TFZ Series 5

General Information

Model Number: TFZ SERIES 5
Driver: 12.5mm Titanium Crystal Dual Loop Dynamic Dual Chamber (N50)
Impedance: 12ohm
Sensitivity: 105dB/mW
Frequency Response: 6Hz-30 kHz
Style: In-Ear
Plug Type: Line
Connectors: 3.5mm
Mic: No
Lowest Power: 8MW
Interface: 3.5mm Giled
Cable length: 1.2M

Latest reviews

GabeF

New Head-Fier
Pros: Price, Lightweight, Superb Bass Extension, Comfortable, Clear Vocals, Quality wire, FUN
Cons: NOT a true IEM, Sound Stage, Sound Isolation, May be too "bassy"
First things first; these ARE NOT true IEMs. DO NOT buy these for stage monitoring or music production.
 
Now that I got that out of the way, my overall experience with these can be summarized in one word; fun. The TFZ Series 5 have one of the most interesting sound profiles I've ever heard and overall bass execution. Before I brake it down by frequencies, I will say that the overall experience is a unique one and will vary greatly on the genre and instrumentation. Dubstep, EDM, R&B, Country, Rap/Hip-Hop, Pop, Acoustic and Live performances benefit the most here. Rock, Heavy Metal and Classical are a mixed bag that depends on the amount of instruments and their overall frequencies. Basically if their is "too much" going on, the lows will drown out high-mids. To give an example, most Deftones' songs will lose brightness in the high-hat and ride cymbal regions.
 
Highs:
Definitely the downside to these IEMs, the highs are occasionally drowned by extreme lows. This does not mean that the highs are removed or muffled, they simply take the backseat and are along for the ride. Highs are never harsh, nor absent. On their own they are bright, detailed and refined. Zakk Wylde's guitar solo in "Shades of Grey" is marvelously accented and string quartet performances are absolutely enjoyable.
 
Mids:
Mids can be described easily in one word; warm. They are always there and offer ample detail, but the TFZ Series 5s will make mids all warm and fuzzy. 
 
Lows:
Holly Sh!t!!! You can actually FEEL the bass with these. TFZ should seriously be commended for what they've done. Lows are powerful, offer the best extension I've ever experienced from earphones and are decently controlled all things considered. 
 
If you are looking for a fun pair of headphones or you mainly listen to modern "popular" music, the TFZ Series 5s offer amazing value and should definitely be on your shortlist when looking at this price point. 
 
 
P.S. This is my first Head-Fi review, feel free to ask if you want more details or if you have any suggestions on how I could improve my reviews
SomeGuyDude
SomeGuyDude
You do realize that "IEM" is just the term used now for in-ear headphones that insert fully into the ear canal, right? Like... no one thinks that it means they're intended for studio work. You get that, right? 
all999
all999
Which revision was this? There are two. 
Sounstage in cons? TFZ5 have the great sounstage reaching level of 200-300$ iems. Easily.
Brooko
Brooko
@all999 - their soundstage (to me anyway) was a little two dimensional - reasonable width, but little depth, and sounded quite flat with live music.  I can see where someone would say that it is a con - but it would have helped if he'd been able to elaborate a little more on it.  And comparable to a $200-300 IEM?  Seriously?  Just no.  Reasonable value for what they are.  Personally I'd stick with the TFZ 3 though.
Pros: Fun sound signature, Forward bass response, Impressive sub-bass extension and tone, Maintains nice mids/highs considering bass emphasis, Nice Fit
Cons: Too much bass to be considered natural sounding, Cable jack housing won't work with most phone cases, No clamshell case, Competitive price point
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At the time this review was written, the TFZ Series 5 was listed for sale on Penon Audio’s website. Here is a link to their listing of the product:
 
http://penonaudio.com/TFZ-SERIES-5
 
Introduction
This is my third review in a row of TFZ products Here are links to my reviews of the Series 1 and 3:
 
Series 1:
http://www.head-fi.org/products/tfz-series-1/reviews/16935
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Series 3:
http://www.head-fi.org/products/the-fragrant-zither-tfz-series-3-hifi-earphones/reviews/16947
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At the time of writing this review the Series five is the quasi-flagship of the TFZ lineup. I started my review experience with the entry level Series 1, then took a step up to the Series 3. As we embark on the Series 5, I will prematurely admit that I’ve intentionally saved the best for last. Let’s find out why and go over them with a comprehensive review.
 
NOTE: Because the design, build and tunings of the TFZ lineup of earphones I am reviewing are very similar, there will be some portions copied and pasted from the other reviews done on these products. This is not done to make quick work of the reviews, but rather an honest depiction due to the fact that they are so similar. Please don’t disregard the information because some of it is the same. I have identified differences in the review(s). Better yet, those who have read one or both of the above listen reviews might save a little time by skipping straight ahead to the sound review section of this review.
 
Disclaimer
I was given a free sample of the Series 5 in exchange for my honest opinion and review. I am in no way affiliated with TFZ. I would like to take this time to personally thank Penon Audio for the opportunity to experience and review the product. For those who don’t know, Penon Audio is an excellent resource for audio products. Their customer service is top notch.
 
My Background
I AM NOT a numbers and graphs audiophile or sound engineer. Personal audio enthusiast? Absolutely! Headphone junkie? Possibly…
 
There’s something about quality DAPs, DACs, Amplifiers and Earphones that intrigues me. I want to hear any earphone that looks promising, in hopes that I can share my impressions with  enthusiasts and help them find the audio product they’re looking for. My Head-Fi profile has a list of audio products ranked from favorite to least favorite. For me, this hobby is more about getting great price to performance ratio from a product, and having a variety of different gear to mix and match. With personal audio gear, we tend to pay a lot of money for minor upgrades. One thing I’ve learned over the last few years is that just because a headphone has a higher price tag, it doesn’t mean that it has superior build and sound quality.
 
I’m always looking for great audio at a great price. I’m after headphones and IEMs that give me the “WOW” factor. I can appreciate different builds and sound signatures as long as they are solidly built, with ergonomics and sound that is pleasing to my ears. It’s my pleasure to share my experiences with audio products and make recommendations based on gear I have owned and used.
 
REVIEW
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The Series 5 comes in a black box with silver print. The front features the product name and TFZ logo as well as the website address in small print.
 
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The back of the box is blank aside from a small sticker with the barcode and small photo of the earphones displayed.  
 
Specifications and Accessories
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Specification
Model Number: TFZ SERIES 5
Driver: 12.5mm Titanium Crystal Dual Loop Dynamic Dual Chamber (N50)
Impedance: 12ohm
Sensitivity: 105dB/mW
Frequency Response: 6Hz-30 kHz
Style: In-Ear
Cable :silver-plated
Plug: 3.5mm
Lowest Power: 8MW
Cable length: 1.2M
Package
 
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Accessories
1X TFZ SERIES 5 earphone
3X pairs of Silicone ear tips
1X pair of double-flange silicone eatips
1X pair of Foam ear tips
1X pair of Ear hook
1X Carry bag
1X Clip
 
Housings
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TFZ was smart with their design. The entire lineup has a custom-ish over the ear fit.
 
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The Series 5 is a black plastic and metal shell. There is a nice brushed black aluminum faceplate with an imprinted circe on the faceplate, and a matte black plastic used on the inside of the inner part of the housing. The housing are lightweight, solidly built, and designed to fit comfortably. I really like the shape and ergonomics of the housings. They have a nice universal shape that will fit just about everybody’s ears. Nozzle are average in terms of width and length. Tip rolling with these earphones is an easy and fun experience.
 
Cable, Y-Split, Cable Jack, Strain Reliefs
Series 5 has a black rubber jacketed cable with some spring and virtually no memory. The Y-split is a firm rubber piece that is very adequate. A metal chin/neck slider sits flush with the Y-split when not in use.
 
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The earphones have a straight 3.5 mm gold plated plug with a metal black and gold jacketing. There is a serial number printed on the the jack. One thing about the jack I’m not fond of is how the jacketing sits close the the jack and is a considerably wider, making it incompatible with many smartphone and DAPs with aftermarket cases. I was unable to use them with my LG V10 unless I removed my phone case. Strain reliefs are subtle and adequate. If handles with a reasonable amount of care, I don’t see the TFZ cable breaking any time soon.
 
NOTE: TFZ also has introduced the S series of earphones which offers a different silver plated cable. I haven’t heard it so I’m not sure of the sonic differences. It also appears that TFZ has upgraded the cables on both the Series 3 and Series 5. Instead of the basic black rubber coated cable versions I received, they now have a braided SPC cable.  
 
Functionality
My pair did not come with a microphone or remote. They are specifically designed for music enjoyment.
 
Ergonomics, Fit and Microphonics, Isolation
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The over ear fit of the TFZ series of earphones worked well for my ears. We are seeing more and more universal shells with this custom inspired shape. The way they are designed, they fill a large portion of the concha of my ear. The angled strain relief loops around my ear and are snugged into place with the chin/neck slider. Thanks to the over ear fit, microphonics are virtually eliminated. Isolation is average for a universal model.
 
NOTE: After tip rolling I discovered that wide bore tips create a more open and clear sound than the stock tips that come in the package. Spiral dot and whirlwind tips gave me best results. Your mileage may vary, just make sure that if you do get the Series 5 (or any in-ear monitor for that matter), try experimenting with various tips to find something that works best for your listening experience.
 
Sound Review
I did my demo with my usual gear. I used an LG-V10 for smartphone use, and either my Shanling H3 or iBasso DX80 DAP/Bushmaster D14 DAC/Amp for high fidelity portable use. For desktop use, I used my Toshiba Satellite Laptop in combination with a ifi micro iDSD playing at 32/192 kHz. I tested them with several other sources as well. I used Google Music in its highest download quality (320 KBPS), and also streamed FLAC via Tidal streaming service. I also used purchased and downloaded tracks in MP3, FLAC, WAV and DSD. I make sure that any gear I test has sufficient playtime before writing a review.
 
I used my usual same songs for testing gear:
“Limit to your love” by James Blake (bass speed, punch, response)
“Doin’ it Right” by Daft Punk (sub bass)
“Get lucky” by Daft Punk (bass to midrange transition resolution, male vocals)
“Madness” by Muse (soundstage, separation)
“Some nights” by Fun (soundstage and male vocals)
“The soundmaker” by Rodrigo y Gabriela (texture and imaging)
“Bassically” by Tei Shi (bass to midrange resolution, female vocals)
“Skinny Love” performed by Birdie (female vocals, acoustic playback)
“One” by Ed Sheeran (male vocals, acoustic playback)
“Outlands” from the Tron Legacy Soundtrack (symphonic presentation, imaging)
“Sultans of swing” by Dire Straits (detail, separation, balance)
“And Justic for All” by Metallica (driver distortion, treble response, rock playback)
“Ten thousand fists” by Disturbed (driver distortion, treble response, rock playback)
 
Note: Other tracks were used, but the listed songs were primarily used to assess and break down the gear’s response.
 
Source Selection
At 12 Ohms, the Series 3 is a very easy to drive earphone. They can be driven with any DAP or cell phone. Their warm tilt and smooth response is better setup to work well with a more neutral sounding source. They will work with a warmer sounding source, but I personally found them to work more ideally with my leaner sounding DAPs and portable amplifiers. The Series 5 sounded great through my LG V10.
 
The tuning of the Series 5 is somewhat forgiving with poorly recorded music and low bitrate files. The Series 5 sets itself apart from the Series 1 and 3 by offering what to my ears was a miniscule level of clarity and refinement that allows them to scale up better with higher bitrate files and better quality sources.
 
Sound Signature
The tuning of the Series 5 is similar to the other two in the lineup, especially the Series 3. The Series five takes a somewhat L-shaped tuning that’s almost identical to the series 3 but with a slightly more defined and detailed presentation . Although not a significant change in sound, the refinement added to the Series five puts it near the top of the pack in the sub one hundred dollar earphones, especially for those who love bass.
 
The Series 3 worked phenomenally for pop music and modern genres but didn’t have the clarity needed for me to make the most of band genres and complex music passages. Series five puts enough air between instruments to make this possible. Although more ideal for modern genres, they sounded good with just about everything I threw at them.
 
The overall feel is a bass forward response with plenty of sub-bass extension. Midrange and vocals are very natural and are just a fraction on the warm side of what I consider neutral. Treble is adequate, has decent detail and is non-fatiguing. At the end of the day (and as long as you could enjoy some serious bass) the Series 5 was just flat out fun to listen to.
 
Bass
Bass has plenty of body and better than average response. Sub-bass extension is phenomenal, with plenty of depth while maintaining true and accurate tone. During Daft Punk’s “Doin’ it Right” The Series five hits every note with a strong visceral depth. There is some resonance and slow decay at sub bass levels but not to the point of it being a deal breaker for me. Their authoritative presence can be a little boomy at times, but it happens more at sub-bass levels rather than mid-bass frequencies. Long story short, the Series 5 brings the thump, the bump and the rumble without overdoing the mid-bass from what I heard. Combined with their above average clarity and isolation at other frequencies, the Series 5 is one of the better “basshead audiophile” earphones I’ve had the pleasure of listening to.
 
Those seeking a linear and neutral tuning will not care for the meaty bass these have. Those who feel a home entertainment center isn’t complete without a kick-arse subwoofer will love them. Beauty is in the eyes (or ears) of the beholder. Being somewhere in between these polar opposites, I enjoy the heck out of them, and find them to be one of the best tuned earphones I’ve heard for commuting. If you want bass to be the star of the show without destroying the clarity and details in the rest of the sound spectrum, this is something I would recommend.
 
Mid-range
Although mid-range takes a back seat to the earphone’s bass response, they off a warm and dynamic presence with a fair amount of texture and detail. The Series 5 drivers manage to bring you a warm and balanced midrange and treble tuning while maintaining a strong bass forward tuning. This was on full display during Fun’s “Some Nights”. Vocal harmonies were clean and clear as the song’s bassline was bumping. Is it the most clean combination I’ve ever heard in this regard? The answer is no, but for a single driver at eighty bucks it’s great.
 
Upper mid-range has a nice bite and is clean sounding. You get a nice finish on both Male and female vocals. Guitars, piano notes, bass guitars are all very natural, with just a touch of color. They are highly enjoyable, and if the bass to midrange balance is too skewed for you, lowering the bass a few decibels on your equalizer will reveal just how good the Series 5 mid-range actually is.
 
Treble
Treble is in nice balance with mid-range sounds and has a mildly detailed yet somewhat relaxed feel. The overall warm and somewhat bass emphasized tuning combine with treble tuning gives me a nice sense of sparkle up top. It’s enough to make the upper frequencies very adequate and decently proportioned. The treble is polite, far from harsh and not the most extended stuff I’ve ever heard. To my ears the Series 5 avoids sibilant sounds without there being any radical dips or spikes in its tuning. Detail is better than average (and excellent for the price) but not elite. Pronunciations of the letters S and T are nicely done. Cymbal crashes and hi-hats are natural, but more on the relaxed side of things.
 
Soundstage and Imaging
Because of the impressive sub-bass depth and adequate (albeit not super extended) treble response, I find the soundstage of the Series 5 to be very good for the price. The mid-range/bass ratios are a bit skewed, which makes me say that imaging isn’t the greatest. Any synthesized bass line will throw things off a bit, but acoustic and live performances will yield an improved sense of instrument placement.
 
Comparisons to the Series 1 and 3
 
I will usually compare to similarly priced and comparable models from other brands but I feel that it would be better to figure out how these stack up to the other two in the lineup.
 
My pair of Series 3 and Series 5 sound very similar, and their frequency response measures pretty much identically. The Series 3 is maybe just a touch less resolving. All of the earphones have what I would assume are very similarly designed drivers. From the information I’ve gathered, the Series 5 has a thinner and more responsive titanium diaphragm in their driver as compared to the Series 1 and 3.
 
NOTE: Since receiving the Series 1, 3 and 5, TFZ has made tweaks. They now offer a “S” series. I have not heard the new series so I can’t compare. What I’ve heard is that they’ve tuned down the bass with the new models, which is good for those who find the first run too bassy.
 
All three earphones are bassy, having a L-shaped tuning, somewhat natural and slightly warm tilted midrange and smooth treble response. There was a small measureable difference between the Series 1, and the 3 and 5. The Series 3 and 5 has a few dB increase at mid/upper-mid and treble frequencies.  
 
The Series 3 sits in between the Series 1 and Series 5, and their tuning leans more towards the Series 5. Series 1 is the warmest, smoothest and least defined. The Series 3 has the tuning of the Series 5, but doesn’t seem to have the same refinement, detail and separation. The Series five is the same tuning as the series three, but with an overall more refined and high end sound. The difference isn’t significant and required extensive A-B testing to figure this out.
 
Build quality is nearly identical. The Series 1 has a transparent shell, while the other two models have black shells with aluminum faceplates. Accessories is identical on all three models.
 
Conclusion
The Series 5 is cut from the same cloth as the Series 1 and 3, there’s no doubt about that. They all are bass forward earphones that are geared to make the most of modern genres of music.
 
Where the Series 5 sets itself apart from the rest of the lineup is their refinement in terms of improved clarity and detail over the Series 3. Although the bass forward and L-shaped tuning of the entire series rocks with top 40 radio, the Series 5 adds a level of resolution and separation needed for me to be able to enjoy them with rock and band genres (unlike the Series 1 and 3). Although a minor improvement from the other two, it is a tweak that justifies its leap in price.
 
When rating a product I have to take all criteria into account (including price). Given the fact that the other two earphones received four stars, I will say that the Series 5 gets an extra half star. However, that extra half star is again taken away (just like the Series 3) by the sizeable leap in price. Drop the price of the Series 5 to fifty dollars and I would be debating whether or not to give them a four and a half or five star review. They are a good sounding earphone for the price, but once you get to the seventy-five to one hundred dollar price range, a lot of very good earphones come into the conversation.
 
If I were to improve on the Series 5, for my preference I would tune the bass down just a bit, and add a slightly more premium (and maybe detachable) cable. I would also offer a clamshell case for storage and transportation. Aside from that I see nothing else major to improve on. They are a solid pair of earphones that many will enjoy, especially our “basshead audiophile” friends. Yes I’m talking to you @Hawaiibadboy
 
Truth be told, upon concluding this review I’m left wondering why TFZ would release three earphones that sound so similar. TFZ has brought to market the “S” version of each of these earphones. I’m curious to see what changes they made. Let’s all make sure to read impressions on the new lineup, and keep our eyes out for the rumored Series 7 hybrid.
 
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Thanks for reading and happy listening!
Hawaiibadboy
Hawaiibadboy
2 reviews of this and I am curious :)
 
Nice review as always!
Pros: Fit, extremely comfortable, very good sound signature after EQ (bass reduction), general build quality for the price.
Cons: Over dominant bass, strain relief on housing, questionable value
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For larger views of the photos (1200 x 800) - please click on the individual images
[size=24.57px]INTRODUCTION[/size]

TFZ is another Chinese earphone manufacturer/brand which I had no knowledge of until this year. Then Amy from Penon Audio reached out to me to ask if I'd be interested in reviewing TFZ's 1,3 and 5 series IEMs. I quickly jumped on-line to do some research on the TFZ series, and was impressed by the shell shaping, and also a little concerned over the comments about their bass heavy signature. I expressed those concerns to Amy, and she suggested that I still review them, so a couple of weeks later (in July), I received TFZ's 1,3 and 5 series monitors and managed to spend some with the 5 series while I was travelling toward the end of July, and again over the last week or so in September.

ABOUT TFZ
Shenzhen Zither Chinese Year Industrial Com. Ltd was founded in Shenzhen China in 2015. The information on the company is a little sparse, but from what I've been able to ascertain so far, the company specialises in audio products (mainly IEMs). The philosophy behind the company is that good sound can also be trendy / visually beautiful / exciting.

TFZ focuses on exquisite fashion lifestyle products, and continue to pursue the perfect combination of excellent design and top performance to create a new brand spirit, designed for digital life enthusiasts bring top audio-visual enjoyment.

TFZ focuses on the products which manifest exquisite and fashionable lifestyle and consistently pursues for perfect combination of superb design and top-notch performance.

Their main product line seems to revolve around the TFZ1, 3 ,5 (and soon be released 7) series family, and can be visually enhanced by applying faceplate decorations. The latest releases also (apparently the “s” series) feature the use of an upgraded silver cable, and slightly different tuning. The model I’m reviewing today is the TFZ Series 5 (original).

DISCLAIMER
I was provided with the TFZ Series 5 by Penon Audio free of charge for the purposes of reviewing for Head-Fi. Penon Audio and TFZ do not expect the earphones back, so I acknowledge that they are freely given and I thank them for the opportunity. I am not otherwise affiliated with either Penon Audio or TFZ in any way, nor do I make any financial gain from my contributions, and this is my subjective opinion of the TFZ Series 5.

PREAMBLE - 'ABOUT ME'
I'm a 49 year old music lover. I don't say audiophile – I just love my music. Over the last couple of years, I have slowly changed from cheaper listening set-ups to my current set-up. I vary my listening from portables (including the FiiO X5ii, X3ii, X7, LP5, L3, and iPhone 5S) to my desk-top's set-up (PC > USB > iFi iDSD). I also use a portable set-up at work – usually either X3ii/X7/L3 > HP, or PC > E17K > HP. My main full sized headphones at the time of writing are the Sennheiser HD800S, Beyerdynamic T1, Sennheiser HD600 & HD630VB, and AKG K553. Most of my portable listening is done with IEMs, and lately it has mainly been with the Jays q-Jays, Alclair Curve2 and Adel U6. A full list of the gear I have owned (past and present is listed in my Head-Fi profile).

I have very eclectic music tastes listening to a variety from classical/opera and jazz, to grunge and general rock. I listen to a lot of blues, jazz, folk music, classic rock, indie and alternative rock. I am particularly fond of female vocals. I generally tend toward cans that are relatively neutral/balanced, but I do have a fondness for clarity, and suspect I might have slight ‘treble-head’ preferences. I am not treble sensitive (at all), and in the past have really enjoyed headphones like the K701, SR325i, and of course the T1 and DT880. I have a specific sensitivity to the 2-3 kHz frequency area (most humans do) but my sensitivity is particularly strong, and I tend to like a relatively flat mid-range with slight elevation in the upper-mids around this area.

I have extensively tested myself (ABX) and I find aac256 or higher to be completely transparent. I do use exclusively red-book 16/44.1 if space is not an issue. All of my music is legally purchased (mostly CD – the rest FLAC purchased on-line). I tend to be sceptical about audiophile ‘claims’, don’t generally believe in burn-in, have never heard a difference with different cables, and would rather test myself blind on perceived differences. I am not a ‘golden eared listener’. I suffer from mild tinnitus, and at 49, my hearing is less than perfect (it only extends to around 14 kHz nowadays). My usual listening level is around 65-75 dB.
For the purposes of this review - I mainly used the TFZ Series 5 straight from the headphone-out socket of my FiiO X3ii + E17K, and also used (at different times) my iPhone 5S, and a variety of the other DAPs I have around me. Although I tested them with an amplifier, I do not think they benefit from additional amplification (I use mine mainly for consistency when reviewing and also to extend battery life on the X3ii). In the time I have spent with the Series 5, I have noticed no changes in the overall sonic presentation, but am aware that I am also becoming more used to the signature of the TFZ S5 as I use them more often (brain burn-in).

This is a purely subjective review - my gear, my ears, and my experience. Please take it all with a grain of salt - especially if it does not match your own experience.

THE REVIEW


PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES
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Front of retail box

Rear of retail box

The TFZ Series 5 arrived in a large (for an IEM) black matt box and lid measuring 160 x 220 x 35mm. The front of the box features the TFZ logo, the model number in large silver print, and the website in smaller print (www.tfzither.com). The rear of the box features a small sticker on the back with a picture of the Series 5, and a bar-code and manufacturer information.

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Inside the box

The manual

Specs inside the manual

Opening the box is quite interesting as you are first greeted with a matt black card, with silver print, and the statement:
TFZ Make every song ambilight – beautiful like the stars

Under this card is a multi-page booklet in Chinese and English which contains tips for use , maintenance and safety, as well as specifications, a little about the company philosophy, the Series 1/3/5/7 product range, and some contact information.

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Under the manual

Tips and cable revealed

Warranty, sticker and cloth bag

Under this booklet is a plastic moulded tray containing the series 5 monitor, an envelope containing stickers and a warranty card, and some tips, ear guides, a small black velvety cloth draw string bag, and a shirt clip. The tips include 3 pairs of generic single flange silicone tips, one pair dual flange silicone tips and one pair of medium Crystal foam tips. The drawstring pouch measures 80 x 110mm, is easy to pocket, and although it won't give a lot of protection to the series 5, will help keep the cable tidy. It is a bit of a lint magnet though (sorry about the photos).

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Close up of the fae plate stickers

The carry bag is unfortunately a lint magnet

Tips, ear-hooks and clip

The package overall is OK for the price, and my one wish as far as accessories go would be to swap the cloth bag out for a generic carry case (these simply give more protection).

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS
(From TFZ)
I have also included the specs for the TFZ series 1 and 3 series for comparison. Also note that as the original TFZ series are not readily available now, I have quoted prices for all 3 models based on the “S” series with silver cable.


TFZ Series 1
TFZ Series 3
TFZ Series 5
Cost (Penon Audio)
USD 42.90
USD 54.90
USD 82.90
Type
Single Dynamic IEM
Single Dynamic IEM
Single Dynamic IEM
Driver type
12.5 mm Titanium N50
12.5 mm Titanium N50
12.5 mm Titanium N50
Frequency Range
18 Hz – 22 Khz
8 Hz – 24 Khz
6 Hz – 30 Khz
Impedance
12 ohm
12 ohm
12 ohm
Sensitivity
103 dB @ 1kHz 1mW
107 dB @ 1kHz 1mW
105 dB @ 1kHz 1mW
Cable (original)
120 cm copper with TPU sheath
120 cm copper with TPU sheath
120 cm copper with TPU sheath
Cable (upgraded model)
120 cm SPC
120 cm SPC
120 cm SPC
Jack
3.5mm gold plated, straight
3.5mm gold plated, straight
3.5mm gold plated, straight
Weight
Approx 18g with tips
Approx 18g with tips
Approx 18g with tips
IEM Shell
Matt TPU with Alu face plate
Matt TPU with Alu face plate
Matt TPU with Alu face plate

FREQUENCY GRAPH
The graphs below are generated using the Vibro Veritas coupler and ARTA software. Ken Ball (ALO/Campfire) graciously provided me with measurement data which I have used to recalibrate my Veritas so that it mimics an IEC 711 measurement standard (Ken uses two separate BK ear simulators, we measured the same set of IEMs, and I built my calibration curve from shared data). I do not claim that this data is 100% accurate, but it is very consistent, and is as close as I can get to the IEC 711 standard on my budget.

tfz5freq.pngtfz5csd.png

Frequency response and channel matching

CSD waterfall graph

The graphs are provided merely as a point of discussion, and later in the review I've included comparisons to other IEMs for similar reference. As these are all part of a series, I have also included comparisons of the 1 and 3 series.

What I’m hearing from the TFZ Series 5:

  1. Elevated sub-bass with a lot of slam, and tends to be the most dominant part of the audio spectrum – peaking in the 40-60 Hz range.
  2. Elevated mid-bass, a little less than sub-bass, but still dominant, and tending toward a warm signature
  3. Recessed lower mid-range giving the impression of distance with vocals, and often overshadowed (there is some bleed) with more bass dominant music.
  4. Rise through the upper mid-range peaking at around 2 kHz then gradually dropping away. This gives a nice sense of presence to vocals (particularly female), but is sometime affected by bass bleed.
  5. Lower treble is reasonably subdued with only one major peak at around 9 kHz. For my tastes I am hearing only small amounts of sibilance
  6. Overall it is a V shaped monitor which is bass emphasised but also possesses a relatively clean and clear mid-range.

I included the CSD also, and you will see evidence of some bass bleed into the mid-range frequencies but very little sign of any ringing.

BUILD QUALITY / DESIGN
External
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External face plates

Side and angled view of external plates

Internal surfaces - very nicely rounded

The TFZ Series 5 reminds me somewhat of a a small (but deep) custom monitor. The body is a triangular wedge shape of what seems top be a soft matte TPU (a good choice for material as it is supposed to be resistant to oil or grease). The ear piece is two separate pieces (main body and exterior aluminium faceplate), but the seam is well matched and although easy to see, fits nice and flush. At its widest point, the Series 5 measures 22mm across, and 25mm tall. It has a depth of approximately 15mm to the beginning of the nozzle flare, and the nozzle adds another 8mm or so on the angle.

The body is very cleverly shaped (similar to the PaiAudio MR3 I reviewed recently) so that the main part sits inside the cavity of your external ear between Antihelix and Tragus, with the thin arm or point of the triangle notching naturally into your Intertragic Incisure. On the internal side, all surfaces are very nicely rounded for the natural curves of your ear. The nozzle is a little over 8mm long from the flare (so it is quite short) and angled up. The nozzle diameter is around 5mm and it is covered with a mesh. There is a narrow lip, which can have some issues retaining tips (more on that later).

There is a circular shape on the external plate, and it appears to be more decorative than anything. At the rear of the left earpiece the website is printed in small but easy to read silver print. On the right ear piece in the same spot is the model number (Series 5 In-Ear Monitor). Adjacent to this and fitting in the groove between plate and body is a rear vent for the dynamic driver. There is also another vent which sits adjacent to the nozzle.
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Nozzle and ergonomic shaping

Weak spot - the cable exit

Second vent is just above the "IE" (hard to see)

At the top rear is the cable exit, and it consists of a flexible rubber mount through which the cable passes. This is one part of the IEM I would be concerned with (longevity) over time, as if there is any pressure on it, there can be signs of “lifting” off the body of the IEM. If TFZ were looking at adding value, I'd suggest adding a little to the price and converting to a 2 pin removable.

The cable
The cable is 1.2m in length and consists of a copper core and TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) sheath. The use of TPU makes a lot of sense due to its high elasticity, high shear strength, and resistance to oil and grease. Although the cable itself is reasonably thin between y-split and sheath, you should still get reasonable life due to the nature of the TPU tensile strength. There are no preformed loops or memory wire, but TFZ do include a pair of ear-hooks as an option to keep the cable in place.

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Jack

Y-split and cinch

Cable exit

With the cable over ear, the y-split hangs around half way down my sternum, and consists of a lightweight rubber/TPU mould, but has a very good detachable cinch (or cable slider) for securing the cable more tightly if required. The jack is gold plated, straight, relatively short, and has good relief. There is a brass coloured ring at the rear, and for a relativity budget priced earphone, looks pretty up-market. The jack body is around 8mm in diameter, so may not be case friendly for all smart-phones, but it does fit my iPhone case like a glove (perfect size).

Internals
The TFZ Series 5 uses a single 12.5mm titanium driver designated N50. The driver uses a 5 micron titanium diaphragm for increased clarity and fidelity. The driver is housed in a dual internal acoustic chamber set-up to further enhance the audio signature.

FIT / COMFORT / ISOLATION
I have one ear canal slightly different to the other one (my right is very slightly smaller) - so I tend to find that usually single silicon flanges don't fit overly well and shallow fitting IEMs can be problematic. I first tried the large silicone tips supplied, and the seal was surprisingly perfect fright from the start. The shape suited my ears perfectly. I next tried the dual flange and had similar success, but the included Crystal foams (while they gave me good comfort and a good seal) had a tendency to slide off the nozzles when extracting from my ears – simply because the nozzle lip is not pronounced enough.

TFZS528.jpgTFZS529.jpg[size=inherit]TFZS530.jpg[/size]

Default silicone and Crystal foam

Ostry tuning tips and Spin-Fits

Shure Olives and Spiral Dots

I then proceeded to test some of my after-market tips and had good success with Ostry tuning tips, Comply T400, Spin-Fits, and even Spiral Dots. My tip of choice though was the large Trinity Kombi tips (equivalent to Sony Isolation tips), and I used these for most of the review. I'd still suggest TFZ look at slightly increasing the lip on the Series1,3,5 – but the good news is that most of the trips I tried fit pretty well – and that includes the stock silicone tips.

Isolation with the Series will depend on the seal you achieve and possibly also the insertion depth. With the Kombi tips, isolation was really good for a dynamic, and I could only just hear the keyboard while I was doing the final edits (no music). With music playing, isolation is very good, and I even had no problems using these on a long haul flight (although I later switched to my QC25 during that flight).

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My favourite - Trinity Kombi tips

Earhooks worn

And without the earguides

Comfort for me is excellent – the TFZ are another of those designs which simply disappear when worn, much like the Pai Audio MR3. These would rate up there along side the Alclair Curve and Pai MR3 as being one of the best fitting and most comfortable IEMs I've worn. They sit well flush with my outer ear (inside the external ear cavity – between tragus and anti-tragus), and are easy to sleep in.

So the TFZ Series looks good, has a pretty nice build (with a question mark over the cable coupling to the shell), and is comfortable to wear. How do they sound?

SOUND QUALITY
The following is what I hear from the TFZ Series 5. YMMV – and probably will – as my tastes are likely different to yours (read the preamble I gave earlier for a baseline). Most of the testing at this point (unless otherwise stated) was done with my FiiO X3ii + E17K as source, and Trinity Kombi tips.
TFZS534.jpg

For the record – on most tracks, the volume level on the E17K was around 16-18/60 (on low gain) which was giving me an average SPL around 65-75 dB. Tracks used were across a variety of genres – and can be viewed in this list http://www.head-fi.org/a/brookos-test-tracks.

Relativities

  1. Sub-bass – well extended but quite emphasised. There is a lot of impact, and when sub-bass hits (Lorde's “Royals”) there is a lot of rumble,and it does tend to dominate and over-power the mid-range.
  2. Mid-bass – elevated, but mainly in the 60-150 Hz range, and then slopes downward until it reaches the lower mids. Again some bleed is noticeable into the mid-range with bass dominated tracks. Elevated (very) compared to the mid-range and quite a warm signature overall.
  3. Lower mid-range – very recessed compared to bass and upper mid-range. The nadir of the recession occurs between 500 and 1000 Hz (heart of vocal fundamentals) so relative to bass and upper mid-range there is some distance on vocals, and some will have a tendency to turn the volume on this IEM up a little, especially with Rock based and male vocal dominated tracks.
  4. Upper mid-range – elevated compared to lower mid-range, and it is quite a rapid rise (10 dB) between 1 and 2 kHz. Despite the sharp rise, the vocals still sound relatively focussed and cohesive, but the TFZ definitely sound better with female vocals (to me) than for male vocals. I think this particular emphasis on upper mid-range is where TFZ get their clarity, and this is particularly evident if you EQ the bass back a little.
  5. Lower treble – recessed a little compared to the upper mid-range, but with enough in this area to convey reasonable detail. There is a sharper peak at around 9 kHz but so far I haven't found it overly excessive. The lower treble is more smooth than overly bright, and some detail can be lost due to the extra warmth/bass. Cymbals tended to be masked a little by instruments like bass guitar, and the natural decay of cymbal hits was lost which was a shame.

Resolution / Detail / Clarity

  1. Has the ability to reveal reasonable detail, although I wouldn't call it the most resolving earphone. Unfortunately bass dominance tends to obscure finer details.
  2. Cymbal hits and decay on cymbals have some presence, but (depending on the recording) the decay after the initial crash is often truncated (this may be more to do with masking than anything else)
  3. Although there is reasonable clarity with guitar and female vocals, I would not call detail or overall clarity a strong point of the TFZ Series 5 with its default tuning

Sound-stage, Imaging

  1. Directional queues are reasonable but can be muddied a little depending on the recording. The binaural track Tundra actually showed reasonable sense of space (this could be the recessed lower mid-range at play), and was just outside the periphery of my head space – so reasonably good sense of width, although depth was a little flat.
  2. Oval presentation of sound-stage – with more emphasis on width than depth, but definitely not entirely one dimensional
  3. Reasonable sense of immersion both with applause section of “Dante's Prayer”, and also “Let it Rain”. Enough sense of space to bring a little realism, but still felt a little flat with some of my live tracks.

Strengths

  1. The series 5 has a very good upper mid-range which goes particularly well with female vocals, giving a nice sense of euphony or sweetness
  2. Smooth treble which conveys reasonable detail (depending on the genre)
  3. Good with very dynamic music – and able to show very good contrast between bass and upper mid-range (eg Cello and Violin)
  4. Really good with acoustic music and anything where bass does not dominate the recording. Eagles live version of Hotel California was really good to listen to (the intro), however even this track I would have dialled the bass back a little (too much impact from the kick drum).
  5. Lovers of a lot of warmth or bass impact will really like the bass emphasis – and the Series 5 did sound quite good with some female vocal oriented Trance tracks, and with some Hip-hop.

Weaknesses

  1. The bass is just too dominant for this to be the “more detailed” of the TFZ Series, and I constantly found myself taking breaks during the review – simply because there is too much thump there.
  2. Bass (because of the dominance) tends to bleed through the mid-range if the track is even the slightest bit bass heavy
  3. Recession in the lower-mids can tend to make some tracks sound muffled and distant. So my preferred lower volume listening can suffer as a result. The problem is that if you increase the volume to adjust for this deficiency, you get even more bass.

AMPLIFICATION REQUIREMENTS
TFZS535.jpg

The TFZ Series 5 is easily powered straight out of the portable devices I have, and I haven’t experienced any issues with the iPhone 5S, or any of the FiiO DAPs. I'm at my usual 65-75dB listening level (with typical pop/rock songs) on the iP5S at a volume level of around 25-30%, or on the E17K around 16-18/60 on low gain. I did try amping with the E17K, but noticed no obvious signs of improvement. I briefly tried the IMS Hybrid Valve Amp and the pairing simply wasn't to my taste (too dark). From my tests, the TFZ Series 5 neither benefits from nor needs additional amplification, however use of the E17K allows for other tweaks which we'll discuss in the equalisation section.

EQUALISATION
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TFZS532.jpgtfzaftereq.png

I used the TFZ Series 5 with many sources including the X1ii

X7, L3, and X3ii - with E17K (which leads to EQ)

Before and after EQ
It was almost a relief to reach this section, and finally be able to correct the deficiencies in the TFZ Series 5's tuning. I took the E17K and simply dropped the bass (using the tone controls) by -6, and then to further balance things, dropped the treble by -2 as well. This brought a lot more balance into the overall signature, and finally I was able to hear (with a lot of clarity) what the dynamic driver is actually capable of. I went back to some of the tracks I'd used earlier and now cymbal detail (including natural decay) was able to be heard clearly. This adjusted signature is one I'd encourage TFZ to maybe consider developing, as for me is is a lot better than the default, and one I would both recommend and indeed spend some of my own money on. I've included a graph of the frequency response before and after the adjustment.

COMPARISONS
For the TFZ Series 5 it was time to go back to a non-EQ'd setting and compare against other IEMs in a similar price bracket or with similar capabilities. First up is a small comparison of the other IEMs in the TFZ line-up. Then I chose to compare Trinity's Hyperion and Vyrus (both with a fun V shaped sound), and also the S0, and S5 from Brainwavz.

All of these comparisons are very subjective – and influenced by my own preference, physiology and bias. Comparison was once again with the X3ii + E17K, and the Series 5 had the Trinity Kombi tips and no EQ was used. All IEMs were volume matched with a 1 kHz tone and using a proper SPL meter.

TFZ Series 5 ($83) vs TFZ Series 3 ($55) vs TFZ Series 1 ($43)
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TFZ Series 5, Series 1 and Series 3

Frequency response comparison

Essentially, the build quality, accessory range, cable, and practically everything else is the same. The Series 1 has a fully hard plastic housing while the Series 3 and Series 5 both have the matte soft black TPU. The Series1 is also marginally thinner in the breadth of the body. Sonically, all 3 are extremely close to the same signature (you can see this on the graphs). The Series I has marginally more bass, and marginally less upper mid-range, and also doesn't seem to have quite the overall depth in sound as the Series 3 or 5. The Series 3 & 5 practically sound identical (very minor variations), and wearing one earpiece from each via a splitter through the same source actually sounds practically like a matched pair. My advice – for the extra $12 for the matt finish and faux carbon plate exterior, as well as the slightly better sense of depth (maybe the Series 1 doesn't have the dual acoustic chambers?), then the best buy here is the Series 3.

TFZ Series 5 ($83) vs Trinity Hyperion (~$45)
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TFZ Series 5 and Trinity Hyperion

Frequency response comparison

Although I show the Hyperion Goldies in the picture (my wife's limited edition pair), the sound signature is essentially the same as the standard Hyperion. As far as build goes, durability is likely shared. The Hyperion has metal build, but the TPU on the Series 5 should be extremely long wearing. I very much prefer the Trinity braided cable though. Accessories are close but the Trinity IEMs have a better case and bigger selection of tips. Fit and comfort are similar – the TFZ Series 5 is more ergonomic, the Hyperion is smaller. My personal preference for fit though would be the TFZ S5 in this instance. Sonically the two are similar but slightly different. The TFZ S5 has more bass impact, and does sound a little warmer. The Hyperion is comparatively a little leaner, a little clearer, and airier – especially in the upper mid-range and lower treble. For my personal tastes, the TFZ S5 does sound a little more natural – especially if you don't mind EQing. For me personally I'd take the TFZ S3 over the Hyperion (the cost difference is negligible), but the TFZ S5 is simply a leap too far in cost.

TFZ Series 5 ($83) vs Trinity Vyrus (~ $75)
TFZS537.jpgtfzs5vsvyrus.png

TFZ Series 5 and Trinity Vyrus

Frequency response comparison

With this comparison I used the gold damped filters on the Vyrus. Like the Hyperion, the Vyrus has the metal build vs TPU, and this time you get replaceable cables (2), and also the choice of 7 filters to tailor the sound to your liking. So the Vyrus wins on accessories – and the two draw on fit and comfort (again the TFZ S5 is more ergonomic while the Vyrus is smaller). Sonically the two are similar – but the Virus skips ahead where it counts. First there is more balance – with bass being comparatively a lot lower on the Vyrus. The mid-ranges are actually really close with the Vyrus being a little more vivid (and maybe a little more coloured), but it is a colouration I enjoy. When you factor in the configurability of the Vyrus, and consider that they are essentially the same price – unfortunately the TFZ Series 5 doesn't stand a chance in this match up. The TFZ Series 3 might have a fighting chance if you don't mind EQ.

TFZ Series 5 ($83) vs Brainwavz S0 (~ $45)
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TFZ Series 5 and Brainwavz S0

Frequency response comparison

I chose the S0 mainly because I don't have a lot of IEMs in this particular price range, and also because of its proximity to the Series 3 pricing. Build quality is shared here (metal vs TPU), and the Brainwavz S0 definitely wins on accessories (better case and more tip options). Fit and comfort go to the TFZ Series 5 – being a lot better fit due to superior ergonomics. Sonically both are V or U shaped, with emphasis on bass and upper mid-range. For me, the TFZ Series 5 sounds more natural, and the mid-range sounds both cleaner and clearer overall. Bass is similar with Series 5 having more slam, and the S0 having more thump. I'd probably take the Series 5 over the S0 purely on sonics – but if you were putting the Series 3 up against it – then there is no contest. For me the TFZ Series 3 would be the better choice (ergonomically and sonically).

TFZ Series 5 ($83) vs Brainwavz S5 (~ $99)
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TFZ Series 5 and Brainwavz S5

Frequency response comparison

This time the Series 5 is up against the Brainwavz S5 in a very similar (actually slightly more expensive bracket). As per the past comparisons, build quality is again shared (metal vs TPU), and the Brainwavz S5 wins on accessories. Fit and comfort go to the TFZ Series 5 – being a lot better fit due to superior ergonomics (this despite the S5 being better than the S0 in this regard). Sonically both are V or U shaped, with emphasis on bass and upper mid-range, but this time S5 has more of a pronounced V with bigger bass and both upper mid-range and lower treble. The resultant signature is a combination of warmth, but also a lean vocal range, and extra heat in lower treble energy. Comparatively (again), the TFZ Series 5 sounds more natural, and the mid-range sounds again cleaner and clearer overall. Bass is similar with both having a sub-bass emphasis, but the S5 simply has more than the TFZ Series 5. In this comparison, I would definitely take the TFZ over the Brainwavz and again if I was putting the Series 3 up against the Brainwavz S5, it would win for me in a land-slide

TFZ SERIES 5 - SUMMARY


The TFZ Series 5 is an interesting earphone, and has been a difficult one to grade. The positives would include overall build quality, really great ergonomics, extremely comfortable fit, and a reasonable sound signature which becomes a very good sound signature if you are prepared to EQ some of the bass away.

But the pros must be balanced by the cons, and these include the lack of a suitable (more durable) carry case, the overall dominance of the bass (tuning), and really the value they offer. For $80 you really should expect more, and because there is so little difference between the Series 3 and Series 5, IMO the Series 3 is where you should be looking.

IMO the Series5 does provide the basis of a good package, but there is better out there – including TFZ's own Series 3. 3 stars from me – good but not great.

My thanks once again to Amy and the team at Penon Audio for the chance to be able to review the TFZ Series 5.


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ustinj
ustinj
Sure, if you listen to a lot of edm/hip hop, they will be hard to beat at the price... But if youre more versatile with the genres you can do better.
aBc.CaN
aBc.CaN
Hi Brooko, great detailed review.
 
Would you say these are some of the hardest hitting earphones in the bass department compared to other earphones you've heard if it was EQ'd with a bass boost?
Brooko
Brooko
I'm probably the wrong one to ask - as I don't particularly like too much bass.  I'll be shipping these to HBB hopefully next week so he can evaluate them.  He's the expert in this field and will probably be able to give you a better answer.

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