KZ ZS7 Review

Price: 50$ (Amazon), 35$ (AliExpress special deals)

Where to buy: https://amzn.to/2UcVMta (US) or https://amzn.to/2UZ7O6v (Italy)

Specifications:

  • Impedance: 24Ω

  • Earphone sensitivity: 105dB/mW

  • Frequency range: 20-40000Hz

  • Driver configuration: 1 DD + 4 BA

 

Thanks to Easy Earphones (YinYoo) for providing this free unit to review.

So, here I am with my first KZ review in English. My previous experience with this brand wasn’t that happy (ZS3 and ES4, which I didn’t really appreciate). The first was too bassy, the second was too big and the sound – even if more balanced – wasn’t my cup of tea. Now I have the ZSN and the ZS7, and I can appreciate the progress of Knowledge Zenith. I wouldn’t expect this quality from a brand which didn’t surprise me in the past, at all.

3.jpg
4.jpg

 

Unboxing and first impressions

Like most of the people who want to start their IEM journey, KZ was one of the first brands which came to my ears. I was interested in trying the ZS6, but I changed my mind for the RevoNext QT2, a similar pair that I believed was superior. Since then, I hadn’t the opportunity to try the ZS6 nor to compare them, obviously, to the QT2; but I’m here now with the new model, the ZS7. The ZS7 share the same design as the ZS6, but the internals are the one you can find in the ZS10. So, even if this can make you confused, we are talking about a hybrid earphone, with 1 dynamic driver and 4 balanced armatures per ear. This is a similar configuration as the BGVP DMG, NiceHCK M6 (which I both reviewed here, in Italian) and the YinYoo D2B4 (yes, the “D2” name is a little tricky, but it may be actually a double diaphragm single dynamic driver). The fact is: the price of these multi-balanced hybrid earphones is actually really low. For 50$ on Amazon and even less on AliExpress, you can have a really solid model. Starting from the box, which is an elegant black cardboard with a book-like opening. Inside you find the buds, in their amazing electric blue, and underneath the foam you find the manuals, the eartips (unfortunately, the classic KZ ones) and the cable – which is so bad that I didn’t even open it, because I know it and I hate it. Luckily, YinYoo sent over a cable by themselves, which is perfect for this situation (if you want, you can find my review of it in Italian here). I have a color disease, but for me this coppery/pinkish color of the cable is a great match with the blue buds. The metal shell is really solid and very well assembled – I saw some macro photos before having my pair, and they looked kind of summarily assembled, but mine are actually well done. The back of the buds is black, but still metal; even the nozzle is made of aluminum. Because I put a cable which isn’t the stock one, I’ve also used some different eartips: I took the ones of the BGVP DM3, which I don’t use because they fall off my ears too easily. They are white too, which I prefer to the classic gray tips. The fit is strangely good, and not fatiguing. I can’t stand the QT2 which are similar, but these are better shaped, maybe.

 

Right message, wrong language

Right message, wrong language

6.jpg

Sound

My sources: FiiO M7, Mi MIX 2 with DAC Zorloo ZuperDAC-S and MacBook Pro 2012 with USB audio interface Focusrite 2i2 first gen.

My files: DSD, FLAC, ALAC, MP3, M4A

My music: “Colour the Small One” by Sia, “Djesse Vol.1” by Jacob Collier, “Where are You?” by Frank Sinatra, “Ghost Stories” by Coldplay, “O” by Damien Rice, and many other tracks by Queen, Pink Floyd, Genesis, Radiohead, …

 

Considering my previous experience with KZ, I thought I would have found a disappointing sound. I didn’t. These are my favorite KZ among the ones I’ve tried, and also among all the earphones I have. I’m a design lover, a music lover, I pay attention to various things. You can propose me the best sounding earbuds in the world, but if they are made of plastic, the fit is bad and they look ugly, I can’t appreciate them. Earphones are tools, but they are also jewelry nowadays. I can talk about them through the eyes (and ears) of mine as a musician or as an entire person with a lot of interest. KZ ZS7 are good. Good-looking, at first. Good-sounding, at last. I don’t usually like this sound signature: everything is in its right place, until you hear an exaggerated enhancement in the mid-bass area. But this is actually good. Once you understand that you can’t monitor your recordings with them and you have to pair them with particular genres, the way is clear. They are fun, exactly the same way as they look. You can chill with them, you can relax with them. The sound doesn’t reflect the angular shape, though. It’s not sharp, not harsh, not sibilant. This may sound like heaven, for someone like me. It’s not heaven, but it’s absolutely an enjoyable place.

Bass: not the best here. Sub-bass is lacking, mid-bass is emphasized. If I had to find the issue with these IEMs (apart from the cable), it would be this one. Once you get used to this, though, you appreciate the bump. Bassheads will be fairly pleased with this pair. I would rather have more speed and less oomph, because the mids may suffer from that. But I’m okay with the extension and I can survive with the emphasis.

Mids are great. Even with the “invasion” that sometimes comes from the bass. I like voices, I like the space between the instruments, their layering. Maybe you can expect more detail by a set of four BA, but I don’t feel I miss any main focuses in my music. Vocals aren’t sibilant. This is something I’ve waited for since a long time, for a KZ earphone. I like everything of the sound, honestly, apart from that bass. Treble is smooth, not extreme but luckily not harsh. I enjoy it, and I’m not an easy person to satisfy when it comes to high frequencies. Even the highest voices are well controlled, and don’t miss any air or space. The soundstage is average. Not the widest, not the deepest. But the imaging is very precise, so you can enjoy your perceived little room and be happy. The intimacy is achieved. I wouldn’t call this stage “small” in a negative way. It actually opens up when the recordings are well done. But I’d call it intimate, because it’s very in-your-head sometimes, without being intrusive. And the mid-bass presence actually gives a very warm color to the signature which is really emotional. I have to say, I’ve wanted to like KZ since a long time, but it’s been hard, until now. ZS7 are a game changer for this brand.

 

7.jpg

Comparisons

This is a very interesting moment: the price range is challenging and I have a lot of competitors. I’ll write some, but if you need others, write me on the comments or contact me anywhere.

YinYoo V2: they are among my favorites IEMs. I still prefer them over the ZS7, because they come with better accessories (carrying case, better cable, better tips). Even the sound signature is suitable for more genres, because its bass is more controlled. I’d rather the ZS7 design. I say it now: it’s neary a 1:1 clone of the Campfire Audio Andromeda (and Polaris). I don’t appreciate brands which clone stuff, of every genre. They are even more similar to them than the RevoNext QT2. That said, I love the Andromeda design, so I cannot dislike the ZS7 that way. It’s not ethical, though. If I had to choose, I’d take the V2.

ADVANCED Model 3: they are similarly tuned. But the mid-bass bump is more exaggerated on the Model 3 (strange to say!). I love the Model 3 because of their design, their accessories, their shape and their fit. That said, the ZS7 are better built and to my ears they are more finely equalized. OT, I’m curious to try the new models of ADVANCED, because they have the perfect shape for me, and a more similar driver configuration to these ZS7 (even though I continue to like the dynamic vibes). I’d choose the ZS7 between the twos (I’m talking about the wired version of the Model 3 in this comparison).

RevoNext QT2: I like them, I don’t like them as much as the ZS7. They are very differently tuned, QT2 are on a reference side and they are bright, while the ZS7 are dark and fun. Same accessories here, so I can give you my preference: ZS7, because QT2 are too sibilant and I can’t stand that. And ZS7 are more comfortable.

1.jpg

Conclusions

This time they did it: Knowledge Zenith is improving. I (more than) like the ZS7, and they are on my top list now. If they put a better cable instead of that crappy memory wire one, the improvement will be complete. And they could compete with the bigs. They just need a little bit of refinement in the tuning. But the ZS7 are solid, and I’m happy to recommend them.

YinYoo Y1 Review

Price: 25€

Where to buy: [link]

Specifications:

  • Impedance: 16 Ohm

  • Sensitivity: 96±3db

  • Frequency response: 5-40k Hz

  • 1 Dynamic Driver

 

Thanks to AK Audio for the review sample. I have the black version with mic. You can choose it without the mic and there’s a rose gold option too.

The foam tips are not included

The foam tips are not included

Unboxing and first impressions

If you are familiar with YinYoo and NiceHCK, you will know what to expect by their packaging. Here we find a cardboard box, which contains a carrying hard case, which in turn contains the earphones and the eartips. Very simple, but functional. The cable is not removable, and it has some controls on the wire (one button, which can play/pause and skip tracks with different actions). The button has a good click and it works perfectly. There’s a nice working microphone too. The problem is: I really don’t know which earphone is the right one, because they are both marked as left. With a simple test, I understood the right one is the one with the wire controls. Apart from that, I love the design, the materials and the build quality of these earphones. They are made of metal and ceramic, and the cable reminds me of the Meze 11/12 series. There’s a mesh filter, which I believe it’s made of tissue. On the connector and on the Y split there are some reinforcements, so I’m 100% satisfied with the build quality and I’m not worried about the resistance of these buds. The fit is average, for my ears which aren’t easy to match with classic in ears. With some foam tips they are more stable. It’s a bit better than the fit I had with the Meze 12 Classics, which I really cannot wear without them falling.

2.jpg

Sound

My sources: FiiO M7, Mi MIX 2 with DAC Zorloo ZuperDAC-S and MacBook Pro 2012 with USB audio interface Focusrite 2i2 first gen.

My files: DSD, FLAC, ALAC, MP3, M4A

My music: “Colour the Small One” by Sia, “Djesse Vol.1” by Jacob Collier, “Where are You?” by Frank Sinatra, “Ghost Stories” by Coldplay, “O” by Damien Rice, and many other tracks by Queen, Pink Floyd, Genesis, Radiohead, …

3.jpg

I don’t think these earphones have been successful. I didn’t read any reviews (because I didn’t search, but even on social networks nobody seems to have shared his review). So, I guess it’s something that sounds unusual and doesn’t encounter people’s taste. After trying these earphones, I’m not sure if this is true. I liked them. They are cheap and they are meant to be considered a first buy, or just an upgrade from your phone’s stock earphones. But even by choosing these consciously, for me they would be very nice sounding. They are, actually.

They can be considered V-shaped. It’s nice to have this signature in a consumer-oriented pair of earphones. They can suit a lot of genres and answer to the needs of everyone. Sure, I’d prefer a flat signature if I could choose, but I’m perfectly fine with this one. Especially because the driver (a single dynamic) has a really good quality and the tuning is good. I tried the V2 by YinYoo before, and they still are one of my overall favorite earphones. It seems that these ones could be good too, in a different way. I don’t generally like non-detachable-cable earphones, neither classic in ears (I’d rather have an IEM style); but the general quality make me appreciate these Y1 as a whole.

The first thing I liked is the soundstage: I generally like a wide, extended perceived stage; the Y1 are not crazy wide, but they don’t feel congested and the imaging is pretty precise, so you have a sense of immersion which is enjoyable and far from the bad holographic try of the KZ ES4, for example. The sub-bass is smoothly reached and give a nice background to these earphones; the mid-bass is luckily controlled and it doesn’t fall on the midrange, which I’m surprised of, because cheap earphones tend to have issues on that area. Mids are a bit recessed, but lively enough. The instrument separation in that area is better than average, and there’s a good layering. The best thing of the whole play is the sense of space, which feels true. Vocals are relaxed, not sharp at all (which I like), even on tracks which are often critical with some sets. Treble is very nice, with nearly no sibilance nor harshness. There could have been the classic pick on the upper midrange to give a touch of color and clarity and widen the stage; there isn’t, but I don’t miss it, though. It could have ruined this relaxed tuning, which at the same time doesn’t miss any energy.

P1030220.JPG

Comparisons

I’d like to compare some models differently from the other times. Considering this is barely “moddable” (not having a removable cable), I will put them face to face with other similar earphones in their concept.

BGVP Sidy DM3: really capable, but immature. Y1 are better, even though DM3 (which are pretty old I think) were trying to surprise with vocals and space. The tuning was really bad, though, because they wanted to enlighten certain aspects, by sacrificing others – maybe more important. So, the tuning is very strange on DM3, but you can like them as you like, for example, the Simgot Meeture MT3: for vocals. Y1 are an overall better choice, because they are tuned in a more mainstream way.

Meze 12 Classics: they are better in an absolute way, but considering the price range I’d go 100% on the YinYoo. Same qualities on the outside, different ones on the inside. I don’t love the darkness of the 12 Classics, neither their congestion. Y1 are closer to my taste.

ADVANCED M4: considering these are among my all-time favorites, it would be hard to make them lose. They are pretty different in their sound signature, much flatter than the YinYoo. I won’t say the Y1 lose here, though: they are cheaper and they are absolutely worth the money. I prefer the M4 because they are more suitable for my needs (music production, ecc..).

P1030221.JPG

Conclusions

Even though they don’t make the best impression with that poor quality control (both buds are signed as left), the YinYoo Y1 look gorgeous and they are perfectly crafted with premium materials. I like the sound too, for me it is solid and mature enough to suit the needs of the majority of people. The stage is impressive, not for width but for precision and imaging and they really provide a pleasant overall sound that I couldn’t but recommend.

P1030222.JPG

NiceHCK P3 Review

Price: 37$

Where to find them: [here]

Specifications:

  • Frequency response: 20-40k Hz

  • Impedance: 12 Ohm

  • Sensitivity: 106 dB/mW

  • Driver: Hybrid 2BA+1DD

 

This is the second IEM I try by NiceHCK, after the M6. I’ve really appreciated the first one, starting from the accessories. I’m glad they included nearly the same ones here, considering the price range that’s really different between the twos (more than 50$).

Unboxing and first impressions

I like this simple but functional unboxing experience: a white box with some information, which has inside a good hard carrying case; inside there are a lot of tips (three pairs of silicon, two pairs of silicon double flange, a pair of foams) and the earphones, already attached to the cable. The cable itself is the same of the M6, which is good in quality – I don’t really like the color, but it’s subjective. This, for me, should be the package of every earphone. Small, simple, rigid, complete.

3.jpg

The buds are good looking, with a translucent blue plastic build. The plastic quality is average, a little bit better than the KZ ES4; comfort, though, is way superior on P3, thanks to its shape and the better ear tips. The connector is MMCX. I’m impressed for the price – more than TRN IM1, which has way less accessories in a similar range.

 

P1030175.JPG

Sound

My sources: FiiO M7, Mi MIX 2 with DAC Zorloo ZuperDAC-S and MacBook Pro 2012 with USB audio interface Focusrite 2i2 first gen.

My files: DSD, FLAC, ALAC, MP3, M4A

My music: “Colour the Small One” by Sia, “Djesse Vol.1” by Jacob Collier, “Where are You?” by Frank Sinatra, “Ghost Stories” by Coldplay, “O” by Damien Rice, and many other tracks by Queen, Pink Floyd, Genesis, Radiohead, … 

1.jpg

Sometimes it happens that you listen to a set and you can’t find nothing wrong. It’s difficult to judge something that doesn’t really fall on any area. You have to rationalize and carefully try to understand what part of your impressions is driven by your personal taste and what’s an objective way to explain the product capabilities. So, I will start saying this is a set that matches my taste, because the treble is pretty rolled off. You hear no sibilance at all, neither any kind of harshness with the P3. That’s the first thing I can say, that’s pretty positive to me, but it mightn’t for treble heads. If you search for a “Tin HiFi like” signature, that’s totally opposite. And it’s fine, because some people don’t like it. So, starting from “the bottom”, the bass is really good. It may be a little lacking of body in the sub-bass area, but the overall scene feels warm and there’s the right amount of punchiness. It’s pretty quick too: comparing the P3 to the KZ ES4, which also are pretty bassy, the P3 provide better layering and resolution. This isn’t a congested bass, nor a boomy bass, nor an over-emphasized bass: it’s enjoyable and it’s one of the better things of these earphones. Mids are honest, with the right space for vocals and a pretty good instrument separation. The signature feels pretty balanced until the upper midrange, which has kind of a notch and falls when it comes to treble. So, I don’t feel mids lacking presence, they just don’t shine. Treble, as I’ve said before, is very relaxed. These earphones are meant to be for the ones who can’t stand any brightness. This means, though, that you have to accept a detail that’s just average and a sound that wants to be fun and doesn’t even try to be analytical. It’s perfectly good. The “problem” is that this sound isn’t really “fun”: it’s pretty boring, even though for my taste it has nothing wrong. There’s a lot of people who just want to listen to music and don’t really need a particular sound signature: this set is honest, and it’s a really good start for upgrading from a casual earphone. Let’s talk about soundstage. There’s an average width that’s kind of holographic, which is good, summed to that bass, if you need something enough precise for gaming. That means that imaging is pretty precise too. So, it’s kind of difficult to explain: the stage is not that wide; however, its depth is discrete, so the immersion in the scene is pretty comfortable. This is a sound which doesn’t fatigue.

P1030173.JPG

 

Comparisons

TRN IM1: I’m kind of confused about this set. At first, I thought it was good. Then its slight brightness became too fatiguing. Then I realized that wasn’t a great sound, honestly. It’s more detailed than the P3 one, it’s pretty analytic, but it’s not a solid sound at all. Some songs are pretty good on that, many others sound just too congested and sharp. Let’s say IM1 is not a gentle set. I prefer P3. You can find the IM1 here.

 

KZ ES4: this is a set which sounded honest before I compared it to other ones. It’s kind of similar to the P3, even though it has more presence in the treble and more sibilance. The bass is less precise, but its body is comparable to the P3 one. They also have the same tendency of virtualizing the scene, which is something that I think the average consumer could enjoy. Well, between the two I choose the P3: you have more accessories, a better fit, a better cable (in my opinion) and an overall sound that’s more convincing. You can find the ES4 here.

 

RevoNext QT2: a strange comparison, I admit. QT2 are a bit pricier, but I put them here because if you like their signature, you’re not going to like the P3 one. QT2 are balanced but become very bright and sibilant since the upper midrange. P3, instead, are very warm and more fun to listen to. QT2 are an analytical set from what I hear. You can find the QT2 here.

 

Conclusions

While it’s true that I can’t find any particular reason to recommend this set, neither I can’t find one to not recommend it. It’s comfortable to wear, it’s not fatiguing, and it suits honestly every genre. Not brilliantly, but neither bad, at all. I found the KZ ES4 to sound bad for my taste. Not the P3, which have some good pros. And they are really good for gaming. I can recommend them if you are not searching for any particular feature, even though I believe the price could be a little bit lower. And you get one of the better packages, in terms of accessories.

P1030174.JPG
2.jpg

Pros

  • Accessories

  • Fit

  • Not fatiguing

  • Relaxed sound signature

 

Cons

  • Average materials and build quality

  • They don’t shine anywhere

BRAINWAVZ KOEL Review

Price: 70$

Where to buy them: https://www.brainwavzaudio.com/products/koel-balanced-armature-earphones

Specifications (from the website):

  • Drivers: Single Balanced Armature

  • Rated Impedance: 30Ω

  • Frequency Range: 16 Hz ~ 22 kHz

  • Sensitivity: 105 dB at 1 mW

  • Cable: Detachable

  • Cable Connector: MMCX

  • Plug: 3.5 mm, Gold plated

 

This is the first BRAINWAVZ earphone that I try. This is also the first single balanced armature earphone that I try. This is an interesting coincidence, because I’ve tried a lot of earphones. To be fair, this is also my first 3D-printed IEM! As you can understand, there are a lot of curious things about these monitors, and we’re just at the intro.

 

Unboxing and first impressions

This box has been a struggle to open. That being said, this is a modern yet classy unboxing experience. The internal box has a book-like shape and contains a hard case (which is a serious hard case, one of the best I’ve held), which in turn contains the IEMs and the accessories. There are a lot of tips (6 pairs, 3 measures doubled, and a pair of T100 red Comply foam tips). There’s a clip, a manual, and the cable already attached to the buds. The cable is good and it feels like a tool – much better than the ADVANCED Model 3 (wired) cable, which I find to be a similar pair of monitors in their will. If you look at some KOEL pictures, you don’t have the same good impression as seeing them in person. They are “lucid” to the touch, and I thought they were “matte” by looking at the photos. The shape is very interesting because it’s a bit unusual, with a grip on your lower ear. I have to admit that – even though the fit is really stable – I find the buds to be a little bit too big for my ears, so I can use them for half an hour but after that time I feel fatigued. With the Comply tips on, the comfort is surely improved, because you can leave the IEMs less deep, but still having a fair grip. If you have bigger ears, these will be not just stable but also very comfortable to wear in my opinion. Anyway, the cable has very low microphonics and its 45° plug is perfect for strain relief. I like everything about the design, the look and the build quality of the KOEL. And I appreciate the attention they put on the presentation.

P1030164.JPG
P1030165.JPG

Sound

My sources: FiiO M7, Mi MIX 2 with DAC Zorloo ZuperDAC-S and MacBook Pro 2012 with USB audio interface Focusrite 2i2 first gen.

My files: DSD, FLAC, ALAC, MP3, M4A

My music: “Colour the Small One” by Sia, “Djesse Vol.1” by Jacob Collier, “Where are You?” by Frank Sinatra, “Ghost Stories” by Coldplay, “O” by Damien Rice, and many other tracks by Queen, Pink Floyd, Genesis, Radiohead, …

First thing first: I noticed that these earphones generally require more power than average to be driven. Just a few steps more on my FiiO M7, which I primarily use.

It’s important to understand the will behind these earphones. As you can imagine reading the driver configuration, this single balanced armature IEM is not for casual users. As casual users, I mean the average consumers who want a “fun” sound, colored; a sound which makes you wince, an emotional kind of sound. You won’t have that with the KOEL. They are meant to be analytical and detailed. That means their use would be not just music listening, but music production too. As a music lover and as a musician, I liked these earphones. A lot. And my love for them is very different from my love for my Sennheiser Momentum, for example. Because their signatures are very different. The KOEL signature is very balanced and flat, it reminds me the one of the ADVANCED M4. It may sound less “natural” than other earphones, because I feel they are meant to precisely monitor your recordings or live stages. When you listen to music, you may like a touch of color, a slight “V”, and there are a lot of choices for that kind of use. However, I feel the KOEL are really different in their purpose. Even though I still enjoyed them with my music, I didn’t feel the emotion of other sets – like the Simgot EM1. Why? Because balanced armatures are not meant to “move” you, they are supposed to be precise, quick, analytical. This is exactly what the KOEL sound like. There is more. At first, listening to “Magic” by Coldplay, I heard some bad noises on the right earphone. Like there was sort of a driver movement when the kicks were punchy. I’ve never heard anything like that on any of my earphones. Then I’ve searched for the same song – mine is a CD rip-off – on YouTube and Spotify and those versions didn’t have those noises! I guess these earphones are so analytical and “raw” that a bad master (or rip, or something) immediately comes to light. This is crazy, in my opinion. Neither my ADVANCED M4, which I find very similar to the KOEL, have this level of detail and precision. It’s important mentioning that “Magic” was the only song which had this problem. I still don’t understand why I’ve heard that just on that particular song, when I can’t hear any strange things by using other earphones or – using the KOEL themselves – with the same track from another source. I don’t think the problem is on the earphones, because no other track has any issues. But I will deepen that aspect in the future, by trying other Brainwavz models and hearing if that aspect still remains.

So, in a general way, the sound signature of the KOEL is similar to the M4 one, but with a more refined treble. The bass remains that neutral, uncolored bass that I found there, yet being well extended. Some may find it lacking: I think you have to think of the KOEL in another way. They make you hear exactly what the artist recorded. Every mainstream earphone has enhanced bass, and even treble sometimes; the KOEL are absolutely not meant to entertain: they are meant to monitor. The mids are phenomenal – I would say this is a “mid-centric” earphone, but it’s just an impression based on a comparison to more fun earphones. Even though the mids are very well-layered and vocals and instrument parts are perfectly reproduced, that doesn’t mean that bass is lacking quality or treble is rolled off. It’s just a signature that puts balance over fun. So, your treble detail is still there, with nearly no sibilance, but it doesn’t make the overall sound bright. Neither that good bass make the signature warm, because it’s very controlled. And the soundstage feels very wide comparing to my other sets. Only the M4 – I continue talking about them because they are similar – feel that wide and have the same precision in imaging. Overall, you won’t get these earphones for the craziest sub-bass extension, nor for the punchiest mid-bass. You will get them for the balance, the airy vocals, the precision in treble. And I believe that spending 20/30$ more than the ADVANCED M4 could be reasonable for the better treble and the interchangeable cable.

P1030166.JPG
P1030167.JPG

 

Comparisons

ADVANCED M4 (to summarize): they are very different in every way but the sound. M4 are made of metal, they have a non-detachable cable with a microphone, an L shaped jack and they have a single dynamic driver; KOEL are made of 3D-printed resin, they have a removable MMCX cable with no microphone, a 45° jack and they have got a single balanced armature. Totally different specs, totally similar sounds. It’s pretty strange, considering the different drivers. I’d say, there’s some dynamic spirit on that balanced armatures inside the KOEL. The only real difference I can hear between the twos is the better treble on the KOEL, which is clearer and more detailed. The bass may be a little more present too. I really can’t choose between these two earphones.

 

ADVANCED Model 3: they are very similar in every way but the sound. I’m not joking, and I usually don’t use earphones of the same brands to do comparisons, but here I have to. Model 3 and KOEL have a similar shape, the same connectors, a similar fit (personally Model 3 are a bit more comfortable), similar build quality but very different sound signatures. So, I’m not saying that M4+Model3=KOEL, but the equation is not so different. Model 3 are made for a fun listening. Mid bass is very enhanced and mids are recessed, treble is fair. The soundstage is way more intimate. So, the Model 3 could be an option for those who don’t appreciate the flatness of the KOEL. I would choose the KOEL, though.

 

Simgot EM1: I compare them and not the MT3 (which have a closer price to the KOEL) because I fairly appreciated the EM1 and the KOEL, while I’m not totally convinced about the MT3. That said, even though the EM1 are among my favorite earphones, they are pretty different in sound compared to the KOEL. I don’t feel the EM1 as heavy colored or too bassy. They are pretty balanced and neutral, but more comfortable and more fun to listen to, rather than the KOEL. Between the two, because of the better fit, I would choose the EM1. They are different, I like them all, but if I had just a choice, that would be my personal one.

 

P1030168.JPG
P1030169.jpg

Conlcusions

So, it’s important to understand this kind of sound signature: I have a lot of earphones, but the ones with that flatness and balance are just these two that I’ve mentioned (KOEL and M4). While I love many sets for different reasons, I can’t deny that while I need to record and mix my songs my choice couldn’t fall upon a fun sounding earphone: here I choose something like the KOEL. Not for chilling, not even for comfort. When I need balance, clarity, sense of space, I rely on them. That’s good in a way, not-so-good in another. Because if I try to recommend them to you, it can be difficult. I may have your same taste, but not your same needs. If you record or monitor music, these are perfect for the money. And even if you are crazy about high fidelity. If you want something more relaxed, more bassy, there are plenty of options. But I think you must give a try to the KOEL, or another flat earphone, to really enjoy the details usually left behind the bass. You may not have that punch. You may not have that fun. But overall, you have something more real and close to the will of the artist. Think about it. I recommend the KOEL and I’m glad to have found a brand that provides a non-mainstream sound signature.

Simgot EM1 Review

Price: 80$

Where to buy them: https://amzn.to/2DWO4ch

Specifications:

  • Transducer unit: 10mm high magnetic composite dynamic driver

  • Diaphragm: Polymer composite titanium-plated diaphragm

  • Frequency response: 15Hz-40kHz

  • Sensitivity: ≥101dB (at 1000Hz)

  • Impedance: 16Ω

  • Distortion: <1%  101dB(20μpa)

  • Channel imbalance: <1.5dB(at 1000Hz)

  • Rated power: 10mW

 

Thanks to Simgot for the review sample.

It’s been awhile since I’ve tried my first Simgot set of earphones, the Meeture MT3 (here my Head-fi review). I kind of liked that monitors, with a particular vocal-centered tuning which makes them perfect for singers’ live stages. They were comfortable too, so with the right eartips they were a really capable IEM. However, the tuning was a little bit unorthodox, that’s not a bad thing, but it’s something you need to get used to. These EM1, instead, are very well-tuned and easier to appreciate. Let’s see why.

Unboxing and first impressions

As you can see, the difference between the boxes is noticeable: I liked the rational small white box of the MT3, but this bigger black one of EM1 is classy and more elegant. There’s a High-Res certification and some black-on-black pictures and specifications on the various faces of the box: I like this style, but I have to say it’s a bit difficult to read what’s written.

box.jpg

As always, we find a soft carrying pouch with a good number of silicon eartips: 3 wide bore ones, 3 small bore ones. They really change the sound a lot, so be careful to try them all before judging the set. Like on the MT3, I prefer using the wide bore tips, because the sound is more balanced and less “boomy” than the sound provided with the others. It’s nice to see a description of how the sound changes depending on the eartips used, not just because they help with your choice, but because it’s very accurate. Unfortunately, there aren’t any foam tips, but the nozzle is pretty standard: I’ve tried both the Tin HiFi foams and the NiceHCK foams and they all fit very stably. The cable is really good: the same as MT3, a really well-made braided one. It’s oxygen free, 4 core, 6N of purity; a standard single-ended 3.5mm gold-plated jack and 2-pin 0.78mm connectors for the buds. There are pre-curved hooks and they are very comfortable, and there’s a chin slider too. The IEMs themselves come in a beautiful choice of colors: even though you can buy an all-black model, mine has the right earbud in red and the left one in blue. This makes it way easier to recognize which way to wear them. And the eartips are red/blue too, so it’s a beautiful touch. The buds are made of metal and plastic and they are actually the best plastic earphones I’ve ever tried regarding the build quality. It’s a translucent colored plastic, so you can still see the internals: you can notice the dynamic driver, which is the only one used in this set. The nozzle and parts of the faceplate are made of metal. There are some elegant writings. Overall, design wise this set is one of my favorites.

unbox.jpg

Sound

My sources: FiiO M7, Xiaomi Mi MIX 2 with Zorloo ZuperDAC-S as DAC/Amp, MacBook Pro 2012 with Focusrite 2i2

My files: DSD, FLAC, ALAC, MP3, M4A

My music: “Colour the Small One” by Sia, “Djesse Vol.1” by Jacob Collier, “Where are You?” by Frank Sinatra, “Ghost Stories” by Coldplay, “O” by Damien Rice, and many other tracks by Queen, Pink Floyd, Genesis, Radiohead, Jack Garratt…

cable.jpg

When you try a lot of earphones, it’s difficult to get surprised: some sets have a good tuning, but they lack of detail, or vice versa. Some others have a really good bass, but they fall on mids and highs; it’s difficult to find a 360° convincing IEM, because brands obviously have to aim at a particular feature, especially on the budget area. Well, for my taste, this is one of the most convincing earphones under 100$. I may say this now is my favorite IEM.

Usually, when I start trying an earphone, I immediately understand a general tuning of it. Whether it’s a flat one or a “V” one, a balanced or a flat. In this case I needed more time to understand. First, I thought this was a warm set. Because bass sounded very punchy, quick, perfectly controlled with a dark background. Then I thought this was a bright set, because I started hearing some sparkles and a slight sibilance. So, I started thinking about a classic V-shaped signature, but I heard no evident fall on mids. Well, this became a really interesting set. I’d say, after listening to them for some time, that I’d remain with the initial impression of a dark background: the overall bass area is solid and gives warmness to the scene. That being said, the treble is surprisingly capable with a great detail and some sparkles, which however don’t bother me, as a really treble-sensitive person. I still hear some sibilance, which it’s not a characteristic of this set, but it’s an evidence of some not-so-well recorded songs: exactly like on Tin HiFi T3. Mids are great: I think they are slightly recessed, because the final impression I have is having a smooth U-shaped signature, which isn’t lacking of body nor lacking of air, though. I hear a very good separation between instruments and a pretty airy sound, with good detail and resolution. Soundstage is average: it doesn’t feel very wide, but neither inside your head. It’s something close to holographic which however doesn’t give the impression of a “virtualization”. And imaging, through this perceived small room, is actually pretty accurate.

To summarize: bass is very well-extended on the sub-bass area, present but controlled, punchy and pleasant. Mids are clear, with airy vocals and a good layering between instruments. Treble is solid and absolutely not rolled off, with a precise and analytical feel. Soundstage is average in width and depth, but imaging is really believable.

 

em1 2.jpg
em1 1.jpg

Comparisons

Simgot Meeture MT3: while they share the same accessories, materials and build quality, sound wise they are pretty different. Depending on the tips, MT3 can sound really V-shaped (small bore) or mid-centric (wide bore). EM1 are more balanced and provide an overall signature that’s more classic and pleasant. I could recommend the MT3 to singers for their live stages; but I can really recommend the EM1 to anyone, whether for music listening or music production or exibitions. These are really solid universal IEMs with no compromises. You can find the MT3 here: https://amzn.to/2GTFyxN

 

Tin HiFi T3: when I said that most of the times brands need to make decisions, I meant that earphones like Tin T3 are amazing under certain ways, but average on some others. T3 are fantastic if you need detail, they have a really good bass yet remaining bright and they absolutely don’t fall on mids. And they have the best cable on a budget, too. But they are less comfortable to wear and more fatiguing to listen to. I feel that EM1 are more cohesive in their frequency distribution – but it’s easily because of their only dynamic driver, while T3 are a hybrid solution. I personally choose EM1: they may be meant for a more casual listening, because of their less-analytical signature, but they are more pleasant to my ears and they don’t really make compromises. T3 do maybe “too much”: they need to smooth their treble a little bit. Still a great set, though, with a stunning design. In absolute terms, they may be superior. For my personal taste, which requires a more controlled treble, EM1 are a better choice. You can find the T3 here: https://amzn.to/2XcI206

 

BGVP DMG: very different in terms of drivers (it’s a 5 or 6 drivers hybrid), and also in terms of sound. DMG are more sibilant, and provide a less smooth sound through the frequency range. They are warm too, but they aren’t as punchy neither as controlled as the EM1. I like EM1 treble more, too. Mids are similar and soundstage depth too. Fit wise, they are both great and not fatiguing. I like them both, honestly; DMG may be a little bit more detailed thanks to their multi-balanced configuration, but the overall experience of EM1 is closer to my taste. You can find the DMG here: https://amzn.to/2EltqUJ

em1 e dap 3.jpg
em1 e dap.jpg

Conclusions

EM1 are an easy recommendation for me. I wasn’t so sure about MT3, but this set here is close to perfect for my taste. If you search for the most balanced choice in every way, consider this set. If you are more into crazy detail or very wide soundstage, there are better earphones, which aren’t that solid though, at least for what I think. This actually is one of my favorite IEM ever – and it proofs what you can do with a single dynamic driver, even on a budget. Highly recommended, in the end.