The H3 combines a single dynamic driver with two balanced armatures of unspecified size and model creating a very convincing hybrid setup that easily rivals the Magaosi K3 Pro and 1More Triple Driver. While I was immensely excited to crack the H3 open and give them a thorough listen upon receival, I was at the time committed to my review of the Magaosi K3 HD, a similarly priced earphone that utilizes a similar hybrid driver setup. But even coming from the more expensive K3 HD, the Kinera H3 immediately impressed me with their excellent detailing, natural midrange and bass performance that far outstripped the competition. The H3 is not the flagship killer than many have put it out to be, but it is a fantastically well-tuned earphone nonetheless and one that many buyers in the market for a sub $100 earphone can strongly consider.
The H3 is a v-shaped earphone with an emphasis on sub and deep-bass and lower treble. And though they carry a slightly brighter sound with less present lower midrange elements, they lack the immediate sense of brightness created by the TFZ King. They are a slightly more aggressive earphone that lies closest to the TFZ King in tuning from the earphones around this price that I’ve tested, though their more even midrange grants them with an appreciably more balanced sound on a whole and they never came off as mid-forward or mid-recessed to my ear.
The H3 is a relatively easy earphone to drive with a higher 101dB sensitivity that makes them just a little less efficient than the TFZ King. Unfortunately, this also means they pick up the same amount of hiss from most sources though noise is hardly as noticeable as something like the Campfire Jupiter. Moreover, with a 48ohm impedance, the earphones aren’t as sensitive to output impedance as the majority of hybrid earphones nor are they excessively power hungry, making them a nice daily in-ear that works perfectly with portable sources. From my HTC 10, the H3 sounded very nice with no hiss and a very similar tonality to my sub-1ohm Oppo HA-2. My 10 and iPod Touch also provided more than enough volume, I typically stuck to 1-3/16 volume levels, leaving plenty of overhead for louder volume listeners. And despite that higher impedance, the H3’s didn’t find a huge benefit from amplification though they did scale nicely when plugged into my HA-2, Mojo or X7 with notably improved bass resolution in particular. The H3 is well designed to maximise their sound quality from portable sources with enough technical ability to take advantage of dedicated DAC/AMPs.
Soundstage, Imaging and Separation –
The H3’s soundstage is one of the weaker aspects of their sound though it is good enough to avoid holding the rest of the sound back. The H3 doesn’t have the most spacious presentation, the K3 HD, King and EN700 Bass all sound immediately wider than the H3 though the Kinera hardly suffers from congestion. They have a wider presentation, width sits on the periphery of that out of the head sensation but rarely extends much beyond. Depth is similarly intimate to the K3 HD, which is enough to convincingly portray live recordings but still lacks the immersion of higher priced in-ears like the 1More Quad Driver. Imaging is good, not great and instruments have accurate placement even if they can’t always be pinpointed; the King does quite a bit better in this regard. The H3 also has some issues with separation, again, they never sound congested, but mids aren’t quite as layered as the King and highs sound more integrated but intimate than the K3 HD.
The first thing I noticed was the H3’s exceptional bass reproduction that seemed all too developed for an earphone costing just $99 USD. I do feel like that statement requires some context, the H3’s still don’t possess the slam and definition of the Flares Pros or New Primacy’s for instance but, when compared to the rather uninspiring competition, the H3 is easily one of the best. This begins with their fantastic sub-bass extension that matches the class-leading Basic, slightly edges out the TFZ King and provides a substantial leap over the EN700 Bass and Magaosi earphones. Tuning is also very well considered, bass has slight emphasis throughout and while bass is linear, sub and deep bass are their driving force. Quantity wise, they are closer to the King than the warmer K3 HD though low notes have great depth augmented by a nice sense of power and weight. They also lack the bloat of the Simgot’s and Magaosi’s in addition to the muddiness of the Basics by nature of their tuning. The H3 is also appreciably more textured and defined than the King, bass on the H3 is taught and easily the most balanced and linear of all the aforementioned earphones.
When listening to Earth, Wind & Fire’s “In the Stone”, the H3 easily provided my favourite rendition among these earphones with a tight, snappy sub-bass rhythm accompanied by full yet textured mid-bass and a slightly warmer upper-bass response that avoided midrange spillage. By contrast, the slower K3 earphones and Simgots struggled to extract texture from the rapid bass line while the King’s slightly muddier response and mid-bass dip (relative to the H3), sapped them off some bass detail. The H3 still isn’t the fastest earphone I’ve heard, far from it, even the King has slightly better transience partly due to their leaner response and generally well-tuned driver. That being said, they very skillfully combine the fuller tuning offered by many earphones around this price with the technical strengths of TFZ’s budget masterpiece. Of course, buyers need to consider that the K3 still doesn’t compete with hybrid earphones like the $300 New Primacy or the $1000 AKG K3003 nor do they come close to the single dynamic driver ie800 and Flares Pro; those earphones are tighter, more detailed and more textured. But considering that those earphones also cost magnitudes more, the H3 is truly a mastery of both tuning and quality, they are a rarity at this price.
The H3’s continue their tirade of superiority into their midrange which is similarly very well considered for their asking price. Some added clarity imbues subtle immediacy to midrange elements without sounding thin, raspy or unnatural as some clarity orientated earphones around this price tend to. The H3 is also quite balanced through their midrange with just a slightly brighter tuning that is immediately clearer than the Simgot EN700 Bass, more balanced than the V-shaped K3 earphones and more even than the mid-forward King. Male vocals are very well done, full-bodied and clear if not quite as clean sounding as the TFZ King. Simply Red’s “Stars” sounded raw and vibrant, yet not artificially so while Ed Sheeran’s “Castle on the Hill” was flattered with full yet defined vocals. Upper mids are similarly flattered which is rare given that most budget earphones struggle a bit with female vocals. The H3 once again impresses with its well-refined tones, vocals never come off as fatiguing, strident or over-forward and guitars are sublime with excellent detail retrieval that matches and occasionally outdoes the K3 HD. And while the H3 is slightly more aggressive in its presentation, female vocals are smooth and well-bodied as are strings, trumpets and wind instruments.
In terms of outright resolution, layering and clarity, no earphone around this price I’ve heard notably bests the TFZ King though the H3 comes remarkeably close. In addition, the H3 takes a step back on clarity in favour of a little more midrange body, lacking the sligthly off voicing of the King. They also sounded more “correct” to my ear when switching from the Magaosi K3 HD and when switching from more expensive in-ears such as the $599 64Audio U3 and $800 Campfire Jupiter. Usually, direct comparison to these in-ears really reveals the flaws in a budget earphone’s tuning but the H3 had no outstanding tonal deviations even if quality and refinement weren’t competitive. The H3 was also surprisingly consistent and forgiving of different mastering styles; whether I was listening to the brighter tones of the pop charts or the mellower mastering of classical and jazz, the H3 provided a revolving, natural and perfectly bodied response. As for the downsides, the H3 doesn’t have the greatest midrange layering and separation and they do lack the transparency of higher priced or more neutral offerings like Hifiman’s RE400/600, but they do provide an exceptionally pleasing tonality with gobs of detail and nuance; something that is surprisingly hard to come by and that many manufacturers would like to charge a lot more for.
While the H3 greatly impressed me with their detail retrieval and clarity, treble isn’t quite as flawless as the bass and midrange responses with some tonal oddities that compromise refinement and, at times, detail. The H3 is roughly in-between the K3 HD and King in tuning with a slightly more aggressive lower treble response and some extra middle treble granting them with great clarity to treble notes. Listening to David Bowie’s “Everyone Says Hi” and the H3 provided a clarity that was on par with the TFZ King yet one that was similarly a little thin if not quite as splashy. The H3 did sound more tonally pleasing to my ear than the King and due to their more even treble, especially with regards to lower/middle treble, they were also appreciably more detailed. In fact, the H3 has similar detail retrieval to the exemplary K3 HD making them one of the most detailed earphones around this price. In addition, the H3 manages great high-frequency resolution and very good extension that was on par with the K3 HD and King if not immediately superior; high-hats have pleasing texture and cymbals are granted plenty of air, strings sound expansive and the H3 produces some nice shimmer when called for. Moreover, they do so without sounding metallic or harsh, the H3 never came off as fatiguing to me even when listening to brighter tracks.
But where detailing and clarity are all immensely impressive, the H3 does suffer from some treble issues. For instance, cymbals do tend to sound tizzy and very high-frequency details get thinned out and a little truncated despite their extension being quite good. While the H3 isn’t as peaky as the K3 Pro, the K3 HD is a slightly more even treble performer, with similarly impressive detail retrieval on top. The H3 isn’t inherently flawed with regards to high-frequency reproduction but I do have to be critical. And to my ears, the treble tuning on the H3 slots in nicely with the rest of the sound even if they are lacking some body, smoothness and that last element of refinement.
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