I just got mine. I don't even know what to say. I am disappointed though.
This isn't a review so much as a gut feeling. I'm kind of a loner in my audio pursuits so I'm not well versed on terminology. And I don't have a wide range of experience. I've been using Shure 535s for a few years now and the 315s for a couple of years prior to those. I've just been plagued with the connection problems ever since I upgraded to the 535s and I'm tired of it so I decided to look for a change. Oh, and I've been using the TTVJ slim amp during all that time.
First thing I did was throw on Marvin Gaye's What's Going On album. There's so much going on right out of the gate with that album with all the layers of vocals, the walking bass, the strings, etc. With the Shures everything is crystal clear. You can hear all the voices talking behind him, his second vocal track dances around with his main track, the bass, while not pronounced, is still punchy. With the Z5s most of the vocals outside his main track are almost gone. Those that are audible feel lackluster. The strings seem blurred and the bass is fuzzy as hell and overwhelms the background vocals. I tried playing with the levels and I could get a bit more clarity out of the mids but not fully. Besides, I prefer to have those flat which works fine for my 535s and works great for my Grado PS1000s. Even with different settings I couldn't get anything to sound as clear.
Next I tried ZZ Top's First Album. The thing I love about that album, particularly the first two tracks, is the clarity of his guitar. I play myself and with the 535s it sounds like I'm in the same room as a guy with a guitar and amp. With the Z5s it sounds like he's in the next room through wall and I have a muddy sock around my head. I mean, the fuzz on his guitar sounds like it has fuzz, (as does his voice a bit).
Miles Davis' Kind of Blue is a little better over all when the full band is in swing but the opening is shot to pieces. With the Shures you can practically feel Chamber's fingers on the strings of his double bass. On the Z5s that level clarity is gone. Worst of all the bass overwhelms the Evan's piano just enough that they bleed together in the intro. It almost sounds like a production error.
Just to check the bass heavy angle I threw on Guru's Jazzmatazz, Vol 1. and they seem a lot better suited for Hip Hop. With the 535s I always felt there was too much space between his vocals and the music. His delivery could sound flat and disconnected from the funky grooves. With the Z5s the bass fills out that space and his voice floats on top of it. It feels much more engaging. DJ Qbert's Wave Twisters felt a lot more engaging as well with all the cuts more rounded out.
I didn't try any of my classical but since I love guitar driven music I did put on Son House. Just him and his National. With the Z5s it just lost all its life. Again the Shures more faithfully reproduce the sound of being there with the guitar.
So, any advice? My gut says return them pronto but I did order the MUC-M12SM1 OFC cables but they won't get here for a few weeks. Does anyone think those might make the difference I'd need?
Burn-in till 200 hrs at least and review again. The sound signature of Z5 is definitely different from 535, like or not like it really depends on personal preference sometimes . According to one of the head-fi forum of China, a guy there revealed that the clarity of Z5 improves a lot after 200 hrs of burning. Let's give it a chance!