AudioSense T800 Review

Price: 300$ / 270€

Where to buy: [link]

Specifications:

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I want to thank AudioSense for providing a beneficial discount to us for this review. This is their TOTL product, developed in close cooperation with Knowles (in fact, there are 8 Knowles balanced armatures inside this IEM, without any crossover: there’s a deep research behind this particular model). You can find other really interesting models which contain Knowles drivers, too, for a more affordable price. I’ve immediately appreciated this brand because they asked for some critics, “knowing they are not perfect”. Good philosophy in my honest opinion.

 

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Unboxing and first impressions

This is a fabulous experience: this IEM is on a premium Chi-fi side, even if this driver configuration (and other things) is usually prerogative of much pricier Hi-fi products. The elegant black box is very minimal: there’s a proud Knowles branding on the front, as well as the model name and a picture with the shape of the T800. Not much more, honestly, even on the other sides. The specifications are written inside on the papers. When you open the cardboard, there’s a massive box which is a pelican-like case (you can buy it on the same store of the earphones for about 10€), water-proof, shock-proof and dust-proof: it’s very hard to open and close, and it’s perfect if you need to protect your purchase. Honestly, I think its only problem is that it’s massive. You can’t carry it around everywhere. But I also understand it’s a product for professional users – and it really is, believe me – so this is not something I can complain about. Inside the box, there are the buds, three pairs of silicon ear tips and three pairs of foam tips (a pair is black, another is blue, another red), the cable and a cleaning tool. The silicon tips are comfortable and high quality. I really like the foams too, they are different from Comply (denser and faster to return to their original shape after being squeezed) but I would have put three different measures as they did with silicon tips. A great set of accessories, for sure. The shape of the T800 is custom-like. To make a comparison, it’s similar to the BGVP DM6, but slightly larger. I find them comfortable with the silicon tips, but too tight with the foams (and I don’t really need them for the seal, because it’s already great with the silicon tips). The cable is good, it seems very professional; it may look like a FiiO silver cable because of the hooks, but it’s a proprietary unit. I like it, even though the MMCX connectors are a bit loose. However, AudioSense suggested to use at least an 8 core upgrade cable, so I chose a 16 core single crystal copper-plated cable by HiFiHear, which is a good match.

 

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Sound

My sources: FiiO M7 (standalone; to XDUOO XP-2/iFi xDSD via Bluetooth; to XP-2 via line-out; to xDSD via USB), Dodocool DA106 (mainly to XDUOO XP-2 via line-out); Mi MIX 2 to XP-2 and xDSD (via Bluetooth and USB), to Zorloo ZuperDAC-S, to Audirect Whistle; MacBook Pro 2012 to Focusrite 2i2.

My music: Jon Hopkins, “Singularity”; Billie Eilish, “When do we fall asleep, where do we go?”; Coldplay, “Ghost stories”; Bon Iver (Discography); Jack Garratt, “Phase”; Jamie Cullum, “Taller”; Sia, “Colour the small one”; The Bloody Beetroots & Jet, “The great electronic swindle”; Jacob Collier, “In my room” and “Djesse (Vol.1)”; John Coltrane, “Giant steps”; Lauv, “I met you when I was 18”, Oh Wonder (Discography), Radiohead (Discography), ecc..

My files: MP3, M4A, FLAC, ALAC, few DSDs (Pink Floyd).

I have no doubts this is an IEM meant to be used by professional users to produce music. It’s not a pleasant-sounding earphone. It’s not gentle at all, it’s not bass-heavy, it’s not colored, it’s not fun. It’s a perfect tool to analyze micro-details, though. Let’s explain.

I’ve used the T800 to test the iFi iPurifier SPDIF version. So, I had to use a precise In Ear Monitor to compare various audio systems and stacks and catch even the small differences. The 8 balanced armatures of the T800 are really capable: they produce a fairly neutral sound, with a controlled bass, great mids and a slightly emphasized treble. I’m very treble sensitive, so I usually prefer a smooth and relaxed one. This is, on the contrary, is solid and it doesn’t mitigate any sibilance. If I had to choose an earphone to listen to music with, this certainly wouldn’t be the one for me; but I’m a musician and wanna-be producer too, and this is the perfect IEM for that. I quote myself because I’ve already posted a preview on these earphones on a Facebook group: “So, here are my first impressions of the AudioSense T800. I had to try them for a while to calm the hype and un-bias myself. At first, I thought they were simply amazing, best IEMs I’ve ever tried (and I’ve tried the 3k$ UM Mason V3 in the past). Now, after some time, I still believe they are amazing, but I have some critics to do. Having the BGVP DM6 as the only similar priced all-BA earphones, I’ll try to make some comparisons with those. First: the T800 are incredibly detailed. It’s something you’d expect by a BA earphone, sure, but the step forward from the DM6 is clear. The instrument separation is stellar, and they luckily are airy, so you don’t have the congestion of the DM6. The stage feels wider too, and this is also due to the emphasis on the treble area (I believe 2 to 6k and even above). So, if you are sensitive to high frequencies like me, you could be a little fatigued by the sharpness of the T800. They are not gentle at all with sibilance. If you are familiar with the Tin T3, you’ll know the feeling; here the sound is even sharper. Vocals are stunning: at first, I wouldn’t have considered them as “vocal oriented” because I had something like the Simgot MT3 as a reference for that; this is a completely different tuning, because vocals are perfectly clear and airy here, but the instruments aren’t “notched” to give them space. Does it sound comprehensible? I feel like they are perfect for mixing and mastering because they aren’t smooth or “buttery” like the Ufo112 by UfoEar, for example, and they have no particular emphasis on certain frequencies. Even the bass is very controlled and it extends deeply on the sub when needed. If you try to pump it (eq or a booster like the one on the iFi xDSD) it can be very satisfying, with a noticeable speed and a substantial body. The DM6 are bassier, but I’d rather the quality of the T800 even on the low range. The clarity of the AS T800, for me, wins over the less-fatiguing listening experience of the BGVP DM6; and even though the T800 are bigger, so less comfortable to wear, I’d choose them. I found a terrible synergy with my phone (Xiaomi Mi MIX 2) paired with a Zorloo ZuperDAC-S (ES9018) and low-quality files (low bitrate MP3s). The same files don’t feel that bad on Bluetooth with something like the FiiO M7 as a receiver, with the same DAC. In the end, I’d say they are not the most musical earphones out there, if you consider “musical” as fun and colored. But they are perfect tools for professional users, even on live stages. Audiophiles would be amazed. With a little less sharpness, they would easily be mid-fi endgame earphones. If you want to talk about money, if you believe DM6 are worth their 200$, T800 are well worth their 100$ more; I would even pay twice their price for a sound like that. Peace”

 

Do I agree with the past myself now? Yes, but I’ve now tried the Ufo112 for a longer period. Those are perfectly tuned, more comfortable, more versatile because they can be used for music listening with satisfaction too. The Ufo112 are 370$, while the T800 are 300$. Is a Tin T3 (70$) of difference justified? It’s difficult to say. This Chi-Fi game is improving day by day, and while it’s true that 300$ for the sound of the T800 is a crazy low price, I honestly think the Ufo112 sound better and they may be worth the extra money. But you have to understand the will of both: the T800 for monitoring during music production may be better, due to the micro-details they can catch; however, the Ufo112 are way more versatile. My choice would be – sound-wise – on the Ufo112, but I aesthetically prefer the T800. Also, even though the accessories are great on both contenders, the T800 are more pragmatic, they look and feel more professional-oriented. And their case is stellar. Notice these are my personal impressions and tastes, while one of my team mates absolutely chooses the T800 over the Ufo112, because of their amazing detail and instrument separation, as well as vocals shining over the instruments.

 

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Conclusions

AudioSense is a well-known brand in the East, it works really close to Knowles itself and it’s had various recognitions on their official pages. It seems that they decided to embrace the western countries by selling directly on Amazon and by striking deals with some stores (Linsoul, for example). I’ve only tried their TOTL IEM, and I’ve really appreciated it, as you’ve read. I believe they can do great things on lower models too. Do I recommend the T800? Sure, but not to everyone. If you can deal with sibilance to get some crazy details, this would certainly amaze you. The covered spectrum is crazy, and the stage feels wide. Not the most natural IEMs, but I’d define them “precision monsters”.

 

AudioSense stock cable on FiiO FA1

AudioSense stock cable on FiiO FA1

Pros

  • Accessories

  • Isolation

  • Fit

  • Design

  • Sound signature

  • Details

 

Cons

  • Average cable for the price

  • Sibilance

  • Bass may be lacking for some

YinYoo Topaz Review

Price: 100€

Where to buy them: [link]

Specifications:

  • Frequency response: 20-40k Hz

  • Impedance: 12 Ohm

  • Sensitivity: 106±3dB

  • Connectors: 2pin 0.78mm

  • Driver configuration: 1DD+4BA

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Many thanks to AK Audio for providing this review sample and an upgrade cable. You can always get a little discount by buying earphones by them, if you write “techinblack” as a message for the seller before paying anything. This is not an affiliation: techinblack doesn’t get anything if you do like that, but you can pay a little less. It’s all for the music. Peace.

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Unboxing and first impressions

Similarly to other YinYoo earphones, the Topaz come in a shiny blue cardboard box, which contains a classic hard case, which in turn contains the buds, the cable, a clip and the eartips (S-M-L wide bore and S-M-L small bore: 6 pairs in total). AK Audio sent me an upgrade cable, which you can buy together with the Topaz. As always, there’s a complete set of accessories; the only thing I would have added is – at least – a pair of foam ear tips: this is a 100$+ contender and the others usually have a pair of them (BGVP/NiceHCK/BRAINWAVZ…). The stock cable is the same cable as the YinYoo D2B4 (here is not MMCX but 2pin), surely a tool but honestly bad looking and too rubberish. The upgrade cable you can choose is very similar to the BGVP DMG silver cable, a very good one overall, especially for the price. The buds themselves are amazing: great looking, with a nice choice of materials. They are made of metal and they may be an answer to IKKO’s OH1/OH10 in terms of design, even though the Topaz are more regular in their shape. You can see the vents for the dynamic driver precisely cut on the shell. I don’t know why YinYoo tends to produce different models with different connectors, but as long as there are compatible upgrade cables, it doesn’t bother me at all. In the end, I’ve paired them with a TRIPOWIN C8 cable, which is fantastic. For the eartips, I enjoy the foams which come with the AudioSense T800, they improve the fit and the isolation, which are not the stronger points of the Topaz.

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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, iFi xDSD and XDUOO XP-2

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, Billie Eilish, The Bloody Beetroots, …

I didn’t have the highest expectations for these Topaz, because the last YinYoo I’ve tried (D2B4) really left me a sour taste. Instead, I actually found one of the better sounding earphones of my entire collection. I didn’t expect a sound that balanced and close to neutral for an earphone that’s still mass-oriented. If you’re familiar with the Tin HiFi T2, you’ll understand this sound. It’s extremely clear and transparent, airy and spacious. The Topaz are a little more bassy than the T2, and they are superior detail-wise. That being said, the bass is extremely controlled, the mid-bass is not emphasized at all, and you can hear a good sub-bass rumble. The speed of it is pretty standard, for a dynamic driver you may expect a little more body, but again: this is a close-to-neutral IEM, and it can be recommended for music production thanks to its flatness. Mids are great: comfortable, a little notched, but pleasantly airy for vocals, and well layered for instruments. I like how everything sounds very balanced, without any emphasis on certain frequencies or instruments. Earphones like the AudioSense T800 – which I borrowed the foam tips to – are much more vocal-oriented, even though the instruments don’t feel undertone. This is a really different tuning, and in my opinion for a hybrid it’s a very well-done one. Treble is clear and airy. No noticeable sibilance there, no harshness, but a touch of brightness which is good as long as you need to hear the details and perceive the stage. Vocals are pleasant and feel natural even on the high range. The soundstage is wider than average, while just average in its depth. Imaging is very good: even though there’s not a crazy wideness, the precision of the position of the parts is impressive. Speaking of isolation, the shape is not particularly ergonomic like it may seem, so it’s not that easy to get a good seal with the stock tips. Yet, if you use a good pair of foams, that helps a lot on improving the fit and the seal and you get less leak on the bass side.

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Comparisons

YinYoo D2B4: they are much more bassy and V-shaped. The sound of D2B4 is congested, too much for my taste, it resembles a bad version of the BGVP DM6 tuning. Luckily, the Topaz are a giant step up from the D2B4 in terms of tuning, clarity, stage perception. These two share the same difficulties in ergonomics, for my particular ears, but it’s a side issue because you can improve that with some foams. I wouldn’t recommend the D2B4 to many, because I feel like there are better choices on the same price range, with the same (good) build quality, like the NiceHCK M6 or TinAudio T3. Instead, I would recommend the Topaz to the ones who need a good tool for production or need to listen to music with a high fidelity. Absolutely not for bassheads.

Tin HiFi T3: their tuning is different from the T2’s one, which is closer to the Topaz’s one. But the T3 are more comparable due to their improved detail and bass. I personally don’t think there’s one absolutely better than the other, but they are different products. T3 are more sibilant, or let’s say less gentle in the high range. And they are more bassy. If you like a balanced, yet fun listening, they would be a better choice over the Topaz, which are much more on a neutral side. My personal choice, because of my needs, would be the Topaz (but make sure you get a nicer cable; the stock one does these IEMs no credit).

BGVP DMG/NiceHCK M6: these two siblings are just fun. Very bassy, heavily U-shaped, I love them but they are not meant to be used as tools for production. They are good live stage monitors, though. But if you need something for mixing, the Topaz are more useful. The fit is worse on the Yinyoo, but this could be a personal factor. Build-wise, we are at the same level. I also think the upgrade cable which you can order with the Topaz is the same as the other two, just with different colors and details. Still, if I had to recommend something, if you need a flat sound, go for the Topaz; if you want a versatile IEM for various genres and situations, and especially a fun one, go for the M6: they are very cheap for their offering.

BGVP DM6: strange comparison? 200$ is twice the price of the Topaz. But I’m here to say I’d get two Topaz instead of a single DM6. Or even a single Topaz because their value for money is way higher than the DM6’s one. DM6 are too congested and their stage is too close. Clarity and tuning of the Topaz win over the superb detail of the DM6’s Balanced Armatures. And this is a personal opinion, obviously. I wouldn’t choose the D2B4 over the DM6 as other reviewers said, but I’d go for the Topaz because of their balance. Build quality, tuning, accessories, design: the Topaz are phenomenal monitors for their price.

Simgot EM1: maybe my favourite earphones. Single dynamic driver, an incredibly versatile IEM with a fun yet balanced tuning. They are much more musical than the Topaz, but less precise. And they are a little bit sibilant. Don’t ask me to choose between the two, please. They are so different, but I love them both. No, I choose the EM1.

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Conclusions

I don’t have much to say: these are convincing In Ear Monitors. Actually one of my favourite ever. They look amazing, they are crazy well built, their sound is the one I usually search for, and if you find the right eartips, you’ll also find them comfortable and sealed. The price tag of 100$, considered the actual market, is pretty fair. With a better stock cable and some foam tips in the box, I would have paid much more, considering how solid the Topaz are. With the Simgot EM1, they actually are the overall most convincing earphones I’ve tried on a budget. If I had to pick a fun one and a flat one under 100$, these two would be my choices.

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Pros

  • Accessories

  • Tuning

  • Clarity

  • Natural timbre

  • Flat sound signature 

Cons

  • Stock cable

  • No foam tips

  • Bass may be lacking for some

KB EAR Opal Review

Price: 25/30€

Where to buy: [link]

Specifications:

  • Impedance: 16Ω±10%

  • Sensitivity: 102±3dB

  • Frequency response: 20Hz-20 KHz

 

KB EAR is a new contender in the sub-50$ Chi-Fi market. I had the chance to try their Opal, which is one of various products they launched to start. Others (I have some and I will review them later) are the F1 (single balanced armature IEM) and an 8 core upgrade cable, but there are also a 16 core cable and a KZ-like 5 BA IEM. I want to thank KB EAR for this review sample.

Unboxing and first impressions

The box is simple but elegant, similar to the RevoNext QT5 or the BQEYZ BQ3 ones, in a black color with the logo, a picture and some information around its faces. There’s a good selection of soft silicon eartips (6 pairs) and a surprisingly good MMCX cable (for its build quality, less for the isolation). The IEMs themselves are all made of plastic, with a very nice design which reminds me some IBasso In Ear Monitors. The faceplate has a carbon look with the KB EAR logo on it. Impressive, good looking, even though I would have put a metallic nozzle. The quality of the plastic is high, and the MMCX connectors are gold-plated and the cable can rotate very easily when attached. The cable has pre-formed hooks to put over the ears, which are great, and the plug is L-shaped. With a carrying case, even a soft one like BQEYZ does, the package would have been spectacular.

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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, XDUOO XP-2 in various wired/wireless configurations

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, Billie Eilish, The Bloody Beetroots, …

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I’ve previously mentioned some problems with the isolation. In fact, the cable suffers from electric noises by a disturbed source (like my Mac’s jack output, which is close to the hard drive). I’ll verify if their upgrade cable would resolve this problem, because my 8 core by NiceHCK doesn’t suffer from that issue, thanks to its great isolation. Speaking of which, the isolation of the IEMs themselves is just average: the shape is not particularly ergonomic, and if you have medium sized ears like me, you could have some air coming through a little bit too often. That being said, the fit is average and you can adjust it with the best tips for your ears, obviously.

I’m not fully convinced about the sound of the Opal. KB EAR told me to burn them in 72 hours. I’m not a true believer in burn-in, but I followed the suggestion, because this is a dynamic driver earphone. Even after the burn-in, I felt like they are not very lively. There’s a sense of unnaturalness that I believe it’s the sum of different factors: the soundstage is narrow; the tuning has to be improved, because it’s balanced but it sounds muddy in the low range and thin in the midrange; vocals are a bit harsh. I’m not saying they sound terrible, but there are some albums that I can’t listen to with them (“Urban Hymns” by The Verve, or “A Fever Dream” by Everything Everything). That last album is often hard to listen to with bright earphones. I would consider the Opal as bright sounding, they have some aspects of harshness and sharpness. For example, they are not gentle with the sibilance, nor they are not smooth sounding, in any way (“The bends” by Radiohead is unpleasant to listen to for the sibilance). The bass is undertone: by listening to the Bloody Beetroots’ “My name is Thunder”, the intro is enough to understand that the treble is super enhanced, while the bass is lacking. This aspect reflects the tuning in every song, so you can choose the Opal for bass-heavy tracks and not feel that bass (it reminds me the BRAINWAVZ KOEL, or the Tin HiFi T2/T2 Pro, they are pretty light on the bass). I’ve tried different sources with the Opal, to find the best synergy. I found that warmer sources are preferable, but here’s the thing: it’s easy to get a better sound if you use the iFi xDSD, but I don’t think that people interested in buying something like the Opal would spend that money for a DAC/Amp. We are talking of budget earphones, and it’s more honest thinking of a cheaper source like my Dodocool DA106 DAP. They match pretty well together, but you must understand the Opal are not surprisingly good, even with good files, even with good sources; they are just honest sounding for the price, not so natural, not so lively. Their sensitivity must be very high, because even with my Focusrite 2i2 I hear a lot of background noise, which is not something I’d expect (if you look at the specifications, it’s just slightly over the average 100 dB). Vocals are a bit robotic and lack harmonics, so the effect is hearing recessed mids, while they are not. Try with Radiohead’s “High and dry”, for example: the voice covers a large spectrum of the midrange to the high range, but here it sounds thin and unpleasant. Guitars are not the best, too. Percussions are more enjoyable. Then, if you listen to tracks that fade out you won’t hear a smooth volume change but some steps; I can say the same for the imaging: it’s pretty precise but not smooth, and the soundstage, while being narrow, is strangely uncentered, unbalanced. I hear more sounds on the left earphone, like the instruments were positioned that way. The instrument separation is average, not bad. I don’t understand the sound signature of these IEMs. For a dynamic driver, they have a ridiculous bass, but I think they are meant to be V-shaped. In the end, they are just close-to-flat-until-the-upper-midrange earphones with a lot of picks and notches in various zones, even in the midrange. I honestly never heard anything like that on “serious” earphones. It’s like they have problems with their polarity.  

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Comparisons

ADVANCED Model 3: personally, a difficult earphone to appreciate initially, but now I understand its fun tuning and its darkness. True, they have recessed mids, they are not fantastic IEMs for vocals, but they are coherent. I’d rather them to the Opal, which have the only advantage of having a better stock cable. The fit, the packaging, the tips, the sound, everything is superior on the Model 3. Review here

TRN IM1: am I really comparing two disasters of monitors? Okay, I have two pairs of IM1, they sound terrible. Incoherent, thin, bright, muddy. Just like the Opal! I don’t want to be too brutal, the Opal are superior to the IM1 for me, but I cannot say I like them or even save them. Well, I don’t want to talk about these anymore. Review here

KZ ZSN: strange enough, this is one of the few times I can say that I’d rather a KZ to another earphone. The ZSN are good, surprisingly good for being a KZ. They sound balanced, with their expected U-shape and the color needed for a mass-oriented IEM. Here, again, I talk about coherence, because that’s the point that lacks the most in this review. I don’t hate sound signatures. I’m a flatness lover, but sometimes I need that bass. I’m not a fan of brightness because it’s usually a friend of harshness. But I can stand everything if I understand the will of the earphone. I don’t understand the will of KB EAR, with the Opal. We’ll see if the single BA (F1) by the same company is different. ZSN review here.

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Conclusions

If I weren’t a reviewer, with all these earphones to try every day, I’d be way less critic about the Opal. They are not terrible, but the Chi-fi market nowadays is a sea full of sharks and you have to be careful before selling a product with an immature tuning. To be gentle, I’d say the Opal are not my cup of tea. I love their design, I like their cable, I appreciate the MMCX connectors, but in the end it’s the sound that matters, and this is not something I would recommend.

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Pros

  • Design

  • Accessories

  • Cable

 

Cons

  • Average fit

  • Incoherent tuning

  • Unnatural sound

BQEYZ BQ3 Review

Price: 60€

Where to buy: [link]

Specifications (from Head-Fi):

  • Impedance: 22Ω

  • Sensitivity: 95db

  • Frequency range: 7-40kHz

  • Driver unit: 3BA+2DD In Ear Earphone

  • Weight: About 25g±5g

  • Cable Type: 0.78mm Pin

 

Thanks to Elle from BQEYZ for providing this review sample.

Never thought what BQEYZ stands for? They claimed “Best Quality Earphones (for) You”. And then Z, because why not. 

Unboxing and first impressions

I’ve never tried any BQEYZ products before. But I know it’s a famous brand in the Chi-Fi game. The BQ3 come in a black cardboard box, with some information around the box itself and a picture of the buds on the front. On the inside, there are the buds and the silicon tips (3 pairs) inside a foam, and a soft carrying pouch which contains the cable. The buds are completely made of metal, which is great, and they have an unusual design which is original but it doesn’t seem very comfortable. After trying them, I have to say they are not only extremely comfortable, but they also isolate incredibly well! The cable is a good unit, which reminds me of the TRN IM1/V30 cable, but it’s not the same one. There’s a mic on my version, which works very well. The only disadvantages of the cable are: the chin slider is there, but on a wrong position, because it’s below the mic and it cannot reach your chin; it tangles pretty easily. Overall, I’m not a fan of the design but I like everything about the build quality, the accessories and the comfort.

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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, iFi xDSD, XDUOO XP-2

My files: DSD, FLAC, ALAC, MP3, M4A, MQA on TIDAL Master Quality

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, … 

 

I don’t know why, before trying the BQ3, I was biased, thinking these IEMs were sibilant, sparkling, sharp. Luckily, I was completely wrong. The first thing I’ve noticed was the good sense of space: the treble is slightly elevated, so the perceived stage is wider than average. And there’s a good imaging too, very smooth around the soundstage. What doesn’t convince me is the instrument separation: when the mix is full, I hear some congestion, like the crossover had to be improved. So, I can say that I would work a little bit on the layering, but the tuning is absolutely mature. In fact, there’s a balanced graph here (from what I perceive) if you think about a frequency response reproduction. I would say this is a similar sound signature to the Tin HiFi T2, with a little bit more bass. I like the control of the mid-bass which doesn’t fall on the midrange, and I like the depth of the sub-bass which is very noticeable. Mids don’t feel recessed, even though there’s a smooth U which gives a pleasant dark background; vocals are forward enough to sound embracing and they can shine through the mix. I particularly appreciate the male vocals here, because of the timbre. That being said, the female ones are great too, because of the sparkling treble; this is usually a con for me, because it tends to cause some sibilance (I’m very sensitive to it), but surprisingly they kept the good and left the bad of this kind of tuning. It’s important underlining that these earphones don’t need amplification, even though the driver configuration may suggest you could (3BA+2DD!). I’ve easily used them with the stock dongle of my Xiaomi Mi MIX 2 with Tidal on MASTER quality, and when I switched to something like the Zorloo ZuperDAC-S or my audio interface on a desktop setup (Focusrite 2i2), I didn’t feel like there was a massive increase in the performances. I feel like there’s a slight upgrade on the layering definition, but very marginal. They are very pleasant with the iFi xDSD, which I have in test, because it’s a pretty warm DAC in my opinion. I like them slightly less with the XDUOO XP-2 because it’s on a brighter side, and it doesn’t mitigate the emphasis of the IEMs’ treble. Overall, there aren’t really a lot of negative things about the BQ3’s sound. In my opinion, they are one of the more complete choices for about 50€.

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Comparisons

Tin Audio T2 (2019 version): even though I prefer the look and the presentation of the T2, I find them a little bit too big for my ears, so… comfort-wise I’d go for the BQ3. As I’ve said before, I find the sound signature of the two being very similar, with less bass on the T2 but a better instrument separation. Consider that the T2 can be sometimes found for half the price of the BQ3, and they are very close. If you find the T2 for less than 30€, go for them. If you want something less mainstream but extremely valid, the BQ3 are absolutely great for being a sub-100 IEM.

KZ ZS7: I love their look (I know, Campfire, it’s your look), and I like their warm sound. I have to admit that sound-wise the BQ3 are a better choice: more clarity, better vocals, a more controlled bass. But I’m a design lover, and BQ3 don’t shine that way. The stock BQEYZ cable is better than the KZ counterpart. And the isolation provided by the BQ3 is superior to the ZS7 one. And KZ doesn’t give you a carrying pouch. Neither their stock ear tips are very good. BQ3 here are a rational choice. But I still love the ZS7 to be a “wannabe” Andromeda.

SIMGOT EM1: a little bit pricier, they are one of my all-time favorite IEMs. Not the widest stage, not the craziest detail, but a reliable sound signature for every situation. BQ3 have better materials, a wider stage, more detail and air in the vocals. Speaking about quality for the price, BQ3 are a bit superior. But Simgot provides a better cable and a magnificent set of silicon eartips to tune the earphones finely.

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Conclusions

For being my first BQEYZ experience, it’s been a great start. This is a solid product with just a little refinement to do, to reach the top for the price range. I’m very impressed by the build quality, the isolation, the mature tuning and I’m surprised to appreciate a sound signature which is closer to the brightness than to the neutrality. I’d say it’s incredible to find something like this for under 100€, but these last two years have been so absurd for the Chi-Fi market that I’m not so surprised anymore: you will absolutely love the BQ3, but at the same price you find the Tin T3, too (which I didn’t compare before because for me they are not so worthy for the price, considering the crazy cheapness of the T2… but that T3’s cable!) and you can buy two sets of Tin T2 themselves. Think about it. I recommend the BQ3, but l suggest to find a great deal for a special occasion.

 

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Pros

  • Build quality

  • Cable

  • Microphone

  • Carrying pouch

  • Mature tuning

  • Soundstage and imaging

  • Almost no sibilance

  • Easy to drive despite the high amount of drivers

 

Cons

  • Mediocre instrument separation

  • Bad position of the chin cinch

KZ ZSN Review

Price: 20€

Where to buy: https://amzn.to/2GSyxgu (Italy), https://amzn.to/2ZNvv4n (US)

Specifications:

  • Driver configuration: 1 BA + 1 DD

  • Impedance: 25 Ohm

  • Sensitivity: 104 dB/mW

  • Frequency Response: 20-40k Hz

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Unboxing and first impressions

Apart from certain models, Knowledge Zenith usually packs its earphones the same way. This one makes no exception: white box with earphones, three pairs of starline eartips plus a silicon medium pair already attached on the earbuds, some manuals and a cable. Luckily, this is a better cable rather than the ones I usually see on KZ models (like ZS3, ES4 or ZS7), because it doesn’t have that bad memory hook with the metal reinforcement inside. I still don’t like the brownish color, and the L plug shape, but these are not functional critics, just aesthetic ones. CCA earphones have a similar cable, but a little bit better in my opinion. The shape of the IEMs is finally smart, because it hints at the shape of a custom earphone. Differently from ES4, this model is well built and good looking. The metal faceplate is really a nice touch, and I’m glad KZ took this way in various models (for example, the new ZS10 Pro). The new sister-brand CCA is doing the same. The fit is surprisingly good (only the ZS7 were good for me that way, but ES4 were uncomfortable and ZS3 were bad too for me), but not so stable. Better than CCA C10, which are a touch too big for my ears.

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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, …

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I got these together with the ZS7. With no great expectations, because I didn’t like the previous KZ monitors. KZ7 (here my review) were honestly surprisingly good, not only for the build quality and the nicer presentation, but also for the sound provided. I think they need a refinement on the low end, but they are surely enjoyable: ZS8 will be great if they manage to mitigate the mid-bass. These ZSN are good, too. But differently from the ZS7, they are less bass-oriented and more on a balanced side. Honestly, I feel they are the best tuned KZ I’ve tried.

Bass is punchy, pretty quick, but not overwhelming. It extends well in width, not so well in depth, but mid-bass is controlled and that’s the good point: mids are not covered.

Mids are a bit recessed, and it’s not surprising because these are consumer-oriented earphones, which have to be fun, even in their balanced character. Luckily, they don’t feel buried or lacking air, because the tuning is fine. I like vocals, which feel natural, and instrument separation is better than average. We are talking about entry-level earphones, so I obviously don’t expect miracles. But honestly these feel like one of the better choices on the price range. They just feel overload when the mix is really full. For a 20€ dual driver, it’s fine.

Treble is nice. I’m sensitive to sibilance and I admit there is some, but it’s not so disturbing. I hear no strange picks or notches; instead, a smooth yet precise reproduction of the high frequencies. Higher vocals are enjoyable too.

The soundstage follows the bass impressions: the width is okay, the depth could be better. Imaging is honest, precise but it’s like having some “steps” instead of a smooth reproduction around the space.

What I have to underline is the background noise, which is really exaggerated. It goes away by using an amp, but I believe that 20€ earphones are meant to be easily driven by smartphones. I think they presented the ZSN Pro because they needed that kind of upgrade, or refinement. Maybe if I’ll get them too, I would compare the two and verify this thing.

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Comparisons

TRN IM1: really poor quality control on that model, and a strange tuning, make difficult for me to appreciate that model over anything else. I appreciate the effort of a custom-like cheap earphone, but driver flex, lack of air passing through, are serious defects. ZSN are cheaper (because of the materials, I believe) but sound way more mature. I put this more as an advice than as a real comparison. 

TRN V30: another TRN, another QC problem for me (nozzle filter gone). V30 look like KZ ES4, which I didn’t like for build quality, neither for sound. At least, I can appreciate the V30 for their sound. The soundstage is wider and deeper than the ZSN, and the background noise is way inferior. The tuning is comparable, while I prefer the materials and the build quality of the ZSN for sure.

RevoNext QT5: this is a difficult comparison. I love the QT5, because they are so complete for the price. Honestly, they have the same accessories and a very similar price, so I have to judge the build quality and the sound. Both are well built, but I don’t like the 2pin of the QT5 because they are too deep for most aftermarket cables (5mm vs average 3mm), and I don’t like the ZSN ones too, because they protrude too much. Sound wise, the tuning is more relaxed on the ZSN, while more on a reference side on the QT5. I generally prefer the QT5 tuning, but their sibilance is too much for my taste. They don’t have that background noise, though. If I had to choose, I may pick the QT5, also because of their steampunk look. If you ask, I’m a music lover and a design lover, too. Sound matters, and so does the look. I don’t write just for audiophiles, but for everyone looking for an overall good choice. Earphones are not just tools – some of them are, and this is not the case – but also aesthetic items, for me. 

CCA C10: a bit more expensive, these are a slight upgrade of the ZSN, but you have to appreciate more mid-bass to prefer them over the KZ. Honestly, I’m not that person: ZSN have a balance that I’d rather than the warmness of the C10, which are also bigger and the fit is not that comfortable for me; they tend to fall easily. What I prefer on the C10 is the absence of hiss, which is for me the only real disadvantage of the ZSN for their price range.

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Conclusions

ZSN are one of the better choices on the market for 20€. Honestly, my previous experience with KZ, even in the same price range, hasn’t been that good. These are the first expression of their new design, and I hope they’ll keep this way. I’m just disappointed on the background noise, but the tuning is becoming more and more mature with the new models, and I believe the ZSN Pro really can be an improvement on this area. Before suggesting to buy these, I’d wait for my impressions of the Pro version, which have a very similar price, if I manage to get a pair.

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Pros

  • Design and build quality

  • Cable (finally)

  • Fit

  • Tuning

Cons

  • Eartips

  • Background noise

YinYoo D2B4 Review

Price: 80€ now (it was about 130€)

Where to buy: [link]

Specifications:

  • Driver configuration: 2 dynamic drivers (I guess it’s a double diaphragm single dynamic) and 4 balanced armatures

  • Impedance: 19 Ohm @1 kHz

  • Sensitivity: 102 dB/1 mW

  • Frequency range: 20 – 40k Hz

Thanks to AK Audio for this review unit.

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Unboxing and first impressions

Classic YinYoo box here: a cardboard with a carrying case and various accessories inside (buds, cable, 6 pairs of silicon eartips: 3 wide bore, 3 small bore). No foam tips, no cleaning tools. A close experience to the V2 model by the same brand. Differently from the V2, the cable here is worse (strange, because the price is higher) and the standard is MMCX and not 2pin. I know for sure that now, if you buy the D2B4, they ship them with a better cable, which is closer to the BGVP DMG or NiceHCK M6 cable. I don’t mention those two models randomly: they share the same driver configuration and a similar build quality with these YinYoo. I don’t like my cable (remember: I have the older version), so I switched to a NiceHCK cable which is identical to the M6 one (it’s actually the P3’s cable); I’ve also tried the upgrade 8 core copper plated by the same company, but I’d rather use it with my NiceHCK M6 (because – spoiler – I prefer them). What’s not so convincing about these earphones? Despite their amazing look and build quality, the isolation is not that good – while that is a main feature on the counterparts I’ve mentioned.

 

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Sound

My sources: iFi xDSD via MacBook Pro 2012 or XIaomi Mi MIX 2 (wired and Bluetooth); FiiO M7; Focusrite 2i2 via MacBook Pro; Zorloo ZuperDAC-S via Mi MIX 2.

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, Billie Eilish, Pink Floyd, Genesis, Radiohead, …

Given the same driver configuration as the BGVP DMG and the NiceHCK M6 (which are very similar one another), I thought the D2B4 were close to them too. It’s not really true. The sound signature is kind of comparable, with a full bass, nice mids and a decent treble. Other factors make them sound different: layering is a bit worse, soundstage is less wide – yet very deep – and detail is not the main focus here.

Bass: more than enough, for a balance lover. Sub-bass is decent, mid-bass is prominent. The problem is that it sounds a little bit muddy. The seller said the new cable can improve the sound, but I’m not really a believer of this (and, as I’ve said before, I’ve already replaced it). I’m not disappointed, I could even expect something like that. But I’ve heard the YinYoo V2 and their punchy yet controlled bass which I find amazing, so I may be right by expecting something more refined here. I really appreciate how this dark background matches with sharp recordings (like “A Fever Dream” by Everything Everything), though: the mid-bass invades the midrange, but many main parts are on the treble side, so you get as a result a comfortable, non-fatiguing experience.

Mids: they are recessed, I can’t deny they are under the pressure of that enhanced mid-bass. Male vocals feel undertone sometimes, but this is the only real disadvantage of this kind of tuning. I like the instrument separation and I hear a decent detail here. Female vocals (especially the higher ones) are airy and crisp. I would have expected a better layering, because sometimes I feel a lack of clarity whenever the mix is full of instruments. You can distinguish them (we are talking about decent specs), but they might be clearer in their reproduction.

Treble is good for my personal taste. I don’t like picks of any genre, so this relaxed high range is perfect for me. So, the overall frequency response that I hear is kind of L-shaped. Detail, vocals, instruments (especially drums) are really enjoyable on the high frequencies. I don’t have any sense of exaggerated effort, neither on the sub-bass or the top-high. If I had to correct something, I would take the mid-bass down a bit, because it’s very “covering”, too much sometimes.

The soundstage is average, the imaging is good. I hear no particular holographic atmosphere.

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Comparisons

BGVP DMG / NiceHCK M6: I prefer these two over the D2B4. The shape is better for isolation and stability, the provided cable is better (but the new D2B4’s one is kind of identical). Speaking of sound, I hear a clearer bass on DMG/M6 and a better detail and layering. But I have to consider the price that’s different. D2B4 costed 130€ (like DMG) but they are now 80€ (a little bit less than M6). The best deal here is NiceHCK M6: they have the same sound as DMG (for me, they may be even better because they might have less sibilance, if I hear correctly), but better accessories and the most appealing price for performance. Despite the similarities between the new cable of the D2B4 and the other two cables, the factory which produces these YinYoo models isn’t the same as the BGVP/NiceHCK.

 

Tin HiFi T3: I’d rather them too. Better cable but worse accessories, same level of build quality. For me, the two drivers of the T3 are better tuned than the 6 drivers of the D2B4. There’s not so much to say here, T3 are difficult to beat even for twice their price. I think D2B4 are nice for their price, but they are not the best product I heard by YinYoo for sure (V2 are absolutely amazing, and Y1 too, for my taste). The starting price of D2B4 was too high; now that they are cheaper, they have more sense. But I wouldn’t choose them, honestly. I have to say the D2B4 are more comfortable to wear, the T3 (like every other Tin HiFi product) are a little bit too large for ears on the smaller size.

 

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Conclusions

I feel like YinYoo is trying to produce a lot of different products, following the best trends of Chi-fi: V2 are a great counterpart to the Tin T2, while D2B4 aren’t that solid against the BGVP DMG. Now they are out with their Topaz (which I feel it’s like an IKKO OH1 contender), and we will see if they are worth it.

I try a lot of earphones. Sometimes valid products don’t really appeal to me like they could. In the end, this product is solid: really good accessories, capable sound, nice build quality and now even a good cable. I’m more into balance than fun, and the D2B4 are far from being balanced. I would recommend them to casual listeners, occasional bassheads, but if you need that sub-bass punch, I think you have to search more. These, to me, feel like the On Ears I’ve reviewed by 1MORE (here, in Italian). They don’t fail anywhere, but neither they shine. If you find a really good deal, you can get them and be satisfied, with a flavor of BGVP DMG and nice performances. Just be aware that the soundstage is limited and the instrument separation could be better due the enhanced mid-bass.

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.

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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

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

 

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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, … 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.