The first time I discovered Kiwi Ears, they were sitting on the corner of the Linsoul table at this year’s CanJam in NYC, under the shadow of the parent company’s now famous ThieAudio line-up. Along with some other pleasantly surprised audiophiles, I was immediately impressed by how well Kiwi Ears performed for the price-point. So, I was curious to see what the company could do for under 40 bucks. What kind of sound signature can you expect from the Cadenza? And in terns of performance, are you getting more than you paid for?
What’s in the Box?
- Kiwi Ears Cadenza
- 2 Sets of Eartips (S/M/L)
- User Manual
Look and Feel
The Cadenza sports a small shell size, much more compact than most other IEMs of its kind. And the aesthetics, while not earth shatteringly original, are pleasing to the eye with shiny swirls of purple-red set over a deep background. (Also available in other colors). In terms of comfort, the Cadenza gets straight A’s. The fit was super smooth and light in the ear. The sound isolation may have been less than incredible, but it certainly cut out a good amount of ambient noise.
The Cadenza employs a 10mm Beryllium diaphragm driver to power the entire frequency range. Kiwi Ears says it has aimed for a quick bass decay, allowing the mids to stay clean and free of bloat. And they have designed the treble response to reflect the Harman “reference” standard tuning. The Cadenza comes attached to a 2-pin 4-core braided copper cable with a 3.5mm single-ended termination. This IEM is pretty easy to drive, though it does seem to benefit from a little extra juice; for this review, I paired the Cadenza with the Astell & Kern SR35.
Not much going on here. While there is a little depth and height to the stage, any sense of expansiveness comes from the stereo field father than 3D realm. So, the imaging is somewhat flattened, thus lacking slightly in vibrancy and dimension. But this is to be expected for the price, and for the most part, there’s enough width to the stage to make for a reasonably immersive listening experience.
You’ll get some good oomph in the low-end with notable mid-bass prominence and a solid visceral sub-bass response. While I didn’t hear much bleed into the midrange, the bass is admittedly fat at times, and enjoys taking the stage when called upon. That said, in terms of clarity, I wasn’t disappointed; listening to cellos in this range, while the performance wasn’t incredibly textured, it did express a very natural sounding timbre and revealed nuances in bow movement and other subtle sonic elements, making the performance impressively life-like for this price point.
The low-mids sit back just a bit, allowing the bass to provide much of the warmth. In contrast, the upper-mids sit just slightly forward, bringing a touch more attention to vocals and other instruments that hit the treble range. As a result, vocal performances feel intimate and up close, especially on acoustic tracks where vocals are the central focus. With respect to clarity, while the Cadenza may not approximate a high-end IEM, it still over-performs, in my opinion. There’s decent separation within singular instruments in the lower-mids, which can potentially sound muddy in lower-priced IEMs. And especially, as we creep into the upper midrange, the elements seem to clean up nicely; the layering is relatively tidy, and acoustic instruments, like guitars especially, show great definition and shine. And as in the low-end, there’s a very organic feel to the overall tone. Nothing is saturated or artificially weighed down, giving instruments a highly natural character.
The highs are super easy on the ears, offering smooth, fatigue free treble peaks without sounding particularly rolled-off. Indeed, that natural vibe continues in the high-end, never offending with too much sparkle or sharpness. The downside, however, is that there’s not too much shine or radiancy to the treble. So, if you’re the braver type who enjoys listening to a more active and vibrant high-end, the Cadenza may prove too timid for you. But if you’re looking for something you can listen to for hours, this tuning is ideal.
Although not without its flaws, the Cadenza is a solid entry-level IEM that offers a taste of what higher-end models can deliver. With a satiating, yet sensible bass, smooth highs and a pleasingly natural timbre throughout, this is a sound signature that’s easy and enjoyable to listen to. Given the modest price, the Cadenza is also no slouch in terms of skill, offering decent separation and transparency, and conveying a relatively clean performance all around. Is it the most memorable sound signature I’ve heard? Probably not. But at the end of the day, I still think the Cadenza overdelivers for the price.
Pros and Cons
|Satiating, yet sensible bass||Might not be sparkly or vibrant enough for some|