THE PLUS: Excellent imaging, Good details retrieval, well balanced tonality, no sibilance or notable harshness for a bright IEM, fast attack, incredibly beautifull, generous accessories, eye catching packaging
THE SO-SO: Cold tonality, dry timbre, hollow bass, not very musical ( subjective taste), lack of treble sparkle, can struggle to render busy music properly, Very capricious about ear tips fit and model to sound the best
Kinera (also know as Dongguan Yutai Electronics Co. Ltd.) is an earphones company from China that specialise in dynamic drivers and balanced armature production and have collaborate with other brand like QDC and Puretone for the creating of their IEM. Since 2010, they have gain experience in tuning and develop their own house sound. Far are the days where the only Kinera IEM was in sub-100$ price range, now they have widen their range of products from single-DD or BA to multi-BA hybrid that can go up in high-end audio with their Nana model using 1DD+1BA+2 electro static drivers.
Today I will review their mid-tier models, the jaw-dropping-freakin-sexy FREYA. It’s an Hybrid using 1 dynamic and 3 balanced armatures drivers. We don’t know what type of DD or BA it use, but it is most likely created by Kinera engineerr team.
Priced at 250$, the FREYA enter a very competitive price bracket in term of sound value, but it isn’t irrational to think some of this investment go into the unique artsy earphones shell you got. I will never repeat it enough in this review: these are precious art piece that will impress anybody that look at them.
But I’m not just about the look, I mean, once in my ears I don’t take selfies with my FREYA, so let’s see in this review if the FREYA is just a fashion model or if it know how to be a musician too.
The Kinera Freya can be bought from official retailer HIFIGO, an trustworthy store that permit you to pay with paypal (Aliexpress doesn’t offer this option) and offer fast shipping.
- Earphone Type: Quad Driver Hybrid In-Ear Monitor (IEMs)
- Driver Configuration: 3 Balanced armature drivers (BA) and a single dynamic driver (DD)
- Frequency Response: 20Hz – 20kHz
- Impedance: 22 Ω
- Sensitivity: 110 ± 2db
- Color: Blue and White
- Connector Interface: 0.78mm 2-Pin
- Jack Type: 3.5mm(TRS/TRRS)
- Cable: 0.78mm 2-Pin 3.5mm High Purity Copper Detachable Cable
- Package Contents: 1 Freya Earphone, Multiple extension cables, three pairs of different sized ear tips (S, M, L), and an earphone storage box.
PACKAGING & ACCESSORIES
I’m rarely impress by either packaging or accessories of IEM in sub-100$ price range, but above 200$ it should be more important to have a shown of respect for the consumer by making the presentation nice and included accessories generous enough. Simply put, Kinera exceed my expectation and might offer the primest unboxing experience ever done. This is near over the top in term of care for esthetic details as well as included accessories. If you give this as a gift to somebody, you can be sure it’s face will enlighten with a big smile when he discover the whole package.
We have a colorful hexagonal box with FREYA logo and shade of pink, blue and purple color reminescent of paiting job of the pink Freya housing. When you open this box, everything is beautifull presented and your eyes get caught by the beauty of carrying case, which is colorfull to and make of (false?) leather. In term of accessories, Kinera really think about everybody, including those who use a phone without headphones jack. YES, they include both android and apple dongle so you can enjoy your IEM with your iphone! Respect Kinera, Respect. Other accessories included are a 3.5mm to 6.4mmjack of very good quality, 3 pairs of silicone ear tips (okay, thats not enough), a cleaning tool and a nice 2pin 2 cores OFC cable that is very smooth but not of the highest quality (still step above what you found whith cheaper priced IEM). All in all, this was a very rewarding unboxing experience.
Kinera always give lot of care in the esthetical aspect of their IEM, but they take it to next level with the FREYA. In fact, Dolce & Gabana should hire their earphones designer so they can for once achieve a real beautifull fashion headphones or earphones. It isn’t a gimmick when Kinera say the Freya ‘’is more than just a product’’, as an artist myself, I consider these IEM as luxrious decorative art. If you always whish to own a Unique earphones that you will be the only one to have on planet earth,.the Freya is your answer because it’s hand painted and every specimen is unique even if they use the same paint color. I’m honnest when I say I never contemplate any other IEM as much as the Freya, it litteally hypnotize me by its beauty!
Unlike the QOA Pink Lady that have a fancy look but use rather cheap plastic material, the Freya use high quality resin plastic for it’s housing which have a universal custom organic shape. It feel very sturdy in hands and promess long durability. Shell is ultra smooth and feel like its make in one piece, craftmanship of these is out of this world. While the housing is on the big size, it’S very light and comfortable, but perhaps people with very small ears will have fit issue or find the shell too protuberant because of it’s thickness. I personally find the Freya very comfortable, my only issue is about the nozzle not have a lip for ear tips secure fit. Nozzle is very big too and the included ear tips doesnt do it justice even if it’s nice to have 5 pairs of fancy Final Audio ear tips. You need wide bore tips to get proper sound with the Freya because the nozzle have 3 holes connected to the dynamic driver and balanced armature and they need space to open. So, while I haven’t any discomfot issue with the Freya, i do encounter problem to find the right fit for proper sound projection.
The Freya are easy to drive and do not benefit from extra amping. It have high enough sensitivity of 110db and low impedance of 22ohm, making it in fact better suited for DAP or Phone that doesnt deliver super high amount of amping. While they aren’t problematic with powefull source (no serious distortion issue), the clarity can be affected with too much gain.
Passive noise cancelation is just above average, and you will not hear outside world by listening to music at moderate volume, at very low volume it’s possible though. Sound leakage do occur due to a venting hole at it’s side under the 2pin connector, so directly exposed to outside world, still, unless you crank up the volume like crazy it isn’t a serious issue at all.
TO NOTE: The Freya is one of those IEM that need perfect ear tips placement as well as ear tips model. In that regard, it remind me Audiosense T800 which can go from terrible to excellent sounding depending of how perfectly positioned it is in ear. This do not need deep insertion, and I highly suggest you to use a wide bore ear tips that do not cover any part of nozzle hole. Don’t use long ear tips, it compress the sound and make it more shouty. This is the ONLY way to get PERFECT sound, which is way more open and airy with more spacious imaging and less agressive treble. Lot of reviews out there will be misleading due to bad ear tips pairing.
Overall tonality of the FREYA is smoothly bright, a hint cold and near neutral with slight bass boost and extra emphasis in lower and mid treble section. The first thing that hit you is a sens of clarity and near analytical instrument separation. This is only if you find the right ear tips, which greatly impact on sound rendering, especially in openess. Once done, it’s less forwards, congested and agressive. With the FREYA you do have both advantage and drawback of balanced armature, but this time the dynamic drivers act like a BA too, offeirng a fast bass attack with thigh roll off in both end, everything sound fast paced tough you have a less natural timbre that can sound thin bodied.
SOUNDSTAGE have good wideness and tallness and impressive sens of deepness, it’s sligthly tunnel-like in presentation and you will never turn your head thinking a noise came from the back with those.
IMAGING is the highlight of Freya. It’s very good in separation and quite spacious, it’s better in macro-resolution than micro-resolution and offer inferior separation in bass and lower mids where resolution is more hollow and mixed-up. For mids and treble instrument placement is crisp and precise. Again, it’s the sens of space that give you the illusion you can spot the instrument, and this work marvelously well, the Freya have a near analytical sens of separation.
BASS have notable roll off in sub-bass extension, but mid bass is thumpy and energic with just enough weight to add a bit of fun to a rather serious tonality. Articulation is very fast, thigh and accurate, which could benefit slap bass lover, because both kick and bass line are clean enough and do not mix easily togheter. For acoustic bass or cello lover that need more air in body and natural extension down to 20hz, the FREYA will be underwhelming, I think this kind of back seated thumping bass is better for rock, pop, indie and folk than jazz or electronic. For example it can’t dig low enough in the track ‘’Grey Area’’ from KAYTRANDA to render properly the lowest synth bass line which struggle and sound muffled and boxed, at least it doesn’t create distortion but it isn’t far from it. In other hand, the track ‘’What you need’’ from the same artist album sound marvelously punchy with well separated and articulated bass line, a more chunky sub bass response would have tamed the kick punch which isnt the case here and everything is crisp and clean, the female vocal being intimate and accurate with good presence. Texture is a mixed bag for me here, it’s a little dry but some instrument like electric bass can have good amount of details and even slapping ‘’euphory’’. It isn’t a warm bass, neither a full bodied one, it’s a fast agile punchy bass with a transistor like texture that isn’t neither overly boosted or tamed.
MIDS are gently bright, have typical balanced armature timbre which is slightly thin and dry and lack thick naturalness and fullness. Resolution is very clean, attack is fast but lack grip. We have a kind of strange resonance with these BA that make the female vocal a little agressive. The definition is lacking edge which is due to this strange post-attack resonance I try to explain. Male vocal sound fuller but more recessed than female vocal. Timbre as said is on the cold side, but isn’t as harsh or grainy as inferior BA often found in sub-100$ chi-fi iem, still, it do trigger some memories of these cheap BA’s. What impress is clarity, details and imaging of the mid range, but it have it’s technical limit that is shown when you play busy track with similar instrument mixing togheter like violins or electric guitar. The presentation is slightly distant, not recessed, which is a strange mix. Their an iherent contradiction with the FREYA that is hard to pin point, it’s that technicalities are pushed fowards but imperfect especially in post-attack. Transition from bass dynamic driver and balanced armature isn’t organic and more like mixed shoutyness that have not enough space to not congest too fast, but you know it will congest if you push the bunderies. Anyhow, I find the violin to sound very nice and get use to vocal even if it lack that emotionality mostly found with dynamic driver based IEM.
TREBLE is the most boosted part of FREYA audio spectrum, even if the mids too are very boosted and little agressive. You have lot of extra energy in lower-mid treble with some extra air trick in upper treble to give false sens of cleaness. Treble is crunchy and better controled than mid range, so a little bit more snappy in attack. Percussions sound realist, not splashy, but lack brilliance and sparkle. Treble is rather well balanced with rest of spectrum and percussions doesn’t feel overly pushed forwards. Acoustic guitar sound clear and well articulated but lack a bit of natural decay, still, it’s better than electric guitar or violin that lack bite and texture richness for proper definition. Timbre is on the thin side mostly, but some time you are surrprise by the snare roundness. In fact, the highs are a bit imprevisible in rendition, because sometime it dig micro-details that felt out of place. For the most part it’s flat but Freya have more of an analytical-cerebral soul than romantic-emotional one. Again, the attack is very fast and agile, and it can deal with complexe tracks better than its mid range so you have plenty of sound info at same time, post-attack doesn’t have lot of sparkle or decay, this will affect instrument like acoustic guitar, metallic percussion or clavichord, but not in a disastrous way because attack lead is snappy and clean. I found this type of treble very versatile in fact, especially in term of tonality but a bit more air and sparkly would have been appreciated.
I’ve never been a fan of KINERA House sound, and decide to never touch their products again after having been extremely disapointed by the H3 Hybrid. Pretty sure the tuner do not listen to a wide range of music because I feel the FREYA is very genre dependant. The H3 was very artificial sounding with a strange W shape signature with bright tone and shouty treble, as if they try to boost resolution with cheap EQ gain and thanks god the FREYA doesn’t suffer from any tonal imbalance like the H3 and is head and shoulder above it in term of both tonality and technicalties.
Yep, KINERA still do follow it’s house sound tuning, whatever the fact that lot of audiophile wish they get inspire by Harman tuning target.
I don’t find the euphoric musicality in the FREYA, sometime I get hooked by its energic articulation, my head begin banging and suddenly stop when I discover It never create any emotion in me…i feel cold hearted and this is especially evident with anything that should create emotional response like a violin melody or melancholic vocal, again, the timbre is responsible for that as well as natural decay of bass and instrument impact.
Too polite it is, or let’s say formal, you know this fake smile you see, that are beautifull to look at, so clean with their bright white teeth…but you know it’s inherent artificality so it doesn’t warm your heart? Well, this is it: the FREYA isn’t soulfull. It’s a technical worker, a competent one, but without any sens of inventivity or charm. My music become anonym and athletic with the FREYA.
I’m very sensible to timbre, and this is something out of technicalities aspect and very hard to explain, but when it isnt natural enough I became snobbish. The FREYA timbre is far from the worst I heard, it isn’t particularly metallic or artificial, just dry and slightly thin. I feel the texture is a little off too, lacking refinement in micro-micro-details. But, when I use a good Litz copper cable it do gain a bit of meat and while emotionality wasn’t there for me, the timber gain a hint of lushness (Kinera Freya owner, jump on BQEYZ or FAAEAL Litz cable!).
Now, what I love about the Freya it’s his IMAGING, it really extract lot of instrument and spot on their singular presence in space. With the Freya, it happen very often that a secret sound layers became evident, it’s THAT crisp. For Indie, Classical or Folk it can be very rewarding.
BASS in another hand isn’t my favorite type, and the less well separated aspect of the sound. Too dry and grainy for me.
MIDS do not charm my heart but charm my brain, it’s quite clean and well articulated but lack a bit of finess and fullness. Too flat? Perhaps I need more color.
TREBLE is a little shouty in attack for my taste, it snap but in a way that doesn’t create sparkle.
All in all, no love story happen within me and the Freya due to a lack of persona, but I confident to say they are well balanced and very competent in term of overall technicalities.
VS AUDIOSENSE T800 (300$)
The T800 is a 8 balanced armature IEM, and it’s harder to drive them properly due to low sensitivity. While I do not suggest the T800 for phone user, this isn’t a problem with the Freya.
Tonality is seriously more V to W shape and Fun with the T800, as well timbre is warmer and thicker, the Freya is more neutral and cold sounding.
SOUNDSTAGE is about same wide, little taller with the T800 while little deeper with the Freya. IMAGING is more crisp and precise with the Freya due to thicker sound layers of T800.
BASS is weightier, thicker and boomier with T800, it have more slam and give more energy to the sound, both struggle to extend down to 20hz, but the Freya having a flatter bass make it less intense in roll-off drop. While the bass is less mature with T800, it’s easier to find in the mix too and dont get overshadowed by mids and treble like the dryier Freya.
MIDS are lusher and thicker with the T800, but they are less crisp and transparent and upper mids are a bit more fowards. Freya have leaner and cleaner mids but strangely can’t deal as well with busy track as T800 (surely due to higher number of knowles BA).
TREBLE is fuller and richer with the T800 and it can dig more micro details and texture nuance but it’s slightly less well balanced than Freya, as well Freya is more airy on top.
All in all, while Freya is less fun , bassy and lively and have a more artificial timbre, it is better balanced and more maturely tuned than T800.
VS DUNU DK-2001 (300$)
This is a fair comparison here, because both these IEM are 3BA+1DD Hybrid. Here, I think the difference is more about balanced armature model, because while we know DK2001 use 3 Knowles BA, I think Kinera use their own custom BA. As well ,the dynamic driver of DK2001 is beryllium coated, Kinera doesn’t tell anything about DD they use.
Tonality is warmer and more extended in low end with the DK2001, but overall balance is rather similar though more dynamic and less mids-treble centric than Freya.
SOUNDSTAGE is wider with DK2001, but notably less deep. IMAGING have better layering but is not as spacious and precise in instruments placement.
BASS is weightier and punchier, it dig lower in extension too and have a more natural texture and timbre, but it’s less thigh in control than Freya so it warm the lower mids more, which permit a more organic transition too.
MIDS are notably lusher and fuller, with more natural timbre and better emotional immediacy, it isn’t as crisp as the Freya but doesn’t have its cold BA timbre. Both male and female vocal sound fuller and more fowards. Again, complex busy track are better articulated with DK2001.
TREBLE is more relaxed and have even less sparkle decay than Freya, percussions are less clean and well controlled but have fuller timbre. Freya dig more micro-details and have brighter highs.
All in all, imaging, soundstage and clarity go to the Freya while musicality, bass and mids go to the DK2001.
The Kinera Freya is a technical beast that deliver impressive imaging and crisp near reference tonality. With the Freya, Kinera proove they can craft an incredibly luxurious earphones that isn’t just about the look, but the sound too. While the price tag is appropriate for such a unique eye candy, the sound suffer from typical drawback of Kinera house sound which favorise clarity over natural timbre, but this time without any harshness or ovelry bright tonality.
If you are a person that put details retrieval and analytical imaging over musicality and timbe warmth, the Kinera FREYA sure will impress you with the whole package experience. Youwill be spoil with accessories, spoil with beauty and spoil with high resolution sonority.