disclaimer: No disclaimer needed, I purchased two newer models of KZ in-ears to see where they were today. I bought the EDX and DQ6 from Aliexpress without disclosing that I was a reviewer or using an account associated with my reviews so have every reason to believe these are standard production samples and not something selected for review.
Unboxing / Packaging:
Those familiar with KZ packaging will find no surprises here. White slipcover with picture of earpieces on front, specs on reverse, and mic/color noted on side. Inside we have the foam tray with the earpieces on top with the cable and tips hiding beneath. The package contains 3 sets of silicone tips, the cable, and the earpieces. It is pretty sparse by current standards but we do have to remember that the DQ6 also retails for roughly 20 USD.
The DQ6 is fairly small with a metal faceplate and an acrylic inner shell with an aluminum nozzle. Size wise they are slightly larger than the EDX and slightly smaller than the ZAX. The faceplate is brushed aluminum with the KZ logo stamped in. Model identification is on the top edge of the inner shell in silver as well. The inner shell has a semi-custom shape with the wing at the top edge of the inner shell. Vents exist both on the underside, directly over the largest of the drivers, and on the faceplate, directly over the nozzle. Nozzles have a lip for tip retention and a forward rake when inserted for added depth. I found isolation to be a bit better than the EDX due to the larger size of the DQ6, but it is still limited by the vent directly over the nozzle. Obstructing that vent improves isolation at the expense of sound quality so I can’t recommend that as anything beyond testing the isolation level. Overall comfort was good for extended wear.
The DQ6 is a pretty rare bird. While we see triple driver hybrids commonly, a triple driver that isn’t a hybrid of driver types is almost always reserved for all balanced armature units. Simple space constraints prevent the use of the 3 dynamic drivers in most in-ears. We have seen a lot of double diaphragm models to attempt to alleviate the space constraint, but here we have 3 distinct dynamic drivers easily visible inside the shells. Nearest the nozzle with a 10mm dual magnet unit, then at the top of the shell we have a pair of 6mm single magnet drivers sitting side by side. Diagrams show a simple electronic cross-over and tracing the wires visually suggests a 2 way cross with both the 6mm drivers sharing a single tuning and the 10mm driver being on the opposite side of the cross. In times past, KZ has been known to use a 7mm driver as a sub-woofer, but in this case the 10mm single driver is the bass/mids driver and the pair of 6mm drivers operates at the higher frequencies. Nominal impedance is listed as 24Ω with a sensitivity of 112 dB/mW making the DQ6 fairly easy to drive. It will take additional power fairly well, but I didn’t feel like I was missing out by using my phone and a dongle with this in-ear either.
Most of the regular readers will know that I have a hate relationship with KZ cables. The splitter is always at knee level, they tangle ferociously, and generally make my life miserable when I try to use them. Happily I can say that situation has improved some. The cable starts with a 90º 3.5mm jack in translucent plastic that allows the silver-plated copper wire to show through. Above that, a 4 wire double twist in clear casement leads to the Y splitter which matches the materials in the jack, and then a pair of twisted pairs lead to preformed hooks and hooded .75mm bi-pin connectors. The bi-pin connectors are housed in crystal clear plastic so seem a bit out of place with the other hardware but at least are standard hooded types so finding a replacement cable should be fairly straight forward if desired. The splitter is moved northward some but honestly could still use a bit more, and no chin slider is provided. Small steps forward, but steps all the same.
With 3 dynamic drivers, you’d expect the DQ6 to have good slam, and it does. What you might not expect is it to be as well controlled or as well proportioned. Sub-bass has good rumble when called upon, but drops back and doesn’t interfere when it isn’t the headliner. Likewise, mid-bass can slam, but doesn’t have to be front and center full time in order to do so. Driver speed is good with a bit faster attack than decay which gives a little warmth to the sound without getting loose or murky. There is some mild mid-bass bleed but it isnt particularly obstructive and most of its contribution is heard as a slightly fuller warmer lower mid-range. In some ways the bass is similar to the moondrop single dynamics in character, present,but not overly so, and impactful but not interrupting.
The DQ6 is a V tuning so there is some recess to the mids but it is fairly mild. Male vocals have good weight and body but are a step behind their female counterparts due to a push of the upper-mids forward. Guitar growl is also quite good with enough sharpness to the attack to be believable and enough sustain to sound natural. Violins have good energy as well but don’t have quite as realistic a tonality as guitar as they come off slightly thickened. Detail is good but micro-detail is a little lacking in the mids. Again, its a $20 in-ear and my critique is probably overly harsh here as I’d trade that last little bit of detail for a more natural tonality anytime.
Lower treble starts on the same climb as upper-mids but has a couple small peaks and valleys as you move up. The first valley comes about as quickly as we cross into the lower-treble with a fall and then a rise again as you move into the true treble around 5kHz. This keeps female vocals from getting strident and is a appreciated as it also helps minimize fatigue. The drop after 5kHz though is accompanied by a rise between 8kHz and 9kHz that is less appreciated as it can get a bit harsh. Luckily the DQ6 does react well to EQ and this can be easily tuned down a bit for the treble sensitive. Snare has good rattle with crisp edges and cymbals have good energy and could actually use a touch more to my ear. There is enough air at the top end to feel open and expansive and enough sparkle to keep things lively without getting quickly fatiguing.
Soundstage / Imaging:
Stage is one area where I can tell this is a $20 in-ear. It has more width than depth by a good margin and only manages a small amount of height. Seating the orchestra shows off the wide, flat nature of the stage and the fact that layering and instrument separation is average at best. Imaging and stereo separation are considerably better with movements easily tracked and isolated in space although absolute positions are a little less clear. There is some compression as tracks get busier and some thickening particularly of the lows on extremely fast complex tracks.
Thoughts / Conclusion:
KZ is back! For a long while KZ was the undisputed king of the budget iem world. In the old days, nobody else could come close at the price tags KZ was charging and produce a product that had any chance of taking the crown. But then KZ stumbled a bit trying to move up the the price scale, and others pounced. Now KBear, CVJ, BLON, and other newcomers all make products that have surpassed the recent KZ models (in the sub $40 space) and it could easily be argued that there is now a ruling council with seven or eight members instead of a single King. In many ways the DQ6 hearkens back to that earlier time when KZ was producing products that were completely out of proportion when comparing sound quality to price. This isn’t to say the DQ6 is perfect and I’ll avoid all the typical cliches but it is very good for the asking price and perhaps better than it has any right to be at the $20 price point. If KZ can improve clarity and detail level a bit, that revision of the DQ6 could well let them snatch the budget crown back. As it stands, at least we know KZ still has a seat on the council and still is capable of producing a great budget iem when they put their mind to it. the DQ6 is well worth a try in my estimation.
- Bass - 7.5/107.5/10
- Mids - 6/106/10
- Treble - 6/106/10
- Soundstage - 5/105/10
- Imaging - 6.5/106.5/10