The Ultra Cheap IEM Thread

Nice review, and at this price, they may be this year’s stocking stuffer. I’ve given away a few KZ ZSN’s from a couple of years ago. Would you say that these would be a distinct improvement? There’s always a few kids/tweens on my list. Koss Porta-Pros were a big hit.

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Excellent review as always @Nimweth. I aren’t a great fan of the aesthetics but as @pennstac mentioned these could indeed be great stocking fillers.

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I have not heard the ZSN, but I have had the ZSN Pro, I didn’t really like it. I found it to be typical KZ V shape with bright upper mids/lower treble. The Emerald is much better balanced in my view and shows the general improvement in tuning we are getting now.

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I had (or still have somewhere) the ZSN, the ZSN Pro and the ZSN Pro X. In my opinion, the ZSN was the best of them, however, the improvement in budget IEMs since then has been quite noticeable (although not in all models, some releases are still very bad :smiley: )

I actually have the CCZ Emerald and Melody incoming, so I have only really glanced at @Nimweth 's review, as I try to not read reviews of something I plan on reviewing.

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On Amazon, it appears that Yinyoo markets both the KZ and the CCZ lines. As I’m a prime customer, I prefer to order from Amazon, the difference is negligible. These sound good enough from your review @Nimweth, that I’m ordering a few for future stocking stuffers.

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Here’s an old review I wrote a few months ago but haven’t gotten around to posting. Finally have a bit of time to clear through my backlog. Thanks Hidizs for this providing this unit.

Hidizs Mermaid MS2 Review: Vocals Galore

Review written by @Fc-Construct

Review unit provided by Hidizs

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Introduction

As far as ChiFi goes, Hidizs is a brand that some may have heard of in passing but not haven’t paid much attention to. They’re mostly known for their affordable DAPs and portable amp/DACs though they have started to branch out into making IEMs. For today’s review, I’ll be looking at one of those IEMs, the Hidizs Mermaid MS2. Priced at $90, it’s a hybrid IEM with a 10.2 mm DD and a single Knowles BA setup. To be honest, I’m always a little apprehensive about reviewing gear at this price range considering how hyper competitive it is. Hopefully the MS2 will be able to stand its ground.

What’s in the Box?

The unboxing experience is pretty nice. Open the box and the IEMs are seated right on top. Below is a black box with a brushed aluminum top showcasing the Hidizs logo. Inside contains the 6 pairs of generic silicon tips and the 2-pin cable. The case has a magnetic lid and a rubberized inlay. I really like the stock 2-pin cable. It’s looks good, is well built, light, and supple with no cable memory. There is a little cable noise, however.

The IEM shell has a 2-layer faceplate where the outer part has the Hidizs logo that casts 3D-like shadow on the opalescent inner part. Unfortunately, it looks a lot better than it feels. The lightweight plastic used for the shell doesn’t evoke a sense of luxury. Still, it plenty comfortable for me and for the price that’s about all I ask for.

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Sound

Generally, whenever I get a new IEM in the budget class from a manufacturer without prior history of excellence, I expect the worst. For the MS2, I thought it was going to be an ugly, bassy mess. I was wrong. The MS2 is a very vocal forward IEM with a bright signature. On the technical front, it’s nothing outstanding but solid. I’ll admit I was lukewarm on it at first listen but as I spent more time with it writing this review, I’ve come to enjoy it. The MS2 works particularly well for genres like rock and metal where its upper mids clarity works overtime.
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Frequency response of the Hidizs Mermaid MS2. Measurement taken with an IEC-711 clone microphone. Comparisons can only be made to other measurements taken by this specific microphone. The peak at about 8-9 kHz is an artifact of the microphone. It likely does not actually exist as depicted here.

Bass

The bass of the MS2 is elevated enough to carry the beat of songs but isn’t the main star of the show. For the overall tuning, I think there’s a good balance of bass quantity. As for downsides, it doesn’t have a ton of depth and rumble to give low end oomph. Though it’s punchy, it’s dry and a little soft. Subbass notes sound rounded out without a strong sense of impact. Where the bass meets the lower mids, it starts to sound smeared and drum notes aren’t well distinguished there. On the upside, the MS2’s bass has a sort of lightweight quality to it. It’s pretty fast and doesn’t muddy up the MS2 too much. Bass guitar lines are coherent and well defined. Drums notes are a quick touch and don’t linger needlessly. For that reason, the bass of the MS2 particularly excels in (alt) rock, metal, and punk, those sorts of genres. I find that if you turn up the volume past a certain threshold, the bass quality perceptually improves and gains a confident step to the presentation of the notes. Just be careful with the volume.

Mids

The upper mids are the real focus of the MS2. But it steals too much of the spotlight. It’s a very vocal forward IEM and depending on what you’re used to or what you can tolerate, the MS2 has a good chance of sounding shouty. Personally, even though I have a pretty high tolerance for lots of upper mids, I’d say the MS2 crosses the line of being too much, especially at first listen. I definitely need to watch the volume knob on the MS2 unlike a few other IEMs where I can turn up the volume quite a bit before being overwhelmed by vocal overload. The upper mids energy of the MS2 brings a ton of clarity particularly with the electric guitars, snare, and vocals. They cut cleanly right through the mix without a moment of hesitancy with a nice bite to them. Though you could argue that it borders on being strident, I wouldn’t call it harsh. There’s a hint of sharpness to its sound and sibilance on some tracks but not enough to cause discomfort. Of course, your mileage may vary depending on your sensitivities.

With this much upper mids, you’d think the MS2 would sound thin. It’s… not so bad. The lower mids have sufficient volume to dissuade this notion. In fact, I’d say the bass actually bleeds into the lower mids and causes smearing in that region as mentioned above. My guess is that it’s an incoherency issue at the crossover with the DD and the BA. A little unfortunate as it is a stain on the overall sound quality and enjoyment for me. Though the mids may potentially be too intense for some people, I think Hidizs has gotten more right here than wrong.

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Treble

The treble of the MS2 is lively, crisp, and sparkly. However I think some of that BA timbre comes out here in the highs. The decay of notes sound brittle. Coming straight off the upper mids is plenty of energy in the lower treble that brings a crispness to the sound that makes notes pop. From there, the MS2 has a 6 – 7 kHz dip that isn’t totally “correct” but helps it from being too bright. This sort of dip isn’t uncommon; a less exaggerated version of it can be found on the DUNU SA6. The effect of the dip manifests as a sort of unevenness to timbre. For the cymbals, you get the initial attack but the subsequent ring out is overly softened. For some tracks, it helps the MS2 be forgiving as it masks bad recordings. In others, it manifests as a sort of incoherency. Past the dip is another burst of energy heading into the upper treble region. Here is where the MS2 gets its touch of sparkle. Unfortunately, it doesn’t extend too far with the upper treble so the air that I’d like to see accompany the sparkle is missing. With better and better tuned IEMs nowadays, I find that sometimes the treble is overly dampened in pursuit of having a safe, unoffensive treble. While that’s a fair strategy, I like my IEMs to have a bit of treble spice and the MS2 offers that.

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Presentation:

The staging is OK on the MS2. Both soundstage width and imaging are about average. You’d think an IEM with so much upper mids would sound totally in your face but that’s not the case. Yes, the vocals are very much pressed forward but the other instruments aren’t painfully congested. Like many IEMs, there isn’t much stage depth or layering. It ends up sounding relatively flat and compressed to an extent.

On the resolution side, it’s about what I’d expect for the price. Notes are clear with a good sense of definition. However some may critique it as having “fake detail” due to the MS2’s abundance of upper mids and treble energy. While I don’t fully agree with that line of reasoning, I do think that the MS2’s presentation feels superficial. When listening to a few of my other reference IEMs, they have a better sense of nuance and refinement, a subtle depth to the sound that adds greater enjoyment. The MS2 is a genre specialist as its lightweighted bass and upper mids clarity lends itself well to fast paced and busy tracks. My alt-rock tracks sound great while modern pop and hip-hop songs are rather middling.

Should You Buy It?

Possibly. The MS2 wouldn’t be the first IEM I jump to as a recommendation, but you know what, if you primarily listen to rock and metal tracks and can stomach a ton of vocals, the MS2 is not a bad choice at all. Those songs are comparatively elevated on this IEM. Admittedly, the price of the MS2 makes it a tricky proposition when other well-regarded IEMs like the Tin HiFi T4, MoonDrop Starfield, and Etymotic ER2 are right around the corner. Still, I do think that it does enough to differentiate itself on the tuning front to warrant a moment of consideration even if it isn’t the front runner of the budget IEM landscape. If you know what you’re getting into with the Hidizs Mermaid MS2 (which you should after this review), I think you’ll be reasonably happy with the outcome.

7 Likes

Sounds like a good alternative to FiiO FH3.

KZ ZEX

As always, this is also available in Spanish on my blog and on YouTube, links at the end of the post.

Intro…

It has been a while since I tried any of the latest offerings from KZ and I somehow stumbled across the ZEX when it was announced for preorder. As it was a new combination of drivers from the brand and was at a very reasonable price, I placed the preorder and actually forgot about it.

It sat in an unopened box for a while until I saw somebody mention it on a forum and decided to check if I had actually received it or not (I had quite a few unopened boxes laying around). It was indeed there and I decided to give it a quick listen, I must say I was surprised at the first listen, so I put it on the burn-in rig and gave it the usual time before grabbing it again this week to test more.

Presentation…

Not much has changed in the KZ presentation, in fact, I don’t think anything has changed since the last time I opened a normal set of theirs. I mean, there have been a couple of “special” presentations, such as the ZAX, but this is just like any other of the many KZ offerings that have been across my desk.

A simple white box from which slides a tray with a clear plastic cover, showing the IEMs inside. Underneath this we get 3 pairs of silicone tips (including the ones installed), the cable and, well, that’s it.

Build and aesthetics…

While the shape of the ZEX is the same usual shape used by the brand, they are a little smaller than things like the ZSN range (only slightly), being the same size as the ZAX but with a bit more contouring going on. They actually look fairly decent for a set of IEMs that cost around 20€. I am not sure if the faceplate is plastic or metal but if I had to guess, I would say plastic. Overall I like the look of them, fairly discrete but without being too boring.

As far as the cable, well, here KZ have made a huge improvement in my opinion. Ok, it’s not a boutique cable with fancy braiding but it is miles ahead of the thin twisted cables that I was used to receiving from the brand. They haven’t even really done much to improve it, they have just covered a thin cable in a see through rubber coating, but it is enough for me to not want to throw the cable in the KZ pile upon opening the IEMs. My version has an inline mic and I am not sure if I ordered it like that on purpose or by mistake (or maybe that was the only one available for pre-order at the time) but it’s a shame as I wouldn’t mind having this cable mic free for when I use other KZ IEMs.

Sound…

Let me start by getting straight to the point, the ZEX sound pretty darn good for a set of 20€ IEMs. There are more and more options in this price bracket lately, some of which are very decent IEMs that would make plenty of people happy, and I think that the ZEX should be put straight into the decent category without a doubt. They do have a few issues that I will comment on shortly but these IEMs are a set that are impressive upon first listen.

I say first listen because my first impressions were “wow, these have a lot of bass yet sound very clear!” As I have spent more time with them, there have been a few things that have stood out, making them still impressive but remind me that these are not perfect.

The sound signature is very much the typical KZ “V” shape found on the majority of their IEMs, with few exceptions. Over time, KZ has stuck with a similar tuning on most of their set and just achieved it in different ways, with different driver configurations, some working better than others.

In the case of the ZEX, KZ are using a single Dual Magnetic Dynamic Unit and what they call a Low Voltage Electrostatic Unit. An electrostat is not something found on many IEMs, even if it is not exactly an electrostat, and it does seem to work in favour of these specific IEMs.

I am going to get into the specific frequency ranges and usual steps in just a second but first let me make a note on tips. I have used the included tips (which I wasn’t overly keen on), foam tips (that made them a little dull), Final Audio Tips (which make them more impressive but show a bit of harshness that I am about to comment on) and also Xelastic tips (which fix the harshness but again dull down the clarity a little too much for me). So, my thoughts are based on using the Final Audio tips, tips that do enhance the bass and retain the clarity that I feel these are good at.

Starting with subbass, these have plenty of it. If you are looking for rumble in the low end, the ZEX deliver and manage to do so without losing control too much. As I have stated on many occasions, I am not one for elevated bass unless I am specifically in the mood, well, the ZEX are good candidates for when I am in the mood. “Chameleon” can not be said to be lacking anything at the lowest frequencies and while it is not the most controlled I have ever heard it, it is certainly good enough to be enjoyable. “Nara” is also a very good example of the fullness that the ZEX have all the way down to the lowest notes. Let’s just say that my hearing rolls off before the IEMs seem to.

In the mid and higher bass regions, the bass is still very present and is also clear and articulate. Listening to things like “Forgot About Dre”, where the bass line moves around between 50Hz and 100Hz, it stays present without anything seeming out of place. I listened to quite a bit of Hip Hop and EDM, enjoying the low end presentation of most of it. Moving to things that are less electronically focused, such as “Give Me One Reason” by Tracy Chapman, the bass is a little more elevated than I would choose but does a decent job of staying out of the way of the rest of the frequencies. With “Black Muse” by Prince, I did find that I wanted to dial it down a bit though but still listenable.

And I think that is where KZ have made a decent job of these IEMs. I don’t know where the crossover to the electrostat happens but the ZEX manage to keep mids and highs clear and present, even when the low end is boosted.

There is a dip in the mids as I mentioned, but the dip is not overly done, or at least the climb up at the end of the mids is enough to make sure vocals and mid centric instruments are present. I was actually very surprised at how detailed and clear these can be in the higher end of the mids and lower treble frequencies. Even for my typical vocal and acoustic instrument focused tracks, they do a good job of keeping everything clear and well presented.

The negative side, there is always a negative side, is that sometimes vocals and other parts of the higher mids can come across as harsh. They are actually not sibilant, at least they don’t add sibilance, but certain parts can be a little brutal at times. This is not all the time, just on occasions, but that can actually be worse at times, as EQ (or tip changes) to remove these harsh appearances seem to dull down the overall signature in general, becoming a little too blunt for my tastes.

Don’t get me wrong, I still feel that these are excellent value for their price, and would still be good value at a much higher price, but those peaks do take the enjoyment away now and again.

As far as soundstage, well, we are back in the average camp here. They are not bad but are nothing worth noting in this regard. Image placement is also acceptable, maybe a little over average, but again nothing out of this world.

Conclusion…

I think the last set of KZ IEMs I reviewed were the ZAX, a more classic hybrid set up from KZ, and I must say that these are more impressive than the ZAX. By this I don’t mean they are better, I mean that they are more impressive in what they can do. I think that I can dial the ZAX more towards my tastes with my usual selection of music (not just the stuff on my test list) but they are not IEMs that I usually reach for, I have others that I prefer much more.

However, the ZEX are sort of a “Here, take that!” set of IEMs. I was literally surprised when I first heard them and I still am when I pick them up after listening to other stuff, especially with hip hop and EDM.

I would not put them at the top of my recommended list for my personal tastes but I certainly think they are worth (more than) their price. I would have no problem recommending them to people who want to party inside their head. They sort of remind me of some car systems that people spend a lot of time (and money) perfecting to get that Saturday night parking lot EDM party set up, and these only cost 20€.

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CCZ Melody & CCZ Emerald

You can probably guess by now that this review is also available in Spanish on my blog and on YouTube, links at the end of the post.

The CCZ Emerald and the CCZ Melody were sent to me free of charge by KeepHiFi in exchange for this review. They have not requested anything, therefore my review will be as honest and sincere as possible, as they always are, but it is always good to consider the fact that these IEMs have not cost me anything.

As mentioned before, I don’t share links on websites, even if they are unaffiliated, so to see these products direct from KeepHiFi (or on the Aliexpress store), please visit the version of this review published on my blog.

Intro…

This is the first time I have tried any CCZ IEMs and I decided to review them both together. My main reason for this is that they are so similar that if it wasn’t for the colour (and a few sound differences), I would not be able to tell them apart. Therefore, I will discuss both of these and also compare them against themselves as I go.

Before getting on with the usual parts of my review, I will mention the specs so you can see what I mean about being similar:

The Emerald uses a single 10mm DD together with a custom CCZ BA driver. It states an impedance of 16 Ohms and a sensibility of 110dB.

The Melody uses a single 10mm DD together with a custom CCZ BA driver. It states an impedance of 16 Ohms and a sensibility of 110dB.

No, I didn’t just copy and paste that paragraph, maybe you are starting to get my point.

They are even the same price, well, the Emerald is actually about 1€ more expensive, both coming in at under 20€.

Presentation…

It’s no surprise that both sets of IEMs come packaged in exactly the same way. A simple white box with an image of the product on the front, with a few specs on the back and features on the sides of the boxes. Apart from the difference in image on the front of the box, the only other difference I can find is that the Melody mentions “Lightweight design” as a feature whereas the Emerald states “Selected Dynamic Driver” in the same place on the box.

Also, on the front of the box of the Melody it states that the are “Stunning New Sound from Inside Out”, while the Emerald just says “DD and BA Hybrid In-Ear HIFI Earphones”.

Inside the box we again find everything is identical except for the actual IEMs. Both contain the exact same cable and two extra sets of silicone tips along with the ones that are installed.

Build and aesthetics…

First, as both are the same, the cable. The cable is a thin black cable that is reminiscent of those that were included with earlier KZ models. There is nothing really wrong with the cable, it is a basic cable that serves it’s purpose but won’t be winning any prizes.

Now the IEMs, which are actually different, well… sort of. The shapes are identical, the size is identical and the only difference (apart from colour) is a small slope on the faceplate of the Emerald, which you can probably see in the photo above.

There is lees than a gram difference in weight, so I would have thought that the lightweight design would have been a feature of the Emerald also but, I guess the selected Dynamic Driver was more appealing.

There seem to be no obvious build issues or flaws, at least at this price point, and I got the Melody in clear so I can actually see the inside. I am certainly not going to pick faults with it as it is a sub 20€ IEM, so as long as it has no obvious flaws, that is fine with me.

I will say that I prefer the look of the Emerald, in my case in blue but also available in green, as I think it looks a little better while hiding the internals (only on the top, the back is still transparent so you can see the driver capsule.

As far as comfort, I have to say that I experienced some issues with these IEMs (remember they are both identical. On the top part of the inside they have something that is kind of like a rubber lip. This actually puts pressure on the inside of my ear and became rather uncomfortable after an hour or so. I found that I couldn’t wear them for longer than that without discomfort, so my sessions have been intermittent. Comfort is obviously a very personal thing and I have no idea if this will affect other people also but I can only speak for myself.

One other thing I noticed was that the tips included have a kind of channel around them, near the tip. I have no idea what this was supposed to do, if anything, but I found the tips to provide a decent sound and comfort that wasn’t bad either, so my sound impressions are with the stock tips.

Sound…

So, onto the part where things are a little different, with the emphasis being on “little”.

First let me say that I started off with the Emerald and found that the sound signature was quite pleasant. I didn’t immediately pick up any specific flaws and found that I was quite happily listening to my music while working. If it hadn’t been for that hot spot I mentioned in comfort, I would have easily listened to these IEMs all day.

The Melody was also a pleasant enough listen but I found it to lack a bit of body and fullness in comparison to the Emerald. I will mention a little more as I go through the usual frequency groups.

Starting with the subbass, the Emerald has a nice extension with good presence but without being overpowering in any way. Low notes are clear and articulate but do not give the impression of being overly boosted. For example, a song like “Royals” by Lorde proves to have enough in the subbass regions to appreciate what is going on down there but when passing over to something more acoustical, the Emerald don’t suddenly add weight at the low end that shouldn’t be there.

In comparison, the Melody is quite a bit thinner on the low end. There is still a presence of subbass, enough to appreciate the tracks, but it is not as full as the Emerald in this regard. I suppose one could argue that it is cleaner but to be honest, the Emerald is not exactly dirty in its subbass reproduction.

Honestly, I could live with the subbass on either of these two sets but my guess would be that the majority of people would opt for the subbass on the Emerald over the Melody.

Moving into the mid and higher bass territory, the situation is repeated. The Melody is very clean and is by no means overly boosted. It presents bass lines with nice articulation, making it easy to appreciate all kinds of bass lines, from Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” through to “All Eyez on Me” by 2Pac.

However, moving back to the Emerald, the clean and articulated sound of the bass lines is still just as present, with just a little more presence. I mean, there is not a huge dB difference between the bass on the Melody and the Emerald, but it is noticeable and in my opinion, the Emerald makes it seem a little fuller, with more body. Again, as my preferences usually move towards the neutral side of things in the bass regions, one would think that the Melody would have the upper hand, but again I find that both are good, just that the extra body of the Emerald makes music seem a little more lively.

Moving into the mids, these are also quite pleasurable. There is no real recess in the mids, however, as the Emerald does have that little extra in bass, the mids can seem slightly further back. The difference is not huge and this is only really noticeable on tracks with a lot of bass, such as “Chameleon” or “Sun Is Shining” etc. I think I would again choose the Emerald for the mids as I like that little extra roundness of the low end with the majority of my music. Maybe on occasions where bass is very present in a track, again, such as “Chameleon”, then maybe I would opt for the mids from the Melody but the majority of the music I listen to is not overly boosted in the low end.

Vocals come across very nicely on both sets, with enough presence and clarity to make the majority of my music very enjoyable. There is a nice balance throughout the vocal ranges of both male and female singers, with tracks like “Billie Jean” by The Civil Wars being well balanced between both voices and without either becoming overly harsh. In the case of vocals, I think both sets are very similar, except for a little extra weight in the lowest ranges of very deep male vocals. There were a few brief occasions where I noticed a little harshness in some of the higher mids of specific voices but it was a very rare occurrence and very much dependent on a specific note in a specific recording.

Up in the higher ranges, both sets offer a decent amount of air and extension, without being overly sibilant. There is a slight touch of sibilance on my usual “Code Cool” test track, not enough to be painful but certainly a little bit more that I would choose. The Emerald seems to be slightly better in this regard but not by a huge amount. The extension is also very similar on both with the Melody perhaps seeming to be more airy due to that slight touch more presence in these frequency ranges.

As far as stage and image placement, I must say that I was pleasantly surprised by these IEMs. Listening to “Strange Fruit” by Dominique Fils-Aimé, the multiple vocals are nicely spaced and the layers are easily identified. Of course these are still IEMs but they are above the averageness I have come to expect from the majority. I think that the Melody gives a sensation of being slightly wider, however the Emerald makes the layers sound a little smoother and more “locked in” with each other, although the differences are minimal.

Conclusion…

I have been pleasantly surprised by these offerings from CCZ for their price bracket. They are very coherent and enjoyable IEMs. It is a shame that the comfort doesn’t work for me, meaning that I can’t listen to them for extended periods of time. By the end of the tests and comparisons, my ears really did feel painful.

As far as the actual sound signatures, I think I would choose the Emerald over the melody. I know this sounds strange, me choosing the bassier set of the two, but I feel that it just ties everything in together a little better, giving an overall roundness to the presentation.

To be totally honest, I think that either of these sets is a good buy for the 20€ asking price, but the Emerald is just slightly more refined and a better deal.

6 Likes

I’m not sure if it qualifies as ultra-cheap, but the Tripowin x BGGAR Mele is a winner in my book. BGGAR may be a bit of a controversial figure, but he did a great job tuning this. Treble-heads or people looking for a highly technical all-rounder should look elsewhere, but if you listen to his kind of music (rock, blues, etc) this is very enjoyable pair (with the right tips). As usual I’m using Xelastec tips, in this case smallish ones to get a deeper insertion and counteract the V-shaped tuning a bit.

Bass is mid-bass focused and punchy without being overly bloomy, but it lacks the extension or cleanliness I’d want for EDM. Vocals and guitars have good presence without being shouty, and percussion has a good sense of energy. Treble is severely lacking in extension, but except for high percussion and high strings, timbre is natural enough with a pleasing warmth. While cymbals don’t sound quite right, the dark signature means they’re not overly loud or distracting.

For anyone who has ever heard KZ’s typical signature on something like the ZS 10 Pro, the Mele sounds similarly fun but with less recessed mids and without the treble harshness. It’s sort of like a tastefully done HDR image - not high art, but enjoyable for what it is.

4 Likes

This review would fit in this thread also, so I’ll leave a link here:

1 Like

I received the CVJ Angel Wings for review.

Disclaimer
I would like to thank Kimberly from Fedai via Amazon.com for supplying this unit for review.
Product link:
https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B09GXTHNXM?psc=1&ref=ppx_pop_mob_b_asin_title
The Angel Wings is priced at $48.99 from Fedai.

Angel Wings
CVJ is a relatively new company on the IEM scene and their debut model, the CSA, bucked the trend of the popular V-shaped profile with its neutral/bright tuning. The CS8, CSN and Mirror followed, establishing a “house sound” for the company. They then deviated from this with the ensuing V-shaped CSE and CSK models and now we have their latest dual hybrid, the Angel Wings. It employs a 10mm “Titanium Alloy Composite Dynamic Driver” and the trusty 30095 BA.

The Angel Wings is attractively presented. There is a white slip cover with an outline drawing of an anime type girl with angel’s wings and the product name in a brush script. The reverse features a frequency response chart and specifications. Removing the cover reveals a plain black box with a CVJ logo. Inside, the IEMs are displayed in a foam cut-out along with the spare tips and a faux suede pouch with a black CVJ logo. The silver-plated cable with QDC connectors is pre-fitted to the IEMs along with the medium size silicone tips.

The box contains:

  • Angel Wings IEMs
  • 4-core 4N Silver plated copper cable
  • Medium bore silicone tips (S, M, L)
  • Faux suede pouch
  • Velcro cable tie
  • Documentation

The IEMs are formed from black resin and are fairly bulky and there is a vent on the rear surface for the dynamic driver. The faceplates are decorated with a colourful design of iridescent peacock feathers or butterfly wings and the words “CVJ Angel-Wings” in silver. The 2 pin sockets stand proud of the surface. The earpieces seem solid and well made.

The cable is a 4-core silver plated 4N copper type with clear plastic QDC connectors which have channel identification. There is a plastic 90° 3.5mm plug but there is no chin slider which makes it prone to tangling.

The Angel Wings was tested with an Xduoo X20 DAP. A burn in period of 100 hours was carried out. I found the Angel Wings to be power hungry; there was insufficient power via a smartphone and a higher volume setting was needed on my DAP.

First Impressions
Initially, the Angel Wings displayed a warm, gentle sound with a mid-bass emphasis, a pleasant midrange which was not recessed and a soft treble which rolled off with somewhat reduced extension and detail. There was some bass bleed and the soundstage was large and spacious with good imaging. There was the impression of a “vintage” type of sound, reminiscent of vinyl or valve amplifiers and the integration of the two drivers was seamless. After burning in, the bass did tighten up and the tonality became more open. I then added a Topping NX1a amplifier via line out, switched to a KBEAR Limpid Pro pure silver cable, and replaced the stock tips with Spiral Dots. These changes brought significant improvement and this was the configuration used for the review. Once the above changes were made, the lacking treble was largely restored, resulting in a well-balanced profile.

Bass
The Angel Wings displayed a powerful bass with good texture and detail and a warmer than neutral tonality. The focus was on the mid-bass but sub-bass was also present, though the lowest notes were a little rolled off and the profile was fairly linear. The bass did intrude into the lower mids and affected them with some extra warmth.

Aaron Copland’s famous “Fanfare for the Common Man” was quite impressive with the bass drum possessing good impact and speed. The decay and reverberation of the skin in the performance by the Eos Orchestra under Jonathan Schaffer came over very convincingly with good timbre and atmosphere.

The character of synth bass, too, was well reproduced. In “Skyland”, the opening track from Tony O’Connor’s “Windjana”, the deep bass drone created a perfect foundation for the didgeridoo, strings and guitar and the texture and power of the bass here was extremely effective.

Nick Mason’s percussion in Pink Floyd’s “Cluster One” from “The Division Bell” also impressed with good weight and impact and contrasted well with Rick Wright’s keyboards and Dave Gilmour’s somewhat menacing guitar solo. The bass drum and bass guitar were well separated.

Midrange
The midrange continued in a linear fashion from the bass, carrying with it some warming influence which softened the transients. The timbre was generally pleasant, but this did affect the detail retrieval which was a little blunted. Nevertheless the overall effect was warm, relaxing and musical.

“Spanish Harbour” by Vangelis from “Oceanic” is a good example. It begins with a prominent drum beat and synth chords and a dramatic solo resembling a guitar makes its appearance. This lost just a bit in attack with the “analogue” nature of the tonality reducing the excitement. The percussion also lacked that vital edge, but the wide staging and relaxing warmth was still attractive.

Classical pieces benefited from the excellent soundstage and timbre. Schubert’s beautiful String Quintet was suffused in a soft glow and sounded full and rich, but the incisive nature of the playing was slightly softened. Even so, the message of the music was conveyed well through the musicality of the Angel Wings’ presentation.

Debussy’s “Claire de Lune” received a wonderful performance from Ikuyo Nakamichi. The tonality of the piano in this superb JVC K2 recording was very convincing with the harmonics and decay of the notes authentically realised. It was only in the more percussive passages that a little more attack was wanting to provide some drama and contrast.

Treble
The treble was smooth, natural and free of harshness with no evidence of sibilance. This appeared to result from significant damping of the HF driver and although sounding smooth and gentle, the upper frequencies did lack sparkle and extension. However, there was no trace of a metallic or BA timbre.

The String Sonata No.1 by Rossini is a bright and breezy piece with a strong melody and clever counterpoint. In the version by The Age of Enlightenment Orchestra, the Angel Wings gave a warm and inviting rendition with good separation and the character of the various instruments was presented well, but more urgency and incisiveness would have been welcome to provide an extra bit of colour to the proceedings.

“Hands of Sacred Light” by Patrick Bernard is a track from his “Angel Reiki” album. Delicate zither and harp-like tones populate the stage backed by deep bass drones and warm harmonies. The finest details were discernible but were just a little soft and did not cut through the mix as a more proficient treble response might have done. However, everything was pleasant and mellifluous in keeping with the genre and produced a very relaxing atmosphere.

Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells 2” is a 1992 reworking of the original. In the first track, “Sentinel”, the main theme is played on an acoustic guitar, and it then segues into a full production with the delicate high frequency sounds dancing across the stage. There was plenty of detail on offer from the Angel Wings, and although displaying a soft tendency, everything remained clean and clear enabling the complex arrangement to be appreciated. Once more, the performance would have been improved with a little more “bite” in the treble.

Soundstage
The soundstage was perhaps the best feature of the Angel Wings. It was large in all three dimensions and displayed very good imaging, layering and separation. The ambience of recording venues was nicely reproduced, preserving the atmosphere of the piece.

The first movement of Roy Harris’s Symphony No. 6 is a broad evocation of the American landscape. In the version by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra under Marin Alsop, the Angel Wings presented the orchestral colour in a sumptuous fashion with the character of the various instruments clearly differentiated. The imaging in this piece was particularly good with each instrument seemingly surrounded by its own space, and the sense of perspective was faithfully reproduced.

Isao Tomita is best known for his “Electronic Realisations” of classical pieces. His interpretation of Bach’s famous “Ave Maria” appears on the album “Bach Fantasy”. A prominent lead synth voice states the melody, accompanied by electronic arpeggios in the left and right channels. Brass and string samples ensue and fill the stage. The Angel Wings portrayed the whole piece in a spacious manner with the interweaving of the various elements very well handled.

“I Robot” is the title track from the Alan Parsons Project’s second album. It begins with vocal samples and a synth sequence in the left channel. This is joined by guitar chords and another sequence in the right channel. More layers are added including male and female choral parts. Percussion then adds a punchy rhythm. The Angel Wings managed to sort all these out and present them in a coherent way. A bright cimbalom solo comes in next and is layered over the top. This was also very effective and the whole gelled together in a musical way.

Comparisons
CCZ Emerald
The Emerald is another dual hybrid with a 10mm DD and a proprietary BA. It has a well balanced and warm/neutral tonality. The bass has good weight and is smooth in nature and the mids are open and expressive. The treble is also well tuned with good detail and no harsh peaks. The soundstage is very spacious. The Angel Wings sounds broadly similar but more laid back in nature with a softer treble and a more linear bass. The Emerald has more detail but both share a musical, rather than technical presentation and a similar, large and expansive soundstage. As with the CCA CSN, the Emerald is driveable from a smartphone and the stock cable and tips are acceptable.

CCA CSN
CCA’s CSN is, like the Emerald and Angel Wings, a 1DD + 1BA hybrid. The bass driver is the new KZ XUN DD which has an acoustic chamber. Like the CVJ, it is paired with a 30095 type BA. It displays a V or W profile with excellent bass from the XUN unit, present mids and a bright energetic top end. The treble is much more evident than in the Angel Wings but does occasionally exhibit some harshness and BA timbre which are absent in the CVJ model. The bass is much more powerful than the linear bass of the Angel Wings. The CSN is easy to drive and does not require amplification or a change of cable.

CVJ CSA
CVJ’s debut model, the CSA is also a dual hybrid with a 10mm DD and a “custom” BA. It has a very neutral/bright or linear tuning which established CVJ’s “house sound”, rare in this price sector compared with the more commonly found V profile. Easy to drive, the bass is firm and well textured, mids are forward and clean and the treble is clear and extended with an absence of peaks. Compared to the Angel Wings, the treble is much more evident and the resolution is finer and more accurate and especially good for vocal music. Its even handed approach also suits many other genres, especially classical music, in which it excels.

Conclusion
In its stock form and used with a low-powered source, the Angel Wings does not fulfil its potential, but it is capable of good performance when adequately powered and furnished with a high quality cable and wide bore tips. I would also recommend a bright/neutral source. Thus equipped, it does repay the effort with a linear, warm/neutral profile which is relaxing and musical. Of course this will add to the cost so those without such spare equipment may have to look elsewhere but if you are treble sensitive and enjoy a broad soundstage, these may be for you, bearing in mind the above.






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KZ EDX Pro

Around a year ago, I reviewed the KZ EDX, a set of IEMs that really surprised me at the time, mainly due to the fact that they made a reasonable sound at a very cheap price, just over 5€ at the time of posting that review.

Since then, there have been quite a few extremely economical IEMs released, although not many have come quite as cheap as the original EDX, and some of them have been pretty darn good for their price, with some not being so good of course. However, I think that the EDX still holds the record for the cheapest set of IEMs that I find pleasurable, along with the TRN MT1.

Yes, there are other alternatives that I would recommend over these at a slightly higher price point, which are still very cheap such as the Moondrop Quarks, but I am pretty sure that the EDX was a bit of a pioneer in this bracket (at least for me).

So, following the usual KZ naming scheme of adding a “Pro” or an “X” or a “Pro X” to the end of an existing model, today we have the KZ EDX Pro, a set that comes in slightly more expensive (I have seen them at just over 6€ but they are usually around 10€) and is supposedly an upgrade to the original EDX.

Presentation…

There is only one thing that has changed in regards to presentation, which is actually not even how it is presented, rather the contents of the box.

The overall presentation is identical to the EDX and almost every other KZ, a simple white box that I have already shown more times than I can remember.

Inside the box we get the IEMs presented in the same usual way, along with the usual 3 sets of tips and a cable. It is the latter that is the only thing different.

Build and aesthetics…

As far as the IEMs, there has been a change to the aesthetics but no change to the build. The shells are lightweight plastic in the same shape and form as the originals, however, this time they have opted for a clear see-through shell with a small metal circle sporting the KZ logo. I am not actually sure if it is metal or just plastic with a metal finish but it does look like metal. I can’t see this change having any impact on the durability of the IEMs, but to be honest, I have not yet had any issues with the build of any of the KZ models (and I have had quite a few).

The thing that has changed is the cable. Following the style of the new cables that KZ seems to have introduced in their latest models, the cable is now covered in a silicone tubing and is the same as the cable included with the ZEX that I reviewed recently. I am actually a fan of this new cable style from KZ, it is far superior to their older versions in my opinion, even if it is only a bit of tubing over the same internals. I find it to be a lot less prone to tangling and to be more pleasant to the touch overall.

In the end, I can’t complain about build quality especially at this price and although the contents are scarce, again, this is a sub 10€ set of IEMs.

Sound…

There are sound differences between the original EDX and the EDX Pro, whether these are an improvement or not will depend on personal taste more than anything. The overall quality of the sound is very much the same, it is just a slight change in tuning, and I do mean slight.

The box says that the EDX Pro is a “New Generation Heavy-Bass Earphone” and I must say that the increase in bass is the first thing that stood out to me (before I even noticed this written on the box). It is still not a huge amount of bass but it is noticeable. The tuning is actually the usual KZ “V” shaped tuning that is found on so many of their models but I’ll go through the typical steps anyway.

Starting off with the subbass, I feel that this has been increased in comparison to the original EDX. There wasn’t much roll off on the previous model but it seems that the Pro has actually boosted these lowest ranges, making them take more of a presence in the low end.

Moving into the mid-bass, these frequencies are also more present than on the original EDX. I wouldn’t say that they are extremely boosted, otherwise I would be complaining, but they are certainly more present than I need them to be for my preferences.

As with the previous version, the EDX Pro still do not do a great job of controlling the low end, which can result in some bleed into the lower mids depending on music choice, but as I said about the original version, we do need to consider the price of these, so I really don’t think it is fair to complain too much, although it is worth mentioning.

The mids are a little recessed, as is to be expected with the overall tuning of these IEMs. They are not to a point of being absent, in other words, the vocals and other mid centric instruments are present enough to be heard and appreciated, but if you are someone who likes mid forward sound presentations, you will find that the EDX Pro don’t fit into that category.

As we move into the higher frequencies, these are boosted, maybe a little too much. They are not boosted to a level where they become uncomfortable, they are still quite listenable, but there is a slight presence of sibilance and certain vocals can become a little harsh on occasions, especially if the recording is already a little on the bright side. As with the original EDX, the highs actually extend fairly well and there is a nice presence of air, which sort of simulates some extra detail. By this I mean that these are by no means extremely detailed IEMs but the extra brilliance in the higher ranges gives the impression that there are details.

As far as soundstage and image placement, we are on a par with the previous model and the majority of other IEMs in the lower price brackets. There is not a huge soundstage and the images are placed in a way that lets you appreciate the overall placement but does not present pinpoint accuracy.

Conclusion…

I am basically going to wrap this up in the same way that I wrapped un my review of the previous EDX. There are plenty of things that are not great about these IEMs but when we factor in the cost of them, it is really difficult to complain too much, although there have been many contenders starting to appear in this range.

As I mentioned earlier in the review, I think that there are better alternatives at prices that are not much more expensive than these, but if your hard limit for budget is 10€, then I do think that you get plenty of value for your money.

Personally, if I had to choose, I would probably pick the original EDX over the EDX Pro, not because I feel that they are better, more because I don’t really need the extra bass that the Pro delivers. The rest of the package as a whole is pretty much on a par, except for the cable which I find is much nicer on the Pro model.

If you want or need a set of very cheap IEMs to enjoy music without getting into picking faults, then the EDX Pro is another set of IEMs you could consider. Personally, if budget allows, I would just go a tiny bit higher and pick up something like the Quarks, the Emerald (although I did experience comfort issues with these) or the ZEX.

*** Also available in Spanish on: | Review también disponible en español en: ***

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Hi everyone!
My beloved Final E3000 sadly broke, so now I’m looking for a new iem. I’ve been focusing on the Moondrop Aria and the Final A3000. Both would be around 70$. The A3000 I guess it’s similar, but better, to the E3000 (which is a good thing since especially the soundstage and instrument separation were amazing), but the Aria intrigues me. From what I read it has a laid back, non fatiguing sound with a little kick in the subbass region (nice). Which one would you suggest?
(Also, I use a Meizu Master hifi dac. Is it enough to eventually drive the A3000?)
Thank you!

Man these Tribrids are getting dirt cheap…

KZ ZEX Pro < 40 bucks :open_mouth:

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Pauls graph for that set…looks tidy too

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Darn, and here I am enjoying my ZEX, and a month later a “Pro” version comes out that’s better by the looks of the graph!

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So listen to the graph. Stop enjoying what you hear. :phone:
 
 
 
 
 
:phone: Oh wait, this isn’t ASR

Yeah you’re probably right. Graphs are useless. In fact all audio equipment, headphones, IEMs, etc are totally unnecessary for the enjoyment of my music…

Best Way to Enjoy Music

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You know, I envy that guy. He’s probably enjoying music as much as anybody. And nobody’s criticizing the whiteness of the paper, the blackness of the ink, whether stapled or perfect bound, letterpress or digital printing, choice of font, page margins . . .

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