The Unique Melody x Cayin Amber Pearl IEM is one of the newest additions and was only made available as part of Cayin’s recent release of its 30th Anniversary Amber Pearl DAP and IEM bundle.
The Amber Pearl IEM was developed as part of a collaboration between Unique Melody and Cayin with Cayin themselves leading the way with its custom tuning of the IEM.
The Amber Pearl IEM features a tribrid configuration with 15 drivers per shell (or 30 in total across 2 shells to commemorate Cayin’s 30th Anniversary) with 1 bone conduction driver, 12 balanced armatures, and 2 EST drivers.
The setup is different from Kinera Imperial’s iteration of the LOKI which is a multi-driver monitor that houses a dynamic driver to deal with the lower frequencies compared to the Amber Pearl IEM which uses a combination of the bone conduction driver and balanced armatures.
The Amber Pearl IEM has a gorgeous design that is based on a combination of Cholla Wood of Mexico and orange resin. The result is that each IEM shell appears to be akin to a piece of Amber.
The bass vent on the Amber Pearl IEM is located just under the 2-pin connector and is represented as one single hole as opposed to the LOKI’s 3 holes at the top of each shell.
The height of the IEM shell, from the top to the bottom of the faceplate, is similar between the Amber Pearl IEM and the LOKI, however, the Amber Pearl IEM is much wider and thicker.
The Amber Pearl IEM’s nozzle is made of a thicker metal compared to the LOKI’s titanium nozzle. As a result, the Amber Pearl IEM is slightly heavier at 8.5 grams per shell (17 grams per pair) compared to the LOKI’s 7.5 grams.
The Amber Pearl IEM comes with 2-pin connectors and a custom-made PWA Cable. The PWA Cable is made of 6N OCC Copper and comes in a 4-wire, 26 AWG gauge.
Similar to other top-end PWA Cables, the custom Amber Pearl IEM cable features PWA’s special shielding and 4.4mm termination.
The cable supplied with the Amber Pearl IEM feels much more premium compared to the Kinera Customized Cable although the LOKI’s cable does have much better suppleness and comfort.
During testing, the Amber Pearl IEM was much easier to drive compared to the LOKI making the Amber Pearl IEM much more efficient. This is most likely due to the lack of dynamic drivers and a lower number of ESTs in the Amber Pearl IEM.
The Amber Pearl IEM produces an outstanding level of sound quality with its main focus on midrange and treble clarity.
The sub and mid-bass on the Amber Pearl IEM are not as far forward compared to the LOKI. The sub-bass digs deep from both IEMs however the LOKI has that extra bit of depth and reverb.
The mid-bass on both monitors receives a boost to bring it forward however the Amber Pearl IEM’s mid-bass comes off as pillowy and punchier.
The midrange is where both the LOKI and the Amber Pearl IEM go head-to-head. On the Amber Pearl IEM, the lower midrange is just as far forward compared to the LOKI however the center to upper midrange is presented in a more forward manner on the Amber Pearl IEM.
The Amber Pearl IEM’s timbre is much warmer compared to the LOKI which leans towards the cooler side. Resolution and detail retrieval from both IEMs is simply outstanding where both IEMs come off with similar levels of quality and resolution.
Given the warmer timbre of the Amber Pearl IEM, male and female vocals sound more analog, organic, and natural however they come off as more realistic, smoother, and lusher on the LOKI with its cooler timbre.
Treble is bright on both IEMs with the LOKI achieving more airiness and resolution from ultra-high-end notes such as high hats and cymbals.
The soundstage from the LOKI and Amber Pearl IEM has a 3D-like feeling to it however the LOKI comes off with a much wider and deeper stage. There is a more expansive and holographic feeling from the LOKI. Imaging capabilities are slightly favored by the LOKI as it can take advantage of its more expansive soundstage.
Elysian Acoustic Labs Annihilator 2023
The Elysian Acoustics Annihilator 2023 sits above the DIVA 2023 and is the flagship IEM from Elysian Acoustic Labs and features a tribrid set up of 7 drivers. The breakdown is 1 dynamic driver, 4 balanced armatures, and 2 EST drivers with no bone conduction technology.
The Annihilator 2023 has an impedance rating of 22Ω and a sensitivity of 94 dB. During testing, both the Annihilator 2023 and LOKI required a lot of raw power to drive properly.
The Annihilator 2023 was noticeably more power-hungry where volume levels 7-8 clicks above normal compared to the LOKI’s 4-5 clicks.
The Annihilator 2023 comes kitted with a Liquid Links Martini cable which is made out of palladium-plated silver and gold-plated copper. The cable comes in an 8-wire and 26 AWG gauge which differs from the Kinera Customized Cable that has a 2-wire and 25 AWG gauge.
Furthermore, the Annihilator 2023’s stock cable features Pentaconn Ear connectors as opposed to the LOKI’s 2-pin connector system.
The base model of the Annihilator 2023 has a glitzy and shiny design featuring a metallic, gold-colored faceplate donned with the Elysian Acoustic Labs logo on each side. The shells have a see-through finish allowing one to view all the components inside each IEM shell.
This contrasts with the LOKI’s dark-colored shell. The size of the Annihilator 2023’s shells is slightly larger compared to the LOKI as the Annihilator 2023 is a touch wider. The nozzle length on the LOKI is longer compared to the Annihilator 2023 which is shorter and wider.
Furthermore, the Annihilator 2023 has one large, circular bass vent on each IEM shell just above the cable connector compared to the 3 holes at the top of the LOKI’s shell.
The Annihilator 2023 has more focus on the bass and upper treble frequencies.
The Annihilator 2023’s sub and mid-bass are much more forward compared to the LOKI. Although the sub-bass digs deep on both IEMs there is more layering and improved bass texture on the LOKI which is due to the bone conduction driver.
The mid-bass slams harder with more tactility, punch, and slower decay on the Annihilator 2023 which contrasts to a milder mid-bass boost and focuses on bass quality and texture on the LOKI.
The mid-range differs between the two IEMs as the LOKI has a much more forward center to upper midrange presentation compared to the Annihilator 2023’s which is more linear in the sense that the lower to upper mid-range has an even level of forwardness.
The Annihilator 2023’s timbre is much warmer compared to the LOKI which is due to the more prevalent mid-bass. Quality and resolution of the mid-range take a step up on the LOKI with more finesse and detail retrieval. As a result, male and female vocals sound lusher and smoother from the LOKI.
Treble presentation on both IEMs comes off as bright with excellent extension and detail. The Annihilator 2023’s treble comes off with more forwardness and slightly better extension although both IEMs exhibit the same level of detail and resolution.
The soundstage on the LOKI has more of a holographic presentation compared to the Annihilator 2023 and comes with more width, depth, and height. The soundstage on the LOKI spreads diagonally giving it a more spherical shape compared to the Annihilator 2023 which is more linear.
As a result, there are superior imaging capabilities with better placement and accuracy on the LOKI as there is much more space to work with.
Empire Ears ODIN
The legendary Empire Ears Odin has an impressive set of 11 drivers; 2 dynamic drivers (Weapon 9+), 5 balanced armatures, and 4 electrostatic drivers.
The Odin lacks the LOKI’s additional bone conduction driver. It also has a lower impedance of 3Ω and sensitivity rating of 108dB @1KHz making it much easier to drive compared to the LOKI.
The Odin comes supplied with a “Stormbreaker” cable which is based on a PWA 1960s cable. The Stormbreaker is a 2-wire UP OCC Copper Litz cable with variable gauging for 24 AWG and 26 AWG which is finished in a black fabric jacket similar to that of the Kinera Customized Cable.
However, the jacket on the Stormbreaker is much thinner and not as supple as the Kinera Customized Cable’s jacket.
The Empire Ears Odin shells are constructed from a jet-black resin shell and are finished with a unique Bifröst faceplate depicting the rainbow bridge between Midgard and Asgard which is part of Norse mythology.
This gives the Odin its distinct flair and colorful theme which contrasts to the LOKI’s simple yet elegant appearance.
The size of the Odin’s shells is smaller and lighter than those of the LOKI which is due to the absence of the bone conduction driver. The Odin has 3 small vents at the top of the IEM shell which is similar to the positioning of the LOKI’s vents but with smaller diameters for each hole.
The Odin and LOKI share similarities in the overall tuning where there is a clear emphasis on the sub-bass and centre to upper midrange.
Within the LOKI, there is more depth and reverb to the sub-bass when compared to the Odin. The Odin’s sub-bass digs deep however there is a noticeable additional impact and tactility from the bone conduction and dynamic driver of the LOKI which adds more depth and layering to the ultra-low frequencies.
This results in better bass texture and resolution in both the sub and mid-bass. The mid-bass on the LOKI is slightly more forward compared to the Odin.
The Odin has a much more forward upper mid-range compared to the LOKI. Both IEMs have similarities in the lower and center mid-range as they are presented in a similar forward manner whilst sitting just behind the upper midrange.
Both IEMs share a similar “cool” timbre with no significant difference. The LOKI can tease out more detail from the midrange and present it in a higher level of detail and resolution. Instrumentals and vocals sound more realistic, smoother, and lusher.
The treble presentation on the LOKI is brighter with more extension and increased levels of detail. The Odin’s treble is bright however it is not as crisp as the LOKI. Furthermore, the LOKI provides more airiness and definition to treble notes enabling the listener to pick out more detail in the upper regions.
The soundstage on the Odin is wide and tall however the LOKI produces a more holographic and 3D-esque stage. The LOKI has a more spherical stage whereas the Odin has a more oval-shaped stage. As a result, there is better placement and accuracy of instruments across the stage which leads to superior imaging capabilities on the LOKI.
The Kinera Imperial LOKI is a sonically exquisite masterpiece and one that produces a euphoric and captivating listening experience.
Kinera’s first shot at a multi-kilo-buck flagship level IEM delivers a lush and hyper-detailed mid-range and excellent bone conduction implementation.
This is one of those monitors that makes you dig out your old nostalgic tracks just to see what they sound like at this level of quality.
There is a lot to love about the tuning and design options so, despite this being technically a flagship ‘freshman’ offering, it feels completely at home sitting beside a lot of the high-end monitor competition out there in 2023.
Kinera Imperial Loki Technical Specifications
Frequency response: 20hz – 50khz
Cable length: 1.2m
Pin type: 2-pin connector
Plug type: 3.5mm, 4.4mm
Driver unit(s): 1 dynamic driver + 6 balanced armature drivers+ 4 EST drivers + 1 bone conduction driver