If you had told me two months ago that I would be seriously considering a Kinera IEM for my daily-driver I would have laughed in your face. After all, don’t they only make super-cheap budget IEMs? Well, not anymore.
With their brand-new triple-driver hybrid IEM, the H3, featuring two balanced-armature drivers and a single dynamic driver in a three-way cross-over, Kinera has broken into the higher-tier market of portable audio. But is it special enough to be worth your attention?
You can find the H3 for sale on Penon Audio, here, for $99. The H3 comes in three color variations, Blue/Black, Red/Black, and Black.
Disclaimer: This unit was provided to me free of charge for review purposes. I am not affiliated with Kinera or Penon Audio beyond this review. These words reflect my true, unaltered, opinion about the product. I would like to offer a sincere thank you to Steve from Kinera.
Preference and Bias: Before reading a review, it is worth mentioning that there is no way for a reviewer to objectively pass judgment on the enjoy-ability of a product: such a thing is inherently subjective. Therefore, I find it necessary for you to read and understand what I take a natural liking to and how that might affect my rating of a product.
My ideal sound signature would be an extended sub-bass with a leveled, but textured, mid-bass. The mids should be slightly less pronounced than the treble, but still ahead of the bass. I prefer a more bright upper range.
Source: The H3 was powered like so:
HTC U11 -> USB-C adapter -> earphones
Hidizs AP100 3.5mm out -> FiiO A5 3.5mm out -> earphones
HiFiMAN SuperMini -> earphones
PC optical out -> HiFiMe SPDIF 9018 Sabre DAC 3.5mm out -> earphones
All music was served as MP3 @320Kbps or as FLAC.
The H3 did audibly, though subtly, benefit from amping in the lower register.
The H3 immediately caught my attention with how “fluid” it sounded. Excellent dynamics and depth immediately gave me a respect for the audio engineers at Kinera. I didn’t think I was listening to a $99 IEM. Part of my early enthusiasm was definitely due to the fact that my ears had not previously been exposed to a W-shaped frequency response. This was uncharted territory, so to speak.
Upper-treble is boosted past the lower-treble. There’s a spike in the mids, especially around the 2KHz–5KHz range, and the bass is matched with the mids, being only slightly more pronounced.
Treble is clear, precise, and detailed, providing a nice layer of air in most recordings. It’s not quite as breath-taking on IEMs like the Accutone Pisces BA or Heir 4A.I S, but it is definitely there.
High-hats and cymbals are well-bodied and have a quick attack and decay. However in spite of the H3’s treble’s technical prowess, it just misses some of that sweetness found in other IEM’s treble. It’s not a deal-breaker, but something worth noting if that is a major quality you look for in your IEMs.
I’m glad to report that the H3 passes my sibilance testing with flying colors! At least in most cases. The crossover must be reasonably sensitive, because amping the H3 in certain (albiet very strange and uncommon) source configurations can lead to a moderate amount of sibilance. However none of the sources listed above were causing any problems.
The H3 has really robust mids, especially where vocals are concerned. Lyric intelligibility is way above average at this price point, and punches squarely with some IEMs three or four times its price, easily. I can recall several instances where I was left thinking to myself “Oh, so that’s what he’s been saying” on songs I’ve listened to for five years!
But instrumentally the H3 is no slouch either. Guitars, acoustic and electric, both have a nice timbre. Electric crunch and distortion is particularly enjoyable on the H3 meaning all you edgy death-metal listeners out there should feel right at home.
Pianos are also nice, but a little lacking in body for my tastes. This is my only real complaint with the H3’s sound signature: where the lower-mids at? This is a matter of personal preference, obviously, but it would be nice to see Kinera create an IEM that had a bit of a warmer lower-midrange.
Bass isn’t particularly aggressive, but it is definitely there, and is undeniably punchy when amped correctly. In terms of bass signature, I’d have to say the H3 is pretty linear, with a slightly higher emphasis on mid-bass than sub-bass. Still though, the H3 has pretty good extension down to the 30Hz-50Hz band giving it a good rumble.
Electronic music fans rejoice; bass drops and chaotic rumbly choruses sound wonderful through the H3, just don’t expect it to shatter and skulls.
Packaging / Unboxing
The H3 comes in high quality packaging not often seen at this price point. The textured box has a premium feel to it, with the earphones and accessories well-protected within.
The H3 is very well constructed and is reminiscent of CIEMs in composition. The driver housings are made from a plastic composite which is a single seamless shell.
The face-plate is well-polished, and the Kinera logo is printed very accurately onto it with no noticeable flaws.
The nozzle is average in length, and is tipped with a finely-perforated metal grill. There’s no real lip to speak of, so some after-market eartips may slip off, though I’ve not had any issues so far.
Kinera chose to go (thankfully) with a 2-pin connector for removable cables. The female half of the mechanism is slightly recessed into a cleanly-cut depression. The metal sits flush with the shell, inspiring confidence in me regarding the H3’s longevity.
The H3’s cable is one of the best around at this price range that I’ve tested, if not the best. It’s a four-strand braided silver cable using a double-chain braid below the plastic Y-splitter, and a simple twist-braid above it. It’s similar in geometry to the copper cable used by the new Simgot IEMs, though it is much more thick.
The cable terminates in a metal-enclosed 3.5mm jack. The H3’s cable implements a stress relief system I’ve been vouching for for a long time: a double plastic sleeve. It’s essentially two completely separate malleable acrylic cylinders set inside one another. It works really great, though the outer cylinder appears to be in need of better adhesive. It won’t be an issue with the majority of cases, but a strong (and fast) sideways pull on the cable perpendicular to the housing of the jack could dislodge the outer cylinder.
I’m just nitpicking.
The cable uses memory-wire guides. They are well-made, well shaped, and mold to the ear. I’ve got no reason to worry about their longevity.
I don’t know what wizardry Kinera employed, but on their first real high-end IEM they succeeded in making one of the most ergonomic universal IEMs I have ever had the pleasure of using. I spent multiple days using the H3 for a full 8-hour work day. I had zero comfort issues.
The H3’s accessories are okay, but definitely not the best I’ve seen for $99. Inside the box you’ll find:
- 1x 6.2mm to 3.5mm jack
- 3x extra eartips
- 1x semi-hard case
- 1x airline adapter
The silicone tips are ok, but nothing to write home about. It appears that the case, while quite good, is a branded OEM case. It’s got more than enough for all the accessories, the IEM, and even a USB-C adapter.
The H3 is an absolutely wonderful IEM from one of the companies who I’d least expect. If you are looking for detail, well-tuned sound, exceptional ergonomics, and durable-detachable cables, the H3 is definitely worth looking at. Good job Kinera, and I look forward to seeing what you come up with next.
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