KZ ZS6 Review Earphones by Knowledge Zenith: Review

KZ ZS6 Earphone Review: Introduction

Some of the past few years’ most popular earphones have to be the cheap and cheerful offerings from Chinese company Knowledge Zenith.  They keep churning new earphones out at an incredible pace and have just sent us their new KZ ZS6 for review.  

I was blown away when I reviewed the bonkers cheap original KZ ATE in 2015 and again when we featured the KZ ZS3 on the site.  They did so much right with those earphones and priced them both well under $20; in terms of price to the performance, they were unbeatable.  Fast forward a few years, and the prices have started to creep up.  However, these new earphones come in just shy of $40, meaning it has to compete against far tougher competition than the earlier models were up against.

What we wanted to find out in this review is if the ZS6 are worth the price increase but also how they stand up against the other manufacturer’s offerings. For a few bucks extra, I found that you get away with better and far more original earphones in the Final Audio E3000.

KZ ZS6:  Whats in the Box

This box is tiny, simple, and straight to the point; it’s nothing more than a white cardboard sleeve with some logos and info on it.  Nothing fancy at all, but it keeps the earphones safe through transit, and the simplicity will have helped keep the cost down. All we got on the inside were a set of small, large, and medium tips and a user manual.

Now here’s the weird thing.  A friend of mine messaged me the other day with a photo of his ZS6, and the box was completely different than what I had got with mine. Also, many things were going on with the accessories. 

KZ How about a little bit of originality?

KZ, if you are reading this, you are probably about to realize you sent this to the wrong reviewer.  Everyone who knows portable audio will already know this, but those who aren’t balls deep in earphones should be aware that the ZS6 is blatant and unashamed rip-offs of Campfire Audio’s designs.  (I put pictures of the Campfire Audio ZS6 next to the Campfire Audio Orion’s above.)  

Personally, I think this is a really s**t thing to have done on the part of KZ. It’s also something that they did not need to do as they were gaining a solid reputation on their own without having to lower themselves to stealing other people’s designs.  

There is really no comparison; the CA models are light years ahead in both terms of design and sound.  That said, from here on out, I’m going to only discuss the performance as really all credit on styling should go to the team at Campfire and ALO.

They might not be replicas, but they are the next best thing.

Build Quality 

I did say above that the build quality isn’t a patch on the Campfire Audio IEM’s, but that doesn’t mean it is bad.  In fact, for a sub $50 earphone, these are really very good.  Metal bodies, nozzles, and wax guards, plus the inclusion of detachable cables, are all welcome additions.  Without a doubt, the KZ ZS6 is the companies a most well-made model to date.  To be honest, for the price these sell at, they are tough to beat.

The cable is absolutely terrible, though. Even though these earphones are designed to be worn with the cable over the ear, they still manage to transmit a substantial microphonics amount.  It also ridiculously springs and holds too many shapes from when you have them in storage. Strain relief points are adequate, and there is no inline microphone or remote control, but there is a nice chunky 3.5mm jack on the end that we did like.

If you are going to buy the KZ Zs6, I would recommend you buy one of these upgraded aftermarket cables.  They are dirt cheap and dramatically increase the earphone’s overall feel and aesthetic and make them seem like a far more premium offering.  In case you didn’t know, the cables are detachable via a standard 2 pin connector and are super easy to replace.

Isolation and Comfort

When stealing these earphones’ design, they copied the original models and not CA’s updated models with rounded edges.  That means that the ZS6 has a lot of jagged corners on them, and in the process of this review, our smaller eared tester did have issues with comfort and fit.  The size is far bigger than the Campfire’s, and they are pretty bulky and quite a bit out of the ear. Medium and large ears should work a little bit better, but they still have some sharp corners.

Isolation is average.  I’m actually rather impressed by that, given those giant open-looking grates on the outside of the driver housing.  You would expect that venting of that size would leak a lot of sounds both in and out of the earphone.  Some sound does work its way inside, but it’s by no means worse than many other small vented dynamic-driver earphones.

Sound Quality 

Sound-wise I think these earphones are nicely priced.  The thing about the KZ ATE and ZST was that they sounded way better than their price suggested they ever should, and they put entry-level models from many other big-name brands to shame.  The ZS6, on the other hand, sounds about right for something competing in the $50 market. 

It’s by no means a giant killer as moving up a touch puts you into the grasp of the RHA MA750, 1 More Triple Driver, but it is a solid all-around performer.  The new Final Audio e3000 will also eat the KZ ZS6 for lunch, and it costs just $50 and has some of the best sounds under 100.

The profile is a fairly balanced earphone with smoothness in mids and a prominent enhancement to the lows. Treble is quite smooth with some peaks on it but not quite devolving to harsh sibilance. The midrange is smooth with some warmth that makes it quite a pleasant and easy-going listening experience.  Detail retrieval throughout the mids seems OK, as does imaging and separation.  

The bass is pushed up just a touch, and whilst there isn’t too much detail or texture, you do get a solid amount of quantity for electronic music, and we found that the speed was also able to keep up with most types of music.

In the end, it sounds about where I would think a $50ish earphone should sound, you can find a lot of other earphones that sound similar, but then you can also find a lot that sounds much worse.  As I alluded to above, this isn’t an earphone going to dethrone giants, but it does still sound good for its price, and the combination of high build quality and sound is what puts it ahead in most cases.

Conclusion – Would I buy a set of KZ ZS6 earphones?

There was no need for them to have ripped of campfire Audio’s design.  KZ has built a solid reputation over the past few years, and doing this can only hurt them in the long run.  However, the ZS6 is not a bad earphone by any means.

They are very well built and sound pretty good, even though I think the FAD earphones sound better for the price.  Let’s hope for the ZS7 or whatever it is they put out in a few days (*This is a joke on the frequency of KZ’s new model releases) that they can bother to put in the hard yards themselves and come up with a unique design. 

 

Thanks to Gearbest for sending the KZ ZS6 and making this review possible this is the link for the KZ ZS6 –  Again, it is not a paid review (and that is not an affiliate link). The earphones are now available for collection. 

Audiophile Onhttp://www.audiophileon.com
Audiophile On is a website dedicated to high-end audio products. With over 15 years as a reviewer, all articles are hand-written by one person to allow the comparison of products. Headphones, earphones, speakers, amplifiers, or DAC's we cover here.

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