For this review, I mostly used DAPs instead of sedentary gear. This IEM is made for travel and commuting, so it’s much more accurate to focus on DAP and portable AMP/DACs than home gear.
I chose the same three players I considered the best for a budget point of view : FiiO M6 / Astell&Kern SR15 / Cowon Plenue D2 and paired them to the KZ AS16 in random orders. Most files used were FLAC 16bit/44kHz streamed from Qobuz or from the internal storage.
Sooooo… the KS ZS5 were the biggest surprise of 2018 for me. So I must confess I had high expectations, even more with a V8 engine to power them.
Where I expected a flamboyant, V-shaped, earphone with boosted bass and sparkling highs, I ended up with a sound signature, mostly even on the whole frequency range. Mostly, because the upper range gets a slight bump around the upper mids (2000 Hz-3000Hz), which was to be expected, with four high frequencies dedicated drivers.
The sound definition is impressive, really. Not just thanks to the manifold of drivers, even it’s that one of the main reasons, but mainly because KZ evolved by bounds and leaps over time. We all know piling up drivers doesn’t make a good IEM, it takes much more than that. You have to match the right drivers and blend them all together with a good filter, and that’s exactly what’s happening here.
Layering and instrument separation goes the same way, you can discern good mastering and bad mastering right on the spot. The crossover works wonderfully and even after a few hours of listening, I didn’t come across any caveat or pothole in the chart.
Dynamics are good, but not as good as the DM7. I tried them on Aulos (symphonic edition) and it outshined the subtle details I could hear on the BGVP. On the subway, this is not something you’ll hear but in a quieter place, it became fairly obvious.
Transients are fast. Armature drivers will always keep the lead on this. Hard-hitting electro and oversampled hi-hats struck right, every time. Keener genre like Jazz still benefits from that skill, but I have to confess I preferred the ZS5 on that, dynamic drivers always give me that lushful bass.
All in all, it’s a very good IEM, by all means. Not as good as high-end models, but I’m pretty sure you would not expect a 125$ IEM to sound this good.
Highs : forte, almost fortissimo. It sounds crisps with a lot of micro details, the kind of signature you wouldn’t expect from a cheap-chi-fi IEM. On my usual electro tracklist, the KZ AS16 always flirted with sibilants, yet to never reach it. Hi-Hats, violins, female voices, all were played with ease, for my delight.
If you love to get high, you should try this stuff, good jam.
Good test-track: Imaginary friends – Deadmau5
Mediums : legato andante. As I said, layering is impressive but with this many drivers, it should be a given. No ? Guitars and male voices get that little push on the upper range. Very cool as it widens the overall presentation.
Good test-track : San-Francisco Street – Sun Rai
Lows : mezzo forte. The bass feels natural and if I’m always up for a good kick, sometimes it’s cool to step down. That said, it’s not bad at all – quite the opposite actually – it just doesn’t slam as deep as you would expect for double low drivers.
Good test-track: Hyrdogen – M.O.O.N
Sensitivity / Hiss
If sensitive, the KZ AS16 wasn’t too prone to hiss during my tests. The usual iPad output didn’t give me the annoying “hum” I could hear with my Onkyo IE-C3. Even more good news, the KZ AS16 can be driven by almost anything but scales considerably with whatever source you feed him.
Let’s check that.
The review continues on Page Five, after the click HERE or by using the jump below.