Review - TRN TA1 Max (Sub 50€)

Review - KZ ZEX Pro a.k.a. KZ X Crinacle CRN (sub 50€)

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Also available on YouTube in Spanish: Acho Reviews YouTube 

The KZ ZEX Pro has been sent to me by Linsoul in exchange for publishing this review. As usual they have not requested anything specific, therefore, as usual, my review will be as honest and unbiased as possible but it is always good to consider the fact that these IEMs have not cost me anything.

You can find the KZ ZEX Pro, also known as the KZ X Crinacle CRN (more on that in a moment) from Linsoul here... 

KZ ZEX Pro: https://www.linsoul.com/products/kz-zex-pro

KZ X Crinacle CRN (ZEX Pro): https://www.linsoul.com/collections/all/products/kz-x-crinacle-crn-zex-pro

(as always, these are non-affiliate links, more info here)

Intro…

As I just said, the KZ ZEX Pro is also known as the KZ X Crinacle CRN, something that has led to a bit of confusion in regards to these IEMs and whether or not they are identical. Crinacle published this a few days ago, which serves to clear up any misunderstandings but in case you haven't read it (and don’t want to), the quick recap is that the KZ ZEX and the KZ X Crinacle CRN are exactly the same IEMs, with the exception of the Crinacle logo on the CRN version.

Basically the KZ ZEX Pro was tuned by Crinacle but was released before the announcement was made public, the idea being, according to Crinacle and KZ, to see how the tuning was received before Crinacles name was linked to it.  This was to see if the tuning was well received without using the “Crinacle” name or to see if it depended on his name to become a hit. I guess that it is sort of like Richard Bachman seeing if he could become a best selling author before telling everyone it was just Stephen King under a pseudonym. Yes, there is a bit of a difference between Stephen King and Crinacle but you get the idea.

I got sent the KZ ZEX Pro before the announcement was made, therefore my set does not show any mention (or logo) of Crinacle, but again, the IEMs are exactly the same.

Confused? 

Ok, now let’s get on with the review of the “KZ ZEX Pro a.k.a KZ x Crinacle CRN (KZ ZEX Pro)”


Presentation…

I am not sure if there is any difference in the presentation of the CRN branded version but the ZEX Pro arrives in a packaging that is identical to that of the ZEX, with the same contents.

The typical white KZ sleeve from which a tray slides out to reveal the ZEX Pro IEMs covered by transparent plastic, underneath which we find the usual user manual, a couple of spare silicone tips and the cable that KZ includes recently with all of their products, in my case with an inline microphone.

Nothing special or out of the ordinary but we are talking about a set of 30€ IEMs (about 2€ more if opting for the CRN version), so there are no complaints from me regarding contents.


Build and aesthetics…

The shape of the IEMs does differ from the original ZEX, this time opting for a shell shape that was used on the KZ DQ6. As far as looks, both are (the ZEX and the ZEX Pro) are decent looking simple IEMs in my opinion, I really can't say I prefer one over the other as far as looks.

As far as comfort, they are again both fairly comfortable, with no specific complaints from me, although I do find that the original ZEX sits inside my ear a little better, being a little smaller.

I have already mentioned the new KZ cables a few times in previous reviews and my opinion hasn’t changed. They are not the best cables in the world but are far superior to previous cables used by the brand.


Sound…

First off, let me start by saying that the ZEX and the ZEX Pro are tuned completely differently, therefore there really isn’t much to compare between them. I mean, I could list the differences but it would not really be very useful, as it is different in almost every part of the frequency range. Where the original ZEX has the usual KZ emphasis on the mid bass, running into the lower mids, with quite a dip in the center of the mids to later climb up and complete their usual V shaped tuning, the ZEX Pro follows a curve that matches my personal tastes more than the originals.

Starting off with the subbass, I like the fact that the presence starts to climb around the 100Hz mark and continues to rise the lower the notes get. This works well to give the subbass a nice balance, counteracting the natural roll off of our hearing as we go low, giving presence to the lower registers without actually overpowering any of the mid bass and lower mid frequencies.

Tracks that have plenty of info in the subbass realms come across nicely and I don’t find myself needing more in tracks like “Chameleon”, “Royals” or any of my other subbass test tracks.

Moving into the mid bass, it is slightly below what I would consider perfect (for my personal tastes of course) but only slightly. In general, the subbass and midbass follow my preferences very closely. It is also clean and articulate, without seeming to fall apart on busier tracks. The bass on “Killing In The Name” is a good sample of how the ZEX Pro keeps it clean and articulate in the low end.

Moving into the lower mids, the transition is clean and well defined. Crinacle mentions that he likes to boost bass in the lower ranges to keep the 300Hz area clean and avoid bass bleed, and it works well. I don’t get the impression that the bass bleeds into the lower mids at all. I do sometimes miss a bit of body when listening to purely acoustic guitar based music but that is the price to pay of the presence being slightly below my preferences in these frequencies. However, I would much rather it be lean in this regard than bloated.

Moving into the higher regions, here is where my first real complaint comes. There is a harshness that appears on occasions and can make vocals become a little shouty and too upfront. Now, the strange thing about this is that I have measured and compared graphs and don’t see any specific spike on paper that would cause this. It is also not on every track, or all the time, it is just with specific songs where things sound suddenly harsh and actually painful at times. I have found myself checking quite a few times if I had any EQ on by accident but it wasn’t the case. 

An example would be the voice of Rag’n’Bone Man on “Human (acoustic)”, where his voice has a harshness that I don’t find on other sets. 

As far as sibilance, I do find it to be a little too hot for my personal tastes, but again, it is only slightly. “Code Cool” does present a little sibilance throughout the track but it is by no means terrible in this regard. I would just prefer it to be a little tamer in this range.

As far as soundstage they are around average but with slightly higher than average image placement. The soundstage is not huge but does at least give the sound enough space to play around, with the images being placed fairly well, making the most of the space they have. “Bubbles” is enjoyable and the ZEX Pro are good enough to appreciate the intent of the song, something that I feel is very important.

The overall detail is also decent, especially if we consider the fact that they cost just over 30€. They are not detail monsters but I didn’t find myself feeling that I was missing anything, nor did I have to focus too much to appreciate the overall detail of the music I was listening to.


Conclusion…

The 30€ price bracket of IEMs is getting more and more crowded by the day, with some models offering a performance that is far more than one would expect for the price. The ZEX Pro is a set of IEMs that directly aims to compete with the better sets in the price bracket. In fact, I have heard sets costing far more that sound less impressive.

I feel that the tuning is very close to my personal preference and while I would prefer to somehow tame that harshness and slight sibilance in the higher regions, those are really my only complaints.

I can’t say that these have suddenly become my favourite IEMs but I also cannot deny the fact that for their price, they are a very good set of IEMs. The “KZ ZEX a.k.a KZ X Crinacle CRN (ZEX Pro)” are certainly worth a listen if you want to find out what the extreme budget section of IEMs is capable of nowadays.