Kz Ate In

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Hi-fi sound for peanuts. In the cutthroat Chinese audio market, the KZ-ATE buries the price-to-performance needle. The company behind this Chi-Fi jewel delivers the sonic goods without scrimping on kiến thiết, build quality, or packaging.

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Don't be an audiophile ingrate. At under $14 (with không tính tiền shipping), there's nothing khổng lồ complain about.
In a world full of kém chất lượng news, spin, obfuscation, & brazen lies, where facts are mutable và doubt seeps into lớn the crevices of life lượt thích rainwater, only one thing is certain: the earphone industry is a racket. A very big racket.

Global sales for audio headgear hit over $13 billion last year. That's a lot of cheddar. A lot of frayed wires too—compared lớn other stereo hardware, most earphones have sầu an absurdly short lifespan. Planned obsolescence is the business Mã Sản Phẩm here: thin wire insulation & Y-splitters break, solder joints fail, even drivers blow (probably). Handle with care, use an umbrella, get lucky, và your earplugs might last nine months. Might. That's why frugal audiophiles steer clear of pricy IEMs. Like buying wine, the idea is khổng lồ find value without cost.

But what is the dollar sweet spot for decent earphones? The conventional audio wisdom used lớn be that you had to lớn drop $100 lớn enjoy legit dynamic range and detail. But thanks to lớn factory automation, ingenious engineering, & cheap overseas parts and labor, the magic number keeps dropping. Not so long ago, $50 was the new retail benchmark. Of course, that was before hundreds of small Chinese companies disrupted the highly lucrative big br& earphone market by flooding it with surprisingly good và ridiculously inexpensive hàng hóa. Tight-fisted audiophiles rejoiced. first explored the "Chi-Fi" phenomenon baông xã in 2015 when we sampled the Mrice E300, a sub-$đôi mươi bud that didn't disappoint. The lakiểm tra infatuation amuốn budget sound hounds is the KZ-ATE, a Chi-Fi sleeper that costs even less than the E300—they're listed on Amazon for $14. Does this poor man's IEM live up lớn all the five-star reviews? Skeptics and trolls, start your engines.

How is it possible that you can buy a solid earphones for the same price as a trip lớn the bocha tea joint? Because even though manufacturing costs in China have surged recently (30 percent, actually, so much that factories are moving from the bustling eastern provinces lớn low-rent Western & Central Trung Quốc và southeast Asia) making stuff there is still dirt-cheap. In my research, I found that the cost to lớn produce a chất lượng earphone like the KZ-ATE, including the packaging, is about $5. In fact, you can regularly find KZ-ATE sets with old colorways on eBay for around that price.

Like H&M, Chi-Fi sản phẩm lines are constantly in flux. New models are launched và old ones discontinued at an accelerated pace. With a retail price of under $15, everyone from manufacturer to lớn reseller is making a profit. Not a Beats-màn chơi profit, but enough yuan khổng lồ keep the boat afloat.

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KZ, the brand name under which the Guangdong-based Shenzhen Yuanze Electronics Co. operates, was founded in 2008, making it a legacy brand by Chi-Fi standards. The founders are Keith Yue, a former Audio-Technica engineer, & Zen Li, a Western-trained classical musician. (The name KZ isn't just a nod lớn the founders' initials, but is also short for "Knowledge Zenith.") The company offers an impressive sầu range of low-priced earphones that crib the form-factor from many moderately priced earphones offered by the mainstream brands. The KZ-ATE, for instance, is a dead ringer for the $55 Audio-Technica ATH-IM50 in-ear monitor.

Putting aside the pseudoscience & typos in their ad copy, the KZ boys pride themselves on their materials và build quality. That 32-strvà low capacitance-oxygen-không tính phí copper (LC-OFC) cord, for instance, is the same one found on Ultimate Ears' fancy Pro series. The other thing that sets the KZ-ATE apart from most Chi-Fi is what tai nghe forum geeks Hotline "strain relief." These are the subtle but vital kiến thiết features that minimize the bức xúc exerted on the cable. They prolong the life of the earphone by staving off the inevitable damage caused by the tugs & snags of daily life. From the springy "wrap" at the base of the 90-degree jaông xã, lớn those two bouncy "boots" attached khổng lồ the Y-splitter, lớn the knurled metal collars that actually extkết thúc into the smoky translucent housing, the KZ-ATE aces the strain relief chạy thử. These IEMs are supposed khổng lồ be worn with the wire wrapped over the ear, anchorman style. The cord may be oxygen-miễn phí, but it's pretty light và slightly gummy. Chi-Fi ingenuity: tiny cord weights, placed a few inches below each earpiece, lover some heft khổng lồ the cord and prevent it from tangling.

What can be said, without hesitation or doubt, is that the KZ-ATE sounds better than it has any right khổng lồ.

Earphones are not comfortable. Anyone who says differently is either an earphone salesman or self-medicating. Inserting a piece of plastic into lớn the ear and the ear canal is not a pleasant sensation. Granted, some buds are more comfortable khổng lồ wear than others. And, as far as chunky IEM-style earphones go, the KZ-ATE is fairly innocuous. The casual observer may think you're rocking double hearing sida, but that's a small price lớn pay for big sound. Think of it as practice for assisted living. Three pairs of tips are included: one foam, two silicone. The large silicone tips provide a far better fit, và were used for this Review. Savvy audiophiles will swap them out for triple flanges. Their malleable shape provides a superior seal, increasing sound isolation và "comfort."

The idea that IEM geeks actually thủ thuật out their Chi-Fi gear to make it sound better và last longer is as comical as it is impressive sầu. These guys aren't doing bush league tweaks like "tip rolling" (switching out ear tips to lớn alter the sound signature) and "heat shrink wraps" (lớn beef up cable connections). Think of serious maker chops, with routers và nano-tweezers. Look at this magnificent audio wizard who, in his unending quest for a wider & deeper soundstage, has transformed his closed-baông xã KZ-ATE into lớn an open-baông xã KZ-ATE. Grinding down brass nozzles, subbing in memory wire, tuning breathing holes, removing mesh grills. This Head-Fi forums member, who goes by the handle NewWaveAudio, summed up the fruits of his labor: "You will be amazed how much micro-detail and clarity ATE can actually provide while maintaining its smooth & airy midrange, adding tightness và clarity khổng lồ bass và clearing up highs while still staying 'sweet và buttery.'"

The $3,750 Obravo EAMT-1 C is a ridiculously over-engineered hi-res IEM favored by spendthrift audiophiles. The $0.59 goBulk EA1 is a ridiculously under-engineered lo-res disposable bud favored by miserly airlines. Somewhere between these two endpoints on the earphone continuum is the KZ-ATE.

After sampling a wide variety of reference recordings through this humble Chi-Fi bud (3đôi mươi kbps, sans Steely Dan), it's obvious they're sonically closer to lớn the EAMT-1C than the EA1. This isn't lớn suggest there aren't some $75 earphones out there that would give the KZ-ATE a battle in an A-B shootout. Some would even win, but it wouldn't be by a lot. And this isn't lớn suggest that there aren't some other 15-buông chồng IEMs shipping out of Shenzhen that sound better either. Maybe there are, but good luchồng finding those needles in the Chi-Fi haystaông xã.

What can be said, without hesitation or doubt, is that the KZ-ATE sounds better than it has any right lớn. Whether the cost is $5 on eBay or $14 through Amazon Prime, this is the kind of impulse purchase anyone can live sầu with. Old school audiophiles who smoke pipes & fetishize vinyl would Call the earphones "musical." Which means that it is, to quote Mr. NewWaveAudio, "sweet and buttery." You won't subject your ears to fatigue during long listening sessions, & all three frequency ranges (sub-bass is an urban myth) are distinct and well represented. If you enjoy a smooth, warm, evenly balanced sound that crosses over lớn multiple music genres with ease, these will vì the triông xã.

None of the usual sonic flaws associated with cheap buds—sibilance, shrill highs, muffled bass, and the like—are evident. Granted, the low end could be a bit tighter. Also, the cable is gummy, prone to lớn tangles, and has a hint of microphonics, but that's just audiophile nitpicking. This headphối isn't about soundstage, presence và frequency extension. It's about the democratization of hi-fi. Why should unpaid interns and Uber drivers have sầu lớn listen to their Spotify playlists through pathetic OEM smart phone buds? Order a dozen units before the Chinese economy tanks & the cheap tai nghe market goes belly-up.


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