The QKZ AK6 is the base model having a V-shaped sound signature but is the AK6 MAX, released after it, a much better set? Let’s find out!
QKZ AK6 vs. QKZ AK6 MAX: Sound Signature
The QKZ AK6 is tuned to have a V-shaped signature meaning both ends of the frequency range are boosted.
The emphasis on both ends will make the midrange sound a little pulled back but not to a level that it’ll sound scooped or missing. The general tuning of the AK6 is warm sounding due to the quantity of the bass that’s coloring the midrange.
A V-shaped tuning like the one the AK6 has is considered to be fun as the bass and mid-bass deliver a deep and punchy dynamic while injecting warm overtones to the midrange.
This helps in making the tuning sound more musical as well while coming across as more full-bodied and organic.
The QKZ AK6 MAX has a similar sound signature but its V-shaped tuning is more noticeable. It’s straight-up distinguishable from the moment you put it on.
It’s got a big sub-bass quantity, even bigger than the AK6 by almost twice and it’s also warm sounding.
Now the AK6 MAX may have been named with capital letters for a reason and that’s because it’s unapologetic when it comes to the low end.
You can expect some heavy coloration on the mids from the bass response and even some bleed.
QKZ AK6 vs. QKZ AK6 MAX: Sound Quality
The QKZ AK6 sounds very warm and is generally pleasant to listen to. It does have some quirks that can go unnoticed but it’s through a deliberate and focused type of listening that one realizes them.
We’ll be taking a look at its frequency response to get a sense of what makes it tick and what differentiates it from the MAX variant.
Let’s begin with the bass response.
The bass response of the AK6 is comprised of its sub-bass and mid-bass frequencies. I’ve found the sub-bass to be quite boosted. This easily makes for fun listening but it can be quite fatiguing if you’re sensitive to low frequencies.
The sub-bass has good depth but for me lacks a little finesse and the decay is rather sluggish. The mid-bass has a good kick and speed, but its delivery can sometimes be overwhelming.
The midrange retains a good amount of presence despite the emphasis on the bass but it generally sounds a little distant or pulled back. Vocal clarity is still good, and the lyrics are very audible but can get hard to distinguish as tracks progress in complexity.
Stripped versions of songs are easily dissected while the edges of notes can become a little bit molded together in rock songs.
The upper midrange sounds a little reigned in but it still has a decent amount of energy to keep the midrange from being dull. The good thing is that there’s no sibilance on the upper mids and that’s always a good thing.
The treble has good extension and decent resolving ability but it generally sounds grainier. The instrumental attack and decay have decent clarity but sound faint in their delivery.
The transients are rendered crisp with their tonality bordering on bright but not peaky. The timbre on the transients isn’t the most natural but it has good shimmer and dynamism.
The QKZ AK6 MAX is pretty likable akin to the AK6’s signature but the type to like its certain signature is a minority in the audio hobby, which are famously known as bass heads.
If you consider yourself a bass lover, then you’ll love the AK6 MAX.
Let’s take a look at the bass frequencies.
From its graph, it’s got a huge rise in its sub-bass from 20KHz and cascades down to the midrange. In my full review, I’ve mentioned that describing the bass response in charades would likely make me try to form the shape of a wave – a very big wave.
The graph is similar to what you’d call a tsunami, which for others is a total nightmare.
The sub-bass goes deep and almost subjugates the track you’re listening to. The mid-bass on the AK6 MAX is also significant as its graph came from really high, there’s no helping the fact that the mid-bass would veer towards the same direction.
It’s relatively speedy and makes a powerful undulating sensation whenever it kicks.
Overall the bass has minimal texturing to help flesh it out better and sounds more akin to uncontrolled sine waves.
The midrange naturally is recessed but in the case of the AK6 MAX, it’s pulled back. There’s a significant amount of bass bleed that crashes into the lower midrange, muddying up some of the note edges.
The midrange still has good audibility but it tends to lose clarity. The bass sets up some sort of veil that distances the midrange further from the listener.
The treble has a good extension on its graph and even has a presence past the 10KHz mark. It has good resolving power and more openness but I find it clouded up by the low end by quite a lot.
Decay and microdetails are harder to hear while macro details are softened up, making them lose out on their definition.
The imaging is average while the stage has acquired a better representation of depth. Technicalities have drastically improved but with a skewed frequency response, is difficult to appreciate.
QKZ AK6 vs. QKZ AK6 MAX: Caveats
The QKZ AK6 has a warm, organic tuning that’s limited by its technicalities.
On the other hand, the QKZ AK6 MAX has significantly improved technicalities but overdoes its bass, ruining many good aspects within its signature.
In the end, no matter how good the technicalities are, balance will always lead an IEM to sound more cohesive and grounded.
On choosing between the AK6 and the AK6 MAX, it’s either you want a laid-back IEM with limited technicalities or an over-the-top imbalanced IEM with a better technical set.
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)