-Smooth cohesive tonality
-Full bodied male and female vocal
-Free of sibilance or any peaks
-Delicate yet sparkly treble
-Great layering that avoid muddyness with complex music
-Dark yet with effortless macro-resolution
-Very Wide and Tall soundstage
-Safe versatile tuning with a twist (EST treble crispness)
-Immersive organic fluidity perfect for fatigue free long listening
-Great modular cable
-Unique piece of art in the form of an IEM
-Warm bass that lack definition and separation
-Static imaging lack a bit of definition
-Average overall resolution and micro-details
-Shell is quite thick
-A bit pricey to be truely competitive
SOUND VALUE: 7.8/10
Kinera is a Chinese company specializing in hybrid earphones and also known for its great care in the aesthetic design of these. Having had the chance to test their other mid-range model such as the Freya, I can tell you that their sumptuous design is a real treat for the eyes, as for the ears, the Freya lacked softness and organicity in the musicality for my taste. But Kinera is also known for its evolution in tuning target.
Today I will review their last Trybrid IEM, the URD, which is a Dual titanium crystal diaphragm DD+2 sonions electrostatic drivers (EST)+1 balanced armature drivers IEM selling for 650$usd. Yes, this is a very exotic drivers implementation, and the biggest question for me here is this one: will it sound correct in tonal and timbral balance or artificially heterogeneous? Let see in this review what I will conclude!
Kinera is obsessed with the aesthetics of their IEMs, sometimes it makes you wonder if they dreams of being jeweller. Each time I have a Kinera IEM in my hands, it seems precious, almost inappropriate for my social class, it impresses the eyes and mystifies it. They scream: contemplated me, without being bling bling or caricatural. Kinera has taste, Kinera has the talent of a goldsmith to spare. And here, it’s pushed to its paroxysm, in a subtle way, like the sound that these URDs deliver.
For the shell, Kinera used 3D printing to sculpt a lake landscape in relief, but then they used resin paint to round it all off and used the shadow play of these geographical reliefs. Some will never know that this in-ear shell is a crazy sculpture of aesthetic refinement, but one thing is certain: their eye will be hypnotized by their beauty. The result is a smooth shell with an organic shape inspired by the auditory canal on the front, and by a rounded relief landscape on the back hiding well its 6 stepped layers descending towards this dark and fascinating lake. The shell is quite large but its nozzle is long enough for safe and comfortable insertion. In the end, despite their elegant beauty, I don’t know what I look like when I put on the URDs. If I touch, I feel that they are protruding. I also know that they are comfortable but capricious compared to the chosen tips, which greatly influences the sound projection. In terms of durability, they seem really well built, this thick double-layer resin plastic is both light and solid, the 2pin connectors are also varnished and very well fitted into the shell. Everything seems solid, and I’m happy that the 2pin connectors are not loose at all like some other IEMs in this price range which I will keep secret (except in the reviews of course!).
Now, on the accessory side, we have everything, a very generous pile of tips including Final Audio, a good quality protective case and above all a good quality modular cable. This one is gold-silver plated on copper, with OCC copper in its center. It’s a lightweight, flexible cable with a smooth, mellow tone without overdrive or transmission instability. But above all, it is modular, so you have 3.5 se, 2.5 bal and 4.4 bal jacks. I admit to being addicted to this cable and using it with lots of IEMs. What a treat!
(audio source for this review: Tri TK2, Tempotec E44 and HD V, Ibasso DX90, SMSL SU9+SH9)
First, Kinera may surprise you with an atypical approach to sound balance that opts for a cohesive softness, a syrupy and natural timbre, a roundness without aggressiveness or roughness as well as a marked elevation of the sub-basses. We are diametrically opposed to their house signature which is more aggressive and analytical like the Freya which leans much more towards the W balance than in a balanced U signature like the URD. So here I would characterize the L-shaped signature tending towards warm neutrality with bass boost. What surprises here is the organic cohesion, without marked dissociation of frequencies and with a surprisingly homogeneous timbre for a tribrid EMI.
No, the treble that electro static transducers deliver doesn’t sound artificial, detached or over-emphasized, but they only extract some nuance in micro-detail as well as add shine and snappy attack speed at the top of the spectrum. The result is a warmly balanced, dense, relaxed and smooth tonality with anything but thin timbre, which offers great versatility for various musical styles as well as great permissiveness for drier or amateur recordings.
That’s what struck me first: the softness of timbre and its aerial body. Not being a fan of the Freya or H3 timbre, I feared something dry or aggressively textured, which is not the case at all here. Natural, dense, nuanced in color and slightly softened in texture grain, the URDs are among the smoothest, most organic and downright euphonic IEMs I’ve heard to date. Here, we have both density and velvety transparency, without over emphasis of the high harmonics which could come to destabilize the timbral balance, but a little sfumato of the harmonic basses which adds a touch of beneficial warmth.
The BASS has a good physicality and hits heavily slamming but nicely because it doesn’t spill too much on the mids and in fact gives a good sitting to the lower mids, which benefits the male vocals which are full, thick and present. Let’s put it simply, URD loves sub-bass and emphasizes this section with a marked but not boomy rise. Still, the URDs could well appeal to more mature repressed bassheads due to an organic and full low end that remains balanced in the strike. The rumble of the sub-basses is thick, heavy, vibrating more than resonant, it’s meaty and charming which remains in its place behind the mids which sometimes can seem a little stuck over the humming and opaque presentation of the basses layer. Yes, opaque because the extension is not the most linear, the texture is rather warm because the relief of the bass physicality is more assertive than its transparent natural resonance. The kick drum is a little darkened and less defined in its impact. This is again due to a muted texture which affects the kick drum’s defining angles as well as its abrasiveness and bite on impact. Warm, with a heavy fall although a little soft, the bass is easy to appreciate but not technically flawless, especially in terms of clarity, precision and separation. This will do better with instrument like synth bass, digital kick, cello than slap bass, toms that or acoustic bass that need both texture grip and natural resonance. Still, what a nice buttery guilty pleasure!
The MIDS are well defined in their physical presence which is wide and dense in timbre, the rendering is natural and without offense in the attack which favors the weight of the impact drop rather than the sharpness of the harmonic sustain. The rendering is full and fleshy and very versatile, the male vocals being full with a natural tone as well as the female vocals having more emphasis from the low harmonics which adds an appealing syrupy and breathy roundness to their presence. In fact, everything sounds good but nothing jumps out at you, the rendering of the piano is almost perfect because the weight of the notes is there, but the definition is not the sharpest to allow precise articulation, it remains in a fluffy set and sweet, not too dark but not very airy or clean either. In the end, I prefer this tactile presentation of the piano register to something more dry and clinical which would make each note pass like a textured but disembodied image. Let’s say that the asserted lack of textures will be more problematic for an electric guitar than a piano or violin. This type of soft, polished and well separated mid range in their layers of physical presence benefits wind instruments, the saxophone having a very convincing rendering, airy but dense and rich in texture this time in a non-forced and balanced way in the timbres.
The HIGHS are arguably the most exotic aspect of URDs, thanks to the well-filtered implementation of sonion electrostatic transducers, which might confuse those expecting ultra-high definition with super analytical and incisive highs. Here, we are in compromise, in a desire for an immersive organic balance and just enough aerial and brilliant highs to add spice to the listening. It’s delicate but without speed limit, therefore, certain micro details are better extracted than others, without it seeming obvious, and their separation has more freedom than the bass and midrange which are more opaque and homogeneous in their dynamics of amplitudes. What is surprising is that despite the sharper and more airy aspect of the high treble, it never sounds dangerously unbalanced or offbeat, even if the bass embraces the mids more by stealing air from them in separation on the way, and leaves intact the crispness of the treble say between 8khz and 12khz, because I would not go so far as to say that the high frequency range extends up to 20khz in a linear fashion. In fact, the top of the spectrum is quite limited in presence and not very round or textured, even a little metallic but with softness, without stridency or aggressiveness. For example, the violin sounds really good, full and natural in tone, with a nicely articulated and flexible layer of presence, but little or no bite in the attack, here it baffles me to enjoy this instrument so much with such a presentation subdued and rounded in its defining corners. For the electric guitar, it becomes more problematic and the presence is muffled, set back, diffused in the affirmation of its attack. And what about the harpsichord except that it has a really different treatment from the piano, this time it lacks density, roundness and weight, but has excellent definition and incredible attack speed, as if it were exclusively the electrostatic transducer that took care of it. In fact, I highly appreciate the harpsichord, even though it sounds like it’s coming from another IEM pair I listen to.
Let’s start by pointing out that it seems like Kinera has gone to great lengths for tonal balance and musicality that’s accessible, easy to like and even safe in its choice of approach, for something so comfortable and natural in its sound rendering that no one will want to flee and will be in spite of themselves immersed in a flow of unique and fluffy acoustic projection, dense and rich in colors, without assault of instrumental presence on steroid.
So the approach is not to opt for short-lived spectacular artifices by amplifying the musculature of technical performances or their singularity in terms of quantitative mechanics. How confusing eh! To say that the URDs do not push the technical emphasis of their sound and opt for a coherent whole of harmony! And so, these performances, to a certain degree, are diminished, yes. And I would say it all comes from the choice of warm and hushed dynamic transducer, generously embracing that romantic tonality. Because DD flavor is central and even vital to URDs. And if I fix on his case i’ll judge that he is quite clumsy in the end, it is his ”flaws” that charm us here in the end, because a perfect high fidelity musicality might make us cold and distant who knows.
In short, the general attack speed is fast, but tenuous in its impact and definition. This felt the whole thing a bit. Beautifully in fact.
But let’s stop talking about aesthetics and be harshly critical here: no, the technical performance isn’t spectacular, the sound imagery isn’t very precise, the definition lacks contours, the high frequencies aren’t that revealing. The URDs use the technicalities of each of its transducers like a chef uses his spices, and it is here that we must applaud the gustatory talent. Because as much nothing impresses, nothing disappoints either, the details, there are generously and their extraction is epicurean, treble with well-dosed pepper, bass with very buttery weight, mediums with very sweet clarity. Kinera’s approach is quite different from headphones such as UM MEST Mk2 or Campfire Andromeda, here we are in the guilty pleasure zone but never devoid of refined flavors. The spatiality is vast, wide and high, with a holographic and layered rendering of organic sonic richness, the timbre, mechanically inimitable, is soft, cohesive and immersive, it embraces the listener, and the more technical aspect is delivered by fast, detailed and crisp treble, what more could you ask for if you have the means, this epicurian pleasure is not so guilty in the end.
VS FIIO FH7 (1DD+4BA=500$)
Well, these two earphones have absolutely nothing in common, the FH7 being much more aggressive with a W-shaped balance and a more energetic and bright attack. The URDs seem very dark next to them but also less tiring for the ears, it’s a real slap in the face listening to the FH7s which almost makes you wince as if you were invaded by tweeters pushed into the gain. The bass is faster and more controlled with the FH7, the strike is more authoritative and the texture more advanced, the technical quality is superior but the cohesion more artificial and detached. The mediums are thinner, dryer and more abrasive, the resolution is higher and more generous in detail, the texture more grainy and the vocals more centered in the contained opening, on the other hand, the male vocals are less meaty and rather artificial. The attack weight is not as round and heavy as the URDs and the sibilance is more present with the FH7s. The highs follow the same rendering, more aggressive and analytical, also more saturated, dry and garish. The sparkling brilliance of the highs is more pronounced with the URDs as is the resonance less cut.
Musically speaking, URDs are more charming and won’t get tired with long listening, also the spatiality is wider and taller and less deep tunneling than FH7s. The timbre is much more natural and dense with URDs. Technically, the bass of the FH7 is superior, but for the rest, it’s fairly equal although the high is perhaps faster and controlled with the URDs although less frontal.
VS DITA TWINS FEALTY (1DD-1300$)
At twice the price of URDs, DITAs are again very different tonally. It’s more sharp and aggressive, tending to take the opposite path of URDs with an inverted L curve, ie flat bass and high mids and highs emphasis. So, if the URDs are all about attack weight, soft tonal balance and timbre density, the Fealty are all about amplified resolution, detailed texture and clean bass just enough to give kick drum presence. The body is what the Fealty sound lacks the most, it is compensated by the texture which singles out its presence in broad strokes. So, the resolution is certainly higher, the spatiality more open and airy and the richness of details more diversified. The female vocals are notably more put forward, the transparency of timbre is higher which influences a more precise and spacious sound separation. Here, what is surprising is that technically DITA seems superior, and yes with a single dynamic transducer the attack speed is faster but it spoils quite quickly compared to URDs which tend to offer a more holographic and layered rendering in sound layers, therefore, even if the resolution is lower, the rendering will be less compressed, messy or distorted in the dynamics for more complex or faster passages.
To my ears, URD is a much more pleasant listen in term of musicality.
VS UNIQUE MELODY 3DT (3xDD=400$)
Well, it seems that no other IEM has a tone similar to these URDs, again here it is more bright, dry and aggressive, more boosted in the upper mids and highs as well as the mids bass. Signature in energic V against a soft L which seems very U with the URDs now. The fact remains that here it’s less destabilizing as a difference, perhaps because of a fairly holographic rendering and fairly dense timbres that the 3 dynamic transducers provide for the musicality. These timbres are more textured and will benefit from the attack of violins or electric guitar which suddenly seems muffled with URDs. For the bass, it’s flatter and cleaner in the extension compared to the URDs, but it’s rounder and more textured and better separated too, I can also follow the bass lines and kick drum better than the URDs which darken their definition but offers more thickness and resonance width of strike. The mids are a little thinner with the 3DTs, but more aggressive in presence. The highs have more crunch, biting, abrasiveness and deliver more generously the grain of the textures and number of micro details. The URDs again have more delicate and shimmering highs, but not as full and rich, as if certain sonic information was clouded or distilled into a more seamless and liquid whole.
Hum, it would be lying to say that the URDs are superior here, because the 3DTs are well balanced and quite fleshy in tone, with superior technicality in resolution and dynamic variance. Musically, it’s certainly more aggressive (including a bit of sibilance), but not too garish or disastrous, therefore very pleasant although less ready for long contemplative listening than the URDs.
Why do I still have the Kinera URDs in my ears at this moment of conclusion? Because they really charms me. Also because their sound immersion is not dangerous to me aurally, it cuddle me like a mother. I feel in a warm cocoon with the URDs, a cocoon vast in space and comfort, the warm organic tone here is really hard not to like.
Even when I force technical judgement, it comes down to the fact that the Kinera URDs deliver a cohesive sound, technically understated and refined, open and natural with a versatile and full vocal rendition.
URDs emphasize immersive and contemplative musicality, which can follow you for an entire day without you realizing it. Is it rare? Yes. And precious. But it can also be subjective depending on your psychoacoustic approach which will ultimately decide what charm your ears.
The fact remains that Kinera here has demonstrated an unparalleled sensitivity to tonal balance which opens the musical doors to those who favor smooth tonality, natural sound timbre and physical weight rendering of acoustic dynamics.
Greatly fascinating tuning!
PS: I want to thanks Kinera for providing me this demo sample for my review. I’m not affiliated to this company nor have any pressure from them to write a positive review. They will read this review once published. I keep my independance of judgment 100% intact as always.
You can order the Kinera Urd for 650$ from this authorized seller:https://www.linsoul.com/products/kinera-urd
Check official Kinera website for more info about their products here:https://www.kineraaudio.com/fr/