Current testing methodology is v1.2
May 21, 2018
Price not available
4.1 x 2.7 x 1.3 in
Released in 2018, the KZ ZSA really left a great impression on the audiophile community.
With numerous reviews online stating how affordable it is while delivering an impeccable performance, I’m here to do a full review of whether it really sounded great or was just overhyped back then. Let’s also find out in this review it’s still worth buying in 2023.
Still worth the hype even after a few years
The KZ ZSA is an IEM from KZ that features a dual driver setup composed of 1 Balanced Armature + 1 Dynamic Driver. According to the brand, this is a new approach to the technology that makes the connection between the Dynamic unit and the Balanced Armature unit smoother.
Originally retailing for $20, it’s currently priced at around $15 and has a typical V-shaped tuning known within KZ’s earphones. It’s a fun-sounding IEM that does well with most energetic genres.
- Driver: Balanced Armature + Dynamic Driver
- Cable: 3.5mm Line Type
- Cable Length: 1.25±0.05m
- Frequency: 7-40,000Hz
- Impedance: 18Ω
- Sensitivity: 101dB
What’s in the Box?
- KZ ZSA earphones
- 2-pin detachable cable
- 3 pairs of silicone ear tips
- User Manual
Stuff I like
- Energetic sound profile
- Very comfortable to use despite its unusual shape
- Responsive with EQing
- Minor drawbacks
Stuff I like less
- Bass can get overbearing on rare occasions
- Cymbals lack presence at times
- Treble extension falls a bit short
Comparable products to consider
Released 12 years ago, the KZ ED12 is one of KZ’s earlier models. It exhibits a typical V-shaped tuning with remarkable features that can still go head-to-head with the latest IEMs.
Based on the appearance of the KZ ZSA, it looks like something that won’t make much of an impact on its performance because of its unusual form and build. It also looks like an underdeveloped sibling of Optimus Prime from Transformers, but I really shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, and that’s why I bought it to validate its other aspects.
The ZSA comes in standard KZ packaging which is a small white box with a minimalist image of the IEM on the front and product information and specs printed on the back.
Inside the box is this plastic tray that holds the IEM, which is available in two color choices: space gray and black with red. Underneath the plastic tray, you’ll find the inclusions: the cable, stock ear tips, and the handy user manual. The earbuds come pre-installed with medium-sized ear tips.
KZ kept their consistency with this type of packaging as it may not give a premium vibe, but at least it’s effective in keeping their products safe while shipping through different countries.
Regarding the KZ ZSA’s build quality, its housing is made of aluminum with smoothed edges.
Its faceplate has three vertical vents and has a “Hybrid Technology” phrase written on its surface. Both the faceplate and the nozzle are painted black together with the red aluminum shell. For the ZSA’s form, it has some sort of a triangular shape with curved edges.
The vents on the faceplate of the ZSA aren’t only for the design but they’re also a feature that shows KZ’s system with a semi-open back.
The included cable that comes with the ZSA is good for its price. It’s a 2-pin, 4-core braided copper-colored cable with pre-molded ear hooks. They’re braided neatly, and not stiff and sticky like cables from other entry-level IEMs. The ear tips were a bit generic yet decent, and I guess I won’t complain much about it.
I’m not a fan of IEMs with a mic as I use it mainly for music streaming but you can get a KZ ZSA variant with a mic in its cable if you want to use one for gaming or calls.
Fit and Comfort
The KZ ZSA is smaller than other IEMs, making it easy to fit in my ears very well. Fit and comfort may vary with different ear shapes and sizes but the ZSA may be a comfortable pair for most people as it’s smaller.
The pre-molded ear hooks were also great as they’re not too tight, and it rests well above my ears.
The ear tips also gave a decent seal, and I didn’t need to change the tips to my usual ones as they’re a perfect match for the ZSA and get the job done. Wearing the ZSA for hours didn’t cause any discomfort but I needed to take them off for a while to give my ears some air as the seals were too tight for my ears.
KZ’s IEMs are known for their usual V-shaped tuning and this one is no different. However, the KZ ZSA has a distinct feature in its sound quality that sets it apart from other models. I think it’s the single BA doing the work that makes this a little unique.
The bass region of the KZ ZSA is fairly elevated which is typical with V-shaped IEMs. This mainly comes from the dynamic driver of the ZSA. It goes very deep and packs a lot of boominess and rumble, but it can get overpowering sometimes that it just stays in front of the track.
The ZSA also produces the mid-bass nicely and gives bass guitars more presence and decent sustain without rolling off. There’s also some noticeable mid-bass bleed into the lower mids.
The powerful lower region gives the mids a warm profile, and the midrange of the KZ ZSA isn’t as recessed as I expected.
Male vocals are thin and laid-back due to the focus on the upper mids, while female ones are a bit forward. Sibilance and peaks may also occur at times, especially with tracks that are poorly mixed. Guitars and violins also suffer from the midrange recession as they’re not that clear to listen to, especially with guitar solos.
Last would be the treble region, and for me, the highs of the KZ ZSA are somewhat confusing. They’re overemphasized and sometimes produce harsh peaks at certain tracks. The treble also gives vocals decent air and clarity from the extended highs.
Cymbals and hi-hats are rendered with crisp details, but due to the weird treble extension, the tonality tends to go off. It may be best to listen to the KZ ZSA at moderate volume as it gets distorted with higher volume.
Overall, the KZ ZSA has good technicalities for the price.
The sound staging was notable as it has great width and height. It’s a lot better compared to that of most budget IEMs. The sound separation and layering were average – they’re nice but as the tracks get busier the sound becomes congested.
The KZ ZSA is an excellent choice as it performs nicely. It may have some minor issues but it has a very favorable tuning, especially for bass heads. It also has a great durable build with neat aesthetics, and the included cable is decent for its price.
For a budget earphone, the ZSA is a great contender even in the saturated IEM market. So is it worth buying in 2023? Definitely! I’d recommend buying it despite being released five years ago.
Shaik, a college student, part-time musician, and proud fur parent. Currently pursuing his degree in architecture.
As a part-time musician, Shaik enjoys expressing his self creatively through music. Whether it's writing original songs or performing covers, music is a significant part of Shaik's life
This post was last updated on 2023-11-27 / Some images from Amazon Product API & some links may be affiliate links which may earn us a commission from purchases.