KZ-ZSN: A very affordable alternative.

KZ-ZSN: A very affordable alternative.
Written by ngoshawk
Published 1 minute ago

Pros – Fun affordable sound.
Looks good.
Affordable.
Mic works well for call.
Affordable.

Cons – INCLUDE A CASE!!!
Cable tangles a bit.
Not the cleanest sound.
it IS only $20usd…

KZ-ZSN: A very affordable alternative.

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The ZSN follows on the heels of KZ’s successful AS10 and BA10. Highly acclaimed, if a bit controversial in look (the BA10), the ZSN takes a more conservative look, approach and price. Harboring only one BA and one DD per side, the ZSN tries to achieve good sound at an extremely affordable price within the Chi-fi market.And, I must say I do really like this affordable offering. The sound was quite a pleasant surprise.

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I again thank Linsoul for the product. All they ask in return is an honest review in return. I would not have it any other way. And, I will say this now. Lately there has been some push back at those who receive product(s) for reviewing. Some on the interwebbie-thingy have stated that those who receive such items in return for a review can neither be unbiased, nor present an honest review (as in one that may not actually like the product, giving a low review). I take this personally. I think that is bunk. To an open, honest reviewer it does not matter where the product came from, or if it was purchased. We approach it the same way: honest, with thought and without reservation or holding back. As such, if the product is liked, it is stated as such. If it isn’t, then that is what is stated. By providing falsities, no one benefits. Period.

OK. Rant over, on to the review.

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*The unit at hand has been played for a minimum of 150yrs through my Shanling M0. Whether you believe in burn in or not, this is done because the critter will only sound new once. How it sounds in six months to a year is of more interest in my opinion.


Linsoul link: https://www.linsoul.com/product-page/kz-zsn-IEM

Aliexpress link: https://www.aliexpress.com/store/pr…?spm=a2g1y.12024536.productList_2290642.pic_4


Gear used/compared (all prices USD unless specified otherwise):


BBOOOLL BOT1 ($23)
Geekwold GK3 ($20)
TRN-V80 ($39)
Hypertense Hex02 ($25)


Thebit Opus #2
Shanling M3s
Shanling M1

Songs used:

Coldplay-All I Can think About Is You
Coldplay-A Message
Coldplay-White Shadows
Dona Onete-Sonos de Adolescente
Los Lonely Boys- Heaven (en Espanol)
twenty one pilots-Trees
twenty one pilots-Car Radio
twenty one pilots-Heathens
Damian Marley-Everybody Wants To Be Somebody
Damian Marley-So A Child May Follow
Damian Marley-The Struggle Discontinues
Ziggy Marley-Lighthouse
Ziggy Marely-See Dem Fake Leaders
Mark Knopfler-Laughs And Jokes And Drinks And Smokes
Santana w/ Mana- Corazon Espinado

The new twenty one pilots album, Trench

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Unboxing/Fit-n-Finish:

Coming in a small plain white box, the ZSN presents no pretense at being upscale in either packaging or accessories. To say that there would be a dearth of accessories is like saying there are tumbleweeds in the desert…

With simple black outlines on the front you get the shape of the ZSN, along with some words describing that it is a DD and BA hybrid. The back lists the specs. Pulling the cover off reveals a clear plastic cover over the IEM and a lower “compartment,” which houses the attached cable and tips. Other than a simple directions sheet, that is it. This is one time where the packaging will actually get recycled instead of keeping. Simple, straightforward and without fanfare. And again…NO CASE! PuLEEZ provide a case! I’m getting really tired of remembering what color Meuxan case goes with what (yes, I have them labeled…).

With a tightly wound copper colored cable, complete with microphone; you are presented with a simple cable that does not tangle easily (unlike the TRN-V80). No cinch is provided above the y-splitter again, but the cable lies peacefully upon your chest. No problem. Longer strain relief is had at the IEM end, making for a good over-ear fit. In-ear fit is easy and very good. No weird angles or problems. It just works. I do find with the silicon tips that I have to re-insert the IEM occasionally. Not bad, but more a function of my ears than the fit. A right-angle jack is neither here nor there. I have no preference, and never did. I will state that as a result of the right angle, the jack fits closer with a lower profile, hence less trouble. Pliable plastic coated, there is some give to the jack, but good grip is a result as well. Overall fit is flush in my ear. I would also state that the IEM is of average size, so this is a very good fit for me.

Made of three pieces, the fit and finish of the IEM itself is quite good. Almost extraordinary at this price. A metal composite backing with slots gives an industrial look to the piece, faux rivets on the back give a further sense of that look. The front half is clear giving a solid look into the organs, errr parts. With colors inside to break the industrial look, you are treated to a gold-covered nozzle, which is glued inside. The nozzle looks larger than most, but this does not seem to hinder in-ear fit at all. As I said good overall build, and an interesting look.

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The sound! What about the sound??!!

Well, coming off of the TRN-V80 this is a very nice surprise. Without the clarity of the V80’s 4-driver set up, there is less to work with; but I would characterize the ZSN as having a very fun controlled sound. I would even state that the mids sound clearer in the ZSN. Easier to drive than the TRN, this may be a placebo effect coming fresh from the V80. Using the included silicon tips, there is decent isolation, which actually adds to a bit of air between notes. Not a bad thing.

What I can say is that there is decent reach of sub-bass, but no real thump. Call it a fun bass, which eq-ing can bring into the raucous fun stage.

I find of late that I do not really care for the mid-treatment of Chi-Fi. While the sound is good, I find that there is an artificiality to the mids, even in the vocal range here. Cymbals seem to be the worst with mids such as these. They just sound unnatural. That said, Tyler’s vocals as good as any affordable sound to date. Ode To Sleep runs the gamut from softer to in your face and the ZSN provides that typical KZ fun-sounding vocal treatment. I really enjoy the presentation here and can look past the artificiality.

I would call the treble a laid-back sound. Neither piercing nor grating the sound falls short to me. I would have preferred a higher reach of sound in that treble, but since harsh treble does bother me; this is a good treble sound to me. Call it a bit veiled as a result. Higher vocals can be heard but tend to fall behind the mids and bass. Good details are present, just not that clearly.

Soundstage is decently wide and tall but not all that deep. This would be more of a narrow tall rectangle to me. Vocal treatment comes in right to the middle, neither forward nor back. It is just there. Not bad mind you, but nothing really special.

Layering is like a thick stack of pancakes with molasses syrup. You know there is more than one pancake, but it really isn’t evident on first look. I seem to be bashing the little KZ, but it isn’t really that bad. For the price, this is a really good sound and a definite step up from your Smartphone buds. And for less than those would cost as well.

Separation is just average. This is not a detail monster, but it really isn’t meant to be. This is a replacement for your Smartphone bud, and in that regard, I haven’t heard one that sounds better than this. Of course, my sample there is reliant upon several Apple buds, Samsung and HTC; so take that as you may…

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Comparisons (all prices USD unless otherwise noted):

KZ ZSN ($18ish) vs BBOOOLL BOT1 ($23):

I tried really hard to enjoy the BOT1, when I auditioned it, but found that keeping a good fit inside my ear was to the detriment of sound. Isolation was not the best as a result and I had to almost constantly adjust the fit. Other tips may have led to a better fit, but I was using the included silicons.

I did like the 3-driver set up and appreciated the male vocal treatment as well. While it does provide decent detailed response, this is no world beater, especially when to me it was bass-light. The treble presentation is without sibilance as well. Decent reach up top, you quickly realize that this is a $25ish IEM replacement. The ZSN does provide a better and wider soundstage, which can give a better sense of air between notes. This comparison just goes to show what $20 can purchase these days and how it can change in a matter of a couple of months.


KZ ZSN ($18ish) vs Geekwold GK3 ($20):

My takeaway from the GK3 review was that it will grow upon you. This is one that you must spend time with to fully appreciate. With an excellent cable (one of the best at this price), good build and a sound, which provides decent bass response; the GK3 is most definitely an upgrade to your Smartphone bud. I find that the GK3 presents itself in an elegant manner, complete with a mature sound at the sub-$25 IEM price point. I like the sound of it, and I like the ZSN. This is another case where technology has moved forward and the ZSN edges ahead in sound quality as a result. I do like the detail retrieval, which can come about when companioned with the Aune M1s. A very nice pairing, which brought out enough detail from the GK3 to make it a pleasant listen. But again, the ZSN wins here with better detail.


KZ ZSN ($18ish) vs TRN-V80 ($39):

For less than $50usd, you can get pretty good stuff. The two listed right here are witness to that. While the ZSN provides a slightly brighter signature (but thankfully to me less bright than many Chi-Fi before it…) the sound of the V80 is quite sublime. Solid bass response, with vocals that are pretty clear and concise, you get a very good product. Treble representation is very good, without sibilance, providing enough “sparkle” up top to let you enjoy some air between notes. Not delicate mind you, more robust than the ZSN. Just about right. I find myself really enjoying the V80 at the sub-$50 level. It is an immense product.

The ZSN on the other hand does not have that presence. Not as robust of a sound, it none-the-less provides very good detail response. That said, the sub bass response gives you that presence of sound, which makes you just about go ‘wow’ this really is a sub-$25 IEM. Well done, Knowledge Zenith.



KZ ZSN ($18ish) vs Hypertense Hex02 ($25):

When I reviewed the Hex02 some months ago, I noted how it was not the most detailed of critters around. It’s ease of use and included microphone can certainly add to it, but the cable can become tangled fairly quickly. Coming back to my original comment its really does not have the best detailed response. Decent bass reach when you smoosh it into your ear, there really isn’t the best reach of treble either. With a fairly nondescript soundstage, this is a step up from your smartphone buds, but not by much. The ZSN pretty much crushes it.

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Stealing the format from another sssshhhh:

If I had to boil all of this down to numbers, this is what I could come up with and fairly reliably as well.

Fit: 9/10
Finish/Durability: 9/10
Wearability: 9/10
Noise Isolation: 7/10
Microphonics: 9/10
Value for Money: 10/10

Avg: 54/60= 9.0

Bass: 7/10
Mids: 6/10
Trebles: 7/10
Sound Stage: 6/10
Separation & Imaging: 6/10
Source Matchability: 7/10

Avg: 39/60= 6.5

So…this makes it decision time:

Running the ZSN through the iFi Pro iDSD, MacBook Pro and Pine Player to finish may seem like putting a $5 shift knob in a Porsche 911. Well, if that is what you like, then do it! For the ZSN brings down the traditional KZ sound to an even more affordable market. This is a no-brainer. Better than just about any headphone included with a smartphone, this becomes an even easier decision when you consider it has a mic and can give good phone call quality. This is a very, very good product at sub-$25, without pretending to be a giant killer at prices much higher. Isolating at that level, this is extraordinary. Again, not meant to be that giant killer, you get a very fine change from your smartphone product, and one, which provides much better sound than you should be able to get at this price. Well done, KZ indeed.

I thank Lillian for the opportunity to review this fine product, and highly recommend you give it a listen if you are looking for an extremely affordable replacement or addition to for your smartphone.

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