INTRODUCTIONI first heard of LZ-A2 from @RedJohn456 and @Hisoundfi. They were both talking about this Chinese DIY triple hybrid that had amazing bang for your buck. At that time, I was deep into the FLC8S (still am, by the way - LINK), so I didn't think too much about LZ-A2 and went about my business jamming the FLC8S. Then @peter123 joined in the LZ-A2 love-fest, and I thought to myself, "Nikolaus, you need to get yourself a listen to these LZ-A2." So I reached out to the now defunct Faith Audio and secured a pair for review. Little did I know that they would end up collectors' items, as the LZ-A2 was discontinued right after I received them. After spending some time with them, I can tell you I'm eagerly awaiting their successor, the LZ-A3 and will be updating you on them when I receive them. So just what is it that makes the LZ-A2 special? Usually triple hybrids use a dynamic for bass, a BA for mids, and another BA for the highs. However, the LZ-A2 follows the lead of some higher end IEM manufacturers in dedicating a dynamic and and BA to bass. This is the first time I've heard of a lower-end hybrid IEM using this configuration. I'll go over how that impacts the sound in the actual review.
I usually include a bit of information about the manufacturer but can't dig up any information on LZ, so I'm skipping that this time around. However, I am including a link to the LZ-A2 discussion thread should you find yourself interested in joining in the conversation (LINK).
DISCLAIMERThere is no financial incentive for writing this review, and this is my honest opinion of the LZ-A2. I hope my feedback is useful for my fellow Head-Fi members as well as for LZ.
ABOUT MEI'm a 44 year old father who listens to a lot of electronic and metal, although I do listen to a wide variety of music. I'm primarily a portable audio enthusiast and have been in he game since the venerable Shure E2C was first released. Bought one, plugged it into one of my many MD players, and have been hooked ever since. I do enjoy listening at home and am becoming increasingly interested in building up a nice desktop setup. As with a lot of people my age, my hearing isn't perfect but I've be listening for a long time and feel confident in assessing audio gear.
Drivers: 1 Dynamic + 2 BA
Frequency Range: 2Hz - 24kHz
Plug: 3.5mm straight plug
Cable Length: 1.2m
PACKAGING & ACCESSORIES
Since the LZ-A2 are a DIY IEM, there's no packaging. You simply get the LZ-A2 and accessories in a clamshell case.
LZ-A2 + ACCESSORIES
In all, you get LZ-A2, narrow bore single flange tips (S, M, L), medium bore double flange tips, cheap foamies, stabilizer fins, ear guides, shirt clip, and clamshell case. It'd be nice if they provided some wide bore tips because that where the magic happens with these. More later...
BUILD & ERGONOMICSI'll attack this section in pictorial format, commenting on what I like and what I think could be improved as I go.
LZ-A2 WITHOUT TIPS
The earpieces are aluminum with plastic nozzles that are wider than your typical IEM, making it a bit hard to tip roll. Finish isn't the best, with some rough edges here and there. Lucky they weren't in places that touched my ears. Strain reliefs are pretty short. Despite the vent hole being very exposed on the rear of the LZ-A2, it didn't make them especially prone to wind noise. That was a nice surprise. And if you look carefully, you'll see "LZ-a2" and L/R markings on the earpieces in very low-contrast text. It'd be nice if it were easier to see the L/R markings since these are a symmetrical design.
Y-SPLITTER, CINCH, 3.5MM PLUG
The 3.5mm jack and y-spliter are metal with a knurled finish to make gripping them easy. The cinch is plastic and does a fine job of staying in place. The cable feels like the one used on some Vsonic IEM I've purchased in the past. It's got what feels like a silicone coating and isn't overly prone to tangling or microphonics. Again, the strain relief isn't the longest, but I'm assuming it'll do its job just fine.
LZ-A2 SUITED UP AND READY TO ROCK!!!
Here are the LZ-A2 with one of the two pairs of tips I settled on, the stock medium-bore double-flange tips. These tips were pretty comfortable, and the LZ-A2 sounded pretty good with them. That said, I ended up using a pair of wide-bore single-flange tips I had sitting around most of the time. I'll go over that later.
LZ-A2 can be worn down or over ear. I like both options and split my time 50/50. If I'm headed out, I wear them over ear. If I'm hanging out in the house, I'm more likely to wear them down. Both are comfortable for long periods for me. I can see the wide nozzles potentially causing some long-term comfort issues for those of you with small canals, though. The ear guides LZ threw in are some of the softest I've ever used. That said, as a glasses wearer, I hate ear guides with a passion and once I tested them out I put them away never to be used again.
Those of you who know me know I listen to a lot of electronic and metal. You might even know that I've been jamming a lot of classic rock lately, as well. I typically listen to music from Autechre, Behemoth, Bjork, Candlemass, Depeche Mode, The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Iron Maiden, King Diamond, New Order, Rush, and Sigur Ros during my time with new gear. I might throw in some hard bop jazz or modern minimalist composition every now and then. Just wanted to make sure you know what kind of music I listen to for context. Unlike some other reviewers, I don't keep to a strict playlist. Instead, I choose songs I know well and feel like listening to. I feel it's more organic that way. Anyways, on with the show, eh...
When I first got the LZ-A2, I placed them on my burn-in rig with pink noise at a moderate volume for a couple days. After that, I tried them with my iPhone and the Lotoo PAW 5000 DAP I recently got in for testing. I also tried them with different tips. I'll go over that stuff in a minute. For now, I'd like to tell you what you'll be getting with LZ-A2. These are what I like to call an "audiophile fun" sound signature. You're going to get (very) extended, elevated bass, neutral-ish mids that might be just a tad recessed, and relatively smooth treble. Over in the LZ-A2 thread, these have been called anything from an L-shaped signature with flat response other than the elevated bass to a v-shape. I definitely wouldn't call them a v-shape at all. Personally, I'm hearing them as more of an L-shape. Something that always seems to come up is the need to find a pair of headphones with a similar sound signature, and these have been compared to Audeze LCD2. I haven't heard LCD2, so I can't confirm that. Looking over FR graphs for both, I can see how the comparison would be drawn, though.
After burning these in, I left on the stock Medium narrow-bore single-flange tips and plugged them into my iPhone and was a bit disappointed. The bass sounded boomy and sloppy. I've had this experience with my iPhone before, so I wasn't too surprised or judgmental. I didn't feel like this was a good match, so I moved on to the PAW 5000. The bass sounded a wee bit less bloated now. Better, but not perfect. So I decided to try out some other tips. First, I tried the stock Small narrow-bore single-flange tips with deeper insertion. Nope, pretty much the same for me. How about the stock medium-bore double flange tips? Yes, these are better. Bass is tamed a wee bit more but still not where I'd like it. Over on the LZ-A2 thread, people are all about the very wide-bore JVC Spiral Dot tips with LZ-A2. I don't have any of those, but I do have a lot of tips roaming around the house (kids...), so I grabbed a pair of Medium wide-bore single-flange tips and slapped those on. Yup, this is where the action is! Bass was knocked down a bit more and sounded tighter. Now I'm feeling like the bass is in better balance with the mids and treble. Nice!
Now even though I tamed these a bit, please don't get the idea that they're neutral nor is neutral what I was after. The goal for me was to achieve better balance while retaining the fun sound signature. I think I got there with a better source plus the wide bore tips. I've been listening to the FLC8S a lot recently. They're tunable, and I've got them set up with the maximum sub-bass filter, medium bass filter, and maximum mids + medium treble filter. In comparison with the FLC8S in that configuration, LZ-A2 definitely has increased, harder hitting bass however FLC8S has sweeter mids and is more resolving. Again, LZ-A2 proves its bombastic nature against the more refined FLC8S. FLC8S also has better spacial cues (soundstage and placement of sounds). Then again, FLC8S is one of my current favorites and costs three times as much as LZ-A2, so the fact that I'm comparing these two in such favorable terms lets you know how much bang for your buck I think you're getting with LZ-A2.
I also used LZ-A2 for audiobooks and movies, and I have to tell you I really like this type of sound signature for those. The audiobooks I listen to typically have male narrators, and the LZ-A2 gives their voices a nice, rich tone that makes listening to books a real pleasure. With movies, I was genuinely shocked at the rumble coming from these bad boys. I haven't heard IEM with such deep bass extension before. I'm sure they exist in more basshead-centric IEM, but to hear that depth in such a balanced IEM was amazing.
Shifting back to music for a bit, I listen to metal with rapid-fire kick drums which can be hard for dynamic drivers to deal with. Sometimes they just can't keep up, and the drum hits start to blend together. Not good. The interesting thing about the LZ-A is that they've got a dynamic and a BA driver covering the bass, so bass notes have good, fast attack but don't decay super fast. It's a best of both worlds situation. So in those songs with rapid-fire kick drums, the drum hits have distinct drum hits but don't end up sounding staccato like they can with BA-only IEM. I like i!
Back to the mids and treble, they're pretty smooth without being overly polite. It's a nice balance that keeps the LZ-A2 fun but not exaggerated. Again, I like it!
SUMMARYCan you tell I like these? Ignoring the price, I don't see myself choosing these over my current faves, the FLC8S. However, for the asking price and to get a more "fun" sound signature with great, quality bass without veering off into Beats territory or into v-shape land, these guys are a steal! Are they perfect? Nope, they're not. The build is okay but not fantastic. The nozzles are wider than typical IEM, making tip rolling a bit challenging while also making insertion hard for those with narrow ear canals. And you'll need to seek out some better tips to tame the bass and balance out the sound signature. In my opinion, none of these are showstoppers and be overcome pretty easily.
Unfortunately, the LZ-A2 are discontinued. So why am I reviewing a pair of discontinued IEM? Good question! Well, the first reason is that these push a lot of the right buttons for me. The second is that LZ is coming out with a new IEM right after the Chinese New Year holiday that looks like it'll be the LZ-A2's successor. It's called the LZ-A3, and I'm really excited to hear it. I hope after reading this and the other great reviews out there that you're excited, too. Be on the lookout for impressions and reviews of the upcoming LZ-A3 from myself and others in the next couple months. Man is it a good time to be in this hobby!
To wrap, I'd like to give a big thanks to Faith Audio for providing me with a pair of LZ-A2 for review and to LZ for making such a great IEM. Keep 'em coming, LZ!