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IEM Reviews

KZ ZEX Pro/CRN – Can KZ tune?

KZ has released their first tribrid with surprisingly decent tuning in cooperation with Crinacle. Is it finally KZ’s great success or just too good to be true?

ProductKZ ZEX Pro / KZ CRN
Driver Configuration1x Dynamic Driver (DD) + 1x Balanced Armature (BA) + 1x Magnetostatic (MST)
Price$36.99
Who is it for?People interested in a good tuning for an affordable price

KZ has released their first tribrid with surprisingly decent tuning in cooperation with Crinacle. Is it finally KZ’s great success or just too good to be true?

KZ has for quite some time now followed a principle of seemingly randomly release new IEMs and see which ones are good and get bought and which aren’t. Their IEMs were usually tuned quite bass-heavy and lacking especially in Mids. So it was quite surprising to see a KZ that a lot of people wished for – a KZ IEM that’s actually well tuned.

The second, newer name of the KZ ZEX Pro also hints at that defining aspect: KZ CRN, named after IEM-guru and newish YouTube star Crinacle, who tuned this IEM in cooperation with KZ. With the equally by “tuned-by-Crin”Moondrop Dusk being one of my favourite IEMs, my expectations are accordingly high for the tuning of the KZ ZEX Pro.

Frequency Response

About the IEM

  • Beautiful design, especially in gold but body feels slightly cheap
  • Adequate to good fit for me but starts to hurt a little after some time (1-2 hours) due to the “fin” pressing into the ear
  • Barebones accessories, ok for price
  • Cheap, plasticky and sticky cable

πŸ₯ˆThe accessories and cable are acceptable for the price, as are built quality. Comfort will vary highly from almost custom-fit to unbearable depending on your ears.

Sound Impressions

  • Best tuned KZ IEM so far
  • Technicalities still one of the problems with low resolution and lacking details, especially in vocals and instruments in treble region
  • Lacking clarity in vocals – especially female
  • Bass with good control, some of the best from KZ (vs. DQ6)
  • Great vocal and mid presence, on of the best KZ IEMs for vocals
    • “The Greatest Show” by “Panic at the Disco” sounds amazing with the ZEX Pro, plays great with its strengths in bass and vocals
  • Treble tends to be piercing and unpleasant due to the 8 kHz β€“ and to a lower degree 4 kHz – peak
    • “Almost Lover” by “A Fine Frenzy” is almost unlistenable due to these peaks
    • Can to some extent be fixed with EQ (lower 4kHz and 8kHz by a few dbs)

πŸ₯ˆ One of the best tuned IEMs KZ has released so far, showing promise for future changes to their typical tuning. Especially the bad technicalities show the limits of the drivers KZ is currently using. 8kHz peak could be a dealbreaker for some.

Comparisons

CCA NRA

The CCA CRA was KZ’ – respectively their sister company CCA’s – first try with a magnetostatic driver. For a first inexpensive the NRA were quite alright, providing a test ground for the ZEX (Pro). You can read my CCA NRA review here.

KZ ZEX Pro/CRN

  • Better fit
  • More balanced tuning
  • Controlled bass
  • More vocals presence
  • Better technicalities (slightly)

Graph

Frequency Response Graph of the KZ ZEX Pro compared to the CCA NRA

CCA CRA

  • Less painful over time
  • Treble less piercing, especially no 4kHz peak

🐧 The KZ ZEX Pro is clearly the way to go in this comparison. Apart from slightly less painful and better controlled treble, the ZEX Pro does everything better and more to my liking than the NRA. Its tuning as well as the technicalities are just plain better.

KZ DQ6

The DQ6 has so far been one of my favorite KZ IEMs and is comparatively well tuned and has a similarly good design and fit. To be the best KZ IEM, the ZEX Pro has to beat the DQ6.

KZ ZEX Pro/CRN

  • Solid, balanced tuning
  • Slighly clearer details, especially in vocals
  • Wider Soundstage

Graph

KZ DQ6

  • Slightly better fit despite being almost the same design
  • More and better, cleaner midbass
  • More intimate vocals
  • More coherent
  • Slightly better cable

Out of that comparison, I slightly prefer the ZEX Pro due to it’s 🐧 The ZEX Pro and DQ6 are both some of the best tuned and best sounding IEMs that KZ has come up with so far. Both also lack in technicalities, even with their price in mind. Which one to choose comes mostly down to preference and music library. The DQ6 excels with better midbass and treble.

Moondrop SSP

The Moondrop SSP is another IEM at a similar price to the DQ6 that’s quite well tuned with good technicalities for its price. Another “benchmark” to beat at that price point.

KZ ZEX Pro/CRN

  • More and better subbass
  • Slightly better fit and isolation
  • Vocals are more present and harmonic

Graph

Moondrop SSP

  • Better technicalities, especially better resolution
  • Treble more controlled, way less piercing peaks
  • “Calmer” vocals

🐧 The SSP and ZEX Pro have quite different tunings, varying the most in their bass performance. While I like the tonality of the ZEX Pro more, the SSP excel with way better technicalities, especially with way crispier vocals.

Conclusion

The ZEX Pro (or CRN) are well tuned. In fact, they’re the best tuned IEM from KZ I’ve listened to so far. Crinacle, in cooperation with KZ, really did a great job on tuning these drivers to the best of their ability.

Nevertheless, the ZEX Pro are far from perfect. Their biggest flaw is the 8kHz treble-peak that can make one or the other song almost unlistenable while being mostly unnoticeable in other songs. While this can to some extend be fixed with EQ, I don’t like having to rely on EQ.

Then there are the technicalities; maybe the biggest weakness of most KZ IEMs I’ve tried. Even at its price point of around 30 USD, the ZEX Pro cannot convince with its technical abilities. The sound especially lacks details and resolution, while at least offering a quite wide and convincing soundstage.

In the end, the ZEX Pro a.k.a. CRN is still a good little piece of equipment. For around $30 USD, you can get the best-tuned KZ IEM so far with nice vocal performance. It’s also the cheapest possibility to listen to a Cain-tuned IEM, if this is something you’re interested in.

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