Sound Review by KzwDisclaimer : Kinera has graciously provided us with this sample unit in exchange for an honest reviewThe views discussed below are a reflection of Project A3's thoughts surrounding the product. The sample has been run-in for at least 50 hours prior to reviewing in order to achieve an accurate representation of the product.
Kinera has been a mainstay in the porta-audio scene circa 2017, with their release of the Kinera H3 (2 balanced armatures + 1 dynamic driver). Ever since, Kinera’s namesake has become ubiquitous through the subsequent release of well received earphones, such as the Kinera Seed and the Idun. What distinguishes Kinera from the rest of the Chi-fi market are their strict quality control measures, reasonable price tags and their naming conventions based on the Nordic Pantheon.
However, Kinera took a momentous leap of faith with the release of their 8-balanced armature IEM, the Kinera Odin; a statement piece by a brand clamouring to compete with their North American counterparts such as Campfire Audio and 64 Audio; an arms race to be the king of the proverbial audio hill. Unfortunately, the Odin remained a niche product. Kinera isn’t a brand recognized for its exorbitantly priced earphones; the significant cost jump from the Idun to Odin was too much to bear for many audiophiles. There was too much risk involved associated with such an expensive undertaking. It has remained a niche product ever since, for intrepid consumers daring enough to purchase it, given the dearth of reviews available on the internet.
With that in mind, Kinera appears to be unfazed by the Odin’s commercial failure. Their latest endeavour, the Kinera Nanna, touts a flagship price. The difference, however, lies in its internals. This marks Kinera’s first foray into electret drivers. Ever since Sonion began manufacturing miniature electret drivers, many brands were quick to jump on board the collective hype train. Shozy and Advanced Acoustic Werkes (AAW) were the first collaborative brand to release an electret-based earphone, the Shozy X AAW Pola. Based on early impressions, these micro-electrostatic drivers are known for their hyper-realistic timbre, at the cost of having a higher impedance rating.
The Kinera Nanna boasts 2 electret drivers, 1 balanced armature and 1 dynamic driver; a confluence of the most popular IEM drivers currently available in the market. Priced at the $899 USD, one could place this alongside the Odin as a sister IEM. But, is the Nanna worthy of its extravagant pricing? Available at the Kinera Official Store or Hifigo.
● Sensitivity: 110dB
● Impedance: 60 ohms
● Driver Configuration: 2 Electrostatic – 1 Dynamic Driver- 1 BA
● Frequency Range: 5 Hz- 50 kHz
● Plug Type: 3.5 MM
● Interface: 0.78mm 2-pin
● Cable Length: 1.2 m
Gear Used & Tracklist:
Onkyo DP-X1 | Sony NW-A105 | Aune X1S | Periodic Audio Nickel (Ni) | Venture Electronics Odyssey | Google Pixel 2XL
The Kinera Nanna comes packaged in an oversized hexagon box, with the name of the IEM embossed into the middle with gold leafing. The branding is reminiscent of text entries in a dictionary; a unique design that I’ve never come across before (props to the designer). Under the front lid, we have 5 pairs of Final Audio branded ear-tips, 2 pairs of foam tips, a leather case with a magnetic flap, a user manual, a cleaning brush and a 6.3mm adapter. The Nanna’s and the OCC Copper cable can be found inside the included leather case.
It is a luxurious package, but it lacks the prestige associated with flagship products of this caliber. When I receive an expensive product, I expect it to be treated like a bespoke item. The included leather case feels quite tacky and doesn’t reflect its hefty price tag. In addition, the OCC Copper Cable while aesthetically pleasing, doesn’t feel substantive enough. I expect more from a statement product, given the stiff competition at this price point, ala Campfire Audio. While it certainly offers the needed accessories, the quality of both the leather case and the cable could be improved.
The Kinera Nanna scales exponentially well with high-end gear with voluminous current output. The Sonion electret drivers are notoriously difficult to drive; an oddity considering IEM’s are primarily designed for outdoor use. However, it still retains its characteristic sound signature when driven from low-powered sources such as my Pixel 2XL with the Venture Electronics Odyssey dongle.
However, the bass does get overpowering, enveloping the mids with a wall of reverberating sub-bass. In order to exert more control over the Nanna, a proper damping factor can be achieved through a high-powered source. On the Sony NWA-A105, I still found myself reaching for the volume rocker, increasing the output volume by 30+ steps above my regular volume levels in order to attain a listenable volume.
With the Aune X1s, the Nanna’s bass is taut, the mids are given elbowroom to breathe and the soundstage manifests itself as vastly more expansive. Power is your friend here, and I implore readers to use a high-end source with the Nanna’s to maximize its full sonic potential. So in conclusion, this is clearly not recommended for commute user that are planning to go with just mobile phones. Even with a dap, it requires certain power to drive it well.
Unlike the Kinera Odin, the shell adopts a universal acrylic shell that has been downsized proportionally. The shell itself is ultra-light, with a long spout that fits well in my ears. The cables are incredible supple, conforming well to the rim of my earlobes. The 3.5mm termination looks and feels premium with its carbon fibre rim and reinforced strain relief at the end. There are no imperfections to be found on the smooth exterior of its shells; the finishing and lacquering are impeccable.
I have to commend them for managing to fit its large 4-driver array in a smaller shell. There is a pin-hole sized vent at the back of each shell, reducing its ability to seal or isolate well in noisier conditions. However, there is an argument to be made that this earphone was not designed for outdoor use, given its impedance rating; a bit of an oxymoron, but the Nanna’s are meant to be enjoyed at home. While it alienates most of its commuting audience, it is still possible to use them outside. Just take note that wind noise and other ambient annoyances might detract from your listening experience.
The Kinera Nanna is a beast of an earphone, touting a thick low-end with ample sub-bass rumble. But the midrange remains unclouded, with ample treble forwardness. The transition from its highs to its low carries an ethereal tonality that renders life-like timbre properties that I’ve never come across in earphone. There is a noticeable lower-mid focus, but the upper-mids remain pronounced and forward.
The Kinera Nanna has a thick bass response, with a large emphasis on mid-bass. Its sub-bass response is gargantuan if unamped. However, when the Nanna is fed sufficient power, the low-end is more conservative in its presentation, with an even transition from mid-bass to sub-bass. On tracks like Earfquake by Tyler the Creator, its overtly bloated bass while impactful, sounds incredibly distinct from both the highs and mids, which somehow manages to sound pristine and distinctive from its monumental lower end. I’m guessing the active crossover is doing an amazing job in splitting the frequency spectrum across its array of drivers.
The Nanna’s mid are ethereal, realistic and “magical”. I’ll try my best to dissect my equivocations. The midrange sounds incredibly pristine, with a lower-mid boost that acts a weighted base for the upper mids, recreating a timbre-realistic response. On Natalia Lafourcade’s Soledad Y El Mer, vocals have never sounded cleaner and lifelike. The plucking of strings on the featured flamenco guitars reverberate as it would have in a live setting. That tinge of added lower-mid warmth grounds the mix, favouring both dynamism and realism.
This is in my honest opinion, unprecedented in the IEM market. I foresee great things to come once the adoption of electret drivers becomes ubiquitous.
There’s something about the electret drivers utilized in the Nanna that sounds sonically superior to the flat presentation of a balanced armature, or the warm/clouded response of a dynamic driver.
The Nanna’s feature a high section that isn’t clinical in its presentation. It rolls off relatively early compared to other flagships in the price bracket. However, it captures ample sonic information without sounding scooped out or eliminate from the entire mix. It melds well with the midrange to create a cohesive sound that is oftentimes hard to achieve on multi-driver setups. It is important to note that it’s still features porous highs that complement its sweet-sounding treble (more on that later).
On Iamamiwhoami’s Chasing Kites, Jonna Lee’s diffuse vocals sound eerily lifelike, recreating her wispy vocals with razor-sharp accuracy without sounding brittle or harsh. The Nanna’s presents itself as almost neutral, with a pinch of “warmth”.
This is what separates the Nanna’s from many earphones in the market; it has one of the best treble-responses I’ve ever heard in such a small form factor. It is sweet, saccharine and also forward enough without the exaggerated “S” notes that stab the eardrums. Cymbals and the snap of the snare drum carries enough wetness for it to sound tonally accurate, without being overbearing in its presentation. Steel instruments such as a xylophone sounds like the real deal. It is hard for me to explicate into words.
In the Sons of Kemet’s My Queen is Harriet Tubman, Shabaka Hutchings and his saxophone are given enough wiggle room to play freely without being ear piercingly loud. The constant ringing of the ride cymbal never sounded annoying or overbearing, but it still retains its harmonic qualities.
The Odin's closeted-in soundstage was its biggest point of contention. The Nanna corrects that mistake, with a wider soundstage. I would argue that it could be pitted against the significantly more expensive rivals and it would beat them with ease or at least on par. The lateral width on the Nanna’s are incredibly expansive over a large soundscape. Instrumental cues and L-R channel panning are oftentimes, positioned at the back of my ears; a quality that I rarely experience in IEMs’. On Max Richter’s On the Nature of Daylight, its string sections can be both felt and heard across a stretched flat plane.
Like its soundstage, the Nanna’s imaging capabilities do not cease to amaze me. Instruments and vocals are dualistically separate, without any of its constituents overlapping over one another. Nothing is lost in the mix, remaining distinct from one another so as to not sound like a transient mess. On Santa Esmeralda’s Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood, from the percussive clap to the pluck of each string, nothing takes precedence over the other.
The Nanna is an earphone that plays well with many genres, ranging from pop music to lounge jazz. It fares well across a multitude of genres without sounding too thin nor too bloated. However, it does not sit well with songs that are poorly recorded on purpose, such as garage rock or low-fidelity music; it exposes its recording flaws quickly and succinctly without hesitation. If you’re planning to vibe to hardcore punk or poorly mastered tracks, the Nanna’s may double down on their audible imperfections.
The Nanna is considered a reasonably priced flagship product, dwarfed by the current trends which favour sky high prices that easily break the $2000 price ceiling. To keep the comparison chart “grounded”, I decided to pit the Nanna against its older sibling, the Odin.
In addition, I chose the Campfire Andromeda, a beloved IEM in the audio community for its flat yet musical sound signature and the Advanced Acoustic Werkes (AAW) Ash, an affordable hybrid IEM that is considered an entry-level flagship.
This is the battle of affordable luxury.
Kinera has done its due diligence in ensuring that the Nanna succeeds the Odin’s on all fronts. I applaud Kinera for having the gusto for being at the forefront of the IEM industry, being one of the few bullish brands brave enough to incorporate electret drivers into the Nanna.I am flabbergasted by the Nanna’s sonic prowess and its penchant for both clarity and its remarkable midrange. This is a sign of promising things to come.
By learning from tumultuous launch of the Odin and accepting constructive criticism from impassioned community, The Nanna has every right to market itself as a flagship. I openly welcome the Nanna into the thralls of Valhalla. This is an earphone for the ages*
*All ratings are accurate as of date of publication. Changes in price, newer models may affect Project A3's views on the performance and value of the reviewed product.