disclaimer: I have now had 2 LZ A7s. The first was a beta and the 2nd an early production sample. Both were given to me for purpose of review and signature tuning. I don’t have any financial affiliation with LZ but have owned every A model since the A2 with most of them still in my collection. I had purchased the A5, A6, and A6 mini myself so could be called a fan of the LZ house sound. If you have an interest in learning more, please see LZ’s website. To purchase, Expect stock soon at all the normal outlets.
Unboxing / Packaging:
The outer box is wooden book-fold with the LZ logo and name on the front and the specs etched in the reverse. Inside the book an orange tray (top layer) holds the tips and case in place. A black lower foam layer holds the filters, tool, and tips (in a plastic container). The cable is hiding inside the case. The case is worth discussing as it is the rounded lift top style in green leather with the LZ logo on the top. It is large enough to hold the cable and earpieces comfortable along with the tool and filters and a spare set of tips for those that want to take the accessories with them. Tip selection includes three different styles of silicones in small, medium, and large. Foams are not provided in the package. Five sets of filters are provided that allow tuning to suit your preferred signature. The filters are threaded into a small aluminum rod for safe keeping (nice touch and much appreciated). Overall its a complete kit with the only thing missing being the option of a balanced cable instead of the 3.5 single ended one.
While I liked the A6, its shape was somewhat polarizing as it departed from the standard by a good bit and some found it unattractive. The A7 returns to an A5ish aesthetic with a small rounded oblong shell in anodized black aluminum. It does not have a true faceplate as inner and outer shell are roughly equal halves. with a seam that runs down the middle of the mmcx connector housing. The outer face is vented with two slots under the name badge. Above the name badge a small switch that controls pop or monitor mode is set back just enough to keep it from being hit accidentally. Right and left are clearly marked on the connectors for easy reference. Nozzles are a separate threaded component that exit the forward most point of the inner shell with little or no rake. This provides fairly deep insertion and good isolation. Threads are the same as the previous generations so A6 or A5 filters will work although the newer filters provided with the A7 have resolved a moisture issue that was present in earlier generations. The BGVP DMG filters fit too as well as NiceHCK M6 so there are some 3rd party options as well. Shells are on the small side and sit in-ear rather than on it and are lighter than one might expect with the number of components packed inside. Overall I found comfort very good and isolation better than expected.
There is a lot to talk about here as LZ has packed a ton into this relatively small shell. Lows are handled by a dynamic driver with a liquid crystal coated diaphragm, mids by a pair of Knowles balanced armatures, highs by another pair of Knowles balanced armatures, and ultra-high frequencies by a pair of 7 layer piezoelectric drivers using a ceramic piezo element. On top of the drivers, the A7 has two four-way crossovers, one for pop mode and a second for monitor mode. Because of this, the impedance and sensitivity is dependent on which crossover is in use. In pop mode, the nominal impedance is 15Ω with a sensitivity of 109 dB/mW while in monitor mode it is 13Ω and 113 dB/mW. Regardless of mode, the A7 is easy to drive and will make a good phone or tablet companion. I find it scales quite a bit qualitatively as micro-detail improves with better source, but quantitatively the need for extra power is just not there.
The cable provided with the A7 is well made in 6N OCC using 8 cores in a braid from the 3.5mm straight jack up to the splitter then 4 strand braids above it. The splitter and Jack are barrel shaped aluminum housings in black. A glass bead chin slider is provided as well. At the north end, the MMcx connectors are in matching black aluminum housings with pre-formed hooks and L/R clearly marked on the side of the housing. MMCX connectors are tight but not overly so making the earpiece attachment a positive click. I had no issues with cutout or loose connections even with intentionally removing and reinstalling the cable repeatedly or twirling the cable while I had them in ear. I think most will find the cable of high enough quality that the ability to replace it, while convenient, is unnecessary.
It is hard getting around it, the LZ A7 offers a large variety of tuning options including two crossover options, 3 tip styles, and 5 filter sets so defining how it sounds is largely dependent on which combination of those are in use. Before I use a single set of options and define how the A7 sounds to me, it makes sense to sort out the options and decide which of those options I want to use for the listening sessions.
Switches / Tips / Filters:
The crossover is the easiest place to begin as it is either set in pop or monitor mode and the difference is largely found between 200Hz and 1K. As can be seen from the FR chart, pop delivers a bit more scooped lower mids while monitor is a bit more level up through 1K where both start to climb and both retain a very similar signature above that point (at least until above 10K where they diverge again). Being a lover of mids, I settled on the monitor position.
Tips were a bit more of a toss-up as I liked the low end of the wide bore tip but the mids and treble favored the narrower style with the dark blue core. For purposes of listening tests I used the blue core narrower tip. For guiltly pleasure listening with the the switch in pop position, the yellow bore wide tips would get the call here.
Five filters come standard with the A7 with LZ listing the black as the reference point and the 4 others as either adding or removing from it according to the graphic below. To me, the this adds +3dB between 1.5k and 5k does little to define what it actually does so I ran comparison FRs to better define the tunings.
Ok, now that we have all the options figured out. This is how the LZ A7 sounds to me using the monitor mode, Narrow bore dark blue large tips, and the Red filter.
Sub-bass is present with good control and texture, but is not elevated above the rest of the signature. (yes, I see the very mild elevation in the FR plot, but to hear it, it is all very level). What is perhaps the most surprising is how good the textures are all the way down into the sub-bass where things usually start taking on a monotone character. Speed is quite good with slightly slower decay giving the A7 a very natural sound with good note weight while at the same time not sacrificing clarity. Mid-bass follows very much the same pattern with solid slam when called upon and dropping into the background when not. Clarity again is quite good and tonality is excellent. The only negative one can really level here is that the tuning is not particularly fun, and that is easily changed with the black filter for those looking for more low end emphasis.
Lower mids are well detailed, clean, and in-line with the upper mids giving both male and female vocals roughly equal presence with both cutting through other instruments well. Guitar growl is quite good as well with good attack speed. Strings have a very natural voice on the lower end but do at times pick up a hair more energy than they need at the very top. (Honestly a comment that probably should be in the treble discussion). Most of the times strings sound well rendered and the only time I feel they have a touch too much energy is in the upper most octave of the violins range. Whether this is peizo or ba is hard to guess and it can be adjusted with EQ if it becomes a touch too much during listening sessions. I only found this on a couple of recordings as it is a range that is rarely the focal point for violin and I had to search out material to confirm that so chances are unless you go looking for this, you may never find it. Overall I find the mids very natural with excellent vocal timbre, good string tonality and fantastic reproduction of acoustic guitar. 40 fingers guitar quartet sounds insanely good on these.
Treble is very well extended with roll-off above my hearings limit and energy quite good throughout without getting hot in the process. As we move up, the treble stays fairly level with good detail and micro-detail. Snare rattle has a crisp lead edge and is well defined and cymbals have a nice sharp clang without being metallic or clicky. The A7 has a good amount of air and sparkle at the top end and feels fairly spacious as a result. If there is one thing to note, while quite good, the red filter/monitor combination is the most treble reduced version of the filter combinations and it is hard to call treble lite. While not overly bright, it does have enough energy that some may find it fatiguing. It did a good job of walking the line for me, but I am not as treble sensitive as some.
Soundstage / Imaging:
Stage is very good with slightly more depth than width and a good sense of height as well. Seating the orchestra is straight forward with good separation between instruments and very good layering contributing to the overall. Imaging is among the best I have heard with motion being easy to pinpoint and positions being very tight. Even movements around center stage are precise which is a hard thing to pull off. I found no tendency to thicken as tracks got busier and despite trying, couldn’t find any compression even with my favorite test tracks for inducing it.
LZ A6 – Those expecting the A7 to be the follow on to the A6 will be dissappointed as the A7 is not the same tuning, fit, shape, or much of anything else other than sharing the same LZ name. Shape is much closer to the A5 and signature is revised quite a bit. Bass is a bit more naturally voiced and has a bit more sub-bass rumble while A6 was a little faster in the low-end and a touch cleaner as a result. Mids are more present on the a7 with improved detail and tonality compared to the A6. To my ear, female vocals are much improved in timbre and while they retain good energy, they sound much more lifelike on the A7. The top end has about equal extension but again not the same tuning with the A6 having more sparkle while the A7 is a bit more reserved but also a bit more realistic. Imaging is better on the A7 as well while stage may slightly prefer the A6. I think the biggest difference is the fact that the A6 was superb at some things and only adequate at others while I have yet to find a genre where the A7 falls down.
Dunu DK2001 – This has been my benchmark at the price point and is in my estimation the current “One to beat” at roughly $300. To start with, the cable favors the Dunu as its modular setup is a step above the one provided with the A7. Build quality is roughly equal with both being very solidly made. The 2001 is slightly larger and harder to get a good fit for me, but not enough larger to be a deal breaker for many. Sound wise, both are multi driver hybrids and both of these largest strength is their natural tonality. These two have more in common than not. I find the A7 to have slightly more rumble at the bottom and a touch more air at the top. I’m torn as sonically these two are near twins and the kit on the 2001 is better.
FLC 8s – While the FLC8s has been around quite awhile, I still find it relevant thanks in part to its myriad tuning options and its solid bass signature to build on. Both are solid builds with the FLC8s being smaller than the A7 and that alone may make a difference for those with small ears. Sound wise both have solid base signatures to work from with the A7 having more sub-bass and slam while the FLC8s may have a touch more mid forward presentation by comparison. Detail favors the A7 as well. What really separates the two for me is how easy and natural the A7 sounds when A/B tested against the FLC8s which sounds a bit thinner in the lows and weighted in the mids.
Cayin YB04 – The YB04 has a more premium feel to the shell but is substantially larger than the A7 and more matched to the A6 in size. This alone may win the A7 some points. The Provided cable with the Cayin is also a step up from what comes with the A7. Once we move into sonics though, the tables turn. The YB04 has typical BA lows with a pronounced drop-off in sub-bass quantity while the A7 rumbles away all the way down into the high 20s before becoming noticeable. Bass is faster on the YB04, but more weighted and authoritative on the A7. Mids are great on both and it is hard to find fault with either here. The YB04 may be ever so slightly more detailed while the A7 is more natural and a bit more flowing. Treble favors the A7 again with a bit more natural feel and a bit more air without being fatiguing. Its hard to go wrong with either, but the A7 is more well rounded and natural sounding.
Thoughts / Conclusion:
Well after a couple weeks of listening to first a beta and then the final release of the LZ A7, I knew it was extremely good. When I sat down and graded it out, it outscored the Empire Ears ESR which was my current high scorer. Granted, it was only by 0.1, but all the same, it outscored the best I have scored to date. I had to go get the ESR out and try them side by side just to see if it really did deserve the score and you know what, it does. The A7 is very capable across pretty much all genres and can be as big a V or as flat a line as you want to make it and it does all of that well. With 10 different tuning options in the box, and additional options available, you have a ton of flexibility. For example, the Gold filter from the NiceHCK m6 may be my favorite yet on the A7 as in monitor mode it brings it to damn near dead neutral. If I could only have one IEM right now, this would be it because it can be about anything I want it to be, can be driven well with most sources, and sounds pretty fantastic regardless of which tuning is in use or which genre I am playing. The technicals on the A7 are coming very near top of the line models and honestly my beloved Jerry Harvey JH13 is not enough better to justify the cost. If you can swing the cost, pick up an A7. Yeah, its that good.
- Bass - 8/108/10
- Mids - 8/108/10
- Treble - 8/108/10
- Soundstage - 8/108/10
- Imaging - 8.5/108.5/10
Pros: solid build, very versatile filters/tunings, excellent tonality, great detail and imaging.
Cons: Tips are very tight fit, requires tool to change modes, may be slightly bright for some.