Class-leading visual design, Excellent cable and accessory set, Compact and comfortable shells, Pressure relief vent, Well-balanced sound tuning, Class-leading coherence, Excellent layering, Nicely extended treble
Male vocals can sound a bit boxy, Full-bodied presentation doesn’t flatter separation, Soundstage depth leaves to be desired
The Skuld is an intersection between IEM design and art, a combination of great tuning and good technical ability that delivers one of the most coherent and layered presentations I’ve heard.
Kinera are now a better-known name in the ChiFi audio world. Starting life as an OEM/ODM, the company has experience that belies the youth of their brand. Many were first captivated by their flagships, and the same hand-painted shell designs have since trickled down to their midrange offerings too. And, while others seek fame by targeting popular reference sound curves, Kinera are a company of strong principle, having stuck by the same ethos since their inception. Their IEMs are musical and coloured, with a smooth, mid-focused house that is constantly being refined. The Skuld is their latest midrange IEM, utilising a 5-BA driver setup, drawing most parallels to the former flagship and well-regarded Odin. With customised premium BA drivers co-developed with Knowles and hand-crafted, artisan design, the Skuld is primed to be a crowd pleaser for Kinera.
The Skuld retails for $550 USD at the time of writing. You can read all about it and treat yourself to a unit on HiFiGO.
I would like to thank Nappoler from HiFiGO and the team at Kinera very much for making this review happen. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review. Despite receiving the earphones free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible.
- Drivers: 3 Knowles BA + 2x Kinera Customised BA
- Impedance: 23 Ohms
- Sensitivity: 120 dB
- Frequency Response: 5 Hz – 50 kHz
Behind the Design –
Customised BA Drivers
Kinera cite 3x Knowles BA drivers and 2 in-house customised BA drivers on their website. The lows are handled by single Knowles CL-22955 BA woofer, mids courtesy of Knowles RAF-32873 dual BA system, and highs by the renowned SWFK-31736 dual tweeter system. The tweeters have been customised by Kinera to offer a flatter frequency response and filters, shell design and crossovers all play further into this as well. Kinera state a 2×2 setup on their website for the midrange drivers, however, the company did confirm to me, it is two single BA drivers in each shell, hence, 5x BA. Altogether, Kinera posit this is their second flattest tuning yet following the Odin.
The Freya remains one of the most visually stunning IEMs in my collection and the Skuld takes this to the next level. It too features hand-painted shells, in turn, each is unique. I did note that the artists at Kinera have paid particular attention to symmetry with regards to the gold foil especially, and between the two sides. There is incredible complexity going on here with golf foil, silver glitter and blue/green iridescent scales. Even with that, the execution and surface finish is flawless with zero contamination, bubbles or unevenness. The hyper-gloss coat has superb transparency, showcasing excellent colour, lustre and depth.
Surely a highlight of this earphone, the experience begins with their stunning unboxing. Like a few past Kinera earphones, the Skuld comes in a hexagonal box with similar design to the faceplates. Sliding off the top lid reveals promo papers and below, the earphones, case and accessories within laser cut foam. Inside the leather case with magnetic clasp is the cable, cleaning tool and 2 types of tuning tips detailed below. Within the foam inlet lies the 5 pairs of Final E-tips, 2 pairs of memory foam tips. The cable is terminated in 4.4mm balanced so Kinera has kindly included 3.5mm and 2.5mm adaptors as well. Do note they are quite large, so consider this for portable source pairings. In addition, Kinera are offering 3 pairs of custom RS-B45 silicone tips said to provide a purer vocal experience and 3 pairs of custom JH-FY009-B tips offering a more balanced sound.
I had seen the photos and renders, but like any hand-made product, none can truly speak for the experience in-person. The Skuld is a captivating, elegant and beautifully formed earphone. Of course, the faceplate design first strikes with dimension and depth aided by a thick hyper-gloss coating and a stunning design that folds around the sides of the earphone too. The iridescent scales especially fascinate in their play on light, a quality that is difficult to capture in photographs. Atop a piano black background, the shells provide awesome contrast and pop. Gold logos complement the foil inlays, creating visually stunning package that retains coherence and satisfying symmetry. The flawless finish is a perfect showcase for the company’s visual design. I saw zero bubbles or contamination in the resin and enjoyed perfect faceplate integration. The cable has not been overlooked despite this and plays into the premium overall experience.
Using 0.78mm 2-pin connectors, aftermarket options are abundant. Kinera are also using phosphor bronze connectors that they reason are harder wearing than conventional connectors. The cable uses SPC conductors with a high 192 strand count across an 8-wire construction. The PVC jacket is ultra-supple with zero memory, and its transparency showcases the intricacy inside. I found the cable highly ergonomic, being lightweight, tangle-resistant and with minimal microphonic noise transmission. The metal connectors are smoked to better complement the housings and the jack has great strain relief too. The pre-moulded ear guides were comfortable and well-shaped for my ears. Still, while 4.4mm is an increasingly common standard, I would have preferred a 2.5mm connector as it would have permit smaller adaptors.
Fit & Isolation –
Kinera’s faux-custom shells in the past have all been larger, more ear-filling designs so I wasn’t expecting the Skuld to be so compact and smoothly formed. It is a very ergonomically formed with a rounded, teardrop profile that has no sharp edges that may wear on the ear over time. Similalry, it is not an excessively sculpted monitor and will comfortably fit a wide range of listeners, even those with smaller ears. They’re fairly slim too, achieving a low-profile fit. With the right tips, they would be suitable for most to sleep on. A vent on the rear may not do much for the sound without a dynamic driver, but does aid wearing comfort, decreasing wearing pressure.
I still found them to offer great noise isolation and wind noise wasn’t an issue either. The nozzles are elongated, well-angled and slender, tapering down to a narrower aperture to promote a deeper fit depth and optimise ear tip compatibility. I received an impeccable seal and fit stability was rock solid despite the more compact shells as a result. While fully-sealed monitors will offer a bit more isolation, the Skuld is a find choice for commute and travel.