KZ ZSE Earphones Review – Pill-Shaped Goodness

KZ ZSE Earphones

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Current testing methodology is v1.2

Release Date
July 24, 2017
Weight
1.76 oz
Size
3.15 x 0.79 x 1.97 in

Some people say, “Curiosity kills the cat,” but in my defense, my curiosity didn’t kill me as it led me to buy the KZ ZSE. And I’d say that my experience was unexpected.

Despite being released around 6 years ago, reviews from different online stores stated that the ZSE is still worth getting – not because of its price, but because of the longevity of the sound quality.

I already have a lot of earphones from KZ, some were good, and some weren’t. They were either a hit or miss.

In this review, we’ll find out how the KZ ZSE performs. Let’s see if it’s as great as some reviews say or if it’s just an outdated set that can’t keep up with newer releases.

Best Value

KZ ZSE

A competitive pair worth considering years after its release.

4/5
Price Range: $
Brand: KZ
KZ ZSE Earphones - Plug

TL:DR;

The KZ ZSE is an earphone from KZ that was released a few years ago, but still leaves audiophiles astounded because of its performance that surpasses its price.

It produces a nice rumble on the bass region that isn’t too powerful but blends well with the other regions. The midrange isn’t the best but still works nicely because of the clarity it exhibits. Meanwhile, the treble has a decent extension, considering its price.

All in all, the KZ ZSE is a solid pair for its price as it has great sound quality.

The Specs

  • Driver:  8mm and 6.8mm Dual Dynamic Driver
  • Cable:  Non-detachable with 3.5mm plug
  • Cable Length:  1.25m
  • Frequency:  20 – 45,000Hz
  • Impedance:  23Ω
  • Sensitivity:  102±3dB

What’s in the Box?

  • KZ ZSE earphones
  • 3 pairs of Starline ear tips
  • User guide

Stuff I like

  • Treble clarity
  • Moderated bass
  • Versatility with different genres
  • Nice separation

Stuff I like less

  • Weird shell shape
  • Tangle-prone cable
  • Lack of inclusions
  • Sound leak
  • Treble peaks

Comparable products to consider

VE Monk Plus
VE Monk Plus

The VE Monk Plus is an earphone with a single dynamic driver in a retro-style build. It offers a clean and organic sound for under $10.

Review Metrics

Sound Quality: 8
Bass: 8
Mids: 7
Treble: 9
Sound Isolation: 6
Build Quality: 8
Comfort & Fit: 7
Value for Money: 9
Accessories: 6
Review Metrics Average: 7.56 / 10

First Impressions

As for someone who’s on a strict budget, I’m always on the look for cheap stuff, which led me to buy the KZ ZSE.

I was scrolling on my phone looking for new IEMs to add to my collection, and this specific unit caught my attention because of its uniqueness. 

It has a pill-shaped transparent shell and vents, making the earphones slightly resemble a boombox. It also comes in two different color choices: black and blue. I got the blue variant.

The KZ ZSE came with a square box that features a line art version of the earphones. Inside the box, you’ll see the KZ ZSE with the pre-installed medium-sized ear tips, extra pairs of ear tips, and a user guide booklet. I was kind of hoping for more inclusions, but I think KZ focused more on the quality of the ZSE.

Another thing worth mentioning is that the earphones’ design is so simple that you’ll be surprised how nice it sounds.

KZ ZSE Earphones - Retail Box
KZ standard packaging | Make Life Click

Build Quality

The KZ ZSE’s build quality isn’t that special. It has a plastic shell, a slightly longer nozzle, and a non-detachable cable. I think the only intriguing part of its entire look is its form and architecture.

It also has a metallic coated vent that resembles a boombox, which I think does affect the sound quality of the earphones.

The non-detachable cable is what I like the least about this earphone. It’s sticky and tangle-prone, and I’m a bit anxious that it will last for a long time. And if you do break them, you need to get a new pair of the ZSE which I find inconvenient.

Fit and Comfort

At first, I struggled with how I should wear the KZ ZSE. 

I tried hooking the cable above my ears like other IEMs, and it didn’t work. And after hours of testing, the last thing that worked was by wearing them horizontally and making the earbuds look like an actual pill.

When I attained the perfect way of wearing the ZSE, I felt like a kid in an arcade getting a prize from a rigged claw machine.

KZ ZSE Earphones - Diaphragm
Unique pill-shaped transparent shell design with metal vent | Make Life Click

The included Starline ear tips were also comfortable, but I changed the pre-installed ones to a larger-sized pair. I got a perfect seal with the KZ ZSE, which is nice because of its flawed shape, although this may not be favorable for other listeners with different ear shapes.

Sound Quality

The KZ ZSE resembles a V-shaped sound that focuses more on the highs. I was expecting a generic sound quality from this earphone because of its price and the year it was released, but I was wrong.

Its bass isn’t the most prominent aspect of the sound quality, but it leaves a good quantity of impact and rumbles to the whole mix. The warm tuning of the mids makes some vocals feel recessed or sit at the back, but it still sounds nice if you’re going for the overall sound as it leaves a unique tuning.

The treble, I think, is the main asset of this earphone. It stands out from other regions; it’s bright and fun to listen to. However, some sibilance and peaks can make some listeners uncomfortable with this earphone.

Regarding the isolation, the ZSE is subpar and I think the vents are the culprit. But when playing music, you still get a nice amount of isolation. However, this earphone struggles to filter out low-frequency noises like AC noises and car horns.

Last is the soundstage and this is where the vents became helpful. The vents improve the soundstage by adding more width and making it feel scattered.

Bass

The bass of the KZ ZSE has a nice extension on its sub-frequency, providing relatively good depth in its rumble. Despite this, I feel like texturing and tactility could be better. 

KZ ZSE Earphones - Cable
Y-split design on the gold-plated cables | Make Life Click

The bass is generally present but never particularly accentuated. It jumps in plain view only when called upon by the track. I find that the low end, despite its capability, starts to struggle when playing busy tracks.

Personally, I have a certain fondness for this tuning style, but I do acknowledge that not all bass heads may appreciate the distinct personality that this IEM offers.

Midrange

The KZ ZSE’s mids are a little bit recessed. They benefit from some low-end coloration but tend to be shadowed by the bass sometimes, resulting in a slightly darker sound. They also lack energy which some listeners might find unfavorable, specifically for people who are into lyrics and stuff.

Timbre is somewhat of a riddle, rendering acoustic guitars with good tonality but hinting at unnaturalness.

The good thing with the midrange is that you won’t feel any ear fatigue, even after long listening sessions, due to its warm and recessed tuning.

Treble

The KZ ZSE has a decent amount of treble extension packed with it for its price. The treble is fun-sounding with this earphone but it can get overwhelming at some point.

The tuning is a little uneven, skewing the tonality a bit. There’s some sibilance but I find they veer away from piercing levels. Cymbals also have that splash but lack the desired amount of detail when hit.

I also observed that in some complex tracks, the treble keeps up with the pace and doesn’t get congested or struggle to produce notes, which is a plus for the ZSE. 

KZ ZSE Earphones - Accessories
What’s in the Box | Make Life Click

Conclusion

When I first got this unit, I expected that I won’t be recommending it to others. But after an amount of time listening and testing, it gave me a whole new experience and here I am, making a testimony about the KZ ZSE.

The KZ ZSE is a great pair if you’re searching for a substitute. It could even be your daily driver. 

LEARN MORE ABOUT THIS ONE?
KZ ZSE

It performed so well that it stands out from other IEMs, slightly above the ZSE’s price range. The only problem is that it has a non-detachable cable.

It has a powerful but not overwhelming bass, a safely tuned midrange that won’t get you any ear fatigue, and an extended treble to make listening a fun experience.

Fit and comfort aren’t also a problem with this pair, though you may find it hard to wear it on your first use. However, as time goes on, you’ll get the hang of it and putting this bad boy on won’t be such a chore anymore.

Overall, I’d recommend the KZ ZSE – it may not be the best but it has some characteristics that’ll make you want to have one of your own.

KZ ZSE Earphones - Design
KZ ZSE Earphones
Sound Quality
Build Quality
Comfort and fit
Value for money
4

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 2024-05-20 / Some images from Amazon Product API & some links may be affiliate links which may earn us a commission from purchases.


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