Kinera iDun: So What Of This IEM?…An Ode To Rejuvenation

Kinera IDun: So What Of This IEM?…An Ode To Rejuvenation
Written by ngoshawk

Pros– Gorgeous stabilized wood.
Nice cable.
Sound is quite good, with a decent bright flavor up top.
Individualized wood patterns.

Cons– Cable protection could be better.
Not quite enough bass for me, if silicons are used.
Cable a bit sticky.
That custom-like bump gets in the way after about an hour.

Kinera iDun: So What of this IEM?…An Ode to Rejuvenation

Kinera iDun: Retail price $139USD. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kinera2017/

Dongguan Yutai Electronics Co, Ltd; parent company.

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Idun, also spelled Idunn, or Idunain Norse mythology is the goddess of spring or rejuvenation and the wife of Bragi, the god of poetry. She was the keeper of the magic apples of immortality, which the gods must eat to preserve their youth.

Some have questioned Kinera’s naming theme, especially on the follow of the SEED, which promoted a beginning for the company. Or at least planting the SEED of change…a new direction where they hoped growth would prosper. On the heels of the H3 (to mixed reviews, see my SEED review for more: https://ngoshawksounds.blog/2018/04/26/kinera-seed-yin-the-set-you-take-out-for-coffee/), I understand completely from where Kinera is coming. They needed a sure-fire hit to keep the world outside of China interested and involved while needing the help of the Norse gods in order to thrive. Hoping to add in immortality for the company, the iDun hadto be a hit. The BD005 came in with good reviews, as did the SEED, so things were and are looking up. With the ODin on the horizon (exhibited at the Shenzen Expo), Kinera is trying to close the deal with the Odin flagship using their wisdom and sorcery along the way. I will admit, that since I have been associated (through reviews) pretty much from the beginning (short of the BD005, OK), watching the progress of the company has been interesting and not without trials and tribulations. The naming is Kinera’s take (and I think with a hint of bravado, self-awareness and confidence) on how they would like to proceed as a company. It usually takes something different to set some of the Ch-Fi apart, and I do believe Kinera has succeeded. As a testament, I still use my SEED as workout walking IEM’s. Mind you, this is not fanboy-ism. This is wanting a company to succeed, while providing said company with regular criticism in which to make them better.

I want to thank Steve and @Kinera for the continued support, and faith in my feeble review skills, with the giving of the iDun. All they asked in return was an honest assessment. And per usual, I would not have it any other way. The edition I have on hand is a limited edition (like the earbud I really liked), but the main ingredients will remain the same for the retail version. Changes in face plates and color options will take the place of the wood plates seen here. That said, early pre-order on AliExpress did get the same looking plates, albeit with different patterns (GOOD! I like mine to be unique…).

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Kinera lately is focused on making hybrid in-ears and their first effort was the H3. It was possibly their first hit to the market, making a name for itself in social media especially. The configuration was a 1D + 2BA design and it overall got a nice reception among the crowd, although having some problems in its sound in terms of control. Then came the “Seed” model, which was even more affordable, and it was also a hybrid (1D+1BA).

Specs:

Sensitivity: 112 +/- 2db
Impedance: 32Ω

Configuration: Hybrid

1 Dynamic Driver @ 7mm
1 Mid Frequency BA
1 High Frequency BA

Cable: 8-core Hybrid
4 Core Copper
4 Core Silver

Interface: 2-Pin 0.78mm
Length: 1.2m
Plug Type: Straight 3.5mm Gold Plated

Comparisons:

FLC8S
Simgot EM5
Kinera SEED

Shanling M5
Shanling M3s
Opus #2
MacBookPro w/ Burson Play & iFi xDSD

Songs used:

Too bloody many to list all, but you want songs, so there you go:

Coldplay-All I Can think About Is You
Coldplay-A Message
Coldplay-White Shadows
Dona Onete-Sonos de Adolescente
Los Lonely Boys- Heaven (en Espanol)
twenty one pilots-Trees
twenty one pilots-Car Radio
twenty one pilots-Heathens
Damian Marley-Everybody Wants To Be Somebody
Damian Marley-So A Child May Follow
Damian Marley-The Struggle Discontinues
Ziggy Marley-Lighthouse
Ziggy Marely-See Dem Fake Leaders
Mark Knopfler-Laughs And Jokes And Drinks And Smokes
Santana w/ Mana-Corazon Espinado

Unboxing:

Well, since this was a pre-production model, we were asked how we would like to receive the unit: with only the case and tips sans box or wait for the unique octagonal box. Most of us opted for case/tips only so we would be able to receive the iDun sooner and hence review sooner. Well, best laid plans “allowed” me to be the last on the planet to receive the critter, but I did not mind. Things happen, and we roll with it. So, in order to fulfill a paragraph on the unboxing, the iDun came with cable, tips and case. The case is identical to the one I received with the VE Biggies/Smalls, clamping closed with good fit and plenty of room. So there.

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Fit-n-Finish:

Watching a company grow into a new market, one is parcel to seeing the company wares go from “inexpensive” to mid-line to very well finished products. While the SEED was decent, the iDun is built quite well. Made of an acrylic, some small (tiny) bubbles are present in the pouring. The wood plate of stabilized wood (https://stabilizedwoods.com) is however, melded in a near flawless manner to the housing. Varying of color between the units, the patterns are well on stunning. Upon arrival, I sat and looked at the plates even before plugging the unit in for “burn in.” A nice feature is that one can see the growth rings from the side (at least on mine) so not only do they look stunning, one can imagine the history of the wood.

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Sticking out slightly from my medium-sized ear, the iDun is not obtrusive in any manner. I will say that the “bump” on the shell does take a bit to fit properly in-ear. Rubbing slightly against my antihelix, I do have to adjust fit in my right ear more. I do get why the knob is there, to aid in ear retention, but it can get bothersome. This also may be to keep the bass port open as well.

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With a recessed 2-pin connection and exposed pins, one need be very careful with the on/off of the excellent cable. I found myself being much more careful than I have with other 2-pin connections. Just be careful. Borrowing the connections from the SEED, including the sleeves over the wiring at the IEM end, as well as cable jack, y-splitter and chin cinch; the iDun utilizes an 8-core hybrid cable four each of copper and silver. Wound in a rectangular pattern (unique in my findings), one can pinch the cable together to show the individual wrapped strands. Not bad mind you, but something to think about as while the cable itself is smooth, something could still snag if not careful. Meh, seems more fuss than not, but it is a good cable so no worries.

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Using the near-standard blue is left, red is rightcolor on the cable sleeves makes for easy identification as well, but there is no memory wire, or sleeve in which to use in forming over your ear. And for one of the first times, it did not matter to me. I had no problem keeping the cables snug and behind my glasses-laden ears. Supple and workable, the cable fits well.

Finishing the cable at the Kinera-labeled jack, there is but a small amount of plastic “sheath” to protect the cable. Many have mentioned they would have liked to see a sturdier cable extension from the jack for protection, but I find there to be enough, so the weight of the fairly light cable provides no strain as it dangles in various situations. Again, not a problem, but a bit more work could afford more protection.

What of this IEM?

Harkening back to simpler times, with onlythree drivers (one DD and 2 BA’s), the iDun eschews the current trend of MOAR DRIVERS!Utilizing a 7mm dynamic driver for mids and bass, and one BA each for mid and high frequency, the Kinera is a refreshing change.

Utilizing a near-flat frequency curve, there is no bump at 4-5kHz typically associated with IEM’s of this price. A change in which I do applaud, as that bump can sometimes lend to an artificial sounding vocal tone. More on that later. I will also readily admit that I am not the one in which you should gauge listening frequencies. Overall, the three drivers work together in good harmony providing a pretty solid bassline of sound. More on that later, too.

As per Kinera’s request, the critter was left to “burn in” for over 50 hours. Playing continuously at night with shuffled tracks on my Shanling M5. I did give a listen every now and then and currently listen with less than 30 hours. An easy to drive unit, I was becoming enamored with the iDun…

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Da good stuff:

When one approaches reviews, you are held to a certain standard (at least I hope). A standard of being honest, but not too harsh. This seems to be the unwritten rule and can turn some readers andreviewers off. There are some who state that there is no harm in doing so. I respectfully disagree, and Kinera is a company that thrives on the criticisms. They openly ask us for improvements, almost like being “beta testers.” Almost. Again, certain numbers in the audio community balk at being those beta testers, eschewing those units, until the “finished” product is out. They look with disdain at a company asking to test a near-finished product and thusly providing the free labor for said company. While I do agree, this is not the case with Kinera.

They have had their growth problems. I will call them “teething” problems for the company is fast growing out of that mode. From the early Kinera products to the iDun, a logical progression of finished and “near” finished products has been the result. To date, the iDun is their peak, scooping up all of the criticisms and plaudits while taking those into their next product(s). Already the ODun is close to being out, what one could consider a true flagship. And thankfully, if it sounds as good or better than the iDun, it will be very good. So, to those who balk at being beta testers, this would not be the case. The iDun is finished through and through. You need not worry. And I do eagerly anticipate the ODun.

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One cannot start the iDun listening without looking at that stabilized wood pattern. Made of a Maple/Buckeye magic concoction, the iDun is simply stunning at which to look. It is one of the best-looking IEM’s of which I have had the honor of mine eyes gracing. Changing the angle, the colors vibrate between each other almost jockeying for space. Wanting to be seen, but in a respectful way, think of the cacophony of color in a field of prairie wildflowers. There is more there than meets the eye, unless you look closely.

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Using some UM foam tips I have (not without listening to both included silicon types first), I nestle the iDun gently into my ear and listen. Gregg Allman’s craggy voice struts through One Way Out, as Dicky Betts supports with a down low, down home guitar line, which draws you in. You cannot help but tap your feet, or bob your head, with the iDun along for the ride. This is a raucous good time so far. With those foams, the deep reaching bassis very adequate for this level, and this type of IEM. Something refreshing to see, as many of the Ch-Fi “mid-priced” IEM’s eschew bass almost completely (from my experience). This is a good bass sound, and one as a bass lover I can live with. While I would like more, there is a nice amount of bass to keep me interested.

With the silicons, the trebleis good. Not sparkly good, but still good. As @Kervs said, there is good air here, and what he calls an almost perfect treble. I would agree that I like the treble very much especially with the separation that airy sound provides. Good detail is something that many of those Chi-Fi IEM’s lack, and Kinera cannot be included with that lot when considering the iDun. It isn’t lacking in detail, it is good. Not muddied about, the treble is clearly present and adds that top end quite nicely.

With some IEM’s in the past, I have mentioned how they “tie both ends together.” That would not be the case here. With the iDun, the midsare definitely present, as Robert Cray’s excellent vocals on Holdin’ Courtattest. But it is of a different note. It is almost Unique Melody-laid back of type. Perfectly content to allow the bass and treble to strut their stuff, the mids come along happily, looking like that cool cousin who is there but doesn’t say much. She doesn’t have to. And that is good. The Kinera mids are definitely heard, and sometimesforward as in song-dependent forward; but they do not shout at you like some I have heard. Perfectly content to be a solid foundation on which the bass and treble rest, the mids are almost luscious. Not gooey luscious, but solid and flowing. This is a mid-tone of which I can happily listen for long periods. A very good compliment to the others. On 10,000 Maniacs Candy Everybody Wants, Natalie’s voice is just sumptuous. A very good complimentary tonality to the staccato-like snare and acoustic guitar. Man, I love this song, and the iDun is a very good complimentary listen.

More please:

With good sound stage width, depth and height, the overall shape is a very good near equal cube. This is among the wider sound stages of recent memory, but the slightly forward center of the sound brings you back nicely. Good separation of layers is fairly predictable as that acoustic guitar melds well with the applause and Natalie’s voice. Bass guitar is where it should be, underlying the sound, with drums pushed to the back in harmonious support. As such Timbre is well above anything of Kinera’s line to date. Instruments sound as they should. To date, this is Kinera’s top, and it should be. Nothing seems to be out of place, or encumbered by muddiness, or thin brittleness. All is as it should be, without fuss, but not of more than it should.

Comparo du jour:

A clear step up overall from their own SEED, the iDun bests the SEED in all manner. Better control of the midrange without losing steam up top like the SEED, the iDun does not shy away from that upper end presentation. Mind you, I use the SEED almost every day on my runs, but with the iDun, I am seriously considering a switch. But, one does not want to ruin that fantastic look. The iDun is a step up in build quality and quality control as well. Without too much detail, QC has “been taken care of,” by Kinera nicely. As it should…Slight glue marks on the two halves of the SEED have been taken care of on the iDun. Seamless connection between stabilized wood and the shell is a result of this.

Even though the FLC8Sis at a much higher price, the comparison is valid, in my opinion. First, I do not have anything close to the iDun price point, and second I like the FLC8S (I had forgotten how much until I plugged them back in for this test). With multiple filters, you can tailor the sound quite a bit. Prefer bright and airy? Switch to the treble-oriented filters. Prefer more punch? Switch to the bass-oriented filters. As I prefer a bass slant, this does provide a good look into both. The mids of the FLC8S are about as good as it gets at this price. I still believe that. Crystal clear, with good air between the notes, it is very easy to pick out where everything lies. And utilizing the filter, which provides the most bass gives a decent enough reach, with good punch. Fast decay allows the bass to be taught and heard immediately. My only fault with the FLC8S is that even with the bassiest filters, it is still a bit bright for me. This was at one time my workout pair, but I have since some to my senses and use a cheaper pair. For working out, that brightness cuts through the background noise of a run, or gym quite nicely. And without too much pain to the ears, since you can lower the volume. Where the iDun can almost keep up is with the treble and airiness. They are again quite good. Overall, the iDun competes nicely, and does not make one want for a higher price IEM, at least in this comparison.

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I am currently also testing the excellent Simgot EM5. And for review purposes, felt the need to include both here (and when I finish the EM5). I do believe that the iDun has more bass than the Simgot, but less controlled. I also think there is a bit more air between the notes than the EM5. Where the Simgot shines is in the midrange, and detail. Here, the iDun falls behind. And when you consider that the EM5 is almost 4x the price, you begin to appreciate what Kinera has done to the iDun. Again, if I had to choose, the EM5 would win, but the iDun has absolutely nothing to be ashamed of, it is still quite good. This would harken back to what Road & Track used to do in their car comparison tests…they always included an overall considering price, and a “price independent” choice. As in, regardless of price what would you choose. Based upon what I wrote above, you should get the gist of the meaning.

Utlizing the iDun with a variety of sources, I found it competed well without complaint. My favorite pairing was with the Shanling M3s. Adding that extra warmth of which I covet, the pair sang along well to Tom Perrty’s A Face In The Crowd. Vocals were sublime. Guitar chords, clean and clear. Bass guitar support quite nice. This is a good pairing and one of my favorite pairings to date (but behind the Simgot EM5/M3s). Moving the sound a bit more forward too, the pair do well in public or noisy situations, as (to me) it is that midrange, which suffers in noisy areas. An excellent case is Tom Petty’s Wildflowers. Almost delicate of sound, until the acoustic guitar and piano come together, the spacious sound of this song is met oh so well with the pair. Wonderful it is.

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Moving up the food chain, the Opus #2provides the iDun with a mature reference-like attitude. One that doesn’t really mess around. Sometimes almost sterile, but then you realize that this is quite a pure pairing. The cleanliness of sound the Opus provides really compliments the iDun nicely. I could hardly find fault, except for a dearth of deep reaching bass, and for this I blame the Opus as much as the iDun. What might be congested on the Shanling/Kinera pair is not on the Opus/Kinera. The pluck of harp on Joe Satriani’s Cherry Blossomsis clear and distinct. And this sound compliments the iDun very well.

As a fun aside, I hooked the iDun to the Han Sound Audio Venom cable ($1615USD), just for giggles. As expected the iDun sounded about as good as it could. The Venom is an incredible cable, to which it will be covered in another; but one could appreciate that the price difference could make the iDun sound almost remarkable. Almost. It was a wonderful way to end the review, and one in which I value having the liberty of such products.

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Final driveling:

So, what of this IEM? Well, as a next step in the evolution of Kinera, the iDun is an excellent step forward. And I do really like the overall sound of the iDun. It is quite good. To offer the look, feel and sound such as this at this level is thankfully becoming more the norm, as opposed to 3-4 short years ago. As I write, I think back to when I had my MEE Audio Pinnacle P1. At the time it was lauded for exceptional clarity, detail and a wonderful tonality. It is still quite good and deserved all the accolades thrown its way. But I sold mine for lack of bass and the high end was simply not for me. The iDun is not of that same vein. It will be good tomorrow, instead of relegated to the drawer, or shelf to which it would gather dust. It has all of the right aspects to be well regarded at the sub-$150 price point. It is a worthy audition, and a worthy parting of your hard-earned monies. At minimum, find someone who has a pair, and “borrow” them…long term.

If I had to quibble about anything, it would be to provide a deeper reaching bass, and to rid the shell of that knobby-thing. While it does provide for stability in-ear, to me it becomes something of which I need to adjust from time-to-time. But do not, dear reader dissuade you from giving a listen (or the borrow of which I mentioned…)

I want to thank Steve and Kinera profusely for giving me the honor of reviewing the iDun LE. It really is a grand step forward, and I for one (amongst others!!) are very much looking forward to the upcoming ODun.

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