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You know my name.

Knowledge Zenith ED3 "Perfection"

Rating:
5/5,
  • 2018-03-12 22.13.41.jpg

    Brand: Knowledge Zenith
    Model: ED3 "Perfection"
    Type: in-ear monitor
    Frequency Response:7-40500Hz
    Connectors: 3.5mm
    Impedance: 18Ω
    Cord Length:1.2m
    Sensitivity:112dB /mW;
    Driver Type: 6.8mm Dynamic Driver Unit

Recent Reviews

  1. DocHoliday
    If you think you can.......you can!
    Written by DocHoliday
    Published Mar 16, 2018
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Crystal clear and balanced sound signature
    Elegant simplicity in it's smoked gunmetal design
    Durable metal housing
    Criminally inexpensive
    Cons - Typical rubbery cable found on nearly all early Knowledge Zenith IEMs
    2018-03-18 05.39.10.jpg
    If you think you can.......you can!
    If you think you can.......you can!

    What's with the odd opening statement, Doc?

    I'll answer your question with a boyish grin and a sense of feigned modesty because I know something that most of you don't.

    The ED3 "Perfection" was released waaaaayyyy back in 2015 when Knowledge Zenith had released several in-ear models. In fact KZ had released so many in-ear models over a five to six month period (ED10, ATE-S, ED11, ED4, HDS2, HDS3, ZS1, ED3 "Perfection" & ED3 "ACME") that this ED3 "Perfection" simply got lost in the shuffle. At the time of the release of the ED3 "Perfection" there was really only one forum, in the West, that took note of it's introduction. That forum was Head-Fi's own "Knowledge Zenith (KZ) impressions thread" and if you go back to the KZ thread and review from pp350 - 550 (approximately) you get a sense of the excitement and confusion (in equal measure) that was present and began to ferment due to the price-to-performance ratio in almost everything that KZ was releasing.

    Most of the thread's participants seemed to focus their attention toward the "fun" sounding models. There were really only one or two thread participants that recognized the "Perfection" for what it was; near perfection for less than $10.

    At any rate, the reason for the boyish grin and feigned modesty is because....
    wait for it.......wait for it.....

    KZ's FAMED FLAGSHIP ZS6 IS THE PROGENY OR OFFSPRING OF THE ED3 "Perfection"
    AND MOST OF KZ's devoted fans have overlooked the most capable in-ear monitor that Knowledge Zenith released back when they were in their infancy.

    Before we get started on the ED3 "Perfection" there are a few things you need to know.

    About me:
    I tend to prefer a relatively neutral sound signature with a slight emphasis in both bass and lower treble, which is basically a mild "U" shaped sound signature where midrange frequencies are left intact and unaffected. I find that an absolute neutral sound signature usually lacks enough energy for the genres I enjoy most, which are Classic Trance and Progressive (early Tiesto, Markus Schulz, Otello, DT8 Project), Chill Out, Breakbeat (Hybrid & Burufunk Remixes) and 80's & 90's (New Order, Secession, The Cure, Siouxie & The Banshees, Depeche Mode). Sure I listen to Verve Remixed, Sade, Bach, Ella Fitzgerald and everything in between, but as of late the bulk of my listening pleasure is focused on the aforementioned genres.

    About IEMs:
    Take note when you read IEM reviews that when the reviewer gives his/her opinion regarding the sound that there are many factors that shape the final sound an IEM delivers to one's ear.

    Those factors include:
    1 - Shape & size of reviewer's ear canals. (shallow/deep, wide/narrow)
    2 - Shape & size of eartips (round/cone, single, double or triple flange)
    3 - Materials of eartips (silicone/foam)
    4 - Shape of IEM (and/or angle of nozzle) can cause fitment issues for some.
    5 - Source (quality of DAC in smartphone, laptop, digital audio player)
    6 - Source (power rating) is it amplified/unamplified.
    7 - The IEM itself (driver flex/trapping air in canal causing muffled sound.
    8 - The Reviewers ability to hear all frequency ranges (age plays a factor).

    Most consumers are unaware of how much weight each of these factors hold in rendering a final verdict. This is why there is such a wide variance in not only ratings, but the description of an IEMs sound. An unaware consumer purchases a perfectly fine IEM but has difficulty keeping the IEM in the ear or he/she does not satisfactorily seal the ear canal with the included silicone eartips (this is a common occurrence) and the consumer summarily dismisses the IEM as sub par. Another consumer purchases the same IEM but experiences a perfect fit and seal and has nothing but praise for the same IEM. Sealing the ear canals AND HAVING THE EARTIP FIRMLY AFFIXED to the IEM nozzle is the only proper way to use in-ear monitors. I can think of no audio equipment that is subjected to such praise or ridicule as the in-ear monitor. As if that's not enough, there is no "one-size-fits-all" when it comes to IEM eartips.

    Materials (silicone/foam) have different dampening effects on final sound.
    Shape of the eartips (olive-shaped, cone-shaped or other-shaped) can have different dampening effects on final sound based on how much space is between the IEM nozzle and your eardrum and how well the eartip has sealed the ear canal.
    The aperture of the eartip's opening (wide-bore/narrow-bore) will have dampening effects on the final sound.

    The easiest way for you to experience the different effects I am discussing is to take your current on-ear earphones or over-ear earphones, pick a song full of energy, put the earphones on and let them sit naturally over or on your ears. Listen to the music for two minutes. After two minutes, using your hands, slightly press the headphones closer to your eardrums. Notice the change in the sound. Is there more/less bass? Is there more/less treble? Did the vocals slightly slip forward/back?

    Consider that on-ear and over-ear headphones have a driver that sits approximately 1 1/2 inches to 2 inches from your eardrums and by pressing the headphones 1/4" closer to your eardrums the sound changed. Now consider that an IEM driver sits anywhere from 3/4" to 1/4" from your eardrums and the slightest changes (angle, depth, shape, material) can have up to three times more of an effect due to the proximity of the IEM to the eardrum.

    For this reason, I think it is wise to invest a nominal dollar amount on different eartips to find an eartip that works well for your particular ear's anatomy. This way you experience everything the earphone tuner intended for you to experience. Some IEM manufacturers supply multiple sizes (S/M/L) and/or materials (silicone/foam) of eartips to increase the odds that the consumer achieves a satisfactory seal, but even this is not foolproof. If this information holds any interest for you, there are a plethora of aftermarket eartip brands to look into, such as "JVC Spiral Dots", "Spinfits", "Comply Foam Eartips" or "Znari Foam Eartips", "Creative Aurvana" and others. If you really want to fine tune things, then you might find yourself doing what I do, which is scouring Amazon for inexpensive earphones that appear to have silicone eartips that have a shape that typically work well with my ear's anatomy.

    The Knowledge Zenith ED3 "Perfection":
    2018-03-18 05.47.44.jpg
    With a beautifully understated classic barrel design and a moniker like "Perfection" the ED3 needed to check quite a few boxes in order to live up to it's name.

    In my opinion the ED3 "Perfection" did just that.

    A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, yours truly was fully enveloped in the business world. A common practice for me at that time was attending business conference after business conference. One such conference was a life-changing experience for me as my colleagues and I were treated to a poem that would be my constant companion for many years.

    The poem, written by consultant/writer Denis Waitley addresses the mindset of a given individual. I'll be more specific.

    If you believe that a given task is insurmountable and you don't engage then the battle is lost without a shot. In other words, if you think you can't, then it's true, you can't. What relatively few people recognize is that the flip-side of this statement is also true. Hence, Knowledge Zenith's gumption to say to itself and to the world "we can do that". When you consider that one of Knowledge Zenith's owners defected from Audio-Technica for entrepreneurial reasons, then given a certain predisposition........
    If You Think You Can, You Can!
    By Denis Waitley

    You can be a total winner, even if you’re a beginner,
    If you think you can, you can
    If you think you can, you can

    You can raise a "B" performance to an "A"
    You can get in the school play
    If you think you can, you can
    If you think you can, you can

    You can wear the gold medallion
    You can ride your own black stallion
    If you think you can, you can
    If you think you can, you can

    It’s not your talent or the gifted birth,
    It’s not your bank book that determines worth
    It isn’t your gender or the color of your skin
    It’s your attitude that lets you win

    Upset McEnroe or Austin
    Win the marathon in Boston
    If you think you can, you can
    If you think you can, you can

    You can profit through inflation
    You can redirect this nation
    If you think you can, you can
    If you think you can, you can

    It doesn’t matter what you've done before
    It makes no difference what the half-time score
    It’s never over 'til the final gun, if there were one
    So keep on trying and you’ll find you’ve won

    Grab your dream and then believe it
    Go out and work, and you’ll achieve it
    If you think you can, you can
    if you think you can, you can!
    ...anything is possible.

    Sure, it's a bit campy but I thoroughly agree with the poem's sentiments. It resonated with me and I have found it to be true many, many times over.

    Who is Knowledge Zenith?
    according to hifinage.com
    "Knowledge Zenith, known as KZ the brand name under which the Guangdong-based Shenzhen Yuanze Electronics Co. operates, was established in 2008. The originators are Zen Li, a Western-trained classical musician, and Keith Yue, a former Audio-Technica engineer.

    The company presents an exciting range of low-priced earphones with best value and performance compared to other budget earphones in the market. The company presently owns two brands, KZ and G.K, which has been positively received by its consumers. If you are looking to advance your stock earbuds on a minimal budget, it is advisable, to begin with, the Knowledge Zenith brand.)

    In 2014 Knowledge Zenith had an aspiration that seemed laughable. They had released several mediocre models (KZ C56R, KZ GR, etc.) into the marketplace, but had now set themselves to the Herculean task of offering a sub-$20 IEM that would perform on a similar level to the $500 IEM produced by longtime audio giant Audio-Technica. The $500 IEM that Knowledge Zenith set it's sights on was Audio-Technica's $500 50th Anniversary Limited Edition (only 2500) ATH‑CKW1000ANV.

    ATH‑CKW1000ANV
    2018-03-18 05.32.03.jpg

    I don't usually go to such extremes to verify my assertions but I believe in this case it will be useful. I purchased my first set of "Perfections" from the "Official KZ Headphones" vendor on Amazon.com. The "Official KZ Headphones" vendor described their goals and efforts in the Features/Description section of the listing and it read as follows:
    KZ - ED3 for our team development level and positioning in HIFI professional high-end headphones, unique one-piece process cavity, cavity composite structure before and after the difference between traditional headphones, after and before the ED3 cavity into a stream, which is more effective to reduce sound the details of the error. Built-in 6.8 MM protruding opening of the new top dynamic drive unit, cooperate with the custom of silver wire can make sense of voice more catch ear, voice clear and loud, maintain enough flexibility bass.
    ED3 compared with CKW1000 ED3 easier on ordinary equipment play very good qualities, vocal performance than CKW1000 softer ear, barren doesn\'t sting. But there is no CKW1000 so broad sound field. Bass ED3 performance is flexible, 2 ckw1000 is slightly harder.
    KZ - ED3 use custom 32 core line design, sound high frequency characteristic overall bias, special cavity texture and unique micro structure unit make ED3 6.8 could match with the moving iron rich resolving power. But vocal performance is not stiff, like moving iron ED3 performance especially loud voices of female voice very penetrating rich emotion.
    KZ - ED3 bass performance in elasticity and extension points, not exaggerated, no head.
    ED3 appearance design is given priority to with simple, no matter from the cavity layout design to guide the sound tube length are calculated.

    It is clear that Knowledge Zenith had the CKW1000ANV in mind when the "Perfection" was being tuned. Few people took notice of what KZ had set out to do and fewer people recognized their early accomplishment, but Knowledge Zenith built upon that foundation and continued to move forward releasing one impressive model after the next. If they pour some of their newfound earnings into a quality control division then KZ can take it all the way to the top if they so choose. Many of KZ's most devoted fans are well aware that there are quality control issues from time to time and these things should be addressed. If KZ doesn't invest in said quality control measures then KZ has met the enemy and the enemy is KZ.

    It is very difficult finding a comprehensive review of Audio-Technica's $500 50th Anniversary Flagship CKW1000ANV IEM. There are two reviews found here on Head-Fi but they are drastically different. Initial reports were somewhat positive but remained spotty. Afterwards, here on Head-Fi it appeared that Audio-Technica's subsequent releases (CKR100 & CK100Pro) were more palatable and less expensive.

    One Head-Fi member asks:
    The responding Head-Fi member responds:
    Sure, the quoted sentiments are anecdotal evidence but you understand my overall point that Audio-Technica's $500 IEM may or may not have been worthy of such a lofty price tag.

    Note:
    Be aware that Knowledge Zenith did in fact release a CKW1000ANV-inspired KZ ANV model in 2014 but they are extremely rare and I have not had the pleasure of listening to them.


    KZ ANV
    2018-03-18 05.34.17.jpg 2018-03-18 05.42.55.jpg

    Am I implying that Knowledge Zenith can go toe to toe with the likes of Audio-Technica?
    I think that would be taking things too far, but I will say that a storied and established past hitched to huge markups offer us no guarantees.

    To my eyes the ED3 "Perfection" is understated elegance and simplicity with it's smoked chrome-plated-alloy barrel design. The off-white faceplate with it's bold font stating "ED3" juxtaposed to the cursive font underneath stating "Perfection" offers up a sense of humility which itself is in juxtaposition to KZ's aspiration of going head to head with Audio-Technica's $500 CKW1000ANV.

    To my ears the ED3 "Perfection" is an absolute gem in balance and extension for the criminally low $12 I paid for each pair I own. There are only two in-ear monitors in my large collection that can make me grin involuntarily; the KZ ZS6 is the first and this ED3 "Perfection" is the second. That said, I do have to qualify that statement. While the "Perfection" sounds great with multiple genres of music, I use them exclusively for classical and baroque genres.

    I have several IEMs that pair better with EDM or that pair better with jazz or rock, but none of them pair as well with classical/baroque as the "Perfection" does.

    2018-03-18 05.51.52.jpg

    The benefit of running the "Perfection" through a HiRes DAP showed a marginal improvement if there was any improvement at all. If anything, they seemed to sound marginally cleaner.

    As usual with IEMs your choice of eartip is crucial. The key will be making sure that the eartip is firmly affixed to the ED3's relatively odd size nozzle. It's smaller than average but not as small as Klipsch nozzles.

    So, what is it about the "Perfection" that makes me grin involuntarily? The answer is quite simple; it's how the clean and deep low end pairs with the centered midrange and micro-detail on classical recordings. For my personal tastes the "Perfection" is well balanced, though it is not necessarily neutral like KZ's own EDR2. I don't long for more or less of any given frequency range in the presentation. The soundstage is not as wide or deep as the ZS6 but it is above average, especially in this price bracket.

    Everything is clean.
    Everything is clear.
    Everything is present.

    To my ears the "Perfection" with it's single dynamic driver is a more simplified version of the ZS6 hybrid with it's two dynamic drivers and two balanced armatures. To my ears the ZS6 takes the "Perfection" sound signature and improves depth, width, layering and resolution.

    Details, details and more details:
    If you're fortunate enough to own a set of "Perfections" then bring them out from their hibernating and behold this sub-$20 in-ear's ability to present an astonishing amount of micro-detail despite the driver's ability to dig deep and reproduce such clean sub- and mid-bass; not to mention that the midrange is quite centered on all of the following tracks:







    In short:
    clean and deep sub-bass
    we'll controlled mid-bass
    centered midrange
    no strident behavior in the upper-midrange
    above average micro-detail

    One year ago AliExpress was littered with the "Perfection" because everyone was focused on the newest crop of KZ's being released. Now they are a collector's item. Perhaps some of you have been searching in vain, but if you wish to snap up the last known secret stash of the ED3 "Perfection", to my knowledge, then you better act fast.

    2018-03-18 05.44.25.jpg
    https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B012VVG7JI/ref=cm_cr_arp_mb_bdcrb_top?ie=UTF8
    YOU KNOW MY NAME

      DaniRojo, carliber1 and B9Scrambler like this.

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