Nanna’s story starts with Yutai Electronics, a company focused on research and development of new IEM driver technologies. From Yutai, Kinera Audio emerged, and put that research into practice. Kinera’s Nanna tribrid IEM was originally released in 2019, and has received a handful of revisions since that original release, leading up to its current incarnation, the Kinera Imperial Nanna (known in some markets as the Nanna 2.0 Pro). Some have said that the Nanna offers flagship level performance at a price under $1k, but does Nanna actually live up to that hype?
Build and Design
Right off the bat, Kinera wows with their packaging and design. Inside, you’ll find the IEMs, a case, adapters, and a very nice selection of eartips – Final E-Types, foam, and Kinera branded. The Nanna itself is beautiful with a resin shell and a bit of shimmer to the brown and blue material inside. I think each is slightly different, and my demo pair’s faceplate resembled a mountain up against a twilight sky. The cable is silver plated OCC copper, with a simple wrap and design. It comes terminated in 4.4mm balanced, but there are adapters for 3.5mm and 2.5mm in the box. Also included is a simple synthetic leather wrapped case which is quite compact and won’t fit much more than the IEMs with the cable attached with maybe some spare eartips and an adapter.
The Nanna itself is lightweight and medium sized. Both the IEM itself and the nozzle are smaller than most of the other tribrids I’ve used. The nozzle can easily accommodate standard size eartips, and made for an easy fit. I found it quite easy to get a secure fit with a good seal, and imagine they’ll be comfortable for a broad range of listeners.
Nanna’s sound is on the warm side of neutral, with deep bass extension, balanced mids, and a treble that features both strong extension and a relaxed, non fatiguing top-end. The soundstage and imaging are good – not exceptional – but it still hits all the right notes to deliver an engaging sound.
The bass has deep extension with lots of low rumble. There’s a good punch in the mid-bass, though not the level of physicality some bassheads might want. The mid-bass is tight, and the transition to the mids is both cohesive and coherent. There’s also good texture in the bass without any bleed into the mids.
The mids provide good vocal presence, and the details on more mid-focused instruments like guitar and piano are crisp and clear. The dual ESTs in the treble provide good extension and air while remaining somewhat relaxed in the overall treble presentation. The timbre presents as very natural, and the overall delivery is just slightly relaxed in a way that makes Nanna an addictive listen.
Nanna’s soundstage and imaging are solid, but not as exceptional as the overall tuning and timbre. The soundstage is wide, but sometimes feels like it’s focused more in the left and right than in the true center of the image. The imaging delivers good positioning and some sense of forward to back depth in addition to left to right, but it’s not quite “holographic” in the presentation.
Nanna is less sensitive than the average IEM, and does best with a bit more power than your average phone or DAC dongle. It certainly doesn’t need a lot of power – a good portable DAC or any of the DAPs from Astell&Kern or iBasso should do the trick – it’s just not among the more sensitive IEMs.
Nanna deftly places the swirling synths that start deadmau5’s “4ware” all around your head, and then grounds them right in between your ears when the beat kicks in. The bass throbs in the middle of your brain, while each early synth line floats in the space around your head. As the song gains structure, the modulation of the crystalline melody goes right through the front of your head, feels like it’s bouncing off the back of your skull, and then pops right back out the front again. Nanna excels with the spatial elements in this sort of electronic music, along with providing the low end extension it needs.
Esperanza Spalding’s upright bass on “Little Fly” is smooth and well-textured. Esperanza’s voice has a sense of breath and air, but with a liquidy feel in the upper registers. There’s strong detail in the strings, with a natural lifelike timbre across the board. The blend of bass, strings, and vocals demonstrates good separation, but also a strong cohesion from the bottom, through the mids, and into the treble.
Jvke’s “Upside Down” features a persistent sampled bass and kick as the driving force under the song, with some light guitars, synth, and percussion sprinkled through a sparse mix. The vocals take precedence in Nanna’s presentation, with the bass delivering good depth and a light punch. The other elements pop in and out, with Nanna delivering good texture to the each instrument, and a nice sense of resolution with the cymbals that adds energy in the top-end.
I probably haven’t listened to the song “Only Happy When It Rains” in twenty years, and with the Nanna it’s immediately apparent how much slicker the production of the song is than I had remembered. From the canned electronic beat that starts the song, to the surprisingly intricate layering of the electric guitars, there’s so much to unpack. The lead vocal is at once intimate and detached while a blend of grungy guitars, grimy drums, and oddly clean synth sounds build layers in an alt-pop-grunge wall of sound. Nanna conveys strong dynamics and emotion – mostly angst – to the vocals and guitars.
Comparison: Astell&Kern AK Zero1, Campfire Audio Dorado
Among sub-$1k tribrid IEMs, the recently released AK Zero1 provides a balanced sound more comparable to Nanna than some other tribrid IEMs. Coming in at just over $1000, the Campfire Audio Dorado takes a simpler design, and aims to deliver a balance of fun and performance.
Visually the three designs run the gamut of the audiophile IEM world. AK Zero1 has a sharp, angular design, with aluminum shells. Dorado is the smallest of the three, with a rounded ceramic shell. And Nanna has the resin shell, with a custom IEM-like shape. In terms of comfort and overall wearability, Dorado and Nanna take top honors, while Zero1 has some minor fit snags that can make it harder to get a good, comfortable fit, with a good seal.
Nanna also gets top honors for the packaging. While Campfire delivers with a broad range of eartips and otherwise solid pack-ins, Nanna is the only IEM to come with a balanced cable. And it doesn’t just come with a balanced cable, it comes with the adapters to use it as 4.4mm, 2.5mm, or 3.5mm which is an absolute win.
In terms of sound, AK Zero1 has a little more bite and is the brightest of the three. Dorado is warmer with more bass impact, but a little less texture in the bass than Nanna. AK Zero1 has less impact and depth in the bass, but strong texture, and a little more “pluck.” With AK Zero1, vocals are further back in the mix than Nanna or Dorado. Dorado has a similar vocal balance to Nanna, but Nanna’s mids feel richer and the vocal delivery more emotional.
AK Zero1’s Treble is a little sharper and could lend more towards fatigue, while Dorado generally has smoother treble, but there are a couple of hot spots that can give you a bit of a spike with brass instruments in particular. At the same time, Dorado does give upper range instruments, like violins or electric guitars a little stronger feeling and more detail.
The three IEMs demonstrate clear differences in their strengths and weaknesses. Nanna is probably the most versatile of the three, landing somewhere between Zero1’s more incisive sound and Dorado’s more fun delivery. Nanna’s bass doesn’t quite hit hard enough to be a “basshead” IEM, nor is it neutral enough to be a “reference” sound, but it delivers just enough of each for a balance of fun and detail in your listening experience.
The Bottom Line
While it might have taken a couple revisions to nail it down, Nanna’s excellent tuning and strong engagement factor give it some serious “wow” factor. Its strong performance and addictive sound secure its spot as one of the best in the $1000 range.