1. Brooko
    LZ-A5 Tunable Hybrid - But Coloured
    Written by Brooko
    Published Aug 7, 2018
    3.5/5,
    Pros - Build quality, fit,comfort, tuning options (with new filters)
    Cons - A little bass heavy overall, tuning options are limited, most tunings to upper mid-range emphasisied

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    INTRODUCTION

    My initial intro to LZ’s range of IEMs was the A4, and it was a truly remarkable triple hybrid IEM with a well though out tuning system. Since then I tried (and purchased for myself after the review) their flagship 7 BA Big Dipper. Recently they have gone back to design another hybrid – this time their new A5. Would it improve some of the A4’s minor issues, and more importantly, could it deliver a higher sonic fidelity and better value despite the higher price? Lets put it through its paces.

    ABOUT LZ
    LZ (Lao Zhong) was originally a technician repairing home appliances. But he’s always had a love for, and a fascination with, audio – stretching back for more than 20 years. This led to him actually making his own speakers, and then eventually to playing around with IEMs. He bought an expensive pair of big name brand IEMs (and no I won’t mention them), but was not impressed with them. So he borrowed some money, started DIYing his own IEMs and listing them on Taobao. Little did he know how popular the LZ-02 would become, and he wasn’t expecting the interest outside China that it garnered.

    In 2015, LZ product discussions appeared on some of the more popular western audio websites for the first time, and their customer base has grown as they got more exposure. They’re located in Shenzhen China, with the factory located in Dongguan. The company is surprising small – with just 7 staff in their main office. They now have a product range of more than a half dozen items – mainly IEMs, but also including a very reasonably priced after-market cable. They’ve also released a tunable flagship model IEM (the Big Dipper) which I reviewed on head-Fi, and eventually purchased for my personal use.

    LZ’s message is a simple one – he just wants to make affordable IEMs for the public. And I really love the way he states it. He simply says that “we want to deliver our music to the world”. Not our products. Not our sound. Our music. I kind of like that philosophy.

    DISCLAIMER
    The LZ-A5 that I’m reviewing today was provided to me freely as a review sample. LZ HiFi have asked me to keep it for my personal use, or for follow up comparisons, and I thank them for this. I’d also like to thank duyu (Frank) for acting as the go between and facilitating the review sample. The retail price at time of review is USD 260.

    PREAMBLE
    If you haven’t read any of my reviews, I suggest starting here, as it will give you an insight into my known preferences and bias.

    For the purposes of this review – I used the LZ-A5 straight from the headphone-out socket of many of my portables, but predominantly the FiiO X7ii, L&P L3, Cayin N5ii and my iPhone. I did not generally further amp them (I did test them with my Q1ii, XRK-NHB, and E17K), as IMO they do not benefit greatly from additional amplification (YMMV and it may depend on your source).

    In the time I have spent with the LZ-A5, I have noticed no change to the overall sonic presentation (break-in), although I note that LZ recommends it. This is a purely subjective review – my gear, my ears, and my experience. Please take it all with a grain of salt – especially if it does not match your own experience.

    THE PACKAGE
    The LZ-A5 arrived in a 190 x 117 x 58mm “book style” retail box. It is matt black with LZ’s logo on the front. Opening the box reveals a foam insert which holds the IEMs, the filter storage tray, and the carry case (which in turn houses the rest of the accessories).

    The total accessory package includes:
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    • 1 pair of LZ-A5 Hybrid IEMs
    • 1 x 3.5 mm single ended to MMCX earphone cable
    • 3 pairs of silicone single flange tips
    • 1 pair of medium foam tips
    • 1 round metallic carry case
    • LZ instruction manual and documentation
    • 4 sets of tuning filters
    THE TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS
    ModelLZ-A5
    Approx price$260 USD
    TypePenta Hybrid IEM
    Drivers1 x Dynamic and 4 x Knowles Balanced Armature
    Freq Range8Hz – 36kHz
    Impedance16Ω
    Sensitivity105 +/- 1dB
    Cable Type1.2m, replaceable (MMCX)
    Jack3.5mm gold plated single ended, right angled
    Weight29g (incl cables and tips)
    IEM shell materialCoated and anodised alloy

    MEASUREMENTS
    The graphs I use are generated using the Vibro Veritas coupler and ARTA software. Ken Ball (ALO/Campfire) graciously provided me with measurement data which I have used to recalibrate my Veritas so that it mimics an IEC 711 measurement standard (Ken uses two separate BK ear simulators, we measured the same set of IEMs, and I built my calibration curve from shared data). I do not claim that this data is 100% accurate, but it is very consistent, and is as close as I can get to the IEC 711 standard on my budget. I suspect it is slightly down at around 9-10 kHz, but seems reasonably accurate through the rest of the spectrum.
    [​IMG]
    I do not claim that the measurements are in any way more accurate than anyone else’s, but they have been proven to be consistent and I think they should be enough to give a reasonable idea of response – especially if you’ve followed any of my other reviews. When measuring I always use crystal foam tips (so medium bore opening) – and the reason I use them is for very consistent seal and placement depth in the coupler. I use the same amp (E11K) for all my measurements – and output is under 1 ohm.

    The graphs are provided merely as a point of discussion, and later in the review I’ve included comparisons to other IEMs for similar reference.

    The graph shown is using the black filter. Later in the review I’ll discuss the other tuning options. Channel matching is very good.

    BUILD
    The LZ-A5 has a traditional oval ergonomic shape and is designed to be used over ear. The pair I have consists of a 2 piece black anodised alloy shell (the seam is hardly visible), with a screw on filter which forms the nozzle and allows you to change the tuning. The LZ-A5 measures ~21mm in width, ~14mm in height (main body only), and ~13mm in depth.
    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    The outer face of each IEM is adorned with a crimson “wing design”, as well as an L or R printed next to the MMCX socket. At the rear of each IEM is a single DD port or vent. The shell design is extremely smooth with no rough edges or hard points. It is also very ergonomic (for me the fit is practically perfect).

    The tuning filters are threaded into the nozzle socket, and once in place it extends the nozzle (on a forward angle) ~9mm from the body. The nozzles are 5mm in diameter and have a mesh end and reasonable lip.

    The cable is 1.2m, fully cloth sheathed, and has built in form-able wires at the MMCX connectors. These form-able loops are ~85 mm in length, and I personally find them quite practical and easy to use. The cloth sheath is definitely micro-phonic, but this can be alleviated using the cinch and with some careful management (under clothing). The y-split is a metal cylinder which for me sits mid-sternum, and includes a very good cinch. There is good strain relief at the bottom of the Y-split and again at the jack.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    The jack is 3.5mm, right angled, and is smart-phone case friendly. It is gold plated. Above the jack is a Velcro cable tie which is quite handy for securing the IEMs when not in use, but which is also a little bulky, and not quite as simple as Dunu’s very similar solution.

    Internally the LZ-A5 uses 2 pairs of dual Knowles BA drivers (mids and highs), along with a titanium silver composite diaphragm on the dynamic driver.

    FIT / COMFORT / ISOLATION
    Isolation is above average considering the LZ-A5 is a vented hybrid, and most public transport noise should be isolated, with the remainder masked by your music. Of course this does depend on how good your tips are, and what sort of seal you get.

    Fir and comfort can vary from person to person, and for me personally the LZ-A5 is a huge improvement over the LZ-A4 in this area. The ergonomic design really works, and I find it extremely comfortable – both for everyday use, and also for evenings. They sit flush with my outer ear, and basically disappear within a few seconds of wearing (I could forget they are in). I have slept with them intact, and woken hours later with them still there and no discomfort.
    [​IMG]

    The nozzles have a very good lip, and with the standard sizing, I had no issues fitting Spiral Dots, Spin-fits, Ostry tuning tips and Sony Isolation tips. My tip of choice for the LZ-A5 was either the Symbio Mandarines or Sony Isolation tips. Both provide me with an excellent seal.

    FILTERS
    This always a tough one – as there are often many options, and without measurements, it is very easy for our brains to throw a filter over everything we hear. Because of this, we can grow quickly accustomed to an IEM’s tonality and lose sight of its performance against the other options.

    The front filters double as the nozzles. They are 9mm in length (7mm exposed when fitted), 5mm in diameter with a mesh over the nozzle and good lip. They also have a threaded screw to fit the front of the LZ-A5, and are also fitted with a rubber washer to maintain seal and integrity. They are pretty easy to change out.

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    The documentation included with the LZ-A5 is not exactly clear or helpful in deciding on filter choices, referring to frequencies in a vague way. Hopefully this illustrates things a little easier. With the filters I received, the black and blue almost match each other with only about 1-2 dB difference at 2-3 kHz, and the rest of the curve matching to less than 1 dB. The same thing occurs with the red and grey filters. In fact, if you wear red and grey together or black and blue together, and wait for your ears to adjust, you’d swear you are using well matched monitors. I would have been worried that I had an outlier set of filters – except for the fact that my friend and fellow reviewer on Head-Fi (Hi-Fi Chris) measured his different set, and came up with almost identical measurements. I’ve seen other reviews claiming differences between all 4 filters, but until someone can get those pairs measured, I’m naturally sceptical. So for now I’ll describe the black and blue together, and red and grey together.

    Black / Blue
    These filters are quite heavily V shaped, and the main characteristics are very accentuated sub-bass (peaking around 40-50 Hz), a somewhat recessed lower mid-range, very much elevated upper mid-range, a small peak at 7 kHz and another larger peak around the 12-13 kHz area.

    Overall this gives a very vivid signature which has quite a bit of low end warmth, but this is countered by the elevated upper mid-range which does tend to have male vocals sounding a little thin, and the overtones or harmonics sometimes having a little too much emphasis. Personally I find it quite easy to listen to the blue or black after my ears have had time to adjust as long as I am listening at reasonably low levels (which I do normally anyway). Guitar does sound quite edgy and bordering on brittle.

    The 7 kHz peak doesn’t bother me personally (at least not as much as the upper mid-range), and while there is some heat in hi-hat and crash cymbals (stemming mainly from their fundamentals in the upper mid-range), its not too much to bother me generally (it just sounds a bit “forced”). The 12 kHz peak also adds more “air” and a little more sizzle than is realistic, and for my tastes is another area where things have just gone slightly overboard.

    On the whole, if you really like a very vivid presentation, and listen at relatively low levels – you may quite like this combo.

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    Grey / Red
    Again this filter combo is quite V shaped, but they are definitely more balanced than the Blue or Black. The sub-bass is at the same intensity level, and the lower mid-range has a similar recession, and the big difference here is the much lower upper mid-range peak, and lower 7 kHz peak also. The upper treble peak at 12 kHz remains intact.

    These filters give a much more balanced mid-range and lower treble with far more palatable transitions through the octaves. The only real issue with this tuning is the sub-bass. Its much more noticeable now that the upper mid-range is a little closer to reference, and can tend to dominate. The good news is that it is a relatively easy fix to cut the sub bass a little via EQ to round them out.

    My preference
    After spending considerable time with the filters, I wouldn’t say any of them really suit my individual preferences, but I do like the grey the best. If I combine the grey with a cut in the sub-bass, and a slight correction in the upper treble – these sound really quite good. I know LZ is considering adding other tuning options – so I do hope there is a way to keep the grey mid-range, and simply cut that bass a bit.

    SOUND QUALITY
    My testing for this section was done with the FiiO X7ii (AM3A module), no EQ, and Symbio Mandarin tips. I used the X7ii simply because paired they gave me both a very transparent window to the music with low impedance, and also more than enough power. I used the grey filter – because listening without EQ, this is the most palatable filter for me.

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    For the record – on most tracks, the volume level on the X7ii (paired with AM3a) was ~50-55/120 Single Ended (on low gain) which was giving me an average SPL around 65-75 dB. Tracks used were across a variety of genres – and can be viewed in this list https://www.head-fi.org/f/articles/brookos-test-tracks.17556/

    Relativities
    • Sub-bass – very good extension and clearly elevated and dominant in the overall frequency range. Has a lot of rumble even at low listening levels, and with sub-bass dominant tracks (like Lorde’s Royals) can bleed into (or mask) the lower mid-range. Can tend toward looseness.
    • Mid-bass – good impact, but takes a back seat to the sub-bass. I actually think the mid-bass is tuned pretty well, but the sub-bass often dominates it.
    • Lower mid-range – there is a recession compared to sub and mid-bass, and also the upper mid-range, and does sound slightly distant. Male vocals do not quite have the same presence as female vocals, but they do have enough body to be enjoyable.
    • Upper mid-range – elevated compared to lower mid-range, and there is a slow rise from 1 kHz to a first peak at 3 kHz. The result is a clean and clear vocal range, with very good cohesion and some euphony for female vocals to sound sweet and elevated. There is also good sense of bite with guitars – and plenty of presence for fundamental cymbal strikes. Note that with the blue or black filters, this area is overly emphasised and far too etched (unnatural).
    • Lower treble has very good extension, and is quite sustained through to 10kHz with just a small peak around 7kHz. But it isn’t over-emphasised with this filter combination, remaining at slightly lower than the upper mid-range amplitude. This presents a lot of clarity and detail, but without too much glare.
    • Upper treble – extended through to 12-13 kHz and there is a bit of a peak in this area with all filters. It does not bother me too much (although a small cut here can improve the realism by removing some slight brittleness). This will depend on your sensitivity to upper treble.
    Resolution / Detail / Clarity
    • For me this is very dependent on the track I am listening to. If its something with lighter overall bass like Nil’s Lofgren’s “Keith Don’t Go” (acoustic guitar), the LZ-A5 is very detailed and clear, and it is easy to pick out micro details (movements on the fret-board etc). If it is even a little more bass dominant (eg Pink Floyd’s “Money”), as soon as the bass guitar kicks in, some of the micro detail which I know is in the track gets lost (masked).
    • Cymbals hits (especially hi-hats and crash-cymbals) have nice presence with this filter, and there is good sense of trailing decay. Cutting 12 kHz slightly does enhance the realism a little more – as does cutting the sub-bass.
    • Portico Quartet’s “Ruins” is a good track for checking the balance on drumstick clicks, hi-hat taps and general cymbal decay, and it is clear that the BA’s are tuned quite well in this filter configuration. With the blue or black filters though, the same track becomes overly spotlit – and cymbal brushes become blobs, and the upper mid-range becomes shrill and peaky.
    Sound-stage, Imaging
    • Directional queues are relatively good (as long as its not a bass dominant track).
    • Imaging is good in the sense that you get clear direction of sound, and it is consistent – but it can be a little soft sometimes with this filter.
    • Presentation of stage is definitely at the periphery of my head – so these are more intimate than expansive.
    • Reasonably spherically presented sound-stage – with a no real L/R dominance.
    • The applause section of “Dante’s Prayer” was very well represented with a good feel of flow around me.
    • “Let it Rain” (Amanda Marshall) had its usual 3D-like sense of spatial presentation (it is the way the track was miked). There was only a slight hint of sibilance with Amanda’s vocals – and I know its present in the recording – so not unexpected. The sibilance was reasonably subdued which was appreciated.
    Strengths (grey filter)
    • Really nice mid-range which is good for both male and female vocals
    • General clarity
    • Imaging and intimate staging (without L/R dominance)
    • Progression of mid-range (lower, upper) and cohesion with the treble response.
    • Good at lower listening levels
    Weaknesses
    • Sub-bass dominant, and with bassy tracks, there is masking of other frequencies
    • Upper treble is very slightly etched, and if you’re sensitive in this area, it may portray to much air.
    • Upper mid-range if you’re using black or blue filters – way too much emphasis, and does get fatiguing
    AMPLIFICATION REQUIREMENTS
    The LZ-A5 is an easy IEM to drive with its 16ohm impedance and 105 dB sensitivity. It was easily driven with all the sources I tried, and this included my iPhone SE and players like FiiO’s X1ii (neither are power houses). My iPhone SE only needed about one 35-40% of its volume for a comfortable 65-75dB for me.
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    I did try it with the Q1ii, Q5, XRK-NHB, and E17K amps (after volume matching, and quick switching between amped an un-amped). I didn’t notice any appreciable difference in dynamics, and it was the first IEM I’ve tried with the XRK-NHB where I haven’t been awed by the addition of the extra harmonics (the last thing the A5 needs is additional warmth).

    RESPONSE TO EQ?
    Oh I’m so pleased we are at this section. For this I wanted to correct the blue/black filters first, so using my iPhone SE, I used the Equaliser app, and its parametric equaliser to try to null the upper mid-range’s over-exuberance. I then lifted the dip in the lower mid-range slightly. Finally I brought the sub-bass back and also took a little heat out of 12 kHz. I really like the result, and hope that it helps others as a starting point, and that they can provide feedback on their own tweaks.

    The settings are:
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    • 40Hz, Q=0.5, -3.5 dB
    • 800Hz, Q=0.5, +3.0 dB
    • 2000Hz, Q=0.1.5, -6.0 dB
    • 3000Hz, Q=1.5, -6.0 dB
    • 12000Hz, Q=1.0, -2.0 dB
    Next step was to use the X7ii and simply tackle the grey filter by reducing 12 kHz and also the sub-bass. For this I simply dropped the last two sliders (31 and 62 Hz by -6dB), and the very highest slider (16 kHz) by around 4 dB (also affects the 12 kHz). Again (for me) instantly better. Still plenty of rumble, but this time not so much domination.

    The A5 transforms with carefully applied EQ – I just wish I could do this via the filters …….

    COMPARISON WITH OTHER IEMS
    A hard one to try and compare because of the filters. So for this one I looked simply to show the overall performance compared to some other tunable IEMs (FLC’s FLC8S, LZ’s own A4 and Dipper). I also quickly compared to a couple of well regarded IEMs in the $250-300 range. These comparisons were all done with the X7ii, (no EQ) – and volume matched using a calibrated SPL meter and fixed 1kHz test tone first.

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    Tunable IEMs
    LZ A5 grey filter (~USD 260) vs LZ-A4 Black+grey filter (~USD 195)

    Both have very good overall build quality – solid materials, well put together. Both have replaceable cables (MMCX) and although they are functional – I’m not really a fan of either cable design. The A4 has more possible filter combinations (more versatile) but is let down by its non-ergonomic design and subsequent comfort issues. The A5 has a far more ergonomic design and very comfortable fit – but suffers a bit from the limited tuning options.

    Sonic comparison – and this is comparing the black/grey A4 to the grey A5:
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    • A5 has noticeably more sub-bass, and because of the imbalance in total tonality with the A5’s bass I personally find it just a touch bloomy.
    • Lower mids are very similar, and male vocals are close to identical on both.
    • Both have very clear upper mid-range
    • I prefer A5’s lower treble – both are extended, but cymbals have slightly better decay with the A5 (in this filter configuration)
    • The A5 sounds warmer and a little more intimate. The A4 sounds more vivid and a little more open.
    My overall preference would be the A4 sonics in the A5 body if it was possible.

    LZ A5 grey filter (~USD 260) vs FLC8S red, none, gold filters (~USD 299)
    Again two tunable IEMS – this time the 5 driver hybrid A5 vs the 3 driver hybrid FLC8S. Overall build quality is good on both but the A5 gets the nod for the better quality materials. Both have removable cables, and both stock cables are ones I’d personally replace. Both have an ergonomic fit – I do like the A5’s ergonomics slightly better – but both are comfortable. The A5 has 4 current tuning options. The FLC8S has 3 different tuning points which when combined with the filters (and using no filter options as well) can provide up to 60 different options. This gives far greater control on the overall sound.

    Sonic comparison – and this is comparing the red/none/gold combo to the grey A5:
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    • A5 again has noticeably more sub-bass. The FLC8S bass sound better proportioned, seems quicker (better decay) and not as much bloom.
    • Lower mids are somewhat similar in presentation – both have good timbre and tone.
    • Both have clean and clear upper mid-range, but FLC8S does sound cleaner and closer – mainly due to the earlier rise after 1 kHz and the lack of any sub-bass masking.
    • Both have good treble extension, but again the FLC8S does sound cleaner and more articulate – mainly because of the lack of any masking.
    • The A5 sounds warmer overall – both are quite intimate sounding in terms of staging. FLC8S images a little better.
    My preference here is divided. The FLC8S will give you better options if you prefer to tweak the filters. If you’re proficient with a parametric EQ – I can actually get as good results with the A5. For most though – the FLC8S is probably going to be the better option considering the ability to tune the sound.

    LZ A5 grey filter (~USD 260) vs LZ-Big Dipper +bass, -mid, -treble (~USD 640-820)
    Both have very good overall build quality, use quality materials and are well put together. Both have replaceable cables – I much prefer the more flexible Dipper cable though. The Dipper is very ergonomic and is the more comfortable overall for my ears. The A5 has the 4 tunable filters. The Dipper has the option to have 0-3 filter switches – the more expensive 3 switch model gives up to 8 tuning options.

    Sonic comparison – and this is comparing the grey A5 to Dipper with bass switch on, but others off:
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    • A5 again has noticeably more sub-bass, and is warmer than the Dipper. The A5’s bass has more impact. The Dippers bass is much quicker with less decay. Although the Dippers bass graphs somewhat similar amplitude – this is the difference between DD and BA bass. The Dippers bass is clean articulate and balanced. The A5 is heavier, more bass dominant and unfortunately has a masking effect on other frequencies.
    • Dipper has more body in its lower mids and male vocals are richer.
    • Both have clear upper mid-range but Dippers is a little leaner overall.
    • Both have extended lower treble – but the Dipper has a little more glare (I think this is the extension right through from the upper mid-range.
    • The A5 sounds warmer but vocals are more distant. This doesn’t express as bigger stage though. If anything Dipper sounds wider.
    I thought the A5 performed quite well against the Dipper overall, and if you cut the A5 sub-bass a bit, it really is a well tuned IEM. But I prefer speed and articulation, and the Dipper delivers that for my preferences. This is why I actually ended up paying for the Dipper (buying the review sample from LZ).

    Standard IEMs
    LZ A5 grey filter (~USD 260) vs FiiO FH1 (~USD 75)

    Both have really good build quality with replaceable cables and very comfortable ergonomic build. The A5 build materials are slightly better, and is a 5 driver hybrid vs the FH1 2 driver hybrid. The A5 has the tuning options (although they are a little limited). I like the FH1 cable much more than the A5, and FiiO also provides a balanced cable in the package.

    Sonic comparison – and this is comparing the grey filter A5 to the FH1:
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    • A5 is a little warmer with the increased sub-bass but I actually prefer the tonality of the FH1 bass. The FH1 has more balanced overall tonality, so the response actually has a nice warmth, but does not dominate.
    • Both have very good lower and upper mid-range, but there is less masking with the FH1
    • Treble is a little more pronounced, a little airier with the A5. The FH1 has similar capability with extension but is more balanced.
    • Overall the A5 is more vivid overall, where the FH1 has more balance.
    The FH1 is simply best in class at sub $100 and TBH performs in the +$200 range. If both of these were priced the same – I’d take the FH1. This could change if there were better filter options on the A5.

    LZ A5 grey filter (~USD 260) vs Brainwavz B400 (~USD 180)
    This is a 5 driver hybrid vs a 4 driver BA.

    Both have good build quality with replaceable cables and very comfortable ergonomic build. The A5 build materials and finish are slightly better. The A5 has the tuning options (although they are a little limited). Brainwavz also provides a balanced cable in the package.

    Sonic comparison – and this is comparing the grey filter A5 to the B400:
    [​IMG]

    • A5 is definitely warmer with the increased sub-bass but again I prefer the tonality of the B400 overall. The B400 is more balanced overall but has less lower treble, so the response has a nice warmth, but does not dominate.
    • Both have very good lower and upper mid-range, but there is less masking with the B400
    • Treble is a lot more pronounced, and airier with the A5. The B400 has good extension but is tuned to be quite smooth.
    • Overall the A5 is more vivid and V shaped with quite distant vocals, where the B400 has more balance and is smoother.
    Again – I see more current overall value with the B400, and if you were price matching, this would allow you to get the B400 with upgrade cables.

    LZ A5 grey filter (~USD 260) vs Alclair Curve (~USD 250)
    This is a 5 driver hybrid vs a 2 driver BA.

    Both have good build quality with replaceable cables and very comfortable ergonomic build (the Curve wins on the comfort though – its simply the most comfortable ergonomic universal I’ve ever tried). The A5 has the tuning options (although they are a little limited). The Curve has a much better cable.

    Sonic comparison – and this is comparing the grey filter A5 to the Curve:
    [​IMG]

    • There are some big differences here – the A5 is much warmer, with more impact, and slower bass response. The Curve sounds thinner but faster. It still has good bass articulation, but won’t satisfy bass lovers.
    • Both have good lower and upper mid-range, but there is no masking with the Curve. Curve sounds a lot cleaner and clearer.
    • Despite the graph showing less amplitude in the lower treble, the Curve is far more articulate and detailed. If you prefer a more vivid and v shaped sound the A5 would be the way to go. More balance – definitely the Curve.
    This one comes down to preference. I’ve always liked balance and details – so for me the Curve remains my reference IEM.

    VALUE
    So how do I see the overall value of the LZ-A5? This is a tough one because the A5 does have a lot of potential and simple reissue of a couple of filters could effectively transform it into a must have IEM. On the plus side – it has great build and fit, and the versatility is good with the filter options. On the negative – for me, the current filter options simply don’t have enough variety, and the cable could be better. Is it worth $260? Well I’d say its good value at $260, but not great value (yet). Will LZ provide another couple of filter options – that will be the real “value” question. Lets hope.

    LZ-A5 – SUMMARY
    I should have posted this review a couple of weeks ago, but work load and the difficulty of writing an in-depth review on a tunable monitor have kept me back. I apologise to both LZ and duyu – but we got there in the end.

    The LZ-A5 is somewhat of a paradox as far as hybrid IEMs go. It is very well built, with solid choice of materials and the tuning system is very easy to use (although somewhat limited currently). LZ fixed the comfort issue which was the only major flaw with the LZ-A4, but unfortunately they’ve regressed a bit with the current tuning, and the cable is probably a bit over engineered, and not really practical for long term use. A simple twisted braid would be cheaper and more practical (IMHO of course).

    As far as the SQ of the LZ-A5 goes, if you’re a fan of a warmer bottom end, and a vivid V shaped tuning, you may well love the options LZ provides. I think they did well with the mids and highs of the grey and red (please dial down the bass on one of them!), but the blue and black are simply overdone in the upper mid-range (for my tastes anyway). I think this IEM may be polarising. It reminds me a bit of Trinity audio – sometimes you just need to dial back on the vividness.

    For the price of $260 you are getting an IEM with a lot of potential, but some of it is unrealised. If you are prepared to EQ, or perhaps DIY some filter tuning through added damping – these could be really good. In their current form though I don’t necessarily see them as an upgrade from the A4 – except in the comfort stakes.

    I just want to close with thanking Lao Zhong and duyu (Frank) for arranging the review sample.

    LZ-A5My ScoreOut ofWeightingWeighted Score
    Accessories6.0105%0.30
    Build7.01010%0.70
    Design6.0105%0.30
    Fit/Comfort9.01015%1.35
    Sound Quality
    Bass quality6.0108%0.48
    Mid-range quality8.0108%0.64
    Treble quality7.0108%0.56
    Overall tonality5.0108%0.40
    Clarity6.0108%0.48
    Stage/Imaging6.0108%0.48
    Value6.01017%1.02
    Total72.0110100%67.1%


    UPDATED FILTERS

    So LZ re-thought things and released another set of filters for the A5. The graphs of the new filters are attached. Rather than go through everything, I’ll summarise the changes, and if this changes the value and final summary for me. The updated filters can be ordered from Penon Audio – I’m not sure what the LZ A5 ships with by default now. So what has changed?

    • Starting with the black filter – it is essentially the same as the original black but with about 2-3 dB reduced between 2-3 kHz. Still too coloured for my preference, but many may like it.
    • The blue filter virtually has no change – perhaps a 1 dB softening between 2-3 kHz
    • The grey filter has the biggest change. This time it bridges the gap between the original grey/red and the blue filters.
    • The new red filter is perhaps 1-2dB softer than the original red filter at 2-3 kHz but again, the change is minimal
    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Are the changes worth it? Well yes because at least there is a little more variety now, but unfortunately (IMO) the tuning changes are still quite one dimensional (mostly the upper mid-range). I wish they had really given some changes in both bass and mid-range. There is a lot that could be done – and I still don’t think they have captured the value. My favourite remains the red filter (new or old), and I do quite like these – although I do still find the bass a little over-done. Does my scoring or conclusions change? No – because really only two filters have changed (admittedly for the better), and I still think the overall signature is quite coloured.

    Should you get the new filters? Well for a small outlay, you may find it worth it – especially if you like a coloured upper mid-range emphasis. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. A few years ago – I also loved this tuning. Over the last 3-4 years my tastes have changes a bit. Reference they are not – but many will like this tuning.

    [​IMG]
      anorphirith, B9Scrambler and voxie like this.
  2. Cinder
    LZ A5 Review: The Flying V
    Written by Cinder
    Published Jul 26, 2018
    4.0/5,
    Pros - - Excellent extension
    - Robust soundstage
    - Light and hard shells
    - Decent foam eartips
    - Comfortable
    - Phenomenal bass performance and tonality
    - Cable feels nice in the hand, metal finishing
    Cons - - Cable could use reinforcement along the MMCX housing
    [​IMG]
    LZ A5 Review: The Flying V
    LZ is a well-known brand in the Chi-Fi world. They’ve produced a number of notable IEMs such as the A2 and A4 and appear to have no intention of slowing down any time soon. The A2 showed us the talent that the engineers at LZ had with tuning IEMs, and the A4 showed us how well LZ could work with acoustic dampening filters. The A5 is supposed to be a refined synthesis of all the previous A-series IEMs. But does it out-compete its predecessors and, more importantly, its competition from other companies?

    The LZ A5 retails for roughly $269 and can be bought here, from Penon Audio.

    About My Preferences: Heads up, I’m a person! As such, these words are my opinion, and they are tinged by my personal preferences. While I try to mitigate this as much as possible during my review process, I’d be lying if I said my biases are completely erased. So for you, my readers, keep this in mind:

    • My ideal sound signature would be an extended sub-bass with a leveled, but textured, mid-bass. I am a fan of energetic treble and have a very mild treble sensitivity in the 6KHz-10KHz range.
    Source: The A5 was powered like so:

    HTC U11 -> USB-C adapter -> earphones

    or

    Hidizs AP100 3.5mm out -> FiiO A5 3.5mm out -> earphones

    or

    HiFiMAN SuperMini -> earphones

    or

    PC optical out -> HiFiMe SPDIF 9018 Sabre DAC 3.5mm out -> earphones

    All music was served as MP3 @320Kbps or as FLAC. The A5 paired best with my HiFiMAN SuperMini due to its subtle warmth.

    Tech Specs
    • Driver: 1 dynamic driver + 4 balanced armature
    • Sensitivity: 105±dB
    • Impedance: 16Ω
    • Frequency range: 8–36000Hz THD
    • Total harmonic distortion: <0.2%
    • Rated power: 5mW
    • Plug Type: 3.5mm gold-plated
    • Cable length: 120cm
    Sound Signature
    Sonic Overview:

    The A5, given its tuning filters, has a variety of sound signatures. I was most satisfied with the red filters (-2dB from 3KHz to 10KHz), so all my impressions, unless otherwise explicitly stated, are taken using them.

    The A5 has a really good V-shaped sound signature that engages the listener musically while not forgetting many details. The treble is energetic and lively, the midrange is expressive, while slightly recessed, and the bass is punchy with plenty of rumble. On first impression, the A5 takes on a nearly ideal sound signature for my preferences.

    Treble: Songs used: In One Ear, Midnight City, Outlands, Satisfy, Little One, Show Me How To Live (Live at the Quart Festival)

    The A5’s treble is something to behold. It leverages its array of four balanced armature drivers to create a detailed, layered, and engaging upper register. The A5 has two audible peaks in the treble: one near the 3KHz range, and another near 14KHz. This configuration adds a lot of energy to the treble that will exact from your songs an enormous amount of treble-bound detail, but on the other side of the coin adds some heat to the upper treble. Thankfully the A5 responds exceptionally well to equalization, so -1dB to the 4.4 kHz region and -2dB to the 13.5 kHz region did wonders in bringing the A5 much closer to my personal preferences.

    I’ve heard complaints about the A5’s treble being harsh or sharp, but I’ve had no issues with it at all when using the red filters. The 6–10KHz range, where sibilance and most harshness usually lives, is well tempered, rarely ever stepping out of line and producing discomfort. Even on songs like Satisfy, I had no issues.

    Midrange: Songs used: Flagpole Sitta, Jacked Up, I Am The Highway, Dreams, Too Close, Little Black Submarines

    The A5’s midrange presentation is quite good, neat even, despite its recession behind the lower treble and the mid-bass. Instrumental separation is top-notch, as is sound-staging. Instead of competing for attention with the upper and lower register, the A5’s midrange works together with them to produce a wonderful synthesis across the entire sonic spectrum. Electric guitars have an excellent crunch, drums sound lively and precise, and vocals have a respectable presence

    Speaking of vocals, the A5 seldom discriminates against singers, regardless of their gender. I found that while some of the higher-pitched female vocals could use some added weight, the vast, vast majority of singers synergized very well with the A5’s midrange presentation.

    Bass: Songs used: Moth, Gold Dust, In For The Kill (Skream Remix), War Pigs (Celldweller Remix)

    The LZ A5’s bass is a wonder on modern hybrid IEMs. I haven’t been this impressed with an IEMs bass since I first heard the Rose Cappuccino Mk. II. It has an above-average speed for hybrid IEMs and doesn’t ever bleed into the midrange or overpower it. The mid-bass is punchy and precise, maintaining plenty of shape and texture in complex bass lines.

    The A5’s sub-bass is always there to assist the mid-bass and lend it extra depth and rumble, something I’ve found lacking in many of the IEMs that I have recently reviewed. Listeners of electronic genres will undoubtedly be satisfied with the A5’s bass production. And the good news is that even if you aren’t, I was able to cleanly add about 2dB more of bass without creating a lot of distortion or bass bleed. That was too much for my tastes though, so I reverted that back to normal.

    The bass guitars in Moth sounded full-bodied, the drop in Gold Dust was dynamic, and the bass line of In For The Kill was easily mastered by the A5. I honestly couldn’t find a single song in my collection that was abused by the A5’s lower register, so I count myself as fully satisfied by its offerings.

    Filters:

    • Blue:
    This filter is the hottest and will suit only the most die-hard treble fans. I personally prefer a warmer sound signature.

    • Gray:
    The gray filter is less hot than the blue one but is still too energetic for my tastes. This filter makes the A5 somewhat similar to the Advanced Sound GT3 in the lower midrange.

    • Black:
    This filter gives the A5 a somewhat mild amount of warmth that gives it some of the body I was seeking with the previous two filters. The treble is still quite energetic and the overall sound signature remains very V-shaped.

    • Red:
    The red filter reduces the treble the most out of any of the filters offered by LZ. In doing so it opens up the sound signature, adding back much of the warmth that was lacking in some of the other filters. Put plainly, I enjoyed using the red filter the most and found it to enable the largest range of musical expression of any of the other filters.

    Packaging / Unboxing
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    Build
    Construction Quality

    [​IMG]
    The A5’s driver housings are made out of a metal with a soft matte finish. The shells appear to be manufactured using an extrusion process of some kind. The resulting finish is very fine, revealing no machining or processing flaws. The faceplate of the IEM has a red wing logo. The reflective paint used is precisely painted into place.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    As previously mentioned, the A5 has tuning filters. These filters are designated to affect the 3KHz-10KHz range, though, in reality, they are just dampeners. So while the gray and red filters do indeed dampen the 3KHz-10KHz range, the blue and black ones actually dampen the rest of the sonic spectrum to make the 3KHz-10KHz range sound relatively more emphasized. Its a clever way of doing things that avoids the necessity of using bass-ported filters.

    As far as build quality goes, the A5’s filters are no slouch. They are finely machined and threaded, with no visible defects. Each pair screwed cleanly into my A5 with no unwanted resistance. The tip of each filter has a perforated metal debris filter.

    [​IMG]
    The A5 has detachable cables and uses the MMCX standard. The MMCX ports are affixed firmly inside the driver housings and sit flush with the rest of the shell. The included MMCX cable fits firmly within the ports.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    The A5’s cable is decent. The MMCX jacks are housed in a smoothly-finished metal, as are the Y-splitter, chin slider, and 3.5mm jack. The cable itself is coated in a thick and sturdy nylon sleeve. It is protected by a good amount of plastic stress relief on both the Y-splitter and the 3.5mm jack. The upper portion of the cable features memory wire, though it could use some stress relief on the MMCX housings.

    Comfort
    I find the A5 to be very comfortable. The memory wire is functional, the shells are light-weight, and the nozzle of the IEM is reasonably sized. I could get a good seal with the large silicone eartips and the foams, though swapping out for some Comply eartips did improve my isolation.

    Accessories
    [​IMG]
    Inside the box you’ll find:

    • 1x hard carrying case
    • 2x pair silicone eartips
    • 1x pair of foam eartips
    • 4x tuning filters
    While I would like to see more eartips included on a $270 IEM, I can’t complain all that much considering that I was satisfied with the ones they included. Furthermore, a lot of users of LZ’s previous IEMs took to tip-rolling to customize the sound of their IEMs further, so I suppose LZ was reacting to that trend too. But considering the quality of the case, the eartips that were included, and the filters, I can at least sleep well knowing that the accessories that were included were of high quality.

    Comparisons
    1: Advanced Sound GT3 ($200)

    The GT3 and A5 have a lot in common. They both feature tuning filters and have very energetic treble. The GT3, however, is less V-shaped. It has a flatter, but still recessed, midrange, while the A5 has a more pronounced mid-bass and upper treble. Both IEMs exhibit excellent extension at both ends of the sonic spectrum.

    2: Echobox Nomad N1 ($250)

    The Nomad’s treble is quite comparable to the A5’s treble (via the gray tuning filter). The Nomad has a heavier mid-bass and lower midrange with a less somewhat less emphasized upper treble (when they are both using their bass tuning filters).

    3: DUNU Falcon C ($220)

    The Falcon C is an interesting comparison given its somewhat unique driver and treble-prominent tuning. The A5 is much more V-shaped than the Falcon C is in terms of the lower midrange and bass. The Falcon C provides a faster lower register while the A5 has a more satisfying rumble.

    Summary
    The A5 is a versatile IEM with a primarily V-shaped sound signature. Its tuning filters enable the listener to change the sound signature to suit their exact tastes. LZ built the A5 well, gifting it with solid construction and a lightweight shell that feels premium in the hand. The A5 is nearly uncompromising for those who want a deep-reaching bass and a very energetic treble. Kudos to LZ for pulling off another winner!

    As always, happy listening!
      B9Scrambler likes this.
  3. theoutsider
    ChiFi at its Finest!
    Written by theoutsider
    Published Jun 23, 2018
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Phenomenal sound for the price!
    Cons - Stock cable and packaging could have been better.
    Introduction

    LZ-A5 is the fifth generation of Lao Zhong’s A series earphones. Coincidentally LZ-A5 is also the first of the series to operate on 5 drivers, 1 dynamic driver and 4 balanced armature (BA) drivers on each side. Like its predecessor LZ-A4, the sound of LZ-A5 can be tweaked by swapping in different filters that came in the package.

    To tell the truth, I have been spoiled by many great audio gears for sometime now and have not been wow-ed by any new stuff lately. This growing despondent was broken when I laid my hands on LZ-A5 for the first time. It is the first new gear in recent time to put a smile on my face.



    Disclaimer

    I am grateful to be sent a pair of LZ-A5 for evaluation and I would like to thank Lao Zhong Audio and Penon Audio. I owe them a review but not necessarily a positive review as I am in no way associated with them.

    https://penonaudio.com/lz-a5.html

    I thought of finishing this review much earlier but putting everything together seems harder than I imagined.


    Unboxing



    The packaging of LZ-A5 is somewhat underwhelming. I was expecting more seeing that this earphone came with a price tag that breaks the 200 dollars mark. LZ-A5 came in a black cardboard box with magnetic lid. Inside the box, there’s two in-ear monitors with a set of filters already attached to them, a metal piece holding 3 sets of tuning filters, a chunky MMCX cable with a velcro tie on it, some silicon tips, a metal carrying case, a warranty card and a manual. Just so you know, the metal protective carrying case is identical to the case that came with HifiMan RE 2000 and RE 800.

    I have not met Mr. Lao Zhong but I can only imagine him as a very down to earth person. LZ-A5 is presented in the most straight forward way imagined, so forget about the bells and whistles.


    Physical



    Earphone

    Many, if not most of LZ-A4 owners complain about its ergonomic. LZ-A4 is angular in shape and tends to cut one’s ears with its sharp edges. Lao Zhong being Lao Zhong, has a good reputation of listening to constructive feed-backs and learning from criticisms so it is no surprise that the ergonomic issue had been addressed in the new LZ-A5.

    The outer shell of each LZ-A5 monitor is made of two pieces of anodized aluminum shells. I believe the shells are joined together with glue since I can not spot any screws or welding traces. The seam between the two halves is quite visible but there’s no glue residue on my sample unit so overall I consider the craftsmanship great. The shells are extremely smooth with no rough edges or sharp points. This time around, the physique of LZ-A5 is optimum, there’s nothing I can think of to criticize here, Lao Zhong obviously had learned a hell lot from making LZ-A4.



    Both the IEM and the cable have L and R identifications. After using LZ-A5 for a while, you probably can tell L from R just by feeling them in your hands. Some people made a big deal out of the Honda logo but I think id est quod id est.


    Stock Cable


    LZ-A5 came with a detachable woven cable. The cable is fully clothed and according to the specification sheet, it has a 6N single copper core. I am never fond of fabric cables and this is no exception. The MMCX ends are embedded with memory wires so they are supposed to conform to the shapes of one’s ears but they didn’t work for me. On the other end, the cable is terminated with an L-shaped 3.5mm plug that looks very similar to that of HifiBoy Dream I reviewed earlier.



    Many people said that they heard a surge in sound quality by swapping in a higher quality cable, think 8core 6N cable, higher numbers and whatnots. I am currently using LZ-A5 with a thinner MMCX1s (2.5mm balanced) cable from Fiio. I find that to be a good balance between acoustic quality and wear comfort. Overall, LZ-A5 cable is hefty and impractical, I don’t find it desirable in any way.


    Comfort

    I am extremely fussy when it comes to comfort. When inserted properly, LZ-A5 slips into my ears with great ease and stays in place firmly. LZ-A5 is by no means featherweight, I can feel it in my ears but it is not what I would describe as heavy.



    The physical design of the LZ-A5 is perfect in my book, trust me, the fit and ergonomic is a quantum leap from LZ-A4. Put aside the cringy stock cable, the ergonomic of A5 is a solid 5 out of 5. I wear spectacles and I can assure you that A5 will not give specky-four-eyes any hard time.


    Durablitility

    For your information, balanced armature (BA) earphones are generally very fragile. If you keep knocking your BA earphones on hard surfaces, the armature inside will deform and you will get a permanently distorted sound.



    I have always reminded myself to treat LZ-A5 with the utmost care but of course me being Mr. Magoo’s brother from another mother, I abused it very frequently and even inadvertently dripped it in a mug of beer. Immediate after that mishap, I wiped it dry and LZ-A5 miraculously survived. So all in all, I have no doubt that LZ-A5 is a durable product.


    Specification

    Earphone Type: In- Ear
    Connection Type: Wired
    Plug Type: 3.5mm gold-plated plug
    Cable Length: 1.3m
    Driver: 4 balanced armature drivers 1 dynamic driver
    Impedance: 16ohm
    Sensitivity: 105dB
    Frequency response: 8Hz-36 KHz
    Total Harmonic Distortion: <0.2%
    Power Output: 5mW
    Cable: 1.2m 5N OFC


    The Earphone Design



    I decided to include this section to talk about LZ-A5 design. Pictures above are the cross-section and exploded views of LZ-A5.

    Many audio companies have their own line of configurable earphones - FLC, Trinity Audio and etc. Trinity recently released a model with the most filters ever, 5 filters in 2 different lengths, so that’s an astonishing 10 options.



    BA drivers are not particularly flat sounding, they by design produce frequency response graph with two peaks. I will elaborate more on the technicalities in a jiffy. As far as I know, the most usual way to tame the two peaks are by adding an acoustic damping screen/mesh in front of the BA nozzle or by laser-ing a tiny hole on the membrane that suspense the diaphragm. The miniature size of BA drivers enables multi drivers setup that in turn allows acoustic designers to achieve a certain sound. Of course that is not done without any drawback, coherency can be an issue for earphones with multiple drivers.



    Judging from the macro photograph and the diagrams above, the 4 BA drivers in LZ-A5 are arranged in pairs and lined up next to each other. The BA drivers are not pointing straight at the nozzle opening and a dynamic driver is positioned behind the two pairs of BA drivers. Also noteworthy is the tiny opening Lao Zhong placed behind the dynamic driver probably to allow for a more natural sound and a fuller bass.


    The Interchangeable Filters

    LZ-A5 is not overly convoluted given that it is a configurable earphone. Users will not require any tools to swap in their desired filters. Each pair of filters is represented with a different color and every filter has threaded ends. All the filters came with tiny rubber bumpers to prevent over-screwing that will potentially damage the threads.


    Initially I tinkered quite a bit with the filters but over time, I kinda settled in with the gray filters because they are the most versatile and they are great for movies and YouTube. Black filters are great as well and they are probably the nicest sounding but I opted for gray filter for prolong use.

    I think having options is great even for someone as indecisive as I am. The interchangeable filter system works great to fine-tune sound to one’s taste and I think little feature like this does go a long way to enhance listening experience.



    Most color coding are meant to be intuitive and I suppose the same applies to LZ-A5 tuning system. I figured red is a warmer color, hence it is associated with a mellower sound and blue on the other end of the color spectrum is cold, so it produces a colder sound. Blue has a sharper high and red being the opposite has the most suppressed treble.



    From the macro photo above, you can see that the blue filter has no mesh material in it, so it is technically just a metal grill. Black filter has a hollow mesh with the same metal grill. Judging from the dim light that leaks through, I believe red filter has the densest filter material. I think it is logical to think that the thicker or denser the filter material is, the more suppressed the highs will be.

    Not unlike other IEMs, you can also further customize the sound by swapping in a different pair of ear-tips or cable.


    The Overall Sound

    With the release of LZ-A4 a year ago, LZ became the price-performance leader in the mid-high IEM segment. The price-performance ratio of LZ-A4 was, and still is incredible. The price-performance ratio of LZ-A5 is just as good, if not better! I noticed that the resolving power of LZ-A5 had been drastically improved from LZ-A4, a lot more details can be heard from whatever you listen to.

    Unlike most audiophiles who claimed to have great ears, I believe my ears deteriorated at an unbelievably high rate due to my inclination to listen to music at high volume. The LZ-A5 I am reviewing easily clocked 300 hours of listening and burn-in at the time of writing this review. Although I had been advised to burn it in, I did not hear any distinguishable change in sound through out the run-in period but that’s just me, yo.



    When I first put on the earphones, I was greeted by a very welcoming sound and I instantly buried my disapproval of the less than remarkable packaging. Yes, LZ-A5 completely obliterated the rest of my IEMs, in terms of resolving power and musicality. My brother compared some of the earphones laying around on my desk and I could see the same WOW in his expression when he put on LZ-A5 so I guess I am not alone here.

    The sound is for the lack of a better word, majestic. I am not saying that a terrible song will miraculously sound nicer with LZ-A5 because that can't be true and I am not selling snake oil here. LZ-A5 does offer a very immersive listening experience, the sound is just bold and energetic. I find LZ-A5 especially suited for electronic EDM, maybe due to its accentuated tuning. LZ-A5 also pairs rather well with classical music due to its outstanding instrument renditions and placement. I would describe LZ-A5 as a pair of IEMs that sound like a full-size closed back headphones with a slightly nicer soundstage.


    Low

    I am not a bass-head per se so I will only briefly describe the low. There’s sufficient rumble in the sub-bass region, the bass of LZ-A5 is punchy but not exceedingly so. Overall the bass is quite good but that is not the main attraction here, so let’s move on.


    Mid

    Awesome mid-range, that’s the short and precise summary. Lao Zhong seemed to emphasize on the mid-high refinement, my ears tell me that a lot of effort had been put into getting the mid right. The transition across treble, mid and bass is seamless, LZ-A5 never failed to maintain cohesion between the drivers.


    High

    The high frequency tuning of the LZ-A5 is a bit adventurous and daring. To some people they might perceive LZ-A5 as sparkly and others will think that it is rough and edgy. The same treble sound harsh to certain people with sensitive ears but not to the others and that’s the nature of our ears, we are not made equal after all.

    Overall I think the quantity of the treble is about right. Although I am not bothered by the peaky high, I would prefer a slightly more rounded off peaks. I figured the red filters do cut away few decibels from the high but will not properly round off the sound.

    Also for your information, I usually test the treble of an IEM by listening to Jump by Van Halen (particularly the synthesizer part). If I do not get any discomfort looping through the song twice, the earphone has a tolerable high. And yes, LZ-A5 passed the Van Halen trial.


    Frequency Response Test

    I am cheap. I set up the test below with a modified lapel mic, a Comply foam and some putty. Comply foam because it has one of the best sealing. I apologize for not putting together a more professional setup and I do not claim that this data is 100% accurate or more accurate than anyone else’s.

    My main intention is to compare the effects of different filters to the sound. The graph is provided for the point of discussion.


    Blue : blue filter
    Yellow : black filter
    Gray : gray filter
    Red : red filter

    A double peak graph is to be expected of any Balanced Armature (BA) In-ear Monitor (IEM). The first peak (3k Hz) is a result of combined resonance of components inside BA drivers or enclosed behind the diaphragm. The second peak (15k Hz) is the combined resonance of diaphragm, membrane and other external components. The elevated bump around 60hz is contributed by the dynamic driver.



    The graph shows how a filter performs in relation to another. The manual claimed a 4 db (+2db to -2db) difference between blue and red filters and about 2db difference between each filter and that is about right. My test result sorta correlates with the data but mine shows close to 6db difference between blue and red filters. The bass remained the same for every filter used.

    Blue Filter

    I don’t like piercing sound so blue filter is not what I would go for. I have tried it once or twice but I prefer the other filters.

    Black Filter

    Black filter is the most balanced in my opinion and that is probably why it came attached to the earphone as the default filter. 2db is not a huge change in sound so depending on your source, if you have a bass-inclined player, you can compensate that with a colder filter or vice versa.

    Gray Filter

    As mentioned, I mostly alternates between the gray and black filters. Gray filter is what I use most of the time because they are quite balanced and it gives me the sound for easy listening.

    Red Filter

    Red filter has a suppressed high and it cuts away some of the details in the highs.




    New Filters

    I read that Lao Zhong collected some inputs from LZ-A5 users and recently released a revised set of filters (in the same blue, black, gray and red color). I have not tested those new filters so I am not sure how good they are. I have read that the new filters rounded off the edginess in the high but I have also seen frequency measurements showing identical readings to the existing filters. I will come back and update this review once I try and test out those new filters.


    Soundstage/ Sound Isolation

    LZ-A5 has the most spacious soundstage I have heard so far in the IEM category. I have yet to hear any in-ear that has the equal width and amount of separation. Even the semi-open Philips Fidelio S2 pales away when it comes to soundstage.

    I usually don’t use in-ear-monitors for movies but that changed with LZ-A5. I recently finished a movie in a cafe using LZ-A5. In the midst of watching the movie, I turned around and was surprised to see someone talking on the phone. I was only aware of him when I saw him. The noise isolation of LZ-A5 is quite incredible for a universal in-ear monitor (UIEM).



    Source

    You do not have to feed LZ-A5 with an amplifier as that is unnecessary to unleash its full potential. In fact, instead of having LZ-A5 amplified, it can actually benefit from clean sources.

    I have tried it with a few sources and noticed that it does not pair well with some of my players or amplifiers (usually those with very high output impedance). Also, LZ-A5 is quite a hiss magnet, so be warned!


    Conclusion:

    All in all, LZ-A5 offers a mid to top-tier sound at a relatively affordable price tag. LZ-A5 is setting the bar high for the affordable multiple drivers CIEM category. I would highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys clear and detailed sound.

    LZ-A5 is an amazing and ambitious product from Lao Zhong. For those looking for vivid sounding earphones, you will have a hard time finding something better for around 270 bucks. The possibility to customize the sound is really the icing on the cake.

    The only disappointment I have with LZ-A5 so far is probably the annoying cable that I gave up using. All in all, LZ-A5 deserves a 5 out 5 despite having a major (but remediable) flaw.
      rayliam80 and volly like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. theoutsider
      Thanks for reading my review :)
      theoutsider, Jun 23, 2018
    3. sect44
      These IEMs are fantastic for the price. Built like a tank, full, detailed and engaging sound. 5 stars well deserved. It puts to shame much more expensive IEMs I have listened recently.
      sect44, Jun 25, 2018
      theoutsider likes this.
    4. theoutsider
      I agree with you fully but the cable is such a turnoff.
      theoutsider, Jun 26, 2018
  4. B9Scrambler
    LZ A5: The Power of Dreams
    Written by B9Scrambler
    Published Jun 11, 2018
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Comfortable, ergonomic shells - Deep, well textured bass - Outstanding clarity
    Cons - Pink Honda logo - Memory wire - Improved filters, but still lacking a bit in variety
    Greetings Head-fi!

    LZ is a brand that rapidly gained traction in the hifi community a couple years back with the A2 hybrid, releasing it before the boom of budget hybrids we are currently experiencing. It came along and offered up a high quality sound in an attractively priced package. Then along came the Z03A, A3, and the revamped A2S, none of which made quite the splash the A2 did. Last year we saw the release of the A4 which included an extensive filter system and a refined sound that gave the venerable FLC 8S a run for it's money, all while retaining a fair price point. It was another big hit with the community.

    Now we have the A5 which takes on a tried and tested, low profile design in the spirit of the Shure SE846. It too features a tuning system, but this time relegated only to the nozzle resulting in four tuning options down from the 18 possible combinations on the A4. Inside the A5's aluminum shells, LZ moved from the 2+1 hybrid configuration of the A4 to a 4+1 hybrid configuration with a single dynamic driver and four balanced armatures, per side.

    I've had the A5 since January 19th, 2018 and as such have spent quite a bit of time with both their original filters, and the newly tuned filters that I purchased off Ebay and have been using since April 12th, 2018. I'll admit that with the original filters, I was not a huge fan of the A5 finding it harsh and abrasive in the treble with only the red and gray filters offering acceptable to positive listening experiences. The new filters vastly improved the A5 for me, and made moving forward with this review a much more positive endeavor. Whereas before I would have advised to pass on the A5, now I can confidently recommend them to someone that enjoys an extremely detailed, v-shaped signature.

    Since the re-tuned filters have become standard issue with the A5, they are what the following writings will be based around. Let's go!

    Disclaimer:

    Thanks to @peter123 for assisting with the arrangements of a review sample of the A5 through LZ directly. Thanks to LZ for trusting me to review your product. My apologies for the tardiness in competing and releasing this review, however, I think you'll agree the extra time and personal purchase of the updated filters was wise. All the thoughts within are my own and do not represent LZ or any other entity. While there was no financial incentive provided for writing this piece, it is my understanding that the A5 does not need to be returned following the completion of this review.

    At the time of this review the A5 retailed for 269 USD and could be picked from any number of retailers online, and maybe even locally depending on your location.

    I purchased the new filter set here for 25 CAD plus shipping. Thankfully, they have lowered prices to a more reasonable 20 CAD since then; https://www.ebay.ca/itm/232745120777?ViewItem=&item=232745120777

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    Packaging and Accessories:

    The A5 arrives in a large, textured black cardboard box with only the LZ logo and 'LZ HiFi Audio' appearing on the lid in a contrasting, reflective black print. Lifting the magnetically sealed lid you're greeted to a metal tin, the same one included with the 2000 USD HiFiMan RE2000 actually. Here it has LZ branding lazer printed onto the lid. To the right of the case nestled in foam cutouts are the ear pieces and a small block of aluminum into which three of the four sets of filters are securely threaded.

    Lifting all this out you find the MMCX equipped cable, a QC card, and a manual. Inside the case are the extra ear tips. In all you get:
    • LZ A5 earphones
    • MMCX cable
    • Sony-hybrid style ear tips (s/m/l)
    • 1 pair of medium blue foam tips
    • 4 pairs of acoustic filters in grey, red, black, and blue colors (black is preinstalled)
    It's a fairly basic package, especially for something at this price, but the case is nice and the tips are top quality. Some additional tip variety, such as foams in various sizes, wide bore silicone tips, multi-flange tips would have been welcome.

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    Build, Comfort, and Isolation:

    While it does nothing new or spectacular, the A5 is well constructed. The aluminum shells are uniformly painted black with each part well machined and put together with attention and care. The pink winged logo, currently used by the Honda brand that was established 70 years ago, is cut neatly into the exterior of the shell. The threading for the nozzle filters is well machined too, both on the ear pieces and the nozzles themselves, allowing them to screw in without any binding or hassle. The MMCX ports lay flush with the housing and the cable clips into place with a visceral snap. Once in place, the cable can swivel freely, but isn't so loose as to cause concern.

    Given the common grape-like shape and medium sizing, the A5 sits perfectly in the outer ear. The rounded edges are smooth and free of any sharp or edgy bits. The nozzle sticks out at an angle of around 60 degrees which for my ear feels very natural. This is one of those few earphones that you can just slip into your ear and forget, or it would be were it not for the cable.

    The cloth cable is one of the better ones I've come across in terms of material and build. It is quite thick with a fairly tight weave, but even after only a month of use was starting to show signs of mild fraying at common bend points. Microphonics are well-managed for a cloth cable, but still not to up par with cables using more traditional sheaths and as a result, up goes the chin cinch to compensate. Memory is non-existent, and tangle resistance is impressive. The jack is an excellent 90 degree angled unit that fits well in device cases and has extremely effective strain relief. It's quite reminiscent of the jacks Dunu attaches to many of their products. The y-split is a nicely machined metal unit with excellent strain relief leading into the bottom portion. The top section slips away to reveal the aforementioned chin cinch.

    Further up we run into some issues; memory wire and plug length. The memory wire itself is okay. It holds shape better than that used by some brands like FLC and Campfire Audio, but still falls behind the excellent memory wire budget brands like Knowledge Zenith provide. The plugs themselves are unusually long, and as a result I found I couldn't bend the memory wire far enough back to have it tightly wrap around my ear. This leaves the A5 feeling less secure than it should.

    Isolation is pretty average and should be fine for most activities. The back of the housing has a single large vent that seems to let in a fair bit of noise. Throwing on the included foam tips helps a lot and are recommend for use in situations where high levels of isolation are required.

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    Specifications:
    • Drivers: 1 dynamic and 4 balanced armature, per side
    • Sensitivity: 105dB
    • Impedance: 16ohms
    • Frequency Range: 8-36,000Hz
    • Total Harmonic Distortion: <0.2%
    • Rated Power: 5mW
    • Cable Length: 120cm
    Sound:

    Tips: I personally really enjoyed the A5 with both the stock silicone and foam tips, with my preference leaning towards the medium silicones due to convenience and comfort. I found wide bore tips accentuated the already prominent treble more than I liked given the signature balance of the A5 is already quite v-shaped.

    The A5 comes with four sets of filters. I recommend visiting this post (https://www.head-fi.org/threads/lz-a5.867896/page-71#post-14245866) on the A5 for measurements from a reliable source, Brooko.

    As mentioned in the intro, the new filters reinvigorated my enjoyment of the A5. While only the grey filter shows any significant departure from the tuning of the original filters, I found all made the sound less edgy and abrasive, especially the blue filters which apparently measured nigh identically to the originals. Whether it's a placebo or not I don't know, but I've spent six months with the A5 flipping between both sets of filters and that's still how I feel about them.

    Red, the most mellow of the options, is my preferred filter. The others leave low end emphasis alone and start shifting up middle and upper mid-range emphasis around 1K with gray being the least emphasized, blue the most, and black falling in between. Minimal added emphasis of a few dB over the red filters is evident and carries through from around 4K with all four filters falling back into line from around 11K on. What does that translate into in terms of actual listening time? A vibrant, v-shaped signature with massive sub-bass, lean but clear mids, and brightly emphasized treble that is full of energy, building additional presence as you work your way through the filter set.

    Despite being someone that's not particularly sensitive to treble quantity and sharp peaks, blue and black are a little too intense for me and get tiring after a while. These two give the greatest impression of sound stage and spacing between notes and effects as result of their upper peak around 7K and the slight mid-range lift. The gray filters sit in a good place being bright but not quite as aggressive as the black and blue filters. They don't sacrifice the vocal presence and sound stage of the others unlike the red filters which still feel spacious, but slightly more intimate. This is most notable when running through BT's experimental album, “If The Stars Are Eternal Than So Are You and I”. The red filter gives the mid-range the most warmth and body which is one of the reasons I prefer it over the others. The boosted emphasis really seems to thin it out with the other filters. While this does a great job of putting focus on and showing off the impressive detail and clarity of the A5, it also takes away from the realism. The red filter simply sounds more natural to my ears letting me listen to the music, and not the earphone.

    The balance of the red filters also helps out the low end to my ears, letting the A5's somewhat reserved mid-bass stand up and share presence with the sub-bass. The A5's low end is skewed towards sub-regions, a lot like the NarMoo S1, but without the gaping hole in the mid- and upper-bass that model suffers from. To my ears, the grey, black, and blue filters seem to shift focus so that the extra sub-bass really stands out, almost too much at times. I love boosted sub-bass, but it needs to be balanced appropriately which I don't think is the case on the black and blue filters, improved to a lesser extent with the grays.

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    Select Comparisons: Volume matching completed using Dayton Audio iMM-6

    Accutone Gemini HD: The single dynamic driver equipped Gemini HD, like the A5, features a simple nozzle-based swappable filter system with three options; bass, balanced, clear. Where the A5 focuses on mids and treble, the Gemini's focuses on bass. For this comparison the A5 is equipped with red filters while the Gemini is equipped with it's blue 'clear' filters which tone down the bass considerably.

    The Gemini has a warmer, thicker presentation than the A5. Emphasis in the presence region allows it to compete with the A5 on sound stage and general airyness, despite being less emphasized overall in the treble. The A5's multi-driver setup helps greatly with layering and separation, with instruments and notes playing in more well-defined spaces. The A5's balanced armatures also give it a major edge in precision and detail up top, with a snappier decay that helps with congested tracks. The Gemini's mid-range is more prominent with greater note thickness. I find this gives vocals more presence in instances where they are set a little too far behind on the A5 such as on the Big Grams duo tracks, “Born to Shine” and “Run For Your Life”. While the A5 is ahead in micro-detail, the overall presentation comes across too lean to give guitars and other instruments appropriate heft. Leading into the low end the Gemini shows greater balance between mid- and sub-bass emphasis. It's not as quick or controlled as the A5 though, nor does it display the same impact and visceral depth that makes the A5's bass so juicy.

    In terms of build they go punch for punch. The Gemini's housings seem to be a mix of aluminum and steel and lean heavily towards style over function when compared to the A5. They're comfortable, but the wide, flat face the nozzles screw into has a habit of touching your ear and causing hot spots. Not an issue with the A5 whatsoever. The nozzles are similar in quality and both are very well-machined, though Accutone's seem more complicated. In addition to the varied filter materials, they have additional insert and vent holes that allow them to alter the Gemini's sound with more variety than what you get out of the A5. Still, like the A5's filter set they're not perfect and could use something that dials down the low end even more. In terms of cables they're both hit and miss. The Gemini's cable is a more traditional rubber coated affair with some great qualities. It is extremely flexible, transmits very little noise from movement, and has next to no memory. On the negative side, it's thin and comes across a bit fragile, it is fixed in place, and strain relief is non-existent. The MMCX connectors are also proprietary, unlike the A5.

    Dunu Titan 1: The A5 with the red filters installed I would say is a near direct upgrade sonically. Tonally they are exceptionally similar. The Titan's mids are slightly more forward and have more body to them, but bass doesn't extend as well. The A5's sound stage has more depth with improved layering and separation, and in general it just sounds smoother and more refined than the Titan 1. In terms of build I personally think the Titan is more impressive. It's cloth cable has held up surprisingly well in the two and half or so years I've owned it, fraying less than the A5's cable has in 6 months. It's design is a little more flexible with fit too, though you need to swap channels for over ear wear, a no go for many. Isolation is also worse than on the A5 given the extreme ventilation.

    The Titan 1 is probably nearing classic status at this point being that it's over three years old, an eternity with the speed at which new products are released nowadays. That said, comparing it to a new earphone, and a good five driver hybrid at that, show it's still very capable and worth checking out. Unless you already own one, or course, and want to upgrade. In that case, check out the A5.

    FLC 8S: The FLC 8S has 36 tuning combinations to the A5's four. It's a somewhat fiddly system though with many tiny pieces. Heck, FLC includes a set of tweezers to help out with the process. The FLC is much more customizable as a result, though even with this flexibility I couldn't get it and the A5 to line up in signature. The A5 is simply too bassy and mid-range set back, so we'll go through technicals instead.

    The 8S has a larger sound stage and immediately sets you a ways from the stage, so to speak. The A5 has a closer, more intimate feel yet I found it to offer a greater sense of depth. I found the two more or less comparable in terms of pulling detail with the A5 stepping slightly ahead in terms of clarity. It's note presentation is better formed and tighter knit compared to the FLC which feels a touch looser. The FLC's drivers come across lighter and more nimble to my ears with a more snappy decay. This is especially notable in the low end where the A5's bass notes linger. Still despite the big bass of the A5 and the comparatively anemic low end of the FLC, both are equally articulate when it comes to congested tracks. In terms of tone, the A5 with it's touch of added warmth comes across the more natural sounding product to me, at least in mids and the low end. Up in the treble regions it is too polished and shimmery. It sounds good, but not as accurate as the FLC.

    In terms of build the FLC looks and feels like the more premium product it is, to me at least. The stock braided cable is stiffer and noisier and free of memory wire which allows me to get a perfect fit, something I can't say about the A5 with it's stock cable. The housings are plastic but are finished in a way that makes them look and feel like aluminum, and they don't have someone else's logo tacked on. They're tiny too, betraying the fact that there are three drivers crammed inside in a hybrid configuration; one DD, two BAs. In the A5's favour the FLC's 2-pin system isn't nearly as universal making it tough to find replacement cables. Don't even get me started on the packaging and accessories which are much more interesting and plentiful than the A5's basic kit.

    Suggestions for Improvement:
    1. More filter variety: While the new set is an improvement over the original, something with treble and mid-range presence between red and grey would be welcome. It would also be nice if there was a set that focused on toning down the abundant low end.

    2. Ditch the memory wire. Once this review is up, the stock cable is going back in the box and a third party cable is taking it's place, one that is either free of memory, contains a more malliable wire, or utilizes pre-formed ear guides. I haven't decided yet.

    3. LZ, you already have a logo. You don't need to use Honda's.
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    Final Thoughts:

    It's probably safe to say at this point that the A5 is unlikely to gain traction with fans of the brand quite to the extent of the A4 before it. I'd attribute this to lack of tuning variety compared to their previous model, the tuning of the original filters being quite redundant, and the decision to go with a more traditional shell design that is nowhere near as unique and interesting as the A4 or A3.

    Looking past that, the A5 has proven itself a solid product in my half a year with it. I love the metal case, the Sony-style tips, and the outstanding comfort of the shells. The detail and clarity it outputs is impressive and in line with what would be expected from the price range. The low end is big and boisterous with amazing sub-bass extension, yet the mid-range retains fantastic coherence and prominence. It's imaging and layering qualities are standouts too, giving the A5 an engaging presence with media outside of music.

    Had the A5 gone through some additional stages of refinement prior to release, avoiding the need to backtrack and revise the tuning filters, I truly think LZ would have had another hit on their hands. As is, the A5 makes for a fun listen and with the new filter set I think it's definitely worth checking out if you value earphones with technically adept, v-shaped signatures.

    Thanks for reading.

    - B9Scrambler

    ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

    Some Test Material:

    Aesop Rock - Skelethon (Album)
    Daft Punk - Random Access Memories (Album)
    Elton John - Yellow Golden Brick Road (Album)
    King Crimson - Lark's Tongues in Aspic (Album)
    King Crimson - Starless and Bible Black (Track)
    Supertramp - Crime of the Century (Album)
    Infected Mushroom - Converting Vegetarians (Album)
    Infected Mushroom - Legend of the Black Shawarma (Album)
    Gorillaz - Plastic Beach (Album)
    Massive Attack - Mezzanine (Album)
    Fleetwood Mac - Rumors (Album)
    Run the Jewels - Run the Jewels (Album)
    The Prodigy - The Day is My Enemy (Album)
    Tobacco - F****d Up Friends (Album)
    Felt - Felt 2 (A Tribute to Lisa Bone) (Album)
      DocHoliday, peter123 and sect44 like this.
    1. DocHoliday
      Great review with zero fluff.

      The following really resonated with me:

      .....agreed, those pink Honda wings are almost comical. They should've just gone all the way and colored them "Gold" (see what I did there, hehe)
      DocHoliday, Jun 13, 2018
      B9Scrambler likes this.
    2. fahadj2003
      have you tried a balanced cable with good conductivity?
      i remember flc8s really opening up with their single crystal cable, in terms of frequency range and note isolation, esp in the sub bass spectrum
      fahadj2003, Jun 28, 2018
  5. HiFiChris
    Honda
    Written by HiFiChris
    Published Feb 5, 2018
    3.5/5,
    Pros - •strong but well-made sub- and midbass implementation
    •bass among the faster sort for hybrid IEM standards; good bass control
    •resolution and separation in general
    •convincing soundstage
    •clever rear cavity vent hole placement
    •surprisingly good (better than average) isolation for vented in-ears
    Cons - •meh cable
    •build quality should be better at this price point (glue residue at and around seam)
    •unrealistic, sizzling upper treble (cymbals) regardless of tuning filters
    •additional filters for an upper midrange presentation between the four included sets would be nice
    Vorwort:

    Auch wenn es die Grafik auf der Gehäuse-Außenseite der In-Ears nahelegt: nein, der hier rezensierte Ohrkanalhörer wird nicht von Hondas Motorrad-Abteilung gefertigt und vertrieben, sondern stammt vom asiatischen Hersteller LZ Audio.

    Der hybride Penta-Driver mit vier Balanced Armature und einem dynamischen Treiber je Seite besitzt zudem akustische Filter, mit denen sich die Hochton-Menge je nach eigenem Gusto anpassen lässt – das ist zwar nicht neu, jedoch eine sehr nette Zugabe.
    Wie der In-Ear klingt und ob er technisch überzeugt, klärt diese englischsprachige Rezension.


    Introduction:

    LZ Audio is an Asian in-ear manufacturer that offers hybrid in-ears as well as one multi-BA in-ear monitor. All of them have the key feature that their sound signature is adjustable (either through acoustic filters or switches that change the crossover configuration) – which on its own is definitely nothing new and was already done by various manufacturers, with FLC offering their FLC8S with a whopping number of 36 possible filter combinations, but is nice to see since it allows the customer to fine-tune the sound to their personal preference.

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    Their most recent creation is the LZ A5, an in-ear that, as the name already implies, houses five drivers per side, of which one is a dynamic driver, and the other four are Balanced Armature drivers, that are arranged in a traditional three-way configuration with the dynamic driver being responsible for the bass reproduction and the BAs for the mids and highs.
    Included are also four pairs of nozzle filters that let you adjust and fine-tune the treble response depending on your personal preference.
    And the artwork that can be found strongly resembles Honda’s motorbike logo – which was probably the main reason that got me into accepting the request to review the in-ear when that message landed in my message inbox (thank you for the invitation/recommendation, Peter!).

    So without further ado, let’s see how the LZ A5 sounds and performs.


    Full disclosure:
    I was invited to review the LZ A5 hybrid in-ear and accepted the enquiry. I was then sent the A5 at no cost. As always, no directions/restrictions were given for the review, no matter how it would turn out, and I treated the in-ear just as fairly as any of my large arsenal of personally purchased audio products.


    Technical Specifications:

    MSRP: $269
    Type: In-Ear, Hybrid
    Drivers per Side: 5 (4x BA, 1x DD)
    Sensitivity: 105 dB (+/- 1 dB)
    Impedance: 16 Ohms
    THD: < 0.2%
    Frequency Range: 8 Hz – 36 kHz


    About hybrid In-Ears:

    As you can already see from the technical specifications and introduction, the LZ A5 is a little different from most In-Ears produced in the past decade and doesn’t only rely on dynamic or Balanced Armature transducers for sound reproduction, but combines both in one shell.

    Most In-Ears use dynamic transducers for audio playback which have the advantage of covering the whole audible spectrum and achieving a strong bass emphasis without much effort. Valuable dynamic drivers are often said to have a more bodied and musical bass that has a more soft impact and decay and lacks of the analytical character that BA transducers are known for. On the downside, in contrast to headphones with other driver principles, dynamic transducers often have a lower resolution.

    Higher-priced and especially professional IEMs mostly use Balanced Armature transducers, which usually have got a higher resolution than dynamic drivers, are faster, more precise and have got the better high-level stability, which is important for stage musicians that often require higher than average listening levels. On the downside, it is usually somewhat difficult (although not impossible) to cover the whole audible spectrum with just one single BA transducer, and a strongly emphasised bass is often only possible with multiple or big drivers. Some people also find In-Ears with BA transducers to sound too analytical, clinical or cold (in several active years in a German audio community where I wrote multiple reviews, gave dozens of purchase advice and help, from time to time I heard people that got into BA earphones for the first time using these attributes for describing BA earphones, especially their lower frequencies).

    Hybrid IEMs unite the positive aspects of both driver principles and use one dynamic transducer for the lows reproduction and at least one BA driver for covering the midrange and highs, wherefore the often as “musical” described bass character remains and the BA transducers add resolution, speed and precision to the mids and highs (, at least in theory) – and that’s what the LZ A5 does with its technology. It is addressed to those people who perceive the clinically-fast character of BA transducers as unnatural and prefer body and weight, but want to keep the mids’ and highs’ resolution, nimbleness and precision.


    Delivery Content:

    The cardboard box with magnetically closed lid is rather plain and something one will rather find delivered with lower-tier in-ear models and I would have definitely liked to see a printed, colourful sleeve around it, but the cardboard box does its job of containing the included accessories which are:

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    The in-ear, a Velcro cable tie, the cable, three pairs of Sony Hybrid-like silicone tips, one pair of foam tips, a metal carrying tin, and last but not least a threaded aluminium block to hold the tuning nozzles (four pairs come included).


    Looks, Feels, Build Quality:

    If you expect build quality on RHA T20-level, you might be somewhat disappointed – the LZ A5 just doesn’t fully feel like a >$200 product, to which the glue residue around the shells’ seam on the in-ear I received contributes, just as the cable that does its job fine and is flexible, but doesn’t appear like a premium accessory either due to its woven nylon-/cloth-like coating that is something that some people seem to like but isn’t very practical as it is likely to fray overtime and will absorb (body) fluids.

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    On the other hand, the threads seem to be nicely and precisely cut, which isn’t only true for the in-ear’s shells but also the very nice and deburred aluminium block they sit in. In addition, the MMCX connectors fit conveniently tight without swivelling unintentionally, and strain relief as well as the chin-slider on the cable are good.

    On the shells, for whatever reason, it seems like LZ Audio decided to put on an engraved, reddish pink Honda logo. Upon closer inspection, one can see that the logo wasn’t just simply engraved and painted, but that there is a very fine line pattern on each “wing”, which looks really nice.

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    What I really appreciate about the in-ear is the vent placement – the in-ear shells don’t have any front cavity venting for the dynamic driver woofer (it is therefore safe to assume that the A5 will have an elevated, rather prominent sub-bass with good extension as a result of no front cavity vent due to the nature of how the tuning of dynamic driver in-ears’ bass output works), and instead of placing the rear cavity vent on the inside where it is likely to get blocked (which would usually result in a midbass and warmth decrease), they smartly placed it at the back.


    Comfort, Isolation:

    The shells that are made of metal, ergonomically shaped and appear rather similar to Shure’s and RHA’s models when it comes to ergonomics and fit. Most people should therefor get a very good, comfortable fit, which is also true for me with my large ears.

    The cable has got memory wire ear guides and a chin-slider. Microphonics are still a bit present due to the cloth coating that also continues above the y-splitter, however it is kept at still rather reasonably low levels due to the over-ear cable fit.

    DSC05076-small.JPG

    Passive exterior noise isolation is surprisingly strong and higher than average, and just shy of fully closed in-ears.


    Sound:

    My main sources for listening were the iBasso DX200 (AMP1 module) as well as Cowon Plenue 2.

    I only used the largest included silicone tips for listening and comparisons.

    Frequency response measurements of all nozzle filters can be found here: […]

    The measurements were performed with my Vibro Labs Veritas coupler.
    Below is the information about the measurements with that coupler:

    Please note that my measurements weren't recorded with professional equipment but with my Vibro Veritas coupler that was pseudo-calibrated to more or less match a real IEC 711 coupler’s response with applied diffuse-field target, hence the results shouldn’t be regarded as absolute values but rather as a rough visualisation.
    Especially at 3, 6 and 9 kHz, there are sometimes greater deviations from professional plots – but for a general, rough comparison between various in-ears and a rough idea of how they sound, the results are sufficient, and in the mids and lows, they are even (very) accurate.

    FR nozzles.jpg
    FR nozzles (graph colour = nozzle colour)


    vs others.jpg

    Tonality:

    The order, from dark to bright, is red > grey > black (standard) > blue. Before describing the effect of the filters that allegedly work between 3 and 10 kHz within -2 to +2 dB changes (in reality it is much more, at least at 3 kHz), I will talk about the bass, root, lower midrange and central midrange since those areas aren’t affected by the filters.

    DSC05072-small.JPG

    Bass implementation is done really well on the A5 – just as assumed, the sub-bass is elevated and quite prominent, and the whole bottom-end presentation is rather centred around the sub-bass with a gradual increase from the lower root towards the sub-bass where we have the comparatively greatest elevation.
    The bass elevation begins to climb reasonably low around 500 Hz and peaks way down low around 40 Hz, the real sub-bass, with a strong elevation of ca. 13 dB compared to an in-ear that is diffuse-field flat in the bass, such as the Etymotic ER4SR/S. Therefore you don’t get an unnaturally thick or warm lower midrange or bleed into the root but a very clean elevation that commendably stays out of the mids and fundamental range.
    The lower midbass is on the strong side as well, with the upper bass already having audibly less quantity wherefore it isn’t intrusive or hammering but takes a step back compared to the lower midbass and sub-bass that really are the star of the show.
    So despite being anything but shy, the bass doesn’t appear out of place since it mainly concentrates on the low bass. Well done.

    The central and lower mids are quite linear and neutral. Starting from the central mids and mainly concerning the upper mids however, we will see some strong differences between the various filters.
    While the grey and red ones only have a mild, tendentially neutral upper midrange lift towards 3 kHz and sound quite realistic with just a touch of presence range lift and upper midrange brightness, the black and blue nozzles show a really strong and bright upper midrange elevation that gives the impression of fantastic perceived clarity and openness, however at the cost of realism and a correct midrange timbre.
    All filters take a slight step back around 4 and 5 kHz, just to come back to roughly neutral levels around 6 kHz (the black and blue ones more than the red and grey ones), with a narrow peak shortly before 8 kHz (it is not as strong on the grey and red nozzles and a bit stronger on the blue and black ones, I guess even almost bordering sharpness for most people with the latter two nozzles), and some other peaks around 12 and 14 kHz in the super treble.

    Generally the differences between the grey and red respectively black and blue nozzles are rather small, with the red ones being a tad “darker” than the grey ones, and the blue ones a tad brighter and sharper than the black ones.

    - - -

    The bass, while powerful, is nicely integrated into the sound and doesn’t bleed into the root or midrange that is rather neutral and has got just a natural, very mild upper midrange lift with the grey and red nozzles.
    The mids, with the grey nozzles, can be characterised as rather neutral, with a correct timbre, and just a touch of presence range elevation.
    The highs are absolutely fine up to 7.x kHz. Above that however, even though it is the upper treble and super treble we are talking about, they are somewhat too uneven, resulting in sizzling cymbals that lack realism and appear rather unpleasant. So as long as there are no cymbals on the recording, timbre and realism are very good (using the red or grey nozzles). But when they kick in, cymbals lack some realism and sizzle too much, which is an unfortunate thing.

    - - -

    From now on and for the comparison, the grey nozzles were used.

    Resolution:

    The LZ A5 is probably very close to the idea of hybrid in-ear perfection some people have when it comes to technical ability – if you don’t like the (rather typically, but definitely not always) “clinically fast, tight Balanced Armature bass character” but don’t want a soft or muddy dynamic driver bass response, the A5 provides an excellent compromise: it delivers very high levels of control and no midrange interference, however it has got a some of that dynamic driver body that people seem to like, albeit without muddiness or appearing slow. It just has the right amount of attack and decay to sound what is often characterised as “natural”, yet it is basically actually on the tighter and faster side for dynamic driver standards, especially for having a powerful lower midrange and sub-bass elevation.

    The mids convince with high levels of speech intelligibility as well as micro detail retrieval, and the distribution of the resolution appears even.

    What is quite noticeable is that the LZ A5 is an in-ear with clean and precise note separation capabilities. This doesn’t fully help with the cymbals though that sizzle just somewhat too much and appear tendentially spread than to the point as a result of the tonal tuning.

    Soundstage:

    When it comes to soundstage, the A5 delivers a rather believable and realistic imaginary room that is tendentially more circular than oval and quite precise in terms of imaging.

    To the sides, the soundstage is larger than average and leaves the base between my ears to some degree, with spatial depth that is about 75 to 80% as pronounced as the width.
    Note separation between single instruments remains fairly clean even with busier recordings, and the staging and layering capabilities are quite convincing as well.

    ---------

    In Comparison with the
    iBasso IT03:

    The accessories, presentation, build quality and cable are of clearly higher quality on the IT03.
    Comfort and fit are quite similar and will ultimately depend on one’s individual ear anatomy, however since the IT03’s shells are made of plastic they won’t feel as cold as the LZ’s. Both in-ears isolate very well and better than average for vented in-ears (the IT03 even slightly more so).

    The A5 has actually got the somewhat stronger sub-bass and lower midbass lift, however the difference isn’t as apparent when listening to music since both in-ears have got more of a sub- and midbass than warmth-driven bass elevation and since the iBasso is slightly “fuller” in the lower mids and root in comparison to the LZ Audio in-ear.
    Upper mids are a touch brighter on the iBasso while midrange timbre heads into a comparable direction with a bit of upper midrange and presence range lift.
    In the middle highs around 5 kHz, it is the LZ that is a bit more relaxed in comparison.
    While the iBasso only has one upper treble cymbal-highlighting peak, the LZ features several more upper and super treble peaks above its ~ 8 kHz peak (that is a bit more pronounced than the iBasso’s). As a result, cymbal crashes sizzle much more on the A5 and are sharper and more unpleasant in comparison, as well as less realistic or to the point.

    In terms of bass speed and tightness, the IT03 is one of the best hybrid in-ears. The A5 comes close but has got a bit more body. The iBasso has got the higher control in the sub-bass in comparison though, while the A5 has got just a slight edge over it when it comes to bass details.
    Switching back and forth, the iBasso has got a slight advantage when it comes to midrange details. Both are really good here though and the difference is just minor.
    Finding a difference in terms of treble details is difficult – ultimately I would say the A5 is slightly superior, however the IT03 sounds better focused with cymbals due to its much less uneven upper and super treble response.
    Lastly, when it is about note separation, the A5 is ultimately slightly above the IT03 with fast and busy recordings.

    Both in-ears have got comparable soundstage width (the A5’s is just a little wider) while the A5 portrays more spatial depth. Separation is ultimately slightly higher on the A5.


    Conclusion:

    On the technical level, the LZ A5 is a convincing in-ear. The same goes for its tuning from the sub-bass to the central mids, with a powerful sub- and lower midbass and relatively neutral lower and central midrange.
    The black and blue tuning filters might be a bit debatable with a probably too strong upper midrange boost for some peoples’ tastes (although those two filters add loads of perceived clarity and air), and it would be nice to have some filters with a midrange tuning that is in-between those two filters’ bright and lean upper midrange and the other two filters’ tendentially neutral, just slightly elevated upper midrange response.

    DSC05075-small.JPG

    Not so nice is however the upper treble response (especially concerning cymbals) that should be more even and linear, since as it is now, cymbal crashes sizzle and sound artificially spread and thinned out, to the degree of becoming unnatural and unpleasant, which is a shame given that the rest of the sound spectrum is implemented rather well. At this price point, we can already expect better in the upper highs, and other models and manufacturers prove that a bright upper treble tuning doesn’t have to result in an unpleasant or unnatural tonality in the highs.
    There is also some room left when it comes to build quality (glue residue around the housings’ seem), the accessories (probably more ear tips, and especially a different cable as the one that comes included looks quite cheap and is a bit more microphonic than others) and the presentation (maybe a printed sleeve around the plain black cardboard box).
      mgunin, duyu, Holypal and 1 other person like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. HiFiChris
      [...]
      It's not the upper treble's brightness per se that I see as a flaw (it really isn't) and that it therefore naturally highlights cymbals (which alone is no problem at all), but it's that the ~12 and ~14 kHz peaks I hear on a sine generator make for example cymbals appear more spread and sizzling than to the point because their overtones and decay are highlighted. [...]
      HiFiChris, Feb 6, 2018
    3. HiFiChris
      [...] Applying negative gain with narrow Q to those two peaks makes the presentation appear fine. >10 kHz super treble extension with a more linear (flatter) behaviour would be the way to go for a fully convincing upper treble presentation.
      HiFiChris, Feb 6, 2018
    4. Brooko
      Chris - I tried it tonight. I still don't get the same overall issues you have, but you were right - cutting 12 kHz with a narrow Q (I went -5 dB) does help with the overall "air" and allows better decay. Thanks!
      Brooko, Feb 8, 2018
  6. audio123
    LZ A5 - Versatile Rendition
    Written by audio123
    Published Feb 5, 2018
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Details, Sub-Bass, Versatile
    Cons - Slightly Bright Treble
    Introduction

    LZ is a Chinese company that specializes in in-ear monitors (IEMs). They have a variety of iems from their entry level A2S to the flagship Big Dipper. I would like to thank LZ and Penon Audio for this review unit. At the moment, you can purchase the LZ A5 from https://penonaudio.com/lz-a5.html .

    [​IMG]

    Specifications

    • Driver: 1 Dynamic + 4 Balanced Armature
    • Sensitivity: 105±dB
    • Impedance: 16Ω
    • Frequency range: 8-36000Hz THD
    • Total harmonic distortion: <0.2%
    • Rated power: 5mW
    Unboxing & Accessories

    The LZ A5 comes in a black package with the brand logo and name printed on it. After opening the package, there are the iem, hard case and filters. The case has a circular shape with the brand logo printed on it. It contains a pack of tips. There are 4 pairs of filters with 1 pair installed on the iem already. The installed filters are black in colour and the other filters are blue, grey and red. At the bottom of the package, there are the cable, warranty card and quality control card.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    IEM Build & Design

    The A5 is made of metal and there is a smooth surface to it. On the faceplate of each side, there is a winglike logo. The logo is purple in color. The shell has a matte black color. Near the MMCX socket of each side, there are L & R markings on the left and right side respectively. The nozzle can be unscrewed and changed with other filters. It is slightly angled. There is metal mesh for earwax prevention. There is a vent at the back of the iem. The A5 has a nice ergonomic design. I find the fit to be good as the A5 sits in my ears comfortably. It is constructed well.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

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    Cable Build & Design

    The cable is sleeved and it utilizes MMCX straight connectors. Each connector has a opaque black housing. On the connectors, there are L & R markings on the left and right side respectively. There is a memory wire section and it is enclosed in a black heat shrink tube with a metal inside to form the shape. The chin-slider is black in color with a silver stripe. The y-splitter is black in color too and the model name is printed on it. There is strain relief. The jack is 3.5mm gold plated right angled with strain relief.

    [​IMG]

    Sound Analysis

    Lows

    The A5 has good sub-bass quantity and it has a great extension to it. The sub-bass reproduction showcases a nice depth and it is able to bring impact. The impact has a moderate level without sounding too aggressive. The bass decay is fairly quick and bass texture is moderately smooth. The bass presentation has good energy which is able to bring a nice punch to the overall sound. There is great bass definition and each bass note is being presented with musicality. The mid-bass has a good quantity and each slam is delivered with slightly more authority. There is a nice visceral impact.

    Mids

    The midrange has a good level of cleanliness and there is nice transparency. It is being expressed in a bright manner. The lower mids has a moderate quantity and male vocals are done well. It is not expressed with a thick approach. The body might be lacking for some. The upper mids is forward and female vocals are presented rather well. The control is moderate. However, at times, it may sound slightly shouty. Midrange definition is fairly good.

    Treble

    The treble is extended moderately and there is no sibilance and harshness. The A5 is able to extend to a certain level of stretch. Treble articulation is rather accurate. The treble is not the most revealing and it operates in a bright approach. The amount of air rendered is fair and it is able to give space at the top end. There is a nice airy feel without feeling congested. There is sparkle and bite. At times, there are signs of aggression but it gives a nice kick to the overall sound. The details retrieval is good.

    Soundstage

    The A5 has a natural expansion and the width magnitude is great. It is sufficient with a good amount of depth which is able to render space. Positioning of vocals and instruments is fairly accurate. When tackling busier tracks, there is minimal congestion.

    [​IMG]

    Filters

    On the blue filter, upper mids are more forward and it is being expressed with more engagement, contributing to a lively performance. On the grey filter, it takes on a full-bodied approach with a tinge of warmth. On the red filter, there is a fairly balanced presentation.

    [​IMG]

    Comparisons

    LZ A5 vs Oriveti New Primacy

    The A5 has more sub-bass quantity than the New Primacy and the extension has a larger stretch. The sub-bass reproduction on the A5 is more engaging and there is a good punch, contributing to the impact. The mid-bass on the A5 has slightly more quantity than the New Primacy and the slam has a greater authority to it. The A5 has the edge in bass definition. Bass texture on the New Primacy is smoother and bass decay on the A5 is quicker with more control. The lower mids on the A5 has slightly more quantity than the New Primacy and it is able to tackle male vocals better. The upper mids on the New Primacy is slightly less forward than the A5. Female vocals sound more controlled with the New Primacy and it is able to showcase intimacy well. Emotions are conveyed more effectively. The A5 has the extra bite to inject some excitement. In terms of treble, the New Primacy has a slightly better extension with a tight control. Treble articulation on the New Primacy is more precise. It is presented smoothly on the New Primacy. I feel there is more engagement from the A5. The amount of air rendered on both is around the same. In terms of soundstage, the A5 has similar representation with a more natural expansion. The width magnitude on the A5 is slightly larger and the New Primacy has more space rendered to prevent the depth from being too close in.

    LZ A5 vs iBasso IT03

    The A5 has less sub-bass quantity than the IT03 and IT03 has the edge in terms of extension. There is more control in the IT03 sub-bass reproduction and it is expressed with authority. Bass decay on the IT03 is quicker and each bass note is being delivered with a more impactful hit. The A5 has the upper hand for the bass texture as it is more smooth. The mid-bass on the A5 has more quantity than the IT03 but the IT03 expresses its slam with extra agility. A5 takes on the slam with a weighted feel which contributes to the musicality. The lower mids on the A5 has slightly more body than the IT03 and it can express male vocals in a more full-bodied approach. The upper mids on the IT03 has extra forwardness which contributes to the female vocals. There is a good crisp and female vocals are being conveyed in a clean manner. The A5 has more body and capable of producing an organic performance. Moving on to the treble section, the IT03 is able to extend greater and the amount of air rendered is more. The airy feel from the IT03 helps to lighten the overall presentation which prevents the sound from being too dense. There is a nice sparkle from the IT03 which accentuates the treble presentation. The A5 demonstrates a good control in the treble. The IT03 excels in its width magnitude and A5 slightly wins in the depth department.

    LZ A5 vs Oriolus Forsteni

    The A5 has more sub-bass quantity than the Forsteni but the extension of the Forsteni is slightly better. The mid-bass on the A5 has more weight to it which contributes to the body and it presents itself with a soothing slam. Bass decay on the Forsteni is quicker with pace and bass texture on the A5 is smoother. The Forsteni has a higher level of bass definition but the A5 is not very far behind. The sub-bass reproduction on the A5 is engaging. The lower mids on the A5 has more body than Forsteni and male vocals do not sound dry. The upper mids on both has similar forwardness with the A5 having a more matured presentation. It is able to showcase a good control and female vocals are presented intimately with body. Forsteni has slightly more excitement. In terms of treble, the extension is pretty similar and A5 is able to express its treble with more finesse. It is able to keep the treble under control. Forsteni has slightly more crisp. The amount of air rendered on the Forsteni is more. Lastly, the stage width on the Forsteni is greater than the A5 and the depth on both has similar magnitude.

    Conclusion

    The A5 proves itself to be a competent performer and it is able to showcase its adaptability to different genres with its filter tuning options. There is a good extension on both ends. With great sub-bass reproduction, natural midrange and clean treble, it is able to deliver. The LZ A5 is a versatile hybrid iem and it is a great iem by LZ.

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    For more reviews, visit https://audio123blog.wordpress.com/ .
    1. Brooko
      Ric - I'm surprised you hear such a big difference between red and grey - both Chris's and my measurements show them practically identical in frequency response.
      Brooko, Feb 6, 2018
      serg7891 and PacoBdn like this.