disclaimer: I have reviewed a number of Kinera products over the years with the most recent being the SIF. When I saw the TYR was available, I purchased one through the AK Audio Store for review. The nice folks at AK did provide a discount for my purchase, but I have received no other incentives for this review and I do not have a financial interest in either Kinera or AK Audio. If you have an interest in the TYR, more information can be found on the Kinera Facebook page, or to purchase a TYR, visit AK Audio store on Aliexpress.
Unboxing / Packaging:
Kinera’s recent products have all shipped in styalized hexagon packages and the TYR continues that. On the front is the bold product name and in a smaller font, the description, while the reverse has a good bit more information. Perhaps oddly, the photo of the actual earpieces is on the reverse and the front of the package doesn’t hint to what it contains until you read the smaller text. Lifting the top of the box reveals a warranty card, a user manual, and a small circular leather(ette) carry case. Under those items a foam surround protects the earphones, and the tips which include a wide bore style and a set of S,M,L Final Audio Type E tips. The addition of the Final Audio tips is a nice touch as these are a very popular tip for the micro-driver style iems. Overall, the kit is fairly complete considering the ~$25 retail.
The earphones have a non-removable cable so that discussion which is normally under the cable heading is included here. The earpieces themselves are micro-driver barrel types similar in style to things like the Etymotic models, Toneking TW1, Pioneer CH3, or KZ HDS series. These are designed for tip-down wear and the tip does most of the work of holding the earpieces firmly in place so a size larger than usual or a deeper insertion than normal may be required to secure them. Luckily, the earpieces are extremely light so weight doesn’t particularly work against the wearer. I liken the shape to that of a .22 shell as it has a rim at the rear, a slight recess ahead of that and then a full diameter barrel before the tip attaches at the opposite end. Both ends are polished metal while the barrel itself is a flat black with the Kinera name imprinted in white. On the front end, the nozzles are of standard t-400 size and have a pronounced lip for tip retention. Grills are a wider slotted type rather than the typical screen wire which makes the driver visible through them more easily as can be seen in the photos below.
Cables exit the bottom side of the barrels roughly 3/4 of the way to the rear. The right earpiece has a red ring around the cable exit for quick orientation. The right cable also has the single button remote and microphone while the left is a straight single strand from the earpiece to the splitter. The splitter is a black barrel shape with a small strain relief on the lower side and none above. A chin slider is not provided. From the splitter down, the cable is a single rubber coated strand down to the straight TRRS 3.5 jack. The jack has a short strain relief as well and a matching black barrel with two bands around it for added purchase when connecting or disconnecting the TYR.
The Tyr is powered by a 6mm micro dynamic driver with a listed impedance of 16Ω and a sensitivity of 105 dB/mW ± 1db. With the cable containing a mic and remote, we can assume the market for the TYR is smartphone and tablet users, and I found the TYR easy to drive with either of those and while it did scale some qualitatively with better sources its ceiling is fairly low and those using phones and tablets are getting the full value of the TYR despite the lack of additional amplification.
With the intended use case being smartphone users, and the presence of a remote/mic on the TYR, I decided to put it through its paces to make a few phone calls. The remote worked for answer/hang-up in both Android and IOS so functionally no issues. Noise wise though, the mic was susceptible to picking up a lot of noise from the surrounding environment and I found it best reserved for taking calls in relatively quiet areas. The person on the other end could hear road noise when used while in a vehicle, and the air handler when used from the office where my desk sits directly beneath the duct work. It has no provision for noise reduction or cancellation so keep that in mind when using the TYR as a phone mic.
The TYR has good sub-bass presence with roll-off only noticeable in the mid-30Hz range. Sub-bass quantity is very much tip dependent and can range from bass light to mildly elevated. The Sub-bass has a center around 55Hz and a slow drop that ultimately hits its lowest point somewhere in the lower-mids. The mid-bass has some emphasis but not enough to dominate the signature but some bleed is present and the lower-mids are somewhat colored as a result. Overall, bass quality is quite good even accepting the mid bass bleed when we consider the price point and driver size. It won’t satisfy those looking for a bass-head in-ear, but for those who want a casual listening earphone with enough low end to not feel lacking, it suits the purpose.
The lower-mids are somewhat colored by bass bleed and lower register vocals take a bit of a hit because of this. Between the recess in the V shape and the bleed, you wind up with male vocals that often feel veiled or a bit distant. The upside that bleed is that male vocals also seem to carry a bit more weight than their higher counterparts which, while not colored as much, do suffer from being somewhat thin and a bit sharp edged. The rise in the upper-mids is just on the border line of the vocal range so some may experience more sibilance as a result and others not as it will depend largely on the individuals sensitivity. For me they come across as making S a bit hot at times while for other reviewers I discussed it with, it was about an even split between finding it too hot and finding it well proportioned. Overall, the mids provide a reasonable level of detail and clarity considering the price point. I highly recommend auditioning the TYR before purchase as depending on genre and preference, the mid tuning is going to be quite divisive.
Lower treble is pushed forward but then drops back quickly to avoid getting overly hot and reintroduces a bit of extra energy in the 7-9kHz range and again at about 11-12kHZz before finally rolling off above that. The treble does sound a bit grainy but hardly an unexpected situation at this price point, and the overall detail level is also quite reasonable considering the price. I did find a bit of compression at the upper end, and it does make cymbals come off as metallic at times. Snare rattle is good though which is an interesting dichotomy. There is a enough top end to keep the TYR from feeling enclosed, but not enough to turn to sizzle which makes it palatable for all but the most treble sensitive.
Soundstage / Imaging:
Soundstage is fairly intimate as might be expected from a closed micro-driver with considerably more width than depth and height is minimal. Instrument separation is average which makes seating the orchestra a bit claustrophobic. Think of trying to seat an entire orchestra in the space normally reserved for string quartet and you get a rough approximation of this exercise. Honestly this not the genre anticipated for the TYR and with popular music, it is much less of an issue. Having said that, layering is a bit better than expected, and keeps the orchestra from being a bigger mess on stage. Imaging on the other hand lacks precision and spatial cues are only rendered in a general area and not with the precision we see in more expensive models.
Thoughts / Conclusion:
In looking back through what I have written, it sounds pretty harsh. Considering the price point and intended market, it probably is. Asking an audiophile to review a $29 earbud is not entirely unlike asking an Indy car driver to rate the handling of the family station wagon. I do find the TYR to be a somewhat odd collection of parts which makes the name strangely fitting. The Norse mythology from which Kinera has been selecting names lists TYR as the god of war and justice. If we think about justice as balance and all things in equal proportion, and war as thunder, lightning, and mayhem (both from the Norse descriptions) those two are kind of at odds with each other as well. We don’t get the thunderous low end I might have expected from a god of war, nor do we get complete linearity that one might have expected from the god of justice. We do get a listenable sub-$30 in-ear designed to be a smart-phone companion with enough good points to keep it in the conversation. Overall, those who like a warm, comfortable in-ear that they don’t have to cry over if it gets lost or destroyed will find the TYR a good fit. Oh, but use the case as a frisbee, that is honestly the best thing I’ve found to do with it.
- Microphone - 5/105/10
- Bass - 6.5/106.5/10
- Mids - 6/106/10
- Treble - 7/107/10
- Soundstage - 5/105/10
- Imaging - 5/105/10
Pros- size and comfortable, pleasant warm signature, included Final E series tips, price
Cons- non-removable cable, poor mic, worthless case