- Open sound.
- Great midrange.
- Notable evolution in the new version of the SPD 2.0™ driver.
- Excellent ergonomics and fit.
- Inner face design.
- Very low weight.
- Good cable.
- The «Pandamon» logo may not be to everyone’s taste.
- Toned treble.
- Light sub-bass.
- Subtly unreal and coloured sound of the LFOs.
- Not a very defined sound.
Link to the WEB
Once again, I’m back to review some IEMS from Kinera. This time it’s the Celest Pandamon, an IEMS that follows in the aesthetic and technological line of the Celest Gumiho. Newer than their siblings, the Pandamon uses a flat square SPD 2.0™ driver. For this new driver, Kinera has improved the sensitivity by 3dB. Also, the treble frequency response and the use of a BA driver, as in the Gumiho, is no longer necessary. The headphone capsule uses a hollow, circular outer plate made of 304 stainless steel. On it is the logo of the head of the Pandamon (the iron-eating beast), precisely engraved, nickel-plated and UV-coloured. Resin is used as the material for the inside. The cavity has been 3D printed. Let’s see how this new Kinera Celest model performs.
- Driver Type: SPD 2.0™ square planar driver.
- Frequency Response: 20Hz-20kHz.
- Sensitivity: 108dB.
- Impedance: 9Ω.
- Weight (capsules + cable): 5.4g + 17.2g.
- Jack Connector: 3.5mm SE.
- Capsule Connection Type: 2Pin 0.78mm.
- Cable Length: 1.25m.
From the packaging cover, the Pandamon appears to be an angry Panda, with flaming eyes and long black hair. The name seems to be a composition of panda and demon. And, from the looks of it, this beast eats iron. And I don’t think there’s much iron in the mountain… But that’s what the legend on the back of the box says.
The measurements are 115x94x46mm. On the front there is a transparent window that allows to see the external face of the capsules. The figure of the Pandamon stands out on the bottom right. In addition to the legend, on the back side are the specifications and the graph with the frequency response. Again, the Pandamon figure is repeated and the Celest logo appears. Once the outer cardboard is removed, a mould covered in white cardboard with a line drawing of the Pandamon is revealed. The two capsules are embedded in it. Underneath is an almost white faux-leather pouch with a laminated closure. The complete contents are as follows:
- The two Kinera Celest Pandamon Kinera capsules.
- One 3.5 mm oxygen free copper cable.
- Three pairs of Celest 221 Vocal Eartips black silicone tips, sizes SxMxL.
- Three pairs of Celest Custom 608 black and red silicone tips, sizes SxMxL.
- Metal page marker with Pandamon figure.
- Storage bag.
- Cleaning brush.
- User manual.
The two sets of tips are appreciated, although they don’t look very special. Well, the vocal tips have a slightly particular design, while the 608s look more common. A cleaning brush is always welcome, but I prefer a zippered case to the rather small leatherette pouch, which is less protective. The cable is not bad, so the overall packaging, regardless of the Pandamon motif, is quite acceptable. But, of course, it may not be to everyone’s taste.
Construction and Design
Kinera Celest Pandamon Kinera Celest Pandamon are completely round on the outside. The outer plate is made of 304 stainless steel. It consists of a grid on which is the face of the Pandamon, showing its fangs and red eyes. The grille gives an idea of an open and hollow interior design. The rim and interior is made of polished black 3D printed resin. The inner face has an almost asymmetrical teardrop design. It could almost be said to be a semi-sphere with a teardrop stretched on the rim (nozzle). There is a hole in the centre and on each capsule you can see the Celest logo and a white mole with the channel lettering. The mouthpiece is integral, diameter 6.6mm at the rim, length 4mm, although the base of the mouthpiece is longer and projected. Thus, overall, it is not a short mouthpiece. Finally, it is protected by a grid whose openings are spiral drops.
The interface is 2Pin 0.78mm and is integrated inside the rim of the capsule, on a translucent plastic plate. Both connectors are gold-plated.
The cable consists of four coiled strands, covered with grey PVC. The plug sleeve is a metal cylinder with 3 circular grooves. In the centre and lengthwise, there is the Celest logo in white ink. The 3.5mm SE connector is protected by a plastic sleeve. The splitter piece is another, smaller metal cylinder with a pronounced indentation at one end. The pin is a metal disc, made of the same material, with an 8 as a hole. The sleeve of the 2Pin 0.78mm connectors retains the cylindrical pattern, with two grooves. It has a small bevel on the edge of the cable. The pins are mounted on translucent plastic and are gold plated. There is a small stroke of red and blue paint to distinguish polarity and channel. There is also white lettering on the sleeve for the same purpose. The cable has over-ear guides.
Interestingly, Kinera specifies the weight of the capsules (5.4g) and the cable (17.2g).
Regardless of the design of the outer face with the angry panda motif, the capsules are ultra-comfortable, as I will explain in the next section. The cable, surprising for its colour, but I have no complaints about it, only the possibility that it could be chosen in balanced connection, something that I consider essential for any model that exceeds 50$.
Adjustment and Ergonomics
Just as the fit of the Gumiho could be a little more critical, the Pandamon is excellent in this respect. They inherit the good interior design of those, but improved. The good angle to the ear canal is maintained and the ergonomics are improved with a more pronounced semi-spherical interior design. The assembly makes for a precise fit and the rotation can increase the freer positioning. Once fitted, though, there is hardly any movement and its position remains stable, with no chance of falling out, well inserted. It is easy to find suitable tips and my use has been with my classic foam-filled silicone L-tips, which I make myself. The light weight helps to increase the comfort, as does the cable, whose guide on the ear does not bother at all.
The profile of the Kinera Celest Pandamon is very similar to that of the BQEYZ Topaz, but without the piezo-electric sparkle. It is a neutral W-profile with a mid-centric tendency, with linear and neutral bass, fairly smooth highs and warm mids. The result is a mix of neutrality, softness and warmth, which does not have too much extension in the high end.
The bass is fairly linear, with a very slight dip towards the mids. Compared to the Gumiho, the emphasis in this area has been softened, respecting the power that this new SPD 2.0™ driver can give, but without forcing it too much. If in that one, it was noticeable that there was a suffering to reproduce this area, it seems that here, Kinera wanted to take care of itself, reducing the tuning to a lighter and more bearable curve. It is just enough to be neutral, providing a pleasant presence, which may be insufficient for those who demand more bass. Admittedly, it falls short for electronic music, although it could be sufficient for other genres.
The improvement is in the reproduction of pure tones. As I say, neutrality has come in handy with this new driver. The LFO reproduction is not perfect, it still has BA traits and sonority, but not as visible. Even the tone at 40Hz has a more realistic and natural timbre. The result is a range with a slight sub-bass presence, without much energy and limited punch, whose impact on the sound is not very great. No one should expect physicality and body on the kick drums. Although I continue to think that their presence is neutral, in that section of the punch, the amount of air moved and the physical sensation, the Pandamon are a point below that middle ground.
The texture is quite smooth, providing a pleasant roughness, subtly pronounced to offer an appealingly sweet, almost creamy, descriptive point. The Pandamon tends to simplify the bass with more complex passages, drawing the lines and layers simply. It is, in these fragments, where the BA sonority is most noticeable, the medium level of resolution and layering it possesses to represent the bass. It doesn’t get lost, because it seems relatively fast and efficient, but it falls short of any more realistic and muscular representation of dynamic drivers. When demanded, the realism is lost and the limitation in depth is obvious, which is noticeable with electronic music. But with other genres, it masks itself much better. Even when the drums are fast and compact, based on the mid-bass, the Pandamon is much more resolute. If the playback is based on sub-bass with heavy, deep, dense and complex lines, these new Kinera suffer the most.
Without a doubt, the mid-centric character of these new IEMS is noticeable. The mids are bathed in warmth and the gently descending lows bring what they lack: physicality, body and forcefulness. Despite this character, the central presence is not blatant, nor intimate, but feels like it occupies a large space. And that’s thanks to the Pandamon’s wide openness. Without a doubt, the open grilles on the outer faces give the scene a great deal of air and the mids clearly benefit. In this way, the warmth and central emphasis does not become invasive, cloying or muddy, but everything is spread out, separated and distanced, to the delight of the listener. This effect of sonic expansion invites you to turn up the volume, allows for a good level of detail to be observed, as well as a more precise musical positioning, removing any sense of intimacy that the mids may possess. It also contributes to a more three-dimensional recreation of voices and instruments. The sense of corporeality is amplified in all dimensions, creating an impression of realistic presence that is very difficult to achieve in headphones at this price point.
On the other hand, the timbre is rather neutral, organic and warm, not too bright and a little sparing in harmonic expansion. Sparkle and vivacity are limited by the soft tuning of the treble. Thus, the mids lose a hint of ornamental richness, but become more silky, pleasant, complacent, even romantic.
The high-mids, the most exalted part of the whole curve, are tuned by moving the peak towards the centre, rather than towards the treble. This keeps sibilance at bay, bringing a point of clarity and projection to specific parts of the mids. There is also a good degree of transparency, although the levels of resolution and definition are not those of an analytical sound. Everything is subtly softened, so as not to get out of that velvety and fluffy, yet effective, feel that shapes the sonority of this range.
The frequency range of the new SPD 2.0™ driver has improved in this aspect, but I still find it a blanket a bit short. If its performance has been neutralised in the lower range, improving performance; in the upper range it feels muted, not too extended and, above all, not very energetic. The treble is too soft, no crispness, hardly any sparkle, no projection, no edge. The high tones are thick, blunt, filed and clipped. But, strangest of all, the sound still seems quite neutral, even realistic, albeit on the dark side. Nothing takes away that feeling of music played on an FM radio, lacking a sense of air.
I miss a more enhanced expressiveness, a higher presence, a higher descriptive level and, above all, more treble in general.
Another of the Kinera Celest Pandamon’s strengths is the sound stage. Thanks to the open grilles on their outer sides, the sound feels extended, extended, three-dimensional, relatively clear, transparent, even clean. The corporeal sensation takes on a higher dimension and the music takes on a more perceptible spatial form. The image is also improved, as is its positioning, thanks to this aspect, as well as the sensation of air and separation. Despite this ethereal and more gaseous impression, the level of detail is average, due to the fact that, in technical aspects, it is not overly resolute, nor defined. It also doesn’t help that the treble level is low, limiting the edge of the notes, which are blunter, rounder and thicker. However, I don’t want to leave the impression that the sound is completely sparse or nuanced. It is the result of an ambivalence between the impression of openness, warmth and softness of the high end.
Does it make sense to compare $59 IEMS with IEMS that are now available for $90? In this case, yes, because their frequency response is very similar. At least up to the treble. I would also like to compare it to put in its place the new SPD 2.0™ driver fitted in these new Celest Pandamon.
I’m not going to go into packaging comparisons, although I will comment that the BQEYZ cable is quite good and comes in three terminations. In terms of construction, I’ll stick with the Topaz, but in terms of comfort, I’m clearly leaning towards the Pandamon. They weigh less, the fit is free, immediate and they fit better. It’s surprising how a seemingly simple shape works so well.
The Kinera are slightly more sensitive and acquire more sound pressure at the same volume.
On single bass, unmixed drums, the Kinera’s come close to the Topaz. But, even in these conditions, the Pandamon are more boomy, with a bit more colour, darker and duller. The Topaz have a more concise punch, with better definition, resolution, greater depth and also more energy and power. In passages with continuous bass lines, it’s where the Kinera’s get lost and blurred, offering a less appropriate, muddier and less layered tracking. In those same conditions, the Topaz are more faithful and reproduce bass with a cleaner, more natural realism, without fuss.
If you look at the graph, we’re talking about a pretty impressive similarity up to almost 6kHz. But the sound is not the same. The level of transparency, definition and resolution of the Topaz is superior to that of the Kinera. The Pandamon sound softer, warmer and more velvety, as if they had a light veil over them. Meanwhile, the BQEYZs are cleaner and more analytical, with more explicit and elevated detail. Their background is more discernible, dark and separate. The Kinera show a cohesion in their sound, which avoids a more obvious separation. There is a subtle point of upper mid-high end excitement in the Topaz, coupled with a freer, finer, more descriptive high end, which allows the notes to be cooler, more defined and tighter, gaining in resolution, clarity, even punch and energy. It is clear that we must continue to talk about the piezo-electric sparkle in its treble. But it is clear that this driver brings a higher technical and analytical level, which adds more visibility, strength, fidelity and finesse to the treble.
Where things are closer is in the scene, which seems more open and three-dimensional in the Kinera, although the Topaz have more air, cleanness and transparency. In the end, the greater separation, better definition and resolution, gives the Topaz more distance between elements, managing to spread the scene. In contrast, the Pandamon’s softness, cohesion, darkness and warmth work against it, comparatively speaking, in compositions where detail and technicality are more important.
In reality, the price gap between the Kinera and the BQEYZ is greater, if the initial price of the Topaz is anything to go by. That they are now available at $90 is a success in terms of quality. I can’t say that the Kinera are their little brothers either, because the sound has some characteristics that make the difference quite obvious (warm vs. analytical). But it is worth the Pandamon’s great comfort, fit, weight, stage and mid-range.
I could say that the sound of the Kinera Celest Pandamon reminds me of earbuds: they don’t usually have a very big bass presence, the sound is eminently open and the treble is usually soft. It’s true that not all earbuds sound like this, I know because I have a good collection, but these are their best virtues. In the same way, I would like to highlight the great soundstage, the three-dimensionality and the vaporousness of the music generated by these Pandamon. And, also, the central range. With a neutral lower range, better timbre and tuning than its predecessor, the sound of the new SPD 2.0™ driver has become cleaner and clearer. It is now capable of generating a fuller range on its own, although the treble is subdued and not very extended. It’s still warm and smooth, organic even, with a good level of detail, though it doesn’t overly lavish on resolution or definition. However, the Pandamon is a unique product, in a relatively affordable price range, thanks to its many virtues, to which we can add great ergonomics, a high level of fit and comfort, a good cable and a… ahem… beastly aesthetic. Undoubtedly, a model to consider for those who don’t like earbuds and are looking for the best features in IEMS, with all that this capsule brings to the table.
Sources Used During the Analysis
- Aune X8 XVIII Magic DAC + EarMen ST-Amp.
- TempoTec Serenade X + iFi Zen Can.
- Earmen Angel.
- TempoTec Variations V6.
- ACMEE MF02s.
- xDuoo XD05 BAL.
- Hidizs AP80 PRO-X Red Copper Limited Edition.
- Aune Flamingo.