Tonality & timber
Fit inside ear
Pairing with sources
Value for money
Kinera, one the most prominent Chi-fi brands in the market has been making some excellent IEMs lately. They have been making plenty of waves. I hadn’t been able to get my hands on Kinera IEMs but thanks to a good friend of mine took me in his review tour.
The Norn I am reviewing here is priced at $449 at the time of writing. It pairs a 7mm dynamic driver with 4BA drivers. Even when Kinera has been tight lipped about the crossovers I think we have at least 2 here.
I am comparing it with DUNU EST112 and Shanling ME700 lite in this review.
Get one for yourself from here: https://hifigo.com/products/kinera-norn-1dd-4ba-iems
PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES:-
Even when I did not got the retail package because of the tour nature of the IEM, I would like to believe that the IEM ships with a good looking cardboard box with fancy designs on it and some promotion material on it with an interesting unboxing experience.
In addition to the earpieces and cable, I did receive a flap carry pouch, a pair of Final audio tip and couple of cable adapters for the 2.5mm cable.
HOW IS THE CABLE:-
I usually rant about cable but I find the Norn cable to be one of the most supple I have seen on a $500 IEM. It has the aesthetic too. It complements the IEM nicely. In technicality it is an 8 core high purity silver plated copper cable with 192 strands of 26awg SPC wires inside and PVC insulation on the outside. The cable slider looks elegant.
Thanks to the supple nature it barely has any microphonics to worry about and winding the cable is easy since it does not have any memory problem. It has metal jackets on the 3.5mm jack, Y splitter and 2pins giving it a more premium feel. The cable guides are supple and has no problem holding on to the ear and I didn’t have to adjust it every now and then.
BUILD AND ERGONOMIC:-
To start things off, I like the fit of the Norn. It is comfortable and slightly smaller than both EST112 and Shanling ME700 lite. The all resin build is very confidence inspiring. Do not drop it on hard floors and these earpieces will survive. The main attraction of the Norn is its hand painted face plate. It is an eye candy for sure. It is one of the most beautiful looking IEMs for sure.
The nozzle is slghtly on the wider side and I am not sure if the Final tips as default are a wise decision since it has a T400 size tip. Thankfully the nozzle has nice depth giving it an aptly deep and secure fit. It has a nicely contoured body with a slightly aggressive wing on the inner side providing reasonable traction inside the ear. A small pressure releasing vent can be found on the side of the body.
Kinera Norn houses a single 7mm dynamic driver aided by 1.5 Tesla magnetic flux, Japan imported Daikoku pure copper coil and Titanium-plated composite high-poly fibre diaphragm material and it is paired with 4BA drivers. Out of these 4, 2 are custom Kinera drivers and the other two are Knowles drivers.
With all these thing inside, it has a V shaped signature with a voluminous lower end, pushed back mid range, and a bit elevated treble region. I love the way it presents a fun and musical side. It does have a bit of gloominess across the spectrum which restricts some dynamics and body.
Most impressive part of Norn is its exquisite lower end. The single 7mm dynamic driver delivers a fuller and rumbly lower end. Sub-bass extension is good but the body or volume at this region is not the best. Some BA IEMs like the Audiosense T800 and Fibae 3 are better with sub-bass but when it comes to mid bass body and rumble Norn is miles ahead. The impact is not hard or dry, it is more pleasing and on the softer side which makes it fairly satisfying. The day speed is not slow or anything but is not the fastest. This slight slowness lets the note precipitate better giving it nice body and weight. It has no upper mid hump or anything to talk about, it nicely blends into the lower mid region. All in all the Norn has very good control over the lower end.
Things get moody here. The transition from the single DD to the dual BA drivers is aptly consistent but the dip of energy is perceivable. The crossover region can be indentified without much problem. It doesn’t need a trained ear. Thankfully the lack of energy doesn’t translate into lack of transparency, details or relevance.
It has no problem with micro details and separation, the whole mid range enjoys very good clarity and transparency and even after delivering very good details it does not sound sharp or aggressive. It lacks a bit of body and weight with instruments. Norn does not have the added depth and extra weight of EST112 and Shanling ME700 lite, limiting its dynamics. It is on the dry and slightly less jolly side. Both male and female vocals sound crisp and clear with a natural tonality, it does not emulate an organic or warmer tonality like Fibae 4 or EST112. Texture and emotions portrayed by the Norn is slightly less engaging due to the thin body. It does like to keep things as neutral and colorless as possible. Norn has no problems with the upper mid energy, in fact it has a dip just before the treble region which keeps any kind of aggression at bay.
I have to mention that layering and separation is very good and does not lack much air in between instruments.
BA drivers used here have done their job. Even when Norn carries a bit of dryness and lack of body into the treble region it has much better notes height providing more relevance. All this can be attributed to more energy and it leads into better dynamics and a cleaner feel.
Norn has very good treble extension and maintains good energy till the end but does dip just after the mid treble region. It has very good details retrieval and doesn’t miss out on anything while keeping the timber neutral. Cymbals and pianos have very good transparency, don’t expect it to sound very organic or loaded with texture but manage to deliver reasonable engagement. Separation and layering is up to the mark with good air and space between instruments. The treble stage is well spread, assisted by good sonicality. If you like tingly instruments, Norn will not disappoint.
STAGE AND IMAGING:-
Norn’s stage size is more intimate even with balanced out. It does have very good height, nice depth but it’s the X-axis width which makes things more intimate. If you prefer a more closed in sound, it should be good. Most of the instruments are placed inside the head while some treble instruments have out of the head projection. There are no anomalies to worry about here since density of instrument distribution and is even without any hollow feeling.
VS EST112 and Shanling ME700 lite:
Norn is good for the price. If this is the only IEM you have, you won’t mind anything, it has the details and everything but once you switch to something more capable like DUNU EST112 or Shnaling ME700 lite things get tricky for Kinera Norn.
Norn has a good lower end and even though it lacks a bit of dynamics in the mid range its sonicality in the treble region is very good. It’s the mid range which needs work. The lack of notes body and dry feeling is not helping the experience. A bit more juice and fullness will make it loveable.