Design and Build Quality
Shame to start off with a bit of a moan but probably best to get it out of the way, I find it disappointing that a company like KZ who’ve had a track record of building decent earphones like the ED9 and ZST still feel the need to copy designs of high end manufacturers, surely by now they have the confidence to come up with their own. That aside the ZS5 is probably the best KZ I’ve seen for fit and finish. The plastic earpiece shells are glossy and free from any imperfections like glue marks or sharp edges from moulds. The earpieces themselves are fairly large and bulky, they also have a lot of edges meaning that these could be uncomfortable for some.
Unfortunately they’ve gone with the ZS3 style cable rather than the ZST’s, the cable comes with a memory wire secured inside a shrinkwrap portion. I found this uncomfortable and I’ve already stripped it from my cable. One big positive in terms of the cable is the inclusion of an iOS compatible inline remote that is made from metal.
Sound Quality and Overall Rating
First a bit of a warning regarding equipment matching, I normally use a Cozoy Aegis with my iPhone when reviewing earphones, when using this with the ZS5 I found the sound to be too bright verging on harsh. The Aegis is an excellent iphone DAC/Amp it’s detailed and normally enhances an earphones soundstage so this was a surprise. Switching to the iPhone’s own output the harshness disappeared so I can only assume there is some sort of mismatch between the impedance of the Aegis and the ZS5. There’s four drivers in the ZS5 so maybe equipment choice is key, the good news being that it works fine with (i)phones which is what most people will use.
The ZS5 has a fairly balanced sound with strong treble, this is not an earphone for someone who is treble sensitive nor will it satisfy a basshead’s cravings. The bass extends low but there’s no real emphasis on the lower frequencies, personally I prefer this type of tuning and I think this is very well judged as a bit more bass can be added via an EQ setting. The bass is fast punchy and there’s no bleed into the mids. The ZS5’s presentation of the higher frequencies is excellent, mids are very slightly recessed but by such a small amount it’s certainly not detrimental. Treble is strong, detailed and I’m sure reaches far higher than my 40+ year old ears could detect. I suspect though that some will find the emphasis on the treble too much.
One aspect that I’ve found the ZS5 does very well is soundstage and imaging, previous hybrids I’ve tested haven’t stacked up well in this area they’ve often seemed a little closed in. The ZS5’s really performs well here completely trouncing the ZST. I found the soundstage to be very wide with great imaging. In terms of overall rating, comfort and design caveats noted, the ZS5 are by far KZ’s strongest, most mature design to date. Even being careful to allow for a bit of ‘new toy’ bias I found the ZS5’s to be a pleasure to listen to, they tick a lot of boxes for me especially in terms of soundstage. Their score will cause me problems if another budget earphone comes along which is better, but I’ll cross that bridge if and when I come to it. Maybe the scores will have to go up to eleven in future.
Aproear Overall Rating 9.7
Second Opinion by headfier Loomisjohnson
KZ ZS5—massively hyped bargain multi-driver improves in many respects on the on the very credible ZST with richer, livelier mids and more extended, detailed high end. U-shaped, fairly bright and treble-emphasized; subbass is visceral and deep, though compared to pricier sets like the Moni, K3 or even the Senfer DT2+, midbass lacks body and definition—the ZS5 can sound a bit boomy and inarticulate. Soundstage is wide and stereo separation and imaging are superb. Not as technically accurate as other top-tier IEMs—these aren’t neutral stage monitors—but very live-sounding. Plasticy build and minimalist packaging are commensurate with the pricetag (KZ should have charged a few more bucks for more posh), tho isolation and comfort are better than advertised.