KZ ZSN VS. ZSN PRO IEM REVIEW: WHICH IS THE BEST KZ IEM?

When the KZ ZSN IEM came out, many reviewers including myself, immediately put it at the top of Knowledge Zenith earphone lineup. It improved upon the KZ formula in many ways, starting with build quality. The earpieces were made of a resin body combined with an eye-catching aluminum cap, which added a nice weight to the product, along with increasing the overall rigidity of the enclosure.

They also added an aluminum nozzle, something usually seen in high-end IEMs, and a new socket-type 2-pin connection for the cable, both items that pointed to a new focus on durability. Comfort was also tweaked in the ZSN design. The nozzle was elongated to reach further into the ear, something I felt was sorely needed in the ZST, and the shape of the earpiece was improved making the fit very nice and easy to wear. The cable also had pre-formed ear hooks at the end, which aided in putting on the earphones, and also helped with comfort. The only issue with the cable is it’s very tangle prone.

Build quality wasn’t the only area of refinement. The sound was also tweaked in the ZSN, with the usual crazy V-shaped tuning replaced with a more U-shaped sound signature. Highs were not as prominent. Mids were not as recessed as previous models, making vocals and certain instruments richer.  The bass was deep and controlled.

The sound wasn’t without its bugaboos, however. KZ obviously heard complaints regarding brightness of their earphones and addressed this with a dip in the upper mids, along with a little roll off at the extremes of the audio band. This did reduce the overall brightness compared to other KZ IEMs, but at the same time, it removed some of the air and sparkle, making them sound flat on certain songs, by limiting the separation of instruments. High horns and piano had a tendency to sound ragged in some instances.

But when you’re talking about $20 hybrid IEMs, you expect some tradeoffs to be made, and the overall sound was very balanced and entertaining. Some may still find the highs to be a tad bright, and others may complain about the lack of air, separation, and soundstage, but again beggars can’t be choosers. Or can they?

Here comes the KZ ZSN PRO

So, enter the KZ ZSN PRO IEM. As KZ fans know, the only things constant are change and the release of a new KZ IEM, and the ZST PRO comes along roughly seven months after the non-PRO version. Changes are not many, but they seem to be meaningful.

The first change is to the dynamic driver, which has been switched out for a dual magnet dynamic unit. The dual magnets serve to provide greater control over the diaphragm, allowing for greater dynamic range.

The second is a new metal faceplate, which looks very similar to the faceplate on the ZSN, but doesn’t have the same groves and venting.  It’s also thicker and attached with a single screw instead of three. The sales copy for the ZSN PRO will lead you to believe the thicker aluminum faceplate adds to the rigidity of the housing thus allowing for better sound. I don’t know about that, but it seems like it made the earpieces a little heavier and more noticeable when wearing them.

Other than that, things are pretty much the same, the Balanced Armature driver is the same, the cable for better or worse is the same, and the silicone ear tips are the same. They even come in pretty much the same box.

Sound Comparisons

So does the ZSN PRO provide a major improvement in sound over the ZSN?  In my opinion no. Is there an improvement? I guess it depends on what you are looking for. Let’s break it down. BTW, all my listening was done on an LG V40 with Hi-Fi Quad ESS DAC, using local FLAC files.

Overall the sound of the PRO variant is more forward than the non-PRO version. Listening to “Cantaloupe Island” by Jeff Goldblum & The Mildred Snitzer Orchestra, It seemed like the upper mids were brought back into play on the PRO, which opened up the sound a bit, but it also increased the overall brightness. Pianos and horns jump out at you on the new model, while they seem to blend in a lot better on the older non-PRO model. Bass is also extended on the PRO model, adding some unnatural rumble to the song, which bled a little into the midrange, altering the vocals as well. However the PRO had more air and separation between instruments, so that is a plus in its column.

The PRO sound lent itself much better to modern music. Listening to “Kill ‘Em With Success” from the Creed II soundtrack, the bass was given the weight of a subwoofer, yet it was perfectly controlled, without any boominess. The non-PRO had some rumble too, but it couldn’t match the sub-bass of the PRO. Bass is a lot more articulate on the newer version. The vocals again were a lot more forward on the newer model as well.

Conclusion

To my ears, the ZSN is a more tonally balanced earphone than the ZSN PRO, but the PRO is more extended on the top and bottom, giving it a more open sound. The PRO is also a more resolving earphone, but it is at the expense of some additional brightness. To sum it up, the ZSN PRO has a more open “in your face” sound that hip-hop and electronica fans may appreciate, but for the jazz and acoustic music I usually listen to, the more laid-back sound of the ZSN may fit you better, even though it’s not as open as the newer version.  To me, the ZSN is still the best KZ I’ve heard so far, but bassheads may disagree with me.

Where To Buy:



Specs

Model name: KZ ZSN 
Connectivity : Wired
Driver unit: hybird 1BA With 1DD
Vocalism Principle: Hybrid technology
Resistance: 25 ohm
Sensitivity: 104 dB/mW
Frequency Response Range: 20-40000Hz
Control Button: Yes
Volume Control: No
With Microphone: Optional
Connectors: 3.5mm
Line Length: 1.2m±3cm

Model name: KZ ZSN Pro
Connectivity : Wired
Drivers: Hybrid Driver, 1BA+1DD
Resistance: 25 ohm
Sensitivity: 104 dB/mW
Frequency Response Range: 20-40000Hz
With Microphone: Optional
Connectors: 3.5mm
Line Length: 1.2m±3cm

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