DQSM Z&W Panda Review: Back From the Dead

  • Smooth, fatigue free signature
  • Very comfortable

  • Lacks treble extension

Not much information is available about DQSM, except that they are from China and producing earbuds using the PK shells. A few years ago, they got known in the earbud community for their first earbud, the Panda. Sometime later, they released their flagship, quite expensive, Turandot which uses metal PK shells. The Panda was discontinued but now DQSM rereleased it with very few changes. The Panda currently retails for 25 USD, and was bought from CKLewis/Fengru store out of my own pocket.

Driver unit: 14.8 mm dynamic, copper clad aluminum wire voice coil
Impedance: 33 ohms
Sensitivity: 112 dB
Frequency response range: 20 Hz - 20kHz

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 DQSM Panda did not come with a box at all. It only came with the fabric carrying case with the earbuds, an instruction manual/warranty card, and two pairs of gray full foams and two pairs of black donut foams.
The shells are made of plastic with two oval vents covered with tuning foams. The Z&W logo is printed alongside the model name and left and right side indicators. At the bottom part of the shell, there is another vent.
The cable is a basic 2-core that is twisted. The material used was not specified but this seems to be a silver-plated copper. It is very soft and light but this cable will turn stiff over time, especially the part that touches your cheeks while wearing the earbuds. The splitter, chin slider, and 4.4 mm gold plated balanced plug are all made of metal.
Now let's get to the sound.

The lows are laid back and tight. Subbass has good depth but the amount of rumble is minimal and rolls off early. Midbass has just the right amount of presence, but has generally a lot more contribution than the subbass in every track. It is also more forward and thicker, but does not compromise the mids and highs.

Overall, the lows are what you would expect out of an earbud. The use of the included full foams are recommended instead of the donut ones for the lows to sound, well, fuller and with more body.

The mids are intimate and warm sounding. Instruments have a slightly above average thickness. Lower mids are more forward and has more weight in comparison to the upper mids, but the upper mids were still able to showcase a good level of transparency.

Overall, much like the first version, the mids are still definitely the highlight of the Panda. Even though male vocals are more highlighted, the female vocals maintain its liveliness and does not fall behind that much.

The highs are relaxed just like the lows. The reach in the treble is below average, accompanied by a quick decay. The lower treble is more emphasized, but even then, the lower treble does not have much presence and can sometimes get drowned out by the upper mids.

Overall, the highs of the Panda can feel lacking most of the time. Some minor details can get hard to notice especially on busy tracks. Although, the highs can be improved by using the donut foams, or using no foams at all, but this sacrifices much of the low end.

Soundstage and Imaging:
The stage of the Panda has an average expansion. The height noticeably expands more than the depth. Imaging is sufficiently clear and has good accuracy but sometimes suffer due to the lack of treble extension. Both the instrument separation and the layering are slightly below average and there are frequent hints of congestion especially on complex tracks.

DQSM Z&W Panda (1 DD, 25 USD) vs. Venture Electronics Monk Slim Metal (1 DD, 20 USD)
The texture, amount of rumble, and the decay are basically the same, but the Panda has more quantity in the midbass. The Monk SM has more open, airy and natural sounding mids, but it also has a tendency to sound somewhat boxy or nasal in some tracks. The Monk SM also has more extended highs. It has better reach in the upper regions and longer decays, but can sometimes sound a bit too aggressive. With the soundstage, the Monk SM has a slight edge in the height, but there is a big difference in the width with the Panda sounding narrower than the Monk SM. Imaging is slightly clearer on the Monk SM, but the Panda has the better layering and separation of instruments.

Stocks by then were somewhat limited, but the first version of the Panda was loved by many in the earbud community. It was affordable yet commendable. Fast forward to a few years later, the Panda is back at it again. The build quality has a improved a little, but not so much in the sound quality which, to be honest, is a little disappointing. It certainly feels like the Panda has been left behind in development after its few years of slumber, whereas its competitors are now ahead by a considerable margin.

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