Knowledge Zenith (KZ) impressions thread
May 17, 2024 at 10:08 AM Post #64,096 of 64,430
Thanks I'll take a look at these as well.
How about ones with modest bass enhancement? Are there any good ones?
CCA Rhapsody is balanced and still praised nowadays. Main problem of this set is bulkiness of the shells
 
May 17, 2024 at 12:21 PM Post #64,097 of 64,430
Yeah...I've been mainly focusing on DAC amps with CS43131 chips.

Haven't really looked at too many with AKM chips...any budget minded ones you can recommend.
These may be if interest to you:

JCALLY AP7
7Hz Seven Hertz 7
Colorfly CDA M1P
Shanling UA3
 
May 17, 2024 at 1:02 PM Post #64,098 of 64,430
Looks like you decided on the KA11 - let us know how it works out!

Yeah...I'm just about ready to pull the trigger on the KA11. Just kinda making absolutely sure of everything before I do so. If that's the way I go ill be sure to check back in and let y'all know how it goes.

Thanks for the detailed post.
 
May 17, 2024 at 2:21 PM Post #64,099 of 64,430
Yeah...I'm just about ready to pull the trigger on the KA11. Just kinda making absolutely sure of everything before I do so. If that's the way I go ill be sure to check back in and let y'all know how it goes.

Thanks for the detailed post.

I don't envy you having to make a choice with so many options! :) For the same reason you don't ask weed addicts what their favorite strains are, I'll jump in anyway and ask if you saw the recent reviews for the TP20 Pro? Fitty bucks - dual cirrus chips, balanced outputs, warm'ish profile, and 170mW total output. Could be a great fit for planars. No idea about longevity or quality but the early reviews and spec sheet are impressive for the price point.

https://www.head-fi.org/showcase/epz-tp20-pro.27136/
 
May 17, 2024 at 2:55 PM Post #64,100 of 64,430
I don't envy you having to make a choice with so many options! :) For the same reason you don't ask weed addicts what their favorite strains are, I'll jump in anyway and ask if you saw the recent reviews for the TP20 Pro? Fitty bucks - dual cirrus chips, balanced outputs, warm'ish profile, and 170mW total output. Could be a great fit for planars. No idea about longevity or quality but the early reviews and spec sheet are impressive for the price point.

https://www.head-fi.org/showcase/epz-tp20-pro.27136/

Yeah...I was actually looking at that one yesterday.

It's definitely one of the many options that is making this decision a bit more difficult.

I still think I'm leaning towards the KA11 though.

😁
 
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May 17, 2024 at 3:20 PM Post #64,102 of 64,430
KZ Merga graph curves are kinda impressive for a single DD cheap IEM, but I don't know if I like the imbalance of too little bass, mids and a harman treble.

fwiw, Merga is a dual DD 10mm & 8mm. They claim each driver is dual ported or something bizarre like that. There are so many multi DD pokemon here that I have a hard time believing any are going to be better than the Trio.
 
May 18, 2024 at 4:46 AM Post #64,103 of 64,430
My AS16 Pro really isn't holding onto paint very well, and for some reason it's mostly going off on the right one, the left one has just a tiny bit chipped off. They sound good, but if you also like the look - it doesn't last :ksc75smile:
AS16 Pro.jpg



As for using "balanced" on IEMs, I don't tnink most would actually benefit from that... they're tiny things and need tiny power. Sure, mine PR3 needs the volume to be cranked up a little bit compared to other ones, but I use them on both 3.5 and 4.4 outputs on my Dawn Pro and there's no audible difference. Maybe like baskingshark said, it might work better if the device used has poorly implemented single-ended outputs.
 
May 18, 2024 at 4:51 AM Post #64,104 of 64,430
tl;dr: I agree with you and have done the same, but I think the amp itself has more effect on the sound than the actual DAC. Ideally the DAC output should be flat, and any sound coloring (for better or for worse) should come from the amplification. In small devices like a dongle there's only so much you can do to step-up USB supplied current into high quality power.

---------------->> old geezer rambling commences <<--------------

n00bs should know that there's a whole lot more to this than first meets the eye. We're talking months years decades long rabbit holes of research, testing, and sampling with one's own ears. I'm not ashamed of being cheap in this hobby, but I will say that one of the reasons I went with the BTR3k over BTR5 was because of the 3's dual AKM chipset, even though it's "only" 24 bits and not 32. For pop and even most classical recordings I can't really tell a difference when using budget IEM between 24 and 32 bit. Still I wouldn't call it warm by any means. At least to my ears, the sound profile is a lot closer to neutral than the first reviews led on to believe but it is indeed a crystalline clean sound as advertised and it's been a great source that's about the same size as a cigarette lighter. IMO neutral is the ideal, but many chase after warm and that's fine. I think iFi are masters at this.

It's a shame that Tri discontinued the TK2 - that thing was a beast for < $300. It uses dual Sabre ESS9038 pros and the bottom end was really punchy and full without being colored. If you spot one used - snatch it up, you won't be disappointed. My only beef with those (including units like the Diablo) is the form factor. That class of amplifier is really constructed to drive full size over-ears; it's massive overkill for IEM and a bit wasted on most KZ products if we're being honest ...

Volume: reasons why I EQ

When used in DAC line-out mode with IEM of 25 ~ 32 ohms and 105 db/mW sensitivity, 80-85 dB output comes at a volume level of ~11 of 32 clicks on my BTR3k, and it's putting out ~ 115 mW at an ear damaging / soul-piercing 124+ dB at the full 32 clicks. Remember, it's not a mini dongle but this is still the small one!

signal-2024-05-17-140939_002.png

The output is not at all linear, either. At 85dB we're talking about less than 0.01 mW, and we're typically judging amps on being acceptable when they're over ~ 60 mW. When reviews talk about IEM and 32 ohm sets being easy to drive, this is what they mean. (you can calculate / play with the figures for different phones here: headphonesty volume 'n power calculator).

Closing in on 90 dB on rock and metal tracks is causing pain in my ears and even 80-85 will result in fatigue after about an hour if I sparkle-up KZ's already notoriously trebly profiles. The problem is that our perception about the quantity and composition of frequencies across the output spectrum can be wildly different at different sound levels for the same headphone. Because of this, my preference is to EQ boost to taste and spend most of my listening time in the 40-70 dB range. Right now I have the GK10s plugged in with a balanced cable at 61 dB and, at least for me, this is plenty loud enough for casual listening and I hear full range on the bottom end without EQ. ZEX Pro? I have to screw with them.

And then I have the PowerDAC 2.1 ... that thing goes to almost 600 mW balanced. I have to be very careful to not hurt my ears if using it with IEM. I tend to use it more for my over ears at my desk. I would describe it as ruthless in it's precision and presentation. For me this was end-game for having a details oriented amplifier of any size, type, or cost. There is some distortion and hissing at the top end of the power range, but you don't notice it after the volume comes up, and it's not detectable at all when using with IEM. With the CRAs plugged in balanced it's like my old Yamaha bookshelf speakers are sandwiched to my head. It's also energetic enough to be tiring - I don't actually use it all that often and have been snooping around tube amps for awhile to use as my main power source as I get older and my tinnitus less tolerant to IEM use.



As basking said, the single-ended KA11 is pumping 200mW at 32ohms - and the PR2 is only 15 ohms. At 200 mW on the KA11 you're still looking at big power numbers there, even single ended. I am tempted to toss one of these in the cart for myself to use with my growing collection of DD sets but I need more gear like I need more holes in my head. The thing I like about FiiO is that all their gear seems to be made to a high standard and is still affordably priced. Looks like you decided on the KA11 - let us know how it works out!
What a cool post!
 
May 20, 2024 at 4:59 AM Post #64,109 of 64,430
Received the KZ-Vader Balanced version today. I purchased it with my own money, mainly because it looks prettier (so why not, haha). TLDR: the force is strong with Vader Balance version.

The most popular question: Do they sound similar to the Trio?

Comparison is based on 1111 setting from both.

I will say, they share the same tuning. However, the mid-bass is less elevated in the Vader. The upper-mid/ultra-treble in the Vader is just better, with a very similar vibe to the ZS10 Pro 2 but more resolving and less harsh. In fact, with some tracks that already have bass boosted, you will find the bass on Trio is slightly bloated and the vocal is a bit thin, while Vader does this perfectly. This track is an example: YOASOBI "Racing into the Night". It really depends on your collection, if you are fine with Trio, don't bother to buy Vader.

The Vader is also harder to drive, you need around 20% more power to achieve the same sound pressure.

In terms of dimensions, they are just the same, but the Vader's faceplate makes them more eye-pleasing. The internal board is similar too, but the wiring on the Vader is thicker and looks more muscular.

Overall, I think Vader is an upgrade over Trio, though the improvements are just minor.

IMG_20240520_152420.jpgIMG_20240520_115941.jpg
 
May 20, 2024 at 5:11 AM Post #64,110 of 64,430
Received the KZ-Vader Balanced version today. I purchased it with my own money, mainly because it looks prettier (so why not, haha). TLDR: the force is strong with Vader Balance version.

The most popular question: Do they sound similar to the Trio?

Comparison is based on 1111 setting from both.

I will say, they share the same tuning. However, the mid-bass is less elevated in the Vader. The upper-mid/ultra-treble in the Vader is just better, with a very similar vibe to the ZS10 Pro 2 but more resolving and less harsh. In fact, with some tracks that already have bass boosted, you will find the bass on Trio is slightly bloated and the vocal is a bit thin, while Vader does this perfectly. This track is an example: YOASOBI "Racing into the Night". It really depends on your collection, if you are fine with Trio, don't bother to buy Vader.

The Vader is also harder to drive, you need around 20% more power to achieve the same sound pressure.

In terms of dimensions, they are just the same, but the Vader's faceplate makes them more eye-pleasing. The internal board is similar too, but the wiring on the Vader is thicker and looks more muscular.

Overall, I think Vader is an upgrade over Trio, though the improvements are just minor.

IMG_20240520_152420.jpgIMG_20240520_115941.jpg

you will find the bass on Trio is slightly bloated and the vocal is a bit thin, while Vader does this perfectly. This track is an example: YOASOBI "Racing into the Night". It really depends on your collection, if you are fine with Trio, don't bother to buy Vader.
this is thin-ish vocals is my main issue with Trio but buying straight side grade with mild update is kinda...
 

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