Kennerton Wodan

Kennerton (Fischer Audio at that time) headphones introduced me to the world of audiophilia. It was the DBA-02 mkII. Then, when I started to look for my perfect sound, I tried their products a couple of times (they were TBA-04 and Odin), but something just wasn’t right with them, I didn’t like their sounding (it wasn’t awful, it just wasn’t perfect to me).

As the time went on, the company developed, mastered new technologies, improved design and quality. Kennerton headphones have become famous and popular among fans of good sound in different countries around the world. They’re now sold under the brands of some well-known companies. So I was happy to get to know their new model, the Kennerton Wodan.

Build and design

In terms of design, Kennerton are true to themselves: the earcups are made of wood using CNC machine. The headband frame is made of steel. There are plastic caps on earcups and yokes, which is pretty reasonable: when you put the headphones on a flat surface, they only touch that surface with these caps and the edge of the steel frame.

In no way you’ll be able to get a scratch on the lacquered parts of the headphones (nor on any other part), when you put them on the table. You’d better start looking for a new table, if you think about proving it. MythBusters, you’re not welcome here!

Special thanks for the self-adjusting headband. The first Kennerton Odin felt like a birdhouse on my head, tightly squeezing the skull even after adjusting the headband hinges. Wodan sit on the head just by themselves like you were born with them: they don’t press on the top of the head and the lining leather is very soft on your scalp. The ear pads are also made of genuine leather (other than the lining) and have a significant bevel that compensates for the lack of rotating earcups hinges. Moreover, the earpads can be rotated, which also allows you to fit them just a little more comfortable.

The only thing I’d love to be better is the earpads leather. It could be softer, I think. Or the filler could be less dense. Anyway, something has to be done about it.

As always, I don’t have much to say about the design itself – it’s headphones, not a swanky wall tapestry piece. Though the wooden bars make me think more of Hans Giger’s pieces rather than of the Nordic gods, as implied by creators.

By the way, dear Kennerton, if you are reading this: maybe you would consider releasing a limited edition in an expressly similar design? I’d buy it out of principle.

The main thing about these headphones is that they look and feel reliable. When you take them in your hands or put them on your head, it is impossible to accidentally push through any mesh (as in the case of the HD800) or scratch them with your nails.

According to the specifications, the headphones weigh 450 grams (without cable), and according to my scale, it’s 505 grams. To compare with those in the same open-back planar class of about the same cost:

  • Audeze LCD-X – 635 grams;
  • Audeze LCD-2 – 600 grams;
  • HIFIMAN Arya – 404 grams.

That is, the weight is quite acceptable. Due to the comfortable fit and engineered ergonomics, I wore the Wodan for several days for 6-8 hours, and my neck didn’t hurt at all, nor my ears didn’t fall off.

The case is provided. Or, to be more precise, it’s a bag. As you can see, it’s not some useless pretentious box (or even a suitcase, as some other manufacturers provide), but just a functional bag to take your headphones anywhere you go. There are two mesh pockets inside, one for the cable, and the second for the shoulder strap. On the outside of the bag, there are plastic eyelets to attach that strap.

The bag is quite sturdy and thick, so you don’t have to worry about your headphones being safe and sound inside. To be honest, the shoulder strap idea is a bit odd: I can hardly imagine a real scenario, where someone would wear the headphones on the street in this way.

Now to the cable provided.

It’s a black braided cable: 2 meters long, with a 6.3 mm connector. A good one: not too heavy, flexible, and the microphone effect is almost absent.

Measurements

A bit of specifications.

  • Acoustic design: open.
  • Driver type: isodynamic.
  • Reproducible frequencies: 10–50,000 Hz.
  • Impedance: 40 Ohms.
  • Sensitivity: 109 dB.

Of course, with an impedance of 40 Ohms and a sensitivity of 109 dB, the headphones should adapt perfectly to almost any sound source.

Let’s take a look at the measurements:

As we can see, there’s a smooth rise from 20 to 60 Hz, then everything is flat up to 1000 Hz, then there’s a 6 dB dip at 2000 Hz (and that’s okay – there’s a resonance in there due to the physiology of human auditory system), 5000 Hz are raised again, then a smooth decline.

That is, judging by the measurements, the sound should be somewhat saturated with bass and the lower middle range, although, of course, bassheads may leave the chat. Speaking about the neutral setting, then either the bottom is raised by 3-6 dB, or the top is lowered by the same 3-6 dB (it really depends on how you prefer to think about it). However, the tuning is actually pretty close to the neutral and is very comfortable to listen to.

Listening experience

The listening test took place after 48 hours of headphones warming with RME ADI-2 DAC as the sound source. It is worth noting that when switching the acoustic gain from Low to High, there are no changes in the sound dynamics to be noticed (at the same sound volume). The headphones were also connected to the HiBy R3 Pro player with High gain enabled via balanced output (OIDIO Mongrel cable) using XLR-4.4 mm jack adapter. Tell you what: the power of the player was certainly enough for a full-swing sound quality reveal.

The first thing you pay attention to is the number of small ‘actual’ details that the headphones ‘pull’ out of the recording. A couple of examples:

  • Cellar Darling – The Spell — during the verse part (for example, the one from 1:40) you can clearly hear the crackling sound. Just so you know: it’s the rattle of the hurdy gurdy strings.
  • HVOB – Azrael — starting from 1:02, a distortion applied to the rhythmic section can be correctly heard.
  • Michel Camilo and Tomatito — Gnossiennes No 1 — from at least 2:33 there are unnaturally short guitar fades, as they were too abruptly and amateurishly cut. In other words, the recording itself is just poorly mixed.
  • Morphine – Empty Box (from the 1997 album) – I could hear a soft touch of a drumstick at 0:09.

All of the parts remain perceptible even with high timbral saturation of the recording and a quite a number of simultaneously sounding parts. Complex academic orchestral music is also perceptible even when all the participating instruments sound at the same time.

As for the stage, Wodan’s sound is rather spectacularly wide than chamber-precise. The positioning of the instruments is okay, but that’s all. It’s possible to identify who sat where when recording, but the sound delivery here is more about the scale effect, the dimension, rather than about the astonishing sound positioning clarity. Overall, the Wodan tend to slightly ‘inflate’ the virtual sound stage but to blur the imaginary location of the instruments.

Now, to the favorite part, which is bass. I like this bass, just because it’s smoothly lowered within the 60–20 Hz range. There are no ‘flat’ lower frequencies so typical for planar headphones, where these don’t even try to dip around sub-bass range.

I’m so very impressed with this, because such a ‘flat’ low-frequency setting causes too much pressure on the ears, especially when you increase the volume. That is, Wodan headphones don’t produce such an unpleasant effect.

Quantitatively, the bass is slightly elevated relative to the neutral setting, but qualitatively its macrodynamics and texture are still here (almost). Here are some examples:

  • Archive – Nothing Else – from 2:29 onwards, the bass part is fully perceptible from start to finish, and distortion applied also sounds perfectly clearly.
  • Bajka – The Bellman’s Speed – throughout the entire track, the double-bass notes remain distinguishable in their height and aren’t delivered as booming low-frequency thumping.
  • Jeff Beck – Scared For The Children — at 0:15, a low rumble at the right channel is played out quietly but clearly.

Mid-frequency range. The most accurate description would be ‘clear’. Due to the rise within the 500–1000 Hz range, the average frequencies have a quite pleasant weight. There’s something off with the upper section of the mid-frequency range, but it actually sounds unexpectedly bright and with a slight ‘sandy’ hint with a number of recordings. With tracks that are frankly poorly recorded, some sounds may startle you, and you may then want to put on other headphones to check if you actually heard it. Example: Larcimosa – Nach Dem Sturm — at 05:58, there’s an incredibly sharp sound in the left channel (at a frequency of about 3000 Hz), which can’t be masked even by a quantitatively reduced upper part of the middle range. Or listen to the Naïve – Hangman’s Chair: the cymbals sound just as sharp and completely separate from the rest of the musical flow. Fortunately, this kind of effect is only noticeable on a next to zero number of recordings; in the vast majority, Wodan delivers an awesome super-detailed, though comfortable to the hearing mid-frequencies.

Upper-frequency range. It’s set up for you to enjoy your music for a really long time, so the sounding won’t pierce your ears down to the brain (and burn it). To be honest, those ‘ear-piercing frequencies’ look far from the following:

It seems that the pressed down top is a deliberate manufacturer’s decision, since the frequency response of the top Kennerton’s model — the Kennerton Thror — actually looks like this:

However, even with this upper-frequency range setting, the Wodan’s sound feels complete. High-frequency ‘tails’, overhangs and fades are reproduced correctly: with the correct length and without odd ‘metallic’ hints. The thing is that the upper-frequency range is taken to the background. If you listen to the second part of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 (Allegro con grazia) by Teodor Currentzis’ orchestra, then you’ll hear the absolutely impeccable violins – both the timbre is delivered correctly, and the space of the virtual music hall feels real.

And, by the way, the fourth part (Adagio lamentoso) unlocks the Wodan’s overall dynamics.

Summary

I assume that Kennerton tried to create headphones that will simultaneously give a very high resolution, good macrodynamics and a so to say ‘pleasant’ sound to listen to for a long time. They aimed to create headphones that are extremely versatile and physiologically comfortable and don’t alter the sound quality when connected to both portable and stationary sound sources. A couple of bonuses: minimalistic and reliable design, comfortable fit, excellent bag provided and 3 years manufacturer’s warranty.

The only drawback is that subjectively odd integration of the upper section of the mid-frequency range into the overall sound picture, which you only can notice with an extremely small number of recordings.

As for the overall sound setting, you’ll either like it or not — it’s a matter of taste.

Can we consider these Kennerton headphones as success? Yes, absolutely. Of course, there are far, far better headphones on the market, but their price tag is a lot different too. Tell you what: you’ll be able to hear the difference in sound quality only if the price of that other pair is 3 to 5 times higher than the Wodan’s (don’t forget about the corresponding DAC+amplifier which will cost you accordingly), and if you’re actually able the hear it. It also doesn’t mean that you’ll like the difference.

Do I recommend Wodan for purchase? I do. But, as always, try it yourself first.

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