Kinera Skuld IEM Review: Beautiful Hand-Painted Earphones That Sound Great!!
Author: Pulkit Chugh
Over the past few months, Kinera has been launching beautiful hand-painted earphones and musical sound tuning that are grabbing the attention of audio enthusiasts all around the globe. Earlier this year they announced their latest multi-BA IEM, the Kinera Skuld. Priced at around 550$, Skuld brings a combination of five Balanced Armature drivers on each side(three Knowles+two Kinera Customized) fitted inside stunning hand-painted ear cavities. It is priced similar to their hybrid driver Norn that is available for 509$. Today, I am gonna share my impressions on the Kinera Skuld that I recently acquired and will also share a comparison with the Kinera Norn.
Kinera’s recent products are designed with inspiration from characters from the famous Norse Mythology, they are also named after that character too. The Skuld here is no different. According to the Norse Mythology, the three sisters that are the goddess of fate are known as Norn. Skuld is the youngest among the three. She is the one who keeps an account of the future sins and warns the gods for them.
Kinera Skuld here is bought with my own money at a discounted price from HiFiGo in return for this review. I am not paid by HiFiGo or Kinera by any means to write a positive or negative review, all thoughts in this review are based on my own experience with the pair over the past few weeks. You can buy this from the HiFiGo store from the link below.
Please Note: In order to avoid heavy custom charges, I asked HiFiGo to ship me the Skuld without its retail packaging. So I will be skipping over the unboxing part in the review.
Design, Build Quality, & Fit:-
Kinera Skuld's build quality is very much similar to the Norn. But the design is entirely different. While Norn was stellar on its own, the Skuld is one step above it with an even better design. The pair has got a black base with aurora blue and golden shapes topped with a golden glittery finish that gives it an eye-catchy look. If you believe you have a beautiful set of IEMs, you seriously have to see how beautiful the Skuld looks in real life.
About the build, the shell is made up of solid, sturdy resin material in an ergonomic shape. The pair has an air vent hole on the side of the earpieces and the two-pin connectors are located at the top. The pair comes bundled with a 4.4mm balanced cable. This cable is softer than the one bundled with the Norn. Also, the Norn cable has a 2.5mm termination while the Skuld has a 4.4mm termination. There are also 4.4mm-2.5mm and 4.4mm-3.5mm adapters included with the pair for easy connectivity with different sources.
With an ergonomic shape and lightweight aesthetics, Kinera Skuld has a very comfortable fit for me. The pair sit firmly on my ear providing a very comfy fit. They cover the ear canal completely providing good noise isolation from environmental noises. I use JVC Spiral Dots with the pair most of the time, using the stock silicone tips had no issues either.
Kinera Skuld & It’s Pairings:-
Kinera Skuld is a very easy to power IEM. It runs well off a normal smartphone/tablet as I paired it with my Samsung S6 Lite where it is adequately loud at only around 60% volume. I also paired it with Shanling M3X where I never had to go above 25/100 volume on low gain mode and xDuoo XD05 Bal DAC/AMP where Skuld was getting more than enough juice at just 1/9 volume.
Kinera Skuld performs really well even straight off a smartphone but pairing it with a hi-res player like M3X brings better dynamics and clarity to the output. My favorite pairing for it is with Shanling M3X.
Skuld & It’s Sound:-
Kinera Skuld is heaven for people who love a smooth and balanced sound. The pair packs an utterly smooth tonality presented with great precision and high-resolution clarity for both vocals and instruments. Magic with the Skuld lies in its beautiful mid-range and smooth treble portion. The pair produces some of the smoothest vocals I have heard in this budget(between EST112 and Norn). Texture and clarity of vocals are simply top-notch. Another attraction is its treble-frequency response, It is smooth, it is non-fatiguing, it shows no sibilance or shoutiness even at loud volumes.
Lower-end is not as deep diving as a DD or Hybrid IEM, but it maintains its presence with quick punches and well-textured bass response. I can say it is the exact opposite of how the Kinera Norn presents bass response for its users. Sub-bass has a very refined presentation, it can be easily felt in tracks such as Bad Guy by Billie Eilish, Royals by Lorde, and more. Different bass thumps even in complex tracks such as Billie Jean by MJ can be identified easily. Though Basshead’s don’t expect a deep-diving bass response, rather expect a smooth and quick presentation with the Skuld.
Coming to the star of the show, the mid-frequency response with the Skuld is simply said, Outstanding. Kinera Skuld produces some of the best vocals I have heard in the 500$ price segment. They are smooth, they maintain good clarity even at loud volumes, they have a natural touch to them. Both the male and female vocals are pretty damn good with the pair, it doesn’t matter whether you listen to Damien Rice or Gloria Gaynor or Taylor Swift, you are in for a beautiful experience with the Skuld. Acoustic instruments have a well-detailed presentation with good amounts of air on the stage. Listening to acoustic songs such as Canyon Lines by Amber Rubarth is an amazing experience with the Skuld, I have listened to this song on repeat so many times on the pair that I forgot I have to write more haha. Another beautiful experience for an acoustic track with the Skuld is, Flightless Bird, American Mouth by Iron & Wine.
As I stated earlier, Kinera Skuld has a smooth yet highly detailed treble-frequency response. Though I must say initially out of the box the pair had a slightly congested presentation for complex tracks but it went away after about 50-60 hours of burn-in with the pair. Now, after the burn-in period, different instruments such as Cymbals, Electric guitars, Violins have a nicely detailed presentation on the Skuld. Refinement in the treble portion can be felt in complex tracks such as Californication by RHCP or Castle of Glass by Linkin Park. Windowpane by Opeth also has a pretty good presentation on the Skuld. I personally feel the treble portion on Skuld has better refinement in comparison to Norn.
Soundstage & Imaging:-
Kinera Skuld presents our music with a wide soundstage. It is kind of opposite to Norn in this aspect too, Norn on one hand has an intimate presentation, the Skuld on the other produces a wide, tall soundstage with decent enough depth. Imaging and other dynamics of the pair are also excellent.
Kinera Norn & Kinera Skuld:-
Coming to the comparison between the two mid-level IEMs from Kinera. One has a rich hybrid configuration(Norn) while the other has a premium multi-BA configuration(Skuld). Here are my thoughts between these two.
>Norn has a fun and engaging sound while Skuld has a smooth, balanced sound. Both are polar opposites in terms of sound in my opinion.
>Norn has a deep-diving, powerful lower end, Skuld has a quick, smooth lower end. Bassheads will love the Norn.
>Skuld has a rich, lovely mid-range while Norn has an accurate yet recessed mid-range response.
>Treble on the Skuld has a very smooth, non-fatiguing presentation while Norn has an energetic treble, No signs of sibilance on both of them.
>Soundstage has better width on Skuld.
>Both are easy to drive.
>Both are extremely beautiful and have a similar build yet different hand-paint design.
>Skuld has a softer cable with 4.4mm Bal termination, Norn comes with a 2.5mm terminated cable.
If you ask me, I liked both of them. One has a fun, engaging, immersive sound(Norn) while the other has a soft, smooth sound(Skuld). In my opinion, both of them complement each other. Based on Genre’s Norn complements genres that benefit with a punchy lower-end like EDM, Hip-Hop, and more while Skuld complements genres such as Pop, Rock, Acoustic, and more.
A Few More Words:-
What can I say more, almost everything I have already said in this review. But to summarise it all, Kinera Skuld is a brilliantly designed pair of IEMs offering a smooth and balanced sound. The pair produces some of the best vocals I have heard in this price segment with a non-fatiguing yet detailed treble response. Bass response is not as punchy or deep-diving as a Dynamic IEM but it marks its presence with its rich, refined presentation. I know the 500$ segment has some tough contenders to beat such as the DUNU EST112 or the DUNU SA6. I would say Skuld maintains its position with its smooth tuning and beautiful looks.