Current testing methodology is v1.2
There are days it feels like the Knowledge Zenith team just doesn’t sleep.
Recently they’ve released even more new budget IEMs, and the latest one of these has landed on my doorstep, the KZ-PR1 HiFi from KZ.
KZ PR1 HiFi Planar Driver In-Ear Monitors
A bright, natural and transparent IEM that comes with very few faults
I loved it when KZ introduced the KZ ZEX Pro and KZ ZES with the addition of the electrostatic driver. Now the KZ PR1 brings a Planar Magnetic driver to the budget Chi-Fi space.
I love this IEM. It breathes so well, wide soundstage, really bright and crisp. It’s a sound signature that really works for me.
It might not be everyone’s cup of tea and I can see long listening periods might wear some people down but for me, it’s awesome.
Vocals, Drums, Guitar all sound simply great.
- Driver: 13.2mm Planar Driver
- Frequency Response: 20Hz-40kHz
- Source Connector: 3.5mm jack plug
- IEM connector: 0.75mm 2 Pin Connector
- Impedance: 16 Ohms
- Cable: Silver Plated OFC (125cm)
- Sensitivity: 96±3dB
What’s in the Box?
- PR1 HiFi IEMs
- S/M/L Silicon Eartips
- 125cm OFC Silver Cable
- Product Guide
Stuff I like
- Wide, expansive sound stage
- Natural and bright sound signature
- Good representation through the full frequency spectrum – Nice Natural Full Bass
- Nice fit
- Decent price
Stuff I like less
- Might be too bright for some
- Might also be too analytical for some
- At times I feel the volume has to get a little high before the bass really comes to the front
Where to get it
Comparable products to consider
Tasty little tribrid with Dynamic, BA and Electrostatic Drivers.
Another great unit from KZ. Dynamic driver with an electrostatic driver making it a solid and powerful budget IEM.
After recently reviewing the KZ ZEX Pro (also called the KZ ZEX Pro – Crinacle) which was an updated version of the KZ ZEX I was really impressed with the dynamic electrostatic and balanced armature combination in this Tribrid.
The clarity was excellent and it really did become my favorite new budget in-ear monitors.
But then, this was followed up with the KZ ZES, which came with a great combination of dynamic driver and again, an electrostatic driver.
This was a new space that KZ had moved into moving away from just dynamically balanced armature drivers into the electrostatic range.
I really enjoyed this and the brightness and lightness of the electrostatic sound combined with the dynamics and the balanced armatures really made these budget IEMs punch above their weight.
With the KZ-PR1, Knowledge Zenith has now released a budget Planar driver IEM.
Without going into detail on planar magnetic drivers, they’re not nearly as common as others and a lot of headphone companies like Audeze and HIFIMAN seem to have a bit of a niche in that space as typical headphones focus on dynamic drivers.
It really just has a very thin diaphragm with wire through it, and a magnet suspended next to that diaphragm interacts with the signal, turning on and off to create a reaction between the magnets and the diaphragm to create audio output and motion.
The cool thing about planar drivers is that they can have a very fast response, and that obviously results in often tighter sounding output.
Enough of the tech, as I have to say, that the KZ-PR1 definitely reflects that tightness, especially in the bottom end all the way through to the top.
Well, the box itself is the same as any other KZ box. Comes in a very small package with two spare sets of silicon ear tips, and the in-ear monitors with an OFC semi-clear cable.
Unfortunately, my pleas and cries for a cable tensioner on budget, in-ear monitors has not reached them in time for these to have that included.
I live in hope…
So, it looks like I will continue to use rubber bands or small plastic sleeves that I will shrink wrap just tight enough so that I can create tension on these in-ear monitors around my ear.
The earphone themselves, like all KZ earphones, is machined beautifully.
They really have got the art of machining down pat. The model that I am reviewing is the KZ-PR1 HiFi edition, which is the silver version.
A nice metallic finish with a bit of an open grill at the back. And there is also a PR1 Balanced Edition, which comes in black resin, which is also slightly transparent.
The HiFi Edition has a slightly higher top end and a little less heaviness on the bottom end.
The Balanced Edition has a bit more bottom end and is relatively mellow at the very high end of the 7 to 10K range.
Comfort and fit
The fit of these is much like any KZ. It fits really well in the ear. The position of the two-pin cable comes nicely out the front over the back of the ear. There are three sizes of silicon tips, so play around with those for the best match for your ears.
There’s no memory cable here, which I like because then I get to control how it fits and feels on the back of my ears, and it looks pretty good as well, which always helps.
The cable is a typical 0.75 mill gold-plated plug, which is the normal KZ two-pin sleeve, which goes nicely over the top of each individual inner earbud.
And what I like about these is if you do want to swap those out or if you have a problem with them later, then if this OFC silver-plated flat cable doesn’t suit you, you can go out and buy another one. You can also opt to buy the inline control version, which has a single push button and allows you to control your music and phone calls.
So, in addition to the 13.2mm planar driver, the PR1 HiFi has a frequency response of 20 Hz to 40,000 khz.
A sensitivity of 96 plus or minus 3 dB, which is higher than you’ll see on some other dynamic or balanced drivers.
The impedance is a nice manageable 16 ohms, meaning that these can be very easily driven from anything including your smartphone.
The cable comes with a 3.5mm jack and with the 0.75mm two-pin connected to the earbuds, with the silver-plated OFC cable, which is about 120 centimeters long.
The Bass on these is really quite deep and wide, although I did find that I had to increase the volume slightly to really get that full feel. Once it’s there, it is really quite impressive.
Try ‘First Class’ by Jack Harlow for a good intro to the bass. Or “Rockstar” by Post Malone.
Any synthesised bottom end is full and rich. Not wooly or loose.
Acoustic kick drums are nice and tight.
Anything in that bottom range is really impactful.
And because of that tightness and that depth, it stands out on its own and doesn’t conflict or compete with the other frequency that are going on in the mids and trebles.
Mids are bright and fresh, not too far forward, sitting exactly where they need to sit. Possibly a little too forward for some, depending on what you throw at these.
The sound of a drum roll through the upper Toms, right down at the floor Tom, sound so true to life and natural that I have to smile every time I play a track with an acoustic kit.
The sound stage from the mid-range out helps each individual instrument stand so well on its own that vocals, guitars, keys, all sit in their own space without that competition or that single wall of sound hitting you.
This power in this frequency range without the aggression, it’s a force without the distortion.
Trebles are not too abrasive, also sound quite natural. There’s nothing jarring about them, and they add a nice sparkle to the top of the rest of the sound signatures flowing up below them.
“Animals” by the Architects has really full sound with amazing sparkle across the full range of instruments. “Him & I” by G-Eazy with Halsey has such an airy raspiness to it.
When Halsey intros with just a single beat and light key input at the bottom, her voice stands out so acoustically.
The bottom end kicks in with great fullness.
Listening to “Sword from the Stone” by Passenger, the acoustic guitar, piano, his vocals, again, all so natural and acoustic. Those treble notes just adding so much brightness and natural feel to the instrumentation and vocals.
General sound comments
I absolutely love these in-ear monitors. And while they’re not as cheap as some of the other ones in KZ’s range, they are worth the extra cost.
I’ll tell you now for free these are my top budget IEM pick for 2022 and will make it to the top of the budget IEMs list soon.
They remind me of why I love my job of reviewing headphones so much.
If you’re listening to acoustic music especially or if you happen to be a lover of vocals, in particular, then this HiFi model will really bring your music to life.
And with the bottom end is there, it’s just not too full and too fat.
When I say that these sound powerful without distortion and full without being too forceful, there are times that the transparency might almost make you want a little bit more from these.
I don’t know how to describe it, it’s not PRaT, but it’s almost an emotional element that I don’t always feel in the tracks that I’m listening to.
The sound stage is so wide and the imaging so clear and wide that it almost feels at times like I want to put the band a little closer together and have some of that lower midrange come at me a little bit harder, more like a dynamic or BA driver.
Now that would be a combination I’d pay alot of money for.
Those criticisms aside, for me and my preference of music listening, these KZ-PR1 HiFi planar magnetic budget in-ear monitors are pretty much as good as it gets for me at this price point.
They’re not muddy, they’re crisp, they’re clear, they’re bright.
The sound stage is wide. The overall response from the frequencies is also balanced.
There’s no V shape here. There’s no frequency that is particularly lacking.
But for that little piece of emotion that I occasionally lack from listening to these, I’m really impressed with them.
I keep saying KZ are sending me my favorite in-ear monitors, but they continue to impress me and I continue to say it.
Sony, Bose, Apple, JBL, UE, Sennheiser, Shure – take note. You need to keep up with this kind of innovation.
Actually, since I’ve mentioned some of my favourite brands like Shure, I have to say I’d never use these for live monitoring.
These are an audiophile IEM first and foremost. Better used in the peace and quite of home or the office lest you lose some of the goodness in noisy environments.
Without wanting to sound too much of a fanboy, I think they’ve got a real winner on their hands here.
If you like a warm sound signature and if you like well-rounded full soft bass, then these are not for you.
They’re quite analytical, very transparent, very bright, sharp, and crisp…have I said that already…
If you’re into instrumentation that is live by real humans, these will give you a thrill but not just you.
OK, I’ll stop now…
Any questions, fire them in the comments below, check out the HD photos and I’ll do a video on these as well.
Endless hours of experimentation, professional work, and personal investment in Home Theatre, Hi-Fi, Smart Home Automation and Headphones have come to this.
Former owner of Headphones Canada, a high-end headphone specialty retailer.
This post was last updated on 2023-03-21 / Some images from Amazon Product API & some links may be affiliate links which may earn us a commission from purchases.