Kennerton Wodan

John Massaria

1000+ Head-Fier
Kennerton Wodan Plannar Headphones Made In Russia
Pros: top tier dynamics, transient response is second to none, musical, organic, a rare blend of natural beauty & analytical sound rarely found if at all, comfortable, headband expands and sits perfectly, wood design is unlike any other on market, finish is nothing short of spectacular
Cons: I wish the performance for this tier of headphone were available for less money, but you get exactly what you pay for, head band is same as lower priced Magni and Ghorn and other Kennertons but again that's a proven comfortable design but some may expect an even better design at this price range, standard cable is a little stiff, ear cups should be customers choice between ECL-02 (more mid-bass and sub-bass and ECL-01 (standard) - I think you can request which one you want when you order but I need to check. Also the ear pads are not stitched as nicely as my Dakoni Elite Hybrid pads which are machine sewn (see pictures) but Kennerton addresses this at end of review (basically the Kennertons are all hand sewn- and Kennerton have superior sonics which is a direct relation to the better leather quality used which enhance sound performance- each ear pad is tested by Kennerton while on headphone for balance- so not a con but a real positive- just the sewing looks hand done vs machine- see bottom of review for more on pads from Kennerton Corporate Office in Russia.
NOTE: CLICK ON ANY PHOTO FOR FULL IMAGE
NOTE: I do not work for Kennerton. I buy gear with my own money and have zero to gain by wasting your time or mine by writing any favorable or non favorable review- I tell the truth... I would be doing my soul an eternal disservice if I were to lie on any review- and a disservice to you the reader. People usually either write about their immense pleasure for something or their complete disgust. (I am from The United States- New York and am just bored with the state of events like COVID-19 and feel like expressing my delight or disdain for things I buy or return which ever applies- with that let's get ready to rumble...)



(Yes I used my dog for the Kennerton Wodan photo... she just wants to play.
Sort of an lesson for all of us... stop with the gear and get on with the music already!)
Am I an obsessed Kennerton fan? Short answer yes! well... only because their headphones deserve my complete - (choose your word: craze, fixation, passion, fascination, fancy, mania, infatuation) of mine... they EARNED it and opened my world by way of my first purchase of the Magni a few months back. I then latter did the Gjallarhorn GH50- but I was let down in comparison to the Magni performance and HAD to modify my copy of the Gjallarhorn to make it the way I like- and now it is my favorite headphone bar none at any price...my GH50 Modded now offer me a customized bass port(s) and the instruments stop and start lightning fast with the circle dots of fabric mod I made. But that is a dynamic headphone (using a driver like a speaker)... anyone who knows me knows I love my Vandersteen speakers ( first-order type dynamic speakers) and consider their accuracy and pleasing sound the epitome of best for money in a world of speakers- why? I am very very time sensitive to drivers and crossovers since I got into this hobby back when I worked for Crazy Eddie in Syosset NY many many years ago at the age of 14. Latter- I would visit stores all around the Tri-State area - and when I heard the first order crossovers used by Vandersteen - I sold every speaker I owned and bought the Vandersteens when I could afford them. I could never like speakers like B&W since their crossovers were not timed properly mostly because they used 3rd order x-overs and their drivers hit my ear at different times-yes really. Time and phase, in combination with amplitude, determine what we hear. That's the case with most speakers back then and even today- time alignment problems.
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Sound is comprised of many different frequencies intermingled and combined to form complex waveforms. A speaker is time an phase correct when all the frequencies arrive at the listener's ears aligned in time and phase so that all the complex waveforms are intact.

The woofer, mid range, and tweeter will all reproduce their portions of the frequencies that make up this waveform. If the speaker is time and phase correct the outputs of the three drivers will add together at the listening position into a very close reproduction of the original waveform.

But if the drivers are not properly aligned, or they are not all connected in positive phase, or if a high-order, steep slope crossover is used, the outputs from the drivers will arrive at the listening position out-of-step from each other and twisted in phase. Do you really want a speaker with flat frequency response that cannot accurately recreate the musical waveforms. This is exactly the case with the vast majority of loudspeakers and it sucks for people who know the difference- your choices are limited in the marketplace. You can't unsee the truth of wrong sound once you get used to it... it is annoying yet what got me started down this journey of finding great equipment to include cd players, streamers dacs, cables and of course speakers and headphones...
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So, why do most mainstream manufacturers and reviewers focus only on the amplitude (frequency) response of speakers and ignore the critical time and phase? I do not know. Maybe because they want a desired frequency response only... forgetting the order and time.

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(pictured my palisander and maple Wodans and the standard balanced cables included with purchase)


We enjoy music as an emotional experience. We are drawn into good music, exhilarated by exciting music, relaxed by soothing music, and put-off by bad music. In a listening TEST, people put away their emotions and try to use their analytical mind to evaluate a speaker/headphone's performance. It's like trying to evaluate the quality of a classic painting by counting how many different colors are in it. The analytical mind focuses only on the surface, the frequency response, and ignores the reason for music; emotion.
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That's one of the reason I dislike 95% of the multiple driver IEMs that try to jam so many drivers in an ear piece- they forget their messed up timing makes it sound strange and all wrong. Some people just grow used to it- not for me. So long story short- I also fell in love with Magnepan speakers- the 3.6r with adjustable tilt feature by Sound Anchors became my reference system. I still have the Vandersteens in my second system. But the Magnepans are time accurate because they are planar and aligned with their ribbon tweeter the way I position them and the type of crossover used. No I do not use subs- they will not align (keep up) well with Plannars- and if you give the Maggnepans enough power (and are set up correctly) they provide bass in spades. Time- and phase-accurate speakers with flat amplitude response assure that the entire waveform is preserved. When the output waveform is a replica of the input waveform, all amplitude and timing relationships are maintained. When some parts of the reproduced signal are out-of-phase timbre and imaging are altered. I will not get into that too much- suffice to say if you ever heard a properly set up Magnepan- you will know why they always garnish high praise no matter the price.

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Typically planar headphones are the in-between of dynamic drivers and electrostatics- some would claim electrostatic offer the end all nirvana of sound but with that level of ultimate bliss comes a huge physical expense ($$$$$) and inconvenience of specialized expensive amps that can only be used with electrostatic headphones. The other "small" issues of fact with electrostatics - they are extremely prone to catastrophic damage from moisture, hair even dust! let's not talk about electrical issues of hum and imbalances that can occur more often than not with electrostatic headphones and repairs are near impossible- requiring a complete match driver replacements for both electrostats. They are to be handled like a newly born child - stored in a special place usually wrapped like a baby too and stored in a special box- you can't just keep your electrostats OUT for all to see- they would literally collect dust and get ruined in a short months- really. Some have attempted to make cheap electrostatics and they failed to be better than dynamic or planar with all the bulk and weight of the specialized amp to electrify the mediocre performance. Planar headphones have so many things going for it to bring you to the very highest levels of nirvana with out the need for specialized electrostatic amplification or the worry of ownership. Planars do like clean current from an amp and some like balanced power to be honest- and that would be the case for the Wodan according to the owner Valentin at Kennerton- "the Wodans will sound best with balanced powered amps." Okay, I thought- but I do not have any at my home. The Gilmore Lite MK II and the Pass WHAMMY with upgraded dual OPA627 only have single ended (6.3mm or 1.4") stereo jacks in the front - I asked for adapters from balanced to single ended. Kennerton sent them to me at my request- but I asked am I wasting my time ordering these Wodans if I only have single ended amps - he said no. He said look at the specs- these are easy to drive but they like brute force not volume. Well both my Gilmore and PASS have a Class A amp and beat the pants off lesser or even many more expensive amps (think of my Wyred4sound Intimo review) in the past- I think they will hold their own I thought. They are holding their own- as I type I am listening to Gnossiennes No1 Michel Camilo & Tomatito and OMG so I want to stop typing and just close my eyes and listen to the beautiful notes being played by this Wodan. Music as the pathway to one's soul. No art form can attain the potency and purity of a sacred Melody; striking each of our memories, gently illuminating hitherto hidden valleys in our hearts; and painting delicate ripples on the glassy lakes of our imagination. UPDATE: I had a Topping A90 for a month and the Wodans sounded better on my single ended PASS Class A. Balanced from that well rated amp (A90) wasn't needed to bring out the best from the Wodans. They are really truly amazing with just a good sounding amp is my thought- balanced or not-they are keepers.

The driver design of planar results in very low-distortion sound and excellent transient response. Transient response is how fast the driver reacts to changes in the input signal and how quickly it cuts off those frequencies as they’re cut out of the source, which is particularly important for bass notes. Typically one draw back of planar headphones I've heard in past is that they do not have the widest of sound stage compared to the widest of dynamic drivers like the open back Sennheiser HD800 for example. Is this true of the Wodan? We will see.

And now lets dig in to the Kennerton Wodan. "A planar headphone that is both musical and accurate" was the claim by Kennerton. Let us just see about that- my first impressions is "wholly crap these are so crystal clear and so dam musical! They sound a little magical in their sound stage- wait. I need to break these in....OMG I can actually hear the drunkenness like slur in his voice (BECK) - I never heard that until now. DAMM"... I thought... " how much better are these Wodans going to go after break in? Maybe they will be a little more warm? A little more bass after break in?" These Wodan planar headphones I am just beginning to break in seem to have a very clear, accurate sound that comes across as very lifelike with a magic in the sound-stage - and bass is opening up after 24 hours- Nordpol by Oliver Huntemann is a great example of good tight bass being very well reproduced - very satisfying even at low volumes. Interesting.
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Pictured: Upgraded balanced cables by Kennerton and the right side connector up close.
I will emphasize that planar vs dynamic- bass is less impactful on planar headphones typically, but more detailed and much cleaner. There's simply less bloat, so if that's what you're used to hearing, or like that kind of sound- you may think the bass on these Wodans is less... but actually these are more tight and accurate. A bass guitar on the Wodans sounds like a bass guitar; whereas on a dynamic it just sounds like some exaggerated reproduction of bass- its hard to describe. Do I sometimes like fun bass - hell yea! That's why I have my modded GH50's . But ... and this is huge... The pluck of sting instruments (violin, cello, viola etc) on the Wodans is so much more accurate and right. That's why vocals sound so good on these as well- vocal cords vibrate like strings (Some fun facts: Vocal folds vibrate when excited by aerodynamic phenomena; they are not plucked like a guitar string. Air pressure from the lungs controls the open phase. The passing air column creates a trailing “Bernoulli effect,” which controls the close phase. )

We will see... for now all I can think is the cheesy saying in Jerry Maguire - "SHOW ME THE MONEY!" no no not that saying.... I am thinking of the ultimate cheesy line but sincere... the part where Tom Cruise says : "We live in a cynical world, a cynical world, and we work in a business of tough competitors. I love you. You complete me." And the other part of me is thinking of another two movies with Tom Cruise in it... Top Gun "I feel the need, the need for speed!" Jeese are these headphones are lightening fast as anything I ever heard... and the another A Few Good Men, "you can't handle the truth." Oh yes, yes I can I always want nothing but the truth. Thanks Kennerton for making my time spent here on earth a little more enjoyable (no I'm not dying but we all will one day... never waste time on poor quality is my motto...life is too short)... and I am still adding to this review as these headphones break in... good gad what is wrong with Kennerton- are they run by some mad genius? a designer who should be well known by all throughout the audio world? I think so... no I know so... what are people missing if they never heard Kennerton... they just will never know until they know...

30 Hours in and the One Kiss (with Dua Lipa) by Calvin Harris is hypnotizing and creates a blissful injection of satisfying sound from the Wodans. Unusually high quality dynamics - these things sound so damm good. I hear each note with authority and non exaggeration- are they bassy like my modded GH50? no. That's not the point of these headphones. One word. Euphoric. A drug like satisfaction (stay away from drugs kids- get your kicks from music and life instead). Yes these Wodans are everything I expected and more. And mind you I am not playing them loud at all. They don't need to be played at high volumes to hear the details of the recording. At low volumes and high the balance is perfect from low to high frequencies.



On the song by BSHP I'm Kissing You- I am convinced I made the absolute right decision in obtaining the Wodans. They are simply put lovely- the epitome of gorgeous sounding - revealing and as accurate as my Etymotic ER4p but now enter full transient quickness and a sound-stage that beguiles my mind.
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Woman in Chains by Tears for Fears is playing now on Amazon Prime it may be only 16 bit / 44.1 kHz file but it is so full of high pitched vocals by both the male and female singers- fine for investigating any harshness in the Wodans ability to sound sibilant or if they are distorted- a stress song for any headphone- and I am smiling from ear to ear- these Wodans pass like no other headphone I have ever had. Are they as bassy as my Gjallahorns GH50 modded by me? no. Again- the GH50's are my favorite headphone for fun listening- they are not the most accurate headphone out there for sure- but the sound signature resonates perfectly with my tastes. The Wodans are more like my Magnepans - showing the entire recording from the lowest to highest frequencies with grace and accurate with out one ounce of fatigue. They are simply musical detailed and an absolute joy.
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I am replaying the Woman in Chains song right now and between the GH50 and Wodans - the Wodans are more musically perfect and not by a small margin. But I do think I prefer the deep penetrating bass of the modded JM Version of the GH50 but they lack the detail of the Wodan. Subtract the bass impact of the GH50 and the Wodans beat the pants off any headphone I have heard- any Sennheiser under $2500 and certainly better than the Meze Empyrean ($3K) (not even close for detail compared to Wodan) which I absolutely loath in many ways because of the hype surrounding them- they are easily bettered by so many headphones in that price range- clear case in point is the Wodan. Period. The bass is very very tight and accurate even at 35hours of break in. The bass keeps getting better with the Wodans and they already beat so many lesser designed headphones. Are the Wodans as pretty as the Empyrean? No way. I'm not blind. The Wodans aren't ugly but lets face it the Empyrean is one of the most attractive looking headphones ever made. BUT- The Wodans are more beautiful when it comes to details and bass accuracy though and that is what counts... am I right?
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Jump to my torture test for dynamics and imaging separation and chaotic notes from every direction... the ultimate in torture for any speaker amp headphone or dac- the Blade Runner 2049 soundtrack. If you never heard this or tried it on new or old headphones- please stop reading and put it on now... I will wait. Ok. are you playing the tracks?
Very much recommended tracks for any speaker or HEADPHONE USERS- Hans Zimmer Blade Runner 2049: 2049, Sappers Tree, Flight To LAPD, Rain, Wallce, Memory, Mesa, Orphanage, Furnace, Someone Live Like This, Joi, Pilot, Hijack, That's Why We Believe, Her Eyes were Green, All The Best Memories, Tears In The Rain, Blade Runner track #23 on the album (a true torture test track for any system), track #24 Almost Human, and the worst torture test of all few systems can play back without major difficulty- track #20 Sea Wall. Sea Wall opens with drums and escalates to a huge amount of disturbing crazy electronic madness that continues up to 30 seconds and further escalates while it continues to 1 min and clams down a bit... then picks up as the drums lead to 1:20 seconds of more craziness- a truly fanatical tune- that pays off at 1:45 with sounds that will raise your endorphins causing an almost drug like high in ecstasy (don't do drugs do music instead kids). And at 3:17- wow! you will be transported nearly into the fourth dimension almost empowering your third eye - I can tell you I sold off many of my personal amps and many DACS after trying to perfect this track. Your speakers will show you what's what for sure- junk from keepers. And double down that idea when it comes to headphones. Very very few can hack this track. The Wodan pass with valedictorian pedigree graduating with honors at an Ivy League school. What else high praise can I say? They have a refinement not found in the GH50s or any other I can name. The bass is uncanny in its tautness- accurate so accurate - so freaking balanced. Not like the GH50... this bass is classy and closer to what my friend would say is pitch perfect and harmonically natural- these get it right. (He owns the Perfect 8 Speakers called The Force - a cost no object speaker system of $400K+) - He liked the GH50's but his main objection was they sound too over the top- which I like - but he said, the Wodans are closer to reality with a slight euphoric sound stage that is addictive and pleasing. He said the Wodan's are his kind of headphone- dynamic punchy and musical. Sparkle in mid range and upper frequencies are much more accurate than any headphone he has heard sans his Stax set up which costs way over $5K probably close to $8K- and they have many drawbacks (price for one and electrified warm up time could be as long as an hour before they sound right. Electrostatics use a capacitor-driven charged membrane. Capacitors take time to fully charge, hence the need for long warm-up times) while the Wodan is easier to live with especially at the price and amp requirements are much easier... My friend actually wants to buy them from me- the nerve! ... I said 'go get your own' half jokingly...


I wish everyone used AEA Mics on all their recordings- my favorite mic by AEA is the R44 for vocals but for one mic this is one of the best in the world the AEA R88 stereo ribbon microphone used here and on the Wodans the hairs on my neck stand up and a feeling across all of my neck and head like a woman softly caressing my head/hair a tingling sensation of satisfaction - absolutely rare feeling for me for headphones- this is very much a satisfying kind of bliss I can't describe more...

and for something truly different... try this with the Wodan for that same kind of tingling satisfaction-
try not to fast forward but I will say picking up around 4 mins into something truly moving
- this is not my usual listening but it sounds so good and organic- moving me emotionally


And this video I made after the Debut of The Last Narc (LINK) on Amazon Prime which I was a assistant producer on- the song may not be the best recording since it was live and poorly recorded but it has a deep emotion for me...

And testing the Wodans with a video I produced and filmed on location in NYC w/ Hector Berrellez (DEA) - with a soundtrack I know since I put it together myself- the Wodans are most certainly and definitely reference quality beyond my regular ear monitors/headphones - If I had these headphones back then when I made this video I would have made a better mastering copy- you only get one chance to make mastering right- then its out there- wish I had the Wodans back then... but now I do...

Back to the music and more neck tingles with the Wodan - I just want to stop typing and just listen- close my eyes and be transported- the imaging the tight bass oh the lovely vocals- this headphone is so so nice (mind you I am sharing the youtube videos BUT I am using flac hi res files in my tests)


Do I recommend these- an absolute yes. Kennerton also offers a 30 day trial period- so if you want a no regrets purchase you at least have that to lean back on. These are a detailed organic planar design with tight accurate bass wrapped in a hand crafted old world design not seen in many if any headphones these days- craftsmanship not found in mass produced headphones - my conclusion a "yes" as clear as the Wodans. Just make sure the pads are what you want- the bassier sound of the ECL-02 or the standard ECL-01 and understand the stitching is handmade and addressed below by Kennerton.

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Left Side: the three year warranty w/serial number and inspection/testing card certificate and bottom of classy vegan carry case.

Right Side: embossed Kennerton microfiber, laser engraved envelope and bottom of classy case

Internal build... Certainly a custom design for Kennerton... The Wodan internal view of honeycomb custom design (top and bottom of photo) and the Planar design in middle with black aerospace grade aluminum and steel protects the planar design - looks like they might have some Russian honey in there - maybe the real honey is the sound these Wodans have...

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Measurements
A bit of specifications.

Acoustic design: open.
  • Driver type: isodynamic plannar
  • Reproducible frequencies: 10–50,000 Hz.
  • Impedance: 40 Ohms.
  • Sensitivity: 109 dB
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Left to right: Kennerton Gjallahorn GH50 Modded by JM, Wodan, Magni V3

While exploring ear pads- the Kennerton ECL-02 (adds more mid-bass and sub-bass and ECL-01 (standard) and my Dakoni Elite Hybrid ear pads- I noticed stitching issues in Kennerton pads- see pictures. The point being the stitching on the Dekoni is much more even than the ECL-01, or the ECL-02- so this needs to be addressed by Kennerton. I will say I have tried Dakoni ear pads on my Kennertons in past and they never seemed to sound as good as the ones from Kennerton- you can see my reviews on Magni and Ghorn GH50 for my findings about pad swapping and how they all failed to be better than the hand sewn pads from Kennerton.

FROM KENNERTON: Hello John. Yeah, I know about that problem. But unfortunately, I can't solve it. I'll try and explain why. All the pads are handmade in our workshop. Sometimes the material (natural leather) behaves unpredictably - there can be creases, maybe irregular thicknesses, maybe it doesn't look as aesthetically pleasing as you would like, and so on. As an example, it can be seen in the photo (on the right - the pads of our production for Magni). And they aren't so nice on look. We wanted to solve this problem by ordering the pads from China, in the same factory that makes the pads for Deconi and many other brands (on the left). They are not made by hand, but with automated equipment. They look very good. They're around twice cheaper for us than if we make them ourselves. But they don't sound very good! And there's nothing we can do about it! So, we try to make our pads better, but as much as the simple equipment we have allows. I can't buy automatic equipment for $200,000 to $300,000. I don't know why the Chinese pads sound so bad, but I can't use them. It's probably because the Chinese aren't using real leather. Or rather, it's real, but pressed leather. It's much prettier than real leather. It's beautiful sewing. But it's less durable. And most importantly, it doesn't "breathe" like natural leather. And, accordingly, it sounds very much like an ordinary faux leather. So, I have no choice. But I can guarantee only one thing - each pair of pads is necessarily tested for lack of imbalance when sounding on headphones. You'll laugh, but even two completely identical external pads made of different pieces of leather can sound completely different, and the imbalance between the right and left headphones can be very large. Well, another problem is human hands, of course. Unfortunately, not always the same seamstress makes the same quality product in the same way. Although, be sure, over time, the skin becomes softer, the seams are smoothed, and everything gets better. But not perfect.

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OTHER STYLES OF WODAN ARE AVAILABLE SINCE THESE ARE ALL HANDMADE & CUSTOM
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Pharmaboy
Pharmaboy
Nice, thorough review of a headphone that interests me. I like that you really took your time & drilled down.

I also appreciate your comments about Vandersteen speakers. Back in the mid-'80s when I was assembling my high-end system, I heard many high-priced speakers. Only Vandersteens & KEFs resonated with me. I ended up getting a gently used pair of the semi-legendary Vandersteen 4s. Not only did it lay waste to all other speakers I heard in homes (mine or others')--but it had the unusual combination of wide-but-gentle (not razor-sharp) soundstaging, tonal purity, and crazy dynamics, courtesy of multi-drivers & integrated subs. I know 1st order crossovers are supposed to reduce dynamics, but not in my LR!

Those Vandersteen 4's were stored in a closet for 29 years. Now I'm trying to sell them. Really amazing speakers.
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