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Headphones item created by audio123, Jul 20, 2017
Pros - Excellent resolution, fun and engaging
Cons - Can be a little bright at times
Firstly I would like to thank Kinera and Penon audio for this sample, these received over 50hrs of burn-in before reviewing and no differences were noted.
*disclaimer: This sample was provided for the purpose of writing a review, no incentive was given to write a favourable review. All opinions expressed are my own subjective findings.
Audio Opus #2 > H3 (Final tips)
HP Laptop > JDS Labs EL-DAC > HeadnHifi O2 amp > H3 (Final tips)
Frequency Response： 20-20000HZ
L&R Channel Balance Sensitivity： <2DB
Max Input Power： 10mW
Cable Length: 1.2meter
Wire Material： 6n single crystal copper silver-plated
Plug material： 3.5mm golden plated
Earphone interface: 2-pin (0.78mm )
Packaging, Accessories and Build quality:
The Kinera H3 come in a lovely textured high quality black card box, with the name Kinera and model H3 embossed in gold on the top. Open the magnetic flap are you will find the carry case and jack adaptors held in a foam inlay. The box is simple yet feels excellent for the price and I really like the simplicity of it.
Accessory wise you get a clamshell carry case, a 3.5 to 6.3mm adaptor, airplane adaptor and 3 sizes of tips in 2 different types. You get S, M and L single flange tips, one type is similar to Sony hybrid tips, and the other has a stiffer blue core and also stiffer silicone. You also get a little velcro cable tidy and a thank you card from Kinera, along with a small manual. Overall everything you need is included.
Build quality is very good, the finish of the shells looks great with no major imperfections, the cable is soft and supple (really good cable) and is detachable. The cable has good strain relief, there is no stiff memory wire on these, instead it is a soft section of pre moulded rubber. I really like the look and finish, the nozzle however does not have a lip, so make sure to use the stock tips or others that are quite tight on the nozzle (Final Audio tips work very well). Overall I have no issues with the build quality, pictures show them off better anyway.
Comfort, Isolation and Driver flex:
The H3 is designed similar to a custom IEM and due to its lightweight construction fit very comfortably in my small ears, and do not protrude very far out of your ear. They are quite slim and once you get a good fit you can wear them for hours without pain. They are some of the most comfortable IEM’s I have used and are really easy to get a good fit with due to the angle of the nozzle.
Isolation is fairly average, this is due to a fairly shallow fit type and also the housing is vented due to the dynamic driver inside. They are still easily suitable for most everyday use, but if you are planning on using them in very loud environments there are other IEM’s that will isolate better.
Driver flex is present up initial insertion, but the drivers quickly return to normal and the driver flex isn’t as bad as some other headphones out there.
Split into the usual categories with a conclusion at the end:
Lows: The H3 is a triple hybrid design and lets the dynamic driver handle the lows, the dynamic driver in these definitely has good punch and extends nicely into the sub-bass with minimal roll-off. The bass has good impact and is definitely a little on the fun side of neutral, bass guitar lines have good separation and articulation, kick drums have air to back them up and it’s a nice full bass presentation. The lows can handle EDM to heavy metal with ease; I’m quite impressed by their control. To be honest at this price range I think it’ll be quite hard to find headphones that handle metalcore as well as these.
Mids: The mids are a little laid back compared to the rest of the frequency response, giving these a mild V shaped signature, but they are quite crisp and have good detail retrieval. Nothing really stands out in the midrange, both male and female vocals are handled quite well, there isn’t really any added warmth from the lows but the upper mids are perhaps a slight bit thin and on the drier side. They seem to avoid most sibilance and there is quite a bit of air around the notes in the midrange, separation is quite impressive. They could do with being a tiny bit more forward in the mix when things get busy.
Highs: Now I am a fan of good treble and these certainly offer the quantity I enjoy, these do lean towards a slightly bright top end occasionally sounding a little overemphasised. A lot of this does depend on the recording though, feed them well recorded tracks and the highs will sound well defined, they are not laid back or dark sounding. The good thing is that if you find the highs to be a little on the hot side, tip rolling can help tame them (especially foam tips). There is plenty of sparkle and energy up top, and they never becoming overly splashy.
Instrument separation is good overall; there is good air around each instrument.
Soundstage is not huge; it is slightly wider than usual with out of head experiences to be had. The imaging however is very good, especially with complex drum tracks.
Simgot EN700 Bass:
The Simgot EN700 Bass is a good comparison as they are around the same price, the Simgot also feel very well built but the standard version has a fixed cable. So Kinera wins here with a longer lasting design. Both are very comfortable IEM’s, the H3 is lighter so is more comfortable for long periods of time.
Sound wise the EN700 Bass has a more organic and natural tone to it, with a smoother sound signature. It is full bodied and very enjoyable; the H3 is far more exciting and has better top end resolution. I find the EN700 Bass to be quite polite and have excellent separation and resolution, the H3 can come across a little more fatiguing but there is more going on with better detail retrieval.
Both are fantastic for the price, the H3 is quicker and more nimble, offering a more direct and engaging sound. The EN700 Bass is slightly laid back and more natural sounding, so which you prefer will be based on your preferences.
Conclusion: For $99 these are a very promising IEM from Kinera, with a fun borderline bright sound. They have a very slight V shaped sound signature, but the mids are not badly recessed. The lows are full but also very well controlled; the midrange is crisp and clear and the highs shimmer and sparkle with plenty of presence. These are an exciting and fun IEM and not for those that are very treble sensitive. I have found them to work very well with complex rock music, and the lows can really keep up. Tonally wise they are a little bit lean, but tips influence the sound a lot. Overall I really like these, Kinera have done a really good job, and considering the price these are fantastic value.
Sound Perfection Rating: 9/10 (Highs can be a little hot, but the overall sound is highly enjoyable)
Pros - Good overall sound, quality cable, a jewel in the $100 range
Cons - Needs a nozzle groove for tips, some sibilance and loose bass at high volumes
Kinera H3 Review
Kinera H3 review
A surprising affordable IEM that burst onto the audio scene in recent times and won the hearts of many a new convert to its build, design and dynamic sound.
Coming in a variety of colorful styles, visually beautiful and affordable.
The Kinera H3 comes in a simple and stylish black card box.
An adapter for airplane travel, and 1/4 adaptor plug and a hard card shell case for keeping the earphones safe and clean when on the move.
The case itself is quite spacious and one could be able to fit two or three earphones within.
The Kinera H3 comes with a two cable and a study 3.5mm plug.
I got the simple black version but there are some very cool looking two tone versions available.
The Kinera H3 has screens to protect its internals from wax and other grime.
The Kinera H3 comes with a selection of tips to get you started.
Always nice to get a thank you.
Model : KINERA H3 In-ears monitor
Color available :translucent black /red/ blue
Frequency Response： 20-20000HZ
L&R Channel Balance Sensitivity： <2DB
Max Input Power： 10mW
Cable Length: 1.2meter
Wire Material： 6n single crystal copper plating silver
Plug material： 3.5mm golden plated
Earphone interface: 2-pin (0.78mm )
6 pairs of silicone eartips (S/M/L)
Kinera H3 and Opus#3 dap.
The Kinera H3 was tested and reviewed with a variety of daps using FLAC tracks at home, commuting and resting at cafes drinking coffee.
The Kinera H3 is built for on the go, its a simple no fuss 1 dynamic driver and two BAs. Generally I would expect a V shaped sound for this particular combination of drivers and the H3 stayed true to traditional form and expectations in this regard.
Do you want some bass? You got it! Do you want treble? You have it. Want some mids?...well heres a sprinkle for you, enough to keep things coherent but not invade that V shaped engine built for dynamism and energy.
The bass is surprising generally controlled, although on some more heavy tracks it found the going a bit difficult and it could get a bit unruly and boomy, but this was the exception to the rule, and there is enough quality bass to satisfy even the most jaded budget fi shopper.
I thought the sub bass was present enough and separate from the lower bass reaches to again give that sense of general control.
Its definitely not a bass head bass.
The mids are recessed as to be expected with this particular design, which is a favorite for many listeners who prefer their earphones with a little less mids. Adjusting the gain didn't effect any serious significant changes in this regard, but it did add that lil something, something that brought the H3 to a fuller performance.
The highs are the show stealer, it definitely leans that way at times, giving a sense of clearness, detail and clarity. At various times it can venture in sibilance, but not excessively so its generally quite forgiving. But for my precious spoiled ears due to my small stable of high end IEMs I found that extended listening of several hours could be a little fatiguing for me, also I am not a adherent to the V signature cult.
The Kinera H3 was fine from low to just above mid volume listening levels, push it too far in the volume stakes and it could loose some of its control on the lower and also at the high end.
I found the width of the sound stage to be greater than the depth. Height is good.
Instrument separation is quite acceptable.
Kinera H3 and Shozy Alien+ dap
I swapped a few cables to see If I could edged any sonic improvements out of the Kinera H3, and there were some but they were mainly incremental and were most noticed the higher up the Dap chain I traveled. Those dynamic drivers do enjoy a bit of extra power to drive them.
Probably most users will be using a mobile phone or a sub $400 dap to listen to music with the Kinera H3 and won`t be connecting a $500 or so cable and a $1000 dap to it.
I did enough plunking on the Double Helix Cables silver SPC, it seemed to open up the energy more and gave a bit more control to the bass.
The Kinera H3 cable is a 6N silver coated copper cable.
Kinera H3, Double Helix cable and Symbio Mandarines tips.
The nozzles have a slight ring on them,
but I would prefer something more substantial to hold the tips firmly in place,
Stock photos via Kinera to show the different models available.
Kinera H3 and Opus#2 dap. Overkill.
The Kinera H3 clocks in at a cool and affordable US$99. The usual 'good performance for the price' etc etc terms have been bandied about as usual, but I can attest this is one of those (not so sleeper) hits. A sub $100 earphone I can recommend to friends quite safely.
The Kinera H3 comes with a quality cable that is fairly void of micro phonics when on the move, it looks to be in two styles and has a clear version and another which has a brown material covering of the cable which accompanies the black version which I have. I really like the look of the red and blue shell versions and their accompanying cables.
Great for photography.
The shell of the H3 resembles the iBasso IT03 a little with its inner ear guide flange.
And as such this earphone is very comfortable, I was able to wear it for extended periods with no apparent discomfort due to the fit.
Isolation is good, great when I did some tip rolling and put on the Symbio Mandarines. It does need a design change in an addition of a groove/rim on the end of the nozzles to lock tips more in place, especially the silicone ones.
The cable is stylish and comes in a variety of styles depending on which model of H3 is purchased. Its great to see more companies offering quality cables in two pin (or in other cases MMCX) with their IEMs.
I did get some improvements , though not overly dramatic when I switched around cables. Usually the copper vs silver experience was most significant. The Kinera H3 being a silver plated copper cable.
Its a difficult item to review because it does so many things well for a fraction of the price, and also is a hyped item amongst consumers and also fellow reviewers.
Admittedly when I first listened i was quite stunned at the quality, later listening sobered me up more as its various limitations and faults were revealed, and of course the H3 could not hope to compete with some of my other higher end IEMs - which is to be expected. Later listening revealed the Kinera H3 to be a quality product that performs quite well, consistently and competently even in comparison to its more pricey cousins.
The various minuscule shortcomings of the Kinera H3 doesn't detract from what is in fact a decent earphone that has made waves in the online audiophile community, and is a continuation of the recent trend of more and more lower price earphones displaying decent build, design and sound quality.
Consumers are going to have more and more options to satisfy their wallets in the coming years.
To close, the Kinera H3 does live up to the hype surrounding it, a great shell design, a more than decent cable and an overall sonic performance that ticks all the right boxes If judged within its intended consumer market, It has its minor short comings, but those are to be expected for US$99, but as I have written these are minor in what is an excellent all round product.
Pretty as a picture.
Thank you to Kinera for sending the Head pie the Kinera H3 for review and impressions.
Pros - great bass, treble clarity, comfortable fit, low micro-phonic gorgeous cable, well built, cost
Cons - sometimes sibilant, lack of eartip rings on the nozzles.
First of all thanks goes to Steve, as well as kinera to send me a pair of their new iem h3 to test it out. I am not told or directed to throw a review here. The following statement is all my honest opinion. Mark that your mileage may vary. Let's step aside of the thanking part and get started.
Just a few head-up about myself
Spoiler: Warning spoiler ahead
Music, from the very childhood is my first love. The day I started my guitar playing, and the day I opted to play Ukulele its been with me in home or outside. I every now and then enjoyed music through my daily setup, smartphone and its cheap earphone. When I introduced to the head fi community, things have changed. Changed the face of my savings too. When I first heard through a quality headphone my jaw dropped, what the hell I was listening previously. From then its been two years. My journey along the path of music didn’t stop. I am fortunate enough to have to listen many legendary headphones.
After searching when I broke my bank and bought the first quality headphone, it seemed a new path was opened for me. The feeling of rediscovering old fav music is fascinating. It thrills me and gives me goosebumps.
As music preference goes, I hear a lot of metal and rock songs. But as I have born in Bangladesh, my countries music library offers a lot more enriched genres. So I love to hear other genres too, until it sounds awkward to me. So, Folk, classical, pop, melody, instrumental are also in my liking list.
A person like me who isn’t technical that much. So in classical sense you shouldn’t call me as an and audiophiles.
My music library is my Custom Computer, Youtube etc. I have a huge collection of my fav bands’ music both in lossless and lossy format, Roon, Tidal and spotify premium.
Finally, I will start my review.
Let's not wait
Kinera is a new china bassed iem company that stepped their feet in audio industry with only two iem Bd005 and Now the Kinera h3. You can find their products like H3 here. They are friendly and trying hard to get their everything right. For starting fresh h3 was a great step up. I am pretty sure they are bringing something out of the box next time.
How's the H3
The package has a textured finish and got a professional feeling to it. there is a magnetic flap to open it. Inside there is a perfectly cut foam for the housing of the carrying case, airplane and 1/4 inch adapter. To be frank this was enough to convince someone that "h3 is special"
What's in the box
A big enough hard sell carrying case is presented there to store iem and cable. 3 pares of eartips (s,m,l), airplane adapter and a gold plated 1/4inch adapter were there. But i am impressed with the Thank you card by the kinera. Kinera you are welcome
Build and so on
The shell is CIEM type. I will say i have the most comfortable fit with h3 after this i will mark the pinnacle p1 and flc8s. They blue semi transparent shell reminds me of candy. On the faceplate there is a gold kinera logo printed.
I am sorry for a thing that should be there, A ring at the nozzles for the eartip grip. The lack of it cost me the loss of two eartips. I hope they will notice this and change it in there following iems.
The cable is great, Braided, Silver color. It is soft, the stain relief is good and works just fine. If you think about the micro-phonics, i will say there is none. I hope a mic edition of there cable will help a lot of people in future. Btw kinera adopts the 2pin configuration which is i think better. Because i had issues with the mmcx connection. And H3's 2pin connectors offers a snag compact fit. Its not loose at all like something i found in kz zs5.
Fit and comfort
I can say this is one of the most comfortable iem i have used. its smooth ciem type shell provides the most pleasing fit under 100 usd. I think it fits better than the Shure se215. If you want something more comfortable, i think ciem is the route to go. I can easily sleep wearing this. though I wont recommend this. "Please save your ear"
The bass is a bit of emphasized but It is emphasized in an enjoyable way. There is tightness. Its fast and the impact is damn impressive for its price range. On the most important note, the bass impact don't mix with mid range or bloat anywhere. There is certainly a noticeable sub bass extension. Not so strong but strong enough to notice it and enjoy your music. Despite of all these things this is not targeted for the bass heads. I noticed with some recording it gets a bit more boomy. I should blame the recordings not the iem for this.
The energetic and clear mid of h3 is enjoyable. It may seem a bit of the recessed to some people because of its little bit thinness. To me the less colored mid high the upper mid energy the vocal sounded good. At least at the point of its price range it out forms a lot of iems that i have listened previously. I would like if the mid could be a bit more thick and packed some meat on the bone.
Treble at a first glance seemed well extended, airy, detailed, damn good sound separation and well presentation. I have to admit stock H3 sound bright, metal and heavy treble tracks can often be quite fatiguing, If you turn your volume up it gets annoying. But i have to appreciate the clarity of the treble. I wish it had some unforgiving nature. The people who love bright iems will find this a lot enjoyable. I prefered a bit more dark and warm sound with the clarity.
I gave it to my friend. I want to quote one thing that he told me, "I heard music all day long. It seemed if there is any war around me, i wont hear anything".
I know he a bit of overwhelmed. But its true that h3 blocks a lot of outside noice. its comfortable and the noise cancellation is noticeably best in the sub 100 even more priced iems.
In the conclusion of sound i want to mention some following bullet points
I really liked the soundstage and separation of h3. The staging was not that big, but the separation and good imaging will be enough to engage you to your listening and think like the sound is coming around you. It might not be on par of something damn expensive. But its hard to find in sub 100 range.
I told all before this review is my self realized opinion. H3 is crisp. Its cleanliness in sound and good amount of refinement to it's signature can make enjoying your music more. I prefer a more thick mid-range and warmth to the sound. Yet the detail and clarity this hybrid turned out that treble loving people gonna enjoy h3's offering. I hope kinera will do the best for their upcoming products.
Packaging & Accessories: 3.7 / 5 (I expected to get more tips)
Build Quality & Design: 4.5 / 5 - (I would give 5 if there is a eartip ring)
Sound Impressions: 3.7 / 5 - (i preferred a bit more warmth and less bright)
Value: 4.1 / 5 - $99 its a candy for ears.
Overall: ~ 4 / 5
Pros - great bass impact and rumble, top-tier clarity to similarly-priced IEMs, luxurious cable, fit and comfort, value
Cons - thin and slightly nasal midrange, recessed lower midrange, occasional sibilance, inconsistent shell quality
Kinera H3: Impressive Clarity and Impact
First and foremost, I'd like to thank Penon Audio for reaching out to me and sending me a review unit of the Kinera H3. I am not associated with Penon Audio in any other way, and these thoughts are my own only -- keep in mind that my review will mostly be subjective, as we all hear things differently. I will do my best to give the H3 a fair and honest review, as well as give some comparisons to IEMs I have/have owned.
The Kinera H3 is available for $99 from the awesome people down at Penon Audio, at this link here.
Please remember at all times that these are my subjective judgements of the IEM's sound, and I may hear things differently or prefer things that you may not. I will post measurements for the H3 as well.
The recent but growing onset of multi-driver audiophile IEMs at a lower price bracket has certainly been the source of many discussions fueled by hype and excitement, though a number of them prove to be somewhat exaggerated and an overall letdown. On the bright side, there have been quite a few gems that manage to prove themselves to the masses.
I used to hop on hype trains often, avoiding spending extra in hopes that I'd fine a "giant killer". Unfortunately, many times I have ended up disappointed and sometimes even empty-handed. I hope my review on the H3 can help some of you decide whether the $99 price tag will land you a reliable and worthwhile set of IEMs.
The packaging is a textured carton, opening with a magnetic flap. It looks fairly simple and elegant, the typography and design of the cover print looks well done and professional.
The box includes two adapters -- both rather ordinary, being a flight/airplane adapter and a 3.5mm to 6.35mm adapter (1/8" to 1/4").
More importantly, you'll find a fairly decent to large sized carrying case in black with the Kinera logo. The zipper is smooth and easy to use; the interior is roomy and has a somewhat soft felt lining. One side of the case has a small mesh pocket, fair for carrying spare tips or cable (or whatever else you may have).
The case includes the earphones themselves, as well as 3 tips in S/M/L sizing. They look similar to the Sony hybrid tips and stay on the nozzle of the IEM fairly well. They are easy to get a seal with and feel above average in quality.
Build & Design
The Kinera H3 has a "custom-made universal" shell, which is shaped to fit many ears snugly and securely, all while maintaining a high level of comfort. I've had custom in-ears before, as well as one or two IEMs with similar design -- for example, the KZ ZS3 and iBasso IT03 both have cymba protrusions and a deep fitting nozzle.
The H3's shell quality looks fairly good, though not quite as crystalline / transparent when compared to an acrylic-poured IEM. My left monitor is quite transparent, while my right monitor is slightly fogged and smudged internally, blocking vision of the drivers quite a bit. Penon Audio sent me the H3 in blue variation -- the color is nice and uniform, while being nice to look at.
The faceplate is an opaque black embedded horizontally with a gold, reflective Kinera logo. I noticed a large white strip between the black faceplate and the blue shell, as well as small white bits on the other end of the faceplate. The other monitor's faceplate doesn't have any detectable issues.
The nozzle is simple and does not have a notch to securely keep the tips in place, which may be an issue depending on the tips you plan to use. I can say that the included stock tips feel pretty secure and it should be unlikely that they will be sliding off accidentally. Regardless of the fogging and white uncolored bits of the faceplate, the shell feels sturdy and should not fail from ordinary use. There are no rough sections or unexpected bumps, it seems smooth all around.
Fit and Comfort
This smoothness of the shell lends to its impressive levels of comfort, even in slightly smaller ears such as mine. Prior, I've found "custom-like" universals to be a bit large for me such as the iBasso IT03 and Aurisonics line -- those were too large and uncomfortable for me to wear after a short period of time. I don't have any of those issues with the Kinera H3.
It feels secure and there's not much chance of it falling out. I can wear it for hours without discomfort.
The cable is hands-down the nicest cable I've used in an entry-level audiophile IEM. It's very soft and supple -- this lends to it's great comfort as well as surprisingly quiet microphonics. The ear guides are not memory wire, but simply formed to wrap around the back of the ear. Very lightweight and comfortable. It's a simple 4-core twist braid, sleeved in dark bronze. The two-pin connectors are clear and look of good quality. Y-splitter is of top quality, being some sort of clear-frosted rubberized TPU. It feels durable and won't get in the way. The 3.5mm jack is wrapped in an aluminum sleeve that is surprisingly light, with proper strain relief -- however, I find right-angle jacks to be more durable and practical than the straight-jack present on the cable.
The sound of the Kinera H3 is typically v-shaped with a medium depth -- the bass is emphasized, lower midrange dips and rises into the upper midrange, and various treble emphasis gives path to good clarity.
Here is a measurement of the Kinera H3. This is measured using a silicone coupler + Dayton IMM06, there is a slight 2.2k notch that shouldn't be there but I'm not bothered enough to fix it. It measures similarly to Crinacle's measurements.
The bass presentation of the H3 is very enjoyable, regardless of its clear emphasis. It's slightly above average in terms of tightness and speed, while still being able to sound natural. The impact and rumble of the notes is impressive, it can definitely pack a whallop without being too overwhelming or interfering with the midrange too much. Subbass extends deeply as far as music generally goes, so I don't feel like I'm missing anything in the lower registers. Quantity wise, the H3's bass sits well above neutral, but not quite pushing into basshead territory. It can sometimes sound boomy and overly rumbly, maybe contributing to fatigue in long term listening.
The midrange of the Kinera H3 is a tossup in my opinion -- this would be the factor that would determine whether or not this IEM works well for the listener. The lower-to-middle midrange is somewhat recessed in comparison to its surroundings. The upper midrange is quite forward (typical of many tunings to give clarity to vocals). However, vocal timbre is just noticeably strange, in my opinion -- vocals can occasionally sound thin and restrained, as if they were being choked out. This vocal recession is much more noticeable here on the H3 than other IEMs I've tried in similar price range, such as the TFZ King and Series 4. Additionally, any sibilance or similar upper midrange baddies present themselves sometimes but not consistently, depending on the singer's vocal range. It overall is a bit fatiguing, though demonstrating impressive if not exaggerated upper midrange detail.
The treble is possibly the star of the show here. The treble is very detailed and comes with striking clarity. In fact, this was the first thing I noted about the H3's sound -- it has a good sense of air and decent sparkle for its price bracket. I find that it pairs well to create a decent sense of space horizontally, giving good depth in variation of distance from your head.
The Kinera H3 is rather impressive in its own ways for the price, being exceptional clarity, fun bass presentation, and sporting a very premium cable. However, it is not without its flaws in its midrange, which one may see as drastic or might not even care enough to note -- it's undoubtedly some variation of a v-shaped IEM, and whether this aligns to your tastes or not is up to you. Build quality should last a long time paired with its removable cable, and accessories are ample but just the necessities.
10% - Packaging & Accessories: 3.75 / 5 - nicely packaged, but just the necessities in accessories
20% - Build Quality & Design: 4.5 / 5 - shell quality is decent to good with minor inconsistencies, but cable is so darn good. comfort is also great
50% - Sound Impressions: 3.7 / 5 - v-shaped sound with clear treble and strong bass, marred with tonally-funky midrange
20% Value: 4.1 / 5 - impressive overall package for the price, but IMO not an "all-aboard the hype train" IEM
Overall: 3.9 / 5
Pros - Gorgeous design. Great quality cable. Useful accessories. Clear and detailed sound.
Cons - No lip on the nozzle - some ear-tips not held securely
I guess it's time to accept that most of us can't keep up with all the new earphone manufacturers coming out of China. But there will always be those who create something unique, special or remarkable that brings them onto our collective radar while others fade back into obscurity. The former is where we are today with Kinera and all the hubbub that has arisen surrounding their latest (and only second) product release.
Formed in 2007 the company was moderately successful with their first earphone the BD005, a low budget, dual driver hybrid and now they're expanding their product lineup with a new triple driver hybrid the Kinera H3. Early impressions and reviews have been almost unanimously positive and for good reason but are they really that good? Read on to find out how I feel about them and hopefully it will help the reader to decide whether they want to grace their ears with the Kinera H3.
Disclaimer: This sample was sent to me for the purpose of an honest review. I have no affiliation with the company and all observations and opinions are my own, based on my experience with the product. I'd like to thank Kinera for the opportunity to test the H3.
At the time of writing the Kinera H3 retails for $99.
Spoiler: A little about me
Like most people on this type of site I'm a lover of music. In my younger days I spent several years as a hip-hop DJ (using real vinyl and turntables) as well as producing a variety of music on computer using a combination of MIDI and live instruments. I did a Home Studio Sound Certificate at the Milton School of Audio Engineering in Brisbane, Queensland which covered the setup of audio for playback and recording in a studio environment along with other basic engineering principles. Nowadays I prefer to simply listen to and enjoy music.
My taste in music has changed a great deal over the years. For a long time my only interest was in rap and hip-hop music. Now though I listen to all kinds of music including jazz, classical, rock, psytrance, folk and ambient. I listen to music everyday using portable gear consisting of a DAP and mostly IEMs or simple desktop setup consisting of a laptop and DAC at work and my desktop setup at home which is based around my PC or Shinrico D3S with a DAC, often but not always including a tube amp and full-sized headphones or speakers.
My preferred sound signature is fairly balanced with slightly elevated mid-bass and deep well-extended sub-bass, clear and resolving midrange with a touch of warmth and clean, airy treble. I'm not offended by brighter sounding gear but dislike any sibilance. The majority of my music is 16/44.1 flac files as I stopped using physical media (CD/vinyl) many years ago and prefer the convenience of digital formats.
Packaging and accessories
The H3 comes in a nice, textured black box with the brand name and model number embossed in gold print on the top. After opening the magnetic flap/lid you're presented with an airline adapter, a 3.5 mm to 6.35 mm adapter and semi-hard carrying case. Under the case is a user manual and thank you card. The case is very handy and large enough to easily accommodate the earphones with ample space left to throw in a small DAP. It's a bit too big to fit in your pocket but is the perfect size to carry in a bag.
Inside the case you'll fine the earphones, cable and 3 pairs of silicone ear-tips (S, M, L). The silicone tips are really nice quality, being supple yet grippy so you can imagine my dismay when I had confirmed that they are all too small for my ears.
Let's take a minute to talk about the cable. This is an exceptionally nice cable for an IEM in this price range. It's supple yet feels durable and there's no stickiness to it. Starting at the top are the 2 pin connectors with a very subtle yet clever system of colored dots on the front side to denote Left and Right (blue for left, red for right). The connectors sit securely in the earphones but are still very easy to remove and insert. Further down is the flexible, transparent Y-split, accompanied by a matching cable cinch/chin slider. The cable terminates in a straight, metal plug that is quite long but of good quality with excellent strain relief.
Build, comfort and isolation
The designer/s of the H3 must have been feeling inspired when they created this IEM as they've produced something that not only looks fantastic but is also extremely comfortable. I feel that the appearance alone of the H3 played a big part in the early hype of the product as it looks very premium and more like higher priced IEMs.
The outside of the acrylic shells is an inverted teardrop shape in glossy black with the brand logo printed in gold lettering. On the inner part of the shells is the same material but here it's translucent allowing you to glimpse the internal drivers and wiring. This part is shaped similarly to a custom IEM and there's a small vent just next to the female 2 pin connector. All the edges are rounded and smooth plus the face-plate and main body are seamlessly joined adding to the overall aesthetics.
Although the H3 looks a little awkwardly shaped on the inner side it actually provides a very nice and comfortable fit. It was quite a bold move by the company to adopt this build but it has paid off handsomely, resulting in one of the most comfortable CIEMs that I've ever used. The shells fit wonderfully inside the conch of the ear which also means they don't protrude out as much as you might expect.
There are some shortcomings in the build though and the first lies in the design of the nozzles. The usual lip or ridge is absent here and that coupled with a slightly more narrow than average diameter means that ear-tips have a tendency to come off when removing the earphones. Secondly I was experiencing a lot of driver flex, mostly when first inserting or readjusting the shells but also when moving my jaw. Fortunately the driver flex has all but disappeared with the tips that I finally settled on (remember the provided ones were all too small for my ears).
Due to the way the H3 sits in and fills the ear's conch sound isolation is above average but keep in mind they are vented so some sound will still come through. Regardless of that though, these still block out a good deal of sound and are very suitable for noisy environments, allowing you to enjoy your music without needing to pump up the volume to dangerous levels.
Sources used for testing:
Samsung Galaxy Note 5
Acoustic Research MR-20
PC/Foobar2000 > Topping DX7
With an impedance of 48 ohms the H3 benefits from some extra driving power and may suffer a little from weaker sources like some smartphones. It's most evident in the authority of the bass notes and I'd recommend using a good DAP or headphone amplifier to get the most out of this IEM.
The H3 has a clear, energetic sound that's packed with detail and has good instrument separation. It can be a little aggressive in the high frequencies and may cause some fatigue if listening to certain music genres (rock, metal etc) or at high volume.
Bass is controlled and has nice body but is pushed back a little behind the mids, particularly the upper mids. Sub-bass reaches fairly low but again struggles to make itself felt due to the overreaching nature of the upper-mid peak. It does have that natural dynamic feel and in the right tracks sounds great and fairly linear, very nicely textured without being overbearing.
The midrange has a lot of clarity and detail, is very energetic up in the higher mids and overall has good tonality. It can sometimes come across as a little thin which you might or might not like depending on personal preference. Vocals sound natural and uncolored and are quite forward while remaining the same clarity seen throughout the midrange.
When we get to the treble there's a peak that brings certain sounds very forward in the mix which can throw off the balance and as a result there's some loss of cohesion. Listening to Ludovico Einaudi's "Indaco" things get off to a good start until he hits the high notes which sound unnaturally loud. A similar effect can be heard on certain high hats and snare snaps among other things. However the timbre remains accurate and adds some shimmer but there is a sense of the sound always teetering on sibilance.
Soundstage is fairly wide and while not the widest to be found in this price range it's also far from being narrow. There's a fair sense of depth as well with fairly good imaging and instrument placement that isn't razor sharp but surely lets you know where sounds are coming from.
TFZ Exclusive King ($95-$99 USD)
Has more more mid-bass punch and is a little warmer in the lower midrange. Is more cohesive and evenly spread in the upper frequencies. Sub-bass digs deeper and gives a little more rumble. More warmth in the lower mids and slightly more in general. I feel it has just a little bit superior tonality. Has a slightly wider nozzle and a lip to keep tips secure. Is easier to drive. The cable is good but not the same stellar quality as the one provided with the H3.
Thinksound ms02 ($99 USD)
Is more natural and organic with a comparatively relaxed treble. A little more recessed midrange which is noticeably less clear than that on the H3. Switching between the two the ms02 sounds a little muddy in comparison but in reality it isn't - it's just that the H3 has such exceptional clarity in the mids. Has a non-detachable cable. Bass and lower mids have more weight and body than the H3 and it has a more easygoing signature.
From left to right: TFZ Exclusive King, Thinksound ms02, Kinera H3
Kinera's H3 is a great looking, great fitting IEM that has certainly got people's attention around the web's audio sites and related social media communities. It has a wonderfully appealing design aesthetic that looks premium and desirable but there's still a little room for improvement, mainly in regards to the nozzle. The sound signature of the H3 could be polarizing, appealing to those who like an emphasis on high frequencies and a bright sound but deterring for people who prefer a more relaxed and non-fatiguing listening experience. There's no doubt that it produces a clear and detailed sound but it does so at the risk of being a little too energetic on occasion. It's certainly an interesting product that deserves recognition is it's crowded price bracket and should not be overlooked if you're shopping for something around the $100 mark. With the release of the H3 it looks like Kinera are setting themselves up to be a serious player in the IEM market.
Pros - Attractive and Comfortable Design - Refined Sound
Cons - Minor QC Issues - Recessed Mids - No Nozzle Lip
Today we're checking out Kinera's newest earphone, the H3.
The entry level earphone market has seen a massive influx of products that offer ridiculous bang for your buck. The 100 USD price point has gotten particularly competitive this year with products from Simgot, Magaosi, TFZ, Oriveti, and many more coming out to positive impressions and fanfare. Kinera's decision to dive into this price point with a triple hybrid, of which there are already quite a few, means they're going to have to bring something unique to the table to really stand out and make their name.
Does the H3 have what it takes? Let's find out.
A huge thanks to Steve with Kinera for seeing if I would be interested in checking out their new earphone, and for setting me up with a complimentary review sample of the H3. The thoughts within this review are my own and do not represent Kinera or any other entity. There is no financial incentive for writing this review.
At the time of this review the Kinera H3 retailed for 99 USD and could be picked up via their store on AliExpress; https://kinera2017.aliexpress.com/store/3102002
Be sure to check them out on Facebook too: https://www.facebook.com/kinera2017/
Spoiler: My Gear and I:
I'm a 30 year old professional working for what is currently the largest luxury hotel chain on the planet. I have a background in Psychology which probably explains my somewhat dry writing style. My entry into the world of portable audio was due primarily to a lack of space for a full-sized stereo system during my university years, and truly began with the venerable JVC HA-FXT90. After reading pretty much the entirety of IjokerI's multi-earphone review thread, reviews from other established writers, and thus being greatly inspired, I took a chance and started writing my own.
Fast forward a couple years and I'm thankful to have had the opportunity to write about products for wonderful companies like HiFiMan, RHA, Accutone, ADVANCED, NarMoo, Mixcder, Brainwavz, Meze, and many more. I don't do it for money or free stuff, but because this is my hobby and I enjoy it. If my reviews can help guide someone to a product that makes them happy, I'll consider that a job well done and payment enough.
Gear used for testing was a Shanling M1, HiFiMan MegaMini, and my TEAC HA-501 headphone amp. I listen primarily to various EDM sub-genres (liquid drum and bass, breakbeat, drumstep, etc.), hip hop, and classic rock. While I enjoy a variety of signatures I generally lean towards slightly warm with elevated treble and sub-bass, an even mid-range response, and reduced mid-bass. Lately I've been enjoying more mellow and relaxed products with a bass tilt. Two of my favorite in-ears, the Echobox Finder X1 with grey filters installed and the Fischer Audio Dubliz Enhanced are good examples of my preferred signatures.
Packaging and Accessories:
The H3's textured, black cardboard box, adorned with gold letting looks quite classy and has a very involving, tactile feel in hand. The magnetically sealed flap opens and closes with a reassuring snap. Lifting it reveals a foam insert which houses cutouts containing a 1/4" to 3.5mm adapter, an airline adapter, and a fairly large, rectangular clam shell carrying case. Underneath the case is a business card thanking you for choosing Kinera and a fairly basic manual covering the earphone specs, safety reminders, maintenance tips, the correct way to insert the cable into the earpieces, and warranty information. Within the case you find the H3 itself and spare eartips. The full accessory kit included with the H3 is;
- H3 ear pieces
- 1 cable
- Sony Hybrid clone silicone eartips (s/m/l)
- 1/4" adapter
- airplane adapter
- clam shell carrying case
- Velcro cable tie
Overall it's a fairly basic accessory kit. The included Sony clone tips are of good quality, and without the real thing on hand to compare with I would never have been able to tell the difference. The case is spacious and plenty large enough to hold everything that's included. The airplane and 1/4" adapters are handy, pending you're going to take the H3 with you on flights and hook it up to a desktop system via a 1/4" output. If you're not planning to use those they're a somewhat wasted inclusion that would have been better left out in place of something more useful, such as a mobile cable or a more extensive tip selection.
Build, Comfort, and Isolation:
The H3 is a pretty sexy earphone, there's no denying it. My particular example is sitting here looking stunning with it's red/black color scheme, accented with Kinera in gold lettering. Damn, they look good. Adding to the visual appeal is the opaque inner body which allows you to catch a glimpse inside to view the inner workings and layout of the well-tuned single dynamic, twin balanced armature setup. I also appreciate that the fit and finish on my example is nearly flawless, with the only blemish I could locate being a small strip of uncolored acrylic where the black backing and red inner housing meet. It's not something you would notice unless you're deliberately hunting down flaws.
Another bit of visual flair in the H3's favor is the braided 6N silver-plated copper cable terminated in 0.78mm, 2-pin connectors. The braid is tight and consistent below the y-split, but a little loose above, particularly on the right side. I love that Kinera went with preformed, flexible ear guides instead of memory wire. In my experience it's just as effective in keeping the cable in place, but is much more comfortable and less fiddly. The straight jack also gets a big thumbs up as it can easily be disassembled should you damage the cable and need to make some repairs, or decide to re-terminate with a 90 degree angled jack.
The H3's beautiful design, clearly inspired by custom in-ear monitors, also happens to be exceptionally comfortable. All the curves in the body are smooth and laid out in a way that ensures they perfectly conform to my outer ear. Just insert and give the H3 a slight twist which locks them in place. Their design also ensures they are very stable during heavy activity. Keeping in mind that they are not sweat resistant, I could easily see someone using the H3 for working out or some other strenuous activity, because they're not going to be falling out.
Given how tightly they conform to my outer ear, the H3 is one of the most isolating earphones I've come across. Toss on some Sony Isolation Hybrids (foam/silicone combination) and these drown out external noise almost as well as a couple active noise canceling earphones I've got on hand, those being the Mixcer ANC-G5 and OVC H15.
To counter all this overwhelming positivity, I must point out a couple minor QC issues that cropped up. Note that I haven't seen mention of these two items in any other comments or reviews. In the ear piece itself, when removing the cable the metal contact/sleeve pulls out slightly. The straight jack's strain relief doesn't fit as tightly as it should, and as a result can be pulled out of place and up the cable. Neither of these issues have stopped me from using the H3, nor have they gotten worse after weeks of heavy use.
Overall the H3 isolates well, is wonderfully built, and visually is an absolute stunner. Minus the aforementioned QC issues, my only concern about the H3 is the lack of a lip on the nozzle. When trying out alternate tips I found some had a tendency to slip off. Not an issue unique to the H3, but a mild annoyance nonetheless.
Frequency Response: 20-20000 Hz
Sensitivity: 101 dB
Cable: 6N silver-plated copper with 2-pin, 0.78mm connectors
Tips: Due to the nozzle design I didn't really have any success tip-rolling with the H3 since none of my wide bore tips would stay on. Alternate tips that worked were Dunu's Heir-style tips from the Titan 1, KZ's "Starline" tips, and HiFiMan's compact dual-flange tips. None of them affected the H3's sound in any significant way. While all testing was done with the stock mediums, Dunu's tips were the most comfortable for me.
Source:I didn't find the H3 particularly hard to drive though it did seem to scale nicely when moving from something portable like a phone or Shanling M1, to my desktop amp the TEAC HA-501. Through the TEAC the H3 sounded quicker across the board and it's treble presentation was tighter and cleaner.
The H3's two balanced armature drivers and one dynamic driver deliver what I hear as a warm, slightly skewed v-shaped signature with the lower mid-range being the least prominent aspect of it's sound. It makes for an exciting listen, and one of the better options in it's price range.
Treble has shown itself to be well extended with an airy, detailed, presentation. Given the H3's stock sound runs a little bright, treble heavy tracks can be quite fatiguing, especially as the volume increases. One quality I appreciate is that while the H3 is very detailed in the treble regions, its not unforgiving. This could be seen as both a positive and a negative, but to me it’s a plus. I can use the H3 with poorly recorded or low quality files and I’m not overwhelmed and distracted by flaws in the track. They’re there, but not brought to the forefront.
Mids on the H3 are pulled back a bit, particularly the lower mids with some male vocals coming across quieter than they should. This is most notable with much of the hip hop I listen to where male vocals fail to stand out and instead occupy the same space as the background instrumentals. Female vocals fare better and display the prominence I would expect within the context of a track. Although the H3's mids are slightly recessed, their weight and thickness somewhat makes up for the set back placement.
In the low end is where the H3 truly excels to my ears. From the perspective of quantity, the H3 carries with it a healthy, robust bassline. It's got some serious mid-bass punch backed by an addictive sub-bass rumble that routinely had me seeking out tracks with a sub-bass focus. The balance between mid- and sub-bass is tuned so neither takes a more aggressive stance. The H3's bass is also highly textured and fairly rapid, making it an awesome pairing with the liquid drum and bass mixes I listen to on a routine basis.
The H3's sound stage displays more width than depth, with channel transitions being very clear and stepped accurately. While not massive, the excellent imaging and separation qualities make this a very engaging earphone. During my initial impressions I had a feeling these would be quite effective for accurate sound positioning in gaming, an impression which ended up being fairly accurate. They perform in line with two earphones I routinely use for gaming, the Fisher Audio Dubliz Enhanced and Brainwavz B100, and almost serve as a go-between for the two very different signatures of those earphones.
Overall the H3 is a very crisp and clean sounding earphone with a good amount of refinement to it's signature. I prefer a more forward mid-range but the detail and clarity this hybrid set up brings to the table makes this tune more than adequate. It would also be nice if it's treble was less prominent. It seems unnecessary and doesn't really add anything, falling into that trap of advertising it's a hybrid by emphasizing the detail and clarity a BA can bring to the table.
Audbos K3 (119 USD): The K3 is a solid all-round earphone with fantastic build quality, a great accessory kit, and a competent u-shaped tune. It's a great sounding earphone, but the H3 is better. I find the K3 to have a warmer, darker presentation than the H3. This makes them less immediately engaging but better for longer listening sessions. While still quite detailed, the H3 shows off better retrieval and improved texturing. This statement is especially applicable to the low end where the K3's lack of punch and texture is quite apparent. The K3 doesn't have the end-to-end extension of the H3 either, resulting in a more mid-bassy presentation. The H3's sound stage is also larger and more dynamic than the K3s.
Where the K3 makes up some ground is in it's accessories. The included tips are some of my favorites due to the sticky compound and proven durability. It also comes with two cables terminated in MMCX which you can argue both for (widely supported) and against (durability). The primary cable is especially nice, and is one of my favorites due to the flexible yet dense sheath and well-shaped preformed ear guides. Audbos's semi-hard carry case is a notable step up in quality over the H3's, with it's faux-leather exterior and soft, spacious interior adorned with two large pouches for holding everything securely in place. While I greatly prefer the K3's accessory kit, the H3's excellent sonic performance takes my preference.
Fischer Audio Dubliz Enhanced (109 USD): The Dubliz Enhanced has been one of my benchmark products in this price range since reviewing them back in April. They do everything well and nothing poorly, all wrapped within a warm, non-fatiguing yet very detailed signature.
As you would expect from the statement above, the Dubliz Enhanced and the H3 are very different beasts. The H3 is significantly brighter than the Dubliz. Comparing the two back-to-back the H3's extra shimmer and sparkle up top makes for a much more exciting, but also fatiguing, and less natural listen. Without hesitation I can say the Dubliz Enhanced has a significant edge in the mid-range. It's much more forward, authoritative and lush, giving up nothing in terms of detail and clarity to the H3. Bass is a much more even comparison with the two performing about on par. Quantity is quite similar with the Dubliz having a more prominent mid-bass hump. While the H3 has a more airy presentation, the Dubliz sounds larger and displays greater variance on the same tracks in how far it will distance sound.
Build is also quite different with the Dubliz having a solid aluminum shell in a more traditional and versatile barrel shape. Fit and finish is clearly in Fischer Audio's camp. While I found the H3's custom-like shape more comfortable and much more secure, it's size and unique shape means it's not going to work for everyone. The Dubliz should offer more universal appeal in terms of fit.
Given the great variation in signature and design, I find these two earphones complimentary. If I want an exciting listen I'll listen to the H3. If I want something more mellow but no less detailed, I'll choose the Dubiz Enhanced. Edge goes to the Dubliz for the more natural presentation and forward, lush mid-range.
TFZ Exclusive King (99 USD): The King is less bassy and has a much more prominent mid-range (especially lower mids) with a similarly enthusiastic treble presentation. I found the H3 to show off more sparkle in the upper ranges, giving cymbal hits a more engaging sound. Neither sounds quite right since the King is a bit dry in it's presentation, but I prefer the H3's presentation. The biggest knock against the H3 in this comparison is the recessed mid-range which really stands out when flipping between the two earphones. Detail is nearly on par but male vocals simply sound too far away and quiet. Guitars also have a rawness and texture to them that's missing on the H3. The H3 is significantly bassier but retains the speed and punch of the King, while improving on raw extension. The King has the larger sound stage, without question, though imaging and layering qualities are quite similar. Neither sounds even remotely congested.
They are both beautiful looking products with great build quality. Since I haven't run into any QC issues with my King (fixed cable version btw) I'll have to give it the nod. Security in fit and comfort are clearly in the H3's wheelhouse though, especially given the weight the King carries. Accessories are about even. I like the variety and quality of the King's included tip set, but the H3's carrying case offers much more protection than the King's soft, faux-leather baggy.
It's hard to say which one of the two I prefer. The H3 is better fitting and more comfortable and I appreciate it's bass presence and smoother, more refined sound. The King's mid-range really highlights the H3's recession and shortcomings in that area, however. I suppose the King would be better for more serious listening, while the H3 would make for a more livable daily beater.
TFZ Exclusive 5 (92.90 USD): I find the 5 a more fitting comparison to the H3 given it maintains nearly all of the positive qualities of the King while adding in a more robust low end. This results in a signature that's more in line with the H3's.
Once again the 5 is less bassy than the H3, but not to the same extent as the King. It's bass feels a touch less nimble than the H3's and less balanced with it's focus shifted more to sub-bass regions. The 5 has lots of heft and weight behind it's bass though, a quality I find quite unique to that earphone. The H3's treble presentation is brighter, thinner, and more sparkly than the 5. The 5 shares the King's slightly dry sound and as a result the H3's treble is more engaging for me, though I also find it more fatiguing. The mid-range is once again the area where the H3 doesn't cut the mustard. While the 5's mids are not quite as forward as the King's, they're still much more prominent than the H3's. Maintain the lush texturing of the King and add in the unique weight and heft of the 5's presentation and the H3 falls short of the mark. Sound stage is much closer with me giving a slight edge to the 5.
Despite being much smaller, the 5's ear pieces are all metal and as a result significantly heavier than the H3 and it's use of lightweight acrylic. The 5's design to my ears is more ergonomic and more comfortable than the King but it still falls short of the H3, never feeling quite as secure and unobtrusive. As much as I like the look of the 5, it's much more subtle than the H3, lacking it's attention grabbing qualities. The 5's accessories are pretty much the same as the Kings, so I'm split there.
When it comes down to it I prefer the competing 5's sound but the H3's design and comfort.
The H3 has proven itself an excellent entry into a very competitive segment. The custom-like design looks absolutely phenomenal to my eyes and it's well-thought out ergonomics make the H3 one of the most comfortable earphones I've come across to date. This backed by a refined, v-shaped signature that compares well with other offerings in the segment makes them a pretty easy recommendation. I only wish the mid-range was pulled forward into the mix where it wouldn't simply play a supporting role.
If this is an indication of the quality of products Kinera can bring to the market, I'm excited to see where they will go next. For now, if you're considering a new earphone around 100 USD, Kinera's H3 should be vying for your attention.
Thanks for reading!
***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Some Test Tunes:
Aesop Rock - Skelethon (Album)
Daft Punk - Random Access Memories (Album)
Elton John - Yellow Golden Brick Road (Album)
King Crimson - Lark's Tongues in Aspic (Album)
King Crimson - Starless and Bible Black (Track)
Supertramp - Crime of the Century (Album)
Infected Mushroom - Converting Vegetarians (Album)
Infected Mushroom - Legend of the Black Shawarma (Album)
Gorillaz - Plastic Beach (Album)
Massive Attack - Mezzanine (Album)
Fleetwood Mac - Rumors (Album)
Run the Jewels - Run the Jewels (Album)
The Prodigy - The Day is My Enemy (Album)
Tobacco - F****d Up Friends
Felt - Felt 2 (A Tribute to Lisa Bone)
Pros - Ergonomic design, good bass signature, incredible lyric-intelligibility, good cable, 2-pin, good case
Cons - Minor cosmetic issues, very minor build deficiencies in the cable
Kinera H3 Review: A Triple-Threat Underdog
If you had told me two months ago that I would be seriously considering a Kinera IEM for my daily-driver I would have laughed in your face. After all, don’t they only make super-cheap budget IEMs?
Well, not anymore.
With their brand-new triple-driver hybrid IEM, the H3, featuring two balanced-armature drivers and a single dynamic driver in a three-way cross-over, Kinera has broken into the higher-tier market of portable audio. But is is special enough to be worth your attention?
You can find the H3 for sale on Penon Audio, here, for $99. The H3 comes in three color variations, Blue/Black, Red/Black, and Black.
Disclaimer: This unit was provided to me free of charge for review purposes. I am not affiliated with Kinera or Penon Audio beyond this review. These words reflect my true, unaltered, opinion about the product. I would like to offer a sincere thank you to Steve from Kinera.
Preference and Bias: Before reading a review, it is worth mentioning that there is no way for a reviewer to objectively pass judgment on the enjoy-ability of a product: such a thing is inherently subjective. Therefore, I find it necessary for you to read and understand what I take a natural liking to and how that might affect my rating of a product.
My ideal sound signature would be an extended sub-bass with a leveled, but textured, mid-bass. The mids should be slightly less pronounced than the treble, but still ahead of the bass. I prefer a more bright upper range.
Source: The H3 was powered like so:
HTC U11 -> USB-C adapter -> earphones
Nexus 6P -> earphones
HTC One M8 -> earphones
Hidizs AP100 3.5mm out -> FiiO A5 3.5mm out -> earphones
HiFiMAN SuperMini -> earphones
PC optical out -> HiFiMe SPDIF 9018 Sabre DAC 3.5mm out -> earphones
All music was served as MP3 @320Kbps or as FLAC.
The H3 did audibly, though subtly, benefit from amping in the lower register.
The H3 immediately caught my attention with how “fluid” it sounded. Excellent dynamics and depth immediately gave me a respect for the audio engineers at Kinera. I didn’t think I was listening to a $99 IEM. Part of my early enthusiasm was due to the fact that my ears had not previously been exposed to W-shaped frequency responses.
Upper-treble is boosted past the lower-treble. There’s a spike in the mids, especially around the 2KHz–5KHz range, and the bass is matched with the mids, being only slightly more pronounced.
Treble: Songs used: In One Ear, Midnight City, Outlands, Satisfy
Treble is clear, precise, and detailed, providing a nice layer of air in most recordings. It’s not quite as breath-taking on IEMs like the Accutone Pisces BA or Heir 4A.I S, but it is definitely there.
High-hats and cymbals are well-bodied and have a quick attack and decay. However in spite of the H3’s treble’s technical prowess, it just misses some of that sweetness found in other IEM’s treble. It’s not a deal-breaker, but something worth noting if that is a major quality you look for in your IEMs.
I’m glad to report that the H3 passes my sibilance testing with flying colors! At least in most cases. The crossover must be reasonably sensitive, because amping the H3 in certain (albiet very strange and uncommon) source configurations can lead to a moderate amount of sibilance. However none of the sources listed above were causing any problems.
Mids: Songs used: Flagpole Sitta, Jacked Up, I Am The Highway, Dreams
The H3 has really robust mids, especially where vocals are concerned. Lyric intelligibility is way above average at this price point, and punches squarely with some IEMs three or four times its price, easily. I can recall several instances where I was left thinking to myself “Oh, so that’s what he’s been saying” on songs I’ve listened to for five years!
But instrumentally the H3 is no slouch either. Guitars, acoustic and electric, both have a nice timbre. Electric crunch and distortion is particularly enjoyable on the H3 meaning all you edgy death-metal listeners out there should feel right at home.
Pianos are also nice, but a little lacking in body for my tastes. This is my only real complaint with the H3’s sound signature: where the lower-mids at? This is a matter of personal preference, obviously, but it would be nice to see Kinera create an IEM that had a bit of a warmer lower-midrange.
Bass: Songs used: Moth, Gold Dust, In For The Kill (Skream Remix), War Pigs (Celldweller Remix)
Bass isn’t particularly aggressive, but it is definitely there, and is undeniably punchy when amped correctly. In terms of bass signature, I’d have to say the H3 is pretty linear, with a slightly higher emphasis on mid-bass than sub-bass. Still though, the H3 has pretty good extension down to the 30Hz-50Hz band giving it a good rumble.
Electronic music fans rejoice; bass drops and chaotic rumbly choruses sound wonderful through the H3, just don’t expect it to shatter and skulls.
Packaging / Unboxing
The H3 comes in high quality packaging not often seen at this price point. The textured box has a premium feel to it, with the earphones and accessories well-protected within.
The H3 is very well constructed and is reminiscent of CIEMs in composition. The driver housings are made from a plastic composite which is a single seamless shell.
The face-plate is well-polished, and the Kinera logo is printed very accurately onto it with no noticeable flaws.
The nozzle is average in length, and is tipped with a finely-perforated metal grill. There’s no real lip to speak of, so some after-market eartips may slip off, though I’ve not had any issues so far.
Kinera chose to go (thankfully) with a 2-pin connector for removable cables. The female half of the mechanism is slightly recessed into a cleanly-cut depression. The metal sits flush with the shell, inspiring confidence in me regarding the H3’s longevity.
The H3’s cable is one of the best around at this price range that I’ve tested, if not the best. It’s a four-strand braided silver cable using a double-chain braid below the plastic Y-splitter, and a simple twist-braid above it. It’s similar in geometry to the copper cable used by the new Simgot IEMs, though it is much more thick.
The cable terminates in a metal-enclosed 3.5mm jack. The H3’s cable implements a stress relief system I’ve been vouching for for a long time: a double plastic sleeve. It’s essentially two completely separate malleable acrylic cylinders set inside one another. It works really great, though the outer cylinder appears to be in need of better adhesive. It won’t be an issue with the majority of cases, but a strong (and fast) sideways pull on the cable perpendicular to the housing of the jack could dislodge the outer cylinder.
I’m just nitpicking.
The cable uses memory-wire guides. They are well-made, well shaped, and mold to the ear. I’ve got no reason to worry about their longevity.
I don’t know what wizardry Kinera employed, but on their first real high-end IEM they succeeded in making one of the most ergonomic universal IEMs I have ever had the pleasure of using. I spent multiple days using the H3 for a full 8-hour work day. I had zero comfort issues.
The H3’s accessories are okay, but definitely not the best I’ve seen for $99. Inside the box you’ll find:
1x 6.2mm to 3.5mm jack
3x extra eartips
1x semi-hard case
1x airline adapter
The silicone tips are ok, but nothing to write home about. It appears that the case, while quite good, is a branded OEM case. It’s got more than enough for all the accessories, the IEM, and even a USB-C adapter.
The H3 is an absolutely wonderful IEM from one of the companies who I’d least expect. If you are looking for detail, well-tuned sound, exceptional ergonomics, and durable-detachable cables, the H3 is definitely worth looking at. Good job Kinera, and I look forward to seeing what you come up with next.
Pros - good imaging, SQ matches the price, w-shape -> no bog-standard tonality, superb build quality on CIEM-/CUIEM-level (if consistent QC), removable cables (2-pin)
Cons - (potential QC inconsistencies,) soft and slow bass response, lipless nozzle, 6 kHz treble emphasis might not please everybody
Originally posted on my German audio review site, the "Kopfhörer-Lounge", here comes my review of the Kinera H3, an affordable universal fit triple-driver hybrid in-ear that, despite its moderate price, is manufactured the same way CIEMs and customisable UIEMs are created. It features removable cables, too.
If you haven’t heard of the company “Kinera” before, then you are not alone, since before fellow Head-Fi member @Hisoundfi introduced me to them, I hadn’t heard of them either.
Fast forward a few days, Steve from Kinera got in touch with me and asked me whether I would like to review their latest in-ear called H3, a triple-driver hybrid model with a quite typical layout of one dynamic driver for the lows and two Balanced Armatures for the rest of the frequency spectrum. He offered to send me a sample at no cost for me, and all I should do in exchange was to give him my honest opinion on the in-ear that would be used for feedback and further improvements, and to write a just as honest and unbiased English review of it (I also had to agree that they can use my posts, impressions, comments and reviews for their social media platforms).
I agreed, and so here we are now, with a review of a very beautiful and professional looking hybrid in-ear with ergonomic acrylic shells and removable cables for just around $99.
Some additional information about Kinera: they are a Chinese audio manufacturer and established in 2007. Before making their own earphones, they manufactured micro speakers for military detection. Besides the H3, they currently have the lower-end BD005 hybrid in-ear in their product portfolio that retails for less than $30.
According to their information, they have different distributors around the world and are currently expanding their product line to the >$100 market, and are working on future products at a higher price point and technical level that might feature the ability to tune the sound by changing the crossover by using switches.
They do not have a fully finished international website yet, but are quite active on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kinera2017/
Price: around $99
Colours available: translucent black/red/blue
Drivers: 2x Balanced Armature + 1x dynamic driver per side
Impedance: 48 Ω
Frequency Response: 20 – 20000 Hz
Sensitivity: 101 dB
L&R Channel Matching: < 2 dB
Max Input Power: 10 mW
Cable Length: 1.2 m
Wire Material: 6n single crystal copper plating silver
Plug Material: 3.5 mm gold-plated
Earphone Connectors: 2-pin (0.78 mm)
About hybrid In-Ears:
As you can already see from the technical specifications and introduction, the Kinera H3 is a little different from most In-Ears produced in the past decade and doesn’t only rely on dynamic or Balanced Armature transducers for sound reproduction, but combines both in one shell.
Most In-Ears use dynamic transducers for audio playback which have the advantage of covering the whole audible spectrum and achieving a strong bass emphasis without much effort. Valuable dynamic drivers are often said to have a more bodied and musical bass that has a more soft impact and decay and lacks of the analytical character that BA transducers are known for. On the downside, in contrast to headphones with other driver principles, dynamic transducers often have a lower resolution.
Higher-priced and especially professional IEMs mostly use Balanced Armature transducers, which usually have got a higher resolution than dynamic drivers, are faster, more precise and have got the better high-level stability, which is important for stage musicians that often require higher than average listening levels. On the downside, it is quite hard to cover the whole audible spectrum with just a single BA transducer and strongly emphasised bass is only possible with multiple or big drivers. Some people also find In-Ears with BA transducers to sound too analytical, clinical or cold (in several active years in a German audio community where I wrote multiple reviews, gave dozens of purchase advice and help, from time to time I heard people that got into BA earphones for the first time using these attributes for describing BA earphones, especially their lower frequencies).
Hybrid IEMs unite the positive aspects of both driver principles and use one dynamic transducer for the lows reproduction and at least one BA driver for covering the midrange and highs, wherefore the often as “musical” described bass character remains and the BA transducers add resolution, speed and precision to the mids and highs (, at least in theory) – and that’s what the Kinera H3 does with its technology. It is addressed to those people who perceive the clinically-fast character of BA transducers as unnatural and prefer body and weight, but want to keep the mids’ and highs’ resolution, nimbleness and precision.
Despite still falling rather into the lower budget category, the H3 comes with a delivery content that clearly surpasses what one would expect for around $100:
The cardboard box has got a magnetic flap.
Inside, one can find an airplane adapter, 6.3 to 3.5 mm adapter, a spacious carrying case and last but not least a warranty card as well as manual.
Inside the Kinera-branded carrying case, one can find the in-ears, already with the cable attached and a Kinera-branded cable tie, as well as three pairs of Sony-like silicone tips.
Looks, Feels, Build Quality:
That the H3 retails for only around $100 is definitely not obvious in any way – its shells are actually extremely similar to those of universal demo models of custom-moulded in-ears or customisable universal fit in-ears, featuring a black, real faceplate with a golden Kinera logo that is perfectly attached to the acrylic body, without any visible seam or edge.
The bodies are made of transparent red acrylic and look really nice (other colours such as blue and black are available as well). Inside, one can see a real crossover, the dynamic driver and two balanced Armatures as well as the sound tubes with an acoustic damper being visible in the tube coming from the two BA drivers.
The dynamic driver is rear-vented, however the placement of the vent is rather cleverly done on the shells’ upper side wherefore it shouldn’t be blocked as much by the ear as if it were in a different spot (blocking the vent by the way results in a decrease in bass quantity, as it could also be expected for a back vent, along with a slight increase in lower midrange quantity).
The Kinera H3 really is a perfectly built acrylic in-ear with a highly ergonomic, semi-custom-IEM-like shell design, and is on par with excellently built, much higher-priced customisable universal fit and custom-moulded in-ears. This is definitely applause-worthy, and given what it takes to manufacture these shells (they are hand-made and hand-finished after all), it even makes me somewhat speechless that this is possible for such a low price (oh boy, those poor underpaid Chinese workers…).
The only thing that could be improved is the nozzle that does not have a lip/barb/collar wherefore the ear tips, while they seal just as good as they should, can come off rather easily.
Something also rather special although not as unique anymore as some years ago, is that the H3 also features detachable cables with 2-pin connectors.
The cable has got four single silver conductors that are coated with a clear insulation and twisted. Strain relief is good and the y-splitter is low in profile and features a nice chin-slider.
This cable is also very soft and flexible.
It might carry some moderate plastic smell in the first few days but it mostly fades away after around one week.
My UERMs’ cable is still a bit more premium in terms of appearance and haptics, however the cable Kinera uses comes very close.
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On the replacement H3 with blue shells I received (you will learn why somewhat further down this review), build quality was still good, however not as perfect (unlike the red H3 I initially got that was absolutely flawless and perfect in terms of build quality and finish): the logos weren’t 100% mirrored, the left side wasn’t buffed and polished well enough (the surface was ever so slightly hazy above the logo instead of being clear), and the transition from the faceplates to the bodies, while still good, was slightly visible and tactile in some areas.
So my suggestion to Kinera is to definitely work on the quality control (which might however also mean that there will be a slight price increase). Even though the in-ears are handmade and hand-finished, it is not fair that some people might receive products that feature top-notch build quality only known from perfectly crafted CIEMs, whereas others might get a set of in-ears that is still well-built but not perfect.
Due to the ergonomic shell design that is CIEM-oriented, the fit is nothing but excellent, at least for me. People with really small ears might experience some fit issues because the shells are more on the medium size on the scale, however this should not be any problem for everyone with medium and especially large ears.
The ear guides have got a memory shape but do not feature any steel wire inside. While they might look like they are quite tight when not in the ears due to their quite small appearing radius, they are unnoticeable when the H3 is inserted into one’s ears and they automatically adjust their shape to the ears’.
Noise isolation is better than average for in-ears with vented shells. Noise from the outside is blocked out sufficiently well and almost reaches the level of in-ears with closed shells.
My main sources for listening were the Cowon Plenue 2, iBasso DX200 (AMP2 module) and Stoner Acoustics UD125.
The largest included silicone tips were used for listening.
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Frequency response measurements can be found here.
Keep in mind though that I am not using a professional measurement coupler but a Vibro Labs Veritas coupler that was pseudo-calibrated to more or less match an IEC711 coupler’s response with applied diffuse-field compensation that is definitely not perfect at the current state and shows too little level around 3 and 6 kHz. But if you mentally visualise somewhat more level in those areas, the result will be fairly close.
The first H3 I received unfortunately suffered from channel imbalance in the lows due to a faulty dynamic driver (one side was warmer sounding than the other despite almost identical sub-bass levels and perfect channel matching in the mids and highs). The replacement (with blue shells) that arrived a few days later fortunately did not suffer from any imbalance issues at all.
The Kinera H3 sports a w-shaped frequency response – its sub-bass and midbass, midrange and middle as well as upper treble are emphasised.
Compared to an in-ear that stays diffuse-field flat in the bass, such as the Etymotic ER-4S/SR, and compared to 1 kHz, its bass is emphasised by around 8-9 dB.
Doing sine sweeps, I can hear the lows starting to climb around 300 Hz, with the climax being reached at 60 Hz although there is not much less presence between 80 and 120 Hz. The sub-bass does not roll off but keeps the presence.
Since the emphasis mainly concentrates on the sub-bass and midbass (that is a bit warmed up), it does not bleed into the midrange and the H3 doesn’t have a dominant upper bass although it is punchy and undeniably forward.
The midrange is emphasised, quite forward and therefore doesn’t sound recessed at all but has got more of an “in your face” character, not unlike the hybrid DUNU Alpha 1 earbuds or Shure SE425 but with a stronger emphasis compared to the latter, however the Shure is tuned very differently (quite neutral).
Vocal balance and midrange timbre, unlike some other hybrid in-ears in the sub-$100-range, is pretty good and realistic, with an overall fairly uncoloured midrange with just a hint of brightness and air that just very slightly lacks some lower vocal warmth as counterweight.
At 6 kHz, in the middle treble, I can hear an emphasis, along with another, however more broad-banded and weaker one in the upper highs around 8 kHz. The level is quite neutral above that and the extension in the super highs above 10 kHz is good until around 14 kHz.
This guarantees for enough countervailing brightness to keep the balance upright due to the bass and midrange emphasis, however since the first emphasis is set rather low with around 6 kHz, cymbals gain some raw and metallic touch, that, while not too unnatural or distracting, can get a bit too energetic with more complex and faster-paced tracks with a lot of treble action while everything is fine with slower recordings and genres as well as those tracks that are not super energetic when it comes to cymbal play. Except for the 6 kHz elevation that can definitely be a bit too metallic and strong with songs that feature an energetic and fast cymbal play, the highs appear realistic and natural.
Having the emphasis happen between 8 and 10 kHz instead of 6 and 8 kHz would have made the cymbals lose their metallic touch with more energetic recordings, but then again the H3 is a sub-$100 hybrid in-ear and there are other examples that are less even and less realistic in the highs.
Overall, the resolution is neither outstandingly good nor in any way really underwhelming and bad – it is average and about what you would expect to get for the price.
Speech intelligibility is really good, with the upper mids being less well defined and separated with busier recordings compared to the upper treble that is very convincing and definitely better than what the price might suggest when it comes to separation, definition and detail retrieval (I assume that the crossover frequency is around or above 3 kHz).
The dynamic driver’s bass has got a quite nice texture that, while it doesn’t reach the level of the much more expensive HiFiMan RE2000 at all and doesn’t even come any close, is still nice and appears rather nicely layered.
However, the Kinera’s bass is generally more on the slower, softer, somewhat muddier and less detailed side, especially when comparing it to higher-end hybrid in-ears. While this might even be desired by some people (I’m referring to the softness and the “body” that it might add to the sound perception) and is not a very big deal for a hybrid in-ear in this price range, the bass could definitely be better defined and tighter with medium-paced and especially fast recordings.
The Kinera H3 has got a rather wide soundstage with a really decent amount of depth (with about 70% of its width), creating a nice illusion of space and three-dimensionality.
Imaging is fairly convincing as well and only suffers from slightly blurred edges due to the soft bass response. Directions are easy to spot nonetheless.
Playing more complex and faster recordings with many musicians and tonal elements playing at the same time, the soundstage does not collapse but remains fairly intact with just somewhat more blurriness between the instruments due to the bass response.
In Comparison with other In-Ears:
iBasso IT03 (>>$):
The Kinera’s shells appear more premium because they are hand-made like it is done for CIEMs, and the cable is more flexible as well (both in-ears have got removable cables), however the iBasso might have the benefit of better build quality consistency and quality control.
Both in-ears are ergonomically shaped and very comfortable.
Both have got about the same amount of sub-bass and an overall quite comparable bass emphasis that stays nicely out of the midrange, while the H3 has got the slightly warmer midbass.
The H3 has got the more forward vocal range while the iBasso’s is slightly brighter.
The Kinera is somewhat brighter in the upper treble.
The iBasso’s bass that is much tighter, better controlled and detailed – it is one of the tightest and fastest hybrid in-ears that exists anyway, despite the emphasis in the sub-bass. This is no competition at all.
There is no large difference in perceived midrange details but the iBasso appears more resolving here as well, while it has also got the somewhat better separated and more detailed upper treble in comparison.
When it comes to soundstage, the Kinera’s is somewhat wider and especially deeper, however the iBasso’s features the sharper and more precise separation and no haze between and around instruments (mainly due to the much tighter and faster bass).
Fidue A73 (>$):
The Kinera has got removable cables, the Fidue hasn’t. Both in-ears are supposed to be worn with the cables around the ears. The Fidue has got the smaller shells but both in-ears are very comfortable.
The Kinera’s shells appear more premium because they are hand-made the same way as it is done for CIEMs and customisable UIEMs, however the A73 might have the advantage of a better build quality consistency.
The Fidue’s bass is less emphasised but thicker in the fundamental range/lower midrange, giving deep voices and instruments in this range more body.
The Kinera has got the somewhat more forward midrange.
The Fidue is brighter in the upper treble around 8 kHz that some people might perceive as somewhat sharp but features a dip in the middle treble (and therefore also lacks the Kinera’s 6 kHz elevation) that generates headroom for it.
Fidue’s A73 stays better focussed with fast and complex recordings and also features the somewhat better midrange resolution. In the upper highs however, it is the H3 that resolves better and has got the slightly better separation.
The Fidue is also rather soft in the bass – however, it is better controlled and especially more detailed, better textured and noticeably better defined compared to the Kinera’s, especially when playing more complex and faster recordings.
The Kinera’s soundstage is larger and airier with more room around and between instruments, while separation is comparable.
1More E1001 (<$):
The Kinera has got removable cables whereas the 1More does not. The H3 has got the superior cable as well.
In terms of housing design, both are utterly different with the handmade Kinera representing the classical CIEM demo shape while the E1001 has got more traditional shells.
The 1More is more v-shaped sounding, with a noticeably stronger sub-bass emphasis and the audibly more recessed seeming vocal range.
The Kinera features the higher resolution in the midrange, especially lower midrange, along with better speech intelligibility while treble separation and detail retrieval are quite comparable.
When it comes to the bass, both in-ears aren’t fully convincing and lack tightness, control, speed and definition while the 1More is ultimately slightly tighter and faster in the lows but appears more one-noted and doesn’t fully reach the Kinera’s separation, definition, layering, texture and details in the lower frequencies.
In terms of soundstage, both feature a fairly wide presentation while the H3 has even got a bit more spatial width. The Kinera however offers more spatial depth and therefore sounds more three-dimensional, along with the cleaner separation and somewhat more precise imaging.
What makes the Kinera H3 stand out from the crowd in the $100 price range is that it has got removable cables, and especially that it is handmade and hand-finished in the same way as custom-moulded in-ears are. A lip on the nozzle would not hurt though.
Craftsmanship and build quality are outstanding for the price and can be on the same level as well-crafted, much more expensive custom-moulded and customised universal fit in-ears (however this is potentially not true for all delivered units as the finish on the blue replacement set I received shows – Kinera should definitely improve in the quality control department to make sure that every in-ear that was built is identically superbly finished).
Tonally, it has got a w-shaped sound signature that is rather well-made but could use a bit less 6 kHz elevation, however this is not a too big deal for the price.
Detail retrieval is just as you would expect it to be for the price category. The H3 has got a nicely resolving midrange and well-separated upper treble along with a pretty open sounding soundstage, however its bass should and could benefit from more speed, tightness, control and definition.
Overall, the presentation is fairly nice for the price with a generally matching sonic performance and a unique level of build quality and features one would not expect to get for around $100.
Pros - End to end extension, Bass definition, Natural yet clear midrange, Great ergonomics and isolation, Fantastic cable
Cons - Larger size may not suit everyone, Some cosmetic QC issues, Separation could do with some work, Thinner treble
Kinera is yet another up and coming Chi-Fi manufacturer who, until now, have yet to really produce a runaway hit. To my knowledge, they have only one in-ear under their belt, the BD005, which was well received amongst a small group of enthusiasts but failed to really capture the iem market like other in-ears from TFZ, Magaosi/Audbos and even Simgot. So it came as a surprise when their newest earphone, the H3, blew up on social media. With an immensely prospective triple hybrid driver setup combined with a very reasonable $100 USD asking price, the H3 almost instantly became one of the most talked about, sought after earphones on the net.
Though I’m not one to be swayed by common perceptions, after all, budget hybrid earphones are nothing we haven’t seen before from manufacturers like 1More, Xiaomi and Magaosi. And in many ways, the H3’s reception very much reflected that of the K3 Pro with early impressions comparing them favourably to more expensive models and the same amount of ecstatic excitement orbiting every teaser post on social media. With that said, let’s see how good the H3 really is.
I would like to thank Steve from Kinera Audio very much for his quick communication and for providing me with the H3 for the purpose of review. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review. Despite receiving the earphones free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.
About Me, Background, Gear of choice, Preferences and Biases –
I generally prefer a u-shaped sound that is close to neutral. I like a lot of detail and clarity but can appreciate a smooth, laid back sound. I’m not particularly treble sensitive so I may be more forgiving of brightness over darkness. I will note if I use a different eartip/pad/cover during the review and describe the sound changes.
While they aren’t quite as lavishly packaged as the K3 HD and Simgotearphones, the H3 nonetheless has a much nicer unboxing than most Chi-fi earphones. They come packaged within a textured hard box with gold print denoting the brand and model. The box magnetically latches open to reveal the hard case, flight adapter and ¼” adapter within foam.
The case is on the larger side and is similar to units included with Shozy products, it is protective and adequately stores the earphones and accessories in addition to a small DAP though portability is not ideal.
Inside the case is the H3 and 3 pairs of Sony hybrid style ear tips. The tips are very comfortable and mimic the superb fit and seal offered by the authentic Sony’s. While a few of them had offset stems, I didn’t find this to noticeably affect fit and they are otherwise well moulded. I’m a huge fan of the Sony Hybrid tips and unsurprisingly, Kinera’s imitation tips provided much the same experience with comfort and seal.
The H3 is an intriguing earphone with a custom style housing that reminds me of Ibasso’s IT03 albeit appreciably more compact. They assume an over-ear fit and achieve impressive comfort and solidity despite their unorthodox housing design and entirely acrylic construction. At present, Kinera provide the H3 in red, black and blue, all with the same black faceplate.
Despite being entirely constructed from plastic, the H3’s feel very solid, rigid and well-weighted in the hand whilst remaining forgiving on the ear. Their semi translucent housings add a lot of visual intrigue to their funky design and their gloss black faceplates adorned with golden Kinera logos are both classy and eye catching. Kinera is using a two-layer process to achieve a uniquely smooth look on the faceplates. Unfortunately, my set was riddled with small bubbles and even a notably large one on the tip of the left earpiece out of the box. Perhaps there was some issue with the lamination since my unit is a pre-production review sample and the earphones are otherwise flawless with no seams of joining issues, I am also able to press the clear coat back onto the underlying paint though it only holds temporarily.
And in terms of fit, don’t let their larger dimensions and strange protrusions deter you, the H3 provides a very solid, stable fit that is easily one of the best I’ve experienced around this price. The earphones slot into the ear with authority and lock firmly into place, staying put when running. Furthermore, they do so without any sense of discomfort like the iBasso IT03, providing great if not perfect comfort over long listening sessions. Buyers also shouldn’t worry too much about public appearance, due to their medium depth fit, the earphones don’t protrude too much and look quite subtle when worn with only the black faceplate visible to onlookers.
The nozzle itself is perfectly angled though it has no fluting or ridging so eartips can be prone to falling off. It is of a common size, fitting T200 Comply foam tips in addition to CP100 Spinfits and Sony Hybrids which is great for those that can’t find a solid seal with the included tips (though they are almost identical to Hybrids). The tips is finished off with a nice metal filter that prevents earwax and debris from entering the housings.
The H3’s are vented though very minimally so and they produce as strong a seal as the fully sealed TFZ King. Some driver flex is present though I didn’t notice any audio degradation over time. Isolation isn’t as flawless as the fully sealed King but remains immediately superior to more open hybrid designs like the K3 Pro and I had no issue using the H3’s on public transport. That being said, one thing Kinera could consider in a predecessor, is relocating the vent on the tops of the earphones to another location. I found that the left vent was covered by my ear while the right vent was left open, simply due to the shape of my ear. However, this produced a different amount of isolation in either ear, creating an uncomfortable sensation and finding the right was a bit more finicky than necessary.
Fortunately, the H3’s come with a fabulous 0.78mm removable cable system that is perhaps not as widely adopted as MMCX but is more reliable and less temperamental. The cable itself is of terrific quality, it’s a 6N silver plated copper design with a nice braid and super soft texture. The cable is supple, easily coiling for storage and quickly untangles when removed from a pocket/case. In addition, the pre-formed ear guides were perfectly shaped for my ears unlike the TFZ Exclusive series, Magaosi K3 earphones and Simgot EN700 Bass, producing superior stability, comfort and practicality. The cable also resists microphonic noise when walking and its smoother texture avoids catching on clothing. This is topped off with a low-profile y-split that avoids severing the cable to enhance durability and a case friendly Oyaide style plug with ample strain relief.
The H3, despite some small quality control issues with my unit, nonetheless delivers some of the best ergonomics I’ve experienced around this price. They have a solid but lightweight build that is stable in the ear, great passive noise isolation, a strong, reliable seal and pleasing comfort. Moreover, their excellent cable really enhances usability and their classy look provides a splash of colour without coming off as even remotely gaudy.
The H3 combines a single dynamic driver with two balanced armatures of unspecified size and model creating a very convincing hybrid setup that easily rivals the Magaosi K3 Pro and 1More Triple Driver. While I was immensely excited to crack the H3 open and give them a thorough listen upon receival, I was at the time committed to my review of the Magaosi K3 HD, a similarly priced earphone that utilizes a similar hybrid driver setup. But even coming from the more expensive K3 HD, the Kinera H3 immediately impressed me with their excellent detailing, natural midrange and bass performance that far outstripped the competition. The H3 is not the flagship killer than many have put it out to be, but it is a fantastically well-tuned earphone nonetheless and one that many buyers in the market for a sub $100 earphone can strongly consider.
The H3 is a v-shaped earphone with an emphasis on sub and deep-bass and lower treble. And though they carry a slightly brighter sound with less present lower midrange elements, they lack the immediate sense of brightness created by the TFZ King. They are a slightly more aggressive earphone that lies closest to the TFZ King in tuning from the earphones around this price that I’ve tested, though their more even midrange grants them with an appreciably more balanced sound on a whole and they never came off as mid-forward or mid-recessed to my ear.
The H3 is a relatively easy earphone to drive with a higher 101dB sensitivity that makes them just a little less efficient than the TFZ King. Unfortunately, this also means they pick up the same amount of hiss from most sources though noise is hardly as noticeable as something like the Campfire Jupiter. Moreover, with a 48ohm impedance, the earphones aren’t as sensitive to output impedance as the majority of hybrid earphones nor are they excessively power hungry, making them a nice daily in-ear that works perfectly with portable sources. From my HTC 10, the H3 sounded very nice with no hiss and a very similar tonality to my sub-1ohm Oppo HA-2. My 10 and iPod Touch also provided more than enough volume, I typically stuck to 1-3/16 volume levels, leaving plenty of overhead for louder volume listeners. And despite that higher impedance, the H3’s didn’t find a huge benefit from amplification though they did scale nicely when plugged into my HA-2, Mojo or X7 with notably improved bass resolution in particular. The H3 is well designed to maximise their sound quality from portable sources with enough technical ability to take advantage of dedicated DAC/AMPs.
Soundstage, Imaging and Separation –
The H3’s soundstage is one of the weaker aspects of their sound though it is good enough to avoid holding the rest of the sound back. The H3 doesn’t have the most spacious presentation, the K3 HD, King and EN700 Bass all sound immediately wider than the H3 though the Kinera hardly suffers from congestion. They have a wider presentation, width sits on the periphery of that out of the head sensation but rarely extends much beyond. Depth is similarly intimate to the K3 HD, which is enough to convincingly portray live recordings but still lacks the immersion of higher priced in-ears like the 1More Quad Driver. Imaging is good, not great and instruments have accurate placement even if they can’t always be pinpointed; the King does quite a bit better in this regard. The H3 also has some issues with separation, again, they never sound congested, but mids aren’t quite as layered as the King and highs sound more integrated but intimate than the K3 HD.
The first thing I noticed was the H3’s exceptional bass reproduction that seemed all too developed for an earphone costing just $99 USD. I do feel like that statement requires some context, the H3’s still don’t possess the slam and definition of the Flares Pros or New Primacy’s for instance but, when compared to the rather uninspiring competition, the H3 is easily one of the best. This begins with their fantastic sub-bass extension that matches the class-leading Basic, slightly edges out the TFZ King and provides a substantial leap over the EN700 Bass and Magaosi earphones. Tuning is also very well considered, bass has slight emphasis throughout and while bass is linear, sub and deep bass are their driving force. Quantity wise, they are closer to the King than the warmer K3 HD though low notes have great depth augmented by a nice sense of power and weight. They also lack the bloat of the Simgot’s and Magaosi’s in addition to the muddiness of the Basics by nature of their tuning. The H3 is also appreciably more textured and defined than the King, bass on the H3 is taught and easily the most balanced and linear of all the aforementioned earphones.
When listening to Earth, Wind & Fire’s “In the Stone”, the H3 easily provided my favourite rendition among these earphones with a tight, snappy sub-bass rhythm accompanied by full yet textured mid-bass and a slightly warmer upper-bass response that avoided midrange spillage. By contrast, the slower K3 earphones and Simgots struggled to extract texture from the rapid bass line while the King’s slightly muddier response and mid-bass dip (relative to the H3), sapped them off some bass detail. The H3 still isn’t the fastest earphone I’ve heard, far from it, even the King has slightly better transience partly due to their leaner response and generally well-tuned driver. That being said, they very skillfully combine the fuller tuning offered by many earphones around this price with the technical strengths of TFZ’s budget masterpiece. Of course, buyers need to consider that the K3 still doesn’t compete with hybrid earphones like the $300 New Primacy or the $1000 AKG K3003 nor do they come close to the single dynamic driver ie800 and Flares Pro; those earphones are tighter, more detailed and more textured. But considering that those earphones also cost magnitudes more, the H3 is truly a mastery of both tuning and quality, they are a rarity at this price.
The H3’s continue their tirade of superiority into their midrange which is similarly very well considered for their asking price. Some added clarity imbues subtle immediacy to midrange elements without sounding thin, raspy or unnatural as some clarity orientated earphones around this price tend to. The H3 is also quite balanced through their midrange with just a slightly brighter tuning that is immediately clearer than the Simgot EN700 Bass, more balanced than the V-shaped K3 earphones and more even than the mid-forward King. Male vocals are very well done, full-bodied and clear if not quite as clean sounding as the TFZ King. Simply Red’s “Stars” sounded raw and vibrant, yet not artificially so while Ed Sheeran’s “Castle on the Hill” was flattered with full yet defined vocals. Upper mids are similarly flattered which is rare given that most budget earphones struggle a bit with female vocals. The H3 once again impresses with its well-refined tones, vocals never come off as fatiguing, strident or over-forward and guitars are sublime with excellent detail retrieval that matches and occasionally outdoes the K3 HD. And while the H3 is slightly more aggressive in its presentation, female vocals are smooth and well-bodied as are strings, trumpets and wind instruments.
In terms of outright resolution, layering and clarity, no earphone around this price I’ve heard notably bests the TFZ King though the H3 comes remarkably close. In addition, the H3 takes a step back on clarity in favour of a little more midrange body, lacking the sligthly off voicing of the King. They also sounded more “correct” to my ear when switching from the Magaosi K3 HD and when switching from more expensive in-ears such as the $599 64Audio U3 and $800 Campfire Jupiter. Usually, direct comparison to these in-ears really reveals the flaws in a budget earphone’s tuning but the H3 had no outstanding tonal deviations even if quality and refinement weren’t competitive. The H3 was also surprisingly consistent and forgiving of different mastering styles; whether I was listening to the brighter tones of the pop charts or the mellower mastering of classical and jazz, the H3 provided a revolving, natural and perfectly bodied response. As for the downsides, the H3 doesn’t have the greatest midrange layering and separation and they do lack the transparency of higher priced or more neutral offerings like Hifiman’s RE400/600, but they do provide an exceptionally pleasing tonality with gobs of detail and nuance; something that is surprisingly hard to come by and that many manufacturers would like to charge a lot more for.
While the H3 greatly impressed me with their detail retrieval and clarity, treble isn’t quite as flawless as the bass and midrange responses with some tonal oddities that compromise refinement and, at times, detail. The H3 is roughly in-between the K3 HD and King in tuning with a slightly more aggressive lower treble response and some extra middle treble granting them with great clarity to treble notes. Listening to David Bowie’s “Everyone Says Hi” and the H3 provided a clarity that was on par with the TFZ King yet one that was similarly a little thin if not quite as splashy. The H3 did sound more tonally pleasing to my ear than the King and due to their more even treble, especially with regards to lower/middle treble, they were also appreciably more detailed. In fact, the H3 has similar detail retrieval to the exemplary K3 HD making them one of the most detailed earphones around this price. In addition, the H3 manages great high-frequency resolution and very good extension that was on par with the K3 HD and King if not immediately superior; high-hats have pleasing texture and cymbals are granted plenty of air, strings sound expansive and the H3 produces some nice shimmer when called for. Moreover, they do so without sounding metallic or harsh, the H3 never came off as fatiguing to me even when listening to brighter tracks.
But where detailing and clarity are all immensely impressive, the H3 does suffer from some treble issues. For instance, cymbals do tend to sound tizzy and very high-frequency details get thinned out and a little truncated despite their extension being quite good. While the H3 isn’t as peaky as the K3 Pro, the K3 HD is a slightly more even treble performer, with similarly impressive detail retrieval on top. The H3 isn’t inherently flawed with regards to high-frequency reproduction but I do have to be critical. And to my ears, the treble tuning on the H3 slots in nicely with the rest of the sound even if they are lacking some body, smoothness and that last element of refinement.
It can be hard reviewing an earphone like this, one that is so thoroughly hyped but so thoroughly dismantles the competition. Because while there is no doubt in my mind that the Kinera H3 is a fabulous earphone, it is still far from a perfect iem and even $200 earphones like the Pinnacle P1 will easily best them in terms of sheer sound quality. But that’s not to say that the H3 is a bad buy because, at just $99, they provide exceptional refinement within their tuning while retaining a truly surprising amount of nuance. The H3 has replaced the TFZ King as my $100 benchmark with that similar technical ability wrapped within a more pleasing, linear tonality and a more stable, compact shell.
The H3 gets a resounding recommendation for any buyer looking for a u-shaped earphone with great detailing, a clear but natural midrange and a class leading bass response. Of course, bass lovers should still look into the Oriveti Basic and those who prefer a more dynamic tonality can definitely consider the K3 HD, but the H3 provided the nicest balance of elements to my ear. To top it off, they also have a super stable, comfortable fit and an excellent cable that is better than those included on earphones costing several hundred dollars. Their excellent noise isolation and removable cable also make them a practical, durable daily driver and their added stability over the TFZ King makes it the clear choice for any kind of active use.
Verdict – 9.5/10, There is no shortage of readers asking for the best ~$100 earphone on the market and Kinera have done a great thing, they’ve made my job a lot easier, the H3 makes an easy recommendation not only due to their accessible yet highly enjoyable sound but also their featured design and excellent build. And while I do have some qualms with quality control, any issues I experienced didn’t affect listening.
Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed my review, please have a look at my blog for more just like it:
Pros - Fit, Sound Quality, cable, Case
Cons - Power hungry
The Kinera H3 is the newest addition to their IEM family. Most of you may know this brand from their entry level IEM the BD005. It was a dual driver, single BA single dynamic. It was popular for its price and the sound quality it achieved at its price point. I have not ever had the chance to listen to it but from reviews I have read – I have an understanding that it comes across bass heavy. Initially, I thought that this would be the same for the H3. I was wrong. It was all by chance that I met their rep named, Steve Tong. Over lengthy conversations on Facebook messenger I began to understand the new direction that Kinera is headed in. The H3 is just the start of their new direction.
Let’s talk about the earphone and accessories for a moment. The Kinera H3 comes in a very professional looking box (my opinion is based on the fact that I get lots of ear buds and they come in just a bag most of the time lol). Once you open it up there is their contact info and warranty card. Underneath that is the IEM carrying case and an adaptor for professional use. The H3 is packed safely away in the carrying case. As soon as you open it up you will most likely be amazed by the quality of the cable and earphone. Speaking of the cable – I love the Velcro strap included to keep tidy. Also included is the tip selection that look very similar to the Sony tips but at not the same. The nozzle is smaller on the tips included with the H3. The Sony tips slip right off. The earphone is made of ABS acrylic. Feels very high end and sturdy. Wearing them is the best experience I have had with an IEM to date. For reference, I am comparing this to the Jomo 6r universal when I am talking about fit. The case does a nice job keeping all the tips and earphone protected during travel. That case style has become popular but for good reason.
KINERA H3 2Balanced Armature+1Dynamic Driver Triple Drivers Hybrid Detachable In-ear Earphone ( copied from Penon Audio)
Model : KINERA H3 In-ears monitor
Color available :translucent black /red/ blue
Frequency Response： 20-20000HZ
L&R Channel Balance Sensitivity： <2DB
Max Input Power： 10mW
Cable Length: 1.2meter
Wire Material： 6n single crystal copper plating silver
Plug material： 3.5mm golden plated
Earphone interface: 2-pin (0.78mm )
6 pairs of silicone eartips (S/M/L)
On to the sound, this is where things get interesting. Earlier, I talked about how the IEM was not bass heavy. This is true, I find this IEM to be what some people refer to as flat or balanced. Those words are overused in this hobby… Whatever... it is true. The IEM is power hunger. It is listed as 48 ohms and if you use it on an underpowered source is sounds bright. The H3 also needs burn in time. If you play the H3 on a weak source the dynamic drive takes a back seat and the upper frequencies sound thin. For example, I used my IPhone 7 plus for a couple hours and it was obvious the dynamic driver was struggling. I do not suggest any weak sources. As I write this review I am using the Hifimediy Sabre 9018. It is my favorite go to USB dac for on the go or at work. With a set up like this or better (like a good DAP or DAP AMP combo) the H3 can shine. All the frequencies are present and cooperate with each other well. The Bass is deep and has a natural quality only dynamic drivers can produce. The Mids are coherent and have wonderful separation far beyond what their price tag dictates. The Highs are perfect for me. What I mean by that is that they are right on the edge of being sharp but don’t cross the line. When Kinera included their frequency response graph with the earphone I thought that this earphone was going to be rolled off highs and strong bass. It was not. Don’t be fooled by the graph – all the other reviewers are also talking about the present highs. I looked further into the topic and the graph is actually very similar to a popular Camp Fire audio IEM. It was just the way that they squashed the graph together on the high end that made it look that way. The Soundstage is a good mix of intimate and has enough width to fill the head space. Personally I prefer intimate earphones over super wide. With that being said I am a happy camper.
( I have tried many tips and settled on Spinfit CP 100 mediums for my favorite )
Overall, this is an exciting step for this company as they head in a new direction. I have been privy to what things are to come and let me be first to say – keep an eye on these guys as they are on a mission to give the people what they want. Good quality for a good price.
Disclaimer – I received these IEM’s for free for my opinions. Please ask me any questions you have.