KZ has done it again, and again, and again, etc. What have they done again? Release a smashing good budget earphone, that's what.
This unit was purchased through AliExpress. I am in no way affiliated with Knowledge Zenith or any AliExpress sellers. All options within this review are just that, opinions.
A Bit About Me:
I like to think I'm starting to get a grasp on this whole portable hi-fi audio thing, and can thank Knowledge Zenith and their army of budget earphones for helping me find my preferred signatures. My gear is constantly improving. I have finally upgraded to a quality phone, the HTC One M8, adding the Topping NX1 as my go-to amp. I primarily listen to EDM (drum and bass ftw), hip hop, and classic rock, but have been known to dabble in metal and jazz. While I enjoy a good sounding earphone, physical design is also key. If they look boring but sound great, that's cool, but I would like to have something interesting to look that is also great sounding.
About “The Acme”:
The ED3c is a revision of the original ED3, which I dub “Perfection” (as found on the back of the housing). It comes in blue or red, is lighter, and as much as I hate the term, more “consumer friendly” in both construction and sound than the original. It also has a much better cable, akin to the one on the EDse. In other words, you would be hard pressed to find a better budget cable anywhere. It's flexible, well relieved, durable, resistant to tangling AND memory, and is just flat out awesome.
The housing is noticeably lighter than the original ED3 and as a result feels less premium. This lightness and the addition of a longer nozzle brings with it improved comfort and fit. A worthy sacrifice I say. Accessories and packing are limited to spare ear tips and a box within a box. Nothing special this time around, unlike the nice shield-shaped case used for the ED10. Nothing worth spending time focusing on. Let's move onto the important things.
How do they sound?:
While the original ED3 was a bright, cold, and balanced little thing, the "The Acme" has taken on a different tone. They are warm, bassy, and naturally smooth.
Out of the box I have to admit that I was pretty shocked by the ED3c, and not in a good way. They really reminded me of the CM9 which is one of my least liked KZs. Bass was overblown, mids sounded inexplicably hollow, and their treble was dull. Since I received the HDS1 and ZS1 at the same time, I tossed the ED3c on the burn station and didn't touch them again until the next day.
I'm not a massive proponent of the whole burn in phenomenon, but I do think it benefits some products. I found that for the ED3c, burn-in was flat out mandatory. Given the vast change oafter a mere 8 or so hours, I suspect there was some sloppy glue work involved within the housing that I could not see. The difference between my out-of-the-box listen and a mere night's sleep was phenomenal. Bass tightened up, mids came forward and sounded normal but still a touch recessed, and the treble was nice and sparkly. They haven't changed much since then, but am happy to confirm they sound bloody amazing.
Like the ZS1, the ED3c puts a big emphasis on bass. It's reasonably quick, well-textured, digs deep, and punches hard. It finds a nice medium between the HDS1's mild boost and ZS1's overblown cacophony of delicious bass goodness. Mids are a touch recessed and sound very natural, if not slightly veiled. Female vocals are warm and intimate with appropriate tone. Everything just sounds very natural and realistic, if not mildly overshadowed by the bass. Treble on the ED3c is well-defined, clean, and absent of splashiness. It's not sharp and hyper-detailed, but it's not lacking in clarity. Nothing special, but there are no glaring flaws either. They're just bright enough to add some much needed energy to what would otherwise be a fairly mellow sounding earphone.
Soundstage on this promising newcomer to KZ's lineup is about average. Slightly intimate without any out-of-head experiences. Layering and stereo transitions are pretty decent making them fun for trance and ambient tunes that throw sounds around.
Where the ED3c excels, and I guess this comment applies to the ZS1 and HDS1 as well, is in their refinement. Compared to the last few releases from KZ (ED9, ED10, ATE), this new trio sound very smooth and refined all-around. In my opinion KZ has always done a great job with bass, handled mids competently, but struggled a bit with well-defined treble. This new crop of releases are very well-sorted in this regard, and I can no longer fault KZ in this aspect.
In the end, "The Acme" is one of the better KZs. Their basic design is comfortable, their overall sound signature is warm and inviting, and they really don't do much of anything wrong outside of possibly playing it too safe. They may be too bassy for some, or too relaxed in the treble for others, but I would happily recommend these along with the ED9 as a good introduction to the KZ brand. Another valued filled offering from KZ.
Thanks for reading!