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.
OUT OF THE BOX
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.
SO IS IT WORTH IT?
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.