So there’s this thing amongst headphone enthusiasts (of which I’m a full card-carrying member) called “YAKZ.”
It stands for “Yet Another KZ,” and it’s a signal of growing fatigue regarding KZ’s relentless release of new IEMs. Many feel they constantly release new products that are at best incremental evolutions over what came before.
Their latest IEM, dubbed the ZSX, or “The Terminator,” to me is more than “yet another KZ” earphone. Sure they share a lot of things with prior releases, but they also have some differences which I consider significant improvements.
Before I get into my evaluation of the ZSX, first, let me provide the obligatory disclaimer. This product was sent to me free of charge by Linsoul Audio in exchange for a quality, honest, review. That review is what follows.
Build and Features
As far as packaging is concerned, the ZSX gets the platinum treatment, at least for a KZ product. Just like the flagship AS16, you get the fancier black box with the silver engraved plate inside, but alas, like other KZ earphones, accessories are sparse.
In the box, besides the earphones and cable, there are a few extra silicone tips, some documentation, but that’s about it. Still no carrying bag or case, but hey, you have to remember this earphone has six hybrid drivers per side for less than $60.
The low price may also explain why they again include the much-maligned standard copper KZ cable. If you read about KZ in headphone forums, it doesn’t take long for the conversation to get around to the thin, ugly, tangle-prone cable they include in the box.
It’s true. The cable is awful. But it does the job. If the cable drives you crazy, there are a ton of replacement cables out there. My favorite one is this silver upgrade on Amazon. It fits perfectly, has just the right thickness, and looks damn good.
So while it may sound like I’m going down the “YAKZ” path with this review, this is the part where I talk about why the ZSX isn’t just another KZ earphone.
First of all, while the two-piece metal/plastic construction is similar to products like the ZS10 Pro, I still think the design is more advanced on the ZSX.
For example, the fit of the ZSX is a step beyond what you see on previous KZ models. The plastic portion of the earphone housing is more contoured than before and resembles a custom IEM. In turn, I think the fit is more comfortable than any other Knowledge Zenith earphone. They also passively block a fair amount of noise, which means you won’t need to crank the volume on your player.
The metal part of the housing probably has the freshest, most modern design of any KZ before it as well. As with most things, some will love it, and some will hate it, but I find the ripple motif to be fashionable. I just wish they included a cable that matched the modern look, but I have already given a solution for that.
Listening to the ZSX
After running some music through the ZSX, it’s apparent that improvements are not limited to external design. To my ear, it’s evident some tweaks were made to the sound as well.
There have been a lot of complaints regarding the severe V-shaped sound signature of KZ IEMs. Many feel like there was too much emphasis on the highs and lows and not enough on the midrange. I agree with this analysis somewhat, especially on specific models.
KZ must’ve taken this criticism to heart because to me, the ZSX has the most balanced and transparent sound of any of their earphones so far.
Don’t get me wrong, they still have elevated highs, and those who are sensitive may again complain. But the highs are a lot sweeter than the KZ ZS10 Pro for example, and the mids are more forward making the ZSX sound more open and nuanced than the former.
Regarding the bass, the bass on the ZS10 Pro is a little more detailed than the ZSX, but the latter has a deeper bass with more slam. To me, the ZSX is just tuned better all the way around and sounds less boomy and congested in the middle than the ZS10 Pro.
Compared to the Tin Hifi T3, one of my favorite earphones in this price range, I think the ZSX has a better low end and sweeter highs, but it can’t compete with the clearer mids and soundstage of the Tin Hifi. The soundstage is great on the T3, while just good on the ZSX.
When listening to Daft Punk’s “Touch”, the ZSX had a big and bold sound, everything was dynamic and in your face. The detail was good, and the bass punctuated the rhythm nicely.
With the T3, the performance was more restrained and laid back. It actually sounded more natural in the highs and midrange, but the bass was lacking on this particular song.
I prefer the T3 for Jazz and Acoustic music, but I like the ZSX on Hip-Hop or EDM. That being said, the ZSX covers more genres if you want one IEM that does it all.
I’m impressed with the ZSX. It’s more than just another KZ earphone thrown out there for a money grab. The fit is better than before, and the sound is the most transparent and cohesive of any KZ so far. I think they did a great job tuning this one. For KZ fans this is a must-have. If you only have around $50 dollars to spend on an IEM, you will have a hard time doing better than these. Just make sure you spring for the upgrade cable.
Buy Here: Linsoul KZ ZSX 5BA+1DD 6 Driver Hybrid in-Ear HiFi Earphones with Zinc Alloy Faceplate, 0.75mm 2 Pin Detachable Cable for Audiophile Musician (w/ $5 Coupon at time of printing)
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