Disclaimer: I was sent the KZ Zsn Pro by Kinboofi for review. If you are interested in purchasing the ZsN Pro, it can be found in their Amazon store here.
Unboxing / Packaging:
Packaging is standard KZ white box with cable, tips, card, and earpieces. This has been covered so many times that I see little reason to rehash this. For more details, see the original ZsN review.
Build is also very similar to the previous Zsn with a colored plastic inner shell and a metal faceplate. Unlike the Zsn, only a single brass screw shows on the exterior. Venting is accomplished by a single vent at the lead edge of the faceplate by the screw and a single vent in the center of the dynamic driver on the underside. Nozzles have a slightly forward and slightly upward rake wtih a pronounced lip and provide for fairly deep insertion. The bi-pin connector is the new style KZ has gone to with the Pin sockets being raised on the shell and a matching hood being present on the cable. I like this arrangement as it stabilzes the connection if it does mean regular cables look a bit silly when used with the Zsn Pro. Size is nearly identical to the Zst or Zsn so if you have tried those, expect this one to sit similarly in the ear. For those who haven’t tried either of the pro’s predecessors, the pro is mid sized and sits firmly in the ear without a tendency to shift during use. It is a more solid fit than the Zst which tended to shift a bit and nearly identical to the Zsn although weight is about 1gram different with the pro being slightly heavier. (my guess is owing to the change in faceplate).
The ZsN Pro uses a 2nd generation 10mm titanium coated diaphragm dynamic driver along with a customized 30095 balanced armature that has become a mainstay of their recent product line. The impedance is listed as 24Ω with a sensitivity of 112dB/mW making the ZsN Pro even easier to drive from smartphones or tablets than its predecessor. Titanium coated dynamics have a reputation for needing some time to burn-in and I found the ZsN sounded somewhat different after 100 hours or so, so I put the Zsn Pro on a diet of white noise for 72 hours after initial impressions. I do think it mellowed the treble a bit but know some insist burn-in doesn’t exist while others swear by it. I think the truth is somewhere between the extremes. Nominal Impedence is listed as 24Ω with a sensitivity of 112dB/mW making the Zsn Pro easy enough to drive using low powered sources. I found the Zsn Pro really did not scale particularly well so those using a phone or tablet are probably getting the same experience as those using a dedicated DAP or AMP.
The cable is the standard KZ. It is well made with a 4 strand braid below the splitter and twisted pair above it. The splitter is moved upward about 2 inches from the position of the splitter on the Zsn (good news) but the cable is 2 inches longer from the splitter to the earpieces (bad news) so on balance it is in the same (too low) spot it was on previous versions. No chin-slider is present either. This makes the cable entirely more tangle prone than it should be and would be easily cured by moving the splitter about 8 inches further up the cable toward the earpieces. (If anyone at KZ is listening, please, please, please move the splitter up!). The Jack is the standard 3.5mm TRS 90º connector standard on all KZ cables these days. The other end of the cable sports pre-formed earhooks with clear hooded bi-pin connectors. My sample does not have the mic, but that option exists for those who prefer one.
I found that I liked what Shure large Olives did for the sound of the Zsn Pro as by default it is a little too mid-bass forward for my tastes. The good news is EQ and tips do a lot for mitigating that if you should wish to do so. My notes are based on the provided large tips as I know not everyone will have access to the Shure tips but for those who do, I recommend a swap.
I think the obvious question is how does the Zsn Pro compare to the Zsn and its progenitor the Zst. For that reason, I ran back to back tests using the three to see what the differences were. Again this is my test rig and while calibrated, it is not compensated, nor is it directly comparable to anyone else’s measurements. That is why I thought it was critical to run all three models with exactly the same settings and on the same afternoon to get as realistic a comparison as possible.
Sub-bass depth and quantity is quite good on the Zsn Pro with roll-off only becoming perceptible below 45Hz. Mid-bass is pushed forward and is still a bit loose at times with some bleed into the mids providing a bit of warmth in an overall bright signature. At the price point, one certainly can’t complain, but I would prefer to see a bit more detail in the bass and a bit faster attack and decay as it is a little sloppy when compared to higher price brackets.
As we move from mid-bass into lower-mids, the emphasis is removed and as we move into the true mids the move back even further. The recess is not as pronounced on the Zsn Pro as it was on the Zst and is slightly less recessed than the Zsn. The biggest difference in the mids in the three models is where they begin to climb back out of the mid-trough and how quickly they climb. The Zst was a pit of a recess and then climbed rapidly from 1.5kHz to 2.5kHz or so where it plateaued. The Zsn began its climb a bit earlier closer to 1kHz and reached its plateau later at nearly 3kHz. The Zsn Pro by comparison is a bit less recessed to begin with and starts its climb in the lower mids at around the 800Hz mark and reaches its plateau at about the 2kHz mark but sustains it through 6Khz where the Zsn starts rolling off above 4.5kHz and the Zst even earlier.
Make no mistake, the Zsn Pro is still a V-signature and the treble is pushed forward to match the mid-bass. Treble detail is good and timbre of snare is acceptable but cymbals can get a bit metallic and clicky at times. The treble extension is enough to give the Zsn a bit of air at the top and doesn’t feel closed in but is polite enough that fatigue wont be an issue unless the listener is more treble sensitive than average. Sibilance can present, but only when in the recordings so this is a good thing as it is accurately reproducing the track.
Soundstage / Imaging:
Soundstage on the Zsn Pro is a bit deceptive. I had originally pegged it as fairly wide but lacking a little in depth and height, then I hit the right track to stretch it and found out my initial impression was more the result of my source material than the Zsn Pro itself. Edgar Winter’s Frankenstein is holographic and very 3D when auditioned using the Zsn Pro. I still think width is bigger than depth, but depth can be very good depending on source. Height is better than expected as at this price point I expected everything to be very 2D and was pleasantly surprised by the ability to really show a 3d stage. Instrument separation is markedly better than previous generation Zsn in the mids and improved in the overall. Layering is good but not spectacular (again this is a sub-$20 iem, I expected what?)
Thoughts / Conclusion:
KZ is maturing, the Zsn and the CCA series have showed us the beginnings of the move from screechy treble cannons to a more mellow mature signature. The Zsn pro is another step on that path as it shows they are capable re-tuning earlier efforts to a more refined signature. The Zsn Pro is an easy recommendation for anybody looking for an earphone to replace what came with their phone or tablet and also makes a great option for kids or those who are rough enough on earphones that extending the budget above the $20 makes little sense. With multiple color options and with an without microphone, is it too early to be thinking about stocking stuffers?
- Bass - 6.5/106.5/10
- Mids - 6/106/10
- Treble - 6/106/10
- Soundstage - 8/108/10
- Imaging - 6/106/10
Pros: 3d soundstage, better mids than previous Zsn, improved overall signature.
Cons: kit is limited, cable still sucks.