Written by ngoshawk
Published 3 minutes ago
Pros – Excellent in-ear fit.
Very nice cable.
Pleasant, fun sound.
Affordable alternative to mass Smartphone buds.
Good wide soundstage.
Unobtrusive in characteristic.
Cons – Mids are a bit too far forward for me.
Bass shy at the deepest levels.
Prone to fingerprints.
Its unobtrusiveness could be its downfall.
Kinera SEED (Yin)-The Set You Take Out For Coffee
Kinera Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/kinera2017
The SEED has had quite a journey…from prototype (received by some, not me) to “first pre-release” (received by me, but immediately told to wait for the second iteration), to the “final version” (which is simply the Yin version, with another development to follow, this year). What I might call a fairly unique audio experience, where a select set are presented with the initial offerings, then goes public; followed by a tuning development. This is kind of like what a car company might do…offer the base version, then a luxury model of the same car, and even a sport version. Think Mazda Miata, and you get the idea (Sport, which is the base version; Club, which is the racing version; and Touring, which needs no intro). And let me tell you, the new Miata’s are a damn fine hoot to drive. Harkening back to the original 1990 version, history is wrought deep within the new one…
Following my time with the bipolar H3 (some liked, some did not), and the semi-acclaimed BD005, the SEED has big aspirations to fill, and one might think that for the lie to succeed depends upon how well it is received. Also, as Kinera is fairly well known in Asia/Japan, the company looks to expand into the NA/European market. A worthy company jump. So, when Steve contacted me to see if I was willing to try the SEED, I of course agreed. On the heels of the British Racing Green earbud (link: https://ngoshawksounds.blog/2018/01/15/kinera-limited-edition-earbud-unfortunately/), which is unfortunately an exercise in limited quantity and many lucky enough to receive liked very much; the SEED has big goals indeed in setting the stage for Kinera and their “growth.”
Initial impressions left for context:
The Kinera SEED is a move “upscale” by Kinera. After the aforementioned IEM’s, Kinera sought to make a statement. And in the name, itself they are. By planting a SEED into their lineup, Kinera state that this model will in fact change over time. Tuning as they see fit, the SEED represents another direction for the company, calling it the Yin with the Yang to follow. With the introduction of this production run SEED, Kinera sees the culmination of close to two years. And after my initial listen, I approve.
An excellent fit, a fairly unique and sexy shape highlight this iteration of the SEED (the Yin, with the Yang to follow later this year…). Having roughly 10 listening hours, and about 25 total hours so far, I can state that this is well above the H3 and worthy of Kinera’s effort. The company has even very recently changed cable providers, due to an error not of their own making. Not only that, all purchasers will receive a new cable without question, and without charge. Excellent service from Kinera to say the least!
- Drivers: 1 dynamic driver + 1 balanced armature
- Sensitivity: 108 ± 2 db
- Impedance: 17 ohms
- Driver Diameter: 8 mm
- Frequency Range: 20 hz to 20,000 Hz
- Plug Type: 3.5 mm
- Connectors: 0.78 mm, 2-pin (detachable)
- Cable: 1.2 m Silver-Plated Copper
Ray Samuels Intruder
Tin Audio T2
Null Audio Lune MKVI, OCC Cast Silver/rare Metal Alloy, Litz 4 (2pin) cable- 2.5mm TRRS connector ($149 SGD, $114 USD)-provided a deeper reach of bass, and a somewhat fuller sound. The added “oomph” was appreciated.
Null Audio Arete MKIII, OCC Cast 7N 48 Strand Copper (2pin) cable – 2.5mm TRRS connector ($99 SGD, $75 USD)-provided a bit more open sound than the Lune, spacious with a nice bass support line.
The combo of either Null cable listed above would make the SEED a very economical IEM. Good stuff, made better with a simple cable change.
Joe Satriani- In My Pocket, Cherry Blossoms, others
The Dave Brubeck Quartet- Blue Rondo a la Turk, Take Five
Twenty One Pilots- Twenty One Pilots
10,000 Maniacs- Noah’s Dove, Candy Everybody Wants
Joe Satriani’s In My Pocket through the Shanling M5, just rocks. Rich, full, decent detail, and an overall fun sound.
On Cherry Blossoms, the overall signature short of vocals can be pretty much defined. Running the SEED through the iBasso PB3/Opus#2, there is a good overall tone, fairly well defined, hearing distinctly the pluck of the orchestral part combining well with Mr. Satriani’s guitar. An almost deep rumbly bass is had, showing the limitation of bass here in my mind. And that is with the 64Audio foam tips. Not bad mind you, just not as much as I would have liked. That said, when the piano accompaniment comes on, there is a good feel, a good solid support there. With good height, but not as much width as I would like, the soundstage is decent enough to pacify most. Nearing the end of the song, there is a bit of “discombobulation,” but it could also be the complexity presented through the song. In more open parts, there is none of what I just stated, presenting a very pleasant sound. There is also a bit of distortion wrought through the song, purposely in the recording, so take that as you may. Presenting a good front, the latest SEED tuning is quite pleasant, and can certainly rock.
Using Dave Brubeck’s seminal Take Five, the sax sounds close and sensuous. This is almost front row/on stage emphasis and here is where that push (to me) of those mids up front helps. With the cymbal/snare support off to the left, the sax solo is just where it should be…at the front and sounding strong. This is not clarity of say something costing several times more, but there is certainly enough engagement to hold one’s attention. A definite step up from the H3.
Bass is just that bit too shy. There are hints of it present, kind of like anticipation. You are almost there, then another sign pops up stating your destination is 30 miles away still, then again. Not an unpleasant bass though, just not enough.
Mids are slightly forward to me, but not when compared to my 64Audio U8. Those have quite the expansive mids, opening up wide to encompass the sound. With the SEED, the mids sit compactly, but still a bit forward on some songs.
Treble (not a good judge, I am) is tamed compared to the H3, and that is probably a good thing. I would classify it as having a bit of sparkle, and brightness, but not as much as it could have…this is evident on the live version of Take Five, as the cymbal support is just about right. What a song.
Soundstage to me seems rather tall, but not as wide as I would have expected. I get the feeling of a tall open space with good sound characteristics. And while there is good layering, it is about par for this level of cost/performance. Decent and well presented. Overall so far, this is a good decent presentation in both sound qualities and aesthetics.
I do like the lima-bean shape of the earpiece, even though I HATE Lima Beans…fairly unique and well presented, but on one of the pieces, the two halves do not fit as well as I would hope, and I can see some of the epoxy, which was not polished off completely. The fit of the two halves together is good, but finish is a bit below par. Countering that, there is no problem with how the very nice cable fits and stays. The cable covering at the pin insertion place adds quite nicely to the overall look of the IEM, and it not only protects the cable, but aids ingress/egress from one’s ear. Plus, it adds to the look in my book. Very well done.
A LONG week later…
In talking to others about the SEED, and reading @B9Scrambler’s review, I came to some conclusions…The SEED is the IEM, which Kinera has been looking for. For the price, it is a fun enjoyable sound, albeit with limitations. Please do not go and try to compare this to more expensive IEM’s (even though I list some above…). This is not meant to be compared to those of higher priced. The SEED to me really isn’t meant to be compared to IEM’s OF this price. To fully understand the SEED and what it stands for, you must take is singularly, of its own accord. I might draw the ire of some for saying this and raise a few brows by saying that you really shouldn’t compare this to an IEM of this price. But respectfully, those people might miss the point.
Taken singularly, the SEED is a very enjoyable IEM. While the mids are a bit too hot for me, this is a very good pair with which to enjoy at your local coffee house. The isolation is just enough so that you can enjoy the music, but not be completely isolated. Listening to Dave Brubeck’s seminal Take Five ideally evaluates this point. When one listens to Jazz, you may very well be out at a club. And that somewhat lack of isolation (using my 64Audio foam tips) adds to the overall nature of the SEED. You really do feel as if you are experiencing the Quartet off in the corner, while you enjoy your favorite shade-grown organic coffee, in the presence of those who share similar tastes.
The sound is right. And by that, I mean the stroke of piano keys is spot on, the staccato of drum stick to snare and bass drum support enhances that feel. Here is where the SEED shows off. It is not a detail monster, such as those four-digit TOTL IEM’s. But it is not meant to be. It is meant to be the pair you hook into your Shanling M3s, Cayin N5ii, HiBy R3 or whatever DAP you have that can match well. They all do see to fit well.
Switching to Natalie Merchant and 10,000 Maniacs Candy Everybody Wants, and I am ever in love with her sultry piercing voice. Here, that bump in the mids aids in making sure the female voice is heard and heard well. Just a fun energetic sound, which could be what a commuter might be looking into for that daily trip. I use the Kinera on walks, and hold no qualms in doing so, it participates quite well in this vein.
Soundstage is adequately wide and deep, with height of equal space. Not the largest, but certainly not the smallest. It is good and comes out nicely in What’s The Matter Here? In continuing with the seminal MTV Unplugged album. Clearly defined placement of instruments and layering provides us, the dear listener with toe-tapping sound, or a quickening of pace on that daily walk/workout/run. I will freely admit that the Shanling M3s/FLC8S is my go to combo for working out (yes I know…expensive), but here I could easily substitute the SEED for the FLC8S and miss nary a beat. Not it is not a replacement, but a more than adequate fill in.
Think the second string second-baseman for your local pro team, who is that excellent fielder, but falls short at bat. You don’t bring them in for their hitting late in the game, but for their defense. And here, the SEED is a very good fill-in for that late inning closing session. Or to continue with the coffee shop analogy, the backup gets the start, the day after a double header, to give the starter a break. You don’t worry about the fill in too much.
Continuing with Noah’s Dove, you are brought back close to home. Close to you with good layering. The build of acoustic guitar, drum set and bass build well in support of that voice. Natalie’s voice of course. And it is a very respectable sound.
Two areas I would like to see addressed, are the bass quantity and the hotter (to me) mids. To me, it lacks that impact I desire in a good IEM. That said, the bass, which is present is adequate. Just not as impactful as I would like. And a taming of the mids would be appreciated by my ears. I do get a bit of fatigue after a good listen at reasonably loud levels (not ear splitting, but loud enough). Again, take that last bit with a grain of salt as my hearing loss plays a part in my sensitivities. From those of which I converse with regularly, it does not bother them, outside of the lack of impact. I am OK with the overall sound, though.
Separation and instrumentation are quite decent for a $50 USD IEM, and nothing to sneeze at. Compared to my older MEE Audio M6 Pro’s, the SEED is well ahead in both. Were I to be on stage or in studio, I could close my eyes and point pretty accurately to where everything is using only the SEED. A well-paid compliment to the overall tuning, and one in which I look forward to the next iteration (the Yang, one would assume…).
Running the iPhone X/xDSD combo with the Apple camera adapter “dongle” the SEED sounds pretty darn harmonious with and without XBass and 3D+ on. Adding the necessary bass with XBass on, the SEED happily comes along for the streaming ride on Tidal and Twenty-One Pilots Screen. A solid foundation is laid down aided by the XBass, and 3D when put into play. Without either, the SEED is still quite acceptable, and one, which could be construed as very acceptable for the daily commute/walk/lawn work. I am pleased by this combination.
Switching to BT under the same set up, the sound is still good, with the added versatility of keeping the xDSD in one’s pocket. This allows full access to one’s Smartphone and all functions associated with that appendage, which seems to be constantly attached to our face. But for further assessment of the xDSD, one will have to wait. Suffice to say, that this trio is quite acceptable to me.
Of all critters used in testing with the SEED, I probably don’t need to mention that the Opus#2 was my favorite…especially when linked to either the iBasso PB3 or borrowed Ray Samuel’s Intruder. Reviews of each amp are forthcoming, but verbiage here will suffice to lay the foundation of each. I did run each amp through the Shanling M3s/M5 too. Focusing on the Opus, the SEED laid bare all fallacies of tuning as well as prophecy of good. The hot upper mids shone through with higher volume, but that bit of sparkle, which I like also shone through; bettering the hot-house-mids…Detailed representation was best here (as one would expect) as well as the overall sound. But with that detail, came less of an impact in the lower reaches. I have come to appreciate the tonality of the Opus, but also realize that when compared to the Shanling’s, there is less bass presence. A worthy sacrifice due to the overall signature. So, while the Opus presented the best of the SEED, it did lay out the shortcomings, but those could be overlooked, due to the pleasant nature in which sound is presented.
Add in either amp, and that “lack of sub bass” is near forgotten. Presenting a fuller sound, albeit not as detailed, I am reminded of a warm sound overall, with better punch down low. Here, the Intruder shines, and is completely superfluous to the needs of the SEED. But, it is worth it because that superfluous sound. Overkill? Yes. Fabulous and the SEED at its peak? You bet!
As a go to portable unit, the M3s is the one in which I reach, along with the FLC8S, as mentioned above. But, when I throw on the SEED, I admit freely, that the sound between the two is close enough, that I could hppily substitute the SEED for the FLC8S on my walk/runs and be satisfied. With better reach in the bass department, I gladly accept that at the loss of detail when out and about with the SEED, as described from its overall presentation. And that loss of detail really isn’t that much when compared to the Opus, but it is there. Generally, this set up is too bright in the mids for me. On a VERY windy walk yesterday though, I appreciate that extra push. Again, using the foam tips isolation was well above average, and only on the quieter aspects of whatever song was playing could I hear the push of wind against the SEED. As a result, I am very happy with the isolation wrought by switching to the foams.
Pulling the M5 in to listen, I am reminded why I purchased one in the first place. Warming the SEED nicely to almost meet the signature, there is a bit of lusciousness to the overall quality, while still having slightly less impact, but warming nicely. I am reminded again, that the SEED is an affordable alternative to the enclosed “earbuds” of Smartphone’s. And, as a step up from the enclosed “earbuds,” the SEED is well on above those included in our Smartphone purchase.
TinAudio T2 ($49.95): Compared to the Kinera there is more bass, and a reach further down. For the same price, this is a really good competitor. The mids have a bit more sparkle but are less prevalent if that makes sense. And, I sense a bit of untamed in those mids of the T2. Under Joe Satriani’s In My Pocket, initially that untamed mid sound can be off-putting. But once Joe starts, I quickly ignore and forget that. I sit back to a raucous good time. Both IEM’s have a fun sound, but the SEED is a bit more refined. Adaptability of the T2 wins hands down. With the ability to wear them up as an IEM (quite well, too), or switch sides on the cable and wear them down like an earbud, the T2 does double duty. Both have MMCX cables, so there is potential for fine tuning. I really like the fit and look of the T2, as I called it Industrial, and a good one.
Hypersense Hex02 ($29.95): The Hex02 was the first of a trio given to me for review purposes, and the one I liked the best at the time. For the price, this is an exceptional upgrade to one’s stock buds, and coming with inline controls, fits well with your Smartphone. Not as refined as the SEED, and of smaller soundstage the Hex really cannot compete on the same level. Except when you hit play, there is a bit of intoxicating sound emanating from them. Nothing spectacular mind you, but you seem to end up tapping your foot and raising the volume when Joe Satriani comes on…and I did, as well as to 10,000 Maniacs. Too bright up top for me, this would be the set I would reach for when I need a serious jump in attitude; and the bass of more, but not better would help, too. This is the proverbial “pump you up” pair. Using the SEED to tame the Hex would be a nice thing in which to worry. Keeping the Hex in the sweetspot in one’s ear does become an exercise in patience, though. At least with my average size ears.
La sessione finale:
I finish this listening to the SEED through the Shanling M3s and Ray Samuels Intruder…
This review is overdue…but not without reason. Lately, I will pound out a good intro of verbiage quite quickly, and usually with initial thoughts, but also an underlying tone of finality to what I write. Sometimes I have formalized my final thoughts already…this would be a case where I have not done so. So it is, that Trouble Me puts the whole review into perspective…“Speak to me,” she says and that is what I ask of Kinera and the SEED.
Through the course of writing this, I spent a long time listening (nie-on 120 hours). Most likely longer than I would with other IEM’s in order to form my thought, scribble and scribed libretti. It is not that I could not nail down what was wrought of these listens. No, it was that under most circumstances, the SEED performed markedly well. Not spectacular mind you, but of such competence that I was at somewhat a loss. This is the first review in a long while, where I conversed a good bit with others whom have the unit. I usually read existing reviews, but do not allow those reviews to filter or alter my verb. This time though, I wanted verification of what I heard. And what I heard was indeed a variety of signatures, dependent upon the source and song. More so than most of my recent reviews.
It is as if the SEED were trying to please all but did not want to offend any particular DAP or signature. I do believe this could be the SEED’s biggest strength and weakness all in one. While trying to experiment and please all they might, I say might have lost a chance to define the SEED of its own merits. Part of me wants to believe that this was deliberate in order to set the stage for the Yang version for what is coming down the road from Kinera. Part of me also thinks that this was a case where they tried to please all and fell just short. I say this respectfully, and mean no harm, please. This is a very good IEM, and I quite like the overall sound signature. But I also feel as if there is more coming (there is…) and Kinera did not want to reveal all in the SEED, lest all of their tricks be let out.
That is what I am trying to say, and how I will finish. The SEED is the next logical (passionate?) step of iterations from Kinera, and I can see of where they are hoping to go. I would be very interested in hearing that next sound, based upon the jump from BD005, to H3, to SEED. I would certainly. Well done, Kinera. Well done, indeed.
I want to thank Steve and Kinera for the continued honor of reviewing their products. I have immensely enjoyed all of them for a multitude of reasons/sounds, and to me the SEED is the next logical step in the maturation of their company. Give the SEED a listen, it is worthy of a look at the sub $50USD market. Well done, Kinera!