Current testing methodology is v1.2
The brand QKZ has many product lines, with the AK6 being the most successful and having the most number of releases.
If it’s that bad then why talk about it? Although this earphone does a lot of things horribly, it has one particularly interesting use case – and that in itself has a niche.
IEMs with a “veiled” sound.
The QKZ AK3 is another disappointing set, following suit in the AK2’s lackluster performance.
It has the heaviest veil I’ve heard on any earphone, even with the Whizzer OS1 Pro in existence for that matter, and it surprisingly doesn’t come from bass bleed.
The bass sometimes fades within the veil itself with the mid-bass as the only thing that pokes its head out by a little bit. Everything else is submerged, including the midrange and the treble.
This results in a disjointed tuning where you hear the bass, a hazy midrange with the high end of the vocals and instruments being ever so slightly audible, and a drowned treble.
For $7, the QKZ AK3 isn’t the worst option out there but you could definitely still do better.
- Driver: 10mm Single Dynamic Driver
- Frequency response: 20Hz – 20,000Hz
- Impedance: 17Ω
- Sensitivity: 109db/mw
What’s in the Box?
- QKZ AK3 earphones
- Ear clip
- Silicon ear hooks
- 3.5mm jack cable
- 5 x stock tips
Stuff I like
- The underwater effect use case
- Minimalist look
- Good build quality
Stuff I like less
- Not suitable for general istening
- Heavy frequency range veil
The QKZ AK3 comes in the brand’s standard packaging in white. The unboxing experience is nothing special – just the IEMs presented neatly together with all the included basic accessories.
Upon seeing the AK3 for the first time, I thought they look quite nice. They come in a transparent shell with a metal faceplate that looks sleek and very minimalist. Even the cable looks classy.
When I first tried them out, I instantly cringed – a literal yikes.
I quickly thought of any other use case it may have because it would make me feel bad to write about something just to throw dirt at it. I couldn’t think of anything until I remembered listening to an underwater remix of a song called Lilac by IU and these IEMs sounded like that.
Many people actually liked that remix because it somehow turned the bright and emotional singing into something smooth and mellowed out while still retaining the lushness.
So if you want to know what the QKZ AK3 sounds like, you just have to imagine that for every song you listen to. With these IEMs, you basically get the most unlikely earphone you wouldn’t have thought had this weird use case.
When I first saw the QKZ AK3, I thought they had an impressive build and it was because of this that I had high expectations.
The plastic shell seemed to be harder and more durable. The metal faceplate made it look more rigid, and the cable was one of their newer two-file light cables. Plus, all the accessories seem to have good quality.
Overall, the build is beyond what I expected for a set that costs around $7.
Fit and Comfort
The QKZ AK3 has a generic shape like most QKZ IEMs the fit was good. The ergonomics check out and I didn’t feel any pain or discomfort even during long listening sessions.
The included silicone fit my ears just fine and I didn’t have to swap them out, so plus points for that because tip rolling can be quite a hassle at times.
One thing to note is that there’s a slight chance of microphonics every time you accidentally bump the cable, and you can’t fix this because the cable is non-detachable
Overall, you won’t have any problems with the AK3 regarding fit and comfort.
I’ll be straight with you – the sound on the QKZ AK3 is abysmal.
I’ve mentioned quite a lot of times that unless you want the specific use case of the AK3, you’re better off spending your $7 for a different set. For roughly the same price, you can get five great options from QKZ’s AK6 line but I digress.
The AK3 culls everything any rationally sane audiophile or general listener would want in their music: clarity – heck audibility even. Everything sounded so subdued because of the veil.
The bass is big and has an unintelligible texture and sometimes, it also gets drowned in along with the veil.
The midrange is underwater and sounds hazy, while the treble is buried somewhere with the midrange, showing details every time a vegan orders chicken (which means there’s none).
There isn’t even enough information to give it a proper dissection because everything seemed to be scrapped by the veil and I wish there was an available graph for this because I want to know it.
It’s almost impossible to infer that everything is recessed or cut because no tuning engineer would do that.
The bass on the QKZ AK 3 is hidden away in the watery depths but in some songs, it can be heard as a deep rumble with a decent punch.
There aren’t a lot of instances that it does this but on the times that it does, I’ve observed minimal texturing and found the impact to be quite underwhelming.
The bass response can be argued as a deep and fun sound but because of its unreliability lost to the mysterious veil that covers the spectrum, I can’t really attest to that.
During those times when it performs as expected, I’d give credit to its depth and speed. It’s a good bass, minus the veil.
However, I could live with this bass if I was having a bad day and wanted to listen to underwater remixes of songs all day.
The midrange is the same as everything else in the sense that it sounds like it’s underwater.
Voices sound subdued and have a soft edge to them. It’s like listening to multiple layers of filter on top of the original sound.
Oddly though, the upper midrange somehow survives the underwater filter, almost sounding like a bald spot within the veil that covers the whole frequency range. It sounds relatively more audible than everything else but not in a very significant amount.
Bells from Fake Out by Fall Out Boy sounded clearer than everything else. That threw me off because the normal experience I’ve had with that track is that section sounding attached to the vocals with both of them clear-sounding.
Overall, I can’t say whether this is an imbalanced tuning due to the veil but consequently, I can call it quite disjointed, and this much would be fair.
With more listening and testing, I ended up liking the midrange. It’s still present but just hazy. By managing my expectations, I found the midrange to be a laid-back and relaxed rendition.
The treble of the QKZ AK3 is the obscurest thing about the tuning. The details sounded as distant as your most distant relative in the family tree. But in all seriousness, the details are distant, come off rounded, and provide no splash and sparkle at all.
This makes for a mellowed-out listening with no sort of fatigue.
If you’re not fond of being attacked by treble, then you could enjoy this kind of tuning but even so, there are still options out there that can give you inoffensive treble which doesn’t limit you to choosing just the AK3.
I do commend the treble for still letting the high notes sound bright enough so that when they push through the veil, they’re still unmistakable as high notes.
I’ve also found on relaxing songs that there’s a very tall soundstage and that there’s a good delay on notes but the same cannot be applied to just about any song – it may be exclusive to the track I listened to.
It’s uncanny how insanely close this earphone gets to mixes that do this kind of submerged equalization. It has a use case, and you shouldn’t go into listening with the grandest of expectations forcing it to sound normal when it isn’t.
The QKZ AK3 can pull off what it does and if you want your whole playlist to sound like an underwater remix then I’d call this the perfect set of earphones for the job.
The only way you could justify buying these earphones for $7 is if you’re one of those people who like to listen to underwater effect remixes of songs.
It’s still worth noting that other sets can do a significantly better job, like the Whizzer OS1 Pro.
However, if you’re looking for the most relaxed and laid-back presentation as opposed to having better technicalities or tuning, then I’d suggest sticking with the AK3.
The QKZ AK3 may sound bad but for me, it’ll have a place in my collection. Maybe it’ll have one too in yours, but you must recognize its function and the fact that you’ll always have better options.
Gavin is a college student who has a lot going on. From collecting IEMs and modding mechanical keyboards, to different hobbies like digital drawing, music mastering and cooking. It is safe to say he is a complete multi-faceted geek (and he's kinda cool too)
This post was last updated on 2023-09-27 / Some images from Amazon Product API & some links may be affiliate links which may earn us a commission from purchases.