-cohesive W shape signature
-bright and energic without killing spike
-fast thumpy bass
-mostly realist timbre and tone
-versatile enough tuning
-beautiful design and sturdy construction
-generous accessories including an high end cable
-not the most competitive at its price bracket
-average technicalities for its price bracket
-lack a bit of definition edge
-bit thin timbre
-bass lack proper rumble and extension
-treble lack sparkle, brilliance and air
-might be too bright for some (especially with Final eartips)
SOUND VALUE: 8/10
Kinera don’t need more introduction, they have solid fan base and are among first chifi audio company to create hybrid IEM. While they did some single dynamic driver earphones, their expertise is with hybrid and tribrid earphones. Their Idun Golden earn my admiration, while the URD was a romantic loving affair, addictive and laid back. Last review ive done of their product is for the Hodur, which offer very bright and energic W shape signature with very impressive micro details delivering.
The story behind my desire to review this Kinera Norn very model was misleading in fact, since I was expecting a basshead earphones due to some graph ive seen, which weren’t either accurate or perhaps another version of the NorN (cause yes, Kinera create different version, depending of country ”need”) since these aren’t bass monster.
Priced 510$, the NorN is an hybrid with 1 titanium 7mm dynamic driver and 4 knowles balanced armature. Let’s see in this review if these can be consider as good mid-tier IEM contender.
Frequency Response Range
Did Kinera ever disappoint in term of construction? Well, not with any of the IEM i’ve test from them which I can confirm have great durability too, since they all work as new after year of use. The NorN is no exception and the hand made painting as again artsy eye catching masterpiece. Everybody that see them compliment the craftmanship. The housing is made of high quality resin plastic which isn’t easy to scratch and can be drop without damage (can’t confirm hard hit will not damage drivers inside tough!). For number of driver in it’s body, the shell is rather small, but chunky. Its light and very comfortable with above average isolation. 2pin connector are well embeded in the body.
The cable included is of very impressive quality, its an 8 cores-192 strands high purity silver plated cable. Its very smooth and flexible and i find it so good in term of sound transmission that I tend to pair it will all my IEMs now. What’s interesting too, is that Kinera include one 2.5mm bal to 3.5mm se adapter and another 2.5mmbal to 4.4mm bal adapter. This is a BIG plus for me, since it can be use with any cable in your collection and avoid you to constantly buy another type of bal mmcx or 2pin or etc cable. This solve my 2.5mm only MMCX cable issue.
Generous you say? Well, the packaging is near overwhelming both in its elegant and beautifull presentation and tremendous amount of accessories we get to cover all possible needs of the consumer. This is to my eyes the packaging and accessories benchmark for Mid-tier IEM of this price range, which alas, seem to be an exception for now among other companies.
So, we have 12 pairs of ear tips, including memory foams and Final E tips (which is great, but not particularly appropriate for these IEM). As said above, the cable is great and the 2 x 2.5mm adapter is a blessing. Leather carrying case is excellent too. Let say this type of unpacking experience sure put a smile on consumer (or reviewer) face. Excellent.
The Norn offer a balanced treble focus W shape tonality where mid bass have boosted slam and treble have analytical fullness. These are bright but not too spiky, still, treble sensitive people might find those fatiguing due to their very energic dynamic and important upper mids pina gain. These aren’t as agressive as Hodur for ex, but the 4 balanced armature aren’t overly damped either, its enough edgy without being screamy or splashy.
To note that this is the kind of IEM that benefit from wide bore ear tips to get proper sound openess, the nozzle is big and have 3 hole, too small tips hole can even block one of them so be carefull with this. For my review I use both Kbear KB07 or basic short wide bore, this tremendously improve soundstage wideness as well as layering and imaging, treble is less boosted and more open too. Worst eartips I try for these are included Final tips, which compress the soundstage and tend to boost treble even more. As well, at 32ohm with 110db sensitivity, i consider the Norn a bit source picky, cleanest is amping and lowest is its impedance output, better it will sound.
Back to the BASS now, if you look at some graph, you might expect super basshead IEM, but it’s not the case. The 10db bass boost have more mid bass presence, yet isn’t what i would call V shape nor lacking in well rounded punch. It offer authoritative slam with short decay that permit to keep separation from mids clean enough, yet go roll off in high bass-lower mids rather fast. The rumble is more about resonance than thick vibrant extension and we might even have sligth roll off under 40khz. Its not a linear extension, this bass like to hit and add physical fun to an otherwise abrasive signature. The attack is fast but not the most flexible. Definition is good enough, this isn’t warm diffuse bass response, its well rounded and resolved with good texture so even acoustic bass line have enough bite in presence. I’m quite impress by the speed of this 7mm dynamic driver as well as how open is the impact, timbre match very well timbre of balanced armature too, so it doesn’t feel lacking in cohesion nor being distached. It’s not overly focus on sub bass, it’s not a Crin tuned IEM nor a Moondrop Aria, this is muscular low end with excited energy, and it doesn’t veil mids with resonance. Sure, it’s not the most meaty bass neither, but this would have surely mudded the dynamic rendering so I consider this very well balanced. I find the performance very controlled and adding an appealing and versatile punch energy to wide range of music.
As expected, if the NorN is treble centric, the mid range will suffer from sligth recession, especially before upper mid range and let say the brightness boost is without compromise when it begin, yet, their no invasive sibilance or harsness, it’s just not a creamy smooth mid range. Presence of instrument is clear and highly resolve, with boosted texture and good transparency, but male vocal are hint thinner and more recessed than female vocal and instrument like piano don’t really cut it since it lack proper note weight and fullness. Still, this isn’t thin dry cold mids at all, presence of instrument is lively and dynamic, not lean and lifeless. Again, male vocal is clear, with enough texture to it, just less in your face than female vocal so in fact some might prefer them over the latter due to more restrain pina gain. Layering of mid range is exemplary, this doesn’t mud as a whole package and let all instrument keep their individual presence. I listen right now to Timber Timbre and its vocal is widely open and just a hint over focus in higher pitch, without problematic timbral imbalance, in fact, it’s rather smooth. If i can fault the mids for something it will be note weight, especially for piano, the speed of attack is there but the hit of note lack impact and air. That’s something to underline, the NorN aren’t very airy sounding, nor very spacious, it’s an intimate mid range with effortless resolution and lively presentation. Versatile for near every music style apart solo piano or violin.
The star of the show and widest frequency range to cover, the Treble, is fully boosted and covered up to 10khz here, and while these are bright sounding, i wouldn’t say its too agressive since overall treble boost seem rather linear, with nothing too pushed fowards. Percussions are on line with violin or female vocal, their nothing that sound out of place and we have a very generous amount of details and texture nuance. This isn’t what I would call a sparkly or airy treble, its crunchy and snappy with good loudness energy. Pumped up in a refined way, with great sens of dynamic and fullness, you don’t hear half cook percussions or instrument here, its fully restitute yet not the must sharply define. I would say the Norn are analytical in a colored way, in the definition attack edge is slightly blunted-softed. Highs are vividly fowards and sounds layers are very rich in number, sometime it can even be a bit overwhelming in term of sound info due to lack of air and spaciousness, yet depeding of music track it can be highly immersive, as if you can find new micro details every time you dig in this density of sounds layers. Upper treble up to 15khz is a bit lacking in sharpness-brilliance as said, so this affect sens of openess. The knowles balanced armature do a great job in term of realist timbre, avoiding metallic sheen or grainy harshness. These are energic and well articulated highs, with great sens of immediacy and fast sustain release, not delicate and far from being dark, the treble wake you up and suck you in its urgent musicality.
When it come to spatiality, i would say its not the most open wide and tall, yet have good sens of deepness without being tunnel like. Its a small holographic room fullfill with sound richness, it like being near the stage with 4 speakers on it positioned in inversed U. Their stereo and center stage feel, no spatial zone seem scooped or ackward in placement.
While this doesn’t boost space between instrument, it still offer tremendous imaging performance with precise positioning and excellent layering, all within small space without going muddy. Thats surprising and addictive since this proximity with instrument and singer magnify immersivity and immediacy of the music. Again, your very near musicians.
Technical performance of mid-tier IEM should be superior to entry level ones, and this is evident it is here with the Norn. Attack speed is very fast and well control, without long fuzzy sustain or problematic spike. Resolution is high, in a refined way, not overly bright or trying to overly boost clarity with shouty magic. Cohesion between drivers is excellent, you don’t feel dynamic driver is whole different color or is distached, it embrace lower mids in a organic way. Still, balanced armature attack edge can be just a hint blunted sometime, which will affect accuracy of definition yet permit to avoid harshness or incontroled resonance. BA have their limit, wtv IEM i try including Campfire Andromeda, proper sense of clean definition always seem to lack a bit of natural sustain-release especially for string or plucked instrument like piano, guitar or violin. Overall technical performance of NorN is on par or above anything in this price range, and will impress those that want to upgrade from Kinera Idun Golden for example.
VS KINERA URD (1DD+2BA+2EST-650$)
URD is darker bassier L shape balance with crisper airier upper treble. Bass is more sub bass focus, warmer and looser in attack, which tend to add warmth to mid range. This mid range is denser and more natural in timbre, darker in resolution, lusher in texture and vocal have more upfront and wide presence, female vocal are less prompt to sligth hotness too. Treble is notably more romantic and color, more laid back yet with extra crispness delivered delicately in a airy way from EST driver, this add sens of brilliance that NorN lack as well as extra air, yet micro details are less plenty and attack bite feel more blunted, organic. Timbre is more textured and brighter with the Norn, bit thinner and more transparent too. All technical aspect as superior with NorN apart upper treble snap and decay, imaging is more accurate, resolution is higher, soundstage is a bit less wide and tall but deeper. Attack control of bass is tighter and more speedy and mid range is less blurried too with the NorN.
All in all, these are very different in tonal balance, NorN being brighter and more energic W shape in dynamic as well as more analytical and revealing, while the Urd is a hint bassier with its big warm slam and have a more please timbre as well as safer fatigue free laid back musicality. NorN sounding more technical and vivid, i feel sound benefit is higher with them since it’s 150$ cheaper.
VS HISENIOR MEGA5P (1DD+4BA-400$ (often on sale 250$))
What is evident at first listen is how much pina gain in upper mids we have with the NorN, which is brighter and more energic W shape and feel very treble centric compare to lush balanced neutral Mega5P, which have warmer bass, fuller mid range and more natural timbre but darker treble too, here the Norn have edgier attack with more treble snap and sharper resolution. Mega5p have a natural harman target balance while NorN is bassy DF neutral with extra treble extension and boost. Bass separation is better with Norn, cleaner and faster in impact while Mega5p add warmth to timbre and loose a bit of its individuality definition. Mid range is where i prefer the 5P, even if female vocal are a hint more laid back and not as textured, tone is more natural and note weight is heavier too, timbre is denser with more organic timbral balance that doesn’t highlight micro details that can distract us like lipsy vocal or breath of violonist. Treble is more agressive and fatiguing with the Norn, making the Mega5p sound very smooth and laid back, yet not lacking in details but sure in sparkle and air, which make NorN sound more airy and open. Again, imaging is sharper with Norn, more precise and clean in separation, while Mega5p have good layering but not very spacious presentation.
All in all, while Mega5p sound nothing like the Urd, i come to same conclusion that NorN sound more technical and analytical, have hint colder tonality and less natural and versatile tone, for vocal and lush thick timbre lover, i’ll go Mega5p, for lively energic musicality with generous details quantity, Norn is unbeatable it seem.
VS UNIQUE MELODY 3DT (3DD-350$)
What hit first is how bigger is the sound stage, especially in wideness tallness, after it’s how thicker and richer sound layers are presented. The bass quality too impress more than Norn, even if quantity isn’t as boosted, its less sub bass resonant, more vibrant, texture and fully rounder. Mids are as high in pina gain boost and quite agressive in upper mids yet thicker and richer in texture details, vocal are more natural and full and note weight is again more felt than Norn, it seem their more lower mids too with 3DT, making male vocal fuller too, so mid range feel less recessed and more balanced. Treble tough is notably more detailed with the Norn, attack is more precise, faster and more edgy in definition. 3DT treble feel like a chunky package and lack proper air and separation between high range instrument, making layering more sticky while better articulated and sharped with the Norn, no doubt that bot treble quality and quantity is better here. This inflict on imaging accuracy, which is superior with the Norn.
All in all, Kinera Norn is technicaly superior and offer a more captivating vividity, yet bass and mids are superior in tone and presence with the 3DT.
The Kinera NorN offer a vividly balanced W shape signature with bright but well controled treble and fast and punchy bass. The technical performance are more than decent for the price, with its excellent imaging capacity, great resolution and energic dynamic heft.
While i would not suggest those for treble sensitive people, let say its notably smoother and less spiky than their more analytical Hodur.
For fans of the Kinera Idun Golden, the NorN would be a logical upgrade.
These are great all arounder and must likely my favorite Kinera IEM i’ve try yet, it’s polar opposite of the URD, which is warmer, daker and bassier.
As well, the NorN construction is marvellous and the very generous amount of accessories will sure impress any consumers.
If your seeking for an energic musicality with crunchy treble, clean mids and tight thumpy bass, the NorN should be on your check list.
PS: I wanna thanks Kinera for sending me this IEM after i manifest my curiosity about them. I really appreciate their open mind for non-hyper reviewer like me.
You can order the Kinera NorN for 510$ here:https://www.linsoul.com/products/kinera-norn
For more info about Kinera IEM, check their official site here:https://www.kineraaudio.com/product-category/universal-iem