How I hear music has always been a point of interest to me. Speakers, headphones, and IEMS (In Ear Monitors) all provide different aural experiences that can be pleasing, yet unique. With that in mind, I was genuinely skeptical as to what $20 could get me. There are so many similarly priced products in the headphone world for $20. Skullcandy, cheaper Sennheiser’s, Anker and JVC all fit that price point. After 40 hours with them, I can confidently say these are the best earbuds/IEMS that you could buy.
KZ? Who ARE They?
KZ is a company based in China that sell both IEMs and Headphones. They are known for their IEMs and, to a lesser extent, their over ear headphones. I picked them up from GearBest here.
I used to use their KZ ATE Copper IEMs until I left them in my pocket and had them run through the wash. As a result, I was on the market for a replacement for running and when I go to work. I found about these particular headphones from r/headphones, and figured I didn’t have anything to lose.
Upon receiving the IEMs, I wasn’t impressed with the packaging. I read online that those who bought them from within China got a much nicer packaged product. For $20, I can’t complain, but I was secretly hoping for the nicer packaging.
The first thing of real note is the shape of these IEMs. They do not look like the standard cylindrical barrels that you could find in your local convenient store. These look futuristic and resemble a spaceship a little bit. The ZS5 get their design from the popular higher-end IEM Campfire Andromeda, but the Campfire cost more than 50 times than the KS5. Of course, there are sound, design, material and durability differences, but that’s a comparison for another day.
Similar to the Andromeda, you can disconnect the wires from the earbud. This is becoming much more common with IEMs and it’s a welcome change. With this implementation, you can replace the cable if it goes bad as opposed to tossing out the entire earbud. The cables have MMCX ends, which Andromeda as well as other headphone companies use, making it easier to find replacements.
Comfort is just as important to me as sound quality. If a headphone sounds amazing, but is not comfortable, it’s a deal breaker. The IEMs angle into your ears in a seemingly comfortable manner, but the cable ruins that. The cable has to wrap around the back of your ear, which is inherently fine, if not for the cable. The cables pinches your ear in a very awkward manner. You can get a sweet spot that prevents ear irritation, but it may take a couple moments. I have heard there is a replacement cable that KZ offers (for the KZ ZS3) that resolves these issues.
Aside from that, I can generally wear the IEMs for an hour or two without discomfort. I’m not bothered by this fact on the premise that that is usually the longest I’m wearing them. I wear my Sennheiser 598’s or my V-Moda M-100’s for hours on end, so I get affected by comfort more there than IEMs.
I’d say that these are bright-ish IEMs. What this means is that the high-end is a bit more pronounced than the low end or the mids. Now, that does NOT mean that the mids or lows are non-existent, just that they are not as prominent as the highs. This does vary on the type of music you listen to though. In jazz music for example, the hi-hat will be a bit more pronounced, as well as vocals if there’s a female singer. The bass is still very present in these IEMs, but they are not bass heavy like Skullcandy or V-Modas’s. I listen to a lot of hip-hop and find they handle bass and mids just fine. A lot of the instrumental music I listen to i mid-heavy and they sound exceptional with these IEMs as well. These do sound significantly better than the KZ ATE Coppers I had and better than the AKG earbuds I got with my Samsung Galaxy S8.
I’d say these IEMs are pretty durable. I traditionally leave them in my front pockets or in my backpack and have had no problems. I’ll toss them in my Pelican case with my iPod Classic if I’m travelling with it, but aside from that, they have survived my abuse. Again, the great thing about these headphones is that you can replace the cables when needed. I’ve owned these for roughly three months with no issues in sight.
These IEM’s are amazing. Their sound production is amazing, and their shape is sleek yet comfortable. With a new cable, I could see myself wearing these for hours on end. I definitely recommend these IEMs for anyone wanting a reliable pair of earbuds for on the go use.