AudioSense T800 Review

Price: 300$ / 270€

Where to buy: [link]

Specifications:

specs.jpg

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.

 

P1030543.JPG
P1030545.JPG

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.

 

2.jpg

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.

 

1.jpg
3.jpg

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

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.

3.jpg

Sound

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

7.jpg

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.  

1.jpg
2.jpg

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.

5.jpg

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.

6.jpg

Pros

  • Design

  • Accessories

  • Cable

 

Cons

  • Average fit

  • Incoherent tuning

  • Unnatural sound

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

P1030290.jpg
P1030292.JPG

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.

P1030287.JPG

Sound

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

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

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

P1030289.JPG

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.

P1030285.JPG
P1030286.JPG

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.

P1030294.JPG

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.

P1030283.JPG

Pros

  • Design and build quality

  • Cable (finally)

  • Fit

  • Tuning

Cons

  • Eartips

  • Background noise

KZ ZS7 Review

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

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

Specifications:

  • Impedance: 24Ω

  • Earphone sensitivity: 105dB/mW

  • Frequency range: 20-40000Hz

  • Driver configuration: 1 DD + 4 BA

 

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

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

3.jpg
4.jpg

 

Unboxing and first impressions

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

 

Right message, wrong language

Right message, wrong language

6.jpg

Sound

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

7.jpg

Comparisons

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

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

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

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

1.jpg

Conclusions

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

Simgot EM1 Review

Price: 80$

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

Specifications:

  • Transducer unit: 10mm high magnetic composite dynamic driver

  • Diaphragm: Polymer composite titanium-plated diaphragm

  • Frequency response: 15Hz-40kHz

  • Sensitivity: ≥101dB (at 1000Hz)

  • Impedance: 16Ω

  • Distortion: <1%  101dB(20μpa)

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

  • Rated power: 10mW

 

Thanks to Simgot for the review sample.

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

Unboxing and first impressions

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

box.jpg

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

unbox.jpg

Sound

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

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

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

cable.jpg

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

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

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

 

em1 2.jpg
em1 1.jpg

Comparisons

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

 

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

 

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

em1 e dap 3.jpg
em1 e dap.jpg

Conclusions

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