LZ A5

Rating:
3.83333/5,
  1. 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 the 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. 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.

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    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.

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    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
  3. 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]

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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
      PacoBdn likes this.