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Knowledge Zenith (KZ) impressions thread

  1. Saoshyant
    I became a little curious about them after Tyll had some surprisingly nice things to say about them, but I never got around to giving them a try. Updated my post with some possible suggestions, but not many I'm afraid.
  2. wastan
    I'd get one of the Benjie players and a Zishan Z1 you may not like the no screen of the Zishan interface but the sound quality is a clear step up from Benjie and you can always use it as a DAC or portable amp. You can probably get both for about $50 which leaves room for another interesting pair of earphones (do you have a Monk+ yet?)
  3. vector84
    I would tend to think that finding a way to accomplish a stable output impedance would be a solid first step, especially for things with wild impedance variances (ZS5v1 as an example). Coupling capacitors also have a serious risk of messing with the ZS5v1's bass response, as per data from @hakuzen:

    As to how to attack that problem... depends what you really want out of your setups, I suppose.
    • If a DAP suits your purposes, obviously a purpose built device is great for its purpose, but output impedance (and caps) can be a concern on some
    • Voltage divider based attenuators - require plenty of volume headroom, but nothing to charge, some battery drain - iFi Ear Buddy / IEMatch or DIY
    • DAC - potential compatibility issues with Android, battery drain can vary quite a bit, most can't be used while charging typically
    • Amp - double amping concerns - clipping, noise floor, crosstalk, etc, but typically relatively manageable, also another battery to charge
    • DAC/Amp - benefits of both, fewer restrictions in how it's used, but usually more to carry around and another battery to charge
    And unless carefully picked for the task, many of those options will also prevent the use of an in-line mic and controls. Or at least I've not seen much in the budget sector with support for such things?

    Personally I've picked up an iFi Ear Buddy and a Fiio Q1 on that front and I'm quite happy with both, but honestly going from random impedance sources to the Ear Buddy had a much bigger impact for me than going from the Ear Buddy to the Fiio Q1 when I feel like carrying it around. But that's just my picks based on my personal use cases and preferences. :shrug:
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2017
    hakuzen likes this.
  4. Wiljen
    My advise would be to first invest in an amp. The DAC in a tablet or a phone is usually pretty good as in they did blind tests and nobody could pick out a realtek chipset DAC vs a much higher priced model when passed to the same amp and headphones. To make it even better all the test subjects were musicians or audio engineers so they knew what they were looking for and still couldnt reliably find it.

    What sux in pretty much every phone and tablet is the amp. they are not designed to do more than minimally power the headphones since they are first and foremost concerned with prolonging battery life. A true headphone amp will really help power headphones to their full potential and will help you hear more details and a fuller sound. I too have the Sph9500 and they do scale well with a good amp so I can tell you that you will notice the difference here. The little Topping NX series is probably your best bet for new under $50 but I would watch for a good used one here in the classifieds as you'll get more for your dollar.

    The S5 is $20 and will likely be $15 on sale on 11/11/2017 from one of the Chinese sellers, So no - nothing else exists in the sub $20 range that will touch the S5 except maybe the K9s also made by Benjie if it just happens to be on a better sale. (Same sound, different body).
    I have the S5 and a K9 and I think both are great for starters.

    oh, welcome to head-fi. Sorry about your wallet.
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2017
    djmakemynight, charlescc2 and hakuzen like this.
  5. vector84
    FWIW, the lower end Toppings have some serious caveats:
    NX1/NX2 have vanishingly low output impedance and no coupling caps (iirc), but are highly susceptible to EMI.
    NX1s/NX2s have ~4 ohms output impedance and undersized coupling capacitors (supposedly bypassable).

    Plenty of people around here own them and are perfectly pleased with them... but my own experience with one was downright scary:
    hakuzen likes this.
  6. Slater
    djmakemynight likes this.
  7. RomStar
    Thank You So Much!

    I was really worried I needed to dish out around $100+ for a DAC. I thought a good DAC helped more than Amp, I've even lurked in DAC Vs Amp threads as well.

    Now basically I'm thinking I should just get the S5 during 11/11. But do u think I should start with the Topping NX? I'm a complete beginner so thanks a lot for the great informative comment ^^

    Also do u like you're Sph9500? My personal opinion so far is, it's very good, but needs a slight bass kick for the music I listen to normally (Edms, rap and pop). They are slightly on the bright side as well, and I don't even know how much I believe in burn in. People say they become tame after use.... I've seen a lot of mods going around, do u think they are worth the risk tho? Tbh I love my pair and I thought they were gonna be over hyped :)

    PS: lol I realized I'll spend a lot now, but at least I'm not wasting money on brand name like I did with beats haha

    Thank you for helping a beginner out ^^

    Tbh I don't care about screens. The audio quality matters the most at this stage for me. So the Z1 > S5 in terms of sound? I'll deff get a pair then. Should I wait till 11/11 like the S5 for sale?

    Also nope, I don't have the monks :frowning2: I couldn't find the original ones and apparently the Monk + are considerably worse... Do u recommend the new Monk +? Or should I just search and get the older monks for now? Thanks again :)

    Thanks for the informative reply ^^

    I hear Fiio is good, and was eyeing them for some time. I figured I'd start with something basic and move up tbh. I can get a Fiio Killmanjaro, but I'm thinking of buying a S5 or Z1 instead. That way I can put the money saved on better pair of ear buds. Now I'll look into m3 prices and see how that goes, thanks :)

    Wow thanks for bringing up stuff I never considered 0.0

    I don't even know how much I fully understood your amazing response but what I get is:

    1: Some might not be compatible with Android

    2: Might disable in line mic

    3: more stuff to charge

    Now I have no problem no2 and 3, but non compatible DAC sounds scary. I'll make sure I do my research then ^^

    I'm not also exactly sure what output impedance is, but what I'm taking away here is: What I need depends on what I want. I basically want a better audio experience and I'm not sure if DAC or amp helps me more. Others mentioned amps are gonna help more so I guess I'll focus on that. And I'll primarily use my phone, cuz I can stream my music via Spotify premium and etc, I don't have too many flac files on me tho

    Thanks for the reply :)
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2017
  8. vector84
    For this use case, avoid Toppings imo (as I noted above). If you make the transition to a DAP it's far less of a problem, but for streaming music, EMI performance ought to be a serious concern. Many (but not all!) Fiio products tend to do better in that regard.

    Zishan Z1 will color the sound quite a bit when paired with ZS5v1 without an addition output stage (bass rolloff + boosted highs).

    Oh, and I agree with @Wiljen, the amp stage is usually the weak point, but I would add that a DAC lets you bypass it entirely, whereas an amp will use it as a preamp stage (which is usually fine, but double amping concerns). A DAC/Amp combo will let you try both setups yourself.
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2017
  9. charlescc2
    Yeah the left one is insanely slick looking.

    On another note, GearBest support has been absolutely money on the issue of my ZS5 left earbud crapping out (still produces sound but significantly less than before). First response was within 48 hours, the follow up response was within 24 hours, and they've offered 1) store credit, 2) payment method refund, or 3) sending of another pair. Decided to take store credit as I'm thinking about just trying the ZS6s now.
    mbwilson111 and AndrewPL like this.
  10. hakuzen
    like others have stated, very low output impedance (<0.6ohms) and no coupling caps are a must for zs5. either DAP, amp, or DAC/Amp.

    DAP (alternative to draining your smartphone battery):
    Benjie S5 is so cheap and decent that having it as an alternative to using your note 5 doesn't hurt. transparent: no sound coloration. although its power is limited, is enough to drive sph9500 (>105dB SPL). but for zs5.. S5's output impedance is slightly over 1ohm, and i have to check its ability to manage so low impedance (limit of current before clipping or distorting): let me check it in some minutes. EDIT: checked, benjie+zs5 maximum volume no distortion: 10/31 (a bit low to my ears)..
    xDuoo X3 (+rockbox) has got very low output impedance (0.1ohms), and is plenty of power even for driving harder phones than yours (looking at the future). DAC: cirrus logic CS4398. transparent: no sound coloration. but installing rockbox in it is a must (btw, i love rockbox, so this becomes a true advantage). battery duration is decent, but no spectacular, it gets a bit warm, has noticeable hiss, and QC is not brilliant at all, but still a good candidate. i guess you could get one for about $60-70 in 11.11.

    SMSL iDEA / Sabaj Da2: tiny powerful low noise and distortion device. android issues can be addressed. DAC: sabre ES9018Q2C. transparent: no sound coloration. check these measurements (https://archimago.blogspot.com.es/2017/05/measurements-smsl-idea-usb-dac.html). dunno about mic compatibility. he uses it with a note 5 as well. it needs some current from the phone, but bearable (and you avoid another battery to charge). output impedance: 0.5ohms. Sabaj Da2 seems to be identical device to iDEA, and is about $60, maybe cheaper in 11.11. you can use it with your pc as well (no soundcard required, it's an USB DAC).

    I can't recommend an specific HP pure amplifier now (remember: no coupling caps, output impedance <1ohm or even <0.5ohms, low noise/disto/hiss desirable), but it could be a good option if the DAC of your smartphone is decent enough (which surely is). you avoid android and mic issues, and you can use same apps you are used to. a good amplifier is always useful, although you couldn't use it with your no-soundcard pc.
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2017
    vector84 likes this.
  11. vector84
    Obviously this is just a preference thing (and not particularly surprising as I tend to favor things a bit on the brighter side) - but for pairing with the ZS5v1, I actually find myself preferring to use 1.5-2 ohms of total output resistance personally - Q1 + stock cable (~1.5) or EarBuddy + upgrade cable (~2.0) both tick my boxes better than Q1 + upgrade (~1.0) or EarBuddy + stock (~2.5). :shrug:
    hakuzen likes this.
  12. charlescc2
    A couple questions guys.

    1) I got the KZ Bluetooth adapter to use with my Galaxy S6 at the gym - I originally had the ZS5 to go with it but had to get a refund. I figure I'm already not going to be getting the best audio quality going with the Bluetooth adapter, so would I be losing out much by just getting something cheaper like the ZST or ZS3?

    2) What particular cable should I be buying to use with the ZS6?

    Edit: I see listings for them all over Amazon, one on GearBest, but I'd appreciate if anybody has a link to one that they can confirm will work, and is of hopefully decent quality. I have one that I bought on Amazon for my ZS5s but it feels like it would rip apart with one good yank and I'm considering returning it.
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2017
  13. maxxevv
    I have the ZS5v2 with the BT module. In a noisy environment, it sounds surprisingly good actually. On the commute for example, I can't really tell what's a big difference from the cable if I listen at my normal, somewhat low volumes. Its only obvious if I listen to it at a higher volume, where the tiny details come out on cable and its not so well developed with the BT module. Usually a fair bit of details are 'drowned' out by background noise if the volume is not high.

    I don't have the ZST nor ZS3 to compare, so can't comment on their relative strengths.

    For reference, I use the LG G6 with Quad DAC and it supports the AptX specification that's available on the BT 4.2 module.

    Cables are purely individual preferences. I'm perfectly alright with the stock cables though I have a cheap braided one on the way just for the heck of it as it was like US$7.50/- (or something of the range). But the KZ originals are microphobic, so an aftermarket cable might be preferred for some people.
    charlescc2 likes this.
  14. Lord Rexter
    IMG_20171025_133953.jpg Just received my ZS5 v2 Grey without mic (booked on Oct 14th from GB) I got them in new white packing.

    See pictures of the packages 1st two are ZS5 v1 and white one is ZS5 v2:
  15. Viber
    It's a cool set, doesn't worth the price tag of 200$, but it's pretty good for the 120$ it was sold for on Amazon sales.

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