The KZ ASX: what was KZ thinking?
Hello all. Welcome back to the Neighborhood. Let’s take a look at the KZ ASX thanks to Dave from the Honest Audiophile. Dave was not a fan of the ASX, but some others have given these top marks. But, will it pass my tests? Let’s get InToit!
The ASX build is atrocious. This is one of the thickest IEMs that I have ever seen. It has a wing hanging off the shell that makes the fit difficult and painful. The major issue here is that there is a plastic seem on the wing section of the shell, and it is sharp. It digs into the pinna of my ear, and this made it difficult for me to wear these in any type of comfortable fashion. The step is also pretty short and also tiny, and this made tip fitment another issues. I was able to fit both Dekoni Gemini Foams and CP100’s on this set, but the stock tips were positioned too far down the stem and close to the body of the IEM, and this made fitment in my ear nearly impossible. And, these tips were also a “lost cause” in terms of sound, as they did not sound very good, in any case. So, the pain I suffered from using these tips wasn’t even worth it in the end.
The cable that comes with this set, is a clear KZ cable, just like all the others than come with other, much cheaper sets. This was an oversight by KZ in my opinion. I mean, even if it looked aesthetically similar to other KZ cables for the purposes of branding, KZ could have chosen to provide a higher quality cable in the box with its flagship. The connection utilized here is a c-pin/QDC style connector, as is utilized in a number of their other earphones, such as the ZSX.
The shell itself has a thick metal face plate, and if there is one thing that I like about this build it is the styling on the front of this face plate. I quite like the hatched pattern here. Unfortunately, KZ decided to make the shell clear. I’m not really sure why they did this as the internal workings of this earphone are quite hideous. For example, there appears to be a large wad of acoustic dampening foam shoved in front of a BA driver array just prior to the nozzle. This cheapens the look of the earphone, and I’m not sure why KZ didn’t at least try to hide this.
Speaking of the drivers, this unit is KZ’s flagship, and it houses 10 of their new, in-house-made, balanced armatures. So, this is an all-BA set, and there are a lot of them. It tests the idea that more drivers are better, so, in the case of the ASX, is it?
In short… No… Not only did the ASX fail to do it for me in terms of its build, but it also failed in terms of its sound. In general, these sound incredibly veiled. The treble roll of is very apparent, and if one looks at a graph, they begin to fall off just before 6-and-a-half-K, and then they just plummet from there.
There is some upper mids forwardness, which does express some detail, but I find the presentation in general to be riddled with disclarity, and a harsh tonality, which borders on strident. Aside from the peak at 5-and-a-half-K, the ASX’s greatest elevation occurs at a hump around 2K, which also makes for some shouty, somewhat aggressive acoustics on occasion. The ASX is also thin sounding, even for an all BA set.
In addition, the bass here is very one-note, diffuse, and just plain bad. It bleeds all over the place, which adds additional grain and disclarity to this set. I could limit this a bit with LUDOS memory foam ear tips. Thanks again to Dave from the Honest Audiophile for forcing me to buy a set of LUDOS during my P2 review. But, even with LUDOS, I still wouldn’t recommend this set at its price, or any other really. And, to say that the ASX struggled with both macro-and-micro-dynamics would be an understatement.
The soundstage is also poor, and extremely claustrophobic sounding. Decay and transients are impoverished, and instrument distinctiveness and separation were midcore, even if centered vocals were executed decently well for the most part, and lay somewhat atop the rest of the mix. Image tracking was difficult, and on busier tracks almost impossible; as demonstrated on a variety of Yosi Horikawa tracks.
Tonality and timbre are artificial and decently metallic in nature. These sound like one is listening to a HiFi interpretation of a plastic Chinese radio. They do not sound natural, and lack the technical capabilities to warrant any additional attention, as KZ’s pricey flagship or otherwise. I have more respect for the KZ ZST X, EDX, ZSX, and others that they have produced in the past. I’m honestly unsure what KZ was thinking when they produced the ASX, as I know, they can do much better.
Needless to say, I won’t be recommending the KZ ASX, as they demonstrate very little merit to do so. Like its build and fit, its sound is also atrocious. No matter its sourcing, and, it goes without saying, if you follow this channel, that I test my IEMs on a variety of devices. Unfortunately, in the peculiar case of the ASX, it was never really influenced by its source, and it never excelled. Given that I know KZ can do better, KZ should be ashamed of themselves for what they have produced here, given that it’s their flagship or otherwise. I’ll enjoy listening to my cheaper KZ in-ear-monitors instead, including the: ZST X, ZSX, and even the EDX. So, like Dave, the Honest Audiophile who sent this KZ into the channel for review, I was not a fan of the ASX.; and honestly, they’re so bad that I’d question the ability and opinion of anyone who is. And with that, I’m out… for now!
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