Kinera Nanna 2.0 ($949): A flagship worthy of inclusion?

Kinera Nanna 2.0: A flagship worthy of inclusion?

Pros: Kinera build
“Western” tune
Good bass
Good detail
Good fit
Accessories
Very nice cable

Cons: Some bass bleed
Follows the now norm of stabilized wood
Very tough market
Not much else

Kinera Nanna 2.0 ($949): A flagship worthy of inclusion?

4.25 stars



Imperial Nanna


Audio46

Intro:
Coming off a few tours of late, I find myself realizing how lucky I am. Some of the gear, which has come across my palette of late has been flat out fantastic. Some pretty good. But you get the sense that when an audio company, whether it be manufacturer or seller, sends their wares out you can be assured they will be pretty good. Some of late I almost lament that I cannot purchase for I do not “need” them, only mere want. I am thankful for Audio46 sending the unit out on tour, otherwise I probably would not have had the chance to audition this.

As for Kinera, it seems they have struggled to compete by changing their IEM’s and “house sound” with every model, never settling long enough, even when users/reviewers were pleased with said signature. The iDun was quite acceptable to me, but Kinera went and changed it for the worse. Some of the later offerings were just plain bad. I won’t sugarcoat it. They were awful of tune and of sound. But the Imperial Nanna 2.0 seems to put Kinera back on the map of acceptability and works on muscling into the forefront. Details are really quite good, with appropriate bass thump and presence, without bloom. It seems that Kinera may finally be settling onto something here…

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Specs:

  • Four Driver Hybrid Setup, including one 7mm Dynamic Driver, one Balanced Armature Driver and two Electrostatic Drivers.
  • Impedance:- 60 ohms
  • Sensitivity:- 110dB at 0.3mW
  • Frequency Response:- 5Hz-50kHz
  • 2-Pin 0.78mm 6N OCC with silver plated

In The Box:

  • Nanna 2.0 IEM
  • Tips: 5 sets-Final E, 6 sets-silicon, 2 sets-foam (Comply-like)
  • Cable: 6N OCC& OCC, silver plated
  • User Manual
  • Cleaning tool
  • 4.4bal to 2.5bal adapter, 4.4bal to 3.5se adapter
  • Magnetic (p)leather case
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Gear Used/Compared:

Empire Ears Hero ($1349)
Fir Audio VxV ($999)
Cayin Fantasy ($799)
Dunu SA6 ($549)

Shanling M6 Pro
Cayin N6ii (E01 mother board)
MacBook Pro/XDuoo XA-10



Songs:

Peter Frampton
Alex Fox
Pink Floyd
Buena Vista Social Club
Elton John
Stevie Ray Vaughan
Shane Hennessy
Jeff Beck
Dave Matthews


Unboxing:

Kinera has always gone their own way with regard to the unboxing experience. Settling quite often on a sextagonal-shaped case, the lidded case is large. One would associate this with premium. The front hints at some color schemes (actually mirroring my Dunu SA6…), with gold lettering, while the back is complete with highlights (in well seen light gray I might add…other companies should take note…) of the unit, a “frequency graph,” specs, box inclusion and included associations with other manufacturers such as Sonion and Final.

Taking off the lid, you are met with a three-piece sextagonal history manual. It is like opening a Tetris piece, but does not quite fit down into the box, over the foam inserts. On that, you can read the history of the name and about the technology used within the Nanna. Inside the lower section you have a soft foam insert, which has corresponding cut outs for the pleather case, IEM’s, tips, cleaning tool, and adapters. An interesting take on the unboxing and box, but that is how Kinera rolls.

With a name patterned after the Norse god who lost her husband, Nanna sacrificed herself, coming back as a scarlet mountain in the Nordic skyline, blazingly looking up under the north lights waiting for Baldr’s return. One can rightly assume this is the origin of the Aurora Borealis, otherwise known as the northern lights. Interesting history, so the Imperial Nanna 2.0 better sound good.

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Technicals:

Using a four-driver hybrid setup, including one 7mm Dynamic Driver, one Balanced Armature Driver and two Electrostatic Drivers, the Nanna follows the path of the mountain; hiding herself in the darkest parts of the mountains. To me this equates well to the darker, rich sound emanating from within the Imperial Nanna, yet again following her mythological heritage. The Sonion EST65DA01 is a dual paired micro driver electrostat super tweeter responsible for the treble. Using this dizygotic cartridge pair for low symmetric distortion, which allows the extension of the highs. It works.

The mids are handled by the Sonion 26A008/5 BA, which is claimed to be similar to a Knowles branded mid BA. Promoting high resolution characteristics and a touch more warmth than the Knowles, the Sonion does its job giving good clarity and warmth at the same time. The lows are handled by an in-house 7mm custom dynamic driver made with a PU composite high polymer set up. According to Kinera, the high amount of polymer yields better tension, giving better bass response. This makes sense as the better held the dynamic driver is in place, the less it inhibits the sound radiating from it. Put this all together and you get what Kinera hopes is a pleasing overall experience.


Build/Fit/Finish:

Acrylic shells are the norm now, along with 3D printed shells. Some look good and work, others have not, and those companies should really be ashamed of their QC. Kinera is not one of those. From the off, Kinera’s build quality has been top notch. It continues here as one would hope with a flagship. Made of a single shell, with ornate faceplate, the Imperial version (or Mount Imperial) looks fine in the dark black shell, with a single vent hole out the back. The coloration of the faceplate is tasteful, sparkly and yet not garish at all. The Mount nomenclature is the actual name for the coloration, hence some misunderstanding out there with regard to naming and such. Hence, the “official name” is the Kinera Mount Imperial Nanna 2.0. I shall continue with either Nanna 2.0 or N2.

The nozzle is longer than some and took a good bit of effort to mount the foam tips or silicon for that matter. I’d rather it be a bit harder than not, as one model of late I actually got the tip stuck in my ear for a good five minutes…That larger bore of nozzle does hinder a bit of comfort when using foam tips, but after the foam “complies” with the shape of my ear, I could listen in near-effortless fashion for a good bit of time. The N2 does stick out from my ear more than I would like.

The cable is an OCC silver-plated copper as mentioned above, and of 2-strand only.

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Sound:

Summary:

*About 3 of the last four IEM’s I have reviewed have had bass bloom, which hindered overall sound quality, even if I did like them. The Nanna presents this bass “bleed” well. Mids are a bit too far forward for my taste, but I am in my first 20 min of listening, so take that as you may…and the treble presentation is indeed a breath of fresh air. Extension and detail without sibilance or gratiness. Kinera hit the sweet spot up top.

Up front, I am impressed with the tuning of the Nanna 2.0. Some note this is a smoothed version of the original, with a bit less bite or vibrancy up top. Extension is quite good up top, but without being bitey or grating. Extension lends to a very good sense of space and air, and thus soundstage. Peter Frampton’s Georgia On My Mind is a case in point where you get an expansive sound as the piano seems to come from one far end and the other instruments the opposite side. Not disconnected but tied together nicely with an excellent sense of space. Mids come across as clean and clear with a bit of a push in the lower mids to me. This can tend to override those excellent treble notes a bit by pushing them to the side or back a bit; but this isn’t the case. Bass, rather sub-bass is strong as witnessed by another Frampton song from the album Frampton Forgets The Words, Avalon. The thump of bass drum is real and something I have not heard from another at this level in a good bit. Tied together, even with a bit of bass bloom into those already forward lower mids plays nicely making for a richness, which comes across as smooth rather than too thick. Just as others have described. Warm and rich, but with detail this is the best tuning yet for a Kinera in my opinion.

More:

As mentioned, the bass comes across as near-thumpy, but with good control, not great. But that bit of looseness, a faster attack than decay, aids in presenting that smooth sound, setting the foundation for a thoroughly satisfying sound. Play a bass rich song, and you get good control. Dave Matthew’s Dodo is known for its beginning bass note as the song fades in. On some IEM’s this can come across as almost distorted, or robotic. Not here as the electric notes build to that foundation of which I speak. That bleed into the lower mids while giving a smooth signature can come across as a bit confuddling. Not the cleanest of presentation here, but comparatively well to the others in this category. I would call it a bit of depth or soul or feeling. Instead of just being present and accounted for, the bass note sets its signature for you. I appreciate that in this tuning.

Others have mentioned that the mids come across as frontal or near frontal in attack, but not in a bad way. I would tend to agree mostly. I do find that brighter songs, such as when a guitar is going through its licks, the sound can be a bit overwhelming. I liken this to my tendency to not tolerate bright forward signatures. Plus, this is not nearly as frontal as some of late (mentioned below). On Bittersweet (Live) from BHT&TM, Todd’s vocals are simply sumptuous. Toned perfectly to me and presented with that bit of vibrancy mentioned, but not hindering my pleasure. His vocal presentation is strong and taut, but deep and rich at the same time. The N2 vocal presentation represents that quite well. Only occasionally does one hear a hint of sibilance, and to me that comes from the recording and his vocals (yes those are upper notes but come across here to me).

Speaking of that upper end, the treble notes come across with that extension, which can often lead to sibilance and harshness of presentation. Not so here, as that extension is presented cleanly and without sibilance (except for the aforementioned vocals, above). Cymbal hits sound striking and real. No artificiality such as others here have. This extension leads to an expanding of space, which to me nullifies that somewhat overly bright tendency. Again, this is only to me, YMMV. This is among the better treble notes I have heard and as sensitive as I am if I can tolerate it, then it is really pretty good.

Soundstage is expansive in all three directions, but not so overly great as to give no tie to all the notes. All is tied together and the N2 has among the best soundstage I have heard of late. It really is grand. This leads to excellent instrumentation & layering as each note can be easily separated without being disjointed. Placing of instruments while grand also give very good spatial representation, lending to excellent detail. Clarity is thus quite good as well. I am amazed as how many I have heard of late are all quite good at the above-mentioned items, but the Kinera could be the best I have heard in quite some time.

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Comparison:

Kinera Nanna 2.0 ($949) v Empire Ears Hero ($1349):

Empire Ears models are legendary for their bass reproduction, and I personally consider them the best out there for sheer quantity coupled with quality. The Hero uses the new W9+, in duality of course. There is no denying the Hero has spectacular bass, trouncing the Nanna 2.0 in depth and presentation. But once we get into the mids, it gets interesting. While both promote crisp vocal treatment, the Hero has a tendency to “overpromote” those mid tones. I agree with Ryan Soo who called them overly bright, too much so. I agree, even though I purchased one. On less mid-prominent songs though, the Hero is a fantastic unit. As clean, clear and crisp as it gets.

This overly bright signature does carry into the treble range, further deteriorating what to me is a superb sound. Mind you with the right genre, as in less techno, EDM, etc. the Hero is superb. On guitar works such as Frampton’s Reckoner (quickly becoming a favorite album, you need to listen to it), his work is of the sort you might find in a Fantasy song around the movie Avatar. Such is his sublime playing, that you cannot do anything but enjoy it. On the Hero, it is fantastic. On the Nanna 2.0 it is smoother, but still wonderful. This would come down to whether you want orgasmic bass, with mids, which can be too much; or a smoother overall presentation, with very good control. Both are worth a look if the budget affords.


Kinera Nanna 2.0 ($949) v Fir Audio VxV ($999):

The VxV came on the heels of the excellent quartet of the Fir M-series. I was already smitten with the M5. So much so, that I almost purchased and M3 or M4 (quite acceptable to me it would have been). But then the VxV came along, and I thought, “holy buckets, this is the ‘affordable’ model?!” I really think they missed a point by not making that opaque outline glow in the dark. That would have been bitch’n. Anyway, the VxV sent me down the road to what exactly a TOTL must have or provide to the listener in order for their appetite to be satiated. Excellent bass, wonderful vocals and treble, which does not grate or bite too much. If I had the “need” for another, of the five Fir mentioned above, it would be the VxV that comes home and lays with me. It provides 75% of the M5 at 35% of the cost. And to me this is what makes a TOTL special, truly special.

Comparatively, the Nanna 2.0 is again a bit smoother, with good extension. The VxV can also hit the high end, and with a bit better control, but the soundstage on the Kinera is actually better, allowing for a bit more space between the notes making up for that “lack of control.” The VxV is a bit more clinical of note (not analytical or dry, but precise), where the Kinera is deeper, smoother and more laid back. Both are pretty much remarkable in their own characteristics and to “choose” a winner would be like choosing a BMW M5 over an Audi RS6. I’d be happy with either.


Kinera Nanna 2.0 ($949) v Cayin Fantasy ($799):

The Fantasy came and went about a month ago. It was quite stunning in look, and to me it still backed that up with good, solid sound. A bit too much up high, and a bit weak down low, it matches the Hero in detail presentation. This is a very precise IEM in tonality. If you desire or need accuracy of sound, including placement, then the Fantasy would be the choice. But that smooth signature of the Kinera keeps growing on me, even at the difference of price. Mind you, the Fantasy to me is a very, very good offering, providing quality of soundstage, placement, airiness and overall sound, but it falls behind the Kinera in my overall ranking, due to the smooth texture of sound, which fits my listening more. As per usual, your mileage may vary.


Kinera Nanna 2.0 ($949) v Dunu SA6 ($549):

Not really a fair fight due to the price, but the SA6 as mentioned in other reviews is an excellent example, which furthered Dunu’s technology. I love the interchangeable jacks and it makes for an easy solution if you desire excellent sound. I still find the presentation of the SA6 stunning. To think that a model, which is essentially mid-fi can come with a tunable sound (flick the switch on the side), and multiple jacks is astounding. Not quite the sub bass as the Kinera, and clean, non-analytical sound from the mids; the SA6 still provides me with excellent listening. There is an upper mid push, which can taint the overall quality, bringing the mids further forward than the Nanna 2.0 even. The treble thankfully does not suffer, but that mid sound is too far forward to me on most songs. Lifted and pushed, it colors and otherwise very good sound. Turning the switch off does help alleviate this a bit, but you lose the sumptuousness of the bass presentation as a result. A fair trade, and still one of the benchmarks (to me) at this price, but otherwise falling behind the Nanna 2.0.


Finale:

I will admit that based upon the last few examples from Kinera I thought, 1. They are still struggling to find their “identity,” and 2. Would this be yet another higher-end product from Kinera with high hopes dashed? My hope was neither and that this would be a good product.

Kinera “settled” for a western-based signature on the Imperial Mount Nanna 2.0, with a warmth to it, complementing the smooth richness of texture and laid-back signature. It is no secret that I prefer this signature, with gobs of bass as well. The Nanna 2.0 hit all of those marks, except for the gobs of bass. It has very, very good bass with sufficient thump on songs to make its place well known. It also presents an open and airy, but not light signature, which promotes this sound even further. The highs are brilliant in transition from the mids and presentation. Not too high, not too low, but with excellent extension aiding this end. The mids are pushed a bit too far forward for me, but only slightly. Especially when compared to something like I did above with the Hero or SA6. In fact, if I could transfer the mids from the Nanna 2.0 into the Hero, it would be spot on perfect for me.

The transition continues from the sub bass to the mids, with that bit of bloom I talked about earlier, but this helps to keep the signature smooth with good texture and depth. Not muddy, bit depth of texture. Think Lake Superior water quality versus the Missouri River and that while being an overexaggerating response, gets the point across. Those first 20 minutes of listening turned into a frantic week of trying to squeeze as much listening time into the Kinera as possible. Sometimes I do so begrudgingly to garner a full impact upon the sound. Here it was for pure pleasure and the verbiage scribed here. This is one damn fine unit, and I really hope Kinera has hit its stride with this one. I’m pleading with you: don’t change it. Leave it alone. Walk away and grab a beer or scotch or something. The job is done with this one. Move on to another model.

I finish this written garble listening to Frampton’s Reckoner again and again. Such sweet guitar work and the support that reminds you this song would be just as home in a Jason Bourne movie as he gets away once again, as much as “just a song.” I thank Audio46 for yet another stellar audition in something I most likely would not have had the chance. And to @Kinera: leave the Mount Imperial Nanna 2.0 alone!!! Let it sell itself, and it will.

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