and directions from various distances away. Seating the orchestra is very staright forward with no gaps or overlaps. Echoes are easily detected and one can pretty clearly define the direction and distance of the wall from the stage when listening to Cowboy Junkies Trinity Sessions.

Layering is extremely good and both instrument separation and stereo separation are what you’d expect from a top of the line headphone albeit you’d likely expect it from an open-backed one. Imaging is equally impressive with very tight definition and placement and easy tracking of motions around the stage.

Likewise, try as I might, I simply don’t own a track fast enough and complex enough to cause the Rognir to trip up. I could not induce and audible compression in the lows despite trying hard to do so.



Synergy:

I tried to mate the Rognir with a bit of everything just to see what it liked and what it didn’t. In the desktop arena, I used an Xduoo Ta-30 (Mullard pre-amp tubes) , a Topping D30 Pro / A30 Pro pair, a Burson Swing/Funk pair, an Auris Euterpe, and the RME ADI-2 Pro FS R BE. For portable testing, I used the AK Kann Alpha, Dethonray DTR1, Sony WM1A, Earmen TR-amp, and Cayin N3 Pro. While it is very hard to argue that the Rognir was poor with any of the sources it definitely has its preferences.

Top pairings in the desktop category go to the Auris Euterpe. With the right tubes, this is a phenomenal pairing. The Ta-30 was also quite good, but the brute power of the ta-30 is simply not needed. Middle of the pack was the Topping pairing, and the Burson Pairing (with the V6 Vivid Op-amps throughout) . These both had slightly less warmth than the tubes but still enough to really make the most of the Rognir. For detail retrieval, the Burson pairing was likely the best of the lot. The RME brought up the rear as while it provided detail not unlike the Burson, it was simply a bit too cool in its voicing and left the Rognir sounding a bit brighter and thinner especially at the top end. I love my ADI-2 but this is a case where not every great piece of gear is fantastic together.

Top pairings in the portable category went to the Earmen TR-amp with its magical ability to add a bit of warmth and thickness without losing detail, followed closely by the AK and the Dethonray. Any one of these 3 makes a wonderful travel companion for the Rognir. The N3 pro was also very good when in tube/triode mode but loses out to the others as its detail retrieval is not quite on par. When in solid state mode (the only option with balanced connections on the N3 Pro) it is not as good a pairing and falls only slightly better than the Sony WM1A that finished in last place. The WM1A has long been known for being a somewhat cool sounding analytical device and it came through in the Rognir as a bit of excess brightness. Adding an Oriolus Ba300 between the WM1A and Rognir makes for a fabulous pairing but brings more cost to an already expensive chain of gear.



Thoughts / Conclusion:

I expected good things when I was told I would get a chance to try the Rognir, but I didn’t expect what I got. I’ve had several big planars both open and closed back and thought I had a pretty good idea of what was possible. I expected great detail, a mildly elevated and somewhat thickened bass due to reflection, followed by solid mids (if maybe a touch thin) and a mildly assertive treble as this is the formulaic closed planar. I got the great detail, I got better than anticipated lows with fantastic control and texture, the mids were among the best I’ve heard regardless of type, and the treble well the treble can be mildly assertive but when paired with the right source is also extremely well detailed and transparent. In short, It is a closed back planar that one could honestly mistake for an open back electrostat in a blind test. In a lot of ways the Rognir sounds more like an open-back than a closed. Bass has none of the thickening we normally see and Stage is large, 3D, and well proportioned.
The level of control and detail is also among the best I have heard and I would go so far as to say the Stax 007 doesn’t offer any better detail retrieval than can be found in the Rognir. Sadly my time with the 009 has been limited enough that I don’t feel comfortable speaking to that comparison. I found the Rognir to be similar in some ways to the Empyrean as both share great musicality and an effortless delivery. The Empyrean might be a touch smoother delivery while I think the detail is slightly better on the Rognir. I keep coming back to an LCD-4 comparison as the two share a similar market and a lot of similar tech. In some ways, the LCD-4 can be considered the ultimate monitoring headphone but for me it simply isn’t a lot of fun to listen to. Technically it is about as good as they get, but it lacks the engagement that the Rognir delivers without giving up much in the process. The Rognir is a special headphone and likely to be polarizing. I came away feeling it was in the top 5 I have ever listened to for long enough to rate in about every possible category from kit, to bass, to stage, to OMG they are gorgeous. There is something refreshing about the tuning that I really like as well. Too many of the top models have gone for better and better technicalities but lose the engagement and musicality in the process. In that regard the Rognir offers something even the Empyrean didn’t, I can listen at full volume and thoroughly enjoy my music while my wife lays sleeping on the couch with me. Its only a closed back when you look at it, when you put it on it magically becomes a concert hall.

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GAJA71
GAJA71
I'm interested to know from Rognir owners, what they have them powered by? For the record, I settled on a Burson Soloist X3 which is sublime.
C
cmarsili
Wonder if I pair it with my audio valve luminare tube amp the treble sharpness would subsidize or be eliminated completely. Anyone tried this headphone on a tube amp?
Gevi
Gevi
Great review and I appreciate taking more time to compare them on various DAC/DAP
I have been mostly searching for a portable pairing and I agree that Earmen TR-amp may be the way to go
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