Last month I reviewed a pair of earphones that were, without a doubt, the best I’ve ever heard. The drawback of the Campfire Audio Ara is the cost an eye-watering $1,299. However, you can buy a pair of multi-driver earphones for $1,000 less that will deliver some of the thrill and resolution of the fabulous Ara IEMs (In-Ear Monitors). They won’t be quite as smooth as the Ara, but they will deliver a dynamic sound with an impeccable tone that imparts energy to the music.
This month I am reviewing Freya, an articulate pair of hybrid multi-driver In-Ear Monitors that use four separate drivers to produce a compelling sound by splitting the frequency range, from bass up to treble, across four drivers or speakers. The Freya IEMs use a regular dynamic driver that can handles lower frequencies and paired them with three balanced armature drivers that injecting incredible precision and definition into the sound.
The precise driver specification of these hand-painted IEMs is a Kinera 7mm micro-dynamic driver for rich and deep bass, plus two Knowles RAF-32873 balanced-armature drivers that create a superbly clear midrange that’s particularly good for handling vocals. The very top end of the treble range is handled by Kinera's customized BA 30095 driver which takes care of the higher frequency sounds like crashing cymbals and the highest guitar notes.
Balanced armature drivers are tiny little speakers that are normally found in hearing aids because they are incredibly accurate and can produce a crisp sound with minimal distortion. Until recently, balanced armature drivers have been very expensive, but increased rates of production has meant that the price of the technology has fallen and balanced armatures are turning up in earphones at more affordable price points.
These Freya IEMs are supplied with a superb selection of silicone ear-tips in different sizes plus there are both USB-C and Apple Lightning cables that enable the Freya to be used with iOS and Android devices that aren’t fitted with a headphone jack. The digital-to-analog converters (DACs) inside these small adapters sound surprisingly good, although not up to the same standard as a proper dedicated external DAC.
The Freya IEMs are supplied with a high-quality copper cable covered in a clear insulating material. The cable is fitted with standard 0.78mm 2 pin connectors and a 3.5mm stereo jack. The detachable cable can be replaced or upgraded with alternative cables that use the same two-prong fitting. I would prefer to see the Freya fitted with the MMXC mini coaxial connector that enables the cable to swivel and prevent tangling but that may be a cost factor.
By the way, in case you didn’t know, Freya is the name of the goddess of love and beauty in Norse mythology. And to reflect the beauty of the said goddess, Kinera makes these IEMs by hand and each earpiece is decorated by an artist. The design is hand-sketched and then hand-painted before being finished off with the words Freya and Kinera emblazoned on the left and right earpieces. The build quality feels good but balanced armature drivers are slightly delicate, so care needs to be taken when using the Freya IEMs compared to using regular dynamic earphones. These are not earphones to be thrown around or treated roughly.
As far as sound goes, the Kinera Freya IEMs have a superbly energetic sound with a tonal balance that sounds great with rock music or other upbeat genres. The bass is full and deep with a brilliant response time that adds genuine excitement to kick drums and bass rhythms. The midrange is delivered by the two Knowles balanced armature drivers that are close to perfect. They bring the midrange forward and create vocals that are clear and convincing. It feels as if you are stepping a little closer to the music. When it comes to the treble frequency, I think Kinera’s balanced-armature driver is a little on the rough side and perhaps veering towards hard on some tracks. Some people may find it exciting and there’s certainly energy injected into percussion and other higher frequency sounds, but there’s no denying that the definition the driver imparts to the overall sound is what makes the Freya such an exciting and precise pair of IEMs.
Verdict: For the money, these Kinera Freya earphones are an affordable introduction to the world of multi-driver IEMs. These earphones will wake up your musical senses and have you relistening to all your old favorite albums. The tuning is deliciously vibrant and exciting. They will have you tapping your foot in no time. And if beautiful things please your eye, the hand-painted earpieces are sure to appeal and certainly add an artisanal and handmade feel to the product. If you want to upgrade from a sub-$100 pair of single-driver earphones to something with much more focus and energy, these more affordable Freya IEMs from Kinera are well worth a listen.
- Earphone Type: Quad Driver Hybrid In-Ear Monitor (IEMs)
- Drivers: Three balanced armature drivers and a single dynamic driver
- Frequency Response: 20Hz - 20kHz
- Impedance: 22 Ω
- Sensitivity: 110 ± 2 db
- Color: Blue and White
- Connector Interface: 0.78 mm 2-Pin
- Jack Type: 3.5mm (TRS/TRRS)
- Cable: 0.78mm 2-Pin 3.5 mm high-purity copper detachable cable
- Accessories: USB-C and Apple Lightning adaptors, three pairs of ear-tips (S, M, L) plus storage box