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.

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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

 

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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

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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.