V-MODA 'Zn' In-Ear/Ear-Canal Earphone/IEM review

Discussion in 'Headphone Reviews' started by dalethorn, Nov 26, 2015.

  1. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    Photo: http://dalethorn.com/Photos/iPhone6sp/Headphone_Vmoda_Zn_01.jpg

    Sources: iPhone6s+ with Oppo HA-2/Beyer A200p DAC/amps, various computers using the Audioquest Dragonfly-2/HRT Microstreamer/FiiO E17k/FiiO E07k DAC/amps.

    Going right to the sound, the Zn has a strong bass, an unremarkable (smooth, clean, uncolored) midrange, and a treble with plenty of energy and detail. Many earphone/IEMs have a rolloff in the lower bass following an upper-bass emphasis of some kind, but the Zn goes deep - really deep, as witnessed by tracks like Markus Schulz's Mainstage. Some earphone/IEMs won't even play that without breaking up, but the Zn delivers. I have a number of sample tracks listed below with my impressions of how the Zn plays that music - suffice it to say that it does the magic. People who are familiar with the V-MODA M100 or Wireless will recognize much of that sound in the Zn, but I'd say the Zn has a little more 'presence' in the upper mids to lower treble, more like the Wireless than the M100. Caveat: The final analysis in bass-mids-treble balance depends greatly on the seal you get with the Zn's eartips, so users should be willing to experiment with those to get the best balance they can.

    My overall impressions of the sound are: A nice warmth with a solid foundation of bass at the bottom, very musical and detailed mids, and a full smooth treble. I expect a lot of critics to say the sound is 'V'-shaped, and since the 'V' motif is right at home here, there you go! Many pricy headphones, particularly the classic 'neutral' models by Sennheiser, Beyerdynamic, AKG etc. have a strong treble and a less-than-strong bass response. Not the Zn - here we have a strong deep bass at one end, and a treble at the other end that complements the bass very well. In between are mids that are made for music - music of all kinds. The isolation seems average to me, and it will help in moderately noisy situations, but won't be a great noise stopper on jet planes or the tube. Leakage seems to be a non-issue. Soundstage is mostly dependent on the music, but it also varies according to the treble balance. My sense of the Zn is that the treble is right where it needs to be to have the best soundstage.

    My sample of the Zn is mostly black with diamond-like accents on the earpieces. The cable has an alternating black/grey weave pattern with a 3-button control 6 inches from the right earpiece, containing a microphone. A small box sporting V-MODA motifs, black on one side and chromed on the other, separates the 'Y' from the rest of the cable, down to the Apple-style 45-degree angled miniplug. The 3-button controls work with Apple i-devices, but apparently only the start/stop works with non-Apple players. I believe there's another version on the way soon. A nice small leather carrycase with magnetic closure is included for when you don't want to hang the Zn around your neck etc. when not listening. There are 8 total sets of eartips included - 4 black pairs and 4 translucent pairs. The tips installed on my Zn were the next-to-largest pair, and they fit me perfectly. A pair of black soft-rubber earhooks were also included.

    In previous reviews I've included music examples with comments about how the headphones sound with each track. My suggestion is instead of reading each one as an absolute unto itself, you could compare my notes here to other reviews containing those tracks and see how the Zn compares with each individual track. NOTE: I have no expertise in EDM music, so I don't speak EDM here - I'm just giving my impressions of the Zn's ability to reproduce the musical sounds in these amazing tracks. NOTE: Beware of fakes/clones (note the no-fugazi label) - this high-quality earphone/IEM will certainly show up at bargain prices on some sales sites, but the steep 'discount' is your clue that those are extremely unlikely to be the real deal.

    Above & Beyond - We're All We Need (feat. Zoe Johnston): A nice tight but impactful bass with crystal clear vocals - the Zn plays this with great ambiance.

    Anamanaguchi - Planet: A complex mix of percussion sounds and hummed vocals. The bells and other high-frequency percussion are highly detailed, and the bass line has good impact and detail. The Zn does this justice.

    Armin van Buuren - J'ai Envie de Toi (Orig Mix feat Gaia): Decent bass impacts, breathy vocals, lots of fun noise - the Zn plays this perfectly.

    Avicii - Feeling Good: Classic female vocal in movie-theme style - the Zn renders the singing in a very natural way.

    Carl Kennedy-Tommy Trash ft Rosie Henshaw - Blackwater (Original Master): Nice strong bass impacts with female vocal, rendered delectably by the Zn.

    Crystal Castles - Wrath of God: Atmospheric tune with vocal sound effects and strong bass line, plus some unique treble percussion sounds. The Zn brings these unique sounds to life.

    Digitalism - Pogo: A driving beat with a detailed bass synth and great vocals ("There's something in the air...") - the Zn makes this very enjoyable.

    Dino Lenny-Lino Di Meglio - We Will Make It: Atmospheric tune with mixed vocals - the female vocal is a special treat with the Zn.

    DJ Shadow - Building Steam With A Grain Of Salt: High-pitched tones and strong deep piano chords with a hummed female vocal - ultra-cool with the Zn.

    Fairmont - Poble Sec: Awesome bass impacts with nifty guitar/synth pinging effects. I discovered this tune at the time I purchased my 3rd V-MODA M100. The Zn covers this perfectly.

    Giuseppe Ottaviani - Lost for Words (On Air Mix feat Amba Shepherd): Strong bass impacts behind a female voice - a large-scale sweeping sonic image reminiscent of epic adventures in an exotic land. The Zn is running on high octane here.

    Hecq - Enceladus (With Skyence): Prodigious bass and clean at that. This tune's melody is more abstract than most of the others here, but the Zn makes it a pleasurable listen.

    Katy B - Crying For No Reason (Tom Shorterz Remix): I love Katy B. The vocal mix here is awesome, the bass is solid - this is the Zn at its best.

    Ladytron - Destroy Everything You Touch: I first heard this in The September Issue film and soundtrack, as the backdrop for the opening catwalk (watch Andre smile at 1:51 - all you need to know) - the Zn plays this amazing tune perfectly.

    Lee and Malinda - Truth Will Set You Free (V-Moda Mix): Lee Kalt is the master, this is the masterpiece. The drum (or tom-tom) hits here have a very realistic skin-tone, the female vocal is seamlessly integrated into the driving beat, and the synth effects also blend well - the Zn just owns this.

    Markus Schulz - Mainstage: The granddaddy of bass is in this track, and the Zn plays it smooth and clean.

    Satchmode - Best Intentions: Nice breezy vocals, great melody, decent bass impacts, open airy soundstage - it doesn't get better than hearing it on the Zn.

    Sneaker Pimps - Underground (Nellee Hooper Mix): Atmospheric tune with mixed vocals, good bass support, percussion, guitars etc. On some headphones the sound may get mushy, but it's nice and clear with the Zn.

    Soliquid - Shibuya (Paul Keeley Remix): A good driving bass and percussion, layered over with a beautiful melody on the synth - the Zn does this proud.
     
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