Buying Guide

KZ Acoustic: A Roundup of all KZ Earphones

So in today's video, we're taking a deep dive into one of those brands that are synonymous when it comes to superb IEMs for beginner audiophiles. The brand I'm talking about is KZ from China. Now they've released so many models over the years and the differences between them are sometimes so small and nuanced that it becomes hard to tell what you're getting for your money. In today's video, we're doing a shootout between 16 different KZ IEMs, all of them amazing, while being different in one way or the other, and in this video, we're going to help you understand those differences and hopefully pick the right one for you.


Hi guys this is Raghav here from headphone zone. So in today's video we're taking a very very deep dive into one of those brands which was just absolutely synonymous when it comes to superb IEMs for beginner audiophiles. The brand I'm talking about is KZ from China. Now they've released so many models over the year and they keep releasing so many different products virtually week after week and month after month that it can get really really confusing to try and figure out which is the right one for you. The differences between them is sometimes so small and nuanced that it becomes hard to even tell what you're really getting for your money. In today's video we're doing a shootout between 16 different KZ IEMs, all of them amazing but all of them different in one way or the other and in this video we're going to help you understand those differences and hopefully pick the right one for you.


All right so for my very first IEM to begin today's shootout I'm picking up KZs most affordable IEM from their current lineup. This right here is the KZ EDX Pro. Now this is the successor to the EDX and the EDS and a whole bunch of other entry-level IEMs. I have over here the current one the EDX pro, it is the best yet. You'll find that in terms of driver configuration this is just a single dynamic driver per side, so in terms of sound quality you might believe that this is going to sound pretty ordinary but you couldn't be more wrong. The EDX Pro for the price is easily the best sounding IEM I have heard for less than 1000 rupees. I truly believe there's really nothing else out there in the market that can come close to the EDX Pro in terms of performance and in terms of build quality. This is pretty simple you'll find that the entire IEM is made out of acrylic, it's a resin material that they've gone for so it's very very lightweight. It's reasonably durable and the version that I have in my hand is completely transparent so you can really look into the inner workings of the IEMs and you can see the single dynamic driver in there and the connections into it. It comes with detachable cables as do almost all the KZ IEMs, so you'll find that you can swap the cables out and otherwise it's a pretty simple IEM that is a simple plug and play into any device - your mobile phone, your laptop and you hit play and you're good to go.

KZ Ling Long

All right, the next IEM on my list is something a little different from everything else we have there. This is the KZ Ling Long, I hate the name but the earphones themselves are nothing like anything I've seen from the KZ lineup until now. This is a bullet shaped IEM, straight fit design, unlike the usual in ear monitor, over ear style that KZ is known for. These do not come with detachable cables, in fact I think it's the only IEM from today's shootout that does not have detachable cables and I think KZ has gone for a very very different school of thought with these IEMs because they're also open back. You'll find that there's nothing on the sides of these IEMs, they're completely open so it gives you that slightly wider, more expansive feel that you get to hear from open back full sized headphones, but unlike the EDX Pro this is cooled off, this is laid back, this is wide and easy to listen to and for less than 1490 rupees I believe that this is a fabulous deal for people who are just taking the next steps into getting a nice earphone in their audiophile journey.


Okay the next IEM is another IEM with a single dynamic driver this is the brand new KZ DQS. It's a huge improvement as compared to the EDX Pro and it's only for 1400 rupees. You'll find for that price what you're still getting is a single dynamic driver but this was tuned so much better, it's so much more polished, so much more detailed, so much more balanced as compared to the EDX Pro. The DQS while being similar in specifications sounds very very different. It's less harsh, more airy and you'll find that by cooling off the treble and bass a little bit it's giving you a little bit more of a gentle V-Shaped sound signature. It's still fun and energetic to listen to and to my ears this fits a lot better as compared to the EDX Pro and it's giving me a perfect isolation.

Hybrid IEMs

All right the next couple of IEMs that we're going to be talking about are what we call Hybrid IEMs because in addition to the single dynamic driver that we've had on the previous three IEMs, we now have an additional balanced armature driver and how these work together is that the balanced armature driver handles the mids and the treble and the dynamic driver is really responsible for the bass. The balanced armature driver is super sensitive, is very very detailed and does a great job of presenting the higher frequencies very accurately but the dynamic driver is what makes it fun and full bodied and interesting to listen to or at least that's what it's supposed to do in practice.


The first IEM from the hybrids is one of their oldest and most popular KZ ZST X and this was one of the first IEMs that pioneered what hybrid drivers could do. You'll find that it's made for professionals and audiophiles alike and the first time you listen to these IEMs you're going to invariably listen to things that you've never heard before on any earphone and that's because of the incredible amount of precision and detail that these hybrid drivers now allow these earphones to play. You'll find that people can describe the sound as a little sharp, a little harsh and that's kind of like what the KZʼs house sound signature has been, to give you that little extra sparkle on the treble, while still giving you a little bit extra punch in the bass.


So the ZST X is a typical KZ IEM but you'll find that this was replaced very very quickly with its successor and the very very popular KZ ZSN Pro X for less than 2000 rupees. Absolutely everyone who has one loves it, it takes the hybrid technology that the ZST X was pioneering and you'll find that it's just added a little bit more polish and finesse with the frequencies and increased the bass a little bit to make it a lot more fun to listen to. The build quality gets a bit of an upgrade as well. The ZST X was all acrylic, this also has a metallic face plate so it looks a lot more premium it feels a lot more durable the connectors are also a lot better, a lot more sturdier. It also comes with detachable cable so you can upgrade them, they come with mic and without mic variants and you can plug it in via the 3.5 mm jack to any mobile phone or laptop and it drives it just fine. Adding a DAC will also improve the sound quality quite a bit, so you should make sure you do that at some point of time. The ZSN Pro X for the price of 2000 Rupees is an absolute industry standard. You'll find people using them on stage when they're performing, you'll find audiophiles starting their journey with this ZSN Pro X. There's absolutely nothing that I can comment about these except to say that these are a fun earphone to listen to. Perfect example of the KZ house sound.


Okay so the next IEM I have with me is again another hybrid - single dynamic and single balanced armature driver. It's brand new, it's called the KZ ZNA. What KZ has done is a lot of really really small improvements as compared to the ZSN Pro X, the ear tips seem a lot nicer, you'll find the build quality becomes a lot more polished, it's using the latest generation of dynamic and balanced armature drivers from KZ so this also moves away from that very exaggerated V-Shape sound signature that we've now all come to know as the KZ house sound and is going for a more timid, a more balanced sound but in that becoming a little bit more nuanced and polished as well.


All right guys the next IEM that I'm holding in my hand is another hybrid IEM - the KZ ZEX. It's again a hybrid IEM but we swap out the balanced armature driver with an E-Stat driver to handle the treble frequencies. Now the E-Stat driver in KZ looks at least is a lot more sensitive, a lot more accurate and it really does a much better job of adding sparkle without the harshness and that's exactly what the ZEX is taking advantage of. You'll find that it doesn't have the harshness that sometimes ZSN Pro X can have but it's still got a lot of detail, a lot of energy in the treble, the bass is just as full it's almost identical to the ZSN Pro X.


The successor to the ZEX though is this IEM the ZEX Pro, which is a lot more famous and is probably one of those IEMs that most people who started their journey probably read about and bought for less than 3000 Rupees. It is quite a step up from the other IEMs we've spoken about but you'll find that we're no longer talking about hybrids, this IEM ladies and gentlemen is a Tribrid. What does that mean? You have the dynamic driver for the bass, you have a balanced armature driver for the mid-range and for the treble frequencies and then you have an E-Stat driver that's been added for the super highs to give you that extra air and sparkle. The ZEX Pro takes advantage of this. It's the only Tribrid on our list but the ZEX Pro is famous for another reason it's because the tuning, the sound signature on these IEMs has been made by Crinacle - the reviewer and a very good friend from Singapore. The KZ and Crinacle ZEX Pro or the CRN as it's known for is completely different from the usual house sound that KZ goes for which is a very aggressive V-Shaped sound. This on the other hand is a lot more balanced, it's got that treble cooled off quite a bit, it's got the bass cooled off quite a bit and in doing so all the frequencies seem to be so much better represented. So the ZEX Pro is a Pioneer in more ways than just one, the sound signature is a step up, the Tribrid configuration is a first. I have to say for 3,000 rupees these are easily one of my favorite IEMs.


This year KZ has released another hybrid featuring an E-Stat driver for less than 3000 rupees. This ladies and gentlemen is the brand new KZ ZES. It's a hybrid - one DD plus one E-Stat per side but as compared to the ZEX and ZEX Pro this now has a much larger dynamic driver. It's a 12 millimetre driver, so it's a 20% Improvement in terms of size, compared to the other IEMs. You'll also find that the build quality is a lot more polished, a lot nicer, it's got these really nice metallic looking shells so the end result is that you still have an aggressive V-Shaped sound signature as you've come to expect from KZ but because of this new dynamic driver the bass has a certain spice to it that makes it so much more fun to listen to. It's almost unlike anything else that I've heard from the KZ lineup and for less than 3000 rupees it makes for a pretty compelling offering. A very fun IEM to listen to especially if you're someone who's looking for a lot more polish and punch in the bass.


My next IEM ladies and gentlemen is not a new IEM from KZ but it's almost a cult classic priced at a very affordable 2299 rupees - this is the KZ DQ6. It's got a very unique configuration in terms of driver. I have not really seen any other IEM that does this. It's got three dynamic drivers per side, two dynamic drivers which are six millimetres for the treble and mid-range and one larger Dynamic driver, 10 millimeters per side for the bass. Now what this does is that it takes advantage of the dynamic driver's ability to really punch out low frequencies with a lot of volume and it does a great job of doing that but unlike the balanced armature drivers this doesn't have any of the harshness that sometimes people can get put off with when they're listening to the other hybrids. Now because of this reason you'll find that it's still got a fun V-Shaped sound signature but the bass has a certain textral quality that we're all used to and musicians really really like using this in studio and on stage because they absolutely do not want to hear harshness on the treble that can sometimes get fatiguing while performing. So the DQ6 for that reason is a cult classic amongst musicians and performers and I've seen so many of them use this very very affordable IEM for 2200 rupees.

KZ ZS10 Pro

All right the next IEM ladies and gentlemen moves to the slightly higher price bucket of about 4,000 rupees, for 4,400 rupees I have with me what is the very very popular KZ ZS10 Pro. ZS10 what that really tells you is that they've got 10 drivers in this particular IEM. Five drivers per side. Now this is also a hybrid configuration so you have one dynamic driver for the bass and you've got four balanced armature drivers for the mids and highs. Now what this allows you to do is that you get a huge amount of control and detail for the earphones. They're so much more capable than the other IEMs which just have two drivers per side. With Five drivers per side your crossover is now able to target specific drivers to take care of specific frequencies with a lot more intention, with a lot more control and it sounds so much more detailed and deliberate. You'll find that sometimes the edges on the notes, the beginnings and the ends of the sounds become a lot more cleaner, a lot more intentional with these ZS10 Pros. I've been using these earphones for many years now myself and I think KZ has shipped out over half a million units of these IEMs all around the world, they're very very popular and for the price it's no wonder you're getting insane value for money by saying that you're getting five drivers per side for less than five thousand rupees, it's unheard of but then KZ went out there and then launched the successor to the ZS10 Pro which again for less than 5000 rupees is giving you five drivers per side.

KZ ZS10 Pro X

This is the ZS10 Pro X and it's a success on virtually everywhere as compared to the ZS10 Pro. You'll find that the faceplate is much nicer, it's got a metallic shell. Now onto the cables are now flattened no longer braided and it's using a brand new balanced armature driver that KZ has developed so you still get a very very aggressive fun sounding listening experience with these. You'll find that the treble, the bass is just so much better than anything else that I've heard on the KZ lineup until now these are probably the most fun sounding IEMs, some of the most detailed IEMs from virtually any brand that's out there.


So now let's push this even further guys. I have another hybrid from KZ but this time with eight drivers per side. Oh my God it's got a single dynamic driver for the bass and seven balanced armature drivers per side. This is the KZ ZAR. It's pretty recent KZ released this last year and you'll find that it's a successor to the very very popular ZAS which had a similar configuration at a similar price point but the mid-range on the ZAS was a little bit muddy and this fixes that. You'll find that the balanced armature drivers that are supposed to be handling the mid-range do a much cleaner job of doing that. It's still got that very very aggressive V-Shaped sound signature, lots of sparkly treble, lots of punchy hard bass out there for the low end and you'll find that for that kind of a sound signature in this price range there's nothing I would recommend more than the KZ ZAR.

KZ AS16 Pro

All right I have another IEM with me which is again a very different IEM from everything else we've spoken about now it's again eight drivers per side but this uses only balanced armature drivers. The KZ AS16 Pro. Now KZ used to make IEMs with just balanced armature drivers for quite some time but ever since hybrids became the in thing you'll find that these pure balanced armature driver IEMs have not been very popular. They just don't have the low end that gives you that fun punchy sound signature that we've come to know and expect from KZ, but the AS16 goes back to a much more old-school IEM school of thought which has a much cleaner leaner and more balanced sound signature. You'll find that the balanced armature drivers give the bass a very very detailed analytical but very clean listening experience. It doesn't quite have the volume and you know the meat that's the dynamic driver gives you but if you're someone planning on having a more analytical kind of sound signature that you've come to be used to, the balanced armature drivers especially for the bass frequencies give you that. The AS16 Pro may not fit everyone's ears equally because to fit eight balanced armature drivers per side they've had to make these housings quite a bit larger. They don't fit into my ears very very well but if you're someone who's got slightly larger ears and find that this fits you well I highly recommend you give this a listen for 7,500 rupees I think that the AS16 pro again gives you phenomenal value for money just in terms of what you are getting in terms of specifications. For the price I can't think of any other professional IEM that is there at the same price point that does anything quite like this.

Planar Magnetic IEMs

All right the big innovation this year that almost everyone's talking about is planar magnetic drivers being used in in ear monitors and the next couple of iems I want to talk about are KZʼs planar magnetic in ear monitor and really their take on them.


The first one of the lot that KZ released was the PR1. The KZ PR1, which is the planar magnetic interpretation from the house of KZ, you'll find that for a price of six and a half thousand rupees these at the time were the absolute cheapest planar magnetic IEMs that were out there in the market. Now planar magnetic drivers have several advantages as compared to regular dynamic and balanced armature drivers. You'll find that one driver handles all frequencies - the bass, the mid-range and the treble, so you don't really need to have these multiple drivers handling different frequencies. You get a much more coherent sound across all frequencies while at the same time making sure there aren't too many overlaps and troughs and valleys, so it sounds nice and smooth. There's very little distortion that planar magnetic drivers have, so you'll find that you get a much more accurate listening experience without any of the fatigue while at the same time you'll find that these planar magnetic drivers have one big disadvantage - they need a lot more power, a lot more juice to be able to drive these IEMs so you can't really just plug this into your laptop or your mobile phone as you would with some of the other IEMs. You're going to need a portable DAC and Amp to give these a lot more power otherwise you'll find that even at a hundred percent your phone's gonna struggle to get any kind of volume out of these iems but with the right amount of power you'll find that planar magnetic IEMs sound really really good. Now the PR1 started off as KZʼs very first in ear monitor, so you find that there are a lot of people who have a lot of criticism around these. You'll find that they don't quite like the sound signature, that sounds just a little bit off the bat, the mid-range doesn't quite have the detail that you're expecting, the bass almost sounds loose and they fixed many of the issues with the pr1 with what was a sister brand from KZ - CCA and their attempt at a planar magnetic driver which is the PLA 13. The CCA PLA 13 is probably to me the right way of doing a planar magnetic IEM from KZ.

KZ PR1 Pro

All right next up is is the KZ PR1 Pro for 8,500 rupees. It's the most expensive KZ from the entire lot, again using the same planar magnetic driver that we spoke about with the PR1 but this is much more polished and much better tuned as compared to the PR1. You find it still needs a lot more power so you're gonna have to use this along with the DAC and Amp but you'll find that the build quality looks a lot cleaner, a lot nicer, the tuning on this is done a lot more balanced, so you'll find that even though it's using a planar magnetic driver it sounds more coherent, it sounds more smoother, the harshness on the treble is tamed down a little bit, so I think that the PR1 Pro in many ways addresses the flaws of the PR1. It's still three times the price of the CCA PLA 13 so just in terms of value for money if I had to pick up a planar magnetic driver I would still choose the PLA 13 over the PR1 Pro but this is an evolution in the right direction and I'm very excited to listen to what the new PR2 is going to sound like, that's at least a few months away so we will put out a video talking about that when they come out.


I hope with this video you've kind of understood what you're going to get for 1000 rupees with the EDX Pro, going all the way up to the 8,500 PR 1 Pro, all of them slightly different using slightly different technology slightly different configurations almost all of them have that KZ house sound which is a very aggressive v-shaped sound signature with a few notable departures in there but in many ways you can really see the evolution of the KZ brand from IEM after IEM and I'm very very happy to say that I don't think that they're going anywhere. Every release is going to be a super exciting release and I can't wait to hear what's coming next. Of course if you'd like to try out all of these different IEMs for yourself to understand what the differences between them are we'd love for you to come down to our experience studio in the suburbs of Mumbai. We love having visitors over and get you the chance to listen to all of them for yourself to understand what we're talking about. If not come and join us for a headphone connect event that's going to be happening at a city near you.