KZ ZAS Review: The Sassy One

  • Full-bodied lows
  • Cable quality is improved compared to previous models

  • Some sibilance
  • Shells doesn't feel like they're durable enough

Knowledge Zenith, or simply KZ, doesn't really need an introduction at this point. They are, by now, pretty much well-known by long-term audiophiles and newbies alike. They were already famous back in 2017 when I started to go down the rabbit hole of the hobby, and now 4 years later, they still continue to produce budget in-ear monitors that attract the average Joe. The ZAS is one of their most recent model and rocks a hybrid driver configuration in typical KZ fashion. The ZAS currently retails for 66 USD, and was provided to me for free by KZ in exchange for this review.

Driver units: 1 10 mm dynamic, dual magnetic + 7 custom balanced armature
Impedance: 24 ohms
Sensitivity: 109 dB
Frequency response range: 10 Hz - 40 kHz

Poco X3 paired with FiiO KA3, iBasso DC03, Shanling UA1, Tempotec Sonata E35 and Zishan U1

Test tracks:
Africano - Earth Wind and Fire
Dark Necessities - Red Hot Chili Peppers
Gurenge - Lisa
The Chain - Fleetwood Mac
Monsters - All Time Low
Ours - Taylor Swift
Stay - Mayday Parade
Snuff - Slipknot
Yesterday Once More - Carpenters
So Slow - Freestyle
Aurora Sunrise - Franco
Attention - Pentatonix
Blue Bird - Ikimono-gakari
You're Still The One - Shania Twain
Anyone Who Knows What Love Is(Will Understand) - Irma Thomas
Salamin - Slapshock
AOV - Slipknot
Hey Jude - The Beatles
The Way You Make Me Feel - Michael Jackson
...and a lot more.

Unboxing and Accessories:
The ZAS come in a small rectangular black box, very different from KZ's previous boxes that were sleeved and white. The box opens like a book, and upon opening it, you will see the earphones inserted in a dense foam, and a metal plate below it that acts like a nameplate for the ZAS. Below the foams there are the cable, extra eartips, instruction manual, and a small quality control pass certificate.
The bigger part of the shell is made of plastic, which seems to have a total of three segments not counting the nozzle and the faceplate. This makes it feel like the shells can easily break. The faceplates are made of resin with a metal piece around it, decorated by the KZ logo at the center. At the rear part of the shell, there are 2 small vents with the other one situated at the center of the dynamic driver. The nozzles are made of metal with a lip to hold eartips in place and a metal mesh filter to keep foreign objects out.
The cable is a braided 8-core silver plated copper. The cable itself is soft and light but the bulky plug gives it a little more weight. The angled 0.75 mm 2 pin connectors are made of plastic, while the splitter and the 3.5 mm gold plated plug are made of metal.
Now let's get to the sound.

The lows are reproduced in a powerful manner. Subbass drops with authority. The depth is very good, able to present those really deep rumble, while the decay is a bit loose. Midbass is well-controlled and doesn't feel boomy or bloated.

Overall, even though the lows are dominant, the ZAS doesn't have it extreme unlike previous KZ models. This signifies that KZ is progressing and maturing with their tuning.

The mids have that signature KZ presentation; slightly recessed. Vocals are linear, with the male and female voices sharing the same position and weight. The mids are also leaning on the thin side, which renders most instruments to retain their crisp sound even with the abundance of the lows. Shoutiness was never perceived but there are some rare instances where there is a very slight sibilance.

Overall, the mids are reminiscent of their previous models. It is recessed and sometimes piercing but just like the lows, improvements can be noticed in this section especially in the texture and definition.

The highs are a step below the level of the lows. It has some emphasis, but not as much. Treble reach is great, but the upper end tends to be just a little too hot at times. String instruments in this section are gritty, cymbals have that splashy texture and defined well, that are highlighted by a slightly above average decay.

Overall, the highs are boosted but still within comfortable levels and does not cause fatigue even in extended periods of listening.

Soundstage and Imaging:
Soundstage expansion was never KZ's strength, but the ZAS is on of the better IEMs of KZ in terms of soundstage. The stage has an average expansion, with the width having marginal space than the height. Imaging is good and adequately clear. Instrument separation and layering are both slightly below average. There is also a fair but acceptable amount of congestion especially on complex tracks.

KZ has been plagued by overwhelming lows, underwhelming mids, and superfluous highs for so long. With the ZAS, KZ has managed to reduce those flaws down to manageable, enjoyable levels. But of course, the improvement should not stop there. Considering the number of drivers the ZAS is equipped with, when implemented properly, the ZAS has the potential to perform extremely well in its given price point.

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post