Kinera consistently hits the mark with its mid-range IEMs, and the company tends to overachieve when it comes to delivering top-notch sound to budget-conscious audiophiles. So, I was surprised to discover that Kinera has released its priciest model to date, which promises to compete with flagship IEMs from the most influential brands. How does the highly anticipated Loki perform, and what kind of sound signature can you expect?
What’s in the Box?
- One pair of Kinera Imperial Loki In-ear monitors
- One Effect Audio UP-OCC Cable, EA 4.4mm
- Final Type E Eartips x 5 sets (SS/S/M/L/LL)
- AZLA SednaEarfit Crystal Eartips x 3 sets (SS/MS/ML)
- Spinfit CP145 Eartips x 3 sets (S/M/L)
- Symbio F Foam Tips x 2sets (S/M)
- Genuine Leather Carry Case
- Cleaning Brush
- User Manual
- Other Literature
Look and Feel
Without delving too deep into the creative inspiration for this IEM, the name, Loki, refers to the god of fire in Norse mythology, who possesses freakish strength and comes from noble lineage. Kinera draws inspiration for its shells from Loki’s character, using fiery lava red streaks to symbolize his association with fire and blue tones to represent the surface of the earth. In short, the the Loki looks shiny and cool, though with the plethora of glitzy IEMs on the market, the aesthetics are maybe not what makes the Loki stand out of the crowd. Still, they’re nice to look at, and they react brilliantly to any bright light that hits them. The size and shape of the Loki also feels pretty standard, offering smooth, bulbous, and comfortably shaped contours that fit snugly and never caused me discomfort. Personally, as long as I don’t notice them in my ear, I’m happy. And that was certainly the case here.
The Loki utilizes a combination of drivers to achieve its sound signature. The low-frequency range is handled by a 6mm dynamic driver, designed by Kinera with a liquid diaphragm. Additionally, a bone conduction unit is employed to provide deeper and ultra-low-frequency performance. For the mid-range and high-frequency ranges, 6 Knowles balanced armatures are used, while the ultra-high frequencies are handled by 4 electrostatic drivers, including 1 Sonion electrostatic driver.
Kinera has implemented Effect Audio’s UP-OCC Pure Copper Cable (4.4mm termination), meant to deliver a touch of added warmth and richness. For the purposes of this review, I paired the Loki with the Astell & Kern AK HC2 DAC/Amp dongle. The Loki’s low impedance of 12 Ohms makes it an easy IEM to drive, and I had about 50% of headroom left using my little DAC/amp.
|6 Knowles BA + 4 Sonion EST + 1 DD + 1 Bone Conduction Driver|
At times, the soundscape seems to deliver a somewhat distinctive personality by positioning the performers and other central instruments at a very slight distance from the center focus in the head. And this adds a sense of spacial grandeur to the mix. While this subtle quality is not apparent on more intimate arrangements, performers on more sizable, ”vocal powerhouse” tracks even unveil a hint of extra reverb, creating an uniquely natural and often live-sounding performance.
The stereo imaging of the Loki is particularly enjoyable, as instruments reveal plenty of distance, yet maintain their rich presence as if they were up close. And this lends fantastic vibrancy to the picture. Loki also excels in its presentation of depth, especially with respect to extending instruments far behind the ear; even on some similarly priced IEMs, such nuanced depth imaging often becomes confined to the stereo fields. And even in terms of height, the Loki introduces a very subtle left and right shifting of vertically placed instruments, adding an almost anal level of precision to the spacial map.
Overall, as expected from a top-tier IEM, the Loki offers a truly multidimensional soundscape that is thoroughly immersive and all-encompassing. And for sure, Loki’s soundstage appears to compete with the most entertaining on the market, including models from 64 Audio and Vision Ears.
The bass is super dark, warm and meaty. At the same time, the lower-bass mostly stays in it’s lane, maintaining tidy separation from the higher bass frequencies. Bass presence feels pretty consistent throughout the low-end, so there’s nothing idiosyncratic here. It’s punchy and impactful the whole way through this frequency range, even if a touch sluggish at times.
Listening to Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy,” the bass thumps with dense impact at the back of the head. Also notable was the lack of resonance in the bass profile. Though I wouldn’t say the bass has a dry or particularly tight quality, it certainly feels firmly contained.
Of course, one of the highlights of the Loki is its incredible delivery of sub-bass frequencies. Expect to feel vibrations in your throat, jaw, ear canals and other body parts that are inappropriate to mention here. I’ve never been a hardcore hip-hop or EDM fan, but Loki brings a whole extra level of depth to tracks that makes it hard to stop listening, regardless of your taste for bass or genre.
With respect to acoustic instruments in this range, the Loki delivers a natural, yet majestic tone, where transparency and texture coincide with a rich tonal fluidity. So, while it feels highly detailed, it stays clear of any dryness or clinical quality.
Although the low mids feel reserved to favor of the treble, the upper mids never smack you in the head. They just maintain a steady energy and punchy rhythm that pushes the momentum of the song energetically forward. And in some ways, the overall profile still feels deliciously restrained for this style of tuning. Finally, there’s a softer resolve to percussion in the lower-end of this range. So again, although there is some brightness here, there’s also an easiness to the listening experience.
As we creep up the midrange, drums become snappier and more lively, and guitars conclude with added shine and definition. Still, never does it feel harsh or too in your face. And as someone with aversion to pronounced high-mids who leans towards flatter, more full bodied tuning, I was pleasantly surprised by this dynamic, yet forgiving balance.
With respect to resolution, the only minor trouble I occasionally ran into was in the low-mids. Guitar strums in this range, for example, could sometimes be a touch cleaner, especially on older recordings. And at rare moments, it feels like the bass is giving its two cents where the low-mids are recessed. But other than this small and infrequent shortcoming, the Loki delivers a thoroughly revealing and tidy presentation, which becomes especially apparent in acoustic performances where subtle timbral elements come into play. At the same time, there’s more smoothness than dryness/texture to the sound, which becomes most obvious when listening to instruments like brass or vocals. That being said, you’ll still hear all the rasp and breath. But Kinera seems to have hit a beautiful balance between transparency and polish.
Glossy, yet smooth and controlled in the highs. Listening to Fleetwood Mac’s “Everywhere,” the bells and percussion gleam with a shine that I don’t often hear. And anything from Daft Punk delivers huge snap in this range. But again, no discomfort. The highs have great extension but the Loki is tastefully buffed up here, avoiding any nasty peaks or piercing moments. Vocals have a crazy amount of glow and glide, and listening to Lizzo’s “Juice,” her vocals effortlessly flow through notes like a rich liquid. Again, Kinera has skillfully balanced this sweet quality with top-notch clarity.
There’s no question that the Loki is not just incredibly talented, but also a memorable IEM. And in a world saturated with countless IEMs, that’s saying a lot. You don’t have to be a huge fan of this tuning style to enjoy it, either. The ocean of depth that the bass offers, along with energetic pop in the high-mids and smooth, yet luminous highs makes for incredibly dynamic and engaging listen that, at the same time, won’t wear you out. Add to that a soundstage that can compete with the best, and you’ve got a probable winner. Perhaps I’m feeling generous because it’s Friday, or maybe the Loki is just that good…But I’m going to have to give out the Gold Award for this one.