Kennerton Magni vs Gjallarhorn
- By Kennerton
Pros: Excellent tight bass, spacious sound stage for closed backs, unique in every way (Ghorn), No distortion or glare, no sibilant sound, pinpoint reference accuracy (Magni v3), not warm not cold- just right?, Exceptional wood choices and finishes, Old world craftsmanship and attention to detail, real leather used, can be modded for even crazier deeper bass (Ghorn), 30 day money back, comfortable, light on the head, ear pads do not need upgrades at all, comes with eco leather bag, 3 year warranty
Cons: supplied cable is a bit stiff, microphonic headband if touched while wearing, break in 75-100 hours (necessary), you have to bend the metal band to get tight fit for proper sound- not a bad thing and pays off when you do -see review
Like going for a swim – best way is to just jump right in… so here we go… let’s see if I can explain the differences of two closed back headphones – one called the Magni v3 (newest version) and the other the Gjallarhorn GH50- both are hand made by Kennerton- located in Saint Petersburg Russia. Both drivers are made from cellulose and graphene membranes- … the Magni is a traditional closed back and the Gjallarhorn is according to the manufacturer – the world’s first horn-loaded headphone. Both are available in all sorts of crazy beautiful real wood & finished stains- something you would find with top of the line furniture companies and tailor-made wood finishes found in Bentley and Rolls Royce- except these aren’t veneers- these are solid wood- carved from solid blocks (see pic).
I should note this before we get started – sorry for delay in review but I need to go through this first…
Ok… after letting the Gjallarhorn and Magni break in playing non-stop for a 75hrs+ – I still was unsatisfied with sound. I decided to try something that would transform these headphones into the unbelievable high performers they could be- out of box they both were extremely comfortable (my head is large (62mm)) so I figured they were as they should be… BUT! They were not tight enough I thought- if I press the headphones inward slowly and gently- so not to deform the voice coil or membrane structure – the bass and dynamics would increase tremendously- so I decided to bend the metal band by the left and right indicators on either side evenly (see pic).
Originally I tired bending on top and that made them tighter but look unsymmetrical and a bit funny- so I reshaped the top back to original oval and bent it by the side burn area instead. Yes it’s extreme but like a suit that was off the rack… I tailored these headphones like a bespoke custom suit- they now not only fit my head better than stock- but add a transformation to the sound and dynamics that is now addicting- I can’t stop listening to the changes this small modification made- and they look completely normal on my head.
About the strap – The Kennerton logo is elegantly etched by laser on the top of the real leather strap which adjusts by tension softly on your head – I hope they applied for an international patent for that strap idea – so few headphone companies get comfort like these guys in Russia- I’m looking at you Beyerdynamic and AKG. Back to seal and fit- once I bent the metal- the headphones were never vice grip tight- they are still one of the most comfortable headphones I own- even compared to the HD600 with Dekoni custom elite hybrid velour/lambskin memory foam pads. And on that subject of ear pads- I bought the same type Dekoni ear pads to fit the Kennerton’s with velour and sheepskin but they don’t sound as good as the stock Kennerton pads- The Dekoni due to the memory foam – is too dense and don’t compress against the skin like the stock pads do- and the perforated holes inside cup cut dynamics with Dekoni- so you don’t need to waste your money on upgraded pads. Kennerton also includes a nice bag made of vegan leather to store all your rupee in or your headphones or both.
Ok – enough on that for now…Let’s-get to it- but before we do I will try and keep this review interesting- by playing music on each headphone and trying to describe what’s going on with what I hear. The music will be all over the place- to keep it interesting as you read. So I will jump from jazz to electronic, rap, rock, blues, alternative, acoustic wood guitar and anywhere in between.
Gustavo Santaolalla, a very talented musician I found engaging composed the original score for the video game “The Last of Us”, “Last of Us Vol2” and “Last Of Us Part 2. His instruments – like the acoustic wooden guitar, charango, ronroco, piano, bass, banjo are just a few of the things you will hear played to perfection through the Kennertons. They really do a wonderful job telling you everything you need to know regarding the sound signatures of the MAGNI and the GJALLARHORN headphones. The music on these albums will send you through a myriad of emotion if the sound device is up to the task- and both of these headphones bring you to a place deep in the soul of the composition. Yes there is plenty of bass on these tracks that both headphones exploit as designed – both of these headphones will fill your head with the long + short cords plucked as if Gustavo is playing in your minds eye. The solo album he released called Camino has note worthy songs: Alma at 2:36 run time and Cordon de Plata run 3mins. The Magni‘s play slightly tighter and more accurately between notes- while the Gjallarhorn is more spacious hypnotic in their space while playing these tracks- an amazing feat for closed back headphones for both- a stage wider than any other closed back I have heard to date- so organic and unforced for both… but the Gjallarhorn more spacious due to the horn wooden cup with less effort from the amp.
Allowed to be Happy (The Last of Us Part 2) at 2:48 will make the hairs on your neck tingle through the Gjallarhorn. The echo of the plucked instruments almost sounds like my solid state PASS Class A amp became a tube- yet very still revealing. All Gone (Seasons) is a trip of emotion again- the bass is tight tuneful and warm – Gjallarhorn (spacious) and Magni just a bit tighter again. Every nuance is present from the recording, no fatigue, no distortions and no bloat- allowing both headphones to transport yourself closer to the maestro like soul that is Gustavo Santaolalla.
Moving on to AC/DC Black and Black and the Gjallarhorn– the bells in the beginning develop lending itself to thunderous drums and echo of the bells lingering just enough to pull you in and then as 1:30 starts where Brian Johnson starts his lyric chant- you know these headphones can rock. Liking the Gjallarhorn to a live performance or concert hall sound- the notes linger ever so slightly longer than the Magni. On AC/DC I think I prefer the Gjallarhorn because of this fun sound characteristic- while in the back of my brain I am thinking – but the Magni sounds so smooth and rock solid too yet more accurate than the Gjallarhorn– there is a more addicting quality for rock with Gjallarhorn not present on any other headphone I know of- did I mention the Gjallarhorn is the first horn type to hit the market according to Kennerton?
On to 2Pac 2 Of Amerikaz – Magni omg I’m smitten. Love the vocals. I just resurrected 2Pac in a way – love the image straight up, very musical. If I slip on the Ghorn bass and mid bass is certainly deeper- vocals smooth – now I sound like I am listening to 2Pac in the studio live. Dang- which is better? How about – next song…
Aaron Copland- London Symphony Orchestra-“Appalachian Spring: 1 Very Slowly”- Ghorn- I’m in the hall – live again- unlike any headphone- strings all sound proper, clarinets and flutes all sound how they should- organic yet lively- the image is not as pin point as Magni. Magni needs a little more power – I can hear hiss in recording a little more w/Magni. There is more detail- placement of harp and oboe and bassoon are crystal clear and I can tell you where they are with ease- the Magnis are very romantic and enjoyable with classical while the Ghron is more playful.
Alexis Cole St. Judy’s Comet sounds better for me on Magni- vocals check! Bass Check. On the Ghorn I feel like I’m listening in distance from stage again- but live.
Alison Krauss “Stay”- Ghorn reveal a slight shimmer in her voice if played too loudly- so turn it down and you will like her voice like the angel she is- at 1:40 she hits a note most speakers and headphones will sound shrill – NOT the Ghorns. The Magni is a little more refined but need more power slightly to hit the dynamics of Ghorn. Alison sounds absolutely gorgeous on Magni. When full band comes in at :56 secs in- you will know the Magni is better than even my Sennheiser HD600’s in many ways- vocals & full bass of band. Timing is spot on- the instruments start and end tightly. These Magnis are a well tuned instrument! The Boy Who Wouldn’t Hoe Corn– a must listen I don’t care if you aren’t into country – really it’s an amazing track for the first 1:58 mins- illustrating the prowess of male vocals in full vocal range- and yes the Magni’s do this very well indeed. The bass player plucking, the violin the banjo oh my! So organic!
Drake “Non Stop” Scorpion album- Magni vocals spot on articulate and bass is sub levels no distortion even at ear splitting levels- easy to dance and pop your head to- The Gjhallahorn bass much more fun bouncing and vibrating my head more- vocals very clear and pleasant. Win here – Gjhallahorn.
Eminem – “Lucky You” Kamikaze album- The Ghorn doesn’t favor the frequency of Eminem’s voice in this recording as much as Magni. Dam Eminem’s voice sounds real smooth. Bass is tight as heck on Magni. Win here- Magni.
Tyga – “Dip” (feat Nicki Mainaj) Magni makes both Tyga and Nicki sound clear- very good recordings. Timing is great- music starts and stops as it should- no ringing or bloat.
Ariana Grande Be Alright – very tuneful on Magni again- tight and articulate and fun. Do I have to stop listening to the Magni? nope… I own em! The reverb in recording is perfectly represented.
You Don’t Own Me by SAYGRACE, G-Easy- The Ghorn is detailed! More fun here. Bass is crazy awesome.
Eminem- Without Me– Ghorn hands down more fun.
Logic Everyday- Ghorns more fun than Magni.
YG 2 Chains, Big Sean, Nicki Minaj- Ghorns sound like I am listening to speakers in a room with crazy low end and mid range with articulate vocals. Super fun. YES! Magni a little closed in but still wonderful. My daughter said the Gjhorn has much more deep bass on this track she prefered the less bassy Magni! LOL! Why- must be her 17 year old ears. Too sensative or not seasoned enough to appreciate great bass like Ghorns. After all she uses her iphone with air pod pro normally- they can’t possibly compete with these two headphone giants. But it’s her opinion and I will take it…
The Who – Won’t Get Fooled Again– ok I love my HD600sused with the OTL Bottlehead Crack+Speedball with the this track but they can’t do what the Gjorns do… I’m listening as if I were at the live recording season… even if it was recorded in a studio… next…
Bonnie Raitt ” Baby Mine ” Magni is like absolutely gorgeous sounding on this well done recording- more so than the Ghorn. It’s like they were made for each other. Baby Mine Bonnie Raitt
The Orb’s Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld – the Gjallarhorn through my PASS Class A amp sound more fun.
L7 “$hit List” – hell yea… this track will get cha pumped with the Ghorns. And you don’t need to turn the dial up since they are horns- oh so many headphones are on my $hit list- not these.
On to TCM or The Crystal Method – The Crystal Method – SMILE all the way and back again- the Ghorn.
The Crystal Method -nearly every track on each of these albums need to be heard- Tweekend, Vegas and Legion Of Boom- Community Service 1 – oh my NOT ON AMAZON or SPOTIFY SHAME ALERT!!!! anyway- pull out your Ghorn and don’t look back…
The White Stripes- Seven Nation Army – Magni wins me here for its tight drum beats and the hard rocking of the electric guitar- man the purposeful distortion of his guitar sounds soooo good here- no distortion or peaking/over modulation at all in this track- well engineered. All sound just right on Magni.
Billie Eilish Ocean Eyes– vocals on both sound great – better on Magni. Bass better on Ghorn and they don’t need to be blasting to hear the magic.
Blue Velvet- I Wanna Be Like God – Ghorns
Jaydee Plastic Dreams – Ghorns… I’m at the night club kind of feel…
Nitzer Ebb – Join In The Chant – hummm guess…. ok you probably never heard this track but when you play it which do you think I am going to recommend? If you said Ghorn- you would be right.
Single Gun Theory- Surrender. Ghorn preferred.
Single Gun Theory – From A Million Miles – sorry but Magni sound best- vocals and drum beats do better here.
Killer Inside Me – MC 900 Ft Jesus Ghorn is much more euphoric and fun.
Revolting Cocks- Crackin’ Up– literally was made for Gjorns to strut their stuff… at low volumes or higher if you want to…
WATEVA Ping Pong Party – A real party in your head with the Ghorns by exploiting deep bass taking over separation articulation. The Magni’s are more tuneful here with pin point ping pong ball hitting- tight articulate bass- the back and forth left to right is faster on Magni. Magni much faster than Sennheiser HD600 with super clear pin point accuracy and speed. A very complex progressive back and forth left and right mix that shows up best on Magni and nothing else I own can top that on this track-period. The Magni’s are truly reference material. Bass dominates on Ghorn here for sure…
Billie Eilish When the Party Is Over– delightfully enormous stage and deep on Ghorns.
Regina Spektor – Your Honor -Ghorns made me laugh hard and have fun.
Regina Spektor – “Sampson”. Magni like being in her recording studio while they recorded this- not in the booth but right next to her in the acoustic anechoic chamber like room she recorded this track in- sounds end so quick- these headphones are so quick! The sounds stop on a dime. Very hard to do in a wooden closed back I would think- bravo Kennerton.
Regina Spektor – (Реги́нa Ильи́нична Спе́ктор )- The Old Jacket (Stariy Pidjak) – well her piano playing and vocals are clearly reproduced here and very emotional through the Magni. Thanks my Russian defector- and I could be talking about the headphones here or Regina or both. I won’t say – the KGB is listening probably.
If you ever want to test the limits of dynamic range while being transported to another world I would strongly recommend you put your system through the torture test of Hans Zimmer’s Blade Runner 2049. Nearly every track listed is a favorite of mine- the complex passages range and will reveal any inadequacies – weather it be your DAC, your amp or of course your speakers or headphones.
Very much recommended tracks for any speaker or HEADPHONE USERS– Hans Zimmer Blade Runner 2049: 2049, Sappers Tree, Flight To LAPD, Rain, Wallce, Memory, Mesa, Orphanage, Furnace, Someone Live Like This, Joi, Pilot, Hijack, That’s Why We Believe, Her Eyes were Green, All The Best Memories, Tears In The Rain, Blade Runner track #23 on the album (a true torture test track for any system), track #24 Almost Human, and the worst torture test of all few systems can play back without major difficulty- track #20 Sea Wall. Sea Wall opens with drums and escalates to a huge amount of disturbing crazy electronic madness that continues up to 30 seconds and further escalates while it continues to 1 min and clams down a bit… then picks up as the drums lead to 1:20 seconds of more craziness- a truly fanatical tune- that pays off at 1:45 with sounds that will raise your endorphins causing an almost drug like high in ecstasy (don’t do drugs do music instead kids). And at 3:17- wow! you will be transported nearly into the fourth dimension almost empowering your third eye – I can tell you I sold off many of my personal amps and many DACS after trying to perfect this track. Your speakers will show you what’s what for sure- junk from keepers. And double down that idea when it comes to headphones. Very very few can hack this track. The Magni and The Ghorns pass with valedictorian pedigree here.
(updated 7/21/20: In this review I tested the V3 of the Magni which is the latest version of the Magni in 2020)
Ok- I think we got to wrap it up. Which one is right for you? I mentioned on one forum thread that the Gjallarhorn and Magni are like two beautiful women. One who is dressed up for elegant dining who is very articulate and gorgeous in every way (the Magni) and her super twin dressed up for a dance club that will make all your fun dreams come true (The Gjallarhorn). See illustration:
I will say I do not particularly love the cable- plan on buying a new one that is more flexible- ask Kennerton which cable would fit the bill if you felt the need for more flexibility. I cannot however, recommend a better sounding cable at this time- as the included cable that come with the Kennerton is very musical and I see no need to change or alter the sound right now since they sound fine stock. I may play with cables much latter as I get to know these headphones more. I don’t feel I need to since they beat just about everything else I heard as stock.
I will next say the headband is microphonic IF you touch it or play with it while they are on your head- so don’t try to play your headphone band instead play the headphones through your amp and stop touching the metal headband- unless that’s your thing. My wife clinks on it to get my attention – so there is that feature.
Comfort- I can easily wear these for many many hours without any part of my head, neck or ears hurting at all- its balanced and light, easy to wear and comfortable.
You may or may not enjoy wearing these outside or on a plane or bus- but I can almost guarantee you someone will admire them and start talking to you about them- which could be a bad thing since these admirers will keep you from listening. If going portable- you will need an adapter 3.5mm M to 6.35mm F. Kennerton has them available.
Build is excellent on both- something to be proud of to own and behold. My Magni was finished in Bubinga also known as Guibourtia wood (in a brown red dark stain). On the janka hardness scale for wood it is rated at 2410 Lbf (10,720N (newtons) of force.
The Gjallahorn is made of either Curly Maple (1450Lbf) or Ash (1320Lbf)- you choose your wood. See scale for wood hardness if that’s your thing- it is for me since I love all things real, natural and beautiful-especially all the different types of wood species.
BTW- My Ghorns were finished in natural finish- no stain but they were protected with a clear classy satin finish from Kennerton factory. I stripped the clear away carefully myself and stained them similar to the Magni. See before and after pictures. I voided my finish warranty but I am a wood specialist – so do not try this yourself at all! It took me 3 days and my wife thought I was nuts to try this on a $1100 headphone only a few weeks old- but I took ownership after breaking them in and loving the way the sounded. I celebrated how much I liked them by being careful and making them uniquely mine. I am sure you can request a stain on the maple or ash for Ghorn if you ask Kennerton. These two woods were specially chosen for this horn speaker so other wood speicies arent avilable for Ghorn.
(My personally stained Ghorns (upper Left), (right side -Ghorn with 3 Year Waranty Card w/Inspection)( lower left- Eco Leather Case)
Lastly- I love love love the Magni they satisfy most every need for a closed back- the Gjallarhorn are something different but similar-more fun but not necessarily better- so I would say- either is a great first purchase to experience Kennerton- you certainly don’t need both- no one needs two, three or even four headphones- but when you desire something different the Ghorns fit that bill- that is the spice of life- both similar but different. If you already have headphones that are boring you and you want some fun- try the Gjallarhorn instead- either one will satisfy – neither bad – they are quality through and through. No sibilant annoyances from either, no weird humps. Nice full body from both. The Magni’s are versatile in most genres of music- female and male vocals, acoustic guitar, blues, jazz, pop, rock, and can do electronic very well. The Gjallarhorn are elevated by expanding the sound-stage through their horn shape- they sound a little more like a lively hall sound- compared to the Magni’s which are more like a recording studio. Both give excellent bass, but the Gjallarhorn a little more mid bass and some more sub bass. The Ghorn is euphoric with electronic music- and look a little more elegant with leather accent + Kennerton logo medallion in center of each cup. The Magni’s have a full realistic sound that satisfies and will not hide poorly recorded music. Neither headphone will annoy you or fatigue you. Let’s face it- closed backs can sound a little boring- if that’s your thought at all then the Ghorn is your logical step to buy. I am in no way saying Magni is boring but rather refined and a reference in every sense of the word. I will go over more in my video review….am I writing a book here or what? sorry about that… go listen to some music. Enjoy life!
Kennerton Magni 690 € and up (limited number of units to be produced)
Kennerton Gjallarhorn 1080 €
(NOTE: I am from New York with no affiliation to Kennerton, the KGB or CIA or similar agencies – I made my own purchase here without motivation or compensation. What I say is truthful and sincere)
UPDATE: I have since made major modifications to the Gjallarhorn and discussed with the owner at Kennerton- I will have to re -do my observations and a brand new mod review as EVERYTHING IS OUT OF CONTROL DROP DEAD GORGEOUS SOUNDING now for me- the owner said he never thought to do this slight mod but he is going to do some tests – I will keep you all informed as I go through the next review for now- this is all I can say on how they sound-
The second part follow up on the Ghorn is ready with mods explained: