Artisanal. Here's how Kennerton responded to a customer review's comments on their pad stitching: "I know about that problem. Unfortunately, I can't solve it. I'll try and explain. All ear pads are hand-made in our workshop. Sometimes the natural leather behaves unpredictably. There can be creases, irregular thickness, perhaps it doesn't look as aesthetically pleasing as you would like and so on.
"We wanted to solve this by ordering pads from the same Chinese factory which makes them for Deconi and many others. These are not made by hand but automated equipment. They look very good. They'd cost us about half than making our own. But they don't sound very good and there's nothing we can do about that. So we try to improve ours as much as our simple equipment allows.
"I just can't buy automated equipment for $200'000 – $300'000. I don't know why the Chinese pads sound so bad but I can't use them. It's probably because they use pressed leather which is much prettier than natural leather and beautiful to sew. But it's less durable and most importantly, doesn't breathe like natural leather. Accordingly, it sounds very much like faux leather. But I can guarantee one thing: each pair of ours is tested for lack of imbalance on each headphone. You'll laugh but even two completely identical pads made of different pieces of leather can sound completely different and the imbalance between right and left channel can be very large. Also, over time the skins become softer, the seams smoothed and everything gets better; just not perfect."
Special Edition iterations in mixed wood species.
Reviewer John Grandenberg who unlike me already had experience with the brand had this: "Kennerton always felt a bit mysterious to me. Their wood-clad headphones are consistently beautiful yet have a wide range of sound signatures. I don't really think they have any persistent 'house sound'. That's actually refreshing as plenty of headphone makers tend to churn out one incrementally different headphone after another." This explained why Vladimir wanted me to pick the model. Yet how to tell from just raw specs? They predict nothing about any voicing whatsoever.
The flagship planarmagnetic Thror.
"You described your listening preferences and thanks for that. Obviously the models you named are very good but Susvara is in a completely different price segment from us. Still, we would suggest our planar Thror, Thekk or Wodan models for your consideration. Gjallarhorn with its horn-loaded system can surprise and even amaze though that falls into an even lower price segment. Regardless, we'll decide on a model soon."
I was keenly aware that Kennerton's best was still only half a Susvara. Mentioning that HifiMan and the ribbons wasn't snobbery. It was meant to show that rather than fat, warm, heavy and chocolaty, I fancy it light, quick and airy like bubbly. Whatever Russian model looked in that general direction would have my vote. The perfect mail-order bride?
"Okay, now I got your point. We think that Wodan will best suit your preferences. It is more fun, light and quick than for example Thekk. We'll include two pairs of pads for smaller and bigger perforations which changes the sound quite surprisingly and a custom cable. Do you prefer 6.3mm or XLR4? We develop, design and make these custom cables here. I am sure you will appreciate the quality." I asked for balanced.
With Wodan, I'd be hearing Kennerton's latest iteration of their own 8μm thin-film driver for claimed 15-50'000Hz bandwidth, 38Ω load impedance and uncommonly high 106dB sensitivity fit even for weaker mobile devices. That makes Wodan the polar opposite to Susvara's Antichrist of a tough load. Weight would be 480g. Contrast that to the AMT-based model from Heinz Electrodynamic Designs in Berlin. That (cringe, clunk) clocks a massive 718g! For their unique planar driver, Kennerton use five semi-circular neodymium bar magnets per side to create symmetrical drive. The magnets' shape promotes "a more uniform magnetic field and reduced internal reflections and resonances." Warranty is a reassuring 3 years.
"You choose from a variety of woods, stain colors and type of leather for the headband and cushions. There could be different engraving options – your name, favorite band logo etc." That's back at artisanal and happiness to build custom requests.
Here are some samples of going more colorful. British racing green + burgundy? Camel suede plus iridescent blue accents? Or something more hallucinogenic perhaps like stabilized Karelian birch?
Plain natural wood would do me just fine but having options is king.