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Antlion Kimura Solo

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Hardware
Developer: Antlion Audio


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Hardware Review - 'Antlion Kimura Solo'

by Cody Medellin on March 24, 2023 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

Transform any pair of MMCX or 2-pin IEMs into the ultimate in-ear headset. The hand crafted solid resin design meets our signature dynamic driver, creating the optimal chamber for audio clarity and snappy bass.

Buy Antlion Kimura Solo

In-ear monitors, or IEMs, are replacing headphones as the preferred way to listen to personal audio. Popularized by live stage musicians, they are coveted for canceling noise in a passive way rather than active, to give listeners a better chance of hearing every little sound coming from the audio source without much distraction. It has gone so far that competitive gamers and those aspiring to reach that level are using them to better isolate sounds in a firefight. Antlion Audio, makers of the popular ModMic solution, wanted to get in on that market by supplying its own mic solution and IEMs that would be more affordable. Antlion dubbed it the Kimura line, and we were sent a pair of Kimura Solo IEMs for review.

First, a little disclaimer here. We don't normally cover audio equipment of any sort, and we wouldn't mind continuing to do so in the future, so we're not going to have too many other products to use as reference points. We're also not skilled enough to get into the minutiae of audio specs and we aren't any sort of audiophiles. The best we can do is evaluate these from the standpoint of a common player without much audio background.

We'll start off with the Kimura Microphone Cable, which goes for $60. Just like the ModMic, the cable can fit into any IEMs that use either the single plug or dual plugs, but you'd have to specify which one you want because there isn't an of adapter to make it universal. The cables are fairly thin but seem durable enough, while the upper portions that go around the ear are more rigid, which is good enough to keep the mic in place. The mic portion fits around the right ear, and while the mic holds its shape rather well, it is a shame that it can't also be used for the left ear. The cable is split into distinct microphone and headphone plugs of the standard 3.5" variety, though the kit comes with an adapter for use in most game controllers.

The audio that comes from the mic is quite impressive. We tested this part using some voice-centric apps for both work and play, including Discord, Google Meet, and Slack. In all instances, your voice comes through cleanly with no hissing, according to others. You can place the mic a good distance from your face, and it doesn't lose volume. Considering how small the mic is, it never feels like it's in your way, nor does it feel heavy compared to when you're just using the IEMs by themselves.

The one drawback with the mic comes from its sensitivity. During a Discord test, someone else was speaking at a decent distance from the mic and a keyboard was being used, both of which were heard loud and clear. Having the microphone close to the face meant that any brushes were heard clearly, and the only way to mute the mic is to manually mute it from either your console or PC settings. You can try to make sure you're in a quiet place or that no one else on the call is bothered by the ancillary noise, but that's a pretty big ask compared to a traditional headset.

The other half of the Kimura Solo are the IEMs, and this is where things get interesting. Made of what looks like a red resin with gold-colored accents, the IEMs are single-driver devices that are fit snugly in your ear canal to act as passive noise-canceling devices. The box gives you three different sizes of silicone tip pairs as well as memory foam ones that do a pretty good job of sealing up most of the outside audio while also preventing ear fatigue; those who aren't comfortable with earbuds will feel pain eventually, though. All of this can be packed away in a small hardshell carrying case, which is nice if you have big pockets but also a pain because it means having to constantly bend the mic arm to fit in the case.

Aside from any discomfort, one thing you'll have to deal with is how you sound to yourself when speaking. The best way to describe it is to start talking while having your ears plugged up. The bass in your voice deepens to the point where it sounds like you're underwater, and if you talk often, it means that you sound like a wall of constant bass. Some may be fine with this, while others can be bothered enough that it stops the headset from being viable.

When it comes to the performance of the IEMs, it depends greatly on what you're using them for. Competitive gamers are most likely using them for voice and sound effects, which led us to use the aforementioned chat programs for testing and playing some Halo Infinite and Fortnite. The voices came in perfectly with no muffling when in a private Slack call or a bigger Google Meet presentation. Even those with subpar microphones came through better than they would have on basic desktop speakers or even some gaming headsets that aren't being sweetened up by an equalizer.

However, sound effects show off what a decent pair of IEMs can do. Although these are transmitting in basic stereo, we were able to get a better idea of where a firefight was occurring or when someone was approaching. The actual effects came in cleanly, but they were also good enough to pick up on some sound effects we never realized were there. For example, we never realized that there's a sound that plays in Fortnite when you're sprinting and your stamina meter is getting close to empty. In this respect, it's revelatory and tempting enough to make the switch to these versus a regular headset or even speakers if you want to play slightly above a casual level.

While the IEMs work great for both voice and sound effects, it doesn't work quite so well for music. We tested this with in-game music, Apple Music, and YouTube playing songs that encompass a few genres. If you tend to listen to hip-hip, EDM, or anything else that's bass-heavy, you'll be fine since these accentuate that part of the sound spectrum rather well. Don't expect to be able to discern between several different bass signatures that play almost simultaneously, but they provide enough punch to make the songs sound nice. Go for something more treble-heavy, and things don't sound so good because the highs sound tinny and border on shrill, depending on what's playing. It's not entirely unpleasant, but there are some standard headphones or even some gaming headphones where the sound signature feels richer than it does here. It's not something you want to hear when you're trying to be convinced of how good IEMs are.

Despite the flaws of the IEMs, the one big advantage is the price. The whole headset comes in at $100, but you can argue that the IEMs are actually cheaper if you separate the components, as the mic portion costs $60. The price is fairly average for those looking for a decent headset, but it is much more of a bargain when you try shopping for good IEMs and realize the average price is in the mid-triple digits. With that perspective, what you're getting isn't bad if you want to experiment and see if an IEM is right for you.

There are two conclusions to reach when reviewing the Kimura Solo. The first is that the microphone cable continues Antlion's streak of giving you a good solution for those who don't want to give up their treasured IEMs but still want a cleaner solution for chatting while gaming. It is very sensitive, and you'll wish that it was made for both ears instead of just the right ear, especially since the ear loops are fairly stiff. It remains very good for those who don't want to use a desk mic or a full headset for PC or console play. For the Solo itself, it works nicely as a starting pair of IEMs if you're not the type to feel bruised after using it for extended time periods. It tends to muddy music due to its bass-heavy approach, but subtle sound effects and voice really pop. Overall, the company did a good job on these, and we'd certainly like to see what it can come up with if it chooses to do a newer iteration down the road.

Score: 7.5/10

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