Aimed at the audiophile market and complete with dual drivers, Paul Rigby reviews the Kennerton Ikiz earphones
I’m so used to seeing earphones for the more active lifestyle and to cope with the noise of the outside world that, at this moment in time, it’s both a nice change and a slight shock to come across a pair of earphones that aim toward a more audiophile view on music.
The Ikiz arrives with composite drivers of 10mm and 6mm with a 1.3m cable dangling off the end, stored in a sturdy clamshell box that offers the wire – naked without the ear pods – plus seven sets of ear-tips. There are three sizes of black tips, three in red and clear and a set of triple flange models. So there is plenty of choice on offer. Fixed into the lid are the principle chassis pods themselves, complete with a pair of ear-tips fixed. Getting the earphones up and running demands that you remove each pod which then easily slides on the fixing on the end of the cable. A two second job.
I hooked the Ikiz earphones to my Astell & Kern AK120 and began with Dire Straits’ Money For Nothing, played at 24bit/88.2kHz. This track is a useful one because it has an inherently clinical master which many ancillaries struggle to handle, especially during vocal and guitar crescendos while the percussion can be overly precise, almost clinical.
In the early stages of the track, where Sting whines on about wanting his MTV, the Ikiz exhibited an intriguing degree of space and air around the vocal. From this point, as the percussion rose in volume, the drums offered a big, meaty and hefty aspect. The Ikiz was also an inherently low noise design, for the price, so you might find that you increase the volume from your usual reference. This, of course, only served to provide more detail across the wide soundstage. The earphones did not ignore the bright mastering, you could still hear the thinness of the presentation but the playback was far more bearable than I’ve heard on many other earphone designs at this price which often move between the ear piecing to the dull. I suspected that the Ikiz were well balanced so aimed to prove it by playing a sliver of Bob Marley and I Shot the Sherriff ay 24bit/96kHz.
I must pause here to consider the ear tips. I would encourage you to take a bit of time to test each variation and size. You are, after all, given three types to choose from and six variants in all. So, for example, I found the largest black eartips good but they slightly masked the upper mids. The triple flange variants were more open and airy but tended to hang out of my ears like black carrots, whereupon the pods sagged. I ended up settling with the medium-sized Smoke Red ear-tips which offered a blend of fit and sound quality that I was searching for. Attaching tips is, as ever with earphones, a pain in the neck but persevere, it’s worth it.
Back to Bob, as it where, I played the track and the Ikiz confirmed my suspicions. The song was dominated by two contrasting aspects: the bass guitar, which provided a foundation and drive while adding to the musicality and, off the side of the Marley lead vocals, were the distinctive high-pitched backing harmonies from the Wailers. The danger here was that the earphones would restrict dynamics. For the price, the Ikiz earphones didn’t disappoint, allowing the ear to separate individual voices within the harmonic group.
Meanwhile Marley’s vocal was set back a tad in the mix as he stood next to the atmospheric Hammond organ. Both provided a detail and enough clarity to engage the ear.
I then tried the slightly bizarre track from Sigmund Groven & Iver Kleive. Undoing is a duet of harmonica and church organ, with all of the dynamics that the latter entails. The track offered both detail and grandeur at 24bit/192kHz. There was a slight restriction of the midrange in terms of extension here but, at this price, that was no surprise. That said, the Ikiz made a darned good fist of it, successfully conveying the pomp and state of the musical combination.
A more than competent performer, the Kennerton Ikiz offers great value for money both in terms of its ear-piece attachments and sound quality. It has no real vices, retains a valuable sonic balance and works hard to provide an open and airy midrange while backing that up with a solid bass performance.
KENNERTON IKIZ EARPHONES
Tel: 0203 5442338
Good: balanced presentation, detailed mids, instrumental separation, low noise
Bad: nothing at the price