I have recently begun reviving my IEM collection due to the overwhelming abundance of budget IEMs that have flooded the market. My favorite budget IEMs to date have been the CCA CRA and the Moondrop Chu. Each having been purchased right around $20. I have been blown away at the sound quality they have provided for just $20. Will the Kiwi Ears Cadenza dethrone them as the best budget IEMs? Let’s find out.
Kiwi Ears Cadenza arrived the same day in typical Amazon fashion. What truly lured me in was that the Kiwi Ears Cadenza were on sale for $29.99. So, I figured, why not give them a shot? Extremely excited to hear what these could do, I opened up the package which revealed a tidy blue box that stated, “Live the music.” That sounds like my kind of life.
Proceeding to slide the inner box through I was met with the company labeled black box. Nice touch. A feeling reminiscent of Christmas morning overwhelmed me as I was anxious to open the final box to reveal the shiny gems that awaited.
There they were. Shiny marbled purple wonders. I hoped they would sound as beautiful as they looked.
The cables were fantastic. Connectors were snug into the sockets. I was very happy with this factory detachable cable. Win!
Suddenly, a very disappointing realization. My heart sank as I could see that there was a hodgepodge selection of silicone ear tips. Somehow, mine was missing ear tips, leaving many incomplete pairs.
Was I going to invest wasted time having to deal with returning these? What a major hassle for $29.99 IEMs.
Anyhow, with severe disappointment in my heart I proceeded to connect the Kiwi Ears Cadenza to a SanDisk Clip portable audio player. I was met with a full, fun presentation. Also, full bass! The Moondrop Chu had always lacked full bass. I was content in the past having the lack of bass when everything else more than made up for it. Instantly I was aware that this was no ordinary budget IEM. I was onto something worth much more than it costs. This made me feel a little better.
Next, I proceeded to one of my computer setups to listen with a headphone amplifier. The amplifier that happened to be hooked up at the time is my Schiit Jotunheim 2. I knew that this meant that a slight hiss would likely be introduced into quiet passages of the music as the Jotunheim 2 is not an IEM friendly amplifier. However, listening beyond audible hiss the overall all around reliable performer and upfront presentation that this amplifier provides would reveal much. Plus, later I would go over to my office system to hear how Kiwi Ears Cadenza sound on higher end gear.
Firing up the album Songs From A Secret Garden, I was immediately drawn to the emotional reproduction of the violin. Blissful! Some instruments are extremely difficult to reproduce as resonant properties of the instruments are often lost. When the violin wept, so did my heart. In my best Jedi Knight hand gesture I waved to my Kiwi Ears Cadenza and said aloud, “These are the violins emotional resonances you have been listening for.”
At this point I have already become convinced that the Kiwi Ears Cadenza are the budget IEM kings. They have defeated both my Moondrop Chu and my CCA CRA. I don’t need to listen any further. However, I did promise to give them a listen on higher end gear. So, off to the office system we go.
Here we have a Questyle CMA Twelve DAC/Amplifier. The amplifier section in the Twelve is amazing. It has consistently brought out the most performance out of every single headphone I own compared to any other amplifier, of course with the exception of my tube amplifiers.
With the Twelve there was no hiss from Kiwi Ears Cadenza as they were dead silent during quiet passages. I plugged in all three IEMs for a final comparison and it has solidified my conviction that the Kiwi Ears Cadenza is the absolute budget IEM king. Technical performance was improved slightly over the other two. The overall tonality is outstanding. Reproduced clarity is good. The reproduction of hard to reproduce instruments such as violin, french horn, trombone is excellent. In fact, I will no longer be recommending my usual go to full-size headphone/DAC/amplifier setups to those on extreme budgets. This Kiwi Ears Cadenza connected to ones phone or laptop would fit the bill just fine at a fraction of the cost.