Review: KZ ZS5 – The Great Pretender

Disclaimer : The KZ ZS5 was sent to us by tainghe.com.vn, a Vietnamese store, in exchange of this review. The current price is 25$.

 

About Knowledge Zenith

KZ or Knowledge Zenith is a very discrete brand, so discrete that they don’t even have an official website, I think. Nonetheless, you can find them on various web stores : aliexpress, Ebay, Amazon or even some store like Tainghe. The only way to contact them directly though is their via their Facebook Page, or the official store on Aliexpress !

KZ now offers a full range of IEMs, from the mono driver such as the ED9 to the KZ-ZS10 using five drivers per ear. The real magic happens in the cart, as even their flagship doesn’t cost more than… 70$ !!!

And so today, we are reviewing the KZ ZS5, a four driver hybrid IEM 2BA+2DD, available for no more than 25$. A true bargain ? Let’s find out.

The KZ Series

AS series

The AS series from KZ include balanced armature earphones only. To be honest, there is only one IEM in this category : the KZ AS10 with 5 balanced drivers per ears. Available around ~65$, I’d be pretty curious to hear it as most 5 driver IEM available can cost nearly 10 to 20 times more.

The unit is available in two colors, each one displaying the internal plate used for frequency crossover. There is 1x Low / 1x Mid/High / 1x Mid / 2X High and KZ says the “Low frequency BA unit specially designed for AS10, can be comparable to the bass texture and strength of DD unit”.

AT series

The AT series is made of dynamic earphones, two models precisely : the KZ ATR (review available) and the KZ ATE. Visually, you can distinguish the ATR by its solid black shell and the ATE by its translucent black shell. Their non-detachable cable can be a problem for some users, but considering their price for me it’s not a real issue.

KZ made them sonically different with a bass-oriented ATR, whereas the ATE is supposed to be Hifi-minded thanks to a better coating and a pure copper driver. The ATE is available in sport version : the ATES, and the ATR is available in an even more entry-level version : the HD9 with a cheaper construction but a beautiful white color.

ED Series

The ED series is the entry level range of the brand, 5-10$ IEM. Basically, it’s the same type of inear you get when you order a smartphone, so I don’t expect much of it. Maybe there is some hidden gems inside, but who knows !

ZS Series

The ZS series is the one getting all the heat : hybrid balanced/dynamic ears offering high-end performances for a fraction of the price. Or that’s what KZ says… The KZ ZS5 we are reviewing today comes directly from this catalog, the IEM sitting under the ZS6 (2BA+2DD) and the ES4 (1BA+1DD).

The whole range gets detachable cables, hybrid design, a 3D printed shell and various colors. KZ is even offering some quality cables or a bluetooth/USB-C option for the new smartphones. Again, for the price, it’s really amazing to get this kind of package.

Design & Build Quality

Shell

First, let’s talk about the elephant in the room : Yes the KZ ZS5 really looks like the Campfire Audio IEM. The shape is similar, the angles are similar and, if not for the bolt, at a regular distance you’d need an eagle vision to distinguish them. Even more so if you order them in blue !

Once you hold them in your hand, it’s a different story though. Where Campfire Audio use aluminium and steel for their units (when it’s not some Ceratoke) KZ use one of the mightiest material in the world. One supposed to become even rarer than gold in a few years : plastic.

The shell is light and feels really sturdy, you could put it in your bag, without any protection, and find them at the end of the day fully unharmed. Sure, they are a bit bulky and lack the outward shininess of metal but in exchange they are hard to scratch. A win-win situation !

Build quality

The KZ ZS5 is pretty simple in its build, there are only 3 main components :

– the outer shell where all the driver fit
– the faceplate, glued to the outer shell
– the plastic nozzle where the balanced driver fit

There is a slight gap between the faceplate and the outer shell, which could be a deal breaker for some OCD audiophiles. Personally, I couldn’t care less but you’ve been warned. The only places where you could see some real flaws, are the socket as the edges can appear a little rough and some shards may be visible.

Overall, for the price (again) it’s pretty hard to fault and the KZ ZS5 is a great contender.

Bundle and Comfort

Inside the box

Nothing fancy inside the box, you have :

  • 1x KZ ZS5
  • 3x pairs of silicon tips and a comply foam pair
  • 1x microphone cable (pretty useful indeed)
  • 1x silver coated copper cable, without a microphone

Unfortunately, KZ doesn’t provide any case or pouch with the ZS5. You could use the box as a case though, it’s light and portable, somehow. In spite of that, for 25 bucks you get a good bundle, I think. I mean, two cables aren’t that common even with pricier IEMs.

I would have liked an extra pair of tips as the sleek nozzle makes them easy to lose, but that’s me being picky.

Additional accessories

If you want to take your KZ ZS5 to the higher grounds, you can get a whole load of accessories online. The 2-pin socket allows you to plug virtually any high-end cable or one of the KZ official cables. A quick list of what caught my eye :

  • KZ 1.2m Oxygen Free Copper cable, also found on the Mee Audio Pinnacle P1. It’s a thick cable but in exchange you get low to none microphonics
  • KZ Bluetooth Module IPX5, transforming the KZ5 in a bluetooth inear. An alternative option exist but it seems like the embedded DAC suffers from serious limitations.
  • ABS Resin storage, It’s sturdy, small and cost less than a coffee… I’ll get a box of ten please !

Comfort

I was a bit perplex the first time I held the KZ ZS5 in my hand, the angular shape of the shell didn’t look ergonomic at all. Fortunately, the nozzle is pretty standard and once you shoe some tips, it fits easily in the ear.

If you’re used to IEMs, it’s pretty simple to plug in you monitors: you put the nozzle in your ear, the cable above your ear, a little twist “et voila !”. The back of the IEM stays put inside your ear and never did I feel any discomfort or pain, even with the weird shape.

I mainly used the crystal cable and was really surprised by the absence of microphonics. Unless you’re wearing tacky clothes, this IEM should never be an issue on your daily routine.

The review continues on Page two, after the click HERE or by using the jump below.

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A nerdy guy with a passion for audio and gadgets, he likes to combine his DAC and his swiss knife. Even after more than 10 years of experience, Nanotechnos still collects all gear he gets, even his first MPMAN MP3 player. He likes spreadsheets, technical specs and all this amazing(ly boring) numbers. But most of all, he loves music: electro, classical, dubstep, Debussy : the daily playlist.

    25 Comments

    • Reply August 23, 2018

      siavash

      The gem in ED series that you haven’t tried is the KZ Ed16.
      In my opinion its even a better deal than ZS5 at 17-20 usd.

      • Reply December 31, 2018

        NanoTechnos

        I’ll try this one too then 😉

    • Reply August 24, 2018

      4ceratops

      Voila! The official website in english is:
      http://www.kzacoustics.com/En/#home

    • Reply August 27, 2018

      JeroenW

      I always enjoy a good review of the more budget friendly options on the market so thanks for this one!

    • Reply August 30, 2018

      hp customer support

      The quality and the design is too good.I was thinking this to be a small piece of magnet. But it is simply awesome.

    • Reply September 9, 2018

      Nicolas

      What version of the KZ ZS5 is this? I bought the KZ ZS5 (V2) with the balanced armatures butted right against the nozzle and they sound…awful! The bass is too much, the highs are screaming and the mids are hollow. I am not impressed with the comfort either. The sharp angular edges dig into my ears.

    • Reply September 14, 2018

      ross

      OMG….. Kann to Mojo to Portaphile Micro through the first upgrade cable suggestion above.
      All the rest connect through Moon Cables silver dragon and black dragon.

    • Reply September 19, 2018

      gal

      woooo i love this artical and i have bater headphone in a bater price
      https://ebay.to/2QBQJ0J

    • Reply October 3, 2018

      Sayan Dutta

      Nice post

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    • Hello, I fixed my pair by opening them and cutting one of the wires that goes to the BA treble drivers, which essentially disables one of the BA drivers. They sound great now. If you face any issues then read Fallout 4 Won’t Launch On The PC Blog to get the best solution by the experts.

    • Reply December 31, 2018

      BT

      No way this is actually better than what it pretends to be, Cheaper, yes. But better?

      • Reply December 31, 2018

        NanoTechnos

        Actually… it is ! I was surprised too when I reviewed it, but across the whole spectrum it’s more even, more consistent and simply… better.

        Sure you don’t get the aluminum finish, but soundwise, for me, it’s a league over. You really have to try for yourself 😀

    • Reply February 5, 2019

      MG

      what do you think about ZS5 at 25 usd vs ZS10 at 32 usd? what would you pick?

    • Reply February 6, 2019

      Auralen

      Who says that ZS5 v2 sounds bad should wash his ears or replace It in case is a defective sample, actually It sounds better than any other KZ I have tested, included the KZ ZS5 v1, and I have tested almost all KZ except the latest ZS7, BA10, ZSN, AS06, in these days I should receive ZS7. The only problem of ZS5 is the cheap and fragile case, for some reason ZS6 has a quality case with same configuration but doesn’t sound as good (significantly less soundstage), I hope ZS7 could offer a better experience.

    • Reply February 23, 2019

      Reynaldo

      Fastidious answer back in return of this matter with genuine
      arguments and describing everything regarding that.

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    • I like your blog post. Keep on writing this type of great stuff. I make sure to follow up on your
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    • Reply June 21, 2019

      Nikolas

      … just bought two pairs (ZS5 & 6) and I can not believe what I am hearing in terms of sound quality – highs taken consciously !!! I am using it with my baby HiBy R3 … Plenty of fun, thanks for the review !!!

    • Extraordinary blog thanks for sharing such superb blog with us ,after significant time-frame ran over such knowledgeable blog. continue sharing such enlightening site with us

    • Really I like your article it is easy to reading. You are a good blogger pls keep it up. Thank you so much.

    • Reply September 13, 2019

      Firesticknosignal

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    • Reply October 29, 2019

      Gene

      I recently paired my kz zs5 (v1) with venture electronics Odyssey and it sounds out of this world.

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