“The KZ ZS5 is a quad-driver IEM and has four drivers housed inside a single earpiece”

Up until a few years ago, many perceived Chinese products as sub-standard. Fast forward to 2017 and the ‘made in China’ tag is no longer considered synonymous to a product being cheap. In fact, devices from Chinese brands usually offer much better value for money when compared to the competition. Case in point, the ZS5 from Knowledge Zenith (KZ), a Chinese earphones manufacturer, which punch way above their weight and in this review, I’ll be detailing as to why they are arguably the best earphones under Rs 5k.

What works?

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Let’s start by talking about the things that the company got right. The KZ ZS5 feature an around-the-ear design which hooks really well to the ears. The earphones ship with detachable cables which are made out of plastic, but you can upgrade to braided cables by paying a little extra. The premium cables are said to sound better too, but since I couldn’t put that to the test, let’s take this with a grain of salt. The detachable cables use a two-pin connection to connect to the earpieces and therefore, even if you damage the cable, you won’t have to go through the trouble of buying a new pair of earphones. Moving on, the ZS5 are extremely light weight and comfortable to wear over long music sessions. The included ear tips provide good sound isolation too and I didn’t face any problems with the fit, whatsoever. 

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The sound quality of the earphones is downright excellent and going by the spec sheet, I can’t say that I am too surprised. The KZ ZS5 is a quad-driver IEM and has four drivers housed inside a single earpiece. I’ll give you a minute to let that sink in – a budget IEM with two dynamic and two armature based drivers inside a single earpiece. The earphones did require an initial burn-in of nearly two hours after which, the audio performance of the ZS5 shot up. With a total of four drivers working in synergy, the ZS5 reproduces audio with utmost clarity. The earphones do have a coloured sound signature which sways in favour of the high-end, but it’s not overpowering by any means. Having reviewed quite a few budget earphones, I have always left wanting for a little more detail in the high-end. However, I was thoroughly satisfied with the ZS5. The performance in the mid-range is outstanding too and the ZS5 will manage to bring out details in your favourite song which you’ve never heard before.

KZ ZS5 review 004The low-end performance of the earphones doesn’t disappoint either and the ZS5 manage to crunch out some really punchy beats. It’s not going to rattle your skull or vibrate your teeth like a pair of Sony MDRs but rest assured, you’ll still be able to enjoy EDM tracks to the fullest. One of the things which stood out to me the most was how roomy the soundstage of the ZS5 was. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nowhere close to what you might experience with a pair of headphones, but as far as earphones go, the ZS5 ranks amongst the best. Lastly, the ZS5 will do justice to chaotic tracks as the earphones handle instrument separation really well. All in all, the quality of the sound output from the ZS5 is insane when you factor in the earphones’ extremely low price.

What doesn’t?

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It’s very rare for a gadget to score a perfect five and the same is true for the KZ ZS5 too. While I loved how light the earphones were, the build quality wasn’t up to the mark. The earphones have been constructed out of plastic and there are visible crevices which will eventually break the housing. Moreover, the earphones don’t come with a whole lot of accessories or even a carrying case. While you could make an argument for carrying them in your pockets, bear in mind that the two-pin connector for the detachable cable is extremely fragile and should you damage it, you’ll have to order a new cable. Moreover, while the audio performance of the KZ ZS5 is noteworthy, I did notice the earphones to show some signs of sibilance.

Cop or drop?

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The KZ ZS5 is one of the best sounding pair of earphones money can buy under Rs 2,000 and I am confident that if you were to do a blind test on the ZS5, you’d probably mistake them for a pair of high-end IEMs. Sure, they might not take the cake for the best looking or the most durable earphones, but for the price, it really doesn’t get any better than this. If you were on the fence about buying them or were just on the lookout for a pair of earphones which don’t break the bank then, by all means, go for the KZ ZS5. The earphones can be picked up from GearBest and should you finalise your purchase decision, I can guarantee you that you won’t be left disappointed. 

Editor’s Rating: 4 / 5

Pros: 

  • Excellent sound signature 
  • Inexpensive 
  • Interchangeable cables 

Cons:

  • Fragile 
  • Slightly sibilant 

Photos by Raj Rout
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