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KZ ED16 Review: Little League Home Run


Introduction: Knowledge Zenith is a famous company for varying reasons within the audiophile community but for most of their fans, they're known for affordable IEMs that has promised great music for the price they ask. Personally, previous attempts were not something I enjoyed or bought as they did not meet my needs, a more balanced sound presentation with good mids. The KZ ED16 is one of their newest releases and is following on the heels of the KZ ZS10 in price range (around half the price) at $24-25 USD on AliExpress (There's a discount for it in my impressions post) and should be less of a performer than the ZS10 at that price point. With that in mind, I was requested to do this review by a friend so I can find out if KZ has put their previous experiences together in providing a good product for the masses. The ED16 was played through with music for approximately 150 hours to pacify the burners and non-burners alike.

Creases are my fault, don't mind it.

Specifications (from the back of the box):
Weight: 18g +/- 5g

Plug Type: 3.5mm (L-Type)
Pin Type: 0.75mm (2-pin)
Frequency: 20-40000Hz
Impedance: 8Ω
Sensitivity: 98dB/mW

And the double take here is the 8Ω impedance and 98dB sensitivity. Basically this means the ED16 can be driven easily and the low sensitivity balances it out, add to that it can easily be affected by high output impedance which (can) result in some noise and (will) affect Balance Armature sounds, sometimes even driving them into sibilance and/or distortion.

Unboxing: The vacuum sealed box it came in was small, like 4" long, 3" wide and 1 1/2" deep kind of small which is commensurate to it's price. Sliding out the inner box from the sleeve, you'll immediately see the little beauties laid out on a plastic tray that covers the other stuff that came with it.


There's a small bag of 2 pairs of tips, the owners manual, warranty card and the old style straight cable, this one is the no microphone version.


Cable: as I mentioned earlier, it is the old style straight plug cable with memory wire and is very different from the twisted ones that came with the ZS10 (which I heard is of better quality), for one, the wire feels a bit rubbery and the red and white spiraling strips isn't the best looking design out there. However it does feel sturdy, and it does the job with its  gold 2-pin 0.75mm plugs, simple yet effective plastic Y-splitter and L-type gold 3.5mm plug.


Build and Fit: The clear blue shell feels strong enough to resist some falls and impact but I wouldn't want to try and see how long it would last. The cover has obvious seems from where it was connected to the shell and you can see the insides of the ED16 rather easily as well as the wirings used in it. The nozzle is covered with a fine mesh and does not have a tip lip, an area usually near the tip of the nozzle that can help keep your ear tips in place (and not accidentally get left inside your ear), luckily the silicone tips it came with are grippy so there's little fear of it accidentally getting left behind, just be aware of this when using 3rd party tips.


The connectors are of the half circle lock variety (most 2-pins use two halves which seems to help more with gripping the pins in place) and feels smooth on first insertion then becomes tighter the deeper you push the pins into place. The shells are quite comfortable to wear for long sessions and quite light, there is a lot of free space inside and each shell has a L and R marker inside the shell near the pin terminals.

Overall, the fit and comfort is pretty good, specially with the weight of the IEM and the cable it comes with factored in. Durability seems good but I would advise being more careful with it than some other IEMs.


Sound Stuff: I've heard a few KZ IEM's before this, including the ZS10 and I didn't like their signatures and/or how they sounded, so with that in mind, nothing prepared me for the surprise of hearing a coherent, good sounding KZ branded IEM the moment music played in these IEMs.

If you're waiting for a punch line, there isn't so onwards to the firing range. Please note that the stock tips were used with this

Bass: The sub-bass on the ED16 has average extension and is a little slow in decay which helps it provide a good amount of reverberation and rumble. Clarity is good, though separation is a bit low as similar sounds can meld together as they play in complicated tracks. Mid bass has a moderately weighted punch that punctuates the music well for a fun listening experience.

Mids: are in a relatively neutral position, where instruments and vocals are relatively clean and clear. Lower mids have some warmth and body that helps male vocals sound good and alive but can benefit with a bit more thickness. Upper mids has a similar amount of warmth and body that makes female vocals sound lively and adequately bodied. There is a moderate ability to retrieve details and has a fair amount of layering.

Highs: are fairly extended with moderate clarity and some crispness in the notes. There is not a lot of air but it does provide for some twinkle and moderate definition, while keeping the overall treble free from harshness and sibilance. Note that the higher than normal output impedance can induce sibilance here, specially on higher volumes.

Soundstage: on the ED16 is relatively wide and a little shallow in depth though it may sound a little bit artificial with imaging a little bit off target. Congestion can occur with complicated or busy tracks.


Conclusions: I will repeat my surprise with the KZ ED16, it's actually a fun, relatively balanced and coherent hybrid that offers a good amount of value for the money that for me, handily beats the KZ ZS10. There is some warmth that helps it sound good on rock/pop tracks and provide a relaxing atmosphere with more sedate music. EDM and heavy bass listeners may want to use a warmer source which helps the ED16  achieve more bass output. Overall a good home run for KZ.

Pros: Has a good amount of bass, mids and highs to satisfy balanced listeners, good comfort and fit, has enough clarity and body to be fun and never dry.

Cons: Cable isn't the newer (better) version of KZ IEMs, there is no tip lip, which may limit the use of some 3rd party tips as they can be left inside the ear if they slip off the tube.

Nitpicks: Left cable was incorrectly bent (The L/R markings should face outward when connected) so the left side was out of phase until I bent it the opposite way and correctly inserted the pins. Faceplate design is weird, model is named KZ ED16 but it says ZST on the right side and Dynamic, Balanced Armature on the left side which I feel is not essential, nor does it add to it's looks.


Sound testing was done using a Sony WM1a (Primarily), a Hiby R6 and Zishan Z1(for comparison) and a phone (for checking driveability) volume matched to 90.X db of safe hearing and calibrated using a 1kh tone on a dedicated DB Meter, all sources patched through a switcher. More information will be available on the About Me page (once I find the time to write it up.)

2 comments:

  1. is it better with upgraded cable?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It does sound better, specially on balanced, the old KZ cable isnt as good as the new one

      Delete

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