Country of Origin



Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Main system: Sources: Retina 5K 27" iMac (4GHz quad-core with Turbo, 32GB RAM, 3TB FusionDrive, OSX Yosemite. iTunes 14.4), PureMusic 3.02, Audirvana 3, Qobuz, Tidal; Denafrips Terminator+ clock-sync'd to Soundaware D300Ref SD transport/USB reclocker; Preamplifier: Vinnie Rossi L2 Signature with Elrog ER50; Headamps: Questyle CMA-800r monos; Phones: HifiMan Susvara on Forza Audio Lab dual XLR cabling
Desktop system: Source: HP Z230 work station with Win7/64; USB bridge: Audiobyte Hydra X+; DAC: Questyle CAS192 or Soundaware A1Pro; Headamp: Kinki Studio Vision THR-1 or Soundaware A1Pro; Phones: Audeze LCD-XC on Forza Audio Lab dual LR cabling

Upstairs headfi system: Source: Soundaware A280; Integrated amplifier: Schiit Jotunheim R, Bakoon AMP-13R; Headphones: Raal-Requisite SR1a, Final Sonorous X, Audeze LCD-2

Review component retail: €2'222

Yevgeny Mravinsky. St. Petersburg's Philharmonic. Vladimir Horowitz. Sergei Rachmaninoff. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Modest Mussorgsky. Alexander Scriabin. Alfred Schnittke. Anna Netrebko. Russia has given the music-loving public great performances, conductors and composers.

Today we ask whether for contemporary music lovers hip to headfi, St. Petersburg's Kennerton belong on the same list. They came out to the European public at Berlin's 2011 IFA Consumer Electronics show. They specialize in wood-cupped headphones with proprietary drivers. They have their own 80mm multi-layer planarmagnetic with metalized polyimide membrane and push/pull neodymium motor; and a graphene-over-mylar 50mm dynamic. There are lamb-skin cushions, self-adjustable headbands and up to 116dB (!) sensitivities.

They work in wood species from cherry to padauk, from purple heart to pear, bog oak, birch, bubinga and palisander. They make detachable custom cables, a headphone amp and a wooden stand. Current pricing spans from €299 to €3'190 across nine circumaural models plus three in-ear buds from €140 to €290. That's quite the bumper crop particularly when like me, you haven't paid much recent attention to Kennerton as Fischer Audio's upscale division. From Russia with love like the spy who knew me? Kennerton have already participated in MassDrop, even authored a special model for Hawaiian e-tailer Walter Liedermann under his LSA brand so are very industrious.

[Click on right image for an overview video.]

Click on image to see this video on how a pair of Vali are assembled beginning to end.

To lay out my cards after two decades on this beat, I wrote Vladimir Milashin that my favorite headphones in our current collection are Raal-Requisite's SR-1a followed by HifiMan's Susvara; that I now find our Audeze LCD-2 and LCD-XC, even Final's D8000 too colored and Final's Sonorous X too heavy; and no longer listen to Sennheiser's HD800, Oppo planars, Beyerdynamic's T1, Audio Technica, sundry MrSpeakers or any Grado at all. Armed with that intel, he could pick the ally that would be most up my alley.

Might it be the very unusual concept of horn-loaded and closed-back Gjallarhorn above? For speed, dynamics and micro resolution from high sensitivity, it seemed tailor-made for my tastes. But what did I know? I'd never even heard of a horn-loaded headphone before, never mind listened to one. What should one expect? How could a horn apply the same amplification factor across the entire bandwidth and remain shallow enough to fit? Was it really a short inverted wave guide? And what about those twin ports? How did they factor into the equation? Questions. They mean opportunities for learning. No matter what love Vladimir would send from Russia, I felt ready. After all, curiosity keeps this cat alive.

Without it, why do we keep listening to different things? We might as well call it a day, close the book and stop to read, learn and have new experiences. On second thought, not.