KZ ATE: Hi-Fi for Lo-Cost

KZ, or Knowledge Zenith, is a Chinese earphone manufacturer that is getting rave reviews due to their high performance but dirt cheap earphones. They have been in business for only a few years but have come out with a handful of models that are almost all rated highly by audiophile communities.
While I’m no audiophile, as a musician and music lover I’m always on the lookout for good earphones that won’t cost an arm and a leg. Intrigued by the plethora of good reviews I decided to spring for a pair of KZ ATE in-ear monitors (IEM).
At just Php698.00 with free delivery (Lazada), I figured it was a risk worth taking.
The package took a couple of weeks to arrive. Is it worth the wait, and is it worth the money?
Let’s find out.


The packaging is a small, simple cardboard box that doesn’t look cheap at all. Inside, a moulded plastic case holds the IEM, a user manual, and a couple of extra silicone tips. The IEM had foam conical tips already attached.
The interesting thing about the KZ ATE is that it’s designed to be a wrap-around-the-ear monitor but it doesn’t have memory wire. Instead there are two gold counterweights a few inches below the earpieces. These do a great job of keeping the IEM in place. The earpieces themselves are encased in smoky, gray transparent plastic, with gold strain relief and rubbery, transparent cables. The jack is L-shaped. 

Build-wise, the KZ ATE could pass for a much pricier set of earphones. They’re built really well and looks expensive.


Ok, I would not be using objective benchmarks here, as I’m admittedly not technically knowledgeable about frequencies and whatnot. But I know what sound profile I find pleasant, and I would do my best to describe how these things sound.

First thing, my daily music device is an old, beat up iPod nano 3rd gen, and the KZ ATEs sound absolutely amazing with it. No amps, no special players, and no lossless files, just plain old mp3s with decent bitrates. 
I fired up Richie Kotzen’s track “Doing What the Devil Says to Do,” and the bass was just at the right level and wasn’t dominating the song. the mids were good, and the highs cut through the mix and were not drowned out. The hi-hats were clear, the snare was crisp, the kick solid. The bass guitar was full-bodied, with the lower registers not muddy at all. The guitars cut through really well. The vocals were front and center. Soundstage was excellent.
Next track I played was Paranoid Android by Radiohead. It was a freaking revelation. I heard things I did not hear before, heard the rich layers of sounds stacked on top of and side by side one another, heard the intricate soundscape constructed by Yorke and company.

All in all I spent most of the day listening to my collection of music and was amazed at how many things I missed when I used to use different earphones, some of them more expensive than the KZ ATE, and all of them from more well-known brands. 


Hell, yes… if you listen to music on a daily basis, get these. For less than 700 pesos you could have a pair of high fidelity, high quality earphones. These are so good that cheapskate audiophiles rejoiced when these were released. It’s well worth the price tag. 


W8 Action Camera Review

Action cams have become an ubiquitous part of vacations in the past few years, having earned its place among  sunscreens and sunglasses as summer must-haves. For a long time, the scene was dominated by pricey GoPros, and those without the kind of money a GoPro demands had to be content with snapping up cellphone pictures, minus the fancy wide-angle awesomeness.

That had largely changed with the inevitable arrival of affordable devices from various manufacturers, among them the W8 action camera. What does it bring to the table, and is it a worthwhile buy at Php1,499.00? Let’s find out.


Out of the box


The W8 camera comes with a boatload of accessories. Aside from the camera, there’s a waterproof case, charger, and a myriad of accessories to connect your camera to your car’s dashboard, your bike’s handlebars, your motorcycle helmet, heck you can tie it to a tree with the cable ties if you so fancy doing so!

You can download the EZ iCam app from the iOS app store/Google Play store for additional functionality, but it’s not really essential. You can pretty much use the camera out of the box. You just have to slap in a microSD card for storage and you’re good to go.


The camera is equipped with a fixed 140 degree wide angle lens. Photo resolution is set at a default of 12MP (4608×2592). You can also choose from resolutions ranging from 8MP (3760×2120), 5MP (2976×1672), down to 2MP (1920×1080) in the settings. The photos come out OK: although photo quality is nothing to write home about, the camera gets the job done. In low light situations it’s not that great, but for use in day time it’s quite good. Definition is quite clear, albeit edges are a bit smudgy when zoomed in, and colors are a bit muted for my taste but a quick pass in Lightroom or Photoshop will take care of this issue.

Unedited photo from the W8 cam with default setting.


Video is set to a default of 1080p at 30 fps. There are options for 720p at 60 fps and 4K, but with a frame rate of 10 fps, it’s not really worthwhile to record videos in this format. 1080p is adequate enough. The videos taken with this camera are smooth, clear and bright, with no noticeable lag. You can also set the video to loop, if you want to use it as a dash cam.


The camera has a 2-inch LCD display and User Interface that seem to come straight from a late 1990’s digital camera. It’s that bad. You can actually see  the individual pixels. The menu’s UI is cumbersome: you have to press buttons endlessly just to even exit the settings. You miss it and you have to go back again. But for quick reference, I guess it does the job. It’s just annoying as hell. Having the EZ iCam app somehow alleviates this, as you can go and set the resolution and whatnot from your phone. It just becomes a problem when you don’t have this option, say you’re in the pool or a situation where you don’t have your phone with you.

Battery Life and Connectivity

The battery is a 900maH Li-ion battery. It lasts about an hour and a half on a single charge. Charging time is about an hour or so.

There is also Wi-Fi connectivity but it’s a bit misleading. The camera connects to your phone through Wi-Fi. It doesn’t connect directly to Wi-Fi and you can’t upload pictures directly from the camera to your Facebook.

There’s an HMDI port you can use to connect the camera directly to your TV, and a microUSB port for data transfer and charging.


For something that I’d only use sparingly, as in very rarely, this is an awesome buy. I have used it about twice now, once during a family outing and once to film my kids dancing in the rain when a sudden rainstorm came. I have since kept it in a drawer somewhere, where I could just grab it when needed: maybe strap it to a cymbal stand or stick it in a guitar’s headstock to get music video-like footage, or whatever. The lack of a remote shutter button is a shame, but at just Php1,499.00 it does not feel like that much of a big deal. If you are planning to use an action cam frequently, though, investing in a higher end camera might be a better option for you. For the occasional weekend warrior, this is perfect.


Atmos Fit Elite Review

The Elite is the followup to the Atmos Fit, upgraded with the addition of a heart rate monitor and revamped aesthetics.

Out of the box

Included in the box is the unit, charger and manual. Unlike the previous Atmos Fit, you can’t use just any ordinary charger because the Elite’s charger is a three-pronged proprietary one which clips to the unit. So be careful not to lose it.

Charging the Elite for a couple of hours will give you a week of juice.

To fully utilize the Elite out of the box, you first have to download the companion app (Atmos Fit) from the iOS App store or Google Play. The app is well designed, streamlined and easy to use with a clean, intuitive UI. Just set your profile and you’re good to go.


The Elite’s display is an OLED monochrome display that’s nothing to write home about, but it does have a certain retro 8-bit charm to the interface. A touch sensor is indicated by a simple circle in the Elite’s face. One tap will display the date and time which is automatically synced to your phone, together with the battery level and Bluetooth indicator. Another tap will bring you to the number of steps you have taken. Tap it once more and it displays the distance you have travelled. Another tap will display the heart rate. You have a couple of options on how to activate the heart rate sensor: one is by pressing and holding the touch sensor on the Elite until the heart icon beats, and another is through the app.

Sensor accuracy

The pedometer is fairly accurate when walking but it does get wrong readings in certain situations: For instance, I walked a short distance from the door to my car and drove around for about an hour, but the sensor indicated that I have walked 3 kilometers. I also woke up one morning and the sensor had already registered 200 steps while I was asleep (and I am fairly certain I don’t sleepwalk). But walking from the office to the house is reflected accurately (a distance of about 1 kilometer).

The sleep monitor is also fairly accurate. It does get the hours of sleep close to reality as far as I can tell. But I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the quality of sleep (deep sleep and light sleep) which is indicated in the app.

The heart rate monitor is where it gets a little bit iffy. It utilizes an optical sensor that shines light onto your skin to ostensibly measure blood flow. But I tried to measure my heart rate while I had the Elite taken off, and it still returned a reading. Thinking the ambient light is affecting it, I put it inside a dark drawer, and it still returned a normal heart rate reading. So I would not really put my trust in these things for returning an accurate heart rate. But in fairness to Atmos Fit, the science of measuring heart rate through optical sensors is not really an exact science just yet.

Notification and Alarm

The Elite, when connected through Bluetooth to your smartphone, can also notify you of a text message/call. Sadly you can’t preview a message, but it can be useful when you have your phone in your bag and is likely to miss a call.

You can also set a silent alarm through the app. I find this useful when I want to wake up early and doesn’t want to disturb others in the room with me.

Another feature is called the Safety Feature, in which your phone’s alarm will sound off when it gets beyond range of the Elite when connected through Bluetooth.


Although limited and not as feature-packed as a FitBit or other higher end fitness bands, the Atmos Fit Elite is a good buy at just Php 890.00 ( which is just a fraction of the price. For comparison, you can buy 10 of these things for the price of one FitBit Charge 2. The pedometer , notification and silent alarm feature alone made it worth the price tag for me. Add in the watch features and the price more than justifies itself.

*There had been a recurring issue among our readers, namely that the Atmos doesn’t recharge when  the battery is drained. This seems to be an issue affecting a lot of units and we are reaching out to Kimstore for comment.

*Update (7/10/17): We’ve tried to get Kimstore’s tech support to help out with the technical issues you have brought up here. Sad to say, pinagpasapasahan lang kami and in the end there was no offered solution aside from taking your units back to them.

*Update (7/11/17): Kimstore had replied to our queries with the following message:

Hi Sir, actually ,that is just a batch problem, and has been resolved with the new batch of arrivals for atmos fit elite. For those having difficulties, feel free to return these units to us and we will provide full warranty and replacement support as necessary 🙂

So head over to Kimstore and have your malfunctioning units replaced, guys.