Kinera has released many IEMs in the past few years from bang for your buck inexpensive models to high-end audiophile products. One of the models in the latter category was the Baldr, a hybrid IEM made from beautiful oak wood. Last year, Kinera released their Imperial line of IEMs, which included new models as well as revised versions of older ones like the Nanna and Odin. Now we have the Imperial version of the Baldr, aptly named the Baldr 2.0. Is it any different from the previous model?
What You Get
- One pair of Kinera Imperial Baldr in-ear monitors.
- One 4 cores 6N OCC with gold plated cable with 4.4mm termination plug.
- Five pairs of Final Audio Type E ear tips.
- Six pairs ( RS-B45 & JH-FY009-B ) of Kinera Custom ear tips.
- Two pairs of Foam tips.
- Premium Storage Case.
- 4.4mm to 3.5mm & 2.5mm adapter.
- Cleaning Brush.
Look and Feel
It’s hard to beat the beautiful artistry that Kinera brings to each of their IEMs that only Kinera themselves can top their own designs. The original Baldr was constructed from oak wood and topped with a glossy resin to finish it off, and you can see the same build here, but with a few new additions. Other than the color swirls here being different, the shell now has a golden outline that adds to the IEM’s prestigious nature. I had reservations about the fit of the original Baldr, but for some reason, I don’t have the same problem here. I don’t think it has anything to do with anything other than the fact that I’ve grown more used to the fit of these types of IEMs. Otherwise, the housing is the same, minus a different coat of paint.
Kinera packs the Baldr 2.0 with their flagship driver configuration, which includes a single 7mm dynamic driver, 2 Knowles balanced armatures, and 4 Sonion electrostatic units. That’s 7 driver units in total with each having its own major function in delivering the Baldr’s sound signature. The dynamic unit mostly helps regulate bass frequencies, while the Knowles and Sonion drivers reproduce the mids and highs. You also have the Baldr’s gold plated cable which provides warmth and fidelity as well as balanced and unbalanced headphone connectors.
The first iteration of the Baldr gave you an excellent soundstage with a ton of depth to sink into. This version of the Baldr replicates that experience with even more extension and spaciousness. Its biggest advantage over the original Baldr is its ability to properly communicate the distance of certain sound elements, providing a dome of spatial imaging that is hard not to be immersed in. Exceptional layering helps give more definition and accuracy to the placement of these elements, bringing out their identity much more effortlessly than many other IEMs. The way the imaging propagates in the mix makes the soundstage appear all the more realistic with its outward motion and wrap-around characteristics. This time around, the Baldr 2.0 gives you an even greater extension, displaying more holographic elements than its predecessor.
One of the new Baldr’s biggest differences is its extended bass response. The original Baldr was never a bass-heads IEM by any means, but it retained a level of smoothness and clarity that is hard to deny. Kinera gives more attention to the low-end timbre this time around, offering a greater helping of sub-bass texture for its 2.0 version. Here the bass is less surface level, relegating more of its resonance to a climbing throat feel rather than one in your jawline. Vibrations here still aren’t as aggressive as other IEMs, but the tonality definitely appears more lively with its more efficient lift. It’s still the mid-bass that remains mostly neutral, but its flatter nature compliments the buttery smoothness of some of the Baldr 2.0’s timbre. Balance and coloration help make the Baldr 2.0 differentiate itself from its past iteration.
Much like the original Baldr, the 2.0 version relies on its spaciousness in order to communicate a clear midrange. It’s also helped by the crispness of its upper-midrange which gives the timbre a level of fidelity that’s expected in this price range. It also provides a good level of emphasis that does a good job showcasing detail from sound elements like instrumentals and vocals. Other parts of the midrange arent as highlighted, but still retain a good amount of presence to enjoy, as little resolution is lost. The low-mids are a bit more neutral and lack some punch, but still, deliver clean textures and transparency that give the sound signature a more balanced musicality.
Where the Imperial Baldr finds some struggle is in its treble response. Almost immediately I noticed a piercing feeling in the upper highs, which is good on occasion, but here it distorts some of the frequencies for a harsher tonality. They receive a significant amount of gain too, bringing this sensation a lot more forward in the mix to divisive results. I like a high-end with good energy and in that sense the Baldr 2.0 delivers, but here the texture just isn’t as smooth.
I have an affinity for the original Baldr, and although the Baldr 2.0 brings some impressive new additions both in build and sound signature, I think the previous Baldr fits more of my personal taste. Soundstage and imaging characteristics are most improved, and the bass definitely gets a good kick, but mids don’t offer much difference while the highs really drop the ball for me. There’s a good balance, but I feel like the electrostatic drivers are doing a bit too much this time around, as it distorts some characteristics of the sounds. I hear an even better upgrade within this sound signature, but some of the new tunings still remain questionable.
The Kinera Imperial Baldr 2.0 is available at Audio46.