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My Comparison between Apple Earbuds - KZ ZS3 - KZ ZS5

  1. Ferdi91

    Today I've received two pairs of IEMs ordered on Gearbest: I've bought them after the many good reviews read here on Head-Fi in relation to their very small price:

    - KZ ZS3
    - KZ ZS5


    The first impressions seeing the packages (both identical except for the number of the model) is been more than good: KZ guys certainly want to give the feeling of having in front of your eyes a much higher quality product than the price at which it is sold.
    The package is small and stylish; In either case it contains:

    - IEMs, of course! And two medium silicone earplugs already installed.
    - Intro manual, with tips for proper initial running (5 minutes at medium volume) and technical notes on the use of IEMs and safety.
    - Other Two pairs of silicone earplugs, one larger and one smaller than the one already installed.
    - Rubber cable, pretty cheap. The ZS3 also features a microphone with attached commands (I would have preferred it not like the ZS5, but when I buy it, there is no option available).

    I left an half-hourly each IEM "running" with random music at medium volume and then I tried to compare them with a pair of Apple earbuds (those with the iphone 6s I own).


    I used my 4th gen Ipod with 320 kbs mp3 file, no equalization (flat) and no volume limit.
    Volume setted: 75-85%



    - Some Chopin Nocturnes.
    - Sandy Danny - Late November.
    - John Frusciante - all "Curtains".
    - Explosions in the Sky - It's Natural to Be Afraid, So Long, Lonesome, The Wilderness.
    - Godspeed you Black Emperor - The Dead Flag Blues, Moya.
    - Interpol - Pioner To The Falls, Obstacle 1, Evil, The New.
    - Radiohead - Reckoner, Nude, Let Down, Daydreaming.
    - Nick Drake - Pink Moon, Which Will, Northern Sky.
    - Billy Holiday - I'm a fool to love you, Fine & mellow.
    - Chet Baker - Almost Blue, My Funny Valentine, But Not For Me.


    The first obvious thing is the enormous isolation difference between KZs and Apple earphones: on the one hand I obviously expected a difference between the two in-ears and the simple earbuds, on the other I had not imagined that it would have changed the listening experience so much.

    KZ ZS3

    These IEMs are very comfortable from the first time i put them on! Clearly marked on low-mid frequencies (sometimes too much), they give an higher costructional strength than the sister ZS 5 , perhaps cause of the plastic used for the second one that looks cheaper and feels less refined to the touch.
    These are the most punchy of all contenders, enter more in the stomach and, with the same volume setted on my Ipod, have much more volume and seem to be more sensitive to dynamics changes during all the song tested (for instance, it's evident in classical Chopin and Instrumentals by Explosions or Godspeed You ..).
    Unfortunately, often, the low frequencies are too intrusive and poorly managed, up to knead all the sound.
    The scene is very concentrated and, despite the strong presence of bass in the foreground, solo parts or voices are placed fairly in front of the listener (Nick Drake, Sandy Danny, Frusciante).
    I think with a proper equalization these IEMs could be really enjoyable and versatile.

    KZ ZS5

    Slightly less comfortable to my ears than the ZS3, but still comfortable. They are clearly more "Hi-Fi", the most neutral among all three ones. Good Mid frequencies, balanced bass. However, I have found some uncertainty about the highs: it has often happened that more acute sounds (Frusciante's voice on "Your Warning", Paul Banks in "The New" or some more insistent note of Baker's trumpet) were some distorted. They have less volume than the sister ZS3 , but probably with a more capable player than my Ipod, they would definitely do much better!
    In general, I found a hair knackered and quite flat, in the worst sense of the term. Little grit, much less sensitive to dynamic changes in the course of the songs respect of the ZS3.
    The scene, here, is wider, also because of the greater preponderance of medium and high frequencies.
    I have to test them more because, for now, the ZS3 seems to me to be more engaging, exciting in terms of experience and immersion, regardless of the greater amount of bass frequencies.

    Apple Ear Buds (iphone 6s)

    It's been difficult to compare these earbuds (NOT IN EAR) to KZs: listening volume, great for the ZS3, very good in the case of the ZS5, was often inadequate with the Apple ones to appreciate their quality, immersion and details.
    By raising the volume of my ipod to 100% things change significantly: they are no doubt the earphones with more mid-high frequencies, a bit like the ZS5, but tend to be more nasal.
    The scene is very wide and I think (perhaps because of the lower volume, I don't know ...) they are the most detailed and defined of all three: the instruments are better distinguished, they hardly confuse with each other; the single notes are more appreciable (especially in the parts with lower dynamics - in crescendo) ... however too little engaging and usable in comparison to the other two, on the go, in noisy and / or crowded places, like trains, flights or subway stations.


    To a very preliminary analysis, carried out by a noob just like me, with a poor equipment and files not of the highest quality, the ZS3 wins among the contenders: they are not perfect IEMs, but I paid them less than 10 euro, shipping included, and I think that, with some work on equalization to smooth out a bit low frequencies, could give big satisfactions to their users.
    I am convinced, at the same time, that the ZS5 needs higher time of use to fully test their qualities and gives the best with higher quality DAPs and/or external headphones amp.

    Last edited: Jul 24, 2017
  2. Pruikki
    Great review!
    i got Zs3 and did not get ZS5 as i really like comfort of ZS3.

  3. Ynot1
    FYI, MFi devices could make the iPhone 6s more better. Advanced accessport and Fiio Q1 MkII come to mind. KZ has new earphones out or coming out. KZ ZS6 and ZSR respectively. I have not heard ZS3 and ZS5 yet, but your review sounds similar to majority of reviews on the KZ thread. I like EDSE, EDR2, R3, ZSE, and ES3. Also if you want to go bluetooth KZ cable specifically for the ZS3 works for the ZS5 specifically. And did I mention, good review.
  4. s1rrah
    I'm a n00b to the whole KZ IEM thing ... but have been really impressed with the ATE's as well as the ZS3's ... I enjoy them both but find the ZS3's to be much more articulate ... better freq separation, etc ...

    What I can say about BOTH, however is that they are SO much better for me when using the Comply foam/isolation tips as opposed to any of the stock tips. The foam tips that come with KZ headphones are ridiculous if you ask me ... they won't even stay on the nozzle and one actually came off in my ear. The KZ silicons fit okay but silicon tips bother me with the whole "suction" effect and I find myself constantly having to re seat them. With the Comply foam tips, though? Both the ATE's and the ZS3's become *completely* comfortable and the isolation/fit is ridiculously good. Everyone's physiology is different though, so grain of salt.

    Also, if you investigate Comply tips for you KZ IEM's? Be sure and buy the Comply tips for your specific KZ IEM model. The Comply foam tips for my KZ ATE's, for instance? DO NOT fit my KZ ZS3's; they are slightly too big. So I had to order Comply tips specifically for my KZ ZS3's ... but well worth the $15 (order without wax filters for the best price).

    Otherwise? The KZ IEM's (as supplement to my go-to Shure SE535's?) .. are ridiculously good for the money. Can't recommend the brand enough for those on a budget ...

  5. heisenbrg
    yeah, the zs3s are garbage. don't believe the hype. they sound pretty bad for how they look, and on top of that they are uncomfortable. so far i've tried ex110 and apple earpods and these both crap all over them. i was using sony ex110s for a while until they broke but when they worked, the sound was amazing for the price ( $11 on ebay). recently bought earpods for $8 shipped from a regular low volume domestic non-china seller on ebay (to avoid fakes) and these things sound awesome. using it on my older slow android phone.
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2018

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