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Universal Fit item created by peter123, Dec 4, 2016
Pros - Superb sound quality with EQ adjustable via extensive filter system, decent build quality
Cons - rather odd shape may not be comfortable for some, filter box foam can remove O rings from filters, cable is a little underwhelming
While perusing Aliexpress I found this new arrival at AK Audio and upon contacting July the owner, I was delighted to be sent a sample in return for an in-depth review.
I am a hobbyist only. I am NOT affiliated with any sellers or manufacturers for items that may be used in my review, nor at this time am I provided with any samples for endorsement or reviews. I purchase all of my own gear. I do However, post links to the particular individual seller from whom I have made my purchase of the item under review. These reviews reflect my personal opinions of the performance and general information about the item, and should not be used as a basis for any purchase. As I am sensitive to higher frequencies, your impressions may also vary from my own. I will try to offer comparisons as long as I have something similar both in price and construction to compare. If however at any time I am provided a sample for review, I will disclose this fact immediately on an additional disclaimer.
At this point it would be redundant to include the same pictures, as everyone else has clearly done a great presentation in the previous reviews. I simply offer one Confirmation Pic of my own, note the Red and Blue Filters, Stock Silicone tips, (which I find quite good with these IEMs) and My solid Silver Cable.
Specifications: They are available from the Seller’s Link above
The build seems quite well executed. The LZ A4 is a hybrid IEM featuring two B/A and one Dynamic driver. The housing front and rear are all metal and have a plastic body with the MCXX connectors sandwiched between them. It’s definitely plastic as I can dig into it with a fingernail. They have a nice weight to them and aren’t as heavy as they look. There is an extensive filter array, (both rear porting and nozzle), with nice little “O rings” that stay in place once screwed-in. Left/Right markings are on both housings and quite legible. The design allows them to be worn over ear or down cabled without switching the orientation of the earpieces, Nice Touch here. The maker also provides a nice “Tin” for filter storage, quite well executed however the Foam insert will sometimes grab the “O” rings and strip them off the filters on removal from the tin. If you pay attention this won’t be a problem. Any specialty plumbing shop will be able to provide you with replacement “O” rings in these sizes even tiny as they are. Now let’s get onto the cable.
Although it matches the color scheme of the IEM, I was a little disappointed in the lackluster cable that came with the A4. I mean, in comparison with the very nice braided cable that came with this manufacturers A3 model, this one seems a little austere. I guess I was kind of expecting more from this “Flagship” design. NOT that the cable is bad, (at least its round). It’s a nicely rubberized and very pliable black cable with two longish black plastic MCXX connector bodies that are also marked L/R that travel down rather slim earpiece cables to a plastic “Y” splitter shaped somewhat like a shield, but first passing through a separate chin slider. The main cable, now somewhat thicker, travels down to a Plastic bodied 45 Degree 3.5 Plug. A nice touch here is the Added Velcro Strap for cable storage. This being said, I am using my solid silver cables on this baby. All-in-all, this is a nicely built well thought out IEM.
For this particular review I used my Shanling M5 coupled with an Aune B1 portable amp and also a Schiit Audio Vali headphone amp. Line out from source to both amps. My Files are all at Least 320kbps to 96khz high resolution files. I used this source in all comparisons. Note that there were no appreciable differences noted in sound quality using the 2 different amp sources. Note I have added a Solid Silver MCXX cable to the IEMs in lieu of the Stock.
The following is a list of songs that I used in this review. Some I use all the time, some less frequently. They all contain some type of frequency, Detail, or EQ that make them suitable for reference.
Christina Novelli -- Concrete Angel (Long Version)
Alter Bridge – Find the Real
Nadia Ali -- Fantasy
Ai Takekawa – Beyond the Moon (Short and Long Version)
Reflect – Need to feel loved
John Bryson --- Let the Pipes play (full pipe organ album 1[sup]st[/sup] Cut)
Gustav Mahler --- Performed by the London Philharmonic Various selections
Vivaldi – Four Seasons
Dire Straits --- Sultans of Swing
Jonny Lang --- Red Light / Give Me Up
SOAK --- Immigrant Song
General Sound Quality:
When it comes to detail and definition the LZ A4 are certainly next level. It is quite apparent in the wide and deep soundstage where instrument layering and placement are superb. For my review, all of the impressions are with the Red back filters and Blue front filters, simply as they provide the greatest frequency range. The overall signature of the A4 is large and upfront. It takes no prisoners regardless of your preference of filter combinations. Soundstage is large in all directions with a high degree of resolution, Layering and positioning, clarity, and micro details that are perfect. This is a VERY nice earphone.
The sub-bass extension on the A4 not only attains subterranean depths, it also has an excellent quality, but it doesn't impose itself into the source music until it is called for. The A4 has a very well controlled mid-bass and doesn’t bleed over into the low Mids. I feel the Sub bass doesn’t extend quite as low as the Shockwave III but it is VERY close. It is just so good and Natural It’s hard not to enjoy it
I find the Mids quite balanced even though the Filter combination I am using would tend to be the most V shaped. I find them neither too forward nor recessed with vocals being spot on and most instruments that work in this range simply sparkle with excitement. All in all, a very natural presentation.
The Treble is just as sweet as the other frequencies. Maybe just a tad ahead of the Mids, but remember I am using the Full-Range filter combination. They are by NO MEANS harsh or awkward in any way. They are simply tuned to stay compatible with the other frequencies. Over all the Treble lends a light and Airy quality and certainly some definition where its needed.
VS. Shockwave III
Actually a rather lopsided comparison 5 Drivers vs. 3, But that’s JUST how good The LZA4 is!! It keeps up with the Shockwave only Lacking just a Tad bit of Detail and width of soundstage. On the other hand, the sound signature of the LZA4 is quite a bit more relaxing and listenable for a long period of time than the more clinical precision of the Shockwave III. I must confess The LZA4 will now take its place as my GO TO IEM, leaving the Shockwaves for Critical listening sessions. They are Both Stellar and I simply can’t live without either.
The LZ A4 is simply One of the best IEM’s I’ve listened to so far. It keeps up with many multi driver CIEMs costing Many times their Price point. I think the LZ A4 has outstanding performance, quality sound and decent build at a reasonable price. It has a warm inviting sound with a Huge involving Soundstage, great detail and layering, PLUS you can customize it to your own Tastes. What MORE could you ask For?
Well, Price. Funny Thing, it is a SUB $200 IEM!!!! Truly at this pricepoint the LZA4 has reached the pinnacle in it’s pricerange. You NEED to, (at the very minimum), treat yourself to an audition of these amazing new IEMs.
Pros - Mouth-watering bass, top notch sound signature, bang-for-buck, wonderful cable
Cons - Slightly large, but still very comfortable!
I own way too much stuff. I need another pair of earphones like I need a hole in the head. But when I was offered a pair of the LZ A4 IEMs to sample, I literally jumped on the chance as fast as I could. Full disclaimer: I’ve bought every IEM that LZ has offered for sale, so you could say I’m an LZ junkie. I still remember getting the A2 and being blown away. The chance to try these latest and greatest after what I thought was a slight misstep with the A3 was something I was not going to pass up. LZ sent me this sample to review, but spoiler alert: I have purchased my own pair as well because I loved them so much.
As for me, I love headphones and earphones and my gear ranges from a simple mobile setup to an Audi-GD Master-11 and everything in between. I also have an MHDT Atlantis tube DAC connected to a Project Ember tube amp.
As I’ve said before, I’m not a professional reviewer, I don’t have golden ears, there’s nothing in this for me other than the love for amazing audio quality and the enjoyment of chatting with friends on Head-Fi about what we’re going to spend our next paycheck on. I love all genres of music and all types of gear. Think of me as the guy who can’t turn away a single dish at the all-you-can-eat buffet.
While I have some elaborate desktop rigs, my primary use of IEMs is in a somewhat mobile environment. Because of that, these were tested with three setups consisting of a Chord Mojo, a Centrance DACportable and also straight out of my LG V20. All music was streamed from Tidal HiFi via USB Audio Player Pro. The majority of my time was spent with the Mojo, given that I have been using this for my reviews lately.
LZ's packaging and presentation has improved with each iteration of his IEMs. The A4s come in a very nice box that is magnetically sealed with lots of tips and accessories to make you happy. The bright red carrying case is of ample size and can easily fit the IEMs with perhaps a spare cable if you wanted to. It's irritating when a company provides a case that you have to be a structural engineer to fit the IEMs inside of and thankfully that is not a problem here with this carrying case. There is also a nice brochure that gives an insight into what the different filter options are. Ah, the filters, I'll get to those. These use a removable MMCX cable and I find the cable to be very nice. It's soft, supple and I do not experience any microphonics with it. It is an upgrade over the A3 cable.
Here are some photos:
I made the joke that these look like Mitsubishi turbos:
I bought mine from Jim at NiceHCK:
I am not affiliated with this store in any way, but I have bought all of my LZ products from them and they provide top notch service. Highly recommended by me.
I won't dance around this point: these are large IEMs. That said, they are thankfully extremely comfy especially given their dimensions. I find the most success wearing them down and have never had an issue of them shifting or falling out of my ears. You will not forget that they are there, though. Compared to something like the Pinnacle P1 where I can just forget they are in my ears, the A4 always make them presence known, but at the same time have never bothered me. I feel a bit silly wearing them in public, but I won't blame LZ for that and I will work on my own self image instead! I will wear these with pride!
Tips & Filters:
Some other folks on Head-Fi have done a great job of explaining the filter situation and I suggest referencing that. With that said, there are a whole host of combinations that can accomplish a huge variation of sound with these IEMs. Add to that the fact that many popular tips fit these just fine and I can confidently say that you are likely to find something that works very well for you (or even several combinations). In a nutshell, the front nozzles as well as the rear filters can be changed and there are several combinations available in order to tune the sound to your liking. These IEMs can go from bright, to neutral, to approaching bass-head levels depending on your need. My ideal combination that I have settled on for daily use (and the entirety of this review) are the black front nozzles, the red rear filters and a pair of ML-sized JVC Spiral Dot tips.
Sound (and a brief LZ history):
I make no secret that I am a huge fan of LZ and the "LZ sound." I remember purchasing my A2 IEMs a while back and thinking "finally, someone got a triple-hybrid right." All the others I tried (DN-2000J, Altone200, etc.) just did not sound right to me. Treble was exagerrated and they just did not have a coherent sound. The A2, while it brought in very strong bass and slightly rolled-off treble, handily beat those IEMs in my eyes because of just how pleasant they were to listen to. Then, The A3 came out and I bought them immediately. Packaging was different, the shell was different, they had removable cables. They had to be better, right? No, they were a step back for me. Overall a bit more detail and neutrality than the A2, but many did not like the fit and the sound was overall a bit relaxed for some. Then the A2S came out and I bought those. They were a slight improvement over the A2 or a step back again, depending on what you like. Most people preferred the A2S I believe as it offered a bit better clarify on the upper end of the frequencies. Then came the A3S and while that was also an improvement over the A3, having tried the A4 prototype and falling in love I quickly returned the A3S and decided I would just wait for the latest and greatest. I am so glad I did.
Back is the slamming bass of the A2. Back is the comfortable, easy-wearing IEM. Newcomers to the show are incredible upper frequency detail, smooth and lush mids and a tuning system that I think can make 99% of the people happy. This is a bold IEM from LZ and I applaud his efforts. I waited a long time for the final version and like I said while I was given a set to sample, I immediately bought my own after listening to them for two days. I was so over the moon that I also bought the A2 Pro.
Sorry, I digress, back to the sound. I love it. I've had these for nearly two weeks now and I have listened to them every day. They put a smile on my face every time and I have not found any weakness to speak of. The fact that they bring this level of detail, refinement, flexibility and comfort for $200 is fantastic. You'll notice in my comparison below that I am putting them up against some IEMs costing four times the price with very established brands. While normally I would compare apples to apples as far as price goes, there is only one IEM even remotely close to the A4 that is worth mentioning at $200 and for most people, the A4 will come out on top nine times out of 10.
LZ has managed to make an IEM that checks all the boxes for my sonic preferences: incredible sub-bass that is clean, punchy and tight while still providing a rumble when the music calls for it, mids that offer up a smooth but detailed presentation and highs that exhibit zero sibilance and overall a very pleasing sparkle to them. Honestly I think this is the perfect sound and I have no complaints.
Bass: I love my bass and while I don't think I'm a bass-head, I guess my preference for quantity is higher than some. The A4, with the red back filters and black front filters is just perfect for me. Pop songs have a very authoritative punch, along with a very deep rumble when the music calls for it. The bass is very articulate and accurate, not bloated or overly-warm. I don't notice the bass detracting anything from the mids and that is a great accomplishment. Sub-bass extension is among the best I have heard (rivaling my Z5 and IE800) and mid-bass is very punchy and warm, but not overly warm. I have no complaints at all with the bass and I can tell that LZ took the time (and suggestions) to make this perfect.
Mids: I do not think the mids are recessed, but they are not as immediately noticeable and intoxicating as the bass. This is not a bad thing because I have sort of been of the mindset that mids should just stay out of my way. What I mean by that is that I do not prefer a mid-forward sound signature and the A4 is extremely pleasing to me. Vocals and instruments sound wonderfully detailed, crisp, clear and are never harsh. I would not call them laid back, but again they will not make the impact the bass will in the red back/black front combination of filters. This is ideal for me. Would I change anything with the mids? Nope.
Highs: Similar to the mids, I find the highs are very detailed, smooth, lush and overall pleasant. They are not overpowering and with the right filter combination, I do not experience any sibilance or "ice pick" that some other triple hybrids have given me. I will say that the highs are very much affected by filter choice, so while you may have to choose wisely and try many combinations, again I believe there is something for everyone here. The ability to make these bright or laid back depending on preference is a huge benefit. For someone like me who likes the treble on the brighter side, it is easy to accomplish. For someone who suffers with fatigue or bright treble, it is also manageable. I have no complaints about the treble.
Detail & Clarity: The A4 are very detailed IEMs. They handle tracks with very subtle details and can also show off clarity and cohesion in very complex songs. I tested a wide array of tracks and always came away thinking that these were superb. Micro details are there, but at no time do they sound artificial or exagerrated to me (sort of like the Shockwave 3 do). I can't really comment on holographic or 3D sound because quite frankly, I don't know what that means or how to test it. These sound extremely detailed and are never tripped up by a "busy" song like some IEMs can. A good example of this is in Jack Garratt's "Surprise Yourself," which during the chorus can either sound like a tidal wave of complex sounds or a huge mess resembling a train wreck. The A4 makes this sound probably the best I've ever heard. Give it a try, it starts at 1:28 in the song.
Sony XBA-Z5: The Sony Z5 are a favorite of mine because...you guess it, the bass. These have a very deep sub-bass rumble and while they are overall a somewhat dark IEM, I really enjoy listening to them. They do not have the mid-bass kick that the A4 have, but they make up for it with that deep subwoofer-type bass that on certain tracks, can be really fun. As for an everyday IEM, my choice would be the A4 for several reasons. First, I think the A4 is better with most genres of music due to it's more neutral sound signature, but also the comfort is leaps and bounds better on the A4. I find the treble on the Z5 to be of a very high quality, but I also find it lacking and there are no filters to tweak in order to bring out a brighter sound. I think the key takeaway here is this: the A4 is able to not only compete, but best the Z5 in many key areas at one third of the price. The only area I would give the Z5 the slight nod is in that deep sub-bass, but again I think for an everyday IEM the A4 is the winner.
Earsonics Velvet: This is a tough one for me. I recently reviewed the Velvet and I gave them a very high five-star mark simply because of how musical and fun they were. Are they the most analytical, “audiophile” IEM? No. But it has been a long time since I’ve had as much fun with an IEM than with the Velvet. Now, I have the daunting task of comparing them to another new favorite of mine: the A4. I’ll say this right off the bat, if money is of any concern to you then save yourself the $600 and go with the A4. Now, if you find a deal on the Velvet like I did (Black Friday), then it makes things a little more complicated. They were still over twice the price, but they are comparable IEMs in my opinion. Where the A4 takes the cake in sub-bass slam, the Velvet bests the A4 in mid-bass punch. The Velvet still has a wonderful amount of sub-bass punch and clarity, but not quite on the level of the A4 for me. I think this comparison may come down to what type of music you listen to. Mids can sound slightly forward for me on the Velvets, but almost thinner to a degree. They’re very clear and detailed, but sound far away in a sense. This is surprising as the Velvets are so warm and really put that mid-bass up front, you would think that this would bleed in to the mids but it doesn’t. I wish I could describe this better, but vocals sound simply different on the two. I guess my review isn’t very helpful when I say “you just have to hear them both,” but, you have to hear them both. Treble quality and quantity is fairly even for me and I can’t really declare a winner. They’re both nicely extended and non-fatiguing. Fit is WAY better for me on the A4, they’re ¼ the price and the cable is way nicer as well. There aren’t many situations I would recommend the Velvet over the A4 in unless it was mids like I described above, but you can fix this with filters! So, overall, for most people, I would give the win to the A4. I still think the Velvet are the more fun IEM because of their warm, punchy, musical presentation, but the very fact that I’m even comparing a $200 IEM with an $800 IEM almost makes this a sure win for the A4. Or you can be like me, just own them both. If I had to pick one of these two to take with me to a deserted island, I would close my eyes and flip a coin.
Sennheiser IE800: This was a surprising outcome. Right off the bat, I noticed a more V-shaped sound signature on the IE800. These IEMs, while I love them both, sound even more different than the A4 and Velvet comparison. The recessed mids of the IE800 really make the treble and sub/mid-bass stand out. It’s hard to say which wins because they have such different sound signatures. Sub-bass is similar for me with the IE800 having a slight advantage in the mid-bass punch. Mids, I will give the nod to the A4 as they are a bit more to my liking being more forward. The treble, well, I’m going to have to declare the IE800 the winner on this. Now this may be due to it standing out in comparison to the mids and therefore giving an overall sense of increased clarity. Fit for me is great on the IE800 and overall I find it the preferable IEM physically because of its unassuming size and weight, but with the A4 being so comfortable it is not a deal breaker. Let’s take a step back and realize again that we are comparing an $800 IEM to a $200 IEM and that calls for another round of applause for LZ. Honestly I love these both and it would really come down to your sound signature preference. The upper frequencies on the IE800 are very special to me and the fact that they can cover such an amazing spectrum of sounds with one tiny 7mm dynamic driver is a masterpiece of engineering. All that said, however, if budget is of any concern to you then I would recommend the A4. Simply put: I think these IEMs are on somewhat level playing fields and that is just incredible. If we’re splitting hairs (isn’t that what head-fi is about?), then I think overall I get a tad more clarity and detail out of the IE800.
Music Maker Shockwave 3: The SW3 is an impressive five-driver hybrid from Music Maker. When testing these in an A/B environment, I immediately notice the ear-piercing treble of the SW3 in comparison to the A4. This is interesting because the treble never seemed so bright to me as to be uncomfortable, but after a good listening session with the A4 it is hard to go back to the SW3. The SW3 is VERY bright in comparison to the black/red combo I am using on the A4, but with somewhat comparable bass. I find the SW3 to have an ever-so-slight advantage in detail and separation, but the A4 is the more enjoyable listen for me. It’s simply more musical, less fatiguing and while the SW3 might be another technical masterpiece, I find myself preferring the A4 not only because I can tune it to my liking, but because it is more comfortable and musical. The A4 has a more warm, lush mid-bass than the SW3. Mids are comparable on both, but the treble (quantity) is really what sets them apart. The SW3 sounds analytical, bright (but VERY detailed) in the high frequencies and the A4 is the one I want to listen to. The treble isn’t rolled off on the A4 per se, but it’s easier to get lost in the music and simply enjoy it. The SW3 was praised for bringing amazing sound to the table at under $300 and I still give it that praise. It’s just the I prefer the more comfortable listen of the A4. That said, if I wanted an extremely critical listen to test a DAC or amp or something, that would be one area I could probably recommend the SW3 over the A4 given the crazy micro detail and airy presentation of them.
MEE Audio Pinnacle P1: To me, the only IEM that can hold a candle to the A4 in the $200 range is the Pinnacle P1. For me, the only areas where the P1 might beat the A4 is in comfort (which is subjective) and in the neutral presentation. The A4 is the more fun IEM, with the stronger bass and the overall bigger and fuller sound. The P1, on the other hand, is probably more neutral, although spending more time with the filter combinations may negate this. For me, I would choose the A4 over the P1 and trust me when I say I love the P1. The A4 is, however, what I think to be a better IEM for most people. The bass is in another league and the mids/highs are mouth-wateringly good for the $200 price tag.
JVC FX1100: I recently obtained the JVC FX1100 (also called the FX1200 in other regions) "woody" IEM for around the $200 mark, so I thought I would update my review to include this contender. It's not exactly a fair fight as this IEM is primarily for the Japanese market and was around the $400 mark at launch. But as I mentioned, I'm having trouble finding IEMs in the $200 range to compare to the A4! I'll get this out of the way up front: the FX1100 and A4 both look equally ridiculous sticking out of my ears in the office, but both are equally comfortable. The FX1100 is substantially heavier (or at elast feels that way), but similarly both use the MMCX cables and are typically worn down. The FX1100 has one dynamic driver and is not a hybrid design like the A4. So how does the sound compare? Very well, actually. Where the A4 has several tuning options, the JVC falls into what you see is what you get. And that's a very good thing. I have settled on the red back filters and either blue or black fronts, depending on whether I want a more relaxed warm sound or a more analytical sound. Right off the bat, I notice that the A4 is the more balanced IEM. The FX1100 has a very pleasant and warm signature that some might find dark. Where I find a real mid-bass presence in the FX1100, the A4 has a more accurate sub-bass and almost a recessed mid-bass depending on the filter for tuning. I would almost say that the FX1100 has exaggerated mid-bass emphasis (which I am fine with and consider to be fun-sounding). Both IEMs extend very deep when the music calls for it, with the FX1100 bass ever so slightly bleeding into the mids. Neither are basshead levels, but the FX1100 sounds like it has more bass because of that mid-bass that always seems to be present and it is rather punchy on some tracks. Moving to the mid-range, the A4 has quite clear and smooth mids that I find very pleasant. No complaints on male vocals and while they're not recessed, they're also not in your face. That's my ideal mid-range tuning and the FX1100 is similar in this regard. That said, the mid-bass presence gives the feeling of the mids taking a bit of a back seat. They're clear and well-defined, though they seem to have a bit more grain and bite to the music tracks. Where the A4 has a very smooth mid-range, the FX1100 has a grit to it that really makes something like an electric guitar sing and stand out. That is assuming the bass player or drummer are not slapping the E-string or nailing the kick-drum as hard as they can! Moving onto the highs, I find them very well defined on both, though the FX1100 again have a certain grain to them. I find the highest frequencies to be more recessed on the FX1100, though it is still a very pleasant tuning signature. While they're slightly recessed, they still have that nice bite that I described in the mid-range. It's hard to declare a winner here as they both simply sound different. If I were to make an overly-simplified conclusion, I would say that the FX1100 is the more fun IEM while the A4 is the more accurate, versatile and better all-arounder. For me, I really like both. I think resolution is every so slightly better on the A4, but that punchy mid-bass of the FX1100 can be a lot of fun on certain types of music. On others, you may tire of it. Side note: the wood IEM casing is really, really cool!
The value that the A4 brings to the table is very, very impressive. Certain higher priced IEMs may do one or two things better, but as an overall package at $200 I would recommend this to anyone and everyone, including my neighbor’s deaf dog. As I mentioned before, I was given a set of these for sampling purposes and I loved them so much that I bought my “own” pair for when the zombie apocalypse happens and I can no longer buy them. Actually more accurately, LZ stopped the production of the A2 and I got frightened that these may not be available again at some point. I have never bought a backup pair of IEMs before until now. They’re sort of a jack of all trades. Normally I find tuning to be bothersome and non-beneficial, but in the case of the A4 there is really is a sound for everyone. I feel that these deserve a solid five-star rating. The sound quality is simply astounding, the flexibility is pretty much unrivaled, the quality of workmanship (cable, IEM shell, filters) is top notch and I see no faults. Since nothing is ever perfect, they can be bested in the micro-detail and clarity department by an IEM that costs four times as much. I do not consider that a loss, or even a drawback. Again, overall, I think these do everything right and there’s something here for everyone. I had so much fun during this review that I am already anticipating buying the A4S, A5, A5S and so on. Thanks for reading.
Pros - Versatile filter system, build quality, great cable, amazing sound
Cons - Supplied ear-tips too small
LZ is an earphone manufacturer who has had some iconic releases in the past. They were one of the first to bring a true hybrid earphone to the masses at an affordable price. Well today I'll be reviewing their latest release, which has been stirring up a lot of interest since its release - meet the LZ A4.
This product was sent to me for the purpose of this review. I'm not affiliated with the company and all opinions and observations are my own, based on my experience with the product. I'd like to thank LZ for the opportunity to test the A4.
The LZ A4 is available at several AliExpress stores and also at Penon Audio: http://penonaudio.com/LZ-A4
Driver: 1 Dynamic driver+ 2 Balanced Armature Hybrid
Frequency range: 20-28000Hz
Cable Length: 1.2m±5cm
Interface Type: MMCX
Package and accessories:
6 pairs of silicone tips
1 pair of bi-flange tips
1 pair of foam tips
1 pair of silicone ear-hooks
metal case containing the different filters
The A4 comes in a plain, black box with red print on the front. Upon opening you find a foam sheet with the included ear-tips and the earphones. Underneath that are the carry case, metal filter case, cable and other accessories. It's a decent bundle for this price range but unfortunately, like so many other IEMs all the supplied ear-tips are too small for me.
The cable is dark gray in color and is smooth and very flexible, similar to the one found on the LZ A2S. There aren't any strain reliefs on the MMCX connectors but hopefully this won't be an issue. There's a nice rubber Y-splitter with a cable cinch and the cable terminates in an angled 3.5 mm plug that has good strain relief. Even when worn down there is very little microphonics present.
Build, comfort and isolation:
The housings are metal with a large plastic tear-shaped attachment where the MMCX connectors are. They look quite large at first glance but are actually very ergonomic and can be comfortably worn cable up or down without having to reverse sides. Each earpiece has a Left or Right indicator and although the markings are black, they're still easy to see. Build quality is very solid and these should be very robust.
I find these very comfortable and can wear either cable up or down for hours on end without a problem. Since they're equally comfortable for me both ways I change depending on my situation: if I'm sitting at home or in the office I'll wear them cable down but if I'm on the move I switch to over-ear.
Despite having a semi-open back design these isolate noise quite well and also have minimal noise leakage so they should be fine for commuting or other situations where you need to consider other people.
The A4 is a tunable system, meaning there are a series of rear and nozzle filters for a total of 18 different combinations, all with a slightly different sound signature. Rather than try to explain them all I'll just insert the filter chart kindly provided by fellow Head-Fier Tamal (RedJohn456). The filters are very well machined and are easy to change, making the process fast and painless. My personal favorite combinations are Black/rear and Red/front or Red/rear and Black/front, most often the former as I like some extra weight in the low end while still remaining smooth up top.
The A4 are not hard to drive and work well straight out of a smartphone or budget DAP.
Samsung Galaxy Note 5
Foobar2000 > irDAC-II
Foobar2000 > Micca OriGen+
FiiO X1ii > with and without Shinrico E11
NiNTAUS X10 > with and without Shinrico E11
Music tested with:
Westside Connection - Terrorist Threats album [flac]
Mathias Eick - Midwest album [flac]
Miles Davis - Tutu album [flac]
Jazz At the Pawnshop - Arne Domnerus Group 2cd album [flac]
For this review I'll be describing the sound using the Red/rear and Black/front or Black/rear and Red/front filter combination. Note that while the filters genuinely alter the sound, the overall characteristics of the IEM remain the same - something to keep in mind while reading this. Those overall characteristics I would summarize like this: deep, controlled bass, beautifully clear midrange and detailed, airy but smooth treble.
Sub-bass digs deep, especially with my preferred filters installed. They extend very low and can bring the rumble that I crave while remaining remarkably well controlled. Similarly the mid-bass is very well textured and has great impact but never overpowers the other frequencies. Of course the intensity can be changed with different filter setups but the core characteristics remain - extension, texture and control are always present. The bass works well across all genres and can be specifically fine tuned with filters if you listen predominantly to a certain type of music but for me, the aforementioned two filter combinations sound great no matter what I'm listening to. Overall the bass is superbly executed and perfectly compliments the mids and highs.
The mids have exceptional clarity and tone making vocals, strings and acoustic instruments come alive. Separation is excellent across the board allowing you to pick apart every instrument during busy song sections. Classical music sounds fantastic with wonderful tonality in piano and string instruments (in everything really). And if the crescendos start to become uncomfortable you can just change the front nozzle and you're good to go again. Male vocals carry nicely, sounding rich and natural. In "Ain't No Sunshine" by Bill Withers his raspy notes are smooth and articulated. With the Divas of Jazz 4 album there's a song by Ella Fitzgerald called "My Melancholy Baby" that has little bass and lots of loud peaks in the vocals. It's not a great recording and I'm not sure when it was recorded but am fairly sure it was before the days of limiters and compressors. This song can be grating on the ears as if someone is poking needles of ice into your head but with the LZ A4 equipped with red nozzle filters I can begin to appreciate it.
How anything can retain so much detail whilst staying chocolaty smooth is a wonder but that's what I find with the A4. There's also an airy lightness about the treble that lifts music with nice extension but is non-fatiguing. For roughly the last third of "No Man's Land" by The Pineapple Thief there are a lot of crash cymbals that can sometimes be a bit painful to my ears but the A4 pulls them off really well, leaving their extension and vibrancy without any signs of artificial (or physical for that matter) dampening. They're just masterfully tuned and the treble nears perfection to my ears.
Soundstage is excellent, taking sounds outside of the "headspace" with great depth as well as width. Imaging often suffers from such a wide soundstage but that's not the case here as 3D positioning is precise, allowing you to picture which direction sounds are coming from. This is yet another aspect of the A4 that combined with the other characteristics and makes these overall probably the most impressive IEMs I have heard to date.
vs TFZ Balance 2M
Some might question a comparison between dynamic and hybrid earphones but as we've heard often it usually comes down to the tuning and build rather than driver count/type. These both retail at just under $200 at the time of writing this review so in my opinion make them ideal to look at side by side. Both have a fairly balanced signature but the sub-bass on the TFZ has a bit more impact than that of the A4. Both have great clarity in the midrange but the A4 manages to pull a bit more detail and separation out of the sound. Both have a relaxed but well-extended treble but the TFZ lacks the airiness of the A4. Also the A4 has a wider soundstage with more depth probably due (in my opinion) to the semi-open back design. The Balance 2M has better noise isolation but the LZ is no slouch here either. When it comes to comfort I'd say the Balance 2M pulls slightly ahead. Each of these are among my current favorite IEMs for different reasons and if I had to choose between them it could very well come down to a coin toss.
vs Moni One
Now we have the same driver configuration of a single DD and dual BA but a fairly large difference in price. The Moni One is currently retailing at around $70. The Moni One is the more V-shaped of the two, particularly in the treble which can get a bit splashy at times. The Moni One actually seems to me to have better micro details but this comes at the cost of slightly thinner midrange and edgy treble. They each have very good bass, with the Moni One slightly edging ahead for quickness and control. Overall the A4 has a more balanced sound and is technically superior. If you're not willing to go into the price range of the A4 then the Moni One is a very solid alternative.
From left to right: Moni One, TFZ Balance 2M, LZ A4 Conclusion: I think I've said pretty much everything already. The LZ A4 is a stellar performer offering outstanding quality sound at a reasonable price. With its open and airy yet warm, rich sound it's engaging, musical and elicits emotional response from the listener. It can be sophisticated and fun at the same time and can be tuned more towards either direction with the fantastic filter system that makes it so versatile. Soundstage, imaging, timbre and air abound. Detachable MMCX means you can use a third party cable but I can't see why you would want to as the default one is already superb. The one minor complaint I have is that ALL of the provided ear-tips are too small for my ears but this is almost always the case for me personally and as such I don't feel it worth taking off any points. These are at the moment arguably the best sub $200 IEM you can buy and if they're within your budget then I suggest you get yourself some as soon as possible.
Pros - Sound quality, build quality, value for money, filter system, comfort, isoaltion
Cons - I honestly can't think of anything
This is a review of the LZ A4 IEM’s.
First of all I’d like to thank LZ for sending me a review sample of the LZ A4.
The retail price of the LA A4 is $195. The LZ A4 is available from both AK Audio Store on Aliexpress and Penon Audio:
The LZ A4 was sent to me for free for review purpose.
I’m not in any way affiliated with LZ, AK Audio Store or Penon Audio.
Spoiler: Click to show!
I’m a 44 year old music and sound lover that changed my focus from speakers to headphones and IEM’s about five years ago. At that time I realized that it wasn’t realistic for me to have all the different setups that I wanted and still house a family of four children and a wife so my interest turned first to full sized headphones and later also IEM’s.
My preferences are towards full sized open headphones and I believe that also says something about what kind of sound signature I prefer (large soundstage in all directions, balanced and organic sound).
My music preferences are pretty much all over the place (only excluding classical music, jazz and really heavy metal). My all-time favorite band is Depeche Mode although I also listen to a lot of grunge/indie, singer/songwriter/acoustical stuff as well as the typical top 40 music.
I do not use EQ, ever.
I tend to value function over form within reasonable limits.
I’m a sucker for value for money on most things in life Head-Fi related stuff is no exception.
Built and accessories:
The LZ A4 is a hybrid in ear monitor featuring two Knowles balance armature drivers and one dynamic driver.
It comes in one flavor only.
The build in general seem very solid. The housings are all metal and have a very nice weight to them without being overly heavy. The filters do also feel reliable and stays well in place once screwed properly in place.
Left/Right markings are black on black but despite this they’re quite easy to spot and fortunately both the housings and the cable have the markings, something that’s not always the case.
The cable has a 45 degree angled 3.5 mm connector just the way I prefer it. The cable is round and flexible, this is the same cable as on the A2S and the prototype A4 and it’s one of the better cables I’ve ever seen. There is some microphonics but it’s not a big problem and wearing them over the ears makes it pretty much non-existing. The chin slider is also in place the way I like it and the Y-split is minimalistic but yet sturdy.
The retail package is good for this price point and the best I’ve seen from LZ this far. It looks premium, is easy to open and the accessories pack is quite good.
The accessories pack includes the following:
6 pairs silicon tips (S,M,L)
1 pair bi-flange tips
1 pair of foam tips
1 pair of ear hooks
1 shirt clip
1 metal box to store the earpieces and filters in
1 zippered case to store them in when not in use
The LZ A4’s pretty easy to drive and worked very well with all the sources I’ve tried it with including cellphones. I don’t find them to benefit significantly from a more powerful amplifier but they do benefit from a clean source.
2 BA, 1 Dynamic
Fit and ergonomics:
I find the LZ A4 to be very comfortable and got no problem wearing them for several hours. The housings looks a little weird in their form but the shape actually makes them very easy to insert and to get a good fit with. They can be worn both over the ears or straight down without any issues. They fit fine and are very comfortable both ways but I usually prefer wearing my IEM’s over the ears if possible so that’s also how I wear the A4’s. The included tips are ok but I found that the choice of filters greatly influenced on what tips I liked them with and in the end I ended up using them with some wide bore silicone tips with my preferred filters.
Isolation is above average and I’ve been able to test them on a couple of shorter flights with acceptable result (I’m usually not crazy about using IEM’s on planes due to the cabin pressure).
I’ve used them back and forward in the last couple of weeks and they’ve played for well over 100 hours. I’ve used them both around the house and when out and about and I haven’t really found any significant weaknesses in the way they’re designed.
I’ve used them with my LG G5 phone as well as the Shanling M1 and Opus #1 DAP’s and although they’ve worked very well with all of them. I’ve tried them with a lot of other sources as well without any noticeable issues.
As already mentioned I enjoy the LZ A4’s the most with wide bore tips with my preferred filters.
Earlier this year I was one of the lucky people who received a prototype of the LZ A4. The idea was to send out/tour some units to get feedback from several users on how they liked them and what they would like to improve. The overall balance on the A4 protoype was already really nice but I found it lacking quite a bit in resolution and soundstage. In addition to this I also left feedback that I'd like detachable cables and another design to improve comfort. When I was suddenly contacted by LZ again just about a month ago with some pictues of the production unit A4 I was impressed on how the design had changed for the better so naturally I was super hyped to find out how the final unit sounded.
Prototype vs final design. Progress in both looks and sound
Spoiler: Click to show!
Mark Knopfler – Sailing to Philadelphia
Røyksopp (Feat.Susanne Sundfør) – Save Me
Ane Brun – These Days
Michael Jackson – Dirty Diana
Metallica – Die Die My Darling
The Peter Malick Group – Immigrant
Eva Cassidy – Songbird
Thomas Dybdahl – A Lovestory
Norah Jones – Don’t Know Why
Celldweller – Unshakeable
Jack Johnson – Better Together
Seinabo Sey – Younger (Kygo remix)
Dire Straits- So Far Away
Passenger – Let Her Go
Lupe Fiasco - Deliver
Morrissey – Earth Is the Loneliest Planet
First things first: The A4 comes with a variety of filters for the user to be able to fine tune the sound to his/hers preference or even to change the signature according to music and/or source used
I’m usually not that crazy about IEM’s that uses filter system due to a couple of reasons. To start with I find it to be a short cut for the designer and often ends up being a compromise instead of going for the one tuning that sounds the best to the maker and hopefully also for the customer. It’s also my impression on many IEM’s that uses filter system that pretty much all users end up preferring the same filter which makes the whole system pretty meaningless. Another reason I’m not that happy about filters is that even with IEM’s that has several filter options it’s still difficult to find a perfect match many times. Truth to be told the A4’s is the first time I feel that the filters are actually a good thing. There are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly I think the possibility to change both the back plates (bass) and front plates (midrange/treble) is a very flexible solution. Secondly there are many combinations possible with three back filters and six front filters. Thirdly the front filters (and this is very uncommon from my experience) does not only affect the frequencies above the bass region but does actually have some effect on the bass (mid- and upper bass) as well), this (in my experience) greatly enchants the possibility to find ones perfect signature. Lastly (and probably because of the reasons I’ve already stated) with the A4’s I’ve got many combinations of filters that I enjoy, not only one.
The A4 comes with three different back filters and six different nozzle filters, so a total of 18 possible different combinations. I don’t find it rational (or even possible) to describe the sound in detail from each combination. After trying all the possible options I’ve settled for the black back and red nozzle filters as my basic configuration for normal listening at home. I’d like to stress though that there’s certainly more combinations than this one that I enjoy in certain situations, with certain sources and music. For example I used the A4’s on a recent trip and going on trains, flights and spending a lot of time in noisy environments the red back filters (most bass) worked much better for me in this situation than the black back filters (medium bass) that I prefer when listening in more quiet environments.
My buddy Tamal has done a great work in making a perfect overview of the different filter combinations so instead of re-inventing the wheel I’ve decided to use it here as well (with his blessing) thanks
Courtesy of @RedJohn456
For the rest of this review all of the impressions are with the black back filters and red front filters. Before going into details about the sound with this combination of filter I’d like to say a couple of short comments about the basic signature of the A4 because whichever combination you may end up with as your favorite the A4 will always be the A4. Very short the overall signature of the A4 is big and bold. Soundstage in all directions is excellent and I’ve never heard such a full sounding pair of IEM’s having such a high resolution. There’s nothing thin, sharp, bright or fatiguing about them at all to my ears but despite this they don’t sound thick or warm either but rather very natural. In one world the A4’s sound expensive.
The sub-bass extension on the A4 is the best I’ve ever heard and only rivaled by one other IEM in my possession. Not only does the bass reach extremely deep it does also have a good impact and excellent quality. Listening to “Creed” (OST) I can actually feel the deepest bass massaging the inner part of my ears even with the black bass filters, pretty amazing. Opposite to many other IEM’s with great sub bass presence the A4 has a very well controlled mid-bass and the sub bass impact is only there when the track calls for it. Although I’ve heard this amazing quality/quantity sub-bass a couple of other times this is probably the best overall bass presentation for my preferences (deep and impactful sub-bass that’s there when called for combined with a tight and controlled mid-bass) I’ve come across this far in a pair of IEM’s. The mid- and upper bass has enough weight and presence to make Leonard Cohen sound like Leonard Cohen while still doing a great job in not overshadow the midrange. I’d probably describe the overall signature of the A4 with this filter combination as L-shaped just the way the highly praised original A2 was.
The midrange is well in line with the rest of the frequencies, maybe a touch recessed (this can be fixed with other filters). The quality of the midrange is great though keeping up with both the ASG-1PLUS and the Super Audio 6 that has some of my favorite midrange presentations. Vocals are extremely good on the A4’s with enough weight on male vocals for them to sound natural and life like and a very seductive charter on female vocals that makes them extremely enjoyable with all vocal music. String instrument is also very well presented with a great organic sound to it as well as excellent timbre and weight. Although I usually like my midrange more forward than neutral I prefer the midrange in this filter combination (again: black back, red front) because of its total presentation across all the frequency spectrum, other can (and surely will) prefer other combinations.
The treble is pretty well extended even with the red filters. Please remember that my ears are 44 years old so there’s probably not much information above the 15kHz that the red filters extend to that I’d be able to pick up anyways. I really love the treble on the A4’s that (to my ears) has a perfect combination between extension, richness and details. I really don’t feel that anything is missing and the treble never ever sound harsh or fatiguing in any way to me. It’s really not much more to say about the treble but it’s really great and among the, if not the, best treble presentations I’ve ever heard.
Clarity and micro details are well above average and resolution is the best I’ve ever heard in such a full sounding pair of IEM ‘s. Soundstage width and height is excellent as is depth, airiness and 3D feeling. The “out of the head” feeling on the A4’s is definitely up there with the best IEM’s I’ve heard in this aspect.
All in all the LZ A4 offers a very relaxed and non-fatiguing listening experience and delivers an amazing amount of good quality bass while still keeping clarity and details on an excellent level with a huge soundstage in all directions.
Please note that the comments in the comparison section are not in absolute terms but in comparison between subject A and B. This means (as an example) that if subject A is found to be brighter than subject B it does not necessarily mean that subject A is bright sounding in absolute terms. I hope this makes sense.
These comparisons were done listening through the bit Opus #1 DAP.
From left to right: Aurisonics ASG-1PLUS, LZ A4, Super Audio 6
Aurisonics ASG-1PLUS ($499) vs LZ A4:
The ASG-1PLUS is also a hybrid IEM featuring a 14.2mm dynamic and one balance armature driver.
Compared to the A4 the 1PLUS has a more mid-centric presentation with way less bass (especially mid-bass) impact. The sub-bass on the A4 dig deeper and they’ve also got a good deal more mid-bass presence. The A4 does also have better bass quality and the bass on the 1PLUS is a little bit softer in its characteristic in comparison. Both have a very good midrange quality and excellent vocal reproduction but the midrange is definitely more forward and in focus on the 1PLUS while the A4 is more even across the whole spectrum. Both of them have very good treble quality.
I find them both to be very comfortable.
Build quality is equally great on both.
The A4 is a bit easier to drive.
Isolation is great on both but slightly better on the 1PLUS.
Super Audio 6 ($250) vs LZ A4:
The SA 6 is a six BA configuration that I use and enjoy a lot. These two are actually quite similar sounding and definitely the two most similar in this comparison section. Compared to the A4 the SA 6 has quite a bit less sub-bass impact and its bas does also roll off earlier. Mid- and upper bass is very similar on them both in quality and quantity. The midrange on these two is also very similar with great vocal performance on both male and female singers. The midrange on the SA 6 is more forward due to less bass presence. The A4 has smoother and more detailed treble while extension is pretty similar. Both of these have excellent “out of the head” 3D presentation but the A4 has wider soundstage, better clarity and slightly higher resolution.
I find them both to be very comfortable.
Build quality is equally great on both.
The A4 is slightly easier to drive.
Isolation is great on both but the SA 6 (being one of the best isolation IEM’s that I own) has even better isolation.
Blue Ever Blue Model 1200EX ($130) vs LZ A4:
Compared to the A4 the 1200EX has less bass impact through all the lower frequency range and its sub-bass does also roll off earlier. Both have a similar and great bass quality, the bass on the 1200EX may actually be even tighter. Once again both of these have excellent, and quite similar, midrange quality but the 1200EX has more forward and a bit thinner and grainy vocals. The A4 has better treble texture as well as being smoother in the top end. Both have amazing soundstage and 3D presentation. Despite both being great the A4 is smoother, fuller and more refined all over while the 1200EX is more analog sounding.
I find them to be very comfortable but the A4 pulls slightly ahead thanks to being able wear over the ears.
Build quality is equally great on both but the detachable cable on the A4’s put them on top.
They’re about equally easy to drive.
Isolation is better on the A4.
Audio-Technica ATH-CKR10 ($180) vs LZ A4:
Compared to the A4 the CKR 10 has less sub-bass impact and its bass does also roll off earlier. Mid- and upper bass is very similar in both quantity and quality with the A4 having a touch better control. The midrange on both has a quite similar position in the overall mix and both have great vocals for both male and female vocals but the A4 is smoother and more refined and the CKR’s actually sounds slightly grainy in comparison. Treble extension, details and overall characteristic is similar but the A4 is smoother. The A4 has a much larger soundstage width as well as being overall smoother and having better resolution.
I find them to be very comfortable but the A4 pulls slightly ahead thanks to being able wear over the ears.
Build quality is equally great on both but the detachable cable on the A4’s put them on top.
The CKR 10’s are easier to drive.
Isolation is better on the A4.
To sum up the comparison section the A4’s perform admirable compared to some of my absolute favorite IEM’s. As a matter of fact they’re not even outperformed by any of them in any single area. Some may rival the A4’s in midrange, some in soundstage and some in seductive vocals but none of them is as complete through the whole spectrum as I find the A4 to be.
The LZ A4 is one sublime pair of IEM’s in my opinion. Those of you that usually read my reviews know that I’m often quite restrictive with making statements that I prefer item A over item B or ranking different IEM’s. In the case of the A4’s I think it may be in place to make an exception to this policy. When it comes to sound the performance of the LZ A4 is so good in so many areas in comparison to my other top tier IEM’s that I feel it is the most complete pair of IEM’s I’ve listened to so far. It keeps up in bass quantity and quality with my favorite IEM in this aspect as well as keeping up with the midrange performance of the ASG-1PLUS and SA 6, the soundstage width and “out of the head” feeling on the 1200EX and has even more seductive vocals than the CKR 10.
So the LZ A4 is the best performing IEM’s I’ve reviewed this far when it comes to sound and that’s not all. They do also offer great build quality as well having very good ergonomics and isolation. On top of this they’ve got a filter system making a total of 18 different tunings possible and several of them sound great in my opinion. On top of this you get a great accessory pack. With a MSRP that’s $195 it becomes pretty obvious that the value for money rating for the A4’s is through the roof and makes it a very easy recommendation for anyone looking for a great performing pair of IEM’s in the $200 and upwards segment.