Kimura DUO in-ear monitors by Antlion review — Comfortable studio-quality audio

My wife Laura is a musician. While I review headsets and earbuds, she has been hoarding the best audio solution money can buy, and I didn’t even know it. IEM, or In-Ear Monitors are often used in the recording industry as they offer unparalleled comfort as well as a level of audio quality that frankly seems impossible given their size. The downside is that these can also be prohibitively expensive – the set my wife uses ranges from $800 to $3000, and they aren’t even the most expensive on the market. So when Antlion Audio reached out with an in-ear solution aimed at gamers, and priced at just $149, I was a bit skeptical. Having not yet received my PlayStation VR2, I figured I’d be disappointed with the audio solution baked into the headset and would be looking for a better solution anyway. While the PSVR2 audio turned out to be pretty excellent, that doesn’t solve the comfort problem for long play sessions. That’s where the Kimura DUO comes in…

If you are unfamiliar with Antlion Audio, they were formed in 2011 by Jimmy Console, M.D. — a mechanical engineer, doctor, and gamer who has a passion for solving problems. Joined by CEO Eli Wisnievitz a year after forming, they’ve been the powerhouse team behind all of Antlion’s innovations, including the ModMic – a microphone that can be attached to nearly any headset to provide studio-quality voice recording, and one of the companies first inventions. They know audio as it’s one of the only things that they do, and they do it well.

Unboxing the Kimura DUO it was clear that Antlion was aiming for something minimalist and unobtrusive. The Kimura is worn around your ear, wrapping around the base of your skull. In the case of the DUO, it has a second in-ear monitor to sit in the opposite ear to balance out the sound. I could describe how to wear the Kimura (it’s rather intuitive) but it’d be easier to simply let Antlion tell you about it.

Kimura Microphone Tutorial - How to Wear the Kimura Comfortably

The cable for the Kimura is ample at 2 meters (just over 6.5 feet), meaning you’ll be able to connect this to a controller, back of a PC, or any other device with a 3.5mm audio jack.

The hook here, somewhat literally, is the intertragic incisure, often referred to as a “notch”. That’s the small portion below the tragus (the triangle piece of your ear in the middle and towards your eyes) and the antitragus – the bottom of the “well” (concha cavum) of your ear. The Kimura DUO’s IEMs are made of resin, conforming to the vast majority of ears out there. Also included is a whole collection of tips for the monitors to help fully seal the ear canal. As a result you get a warm sound directly to your eardrum without any gaps for that sound to escape. Lots of earbuds from Razer’s Hammerheads to the $25 hunks of junk you can buy at the airport do this, so what’s different here? I’m glad you asked.

The first and most obvious difference is the shape – an IEM has a longer cone spike leading further into the ear canal. This means that the sound is delivered omnidirectionally at the eardrum rather than dispersed throughout the ear. Earbuds are effectively just tiny speakers you hang on your ears, but IEM’s position within the ear allows for more directed sound. As a result, IEMs can reduce outside noise by over 25 dB, making noise cancellation happen without the need to introduce any additional complexity or a converse white noise wave.

There’s an added benefit of IEMs that I rarely see covered in audio comparisons – hearing loss. Most of the people I know suffer tinnitus (ringing in the ears) at some level, thanks to loud concerts or blaring headphones. An IEM, because it delivers sound directly to the ear canal, can be played at a far lower decibel range and still produce what you perceive as a loud and whole result. This reduces the risk to your hearing as you aren’t bombarding your ear drums with omnidirectional sound that has to be cranked to 11 just to hear it thump.

The other big advantage of an IEM is that you can have them molded to your ear shape. Obviously these are on the higher end of that price scale, but in a complete surprise to me, you can use them with the Kimura DUO. Antlion fitted these IEMs with a standard connector that’ll fit the vast majority of 3rd party IEMs on the market – specifically, the Kimura will fit any standard MMCX or 2-pin detachable in ear monitors. It means you can, if you are so inclined, go out and get an ear mold kit, get yourself something custom built for you, and then click them right in. If you are the type of person that struggles with ear pain with over-ear cans or on-ear solutions, the Kimura could be precisely what you need.

I was planning on reviewing these before I took a trip to the Game Developers Conference, but the timing didn’t work out. As such, I ended up taking the Kimura DUO on the plane with me. Wow am I glad I did. Using the included Y-adapter, I plugged them into my Steamdeck. It’s not that I’m antisocial (ok, maybe a little) but I had four hours to kill and a whole lot of game backlog. I put in the Kimura DUO IEMs and the entire plane ride melted away.

With complete sound isolation, I was able to hear every conversation clearly, all of the ambient sounds, and the full range of the soundtrack of every game I played. I didn’t hear the thrum of the engines, the whirring of the flaps, or the incessant braying of the people ahead of me. True story – I didn’t even hear the shouting before the actual fist fight that occurred on board. Life is interesting sometimes, but I was happy to not be a part of the interesting bits this time around.

With a company founded around microphones, you had to know they’d spend the R&D on the microphone for the Kimura DUO. Unsurprisingly, it delivers in a big way. Let’s look at the specs:

Microphone Pattern: Omni-Directional

  • Frequency Response: 100Hz – 10kHz
  • Sensitivity:-42±3 dB
  • Impedance: 2.2(Max) kΩ
  • S/N Ratio: 60(Min) dB
  • Maximum Input Sound Pressure Level: 115(Max) dB
  • Standard Operating Voltage: 2.0 Vdc
  • Operating Voltage Range: 1.0~10 Vdc

Being frank for a moment, most microphones are terrible. They make folks with deep voices sound like they are in a metal pipe, and folks with a higher voice sound nasally. I could describe how this sounds, but frankly that’s not the best way to demonstrate it. Instead, let’s jump into the reason why I picked this up to begin with – the PlayStation VR2.

As I mentioned earlier, the PSVR2 has a great microphone, but I knew I’d want to get a better one for streaming. I thought about the weight of the headset (about 1.23 pounds) and the thought of adding a decent headset (another 0.6 pounds, on average) and my head and neck immediately started to hurt. Instead, I’d be using the Kimura DUO. It weighs just 43 grams. That’s less than 1/10th of a pound, or roughly the weight equivalent of 10 sheets of paper. Frankly, it’s very easy to forget that you even have it on.

Plugging the Kimura Pro underneath the PSVR2 headset and dropping the IEMs into my ears had me ready for gaming. I dropped into Gran Turismo 7 and did a quick comparative capture:

Kimura Duo In-Ear Monitor / Microphone Audio Test on PSVR2 [Gaming Trend]

As you can hear, it sounds near studio quality. I’ve had large USB mics that I’ve reviewed that didn’t sound as good. I’ll let you judge for yourself, but frankly I’m blown away by just how good the Kimura DUO’s microphone sounds. You can clearly hear me, there’s no distortion, I don’t sound like I’m in a tin can, and everyone else said I sounded great. What’s not to like?

One of the things I can’t demonstrate is just how comfortable the headset is for longer sessions. It’s lightweight and fits perfectly in my ears. This is great for VR as any additional weight is a literal pain in the neck. Better still, without cans on your ears, they don’t get sweaty and hot. Sure, I’m probably aiming a cannon at a fly with this solution as the PSVR2’s microphone is actually quite good, but the speakers leave much to be desired. Here I have both in a very comfortable package.

The last topic of conversation, as it often is, is the price and warranty. The Kimura DUO will set you back $149.95, with the single-ear variant popping back to just $99.95. If you have your own IEMs and just want to add an excellent microphone, that piece is available for $59.95. Both of the IEM variants ship with a semi-hard travel case and all three have a 30 day money back guarantee. From there, the device picks up a 2 year warranty. I spoke with their technical department and they diagnosed a small issue I was having within a minute of getting on the call. You can always tell the difference between a group that knows and loves their product and those who are rented for the job – this is the former.

When I started this journey I was just looking for a good light headset alternative for my VR adventures, but by the time I was done I was blown away by what I’d been missing in IEMs, as well as duly impressed by what a difference a good microphone can make. The Kimura DUO is an absolute knockout. It’s perfectly priced, does precisely what it sets out to do, is flexible enough to allow you to use an existing IEM, and is backed by a company who loves their product. It’s hard to ask for anything else.



Kimura DUO

Review Guidelines

Whether you are listening to music, watching a movie, or playing a game, good audio can make all the difference. The Kimura DUO delivers that in an inexpensive, lightweight, and clean solution that will make you wonder why you waited to switch.

Ron Burke is the Editor in Chief for Gaming Trend. Currently living in Fort Worth, Texas, Ron is an old-school gamer who enjoys CRPGs, action/adventure, platformers, music games, and has recently gotten into tabletop gaming. Ron is also a fourth degree black belt, with a Master's rank in Matsumura Seito Shōrin-ryū, Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do, Universal Tang Soo Do Alliance, and International Tang Soo Do Federation. He also holds ranks in several other styles in his search to be a well-rounded fighter. Ron has been married to Gaming Trend Editor, Laura Burke, for 21 years. They have three dogs - Pazuzu (Irish Terrier), Atë, and Calliope (both Australian Kelpie/Pit Bull mixes).

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