Tangzu Audio Zetian Wu

AmericanSpirit

Headphoneus Supremus
Maestro of musicality “Emotional” & “Wet”
Pros:                
▶︎Inoffensive yet detailed, a maestro of tuning
▶︎Brand-new Eastern philosophy on Western Harman-target
▶︎Warm-neutral without sacrificing sound stage
▶︎One of an optimized musicality vs Technicality equilibrium theory; sophisticatedly executed. This is “Wet” vs “Dry” properly done, a “wet” touch.
▶︎4.4mm balanced cable option
▶︎One of best looking shell
▶︎TOTL tuning, needless to pay $x,xxx USD
Cons:                 
▶︎Musicality weigh 80% of Wu; technicality isn’t too much of a concern
▶︎Shallow-fit may require additional ear tips
▶︎People with 2.5kHz-2.7kHz pinna gain, may feel a tad resonance around 4-5.5kHz where Tangzu has arranged a few decibels of salt & pepper
—Wu? Who?
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—About myself
===START OF INTRODUCTION ===
—Background
Audio equipment reviewer with over 20year+ of experience in headphones/earphones/IEM/DAP, initially motivated by:
Sennheiser | AKG | Westone| Sony | Bose | JVC | JBL

—Other backgrounds

▶︎Language: Japanese (Native), English (Second), Chinese (Third), Korean (some)

▶︎Cultural Background: 30% of Life in Japan, 30% in Shanghai, China, 40% in Boston/Los Angeles/Current residence

▶︎Music Background: As I have 3 individuals (Japanese/American/Chinese) involved to my personality forming, I listen to music regardless of boundaries, from very mainstream Ed Sheeran, J-Pop, Anime/Idol songs, Music-Game OST, K-Pop, Rock/Metal, Post-Rock, Progressive, Electronica —from Mainstream EDM to IDM/ Noise/ Minimal— , Fusion, Latin, Jazz —From Dixie to Contemporary—, Classical & Neoclassical, Ethnic —Arabian, Indian, African—, Gagaku, Contemporary, to Tibetan Monk’s Mandala choir that only had 500 global replays.

—Imprinted instruments timbre
Drums (TAMA & Zildjian cymbals) | Guitar (Gibson Les Paul & Marshall Amp) | Piano (Yamaha)

—Bio
After spending a decade with full-size headphones, and home audio speakers, I shifted my main listening environment to IEM. Of which, I have over 100 personal inventories —not loaner or review units—purchased with my hobby budget

—On mobile
I enjoyed Lexus’s Mark Levinson system and moved to Mercedes AMG’s Burmester 4D System

—Affiliation
Under the penalty of perjury of the United States of America, 28 U.S.C. § 1746, I’m neither affiliated with any sellers/stores/makers nor given review samples or paid for this review.

I purchased Wu Zetian from Tangzu Official Store at my own will with my own disposable income, for purely my personal entertainment purpose.


=====END OF INTRODUCTION=====

—About Tangzu
Formerly known as T-Force with their Yuan-Li, a CNT driver single dynamic IEM offer. Now renamed as Tangzu, offering entry-class single DD, Wan’er S.G, besides another budget friendly single DD Li-Shinmin, to their first yet most influential 14.5mm planar, Wu Zetian.

—About Wu Zetian
Named after the one and the only Empress of ancient Chinese Dynasties, Wu Zetian.

A legendary ancient beauty, resurrected once again—
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—Royal & Beautiful
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The color violet —back in ancient times—was a symbol of Nobility, only high-class royals and nobles were allowed. Now we have that nobility at our door steps. Here comes Wu Zetian.

—Sound
▶︎impressive yet inoffensive, natural and organic diffusion
▶︎a slice of hints in U-shape but only few decibels away from neutral
▶︎Almost warm-neutral with slight hints in upper mid as well as treble
▶︎Sub-bass is not overly emphasized (Not L-shape), with mid-bass having a welcoming warmth.
▶︎People with 200hz sensitivity may feel it a slight “bleed” and may prefer Timeless style scooped uppper-to-mid bass,
▶︎I’m perfectly fine with this mid-bass, a matter of preference

👉Let me put it this way. Wu’s voice does not contain any “husky” or “Dry” characteristics, her voice is “wet” and full of “emotion”. Not too wet, like unpleasantly humid level, it’s slightly wet, as if you are seeing Wu veiled with small splashes of raindrops on her hair, at the bus stop next to you, on a rainy day, waiting for the last bus of the day to arrive.


—Personal Impression

Wu has a very musically talented tuning. I can see the big boss of Tangzu spending nights and nights adjusting it.

This tuning is not a random attempt, the tuning has his/her philosophy in it.

Wu has a higher level top-down comprehensive bird’s eye type “sound as a whole” presentation, just like someone creates instruments.

Tangzu big boss has a talent to that extent.

2022 is a year of good tuner…Salnotes Zero and Wu.

—What is musicality? Wu gently asks.

You should have your own answer. Wu will ask you about this question, what musicality means to you.

To me, what matters the most is not technicality, after all things considered for “enjoying/live with your favorite songs”.

Surely technicality is like big engines in a car, a sports-car, a hyper-car, it goes as fast as you put your feet on pedal.

But once you’ve done everything you could imagine with sports-car & hyper-car, you feel the suspension is way too firm for going over the speed bumps, and if you hit any potholes on road with high performance sports tire&suspension, it will be very unpleasant for sure.

To me I’m inclined for cars made for “comfort & luxury “. I know I’m not too young anymore.

You don’t need huge engines for the comfort. That exactly same thinking applies to the IEM/headphones.

It’s just a man’s change in “sound” preference .

Things are not static.

Yet still, Wu reminds me of what an emotionally appealing sound is, regardless to the degree of the technical aspects.

Don’t “Think”, “Feel” it.

Wu is tailored for your comfort and pure enjoyment over technical things.

“Gentlemen perishes, His fame does not”
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[Tang-Dynasty] Wu Zetian, "Under the Track of the Minister - Integrity
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—Tentative impression (based on my HRTF)
Overall | A+
Tonality | S+
Resolution | B+
Overall Coherence | B-

  1. Diffusion Field coherence | B
  2. Image coordinate positioning coherence | C+
  3. Image Focusing Coherence | B-
  4. Sound wave momentum & Sound Image vectoring coherence | B-
My A-rated IEMs:
Blessing 2 (84/100: A) | Blessing 2 Dusk (85/100: A) | Mangird Tea (84/100: A) | Truthear HEXA (85/100 : A) | AKG N5005 (A) | See Audio Bravery (A)

My higher than A-rated:
Timeless (A+) | Westone W80 (A+) l DUNU SA6 (S-) | Variations (S-) | Softears RSV (S-) | Monarch (S-) | MEST MKII (S) | Anole VX (S+)

—Looking more technical set for Warm-Neutral?
Here is Westone W80

—Looking for a crisp neutral IEM instead?
With all my 20year+ of passion &love for IEM, my full mark recommendation is Truthear HEXA. My review is here. If you have both HEXA and Wu Zetain, you have pretty much reached all you’ll need. “Musicality” Wu, and “Technicality” HEXA.

—Want to enjoy some exotic music with your Wu?
You may hear a faint soprano “harmony” —inside your head—from these deep Monks’ choir. One of a kind harmony technique that yet to be known to western music theory.


—Are you still here? This is the bottom.
Here is a little cheat sheet to find your endgame IEM:

-Finding gain spots (i.e. HRTF anchor point) as your shortcut to find Endgame IEM.
1️⃣
Google “online tone generator”, use Neutral reference IEM(Final E500) for testing.

2️⃣
Find your ear resonance start from sub-bass range, for me it’s 96Hz

3️⃣
Multiply lowest reaonance point (for me 96hz), you can find your upper mid pinna gain range. 96x2x2x2x2x2=3,072hz (pinna gain) x 2 =6,144hx(concha gain) x 2 = third harmonics 12,288hz
4️⃣
Your pinna gain spot, is most important resonance point, it is your personal Head-Related Transfer Function (HRTF). Seek IEM’s frequency response graph/chart, and see if the pinna gain spot of your interest coincides with your pinna gain peak spot. If matched, assess if the resonance is too strong or weak, if you have a perfect match, you will hear IEM as if you are hearing with your own ear.
5️⃣
Those recaptured gain spots, 6.1kHz and 12.3kHz dip will reduce ear resonance thus reducing fatigues but other frequency range remained clear so if will not cost huge sacrifice on total presentation.
Last edited:
AmericanSpirit
AmericanSpirit
@tubbymuc it all comes to the point;
What characteristics are you looking for the sound of those two. Wu: “Wet” voice full of emotion, or S12Pro “Dry/Husky” voice, accurate and analytical. I have timeless which belongs to “Dry/Husky” voice and now with Wu, I prefer “Wet” over “Dry”. Hope this helps for your decision making in the future.
T
tubbymuc
Thanks for the reply, but I got a bit confused with those analogy 😅
AmericanSpirit
AmericanSpirit
Ok, just take it if you like warm sound or cold sound. Warmth generally associated with amount of bass floor x volumes of bass transient (faster attack/decay will cause less volume vice versa).

SHiRaiL

New Head-Fier
Pros: Rich and natural balanced signature
Scales with power
Lightweight earpieces
Well-built soft cable
Personally love the faceplate
Large case with dedicated compartments
Cons: Large size may not fit everyone's ears well
Non-modular cable (at this price point)
Sibilance at prone tracks
Needs at least 2VRMS, not for weak sources
TangZu Zetian Wu Review : Under the Empress' Gaze

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Huge thanks for TangZu Audio for giving me an opportunity to try these out.

Disclaimer: This unit is provided to me for a set amount of time as part of a tour. Your mileage may vary.

Specifications-
Connector Type: 0.78mm 2-pin
Driver Configuration: 14.5mm Planar Driver
Frequency Range: 20Hz ~ 20kHz
Impedance: 16 ohms
Sensitivity: 100dB @ 1kHz
Price: 150$ (Linsoul)

Sources Used-
Zishan U1 ES9038Q2M
Sony NW-A55 (MrWalkman CFW)
Colorfly CDA M1

Introduction:
Planar Magnetic Drivers. A speaker tech that is commonly used in headphones and speakers, and rarely used in IEMs. In the past few years the application of planar drivers in IEMs is not popular because of factors like R&D costs, production costs, etc. One of the brands known to use this tech in their IEMs is AUDEZE. However recently we all have witnessed a boom of planar IEMs. From brands like KZ/CCA (PLA13, PR1 Standard, PR1 HIFI), MOONDROP (Stellaris), DUNU (Talos), Kinera (Gumiho), Shuoer (S12, S12 Pro), and more and upcoming planar IEMs. This time I have my hands on TangZu's first planar offering, the one and only Empress, TangZu Zetian Wu. This is my first time trying out a planar IEM, so join me as I enter a whole new world of planar IEMs.

Build Quality:
The unit provided in the tour only comes with the case, cable, and the IEM itself. Sadly I can't give any unboxing experience with this IEM.

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The case included with the Zetian Wu is by far the largest case I've ever seen. It's made of synthetic leather outside with two gold plated zippers. The leather feels generic to feel with the brand's name imprinted to it. Aside from it's large size, nothing exceptional on the outside.

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Inside the case is large as expected of the size of it. The top part is your usual inside pouch where you can store small stuff like eartips or cables. The bottom part of the case has a divider where you should slot the earpiece in and coil the cable around it. Both top and bottom part is layered with some kind of thin synthetic felt. This is to make sure that the contents of the case is protected with the divider and the felt layer.

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The earpiece is a bit bigger than your usual IEMs, given that it houses a 14.5mm Planar Driver. To my surprise, even with its size the earpieces are very light, as if it was weightless. Just the look of its faceplate alone makes it look very elegant, befitting its name. The faceplate is made out of CNC Aluminum and the housing is made of 3D Printed Resin.

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The cable is made of 5N Oxygen Free Copper (OFC) in 4.4mm Balanced plug/0.78mm pin termination. The thickness of the cable is way thicker than standard 4 Core cable. Despite its thickness, the cable itself is soft and easily manageable.

Sound Quality:
Since the unit sent to me is lacking in accessories (ear tips), I chose to use my preferred ear tips for the Zetian Wu which is JVC Spiral Dots.

In the headphone scene where planar headphones are known to require an amplifier to reach their full potential, the same can be said with planar IEMs. The Zetian Wu requires a powerful source to reach its full potential, at least 2VRMS which is common nowadays. The noticeable difference between SE and BAL on my CDA M1 is only the volume, but with the A55 it’s a different story. With the A55 alone it sounds ok but definitely lacking overall, using a weak source for the Zetian Wu inhibits its ability to perform at full potential.

I was surprised at the quantity of bass that the Zetian Wu has given me on my first listen with it, as it has sub-bass rumble and mid-bass impact that I did not expect for my first planar IEM experience. It is not muddy, controlled, tight, and well textured bass. I usually listen to J-Pop and Doujin music, and having bass like this is really good.

Vocals are excellent for both male and female vocals. Warm, slightly intimate, and extends really well. There are times where I can hear sibilance, but most of the time it is just song specific and I just had to turn down the volume a little bit to make it disappear. Other than that minor inconvenience, there is really nothing much for me to complain about the vocals.

The treble of the Zetian Wu is no slouch either. Listening to instrumentals is a bliss with the Zetian Wu. Detailed and well-extended, with a decent amount of sparkle.

Soundstage is above average, with very good imaging and layering. It does give that planar-like performance that I had with the only planar headphones that I owned, Hifiman HE400se OG. But obviously it does not completely replicate the performance of a planar headphone.

Conclusion:
Overall I find the Zetian Wu to be a very good all-rounder IEM that will fit everything that you’ll throw at it. Rich and natural sounding balanced signature that most people would love. If you have a proper source to use with the Zetian Wu and are looking to try planar IEMs for a change, I’d definitely recommend it. I am looking forward to TangZu new and upcoming releases. Thank you everyone for reading.

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T
tubbymuc
Thanks for the review.

They do look a bit cheap IMO. Other iens at this range looks a lot better. Just my opinion though.
C
Carpet
Glad you're enjoying them. The Wu is one of my favorites! :ksc75smile:

Jarlaxle

100+ Head-Fier
Tangzu Has a Different Opinion About Planars
Pros: Addicting Subbass Focused Low End
Snappy but not Splashy
Different Take on the Recent Planar Flooded Market
Does not Have the Usual Planar Timbre
Not Fatiguing Like Other Planars
Exceptional Packaging, Accessories and Box Art
Cons: Because They are Mid-Centric, Perceived Soundstage is not Particularly Wide
Maybe Just a bit more Air would have been better
Cable could have been better
Tangzu Zetian Wu is a planar magnetic IEM, that comes at a price of 149$ MSRP (154$ if you prefer a 4.4 mm balanced cable.) Maybe this review is a little bit later than the first wave but, I wanted to explore them too, as their tuning seemed to my liking but also there were some negative reviews too. I hope it would help your purchasing decisions just before 11.11 sale. You can check out the full review also at mobileaudiophile.

Tangzu Zetian Wu

Disclaimers​

Without boring you too much, I don’t necessarily have a sound preference. I tend to enjoy different sound profiles as long as they do well at what they intend to do. I try to be critic in my reviews but I might be somewhat biased one way or another (Recency bias, buyer’s bias etc.). Please keep these in mind. Also, I bought Tangzu Zetian Wu as well as other headphones mentioned here with my own money from Keephifi.com for a price that would be more or less what I would pay in 11.11 sales in exchange for this review. If a unit I reviewed is given or loaned to me in the future, I will say so here.

Tangzu Zetian Wu

Build, Comfort and Trivia​

Zetian Wu or Wu Zetian as Chinese use family names before their given names, was the only female ruler of China History. The Empress belonged to Tang Dynasty, which also gave the name of the brand Tangzu. However, Tangzu was named T-Force before they changed their name. Yuan Li was their first entry to IEM market, although they were relatively experienced driver producers and sourced driver to many other brands.
Yuan Li started, what they call Dynasty Trilogy, as they name their IEMs after Tang Dynasty Emperors. A few months ago they released Shimin Li, which was budget oriented and the second episode of the Trilogy. Shimin Li got mixed reviews. But Tangzu didn’t give up, addressed those criticism without straying from their house sound when they released Zetian Wu. Zetian Wu is not necessarily a part of the Trilogy, but more of a spinoff. Trilogy is to be continued in 2023.
Zetian Wu, like every Tangzu (T-Force) product, has expectional packaging and accessories in its price range. Carrying case is similar to the one 7hz Salnotes Dioko. It is quite large, not very suitable for carrying IEMs. However, in my experience, none of the IEM case really is. Cable is a decent 2 pin 0.78 mm connection one, but I would expect something a little better from Tangzu. There are 7 pair of tips in the package, which are the same as 7hz H07 and H08 tips. Also, a black pair is on the IEMs which makes it a total of 8 pair.
IEMs have plastic shells with slight wings and purple metal faceplates. Shells of Zetian Wu are larger than S12 or Timeless, although Timeless have unnecessarily big faceplates. They are light and fairly comfortable. Plastic construction is somewhat of a concern but I haven’t heard of any reports of failure yet.
Spotlight

Technical Specifications​

Driver Size: 14.5 mm
Frequency Response: 20 – 20.000 Hz
Sensitivity: 100dB (1kHz)
Impedance: 16 ohm
Channel Difference: 1dB (1kHz)

Tangzu Zetian Wu

Sound​

Tangzu Zetian Wu, distinguishes itself from the other planars those flooding the market recently. They have a subbass focused Mid-centric balanced sound which is not fatiguing at all. I even heard some reviewers say these don’t sound like usual planars at all.

Bass​

Bass is, as I said earlier subbass focused. Midbass is just right too in my honest opinion. They don’t sound lean but bass don’t bleed to midrange either. Subbass is rattling, full, aggressive. Although not really at the same level, it kind of remind me Audiosense AQ4’s bass.

Tangzu Zetian Wu

Mids​

Mids are very clean and forward. At this point, I started to think this is the house sound that Tangzu is going for. I heard from their head that they love the Sennheiser HD600 sound. To be fair, I haven’t heard Yuan Li, hopefully I will. Even if I do, now that they are discontinued, I doubt I will review them. We will see. Anyway, Shimin Li was tuned similarly but they were excessive in this aspect and very aggressive and shouty for the most of the listeners. So, they pushed the gain further to the 3k range in the Zetian Wu, which helped a lot. They still have more energy than most of the other, but it doesn’t get annoying like it did with Shimin Li. Vocals are still pretty much in your face and “S”s, “Sh”s and “T”s can get sibilant when pushed a little. But those occasions were very rare.

Treble​

Treble in the Zetian Wu is also kind of a mixed bag. In my personal opinion, I love the treble of them. It is snappy but not splashy. It didn’t fatigue me at all, even after hours of listening. But I also understand they lack a bit of air for some. If you check the graph of Zetian Wu, the upper mids and treble of them follows Harman In-Ear Target, pretty much the same as Truthear x Crinacle Zero and rolls of earlier than some of the recent IEMs. It can be either a good or a bad thing depending your preference.
Tangzu Zetian Wu

Technical Performance​

Due to their pushed mid-range, Zetian Wu doesn’t have particularly a wide perceived soundstage. As I said earlier, presentation is more of a in your face style. I don’t mind it but, I’m aware a lot of people are after wide sounding IEMs. Also, while I don’t particularly agree, I kind of understand why some people call these congested. In that sense Imaging and separation was pretty good but could have been better with a wider presentation.
Detail and Resolution performance of Zetian Wu was exceptional in my experience. Details are not pushed forward like some airier IEMs, sure, but I got more than why asked for from the tracks. In that sense they sounded more natural more often than not. Timbre was also very natural, which is the most important strength of Zetian Wu compared to other planars on the Market.

Comparison with 7hz Timeless​

Shells of Zetian Wu is bigger so Timeless, although weirdly shaped, is more comfortable for my ears. Zetian Wu is slightly harder to drive.
Timeless has more midbass and lower mids, therefore is slightly warmer. Zetian Wu has more upper mids and more forward vocals. Though if pushed, it can be in your face and shouty.
Timeless is brighter and airier in the upper treble. Zetian Wu is less fatiguing in the treble but some may call them congested. Instruments like cymbals and high-hats in Timeless gets is a little splashier.
Neither is particularly sibilant, but due to its emphasis in 3-6k region, Zetian We becomes sibilant earlier with the volume.
Zetian Wu has noticeably more subbass. Timeless may be punching slightly harder in the midbass but less subbass doesn’t back it up.
Perceived sound stage is slightly wider on Timeless. Imaging is decent on both. Timbre is better on Zetian Wu. It really doesn’t feel like you are listening with a planar IEMs at all. Timeless has that tinge of zing you can’t just shake off.
Resolution, in my opinion on par and what you perceive as detail is really comes down to the tuning. Because of the treble, Timeless might come as more detailed or the mids in Zetian Wu can mask other frequencies more. These ears of mine pulled a little more nuances with the Zetian Wu, but Timeless felt like it was faster more often than not.

Tangzu Zetian Wu

To sum all these up:​

Bass: Zetian Wu > Timeless
Mids: Timeless > Zetian Wu (it depends to your preference, to be honest I’m more inclined to Zetian Wu)
Treble: Zetian Wu > Timeless
Soundstage, Imaging, Seperation of Instruments: Timeless ≥ Zetian Wu
Resolution and Detail: Timeless ≥ Zetian Wu

Conclusion​

Zetian Wu is, in my opinion, one of the best sounding planars on the market. Of course, that depends on your preference. I like how they don’t push the treble for details’ sake and go for their own unique sound. They don’t have the usual planar timbre that is preventing some people from trying them and don’t get fatiguing at all. Bass is addicting. Maybe they could use a bit more air, though if it would make them fatiguing like others, I could do without some. They sound very intimate and natural which I like. If all these sound appealing to you, do check them out. I hope this review helps your purchasing decisions.
Malfunkt
Malfunkt
Great review and appreciate your acknowledgement of bias. These definitely interest me, as although I have the S12 and in many respects, they are near perfect and a favourite, I wouldn't mind a touch less intensity and a bit more perceived fullness in the lower octaves.
J
Jarlaxle
@Malfunkt thank you for your kind words. I also have S12 and indeed they have been my favorite too. Since they are so similar to Timeless, I didn't use them for comparisons. It's more of a give and take. Although I appreciate Timeless and S12 airy nature in the upper region, I realized it gets pretty fatuguing easily.
AmericanSpirit
AmericanSpirit
Agree. I have Timeless and both Wu and Timeless is a par in my view. Timeless is technically superior but it could be a bit too analytical and exhaustive. Meanwhile Wu is a master of musicality, with a bit of technicality slice give to musicality. They are both great Planar IEMs.

baskingshark

Headphoneus Supremus
The Empire Strikes Back with a different planar offering!
Pros: Decent accessories
Good build and ergonomics
Most balanced tonality of the current planar offerings, quite all-rounder for most music genres
Most natural timbre of the planar rivals
Very safe treble for treble-sensitive folk
Relatively easy to drive for a planar (but scales better with amplification)
Cons: Bass at times lacks texture and may smear
Lacks upper treble air/sparkle
May not be as technical as the current planar contenders
DISCLAIMER

I would like to thank Tangzu Audio for providing this review unit. The Zetian Wu can be gotten here (no affiliate links): https://www.aliexpress.us/item/3256804479779987.html. Big thanks to @Zerstorer_GOhren for linking up!


Zetian Wu Cover Photo.jpeg



INTRODUCTION

Tangzu Audio (previously known as Tforce Audio) names their IEMs after famous historical figures of ancient China; storied characters such as Li Shimin, Li Yuan and a yet-to-be-released Shangguan Wan'er, are all IEMs gracing the Tangzu Audio stable.

The Zetian Wu IEM is no different. So who is Wu Zetian?

She ruled the Tang Dynasty in China from 665 - 705 AD, and remarkably, she was the first and only recognized female emperor of China. During her reign, China grew prosperous and influential, enlarged its borders and developed huge economic gains. Albeit, there was a dark side, as she had a controversial reputation of being heavy-handed during her rule.

Nevertheless, Wu Zetian was a well-regarded poet, she reformed the military, developed agriculture and promoted education among the people; her legacy continues on to this day.


SPECIFICATIONS
  • Driver configuration: 14.5 mm planar driver
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz – 20000 Hz
  • Impedance: 16 Ohms
  • Sensitivity: 100 dB (no units provided)
  • Cable: 0.78 mm 2 pin, 5N OFC; choice of 3.5 or 4.4 mm termination
  • Tested at $145 USD (4.4 mm cable), 138 USD (3.5 mm cable)

ACCESSORIES

Other than the IEM, these are included:

- Cable
- Semi-rigid carry case
- 3 pairs of bass silicone tips (S/M/L)
- 3 pairs of balanced silicone tips (S/M/L)
- 1 pair of wide bore tips


In an era of hackneyed anime waifu babes on CHIFI packaging (cough cough Tanchjim, Moondrop), Tangzu Audio provides a very refreshing packaging with some ancient Chinese calligraphic brush strokes and a more elegant and mature royal princess on the outer sleeve.

An inner insert with calligraphic motifs completes the packaging.

Zetian Wu Packaging.jpeg



The accessories are quite generous, nothing to complain about. Everything is quite usable out of the box, with no need to source for aftermarket accessories.


Zetian Wu Eartips.jpeg


A myriad of tips are provided.

The bass tips have a narrower bore and boost the bass frequencies as advertised, though perhaps the soundstage may come across as slightly more intimate when they are installed.

A white set of wide bore tips increase the upper frequencies and improve soundstage perception.

The balanced tips are a mid-point between the above 2 tips. Do explore tip-rolling to see which tips suit your preference, as eartips are as personal as shoes, and not only affect sonic fidelity, but also isolation and comfort.


Zetian Wu Cable.jpeg


During ordering, one can opt for a 3.5 mm (single-ended) or 4.4 mm (balanced) termination for the cable. The provided cable is a 5N OFC cable, it is very well braided and tangle-free but has slight microphonics. An added chin-cinch provides stability during use.

I liked that it came in a 2-pin configuration, as I had my fair share of MMCX mishaps during frequent cable changes.


Zetian Wu Case.jpeg


The provided semi-rigid case is really one of the biggest IEM cases I've come across in my IEM journey. The insides are lined with a velvet material with webbing, and this case is elegant and hardy (though perhaps on the slightly larger side for portability).


The rest of this review was done with the stock cable and stock "balanced" tips. No aftermarket accessories were used, so as not to add any confounders to the sound.


BUILD/COMFORT

The Zetian Wu's faceplates are coloured purple (which in ancient China was the colour for nobility). There is an auspicious Chinese cloud pattern etched on the shells, amalgamating the ancient Chinese packaging/motif with the housings.

Zetian Wu Photo 1.jpeg


The inner part of the shells are manufactured from 3D printed resin, whereas the faceplate is manufactured from CNC machining.

Ergonomics are top-notch, the shells are light and they are more comfortable than some planar rivals (which we will discuss below). There are no weird protruding edges, the inner aspects are smooth, with a concha protrusion providing some grip during usage. Tangzu Audio advertises that they designed the shells after accruing data of many human ears, and perhaps this is no hyperbole.

Zetian Wu Photo 4.jpeg



ISOLATION

Being vented, isolation is average, but the Zetian Wu are usable outdoors.


DRIVABILITY

I tested the Tangzu Zetian Wu with:
- Khadas Tone Board -> Schiit Asgard 3 amp
- Khadas Tone Board -> Topping L30 amp
- Sony Walkman NW A-55 DAP (Walkman One WM1Z Plus v2 Mod)
- Sony Walkman NW A-55 DAP (Walkman One Neutral Mod)
- Questyle M15 DAC/AMP dongle
- E1DA DAC/AMP dongle
- Colorfly CDA M1 DAC/AMP dongle
- Tempotec Sonata HD Pro dongle (BHD firmware)
- Smartphone

The Zetian Wu is relatively easy to drive for a planar, but it scales with amplification. Dynamics, bass tightness, micro-details and soundstage improve when juiced well.


SOUND & TECHNICALITIES

The Zetian Wu sports a well-balanced U-shaped signature. In essence, the Zetian Wu pairs well with most music genres, and ain't a one trick pony (unlike for example the Moondrop Stellaris) in terms of tuning.

Tangzu Audio Zetian Wu.jpg

Frequency response graph of the Tangzu Audio Zetian Wu via IEC711 compliant coupler. The 8 kHz area is a coupler artefact peak.


The Zetian Wu has bass north of neutral, but it is not a basshead set. Sub-bass is not the deepest in extension, but where songs have a rumble in the bassline, it will be heard. The mid-bass has moderate speed, and may sound one-noted at times with a lack of texturing. During very complex or fast bass lines, the bass may sound smeared at times. Thankfully, amplification improves the tightness of the bass somewhat.

Lower mids are a tinge recessed, with the upper mids having a slight boost. Vocals are forwards without being shouty, and the midrange is tuned quite well.

The lower treble continues on from the boosted upper midrange, this area is quite non-fatiguing. There's minimal sibilance, and the upper treble rolls off thereafter. Cymbals and high-hats are very natural sounding, unlike the S12 Pro. The treble is very safe: treble-heads might want more pizazz, but treble-sensitive folk will love the treble tuning here.

Most planar IEMs have an artificial sheen for timbral accuracy, with respect to vocals and acoustic instruments, possibly because they have lightning-fast transients, so things may sound unnatural, especially if one listens to music genres like classical and jazz. I'm really glad to report that the Zetian Wu sounds the most natural of the planars I've tried, with no artificial planar timbre on display.

Note weight is on the thicker side compared to the other planars, and the natural timbre and tonality make it a joy to listen to, after coming from the other traditional planar rivals.

In technicalities, imaging, instrument separation, micro-details and clarity are probably bang average for a midFI planar. Some of their competitors like the Stellaris, S12 Pro and Talos are better in this department, though they perhaps have worse timbre and/or tonal flaws (we will discuss below). While different eartips may affect soundstage perception, I would say the Zetian Wu has above average soundstage width and height, though perhaps not the best depth.


COMPARISONS

Zetian Wu Photo 2.jpeg


Comparisons were made with other midFI planars. Pure BAs, hybrids and single DDs and other driver types were left out of the equation as the different transducers have their pros and cons.


Shuoer S12 Pro

The Shuoer S12 Pro is more V shaped, and is much brighter with a thinner note weight. The S12 Pro has more sibilance and can be fatiguing for treble-sensitive folk. Timbre is noticeably more artificial on the S12 Pro.

The S12 Pro has better technicalities (imaging, instrument separation, clarity, transients, micro-details).

The S12 Pro has a modular cable, though fit is worst on it.



DUNU Talos (pure planar mode)

The Talos has a hybrid (BA + planar) and a normal pure planar mode. For the purposes of comparison, only the pure planar mode will be used (but suffice to say the hybrid mode with BA is super bright and fatiguing, and probably most consumers will not be using this mode anyway).

The pure planar mode of the Talos is more neutral bright than the U-shaped Zetian Wu. The Talos has less bass quantity and sub-bass extension than the Zetian Wu, but bass quality is superior.

The Talos has a thinner note weight and a more artificial timbre for acoustic instruments and vocals. However, the Talos is a league ahead in technicalities, with better imaging, instrument separation, clarity, micro-details, soundstage and transients.

Fit is a bit more uncomfortable on the Talos.



Moondrop Stellaris

The Stellaris is literally a Moondrop SSR on steroids, with a very bright niche and extreme tuning. The Stellaris has a thinner note weight, with much more sibilance and harshness in the treble. Vocals sound nasal and the tonality is unnaturally skewed to the upper frequencies, with the timbre sounding very wonky.

However, the Stellaris is more technical, with better imaging, clarity, micro-details and instrument separation than the Zetian Wu. The Stellaris has more air, sparkle, and a more expansive soundstage too.

Fit is very uncomfortable on the Stellaris due to a long nozzle and heavy shell.


CONCLUSIONS

Zetian Wu Photo 5.jpeg


The Zetian Wu is a well-balanced U-shaped planar that is pretty all-rounded for most music genres. While it may not be the most technical planar, the Zetian Wu sounds the most natural in terms of tonality and timbre, compared to other planar brethren, which may have flaws in these departments. As such, this allows the Zetian Wu to stand out from the competition.

The fit is also better than the other planar contemporaries, and the Zetian Wu comes with an attractive design and packaging, ergonomic fit and decent accessories. The Zetian Wu is also very suitable for treble-sensitive users.

Having said that, some areas for improvement include a not-so-tight bass with lack of treble sparkle/air, though these areas may be mitigated to some extent with eartip/source pairing.

Courses for horses, different strokes for different folks, some prioritize timbre/tonality over technicalities, and vice versa; but for those who already own one of the technical steroid-infused planar behemoths, the Zetian Wu has my recommendation, as it brings something very different to the planar buffet table.
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Zerstorer_GOhren
Zerstorer_GOhren
Finally, you release a review, mate.
DJ Core
DJ Core
Mine came in and i prefer it's sound to the S12 which I also have. I 100% agree with this review

NymPHONOmaniac

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: -Extremely versatile and coherent tonality
-safe near neutral tonal balance that isn't boring or too lean
-dense lush natural timbre
-good note weight
-beautifull male and female vocal
-no instruments have wonky tone
-lively dynamic that never go screamy
-perfect IEM for piano lover (me!)
-bass quantity meet quality
-immersive non fatiguing listen
-great layering
-good planar technicalities
-smooth and tasty like butter
-best Planar tuning yet (subjective)
-sound value
Cons: -lack a bit of air and upper treble extension
-not the cleanest imaging
-not the biggest soundstage
-bass separation isn't the best
-a bit capricious about power need-stability-clarity
-cheap construction that seem inferior to entry level Shimin Li
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TONALITY: 9.2/10
TECHNICALITIES: 8.5/10
CONSTRUCTION: 7.5/10
SOUND VALUE: 9/10

INTRO


Tangzu is a rather newcomer into audio industry, it's an earphones company from China that have loose connection with Seeaudio. They begin as Tforce brand in 2021 and change to Tangzu in 2022. Their first IEM release, the Yuan Li, was well receive and offer a surprinsigly mature balanced warm soundsignature for a first tuned IEM by a new company.
Their second ultra budget release, the Shimin li, receive mixed review due to a brighter more neutral tonality that was more niche.
And their third release again take us by surprise, since it wasn't a single dynamic driver but single planar driver earphones, the Zetian Wu.
The Zetian Wu use a 14.5mm planar magnetic driver and is priced 140-150$, which put it in higher priced range of planar IEM including Letshuoer S12 for ex.
Planar war is very intense lately with new release from lot of different chifi company near every week, so will the Zetian Wu will be able to demark itself from highly competitive crownd? Let see if it's the case and what kind of tuning we get with this Tangzu Zetian Wu in my review!

SPECS-INFO:
>Impedance: 16Ω.
>Sensitivity: 100dB.
>Distortion Rate: <1%.
>Frequency response range: 20Hz-20kHz.
>Connector type: 2-pin 0.78mm.
>Termination plug: 3.5mm/4.4mm.

CONSTRUCTION

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In term of plain material of construction quality, let say the Wu doesn't impress that much. Its made of alloy and plastic and look rather cheap, especially for the price and if we keep in mind the Shimin Li all-metal craftmanship quality that feel superior at 30$. Sure, Tangzu use resin plastic for 3D printing of precise acoustic chamber and ergonomic shape, but it feel a bit fragile nonetheless.
Anyway, it does inflict on the weight which is very light and comfort which is quite good even if earshell are thick and chunky.
In term of design look, the backplate is beautifull....but purple color of this type will perhaps not please everyone. Not an issue for me because at least they are comfortable and fit well for my ears.

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In the other hand, the cable quality is very nice, its construction is very sturdy, its a thick 5N high purity copper cable with balanced plug. We can choose 3.5se or 4.4mm balance cable, which is nice.

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Packaging is very well presented, with beautiful illustration. It include a generous amount of accessories. The case in particular is very impressive, it's a BIG leather carrying case of excellent quality, that feel will be durable and have enough space for numerous audio accessories since even a DAP can fit in there. The eartips choice are good too, 7 pairs of more than decent silicone eartips including the very versatile KB07.

SOUND IMPRESSIONS

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In term of smooth and natural tonal balance, the WU is without a doubt the best of 7 planars I own. Imagine the Harman target with hint more mid bass and treble crunch, texture and snap and your not far from the ''Jack of all trades'' tonality of the WU. This is one of these rare earphones that offer supreme tone versatility, since I listen to wide range of music and instruments and I never encounter wonky or artificial timbral or tonal imbalance. No out of place treble spike, no lipsy vocal, no unbalanced bass response: everything sound lush, lively, holographic, intimate and sweet.

This is one of those rare ''unboring safe tuning'' too, since well, treble isn't too dark and keep sens of edge enough.
We can call this balanced neutral or full bodied smooth W shape with softed upper treble on line with gently lifted mid range presence, this is an IEM that offer a mature hint warmed musicality with extra bass quality-quantity fun that captivate without stoling the show of anything else in sound spectrum.

Did after only one year Tangzu finally find it's supreme balance target? It seem like it, since their some similarity with Yuan Li for bass and mids and Shimin Li for treble. Yes, they find best of both world and it merit applause even if it's not that much of a bit change from Harman target as said.

I can't handle instruments or voice that sound off or disembodied, and here Tangzu hit the sweet spot of everything: tone, timbre, presence, note weight and definition.

Yes, to my ears it's that much of a big deal. Being able to enjoy my intensely diversify audio library that include lotta jazz, classical but soul, R&B, electronic, math roch, folk, rap too is something that keep immersivity of long time listening mesmerizing.

I was extremely surprise by both bass quality and quantity, not that its super boosted, far from being a basshead IEM here, but it's full bodied and impactfull enough, with beautifull textured, natural hint euphonic timbre and nice but softed presence definition. Cello sound life like, with dense body and natural resonance, vibrant,fast and well define yet not too sharp in attack. Kick drum is warm and chunky, with good separation and articulation, note weight is there and tigh resonance after the hit too. Extension isn't the most vibrant, linear or deeper, yet doesn't feel lacking at all. When needed, the WU will rumble with authority, it's a flexible and talented bass performance yet their this planar feeling to it too as if sustain of impact is warmed and thicken just a hint. Nonetheless, i'm confident to say it's best bass performance I head from a planar IEM yet even if not the cleanest. This suit every music type since I can enjoy electronic as well as jazz and pop and rock, only basshead seeking for extra resonance and mid bass pressure immediacy might feel left hungry for more upfront slam since the bass keep its place in back of the bad, unless it go solo or the music in mastered another way.


And then the mid range: lush, smooth, wide and bodied in presence, softed in upper mids dangerosity so just a hint warm, where maturity meet musicality. A bit like Final E4000 mid range nothing feel forced, timbre is impressively natural for a planar and all instrument sound right. Saxophone have this air density in it, piano have it's proper note weight and not ringing loudness in upper range common with planar, violin sound greatly resolve without sibilance or metallic sheen, it's just so yummy and colorful. I mean, even electric guitar sounbd realist, we are into this kind of competency bravado.
It's not overly lean yet well rounded in edge so I would not say it's cleanest crispest most higly resolve mid range here, since in fact clarity is even a bit darken with hint of lower mids warmth it seem, just a beautifull thickness that permit to deliver good male and female vocal presentation where body and dynamic presence is more focus than texture and micro definition separation. So, this is not high definition mids that feel near analytical, its laid back yet full in presentation and dense it their layering, which permit good result even with busy track if the WU is well amped.

The treble is the kind i would call understated yet talented, we aren't in spiky territory her yet we have hint of extra snap to make the percussions and instrument attack enough energic and captivating. With planar, highs go effortlessly fast, so lead attack energy seem easier to achieve than proper decay and sparkle, I would not say Tangzu change the planar sound projection yet they avoid any of their important drawback like splashyness, sibilance and ringing-treblyness without going into too dark territory. To me, that merit applause even if like the E4000, some will find it lack excitment on top.
What it lack to me it's air. But why i'm suddenly negative? Since I love this treble so so much. Again, tone is right, timbre isn't thin too, this isn't just about brilliance peak to add fake clarity of one part of high range here but a full sounding treble. Again about percussions, it can go ultra snappy and mesmerizing, superbly detailed and well timed, like only good planar can do, listening to Bendik Hofseth, piano, guitar, percussions and drum all have dynamic bite to it, it's captivating with great immediacy in attack and gentle crunchyness, so their an extra energy on top of this macro smoothness and it add this treble joyfullness. That's the magic of the Ze Tian Wu, it can surprise you with rich detailing and sharp attack when needed, when the music ask for it, not the Wu.


TECHNICAL PERFORMANCE

Attack speed is better than control, but this doesn't mean the WU go too resonant or uncontrolled but it have a smoothed sustain-release to it which stole a bit of clarity as if we have a 0.00000001% blur that make macro resolution more velvety-creamy....this is more evident with low and mids than low and mid treble and ths justify helping the WU to scale gloriously with clean source, like with SMSL SU9+SH9 THX amp which imporve attack timing sharpness.

Resolution while above average, is not to the level of Tinhifi P1plus for ex. It's not crisp-clean with ultimate black background, this explain why WU is that versatile and even forgiving with music type and show it's true talent with HD flac crisp recording. Yet, we never feel lacking details or sound info with the WU either, since it extract dynamically the sound layers and show them in a holographic way.

Spatiality is where i'm a bit puzzle, is it due to rather thick sound layers that it doesn't feel that much wide open and deep? I mean, its not sounding in your head and tallness is good, while wideness is average not disastrous, deepness is more of an issue to me but at the same time it tend to push music at your direction and you never feel distant. Your in fact very near the musician stage with the WU, not in the middle tough, as if you have prime ticket place for all your fav artist!

Thankfully, imaging is more than decent even if presented in a slightly condensed manner with busy track it can keep enough dynamic layering and transparency to avoid confuse mudyness. Yet, it's not this type of IEM that suddenly give you absolute hearing and magnify instrument placement with a sharp crispness, you need to concentrate a bit and be reward with very realist instrument positioning in limited space. Separation will be more about loudness different of instrument than static. In Jazz trio I listen right now from Dieter Ilg ''Parsifal'' album, the piano is wel centered in the middle, take front stage, bassist is at right and project sound to the left a bit and drummer is in middle left, at least it's kick drum and metallic percussions at the right lol...OK, hope you understand what I mean, i need to focus on dig into a richly musical spatiality and get rewarded with a realist positioning.

COMPARISONS

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VS SALNOTES DIOKO


The WU is more neutral balanced while the Dioko more wonky U shape. Bass is more resonant in slam and less well rounded with Dioko that lack a bit of mid bass and lower mids presence, Tangzu have more controlled, fuller and more textured bass, with more natural tone and linear extension, which restitue both acoustic and electric bass line way better than Dioko.
Mids are fuller, lusher and leaner with the WU, less agressive in upper mids and notably denser and more natural in timbre, again their no tone issue unlike the Dioko, note weight is less tamed in dynamic too, edge is softed and their not timbral unbalance like Dioko. Dioko mids are brighter and more shouty, more compressed too.
Treble is sharper with Dioko, tending to put percussions more fowards and adding extra sens of snap in a agressive way, this inflict on extra air on top too. This can create wow effect until you go into busy music where it will go screamy and splashy, oversaturated with resonance. So, the WU choose to tame a bit the lower and upper treble instead of tweaking with the mid range, but keep a sens of snap too, their more natural crunch to texture and attack in general, violin sounding notably more natural and present, while percussions being less loud in brilliance. I do feel treble is darker and tend to let micro details in a slightly blurry background more with the WU, we can say it's notably safer to the cost of extra energic captivation lost.
Soundstage is notably wider and deeper with the Dioko, here Tangzu have no chance since both the acoustic housing and tuning magnify spatiality. Yet, Tangzu seem strangely taller and more holographic-3D, as if center sound info of Dioko were too distant.
Imaging can seem better with Dioko at first listen until you discover that it's all about treble region stereo positioning, so it feel unreal when you begin to try pin poiting instrument. This isn't the case with Dioko that doesn't force layering or modify static instrument position, so it's easier to find their placement yet doesnt have same unrealistic spacing between them.

All in all, the Ze Tian Wu is more neutral and balanced, smoother with more natural timbre, so more a matter of tone sensitivity and tonal balance preference here....I guess. Since technically they are rather on par...


VS LETSHUOER S12

The WU are more neutral balanced and warmer. Bass is less boosted and less impactfull, yet it seem faster in attack, better rounded and separated. It’s less prompt to slight bleed too and feel more textured and well define. Bass line and kick drum are better separated too.
Mids are leaner and fuller, timbre is smoother and even more natural than S12, it’s more transparent and higher in resolution even if less edgy in attack. Male vocal seem more recessed than the S12 tough and female vocal too even if presentation is richer, wider and less compressed.
Treble is very different here, the WU extract more details yet doesn’t put it in your face, micro definition is cleaner and highs have a bit more sparkle and air making the S12 feel a bit half cook in this area.
Spatiality is even more open with the WU, hint wider and taller but notably deeper.
This inflict positively to imaging, which is more accurate and precise due to more transparent timbre.
All in all, while i think people will perhaps find the WU more boring, it’s more refined in balance, more neutral and smooth with slightly superior technical performance especially in imaging department.

VS TINHIFI P1max

The Max is notably more agressive W shape, with brighter tonality and slightly more boosted mid bass that hit harder. Again, like near all planar I own, the Max can't restitute all instrument fairly and tone is off for piano, which isn't the case for the WU, which offer natural piano presentation with better rounded definition, more body and note weight. The mids are lusher and fuller with the WU, while the bass is less boomy, so it will feel a bit less dynamic and present in busy track like jazz, yet extension dig deeper and their less resonance that veil upper bass, quality is better as well as control, and definition have more texture grip. In bassy track, Max hit hard but lack vibrant rumble and proper roundness. Mids are notably brighter and thinner with the Max, instruments like saxophone sound off with a metallic sheen to it, very bad mids imo. And treble is the most boosted part, puting micro details upfront, giving extra sens of air which the WU lack a bit yet highs are better balanced and not out of place like the Max. Still, this inflict on spatiality, so the Max sound more open and deep, taller wider too. When it come to imaging, i get the same center stage omition than Dioko but in a cleaner way....we have good space between percussions and higher range instrument but positioning is more accurate and realist with the less boosted in clarity WU.
All in all, Tangzu is again clearler better balanced and more refined and versatile in tuning, instrumental music like jazz and classical sure show Max limitation in tonal and timbral balance, yet its dynamic is more fun and lively, more bright V shape. Technical performance wise, tough less well controlled in loudness balance, these are on par and Max underline the soundstage limitation of this Tangzu too.

CONCLUSION

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I think its evident i do love the Zetian Wu very much, and their multiple reason for this. I do think it's the better tuned planar IEM out there, yet rather on par when it come to technical performance against all these 14-15mm planar IEM especially.
The difference here is that the Zetian WU offer a very versatile tonality with natural instrument rendition, it doesn't sound off with any style of music I test with, and I listen to everything from classical to jazz to rock to electronic to folk, name it.
The Wu doesn't try to Wow and choose a smooth tonal balance with full sens of dynamic and lush timbre, its rich in layers and details, yet warm as a whole. Perfect for long time listening session that is highly immersive yet not fatiguing.
This isn't a dark sounding set, more of an harman target turn well, since it sound heavy in note weight and punchy in dynamic.
With the Zetian Wu we get best of both world, where good technicalities meet organic tonal balance and keep a sens of open musicality, this is highly addictive and rewarding listen, a mature yet not boring musical journey that feel like being home.
Safe-but-not-too-safe tuning and jack of all trade master of....everything?
One thing sure, highly addictive!
And highly recommended!

--------
PS: I want to thanks Tangzu for sending me this IEM after I manifest my curiosity about it. I'm not affiliated and get no money for this review. As always, i keep my integrity and these are my honest audio impressions.

You can buy the Zetian Wu for 150$ here: https://www.linsoul.com/products/tangzu-wu-zetian?variant=43301859557593

For more diversify audio reviews, you can give a look to my No Borders Audiophile website HERE
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NymPHONOmaniac
NymPHONOmaniac
@Cho Worsh thats revolting for sure! my pair work perfectly. i order it from Tangzu official store, we should always buy directly from the source....since indeed, Hifigo is not trustable. not the first time I read something like this about consumers service similar to aliexpress dispute despair...very sorry about this mate, will try to PM them and share this very comment even if i cut bridge with this distributor (due to shaddy persona)
DJ Core
DJ Core
I have the S12 at work (TheiAudio Monarch at home) and love it but that bass and mids have always been lackluster but acceptable for the price. BAGGAR loved it too and I trust him as well. I listen to the same stuff he does. Just bought it on Linsoul. Very excited. Thanks for the review. FYI: Wu Zetian was an Emperess (690 AD to 705 AD) in the Tang Dynasty. Looks like we have a new King/Queen of Planar IEMs. This will be paired with the DX240, Sony ZX507, Sony Nw-A55, and Hiby R3 Pro Saber. Good times.
NeonHD
NeonHD
@Cho Worsh Ew. That's what I call a "scumbaggery" approach to customer service, absolutely disgusting to see that happen in a non-Chinese business. Heck, even most well-known IEM sellers on AliExpress give better service.

ywheng89

100+ Head-Fier
Tangzu Zetian Wu's Review
Pros: All rounder (in my opinion)
Generous accessories and premium packaging
Nice and controlled bass (Slight lift but not overly emphasised)
Well tuned
Cons: Shell size might be a little big for some with small ears
Detail retrieval can be better
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General Info (Packaging/Build/Comfort)
Tangzu is quite new when it comes to the Chi-Fi scene, previously known as T-Force and debuted their first iem YuanLi and that model was highly praised by many reviewers including myself. Fast forward to today, they rebranded to Tangzu due to some issues and they are relentless when it comes to new releases. Just a few months ago, they released an entry level single dynamic driver Shimin Li, that model however doesn’t do quite well, Tangzu then took the feedback that they have gotten from Shimin Li and made changes to the tuning and applied it to Zetian Wu.

The packaging carries the usual Tangzu design language. You can easily tell that the packaging is from Tangzu. Premium packaging that comes with two types of eartips and a very solid zipper carrying case.

The shell is 3D printed and matched with metallic faceplate. The shell is slightly big but it sit well on my ears, comfortable to wear for long sessions without feeling fatigue, it doesn’t have any sharp edges that will cause discomfort as well

Source
Macbook Air M2 Tidal/Apple Music -> iFi iDSD Nano Black Label -> Zetian Wu (with 4.4 to 3.5 Adapter)
Macbook Air M2 Tidal/Apple Music -> Zetian Wu (with 4.4 to 3.5 Adapter)
Macbook Air M2 Foobar2k -> Dunu DTC 500 -> Zetian Wu
Tempotec V6 -> Zetian Wu

Sound
Upon first listen on Zetian Wu, it has got a relatively smooth tuning, a rather safe harman tuning with a boost on the low end. Timbre sounds quite realistic to my ears. I am using it with Azla SednaEarfit Vivid Edition’s eartips

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Bass
  • Bass is slightly emphasised to my ears, but not too much to the point where it over power other frequency, adequate amount for the fun factor if you ask me
  • Good texture on the bass and the speed is adequate for most genre unless you’re talking about insanely high speed heavy metal, but it is adequate to handle anything you throw at it
  • Slipknot’s People = crap is being rendered effortlessly on the Zetian Wu, there isn’t a hint of muddyness during the intense drumming opening

Mids
  • Mids are very lush to my ears, instruments in this range carries sufficient note weight and doesn’t sound thin at all
  • I’d picture the vocal positioning as a few steps away from your face, not recessed nor too intimate, just nice in my opinion
  • Female vocal has got decent texture and sweet sounding, evident when playing back Adele’s When We Were Young
  • Male vocal is a little lacking in terms of texture, evident in low baritone note, doesn’t sound as thick as it should be, a little more warmth will be great
  • Upper mids are never offensive even when you turn up the volume, rather safe for those who are sensitive

Treble
  • Zetian Wu’s treble is never offensive and yet it doesn’t sound dull and quite musical to my ears, rather safe approach
  • Not as revealing in terms of detail retrieval but good enough for the price point, certain instruments can be picked up easily when listening to Hans Zimmer’s Why So Serious
  • The treble is never sibilant even when you turn up the volume, or even on some sibilant prone track

Soundstage/Imaging
  • Soundstage on Zetian Wu is quite decent, slightly out of your head and doesn’t sound in your head at all, good width and depth but a little lacking in height
  • Imaging is good as well, instruments can be pin-pointed easily and the left and right transition and vice versa is easily noticeable, instrument layering is good, the instruments doesn’t sound muddy and all mashed up in Kid Rock’s Bawitdaba

Driveability
  • Zetian Wu is not hard to drive, you will be able to push out decent volume from Macbook Air M2’s 3.5mm jack
  • It does scale with better source and amplification as with most planars, in terms of dynamic and more controlled bass

Final Thoughts
I have tried several planar IEMs, namely TinHifi’s P1 Max and Letshuoer’s S12, they all have different characteristics and tuning style tailored to different audiences or music libraries. For the case of Zetian, I find that it’s safe for me to label it as an all rounder (At least it works well with my library, Metal, Nu Metal, Jazz, Classical, Jpop, Rock, CantoPop). For those who prefer a less prominent bass response, or rather a neutral bass response, you might want to consider other options. I’m not a basshead myself but I do find myself enjoying the slight lift on the low end.
Zetian Wu is an easy recommendation to anyone who is thinking to venture into planar iems or even seasoned audiophiles will like Zetian Wu i’m sure.

*Zetian Wu is sent over by Tangzu Audio in exchange for this review. I am not under any influence nor do I receive any monetary compensation to produce this review.

If you are interested in getting a pair, head over to their AliExpress store to grab one
Tangzu Zetian Wu - Non affiliated
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OspreyAndy

500+ Head-Fier
Basshead Planar from Tangzu
Pros: -
- Smooth Harman tuning with heavy V frequency curve
- Clean and cohesive dynamic transients
- Big, wide and open sound
- Technically competent
- Very refined and well executed lower frequency responses
- Bassy enough to satisfy most Bassheads
- Organic and non offensive timbre
- VERY easy to drive
- Comfortable shells (for my ears)
Cons: -
- Not for those preferring neutral sound frequency
- I wish it wasn't purple (very subjective)
- Scalability with more power seems maxed out after 2 Vrms
- Bass presence can be too dominant at times
The Empress of Bass

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Foreword
  1. This unit was sent to me by Tangzu for review purposes. Check out https://www.aliexpress.com/item/1005004666094739.html?spm=a2g0o.order_list.0.0.21ef1802kHRYtu
  2. At the point of this article, my Zetian Wu has undergone over 150 hours of burn in and approximately 50 hours of actual listening
  3. I don't do measurements, I just describe what I hear, from my own POV
  4. I don't use EQ
  5. The entirety of my impressions was done with my own hybrid Foam Tips
  6. Ultimately, my reviews are purely subjective and biased to my personal preference in sound
The Build
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I must say I expected better build from Tangzu for Zetian Wu which is supposed to be higher tiered than the Yuan Li (an IEM that I adore very much). The shells seems to be made of acrylic plastic with aluminum faceplates - adorned only in purple. Not exactly shabby but yes after owning the metal shelled Yuan Li which oozes with refined workmanship, I was taken aback slightly - but this is subjective to my observation.

Otherwise, I am happy with the lightweight build which will allow me to wear my Zetian Wu for 3-4 hours without experiencing any ear fatigue. Yes is it very comfortable for my ears.

Housed inside, a single Magnetic Planar rated at 16 Ohm with 100db of sensitivity. That should translate into something that is meant to be driven efficiently even with low powered sources.

I will give credit to Tangzu for the inclusion of very fine cable made of 5N Oxygen Free Copper braided beautifully in intricate pattern. It is very sturdy as it is premium looking. The termination comes in 0.78mm two pins configuration.

Zetian Wu comes in premium boxed package which contains all the normal accessories expected of this price range. Quite notable, the accompanying red carrying case which is larger than most competitors. Easily capable of fitting in the IEM together with a few dongles.

Equipment Used
  • Xiaomi Mi 9T (3.5mm SE and USB Port)
  • Sony Xperia X Compact (3.5mm SE and USB Port)
  • Windows 10 with Native USB Drivers
  • HiBy Audio Player USB Exclusive Mode with FLAC files
  • CEntrance DACport HD
  • Cayin RU6
  • Ovidius B1
  • VE Abigail 4.4
  • VE Megatron
  • Misodiko MIX460 Foam Tips
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Timbre, Tonality & Dynamics:

Zetian Wu general sound is tuned to appease the appreciation for Harman-ish, V curved frequency. Without a doubt nowhere near being neutral as would be observed from Tangzu's debut IEM, the Yuan Li. I can clearly hear big emphasis on low frequency elevation which is quite evident especially when used with silicone tips - does not matter big bore or small bore, Bass is big regardless. Then the Mids audibly positioned a step or two back, but not recessed enough to sound distant. The highs being present and well extended.
Timbral and tonal wise, Zetian Wu offers highly organic and well rounded sound - it is natural enough to avoid the pitfalls of being digital/metallic sounding. The vibrancy of dynamic projection is admirably mature yet fun, Zetian Wu sometimes appeared almost as vibrant as some Dynamic Driver IEMs that I am familiar with, except that being a Magnetic Planar, it has better discipline with attack and decays to not sound overly euphonic.
Throughout my listening sessions with Zetian Wu, I am impressed how clean it sounds, there's good balance of cohesion between smoothness and polished edge. Even when using it for listening to more aggressive mastering, Zetian Wu retained the smoothness with deft agility.

Mids
The Mids on Zetian Wu really depends on the genre of the music played. With some Rock/Metal/Indie recordings which usually employ less emphasis on Mids, the output can appear recessed with the midrange instruments/vocals seemingly placed a step or two back. However with Bluegrass/Modern Jazz/Folk (which normally exhibit Mids centric mastering), then the Mids would appear forward enough allowing the listener to savor the vocals clearly. What does this say about Zetian Wu? I call this Mids transparency - the ability to reflect the intended tuning the way the tracks are being mastered. So I see this as a positive point for Zetian Wu.
Vocal wise, Zetian Wu is admirably natural and organic sounding. Perhaps the placement may seem to be lower than what I am familiar with. I do not observe any audible coloration to add warmth - definitely not sounding thin or dry.

Treble
Treble is well extended, that's for sure. I am hearing good micro details resolved especially with deep decays from hi hats or cymbals. The overall theme of Zetian Wu being smooth and well controlled. It has ample air and shimmer, evident enough yet never attempting to induce any unsavory shimmer or sparkle. The Mid Treble thankfully are free from any Pinna Glare that would usually translate into Treble fatigue or shouty-ness.
Dispersal of decays seems to be in favor of smoothness over prompt edge, it is polished as it is velvety - especially when the recordings and mastering are done properly (true lossless tracks).

Bass
I think, this is why Zetian Wu exists. It is Tangzu's first legitimate IEM that focuses on big Bass performances. Let's start with the Mid-Bass, it is highly impactful and commanding - yet it behaves well enough to not overshadow lower Mids or drown out the Sub-Bass. It almost felt like Dynamic Drivers Bass with the vibrancy level.
Sub-Bass on the other hand, exhibit solid presence and will emit equally strong seismic sensations. This clearly apparent when using Zetian Wu spinning Electronic, Metal, Rock and Dance music - those that contain layers of Bass attack most prominent from Drum Bass and electro percussions (drum machines).
Even when playing Alison Krauss & Union Station Bluegrass music tracks, I can hear strong bass responses from the cello, Bass guitars etc.
I am not a Basshead (I was, but not anymore), but I will admit I am impressed at how disciplined Zetian Wu is at keeping things in check - the caveat being, at least for my application I need to tone it down with the usage of Misodiko MIX460 tips (similar to Symbio Orange). Otherwise when using the stock silicone tips, I can tell it was borderline overbearing with Bass reverbs and resonances. In short I cannot tolerate using Zetian Wu with any silicone tips no matter if they are big bore or small bore. Yes this is probably unique to my situation of being sensitive to Bass.

Technicalities
Big, wide and open sounding, Zetian Wu must be commended for being technically competent. The resolution is clean and concise, despite being Bass heavy. Zetian Wu also seemingly quite good with speed, nothing less from a properly implemented Magnetic Planar, I have yet to observe any sluggishness no matter how complex or outright speedy the tracks are. Be it myriad of instruments from Modern Jazz of Sinne Eeg or breakneck speed of Slayer's Reign In Blood, Zetian Wu handled them all without breaking sweat.
Spatial positioning is also quite good, with holographic imaging making it easy to track instruments and source of sound. This also indicated Zetian Wu suitability for gaming and movie watching.

Scalability
Being highly sensitive with such low impedance rating, Zetian Wu already sounded great with my 1 Vrms Abigail 4.4. Even the old Sony Xperia X Compact at under 1 Vrms sounded proper (despite with smaller headroom). This is a huge plus for highly portable usage on the go.
However, with this characteristics, Zetian Wu seemingly does not scale much better beyond 2 Vrms. So driving it with the 4.7 Vrms of VE Megatron versus 1 Vrms Abigail 4.4 practically does not exhibit much difference aside from the loudness it capable of. Thankfully, being a magnetic planar, Zetian Wu will not end up being shouty like most highly sensitive DDs

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Final Words
I reflect upon the intended audience for Zetian Wu and it is apparent to me it is aimed for those loving the Bass heavy Harman tuning. It is decidedly fun and engaging, yet polished to retain fluid harmonics. Such a feat almost unheard of 2 years ago when Magnetic Planar IEMs are not expected to be as efficient and sensitive like what we see nowadays.

In contrast, comparing Zetian Wu with TIN HiFi P1 is like comparing apple to oranges - despite both being Magnetic Planars. P1 is obviously more neutral and reserved, Zetian Wu markedly Bassy and vibrant. Compare a bit more and I would say Zetian Wu is not as bright as 7hz Timeless, yet twice as sensitive than Timeless. In fact, Zetian Wu is competing directly with LETSHUOER Z12, another similarly sized Magnetic Planar which also exhibit Bass heavy Harman tuning. it is great for the users to have choices now.


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jamweiser
jamweiser
Great review!! Been using these for the past few days, and I'm enjoying the sound with my library.
rafagoulart
rafagoulart
in your opinion what is the best plannar for action movies? (Under $ 200.00)
OspreyAndy
OspreyAndy
@rafagoulart Zetian Wu and LETSHUOER Z12 both would be great. Vibrant and holographic. If you need even more precision then DUNU Talos in Hybrid mode

Mr.HiAudio

100+ Head-Fier
A new TOP or an ordinary planar iem?
Pros: 1) Excellent presentation with colorful box
2) Good package
3) Universal sound setting
Cons: selected colors(case/faceplate)
a bit soft sound
Unpacking:
A large box in which we find an equally large case, the headphones themselves and a small set of my favorite ear pads.

Everything in detail
1) Complete wire - it is soft, medium in weight, made with high quality and it is clear that it is not cheap. There is only one small minus - it is better to warm up the formed ears and fit one of your ears (all this is done with a hairdryer).

2) The complete case is quite large and can hold several pairs of headphones (or headphones + a small player). In general, a great accessory, except for the chosen color - it seems like a handbag. Also, the constant winding of the wire takes a lot of time, so you can simply remove the inner lining and fold the headphones faster9 just by winding them in your hand).

3) Finally, the headphones - the shell is somewhat reminiscent of MuseHifi Power, but much smaller, I just exhaled when I saw them (finally they fit in my ears). The shell made on a 3D printer, everything is done neatly. Judging by the many holes, a special acoustic technology is used here that was in 11. The faceplate is beautiful, the color is bright and unusual, but I'm not sure that everyone will like it.

What about...sound?
Okay, let these headphones warm up for about 4-6 hours before listening to them carefully. During warm-up, I noticed that the upper mids became a little softer, the brightness and a little scream on the vocals went away.
In short, they took MuseHifi Power and simply changed the damper, which brought a little more detail in the middle and high frequencies. Is it bad or good? sooner is good, because often other manufacturers' planars turn out to be quite bright, which, with prolonged listening, affects fatigue, in the case of Ze Tian Wu, the sound turned out to be between comfort and audiophile presentation.

1) Bass - a little softened, served whole and does not try to knock out your membranes with its beats, just calmly and softly, immersing you in a deep atmosphere of low frequencies.
2) MIDs are slightly pushed back, moderately detailed, i.e. without sharpness and audible sharp peaks. Despite the rather strange rumble, the mid frequencies are heard quite evenly, again solidly and coherently.
3) High frequencies are the most standard, and you should not expect revelation. But again, the tuning is to be commended for the lack of sharp and harsh annoying peaks. At high frequencies, you hear more massiveness than lightness and airiness, with all this, the length is quite average (also - this is not bad and not good, just normal).
4) As for the stage, it's also average, which is strange because the similar acoustic structure that I saw at MuseHifi Power gave just incredible depth, but here it's not so much.

As for the comparison with other planars (I listened to all available planars except Hook -X): this is a kind of "golden mean" where the upper midrange frequencies are neatly done and the bass is generally not bad. Can you find something better? - perhaps, but this will already be a matter of taste (someone will need more sharpness and less bass, for example - LetShuoer S12, etc.).
It's just that they are more universally tuned, and that's it.
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kesobie

New Head-Fier
ZETIAN WU: The Empress' Sound
Pros: Large, aesthetically pleasing carrying pouch
Well-made cable with an option for 4.4 balanced
Very aesthetically-pleasing faceplate
Well-extended, balanced sound signature
Great bass control and quality
Natural sounding mids
Very well extended and detailed treble
Cons: Can be uncomfortable for longer periods of time
Non-modular cable (nitpick)
Subpar build quality
Lower mids (particularly male vocals and lower register pianos) can sound dry and distant
Slightly hot upper mids
May struggle in the busiest of tracks

ZETIAN WU: The Empress Sound


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WHO IS THIS UNIT FOR:
  • Harman enjoyer
  • People who enjoy a good, smooth and well extended treble
  • Enjoys aesthetics (particularly traditional Chinese-style)
  • A competitive planar option

WHO THIS UNIT ISN’T FOR:
  • Bass Heads
  • People who like thick and meaty mids
  • People who are keen about build quality
  • People who like modularity in their stock cables

FAVORITE GENRES ON THE SET:
  • Pop and most of its subsidiaries with emphasis on female vocals
  • Tamer rock genres (metal and the likes may leave you unsatisfied)
  • Jazz with prominent trumpets
  • R&B

“As an Empress should, she dances gracefully as the world is introduced to a new beauty”

As the Planar Wars continue to rage, TangZu (formerly known as TForce) offers quite a competitive release, that being the wonderfully named Zetian Wu. With the current trends leaning towards a planar future, will the Empress in Her New Clothes reign supreme against the competition?

DISCLAIMERS: This unit was sent as a part of a touring group and provided by Mr. Steve Tong and Mr. Kent. I am eternally grateful for this opportunity, but this does not in any way, shape, or form affect the quality of my review. This review will be based entirely on my experience with the IEM itself and I was not paid or told to say anything regarding the IEM. Lastly, I am only one reviewer; this is my personal experience with the unit. Many variables come to play to make everyone’s experience different and your mileage will vary depending on the circumstance.

ADDITIONAL NOTE: The unit I received came with a cable terminated to 4.4 BAL. Unfortunately, I could not obtain a source or adaptor for the 4.4mm within the review period which led me to use a different cable (specifically from the HZSound Heart Mirror) for this review. Whether you believe that cable material has a sonic effect, having a balanced output on a planar unit as the Zetian Wu may potentially affect the quality of sound one way or another

SOURCES USED:
  • Zishan Z3 ES9038 + OPA 1602 opamp
  • Zishan U1 (AKM Variant)
  • Poco M3
  • Not-by-VE Abigail

OTHER ACCESSORIES USED:
  • KBear07

TEST TRACKS:
NOTE:
The playlist below may contain a mixture of MP3, FLAC and potentially DSD Files

Spotify Playlist:


Document explaining what to look for in each track:
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1oMa7GPLaqtpnnoR9tixvWI4aK-7tXMyTEZCJAVkIZx0/edit

SPEC SHEET:
Driver: 14.5mm Planar Magnetic Driver
Impedance: 16ohms
Sensitivity: 100db (1kHz)
Distortion Rate: <1%
Frequency: 20-20KHz
Cable Type: High-Purity 5N OFC Cable
Cable Length: 1.2m ± 5cm
Pin Type: 0.78 - 2 pin
Plug Type: 3.5mm/2.5mm/4.4mm

TangZu, formerly known as TForce and known for their previous releases like the Yuan Li and Shimin Li are back at it again for another beautiful release. But unlike all their previous models, they have decided to take part in the war of planar magnetic IEMs that other companies have been trying to dominate. I would say that this shift in technologies really pushed some companies to compete to provide the best of the best. The question then lies before us, will TangZu provide the best of the best?

Unfortunately, I am unable to add my thoughts in regard to the ongoing planar war as this will be my very first planar IEM. Instead, I would like to highlight the state of planar against DD and other driver configurations and whether there are any advantages to the traditional configurations.


PACKAGING:

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Before we talk about the IEMs themselves, let’s take a look at the packaging that the IEM comes in.

We were only provided the carrying pouch that comes with the IEM so I am unable to comment on the box ergonomics, design, and contents besides the aforementioned inclusions (and cable).

The carrying pouch comes in a larger than usual carrying pouch with a beautiful shade of burgundy. I am unable to confirm the material of the pouch but f I were to assume, I would say this is a very well-made faux leather. It is approximately 14cm x 11cm x 5cm which is quite large compared to all the carrying pouches that other IEMs I’ve tried come in. The top side of the pouch has Tangzu’s logo in gold written on top of it. The zipper and slider are colored in gold, too.

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Opening the pouch reveals quite a grandiose presentation of the cable and the IEMs themselves. Insides are covered in what seems to be velvet or velour material. The center includes a protruding section for the IEMs to lay rest in while the cable wraps around the said protruding section. On top is a large, netted section where you may put your extra buds, cables, dongles, or other accessories. Heck, if you have a small enough DAP I reckon you would be able to fit it inside that net without issue. Although due to the protruding sections, it may prove to be difficult to close if you were to put anything reasonably thick in there.

Overall, this has to be one of the most beautiful unboxing (ironically without the box) experiences I’ve had in an IEM. Unzipping the pouch to reveal two beautiful, purple gems with a braided brown cable contrasting around the IEMs almost made me cry. That being said, I would like to nitpick on the sections being a bit too tall. With this size of a carrying pouch, I want to be carrying everything I need with the IEM. But the sections limit it to only be a certain size or certain amount. As much as I love the presentation that the pouch offers, its practical application leaves a lot to be desired.


BUILD AND FIT: 7 out of 10

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Starting with the cable, it is a high-purity 5N OFC 4 core cable of about 1.2m in length. It’s colored in an attractive copper-like brown.

The jack is your standard silver finish with a pretty nice crease to grip whenever you plug and unplug. My particular unit is also terminated in 4.4 BAL which is quite the treat if you have a source that allows for balanced 4.4 output. But fret not my 3.5 SE brethren, TangZu also offers a 3.5 SE termination (and at a cheaper price too!).

Going up the cable leads to another pretty standard cylindrical splitter and chin cinch. Nothing too special here.

The preformed ear hooks are also pretty standard but thankfully quite comfortable to wear and do not lead to pressure points. Lastly, we end up at the 0.78 2-pin connectors. It is cylindrical in shape like the splitter and has the L R indicators printed on one side

Now unto the beauties themselves.

Oh boy, where do I start? The faceplate is a CNC machined aluminum alloy in a beautiful shade of purple. According to TangZu themselves, the faceplate is designed with traditional culture in mind and used an “auspicious cloud pattern”. The use of the color purple is also representative of the emperor as purple is the color of royalty. The faceplate curves about 1mm down until it transitions into the resin shells.

The resin shells are 4th Gen DLP 3D printed resin cavities which are arguably pretty stale looking but TangZu claims that they used a large data of human ears on their OEM division to provide a shape that should fit most people. They also stated that due to the large size of the planar magnetic driver, they had to increase the size of the shell. There are 3 vents in total. One directly under the drivers, one across that, and one right beside the 2-pin connector. The nozzle length is ~4mm and the width is ~5mm

The cable overall is quite your average cable at this price range. A solidly built 4-core cable that probably won't tangle due to its thicker strands and an inoffensive split and cinch. At this price, though, I would’ve expected a modular cable to come with the Zetian Wu as it would have been quite nice to be able to switch up the termination at any given moment without the need for another cable. Even $35 sets nowadays get modular cables now! But nothing wrong with creating a solid, single termination cable especially if you don’t have or don’t plan to get a source with balanced termination.

When you think of an empress, you think exceptional, grand, royal, exclusive, majestic and every other synonym you can muster in the face of royalty. Zetian Wu’s aesthetic pulls that off quite perfectly, I would say. I don’t think I’ve seen an IEM this beautifully designed. Obviously, beauty, like this hobby, is subjective. But you can’t deny the handicraft done on the Zetian Wu is a beauty. The stated “auspicious clouds” give the Zetian Wu an almost hand-crafted look while the shade of purple that they used is stunning especially when viewed under a glaring light. Despite that, it does not feel too cramped or overly designed as it still has a sense of cleanliness and understatedness that allows it to not stand out when you don’t want it to. Truly a beauty in the palm of your hands (and your earlobes too).

What cannot be said to be quite perfect though is its build quality. From the moment I held it in my hands, I did not feel like I was holding a piece of art. It could be my expectations, but I anticipated that the Zetian Wu would be heavier (especially since it sports a planar driver). But even with its CNC machined aluminum faceplate and resin cavities, it somewhat feels cheap. The seams between the resin and the faceplate aren’t smooth and are pretty sharp making it feel like they just slapped it on the resin and called it a day (I think I can actually rip off the faceplate if I tried). The $40 HZSound Heart Mirror feels more luxurious to hold than the $150 Zetian Wu. That being said, the Heart Mirror is also a 10mm CNT driver encased in a fully metal build while the Zetian Wu is a 14.5mm Planar which, cost-wise, makes more sense why they went with a half aluminum, half resin build. But least to say, I was quite disappointed with how it felt in my hands.

Comfort-wise, I would say that they nailed their research as upon first wear I did not feel any discomfort or looseness with the IEMs (keep in mind I used KBear07 as the tips that came with the unit were pretty awful). The nozzle length and width are just alright to my ears as I did not have difficulties tip-rolling. Fins on the resin also helped with the snug fit into my ear and I never felt like it was going to leave my ear. The problems rose in longer listening sessions. Possibly due to its size, there were too many pressure points on the ear that made it quite uncomfortable to wear for hours on end. You could argue that you shouldn’t even be using IEMs for long periods of time, but there are people who need isolation or monitoring for hours. In that case, Zetian Wu may or may not give you issues.

Speaking of monitoring;


SOUND: 32.5 out of 40

Sound Signature:
  • Harman-ish with elevated sub bass, natural midrange, and slightly elevated treble with good extension

Driving Power:
  • Surprisingly, it can be driven by a non-hifi phone (albeit definitely sounding more distant, dry, and less technical compared to being driven properly) but definitely benefits from a more powerful source. Still enjoyable through a phone though.

Bass: 8 out of 10
  • Great overall balance of sub-bass and midbass control
  • Subbass has dominance over midbass but does not overpower
  • A satisfying amount of rumble, but probably not enough to satisfy bass heads
  • Great control and decay without sounding lean or weak
  • Good detail and texture that carries over on busier tracks
  • Smooth midbass kick that doesn’t sound too harsh or bleeds to the mids

Overall, the bass response of the Zetian Wu is immaculate. I wouldn’t say it's perfect as I still find it a tad bit weak-hitting on some tracks but this could really just be attributed to its planar nature. This doesn’t mean it’s weak by any means. If your tracks call for bass, the Zetian Wu delivers. The midbass is very nicely done and transitions into the lower mids quite smoothly thanks to quicker decay. Transients in the bass are also not very offensive while providing a good amount of kick in midbass heavy tracks. A track I would like to highlight here is Air Pillow by Valiant Vermin as the kick on the midbass tends to linger on some units which mud the vocals a tad bit. The Zetian Wu lingers just the right amount on the track and provides a satisfying overall kick. As a whole, the bass response of the Zetian Wu was quite enjoyable and I would go on to say that this would be my preference in the bass. I would prefer something leaner than this, though.

Mids: 7.5 out of 10
  • Natural sounding vocals
  • Good instrument presentation
  • Male vocals have good body albeit distant sounding on busier tracks
  • Lower registers of string instruments can sound pulled back on some tracks
  • Instruments are neither forward nor distant and offer a realistic depiction
  • Upper mids are more forward than the lower mids
  • Female vocals are slightly forward and very well depicted with a little bit of thinness on some artists
  • Upper registers of pianos sound very resolving

Overall, I would say the mids are the weakest part of the Zetian Wu. Male vocals and some string instruments occasionally sound weak or distant on certain tracks. Steve Lacy’s Static makes his voice a bit dry, but this could potentially be with how aggressive the bass on this track is that it pulls back his vocals. Regardless, the overall presentation of mids is good but not quite impressive. Vocals did not totally wow me but the instrument presentation was pretty good. Female vocals and string instruments like violins and guizhongs I’d say would be the star of the show as they are quite beautifully presented. A small gripe that some may have and that I’ve noticed is that the upper mids can get quite hot on certain tracks. This is not unfamiliar for this kind of tuning (and I prefer it to an extent) but still worthy of a mention.

Treble: 9 out of 10
  • Smooth yet well-extended treble presentation
  • Transition to upper mids is very well done and does not exhibit any edginess
  • Good body on instruments and high-reaching vocals without sounding tinny
  • No sibilances or peaks present
  • Microdetails are present and well placed without being too harsh
  • Transients are well controlled while being detailed enough to hear the details
  • Upper treble doesn’t exhibit inherent sibilance whatsoever
  • Great airiness
  • Cymbals, strings, and air instruments sound well represented in the upper registers

Wow. As a treble head, this has got to be one of the smoothest yet most detailed trebles I’ve heard. Is this the planar experience? The aforementioned thinness from the upper midrange does not last as the overall control that the driver has on the treble is incredible. I will be talking about soundstage, imaging, and separation in a bit but thanks to the treble response it handles treble in most if not all tracks really well. Personally, this is almost the perfect treble for me and I would really only nitpick for the mid to upper treble to be up slightly as I would definitely love to hear that sizzle. But all in all, the treble response of the Zetian Wu is probably the best thing about the set. Almost all of my treble test tracks like 3 on E by Vulfpeck, Blaze by Lettuce, and A Brand New Start by Tracktribe all pass with flying colors as they provide a very enjoyable and detailed treble experience

Soundstage, Imaging, and Separation: 8 out of 10
  • Great sense of stage for an IEM
  • Good width and depth, but slightly lacking in height
  • Impressive imaging, but can be a tad bit difficult to pinpoint in busier tracks
  • Very good instrument separation but can also be difficult to separate on busier tracks

Quite impressive overall technicalities that the Zetian Wu offers. The staging was what really shocked me on the first listen as this is probably the widest stage I’ve heard in an IEM by far. This is thanks in part to its treble tuning as it provides quite a good amount of air that instruments don’t sound in your head and are well separated on the surface. This obviously pales in comparison to headphones or earbuds, but to achieve this on in ears is quite impressive. I still feel like the height could be improved, but the overall really good staging. Imaging is also very impressive but something I’ve observed is on busier tracks such as However the Illusionist shake the dice, Zetian Wu has the slightest tendency to be a bit more difficult to separate the instruments and their positions. Albeit this is only on certain segments, particularly the chorus. For the rest of the song, Zetian Wu performs almost perfectly.


COMPARISON:

Well, this is more of a discussion than an actual comparison. This is where I would like to raise the question of how planars go against other driver configurations. I won’t go too deep into each one but I will say that the biggest difference that planar has against other configurations, especially DD is resolution, stage, and clarity. I found that the Zetian Wu was so close to reaching that out-of-your-head experience that headphones and earbuds offer but still too closed in for a proper depiction of the stage to be achieved. In turn, Zetian Wu’s bass response compared to DDs still fall a bit lean and less engaging. Lastly, the treble response that Zetian Wu has is honestly one of the best in any IEM I’ve tried. It’s both well extended and smooth to offer an inoffensive yet detailed experience. But at the end of the day, we should really celebrate the advancing technology that companies are using to move audio forward. Regardless of what’s better for you, having more choices will always be a win-win.

VERDICT:

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When I first tried the Zetian Wu, I wasn’t really all that shocked or surprised by its sound. Possibly this is due to the tuning that it has being saturated in the market. But when I took the time to listen to it properly, it quickly showed itself to be quite the capable set. Adding to that, it’s also my first experience in planar magnetic IEMs which was quite exciting.

I would say that TangZu has struck gold with the Zetian Wu, but some things can still definitely be improved. These would include a more confident build quality, modular cable, and further refinement in its sound quality. While its technicalities impressed me, it did not wow me to the point where I felt like my life was changed after hearing the Zetian Wu.

But with a combination of a well-balanced and inoffensive tuning, great technicalities, beautiful aesthetics, and a planar driver all for $150 (PHP. 8,600.00) , I doubt there’s much to complain about. The empress has truly impressed with the beauty that anyone can enjoy.

If you enjoyed this review, please consider also liking and following my FaceBook page down below!
https://www.facebook.com/OB.ODIO/
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RemedyMusic

New Head-Fier
Zetian Wu - authoritative like an Empress
Pros: excellent bass response
good balance and control across all frequencies
well thought of face plate
The sound stage has extra headroom
balanced sound signature
clean and precise instrument reproduction
excellent vocals presentation
technically capable
Cons: Planar timbre. That “sheen” in the trebles and mids. Very minimal though.
INTRODUCTION:
I would like to give thanks first to Steve Tong for providing us, the Philippines circle, a chance to experience the Zetian Wu firsthand.

The Zetian Wu is the 3rd release from Tangzu since the Yuan li. Here, Tangzu is officially entering the battlefield of the planar wars. Companies have been cutting each other’s throats in this war. So how does the Zetian Wu compete with the current status of planar releases? Sorry to disappoint but I will be vaguely comparing this to all the planar IEMs out there. But I will be comparing it to Letshouer S12 as it is the one planar I have besides Zetian Wu. Let’s get a move on and see how did Zetian Wu sound to me.

DISCLAIMER:​

My opinions here are completely my own. I am NOT in any way influenced by any form of incentive. This is purely my honest, subjective impressions and experience with the gear on hand. I cannot stress more that you should take this with a grain of salt for we have different perceptions to sound and what we hear. I always try my best to stick with the stock accessories that come with the gear by default. You are free to try other methods such as tip rolling or cable rolling. Below are worth noting before concluding on what I say here:

  1. DAP (digital audio player, be it phone, laptop, mobile, or stationary setup)
  2. DAC or dongle or any external amp
  3. Ear Tips
  4. Cables
  5. Source of audio file be it offline FLACS or streaming services like Deezer, Apple music, Tidal, Qobuz, Spotify and the likes..
  6. Your playlist. It matters and is worth to be considered when reading from a reviewer's perspective. It is apparent that you get to know your favorite reviewer and what they are listening to leisurely and critically.
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My reviews are more on how music sounds in my ears. The technical stuff like frequency graphs and the physics behind the tech and drivers used, I leave to other reviewers.

SPECIFICATIONS:​


Configuration: 1 x 14.5mm Planar driver
Impedance: 16ohms
Sensitivity: 100db
Freq response: 20hz - 20khz

PACKAGING:​

We did not receive the official packaging for this tour. But we got the bulky carrying case, which in my honest opinion looks like a woman’s purse. lol. And the Zetian Wu itself, and the cable with a 4.4mm termination.
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For the entirety of this review, sound impressions were done with a 4.4mm balanced output. Tips used is my personal Radius Deep Mount.

Now let us dive into how Zetian Wu sounds..

Sound Impressions:​

The Zetian Wu has a balanced sound signature with an authoritative character. It reflects well on its name as Wu Zetian was a symbol of good authority according to history. I did not research deep enough to give you a lecture but it was said that corruption among the government offices was minimized during her term.

The lows have the most authoritative nature. Punchy, quick and have a good body and texture. Just the way I like it. Never did it feel sluggish and was quick enough to catch up with my complex tracks. Reach to the sub-level is very impressive too! Making Zetian Wu’s overall sound presentation with muscle and rich and lush. Attack and decay are very admirable and I think this is the planars at work. This is my first encounter with planars and I can safely say that as a BA guy, I’m starting to love planar drivers. It has the character of a DD and the speed of a BA. Lows have a bump here but are impressively well controlled never sounding bloated or overbearing. Bleeds to other frequencies are almost none existent in my ears producing a clean and accurate reproduction.
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The mids are well placed and not a hint of recessed nature. Vocals are the main show here. Both on male and female genders. The vocals are very engaging and energetic. In very rare cases, high registers of vocals tend to exhibit some “sheen” and this comes naturally when it comes to planars. But the amount is very minimal. Mids reproduction is still maintained to be organic and very musical. I am very particular about my pianos as I am a pianist, and that’s why I was able to detect some hint of “sheen”. Nonetheless, the mids will suit mid-centric like me. Elements are full of life and emotion. And sounded as they are in real life.

Trebles have a good extension and open nature. And never sounded sibilant or too much. Trebles are well controlled while possessing great details and texture. Cymbals are well executed and full of energy. Vocals again, on the treble domain, are not veiled and have that forward and somehow aggressive character. Trebles are full-bodied and not on the thin side. Rich, lush, and thick.

Conclusively, the whole presentation of the sound of Zetian Wu is very well controlled, balanced, and staying organic, and musical. It connected to me on an emotional level and most likely will give anyone a sweet yet well-detailed embodiment. To be fair, the sound presented here is sometimes, too edgy for my taste. I can’t believe I’m saying this since I prefer speedy drivers, quick and snappy. But there is something that is just too edgy to me. Maybe it’s the performance of the planar drivers and possibly I need more time to adjust my brain to the concept. Still listening experience never becomes a chore on this set.

Fit & Isolation:​

The fitting and level of comfortability are commendable here. No weird nozzle angle. Weight is on the light side and this will favor long listening sessions.

Isolation is very effective and shuts off outside noise effortlessly. KZ earphones have been very comfortable for me in terms of wear. Zetian Wu reminds me of the snug fit of KZ products. With the exception of AS16pro.

Technicalities:​

The Zetian Wu is a very capable set in terms of technicalities. It has the speed that I look for in a gear, and… ok let’s get a move on…

The sound stage is very desirable. I don’t want to exaggerate as I have experienced earbuds. I can sense a sensible amount of headroom here. Width and height alike. Live recorded tracks are a joy to listen to.

Imaging is very pinpoint and near accurate. Following instruments are a breeze and this will benefit those who listen to their music on the hunt for new details. The placement of instruments is on point and where they should be.
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Separation is very impressive as well. With the help of my Questyle M15, instruments most of the time, have that space in between and do not feel limited. This must be reinforced by that extra headroom from the sound stage.

Speed of the drivers is well adequate. As expected from planar drivers. Quick, snappy and crisp. Attack and decay are the pinnacle of the speed here. So bring on your complex and busy tracks. Zetian Wu will never sweat.

SOURCES AND GEARS:​


  • Questyle M15
  • LG V30 hifi dac (high impedance mode)
  • Hiby Music player
  • UAPP app (USB Audio Player Pro)
  • Tidal Masters subscription
  • offline FLACS
  • Hidizs AP80 pro
  • Deezer Hifi subscription

Here are some tracks I usually listen to when reviewing:

That’s the way of the World by EWF
Africa by TOTO
The Girl in the Other Room by Diana Kral
Balmorhea album All is wild, All is Silent
Sila by Sud
Smooth Escape by D’Sound
Never too Much by Luther Vandross
P.Y.T by Michael Jackson
Ain’t no Sunshine by Eva Cassidy
Shoot to Thrill by AC/DC
Another one bites the Dust by Queen
Good times bad times by Edie Brickell
Alice in Wonderland by Bill Evans
Ain’t it Fun by Paramore
Redefine by Incubus
Far Away by Nickelback
Lovesong by Adele
Lingus by Snarky Puppy
Harvest for the World by Vanessa Williams
Love Bites by Def Leppard
No Such Thing by John Mayer
As by Stevie Wonder
Whip Appeal by Babyface
Ain’t Nobody by Chaka Khan
Futures by Prep
Landslide by Fleetwood Mac
Every Summertime by NIKI
SADE tracks
AC/DC tracks
Queen tracks


And many more… I always listen to High resolution format, being the least quality 16bit/44khz FLACS be it offline or online.

Comparisons:​

For the argument of comparisons, what I have with me is the Letshouer S12. I’m still in the process of critically listening to S12 so we will just touch the tip of the iceberg here. This comparison is done with the cable that came with Zetian Wu, and both were conducted on the 4.4mm balanced output. The Questyle M15 was picked as the source connected to the LG V30 phone via the Hiby music app.
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  • Vocal presentation is better with Zetian Wu. More forward than the S12.
  • S12 is harder to drive.
  • Resolution and detail retrieval are almost the same.
  • Sound stage is wider on Zetian Wu.
  • Bass response and body of the lows are better with the S12 by a small margin.
  • S12 sounded more “analog-ish” while Zetian Wu sounded with the hi-fi approach.
  • By a minuscule margin, S12 sounds more organic.
  • Mids are smoother on S12. Zetian Wu exhibits edginess in the mids.

VERDICT:​


This review is more like a quick impression. The Zetian Wu is with me for a limited time for this is a touring unit, and I hate to make the next guy wait. lol.

This is a great introduction for me to planar drivers and I can see that planars have an edge on both DD and BA. Of course, implementation is still a very important factor.

Zetian Wu has a well-bodied sound with no expense on its technical side. It is not hard to enjoy and it satisfied my sound cravings in abundance. With a hint of “sheen” that planar drivers possess but very minuscule. The key point here is its stupendous control over the whole spectrum of frequencies. Hence giving a lively, energetic reproduction without you wanting for more. It is balanced in sound and very versatile to any genre of music. Not to mention, the eye-catching faceplate. It does sound good as it looks.

I would recommend Zetian Wu to:

  • technically driven listeners
  • vocal oriented tracks
  • casual and mature listeners alike
  • critical and casual listening
  • any genre of music
  • those who like the speed performance of drivers

The Zetian Wu is a no-brainer. A bang for your buck and an all-rounder. It will cater to most listeners. Casual or hard-core audiophiles. It appealed to me quite nicely and how it compares to other planar releases out there on the battlefield, is something yet to be reckoned with. A mystery yet to be opened.

That concludes my review for Zetian Wu and do look forward to what my co-reviewers have to say. Again, love the music more than the gears and you mileage may and most likely vary.

Cheers, and catch you on the next one!
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maegnificant
maegnificant
Thinking about getting this one, but I really dislike the design... Hope they'll design another variant of it.
maegnificant
maegnificant
Thanks for the review!
RemedyMusic
RemedyMusic
@maegnificant i hope you enjoyed reading and somehow helped you. Thanks.
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