From Russia, With Love Of Course
I suppose this review will be a swan song to end my audio journey in Singapore. It’s hard not to be just a little bit sentimental, especially when the pair of cans on your head is rendering Bryan Adam’s Heaven almost perfectly. In many ways, this review represents a lot of the best aspects of the local audio community. I learnt of the Odin through reviewer @earfonia (who always does impressive work here), and I had the chance to audition it via my local headphone store Zepp & Co. In the course of my time here in Singapore, I’ve met a lot of good people, and have made a number of very close friends through audio. To me it represents just how much can be done when a group of people come together to share knowledge in a meaningful and constructive manner. It is a true pleasure to have been a small part of this immense effort.
In case you were wondering if I had forgotten about the Odin altogether –I haven’t. The headphone is far too good for that to ever occur. First, a short introduction. Kennerton Audio is the luxury arm of Fischer Audio, a Russian audio company that has been previously recognized for its competent entry-midrange offerings. The Kennerton branch is quite a bit more understated, having maintained a fairly low profile since its introduction back in 2006. In speaking with Kennerton representatives here in SG, I came to understand that the Odin was the pinnacle of the Kennerton sound, a cost-no-object look at what could be achieved by Fischer Audio engineers. The passion and enthusiasm that propelled the development of this headphone is clear –and the result is excellent. While it isn’t a regular headliner, the Odin is highly regarded within certain circles, and is arguably one of the better-kept secrets in today’s audio market.
Before I go on, this review is indeed dedicated my partner in crime (figurative), Joseph. If I’m Sonny Crockett, he would be a really crap version of Rico Tubbs, one that can’t aim for his life (literal). You truly redefine what it means to be a one-hit wonder at 25 meters.
I received this unit directly from Kennerton in Singapore, and have now had it on loan for close to 3 weeks. This review did take a while to complete, mostly due to scheduling issues from late-arrivals, and also because I am currently in the process of moving. However, this month has been a true pleasure as far as reviews go –the opportunity to cover so many excellent products at once is without a doubt a privilege. My time with the Odin was short but certainly memorable. I do reserve the rights to the media in this review, so if you would like to use the photography/ videos seen here please do drop me a line first (at the very least please provide attribution). I dislike watermarks on photos and would rather not use them. I had a blast writing this review, and hope that you will enjoy this piece too!
Also, feel free to post any comments and questions below. However, I am slow with checking the comments section, especially on older reviews. In such situations, just send me a PM. I really do try my best to answer all the PMs I get (and if I don’t, as far as is reasonable, send me another).
PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES
The Odin comes in a large trapezoid shaped wooden box with the Kennerton logo engraved nicely onto the lid. Removing the thin cardboard sleeve allows the box to be opened. The lid rotates such that the box can be propped up at a 45-degree angle to act as a headphone stand/ display case. It is a novel idea that appeals to the egoist in all of us. The green velour that lines the interior is a nice touch, and the engraving on the inside panel of the box is certainly a very pleasant piece of detailing. The cable is stored within a cardboard cylinder (with a tin lid). In summary, the included accessories are as follows:
- Display Case/ Box
- Storage Tin w/ Cable
- Unit Serial Number Card
- 3.5mm To Quarter-Inch Adaptor
- Product Literature
However, there are a couple of practical design concerns with the package. The headphone will not fit into the box if the headband has been adjusted past its default setting, and there is wasted space at the bottom of the box that could easily have been utilized as a cable storage area. The lid doesn’t clasp shut, making the case fairly impractical as a transport solution (then again, its size precludes it from doing this anyways). The utility of the box is further reduced due to a lack of padding on the inner face of the lid. A bit of a shame, as I’d love to have a package that would allow me to carry the Odin around with relative ease. The headphone has a fairly superb sound that I would like to share with fellow enthusiasts.
BUILD AND DESIGN
If there is one word to describe the Kennerton Odin’s general aesthetic, it would be rustic. Posing an interesting mix of natural materials and a touch of unrefined rawness, the Odin would feel comfortably at home in a Timberland catalogue. In many ways, the Odin stands in stark contrast to the previously reviewed Sony MDR-Z1R, a headphone that was a general master class in properly executed product (and by extension, industrial) design.
As a whole, the build quality on the Kennerton Odin is somewhat hit-or-miss. It’s an odd combination of quality components that have been put together in a fairly awkward fashion. Let’s start with a quick look at the headband. It’s a two-piece design with a hardened top band and a softer supportive strap that is meant to provide better comfort and distribution of weight. Perhaps it’s just the shape of my head, but after a while pressure does tend to build up near the topmost point of the headband, making an adjustment necessary. The yoke is inconveniently attached by means of a single screw, and fitment has to literally be done by wholly manual means. Granted, this robust headband adjustment system was probably meant to deal with the weight of the earcups, but it is clearly an inelegant solution. Loosening the screw allows the yoke to slide along both the horizontal and vertical axes. Determining the appropriate angling of the earcups is thus a fairly tedious process, but once secured the earcups do not move. Not one bit. I can’t emphasize just how important it is that one takes the time to try to achieve proper fitment with this headphone. Failure to do so will result in a poor seal and significant loss in lower frequency performance.
As of now, the earcups come in two different types of woods: sapele and walnut. The process behind the manufacture of these cups is rather extensive, with each earcup undergoing multiple instances of milling, heat treatment, and wax coating. The final product is rather nice looking, but slightly too glossy. However, I’ve been told that my woodworking tastes are fairly undeveloped, so please do take this with a solid pinch of salt. The leather on this headphone is said to be lambskin, and looks to be of full-grain finish. While this is certainly very pretty and “premium”, it’s not exactly comfortable. This is particularly true for the earpads, which seem to lack the comfortable plushness expected of most flagships. The good thing is that owners will have a nice leather patina after some use…which is something to look forward to, I guess. That is if the stitching on the headband doesn’t start to come off after a little while.
The cable is just unfortunate on a number of accounts. The mini-Din termination is well built, though slightly uncommon (Audeze uses a similar one if I’m not wrong). However, just about everything after the termination needs work. To start, the cable is covered in a PET braided sleeve (Tech Flex, if I’m not wrong), which starts to unravel near the split due to the individual left and right wires exiting too close to each other (literally rubbing against the other in the wrong way). This is further aggravated by the fact that the cable tends to kink. The PET braid is also microphonic and far from being malleable, and is just unpleasant to use. The 3.5 mm jack is out of place for a headphone that should instead see use in home setups, and the rigid metal edge tends to cut into the cable (the Zepp demo unit has one such example of a frayed cable). The 3.5 to quarter-inch adaptor adds insult to injury, featuring a wonderful 90 degree angle that really doesn’t gel with desktop equipment.
So, there are some issues with the build. However, design wise, there are some very cool things going on within the Kennerton Odin. The headphone features a scratch-built 80mm planar magnetic driver with a 10-micron polymide film diaphragm, and is powered by a magnet system comprised of 10 neodymium magnets in a symmetric push-pull configuration. The magnets are also semicircular in form, which apparently improves airflow and also makes for a more uniform magnetic field. Needless to say, this level of development is indicative of Kennerton’s immense interest in producing the best sound possible, and compared to some of the recycled designs available today, is something worthy of commendation.
This is a bit of a copy and paste from my past review, so if you’ve read it already feel free to skip to the numbers direct. My current setup is called Box #2, which is a small headphone measurement rig as the name implies. There are no major secrets behind this rig. The measurement microphone is the omni-directional UMIK-1 from miniDSP. It can be purchased for about a 100 dollars USD. Internally, the box is filled with acoustic foam (easily obtainable from your local specialty source). The coupler was perhaps the most difficult part to figure out. There are many documented approaches, and definitely very interesting reading to be done. In creating the coupler, I opted for a conventional flat plate made from soft polyester covered rubber cut from a mouse pad. I quickly noticed that this coupling alone made for some very poor measurements, especially in the higher frequencies where it was clear that artifacts were developing in a regular pattern. Following conventional fixes, I experimented with various diameters of felt, leading to varying degrees of attenuation in the midrange and high frequencies. I have temporarily settled on a variation of the felt fix, with a smaller piece of circular padding hidden beneath the felt. Mic is set close to flush with the coupling surface.
From a build standpoint, I made an oversight in designing Box #2 when I chose to start with a rather small box. The coupling area is tight and to get multiple positions does take some orienting. The felt-pad piece surrounding the mic should also probably be glued but I wanted to have the flexibility to play around with the design. I won’t sugarcoat it –the rig looks like it took a fall from the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down. Software used is Room EQ Wizard. The results are raw, uncompensated curves to use as general guidelines. There have been a couple of measurements of the Odin so far, but I’m not entirely sure about how well they represent the headphones. These curves should be used as general tonal guides, not pound-for-pound representations of what you hear (once again, uncompensated).
Here we have the frequency response – I’ve applied a slight smoothing (1/48th).Same graph, except that I’ve manually offset my Beyerdynamic T1 measurement below for quick reference.
-T1 offset was -30 dB to lineup with around the 65 dB area. This is not because the levels were
particularly diff. during the measurement process for the two headphones. Here we have the CSD for the Odin. Please read the commentary.
-I noted in the previous review that the MDR-Z1R had what seemed to be ringing in the 3kHz area.
With this measurement, we do not see that occur, which gives me confidence in the rig, and suggests
that it isn’t so much a result of interaction or artifact, but perhaps that there is actual ringing there.
At A Glance
The Kennerton Odin presents music with an easy realism that is overwhelmingly pleasant. It does not embellish sound, but rather has its focus on a precise and clear reproduction achieved via competency in several sonic areas. Textural quality is generally good, especially in the midrange. Tonal balance leaves little to be desired, though I do have a point to make about the Odin’s bass section. An accommodating mix of technicals as well as general dynamics rounds off the package, making the Odin an incredibly pleasant and versatile headphone. It goes without saying that this headphone will make for a great primary driver option. Given the way the Odin sounds (with a slight warmth), amplification will come down to personal taste, as pushing the sound in either direction will most likely not produce a crippling pairing. Some amps that I have tried with the Odin include the Teac UD-503, Chord Hugo TT, iFi Micro iCAN, CMA-600i/800i, and Cavalli Audio Liquid Carbon. One thing that I will note –initially, I noted a lack of subbass texture on the Kennerton Odin. @earfonia suggested that I try the headphone in balanced connection and lent me his balanced cable, which did work out better!
The Kennerton Odin’s bass section is fairly fast, clean, and generally speaking unobtrusive. This is inline with tunings that would typically be considered as being more “neutral”. As mentioned before, I do take issue with certain aspects of the Odin’s subbass. While being decently extended, it lacks slightly in presence and detailing. This is particularly true on tracks like Debussy’s La Cathédrale Engloutie. Nearing the sonore sans dureté, the Odin falters and is unable to capture the subtle nuances required of the piece, and sustained notes do not feel as impactful as they should. This can be aided by using a balanced connection, which brings out more texture. The Fostex TH-900 has let me explore the depths of the lower frequencies, revealing information that might otherwise have been missed on cans. I do not expect similar levels of bass quantity or texture, but I do hope to hear certain sonic cues arising from detailing. As one may expect, this isn’t the Odin’s strongest suite. Midbass is well placed, with good body and impact, but does not sound unnaturally punchy. This is certainly a trait that I did come to appreciate, and it certainly allowed for a more revealing look at midbass than some cans would offer.
The midrange on the Kennerton Odin is very good. Male vocals come across with a certain clarity, but not in a manner that would be perceived as being overly “chesty” or uncomfortably forward. Listening to Tony O’Malley’s Autumn Leaves, I found the singer’s rasp to be well-rendered, but with good modulation of tone (as opposed to an outright blanket of grain). However, it is the female vocals that really did the trick. While I do occasionally enjoy sweeter mids, the Odin impressed in its clarity and dynamic execution, all without lacking body. China Forbes’ vocals in Pink Martini’s Hey Eugene came across wonderfully, but my true guilty pleasure was Sheena Easton’s For Your Eyes Only. Yes, it’s a cheesy Bond song. But there’s something quite enveloping and captivating about the Odin’s general presentation that made me attempt to sing along. Note the word “attempt”.
The highs on the Odin are well extended, and like the subbass, inoffensive. There are times where I did feel they were slightly too smooth, and lacking in crisp sheen. In Schubert’s String Quintet in C Major, aggressive staccato comes across as being somewhat weak, and this perceived sound is further emphasized when contrasted against the smoother decorations. This is a piece that I do have firsthand experience with, and in that sense I am slightly more particular as this is a very solid gauge for personal evaluation. The Odin has very nice imaging, and soundstage is certainly large enough! In an effort to help contextualize the Odin’s performance, I’ve tried my best to collect meaningful comparisons below. While I have sat down with all these headphones multiple times (and for hours on each occasion), I still cannot claim full familiarity with all, and in fact there are some that I do dislike. Once again, approach with an understanding that your personal tastes are in fact most important determinant of your level of musical enjoyment.
LCD-2 – $995 USD
LCD-X – $1,699 ISD
Odin – $2,250 USD
The LCD-X does share certain characteristics with the Odin. In some ways, the presentation is similar, though the Odin is the more refined headphone in my opinion. The bass on the LCD-X is what I would refer to as being punchy and tight, and generally well controlled. While I don’t have many complaints with the LCD-X’s bass, it does seem less “natural” when compared to the Odin. It became clear that there were times when the LCD-X reproduces mid-bass with a kick drum effect when it really shouldn’t have. Did it sound bad or take away from musical enjoyment? Not really –this artistic coloration could easily be a matter of personal preference. However, to my ears and based on my experience, the Odin would be closer to what I would consider realistic. The Audeze 2’s bass is fuller and richer, and in this sense the Odin would fall somewhere in between. I find bass extension to be similar on the cans, but there are times when the LCD-X simply feels a bit more satisfying.
The mids are a clear win for the Odin. I’ve mentioned in previous comparisons that the LCD-X mids have power and clarity, and are also more aggressive in tone. The way the LCD-X handles midrange textures is in fact is a bit similar to the Odin, but in comparison the Odin does this without harshness, and also doesn’t have the occasional thinness that can be heard on the LCD-X. In comparison, the LCD-2 does better in this regard, but in attaining its characteristically richer vocals does give up resolving power.
Treble on the Odin is a bit similar to the LCD-2, but has better extension and articulation. However, as mentioned before, it is not quite on the same level as the Beyerdynamic T1, or the Sennheiser HD800/S. However, I would take the Odin’s highs easily over that of the LCD-X, which are lacking in refinement and come off as a bit hot on occasion. Soundstage and imaging are superior on the Odin, especially when compared to the LCD-2, which struggles a bit in this regard. On a general note, none of these cans are particularly comfortable, but (and I’d never imagined that I would one day be saying this) the Audeze cans with their plusher earpads are a step above the Odin. Yes, it is actually possible to get a neck cramp with the Odin should you tilt your head one direction for too long.
T1 – $500 USD – $1000 USD (Varying Prices)
Odin – $2,250 USD
The T1 once again gets thrown into the ring with a more modern flagship. My T1 is from the 21,XXX range, and as seen from the measurements section, does have an upper end tilt. This was my original sonic preference, and I can’t say that it has changed much. That said, I listen to and do enjoy a number of signatures. I’ve often wondered why this is the case, and my current theory is that it stems from my slight focus on technicals, which allows me to handle a number of tonal signatures as long as they are well executed. Back to the T1 –the bass section is certainly not lacking, and isn’t quite the anemic headphone that it is often made out to be. It makes me happy to know how my T1 measures from an objective standpoint. Bass wise, both headphones are fairly similar as far as quantity goes. Perceived decay on the Odin is a bit slower, and it does sounds slightly more enveloping in this sense.
Both have fairly linear mids, with the T1 being tilted more in favor of the upper end than the Odin. I find both to be very agreeable, but the Odin does have an edge texture-wise that lends a more realistic sound on certain tracks (perhaps male vocals). While the Odin may be slightly more laidback, it does feel more appropriate on certain tracks. Highs on the T1 are better in my opinion. Returning to Schubert’s String Quintet in C Major, the violins no longer sound as smooth, and are captures more appropriately through the T1. I understand that there are some people who are sensitive to treble, and in this sense the Odin is a similar, but probably more appropriate headphone. Imaging is similar, but due to the upper-end tilt on the T1, soundstage and perceived transparency is better. From a practical standpoint the T1, is far lighter and generally more comfortable. While I could get used to the Odin’s weight, switching to the T1 was rather night-and-day.
Utopia – $3,999 USD
Odin – $2,250 USD
The Utopia joins the Odin in the “natural” class of headphones, and the two do make for an interesting comparison. Generally speaking, the Utopia is more involved, featuring a better sense of imaging arising from its speed, micro-detail retrieval, and generally superior technicals. Bass-wise, both headphones do take a fairly moderate approach, though the Utopia extends deeper and has better articulation. The midrange is generally on par, which is impressive considering the price difference. The Utopia is just a slight bit less textured, and which is more appropriately “realistic” is something that I’ve yet to decide on. For female vocals, I do feel that the Utopia performs better on sustained notes, being cleaner than the Odin. Carly Simon’s Nobody Does It Better is an example of the Utopia mids at its finest.
Highs on the Utopia are better than the Odin. It is more articulate and better extended, and finds itself comfortably in between the Odin and the T1. Imaging on the Utopia is quite stunning, and along with the staging, is of a different class. When I first heard it, I was impressed by just how much sound was coming from each direction, and still, that sense of wonderment hasn’t quite worn off. However, there is a certain easiness to the Odin’s sound that makes it great for general listening. Given the price difference, the Odin does perform very admirably.
HD800S – $1679.99 USD
Odin – $2,250 USD
I appreciate the HD-800/S for the headphones that they are, but would ultimately take the Beyerdynamic T1 handily over them. I personally find the HD-800/S to be bass-light and erring towards an overly clean, and, dare I say, boring sound. Specifically for this review, I did spend some time revisiting the HD800S, which is improved over the HD800 all things considered. I find the subbass characteristics on the HD800S to still be unsatisfying though. The Odin, despite this not being in its strongest suite, maintains an advantage, which gives a comparative sense of where the HD800s lays. Midbass on the HD800S is faster, but doesn’t inspire or capture anything particularly noteworthy. It clearly does not have the same impact or body of the Odin.
Generally speaking, the textural quality of the HD-800S is excellent, but in achieving the perception of grand staging, it would seem to me that the mids are recessed in comparison to the Odin. It is more detached and disinterested, and doesn’t have the same body to carry through on certain vocal-intensive tracks. Highs on the HD800s are good, being more emphasized than the Odin. This lends itself to a larger perceived staging and possibly better extension, but as mentioned before, this returns in unsatisfactory ways when dealing with vocals in particular. The Odin is the better headphone for me personally -but for those requiring grand staging or raw technicals, the HD800S will be the right headphone.
The Odin is a very good headphone. It may not be immediately striking or breathtaking, but when it comes to an appropriately realistic presentation of sound it is easily among the best. The only thing that really holds it back is its current ergonomics and design, which get in the way of the headphone. With a better headband and more precise finishing, the Kennerton Odin could very well replace a number of better known headphones. If you’re in the market for a versatile primary driver headphone, this would be a must-hear.
The Odin is a headphone under improvement, and Kennerton is providing constant support/ updates to its design. This is a very positive thing. To my understanding, here’s what has changed over the course of the Odin’s production lifespan.
- 6.3 mm (1/4 inch) termination on the cable.
- Softer lambskin earpads! This is a great plus as far as comfort goes.
- FUTURE – New OCC cable with cotton sleeve and 6.3 mm termination.
- FUTURE – Redesigned packaging.