Here we are again and those that got to reading this realview is either an owner of the Knowledge Zenith ZSN or waiting for it to arrive or seriously considering getting one. There is already no way of finding out the naming scheme KZ uses and finding it out probably won’t give any information as to how a particular model sounds, like how could you do that when you’re a company that just won’t stop pumping out products.
We all have our own 1st impressions when seeing a newly released product and when I saw the ZSN, I noticed how nice the clear 0.75mm 2-pin male housing was and the aggressive IEM design it had. Priced at $18, I had a hunch that this piece would again be the talk of the town barring how it sounds overall. Linsoul/DD Audio provided the sample unit in exchange for an honest review. You can get a pair from their dedicated Amazon and AliExpress shops.
The ZSN is a dual driver hybrid featuring a 10mm KZ-developed dynamic driver which uses titanium film on its diaphragm or so I’m told and a 30095 customized balanced armature. The ZSN is also spec’d out with a 20Hz-40000Hz Frequency Response, 25 Ohm Impedance and a 104dB Sensitivity. It is also light at just .05 pounds which is notable against the KZ BA10’s estimated .10 pounds weight. Will the ZSN’s aggressive and new design be enough to grip the $20 market for KZ once again or is just another random release bound to fail? Let’s find out.
Packaging and Build Quality
The KZ ZSN’s packaging is 90% identical with the ZSA’s minus the respective silhouettes of both being highlighted on the white glossy cardboard box with a smaller black container inside which features the IEM itself plus a set of KZ black single flange silicon ear tips (S, M, L) and 1 medium black silicon ear tips preinstalled as well as the 0.75mm 2-pin cable. The housing itself features a 2 piece faceplate and shell design with the shell being offered in 3 colors (Black, Cyan and Purple). The housing has a good ergonomic design which doesn’t hurt after long term use plus a gold plated nozzle with a silver metal mesh separate from the Resin housing. I indeed fancy the black shell which is really appears smoky in actual look since it enables an easier peek into the internal wirings of the ZSN which doesn’t suggest sloppy work and also has 2 vents directly over the where the dynamic drivers are. The faceplate itself is the same across all colorways offered and is metal with 3 angled lines as well 3 working vents and 3 faceplate screws, rule of thirds y’all. The faceplate and shell union shows no signs of weak bonds and is sealed clean and tight, at $18, that’s nice.
The stock cable is still reminiscent of the ZSA cable except that the over ear guide is now devoid of the metal guiding mechanism and yet works better in terms of staying in place when used on the go. It is still a round braid copper cable with average tension and microphonics with the Y-split and the L-shaped gold-plated 3.5mm plug still the same with the ZSA, a mic’d cable is also an option for those who want it. The biggest difference the ZSN has over the other KZ products stock cable is the new 2-pin housing with more slot protection and is also aesthetically more appealing than the old black housings. Those who own other KZ cables need not worry as they still fit on the ZSN although not sitting too flush.
Four KZ units reviewed and it’s safe to say that they’re showing a house sound that is warm sounding with the occasional struggle with the higher frequency implementation. The ZSN once again resides in KZ’s warm signature “signature” sound which at the $20 market is really standard. It is also the 1st time out of 4 KZ review units that the realview would be using the stock KZ ear tips which surprisingly works well with the ZSN silhouette. The Xduoo X3ii and Opus 1 as well as the Sony CAS-1 churning out 16/44 Flac files which would be mentioned along the realview.
Already being clearly a warm sounding set of IEMs, how the ZSN tackles the lows will clearly decide if it is at best worthy to get against its numerous $20 competition. The ZSN’s lows was tested using Deadmau5’s Deus Ex Machina track which has a load of sub bass and bass. The sub bass drops are indeed powerful on the ZSN and is sensibly and audibly felt while bass thumps are impactful and has great air giving a fat sound yet still not congesting towards the midrange frequency. This will satisfy basshead cravings.
With the low frequency performance being the ZSN’s bread and butter, there is already good foundation towards a positive midrange performance. Norah Jones once again graces the midrange with her Don’t Know Why track. The vocal timbre isn’t off on the ZSN and although there’s a hint of being unnatural, female vocals still sounds lively with sufficient air and clarity. Lower midrange has great clarity as well, compliments with the bass thumps. This isn’t your laid back nor forward sounding midrange performer but instead plays safely on the neutral midrange sound.
While the lower frequency performance is the ZSN’s bread and butter while the midrange performance doing a decent job, KZ is once again put to the test on with the ZSN. Angela Bofill’s Angel of the Night track was used and there is immediate noticeable treble bite. Crash cymbal hits are articulate and surprisingly has good treble extension as well. The ride cymbals isn’t shrilly and has tolerable peaks. This IEM is surely borderline sibilant, I however tried using the Final Audio Type E ear tips which did great in taming out the highs.
Soundstage and Imaging
With the noticeable treble bite and extension as well as the sufficient midrange presence, the imaging aspect of the ZSN showed average yet distinct instrument placement identification and their interaction with each other is articulate enough to be a bit engaging. Soundstage is clearly benefitting from the 5 vents spread over the faceplate and the shell, it pans out wide instead of being intimate with good left to right and right to left tonal note transitions.
Knowledge Zenith did a pretty good job on the new ZSN release and they might be scratching their head as to why they have chosen to price this at only $18 or maybe they just want to keep the entry level buyers locked and then release a $30 to $40 IEM which I’m guessing wouldn’t do as good as the ZSN. Banking on an aggressive design, new 2-pin housing and a surprisingly good warm sound and capping it off with a price residing on the lower tier, the ZSN is my new KZ IEM favorite dethroning the ZSA.