Pros: Rich midrange, Extremely comfortable, Lovingly Made
Cons: None for me
I’ll begin with a quick comparison between the Tzar 90’s to the well-received Heir 3Ai’s. I received my 3Ai’s a few months ago, and I clearly remember the first song I listened to. Sara Bareille’s “City – Live at the Fillmore” totally blew me away. The song begins with the crowd, with someone on the left screaming “I love you Sara!” Music inches in, slowly, and the piano drops. I remember being totally blown away by the first few notes from the piano.
Fast forward to Jan. 14th – I’ve just received my Tzar 90+’s with the Wizard’s Magnus One cable. Running straight of a MBP, I noticed that the headphones aren’t difficult to drive at all. I played City again, and waited to be blown away. But it wasn’t that piano that blew me away – it was the Sara Bareille’ s vocals this time.
Quick comparison to the 3Ai
The Tzar 90+ and the Heir 3Ai’s are two different headphones. I don’t have the 3Ai’s anymore, so I can’t do a side-by-side at the moment. I’ll think back and try to do some comparisons (please take with a grain of salt).
Similarities: They have the same “fun” sound signature, both a little on the bassy side. Both headphones have the deep, deep extension and the sweet sparkle on the top end.
Differences: It’s immediately apparent to me that the Tzar 90 is a lusher/warmer-sounding IEM. I don’t want to delve into this more deeply because I don’t have the 3A’s on hand, but the vocals definitely feel like they are more upfront on the 90’s.
After hours and hours of burn-in (at least 48), I started to take a serious listen to the headphones. The initial impressions held true – vocals are super rich, super lush.
There’s a sweet sparkle in the treble. It’s not that the treble is recessed, but it’s just tucked away a little bit. Comparing to the DBA-02’s, it’s fairly evident that clarity and transparency wasn’t the goal with the Tzar 90’s.
Priscilla Ahn is a phenomenal artist that really reveals the character of a headphone’s treble. She’s close to sibilant on the DBA-02’s, but she’s very well-controlled on the Tzar 90’s. Treble is, in my opinion, very well balanced with the mids. At times, it does feel like the bass overwhelms the higher frequencies a little bit, but I have no complaints.
My favorite part of these headphones is the midrange. I’m a strong fan warmer sounding headphones. I don’t really subscribe to the transparency end-goal that many have. If you want accurate, you should be looking to the Tzar 350’s, not to the 90’s.
Mids are very, very rich. Vocals, in their own league on these headphones, hold their own very well against the punchy bass.
A good test is listening to Carla Bruni’s Quelqu’un M’a Dit. I see Carla Bruni as the epitome of rich vocals. With the 3Ai’s, my girlfriend described he vocals as “veiled.” I didn’t agree with that characterization then, and that statement certainly isn’t true in the Tzar 90’s. Bruni’s voice is a little overwhelming – a little up-in-your-face. It’s a little too rich for my liking, but this is the ONLY song with these headphones that I’ve ever felt that way about.
Building off of Carla Bruni, I moved to Jason Mraz’s “A Beautiful Mess.” There’s a very good balance between the punchy bass and the rich mids. Everything was pretty pristine there – my notes compared the headphones to a $8000+ stereo system I heard over the summer (on the Anniversary Tablette Proac bookshelf speakers).
Holy bass. There’s very good bass. There’s very much bass. And the bass sometimes punches you right in the face. I’d say that there is a similar extension on the Tzar 90’s as there is on the 3Ai’s. Both headphones reach really deep. It’s the bass that you can clearly hear the microwoofer shining through. I feel that the bass is very typical for Heir Audio’s headphones. It’s really well-done, and I have nothing negative to say about it.
I think I’ll be keeping the Tzar 90’s for many years to come. I’ve trimmed down several of my headphone collections over the years, but I definitely think the 90’s are here to stay. And if I do trade them away, it’s likely I’ll pick up another pair. That said, I’m definitely a fan of the warmer headphones that Heir produces. I enjoy the rich vocals and the punchy bass. I think that the Wizard did a really great job with these headphones, and that people should definitely give them a shot.
I do know there are a few concerns about powering the headphones from an iDevice or a MBP. I’ve gotten rid of my amps over the years, and I can honestly say that these headphones don’t really need an amp. Sure, they weigh in a little heavy at 90 ohms, but it doesn’t really seem to impact their performance on a MBP. I’m sure that we’ll see a 10% improvement in overall total balance and presentation if we hooked up the Tzar 90’s with an amp. But it doesn’t really need on.
There is a noticeable difference in quality when running out of an iPhone, though. iPhone DACS are crap, though, so this statement applies across the board. From the iPhone, the Tzar 90’s sound a little more veiled thatn running out of a MBP, but it’s still perfectly awesome to listen to.
Finally, I know there have been some questions about the types of music that fit well with these headphones. I’m listening to EDM right now to see how things fit in. I’m not really an EDM fan, but these headphones do fine with this kind of music. The strengths definitely seem to be in vocal-heavy music, but these headphones do well with any kind of rock/alternative music too. Guitar riffs are extraordinarily clear and sweet. Classical music works really well too – I think that these headphones do have a slightly better soundstage than the 3Ai’s. On final note, I’ve listened to my fair share of Chopin and Debussy over the past two weeks, and the Tzar 90 has handled both of these well.
The Tzar 90’s are awesome. Comfort is unsurpassed, and isolation is phenomenal. They’re damn sexy headphones, and it's obvious that Wizard put his passion into them. Go pick up a pair and try them out for yourself.
Feel free to post below if you have any questions!