Being in this audio hobby is oftentimes a roller-coaster ride. One day you find aiming for a specific set of gear only to find another release being propped out of the blue. Knowledge Zenith however has a different way of doing the roller-coaster ride. 1 day they release a 10 driver IEM and then follow it up immediately with a little brother. What we have now to realview is their recent hybrid IEM, the KZ ZSA. Thanks to Linsoul/DDAudio for providing the review unit in exchange for an honest review. The KZ ZSA is currently priced at $19 and you can grab a pair from Linsoul/DDAudio which you can grab at their DDAudio/Linsoul Amazon site and their Aliexpress store as well, DDAudio/Linsoul AliExpress. The KZ ZSA sports a single BA driver coupled with a single dynamic driver. A Frequency Response of 7-40000Hz, 18Ohm Impedance, 101dB Sensitivity and metal housing which comes in 2 shades, grayscale and a red/black faceplate/shell combo. With a lot of other options out there on the $19 range, some even coming from KZ themselves, is the ZSA have anything significant to offer? Let’s dig in.
Packaging and Build Quality
Okay, nothing to see here really. Packaged in a semi-glossy white cardboard box with the ZSA outline silhouette and black fonts stating the brand and model of the IEMs inside it. This is already a standard among the entry-level KZ lineup and the ZSA is no exception. Opening the box itself reveals the ZSA immediately covered by a clear plastic sheet and the ZSA embedded on a black plastic mold, underneath this black mold is the stock cable, warranty cards, manual and 3 pairs of black stock KZ silicon eartips with the M size pre-installed on the ZSA. The cable used is a 1.2M round braid copper cable on a gold plated 3.5mm L-plug with strain relief both on the jack and the Y-split yet no cable cinch which would have been appreciated since the Y split sits lower than most cables I have tried. The cable is easy to store and easy to tangle as well even though it’s a braided cable and glad to have found that it isn’t microphonic as well when used on the go. The memory wire on the cable near the .75mm 2pin connection had a thin metal strip to aid in the memory wire conforming to your desired shape. The IEM housing itself is a 2-part faceplate/shell union and what we have now is the red/black colorway.
The faceplate has white printed “hybrid technology” on it and 3 horizontal vents with a metal mesh underneath and 3 installed allen screws which isn’t painted black, the shell is a matte red with L and R markings on each. I wasn’t a fan of these silhouette yet after sometime it wasn’t that bad except for the in-your-face “hybrid technology” on the faceplate. The included silicon tips that came with the ZSA is clearly a mismatch for it and it is highly recommended to get a 3rd party tip hence in this realview, the Final Audio Type E was used due to its perfect bore size that matches the ZSA nozzle nicely, at 1st it was weird not seeing a nozzle lip to aid with tip security however the Final Audio Type E didn’t come off when the IEM was removed for the duration of the realview, a metal mesh is also present on the nozzle which is good.
The 1st foray I had into the KZ lineup was the AS10 and that was a welcome sound which was easy on the ears, the ZSA showcased similar tonality after the “necessary” burn-in which this time around reached 150 hours. The ZSA gave out a relatively flat response which didn’t show aggressive emphasis on the lower and upper frequencies. Let me drop the ball this early, I prefer the ZSA over the AS10 in overall sound, the AS10 had slower decay on the bass which I wasn’t a fan on how the effect caused the overall sound to be warm however the other frequencies were similar between the 2. I used the Opus 1 and Xduoo x3ii churning out 16/44 FLACs on multiple tracks under the One More Light, Best of Olivia Ong, Fleetwood Mac Greatest Hits and Dead Mau albums.
DeadMau’s Cat Thruster track played a soft thumpy bass. I would have preferred a more full-bodied bass on this aspect but it is great that this still allows for a cleaner definition for the midrange tones. The sub bass plunges deep and sounds very easy on the ears even when used with more powerful sources. The ZSA’s low-end performance showcases a well-controlled bass that isn’t thin or too powerful. This can satisfy your regular need of low-end kick.
Although the ZSA sounds rather flat overall, its midrange execution comes out alive and kicking. RUN D.M.C’s Peter Piper in 16/44 showcased clear and definite vocals even when the various instrumental tones kick in. It has great articulation on each vocal and instrument presence. The low-midrange performance is also clean and gives out a smooth transitional kick for the overall midrange sound. Upper midrange is delicate.
Nigel’s Stanford’s Cymatics in 16/44 Flac started smoothly on its low-end and midrange delivery yet when the upper frequencies kick on the 1:03 mark there is a soft treble bite without too much shrill which is further reinforced on the 2:04 mark. Note that the ZSA’s also emanates well the increase in both low and high volumes. It is best that this be properly driven with enough power which is should also be clean which doesn’t mean that this is hard to drive though. Trying the Sansa Clip+ on the ZSA is underwhelming.
Soundstage and Imaging
The ZSA faceplate features 3 grilled vents which should account for an affinity of an airy soundstage in relevance to IEMs however testing it out using Tom Jones’ To Love Somebody in 16/44 Flac gave out a spatially intimate width and has clear depth to it. Trying out the Beatles’ Hello, Goodbye still showcased an intimate soundstage with distinct imaging but also shows that the ZSA can also pan well with left to right instrument presence transition. The vents on this IEM don’t do a lot this time around.
Launched along with its famous siblings, the KZ ES-4 and the ED-16 which I am yet to try out gives the ZSA 1 distinct feature among its peers which its metal body and kind of weird silhouette. It is however comfortable to wear over long periods of time especially with your choice of ear tips. The ZSA comes with a good stock cable at best and along with its sturdy build and comfortable silhouette while still being able to give out a rather flat response with subtle focus on the lower midrange and a soft treble bite gives the ZSA a chance to be included in your entry level collection.