The Third In Discord
- 3 pairs of interchangeable nozzles, three different tunings.
- Cable with interchangeable connectors.
- Construction and level of packaging.
- Good fit and better isolation.
- Airy soundstage, with very good separation and three-dimensional feel.
- Precise, agile, fast sound with great recovery and resolution.
- The idea of the connectors, as well as the name and the plate where the mouthpieces are stored, reminds me dangerously of another famous model.
- The «Reference» and «Transparency» tunings are similar. The «Atmospheric Immersion» tuning is more different. I would have preferred a tuning in between or the «Reference» tuning to pass through the middle of the other two.
- None of the tunings achieve as full a sound as the competition.
Link to the Store
TRN is a well-known Chinese brand with a wide range of products: from very affordable IEMS to several hundred dollars. They also design TWS headphones, cables and other audio accessories. Actually, I had only tried their cables in particular because of the good value for money. But with the war of the planar IEMS, I became interested in the Kirin model that I am now going to review. As a novelty, apart from its 14.5mm flat magnetic driver, the Kirin uses a replaceable mouthpiece system (3) to fine-tune its sound. They also add an 8-core silver-plated OFC cable with interchangeable connectors (SE 3.5mm, BAL 2.5mm and 4.4mm). In addition, they use a CNC-machined magnesium alloy capsule. These and other things, as well as their sound, will be extensively detailed in this review.
- Driver Type: 14.5mm Planar Magnetic
- Frequency Response: 7Hz-40kHz
- Sensitivity: 106dB
- Impedance: 32Ω
- Jack Connector: interchangeable SE 3.5mm, BAL 2.5mm, BAL 4.4mm.
- Capsule Connection Type: 2Pin 0.78mm.
- Product Weight: 15g + 26g (earphone + cable)
- Cable length: 1.2m approx.
The TRN Kirin comes in a black box with copper-coloured text. The dimensions are 202x139x45mm. On the main side, the model name and a description in English and Chinese can be seen on the top left. The rest of the front cover is an enlargement of part of the outer face of the Kirin capsule. On the back is an exploded view of the capsule and the brand name. With the outer cardboard removed, a black textured box is visible, with the brand’s logo inscribed in the centre. The flap is magnetised and opens like a chest. Inside, on the left side you can see the capsules embedded in a thick black foam mould, lined with dark cardboard. On the right side is a circular transport box. Underneath this first layer, there are more accessories, such as the cable and documentation. Inside the transport box are several sets of tips. To sum up:
- The two TRN Kirin capsules.
- 8-strand silver-plated OFC cable and 3 interchangeable connectors SE 3.5mm, BAL 2.5mm, BAL 4.4mm.
- 3 sets of black silicone tips, sizes SxMxL.
- 3 sets of white silicone tips, sizes SxMxL.
- 1 set of grey foam tips, size medium.
- A metal plate with 3 pairs of threads to hold the interchangeable tips.
- 1 3.5mm to 6.3mm SE adapter.
- Instruction manual.
- Warranty card.
- Card with QR and web access.
The capsules are protected by a plastic band attached to the outside of the capsule. Each audio connector comes with a custom-made protective sleeve. All tips and cable come in individual sealed pouches, as well as the mouthpiece plate. You can tell that a lot of care has been taken to protect the entire product. The feel is of a good quality product, but the tips look pretty standard and there is only one size of foam tips. On the other hand, I would have liked an extra set of o-rings for the mouthpieces, because they seem very fragile. The transport box is rigid, the typical round case with rubber for the union of both sides.
Overall, the presentation, the contents and the accessories are up to the price and the level of the product.
Construction and Design
The TRN Kirin has many details in its construction and design. I am going to focus more on these aspects than on an in-depth description of the whole assembly, because it would be too long.
The capsules are made of magnesium alloy and CNC machined. TRN’s design aims to reduce harmonic resonance. The outer face has a golden rim in the shape of a right-angled triangle, the corners of which have been deeply rounded, so much so that even the sides are not flat. The capsules are black and on the inside of this rim there is a grid with holes repeating this rounded triangular shape. The inner side is smooth, but micro-sanded. You can see the division of the external-internal face. Near the 2PIN 0.78mm connector you can read the full model name in white letters. The connector is external, protruding, oval and made of transparent plastic, except for the connections, which are gold-plated. Near the edge are three ventilation slots. On the way to the nozzles there is white lettering to identify the channel and another small hole near the base of the nozzles. The mouthpieces are interchangeable, there are three: «Transparency» (with black O-ring), «Reference» (with green O-ring, they are the default ones) and «Atmospheric Immersion» (with red O-ring). These o-rings are weak and I have the feeling that they are not very durable, as they deform quite a lot when tightened, as if they were too elastic and not very rigid. On the other hand, the nozzles have different heights. The names are the same as other filters from another well-known brand, as is the storage plate. The system used for anchoring the different pegs is also very similar, although not exactly the same. This system is practical, works well and has a good resistance to disengage when the plug is removed from a source.
Another point to note with the cable is the special design of the 2Pin connector. The sockets have oval male sockets, inside of which are the two 0.78mm gold-plated holes. The cable has oval female sockets with the two gold-plated pins inside. This shape makes the sleeve very well integrated into the capsule-cable assembly, but limits the use of external cables. However, the quality of the 8-strand silver-plated OFC cable does not seem to require replacement.
In general, the shape of the capsules is nice, it is a bit thick and protrudes a bit from the ears, although this may depend on the mouthpieces used, due to their size, the insertion may be larger or smaller.
The build quality is very good and although they are made of metal, they are light.
The cable has a very good finish, is smooth and does not tangle easily. The pin exchange system is not bad, although I wouldn’t be in favour of changing the pins every few seconds. The cable-capsule integration is very good, but the system adopted limits the use of an alternative and superior cable. Although, to tell the truth, it is not a unique design either, there are other brands that use similar connectors. However, it is clear that it is not the most universal of the 2Pin connections.
Adjustment and Ergonomics
As already mentioned, the Kirin has 3 pairs of interchangeable mouthpieces of different lengths. This can influence the fit and ergonomics. In my case, what it does is to get the ear tips more or less close to the pinna, but it doesn’t interfere with comfort, fit or isolation. Although it is true that most of the time I have been testing the «Atmospheric Immersion» mouthpieces, which are the longest and are the ones that achieve the greatest separation of the capsules with respect to the pinna. In this way, the sensation is as if the IEMS were floating, with the only contact of the tips with the ears. Due to my particular morphology, in this case I also have to use my extra-large tips filled with homemade foam, and both the comfort and the isolation achieved is very high. The fit is simple, firm, there is no feeling of weight in the ears and the cable slides smoothly over the ear. I can’t say the fit is perfect because it would require trying all the IEMS I have again, but it is very good, excellent. I have used it for fast walking and the fit is durable, even in these more demanding conditions.
The profile of the Kirin NRTs could be said to be V-shaped, with more (and typical) elevation in the mid-highs than in the lows. This elevation can be controlled by the filters. Although graphically there is hardly any difference between the «Reference» and «Transparency» filters, the change to «Atmospheric Immersion» is much more noticeable. Although it is true that at the beginning of the emancipated mid-highs I did agree with this tuning, I am increasingly considering a «copy-paste» of those first curves, with the consequent boredom. But let’s take it one step at a time. I find that there is a lot of difference between the «Atmospheric Immersion» filter and the other two which are very much the same. I would have preferred something in between. I find the «Atmospheric Immersion» filter the most suitable for my preferences, but I would have liked something in between and a smoothing from 2kHz onwards, without so many changes. In this way, I could comment that I find some comparative darkness or less brightness with such a tuning, hence I miss another tuning from the mids onwards. As for the bass, it has its high point in the transition from sub-bass to bass and I would have preferred more depth. But it should be noted that the sonority at this point is very good and I am satisfied with it. In the first half of the high end, it starts with that critical punch in the 5khz to come down with speed. In general, it is not the profile that I like the most and I think that the filters are unbalanced between them. As it is easy to generate new models and sell them as accessories, I would like something between the «Atmospheric Immersion» filter and the «Reference», but smoother in those high-mids.
On the other hand, the use of nozzles can be a very good way to attract more people to a model. But, in the end, they tend to stay in one tuning, because the change is always a delicate one. As I say, I find the «Reference» filter brilliant and suitable for short, intense listening. But it is the «Atmospheric Immersion» filter that is the default setting on the Kirin and with which I have described the sound.
Finally, the TRN Kirin needs a good voltage delivery to move at the level of other IEMS in my collection. While not as hard to move as the Tin HiFi P2s, they need more volume than the LetShuoer S12s.
As always, the graphics are one thing, the final sound is another. In this case, it is no exception either. As I said before, I would have preferred more elevation at the low end, but both the sonority and the bass performance are quite satisfactory. I can’t hide the fact that I get this sensation with the «Atmospheric Immersion» filter, which gives more bass presence due to the relative lowering of the mid-highs. The feeling of planar bass helps a lot both in the tone obtained and in the naturalness of its conception. While it doesn’t emit as much air or pressure as a dynamic driver, it does achieve a very realistic and, perhaps, more relaxed level of punch in this respect, something that gives it an advantage in relation to longer listening, which keeps our eardrums at a lower pressure.
In the pure tone test it feels that frequencies below 40Hz are light, this being the entry point to the real bass sound. The reproduction, despite its lightness, seems natural and I have little or nothing to complain about the planar bass. On the contrary, it has many virtues. In addition to the smaller amount of air, the sonority and tone is adequate, it has forcefulness and punch, combined with great technical ability and agility. The hits are precise, with great recovery, without aftertaste. The execution is clean, very well defined, fast, compact and round. But after playing through most of the test songs I use for bass, I have noticed a different sonority to what I am used to. The bass seems a bit duller, more continuous, with a smoother and more linear texture, finally less sensory. There is not much roughness and it is not as descriptive as other dynamic IEMS. It is fast and able to layer well, to reproduce complex bass lines, but it is not juicy, not lively. It is a more academic bass, well-stylised, elegant, suitable for hi-fi. But it lacks a more visceral and realistic component. You can’t have everything. But I can say that the cleanness of the bass facilitates a very pleasant and unobtrusive transition to the midrange.
The planar bass benefits the definition and the immobility of the frequencies. So they remain fairly anchored to their fundamental, which gives them a greater degree of precision and purity in their reproduction. This makes the mids much more bass-free, despite a tuning that is not so focused on the sub-bass, a nature that aids a more uncluttered transition than usual. This is not as necessary in this case and so you can play around with the tuning a bit more to find a different sound. This is not the case and none of the Kirin’s tunings take advantage of this.
I insist again on the curve of the «Atmospheric Immersion» nozzle. It is true that I find some opacity, due to the blocking of the treble, but I wouldn’t try to label the sound as dark, although relaxed would be a more appropriate word. With a nuanced brightness and an uneven second half, the first part of the midrange works much better, giving body, thickness and more lushness to the male vocals and instruments based in that range. There is a peak at 2kHz that makes guitars and female vocals stand out and could be a good IEM for rock and metal, and the high end can be tuned at will, thanks to the other nozzles, to gain more clarity and brightness.
Apart from the tuning, what I like most is the musicality of the set. The sound is pleasant, with good precision, good level of detail (as far as the profile allows) and with good resolution. Possibly, all these sensations are the Kirin’s best virtues, the curve is not the best, but its sonic capabilities are undeniable. Hence, it is possible to think that the potential of this driver is great, but in other conditions. There are models with a similar curve in the midrange, such as the LZ A2 Pro, which perform much worse due to the quality of their driver. Can filters improve the situation? Well, it depends on personal taste. No, in my case. You gain in brightness, openness, luminosity, but you lose in naturalness and a more realistic timbre. There is also more sibilance and that high part becomes more penetrating and unpleasant to my ears. I would have liked a filter halfway between the three curves. TRN still has time to improve this model and balance the upper midrange.
The treble can go from inoffensive («Atmospheric Immersion») to suffocating («Transparency»), in its initial phase. And with no tuning I get an extension that suits my preferences. The first peak in all tunings and the consequent drop in control, in this case double, means that there is a lost part in the upper range. This results in a drier timbre in the «Atmospheric Immersion» filter and a more forced timbre in the «Transparency» filter. Again, I think that the virtues of the driver are neglected in an irregular tuning, especially in the upper range. Even more so, if you take into account the splash in the air range.
Returning to the «Atmospheric Immersion» base filter, the treble is restrained, soft and feels clipped in its extension. In this way they are relaxed, but without sparkle or brilliance. This makes them unrealistic in their reproduction and timbre, although they do enhance the musicality. The result is a certain analogue sound, like a false warmth.
I am not going to talk about the good virtues of the driver for the reproduction of this range in particular. But, on this occasion, the treble tuning does not help to better represent its value and reminds me of classic V-models, with some nuances.
Possibly the best virtues of this model and what, in my humble opinion, makes them an IEMS to remember, are the virtues of scene and separation. It is clear that the vents seem to work. And the sense of openness that is achieved is high. The sound comes across as really oxygenated, airy, separated and ethereal. There is a good sensation out of the head, but not dizzying. Holography is good, and the vaporous feel of the sound and detail contribute to a wide scene, where planes are separated, but none are too close or too far apart. This produces a pleasant, musical feel. The music is not too over or too far away, which also makes it more real, less forced. The distribution is adequate, the details become splashy and easy to locate among so much space. In this sense, what limits micro detail or the smallest nuances is the tuning, which can focus or stifle them. This is a pity.
As I say, the separation is very good, the representation is large, almost frontally round, which generates a more spherical than oval image, thanks to the three-dimensionality of the sound.
On the other hand, despite the size, neither the width nor the depth is very large, hence the feeling of a circular scene, due to a good height.
Finally, the feeling of musical immersion obtained with the «Atmospheric Immersion» filter is commendable. As I say, possibly the strongest point of a potentially promising model.
The comparison is made using the «Atmospheric Immersion» filter on the TRN Kirin.
The big planar reference I own are the S12s, I will leave the Tin HiFi P2s out of this new batch of IEMS with this type of drivers. Physically, there are big differences between the Kirin and the S12, with the Letshuoer being smaller. Thus, they fit much better in the pinna, although the buoyancy of the Kirin may be an advantage on those occasions when the contact of the IEMS with the outer parts of the ears is critical.
The metal construction of both models is superior and despite the modularity of the TRN cable, I prefer the cable of the S12, although I have already expressed my opinion that it can be improved in terms of sound. I have not tried another cable with the TRNs because of their more exclusive connection. Although it is possible to connect other superior cables, it doesn’t look good at all.
In terms of accessories, there are more sets of tips with the S12 and I prefer the non-rigid carrying case.
As far as sound is concerned the differences are obvious. Yes the S12s have a frequency response that I would draw as preferred, if I had my say, albeit with slight tweaks. The Kirins have peaks and valleys in more critical areas. First, I prefer the higher, more sub-bass focused bass response of the S12s. Second, I like the linearity and smoothness of the S12’s mid-highs. Third, I love the S12’s treble extension. The only thing I can hold against them is the Kirin’s greater sense of air and spaciousness. Despite a less coherent tuning in my opinion, there is a feeling of greater openness, vaporousness and three-dimensionality in the Kirin.
In the low end the Kirins are more concrete and restrained. The greater bass presence in the S12s floods the stage and fills a hollow space in the NRTs. In this sense the sound is denser and deeper in the S12s. Only the Kirins seem more agile, quicker and more precise, which is good for better fidelity at times. But I prefer the darker bass colour of the S12s, as well as having more texture and power, something that makes them more exciting, if I may be allowed that attribute among planar basses. I find a more coloured timbre in the TRN bass, as well as being thinner. While the S12’s punch is wider and broader, covering a higher frequency spectrum and emphasised at a lower hertz point, which gives it a much more appreciable realism and naturalness. Listening to electronic music with the S12 is not the same as with the Kirin. With the latter, comparatively speaking, I seem to be missing «something». That gives an idea of the greater fullness of the lower range of the S12s.
If, for the moment, we skip the mid-range, something very similar happens in the treble. The linearity of the S12s is stellar, and all this without ever tiring or offering a penetrating sensation. The sound is denser in the treble as well. The TRN’s valley tuning does not reflect the fidelity in the way that the S12’s do. The nature of the treble is different and I think that the Letshuoer reflects it more closely to reality, to a more natural sound. Their timbre is fuller, the extension is longer and there is no clipping or forced extension, as with the TRN filters.
In the mid-range, somehow, I find a little more precision in the TRNs, as if they were a point finer or more resolute. The S12s are more melodious and smooth, but also denser, as in the rest of the range. The vocals are finer in the Kirin, a mixture of their tuning and a more analytical character, perhaps. Comparatively, I think the timbre is more accurate on the S12s. That finesse in the Kirin that thins the male voices and exalts the female ones, is far from the mental reality I have conceived.
The Kirins are likely to be sharper and more airy, to have a point of better definition, something I do miss in the S12s, to have better resolving power. The TRNs seem to have a bit more of that, more agility and finesse. The more airy scene and holographic feel is also a point of superiority on the Kirin. However, all this is not enough to convince me that they are better, overall, than the S12.
There is a lot to discover in this new batch of IEMS with planar drivers. And it seems that it is being a vein to be exploited, both by economic brands, as well as by others of a higher range. And we are already seeing how many of these are bringing out models of varying prices. The battle is expected to be tough, although from a hobbyist’s point of view, it will be exciting. This technology is not new to IEMS, but now it seems to have come of age.
TRN wanted to get into the game by offering something different, a cable with 3 connectors, 3 different pairs of mouthpieces for different profiles and a capsule with more vents. All this at a lower price than the competition. It achieves some advantages. But, in my opinion, it fails where the most direct competition had an advantage: in tuning. It is clear that copying or improving a profile with a similar one could be a disappointment and in this sense I give TRN a point in favour of its boldness. But within this boldness, it is still a curve that is close to a classic V, with excited mid-highs, treble clipping and limited in the lower frequencies. While the product is impeccable in construction, the soundstage, definition, resolution and finesse has been improved, in the end, put to my ears, I cannot fully enjoy it, knowing that it is a remarkable product. In the end, this is my personal opinion.
Sources Used During the Analysis
- S.M.S.L Sanskrit 10th MKII + iFi ZEN CAN.
- Hidizs AP80 PRO-X.
- HiBy R3 Pro.
- Earmen Colibri.
- Earmen Sparrow.
- xDuoo Link2 BAL.
- Tempotec Sonata E44.
- Tempotec V1-A + Hidizs DH80S.
- Hidizs S9 Pro.
- ACMEE MF02s.