KZ ZST Review

I bought these earphones (or rather IEMs or in-ear monitors) in July of last year, and since then I’ve bought another pair of headphones that costs over 7 times than these, but I still think these are a good pair of IEMs.

They cost me ₹1800 in India, and they’re priced at around $20 in most other countries. For the price, what you’re getting is good sound performance in a decently-built package. These IEMs sound better than your regular Sony or JBL earphones, or any other popular brand in this price bracket. The soundstage is quite decent, in fact I was surprised by it the first time I tried these on, and I’m still occasionally surprised by it in some songs. It’s not a large or accurate soundstage by any means, but it’s better than your $20 Sony earphones that have no sense of space and just sound very in-your-head.

The tuning is V-shaped, not at all remotely close to the Harman target, so you get a sound signature that is bright and bassy. They do sound shouty sometimes and there is sibilance, but it’s fine. These are $20 earphones after all. The imaging and separation is quite good – much better than the $20 offerings from other brands – which is why these are a much wiser choice any day. Most $20 earphones from popular brands sound bassy (not even good bass, just muddy bass), and lack severely in imaging, instrument separation, and soundstage.

What I’m trying to convey here is that Chi-Fi is almost always a better choice than well-known brands, at least in this price bracket. These may not be the best $20 earphones out there, but these are definitely much better than your traditional $20 pair from a big-name brand. Even though I have a much better pair of headphones now that are open-back, have huge planar-magnetic drivers, and a close-to-Harman neutral sound signature, these are not at all bad to listen to. Listening to music with these can still be fun and at times even pleasantly surprising, because they get some of the basics right – imaging, separation, and a decent soundstage – whereas other earphones in this price bracket completely lack in these areas.

If you’re looking to buy a cheap-ish pair of earphones and can spend a bit more money, I would urge you to skip these and get the Tin Audio T2 Plus. These have a better, closer-to-neutral tuning that’s generally more pleasant to listen to. If you’re tight on your budget though, the KZ ZST isn’t a bad choice at all if you’re just looking for an introduction to what a good-sounding pair of earphones looks like. If you want more alternatives, Crinacle’s IEM ranking list is a good resource to know what options are available and find what you’re looking for.

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