Kinera isn’t pushing the brakes on 2021 yet. While I’ve recently got to tell you about the new Kinera Imperial Nanna, there was a new model on the horizon. The Skuld is now available from select retailers, and it looks promising. This new IEM goes for $550, making it fall perfectly between their more budget-friendly models like the Freya, and their high-end selection like the Nanna and Baldr. It’s their second IEM this year that takes on the Imperial branding. I’ve been impressed with a lot of their output over the time I have spent here at MajorHiFi. Let’s jump right into The Kinera Skuld.
What You Get
I believe the Imperial naming convention has something to do with the accessories included with the IEM. The package includes everything the Imperial Nanna had, like the 4.4mm balanced cable, and 2.5mm/3.5mm adapters. Ear tip selection is also the same, providing five pairs of silicone tips and two pairs of foam. There’s also a couple of extra tips stored in the Skuld’s leather case. Along with the tips, there’s also the previously mentioned cable, with a cleaning tool.
Look and Feel
Whenever I get to see a new Kinera IEM, I’m always interested to see what the design is like. They always bring stellar artistry to their earphones, but the Skuld might just be their most striking effort yet. In all honesty, it might be one of the best-looking IEMs around. The only models I can think of that come close are Kinera’s own Freya and Empire Ear’s Odin. The Skuld is a black shell with a mix of green blue and gold scales and a glittery finish. Its shell is capped off with a glossy resin that makes the exterior of the Skuld appear with even more shine.
I knew from the promo images that this was going to be a great look, but seeing them in person is a completely different story. Kinera’s main aesthetic is always on point, but it’s never been more prevalent than on the Skuld. As for its fit, I mainly used the medium tips provided. My only real gripe with it is that the spout could have used a proper lip for the tip to stay on a bit better, but for the most part, it’s rarely an issue. You still get a great level of comfort with admirable security. The housing of the Skuld has a firm placement as it floats with stability above your ear cavity. It’s a similar feeling to the Nanna, as the similar shell size produces a non-fatiguing listening experience that I could use for hours.
As the advertising likes to boast, the Skuld uses a five-driver system. These balanced armatures are made by Knowles and Kinera’s own customized units. Each unit is tuned by professional engineers and achieves a frequency response of 5Hz-50kHz.
This IEM introduces a brand new cable. An 8-core 192 strand silver-plated copper chord with a 4.4mm balanced termination. It also uses PVC insulation coating greatly reducing microphonic issues. Using these high-grade materials, the Skuld is able to produce a smooth signal that I found to have a comfortable loudness at most amplitudes. It’s a clean output and responds naturally to transient dynamics. Although using the balanced connection will reveal the Skuld’s fullest potential 3.5mm connections bring a similar level of amplitude.
What I admire the most about KInera’s IEMs is their attention to the soundstage. Many of their past efforts have provided some earphones with great width and immersive qualities. The Skuld is no different. With the Skuld, you’ll get a nice wide image, expanding past the shell of the housing in some moments. In the track “White Stork” by Bossk, there was a ripple effect that surrounds the left/right channels, hovering right outside my ears. In a way, this sensation could be described as holographic, but I never got the sense that the soundscape was open enough to achieve that. It’s not a fault because I don’t think that’s what the Skuld is going for.
Although the imaging is as excellent as Kinera’s past IEMs, the Skuld goes for a less exaggerated sound field and sticks to a space that feels accurate but still wide. There’s an admirable bit of height too, especially in the vocal response, but there’s a much tighter articulation happening on the Skuld. The level of clarity here is heightened greatly by the superb level of separation, which gives many sound elements plenty of room to breathe. Layering is also exceptional, stacking sounds clearly above and behind others.
I didn’t find anything about the lows to be particularly distinct. It plays to the Skulds flatter sound signature and sticks to it tightly. Bass tones can still be identified and felt but without some of the more colorful textures that exist in Kinera’s other models. There’s a subtle sub-bass presence that could be heard in select tracks though. Its quality blooms into the mix with smoothness and helps give the bass some energy. Otherwise, you’ll find a tight but well-balanced low end on the Skuld.
The midrange response on the Skuld is one of its many highlights. Instruments appear with a crisp tonality and are extremely well-balanced throughout each band of frequency. There’s significantly more energy to the mids than in the bass, but still, maintain a flat timbre and reliable accuracy. Vocals appear especially detailed, featuring a good amount of air and clarity.
Fans of smooth treble will sure be fans of the high-end of the Skuld. This IEM attempts the best of both worlds, having a detailed treble while not producing the brighter qualities some find fatiguing. Even though I prefer some of those qualities, the frequency doesn’t suffer from rolling off the upper highs. The treble of the Skuld shows a reserved elegance that anyone can easily enjoy.
This is one of the most satisfying IEMs in Kinera’s library. While the level of beauty on the Skuld’s shell is up to the eye of the beholder, but the sound signature is one of the most consistently enjoyable tunings out of their selection. It’s flat, but not without liveliness and crisp details. You might not be interested in the lack of an impactful bass, but those who prefer a more balanced, accurate timbre will flock to the Skuld. The price feels just right, sitting at the cusp of high-end and economical. With the Skuld, you get one of the easiest to listen to IEMs around, with an excellent sense of separation and layering.
Pros and Cons
Pros: Appearance, Connector options, Width, Separation, Midrange clarity
Cons: Minimal bass
The Kinera Imperial Skuld is available at Audio 46.
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