The sound-stage is studio-like but it’s good for the price. However, it’s a bit narrow than I would’ve liked. Also, the overall presentation plays a part here. Because the mids are a bit laid back and the treble is very crisp, the mids are trapped inside a small window. That creates a congested presentation. So the sound-stage perception is affected, and that’s why I think it plays a bit narrow. The depth, thanks to excellent bass response and great layering, is very good though.
Stereo imaging is strong with a dark background, especially with a good source. The IEM has great resolution and micro details. The instrument separation is one of the strong suits of this IEM and thanks to its good background quality everything separates nicely so it’s easy to pick every element of a song. However, once again, the mids don’t have much space to shine and they’re laid back with a small note size. The tonality is lively yes, but a bit thin so it’s not the most musical or romantic IEM you can find.
Overall resolution is very very good among the other IEMs in this price range and Norn can give you lots of details in a song thanks to its very resolving nature. So I think overall it has great technicalities, limited by the overall presentation. The transparency is very impressive as well. So the Kinera Norn has no issues in terms of resolution, details, layering, and separation. But the presentation affects the performance in a negative way in my view. Otherwise, the technical performance is excellent.
Final Audio B3 is one of my personal favorites among the sub-500$ IEMs. When it comes to build quality Final Audio means business with their full-metal shells and excellent attention to detail. Although Kinera has a more attractive and impressive design, Final Audio looks more serious. However, the Kinera Norn has a better unboxing experience with better packaging.
Sound-wise B3 is very capable and one of the best tuned IEMs in its price range. It has better coherency, better-defined mids, and better timbre. They both have similar amounts of resolution and transparency. The Final offering has a better overall sound-stage performance though. It has a much better balance as well. The Norn has a more impressive bass performance and crisper treble, but overall I think the B3 is the better performer unless you want to listen to EDM or similar music.
Aya Audio is just started making serious IEMs and Siren is a very technically capable one. It’s one of the latest surprises for me and I think this comparison is quite close to the Final B3. The Siren has better sound-stage, better coherency, better mids, better resolution, better transparency, and better mid-range definition. So it has a lot of advantages here. But it can be too flat or boring in comparison to the Norn depending on your taste.
The Moondrop A8 has a very straightforward, full clear design that might look dull compared to the Kinera Norn. It still is very cool in my opinion since it’s crystal clear and you can see everything inside like that. In terms of the package, Kinera is better here again with better accessories and unpacking experience. They both have a good fit with ear-friendly shapes.
As for sound, the A8 is one of the better offerings in this range with a neutral signature. It has a very wide sound-stage, which the Norn lacks in, and better resolution. Kinera is certainly better in the bass department though, with much better texture, definition, and rumble. However, if you’re after a truthful and reference-like signature, the A8 is the best bet.
One of the good performers of Earsonics lately, the Blade is a very musical and a very cohesive monitor. It has full anodized zinc and magnesium alloy for the shells which results in great build quality. Inside materials are also covered with extra 3D acrylic housing. So build-quality wise there’s no contest here. But the design is a subjective topic of course and Kinera certainly impresses.
The Blade has a good amount of bass with great texture so they’re pretty close here. The Norn here is a bit more impressive though. But when it comes to mids, once again Kinera pays the price, as the Blade offers better timbre and instrumental quality. And since it’s one of the most cohesive IEMs for its price, the Norn’s unbalanced presentation positions it behind in that regard.
As a whole, I think the Kinera Norn is a good IEM but it could’ve been better. The coherency is a problem and the treble is a bit too sharp for long listening sessions. What would’ve made this monitor better you might ask. I think a softer treble, and better defined and more full-bodied mid range could. Otherwise it has no problems for resolution, transparency and clarity.
The Nanna is a fantastic performer, and the Freya is very good for its price bracket, and especially the gorgeous design is hard to find for that price. Norn has the same design qualities with its unique hand-made colors, and with the great packaging that we’re now used to from Kinera, it’s certainly and impressive product. But they need to do a little bit better job for the 500$ area in terms of sound tuning.
Who can choose this IEM? If you’re after a crisp treble, impactful bass for tapping your toes, and listen to lots of electronic music, then the Norn can be your IEM.