KZ ZS5 IEM Earbuds Review

Written By Pete Anthony
  Last Updated On: 5-2-19  

The KZ ZS5 is one of now many budget IEM earbuds from Knowledge Zenith, an audio company that’s become increasingly popular for producing several high quality, competitively priced earbuds. The original MSRP of the ZS5 was around $40, but as of the time of this writing/update it’s been available some places for less than $20.

out of the box

Packaging is pretty small and minimal but nice. The cover slides off to reveal a hard open box with a plastic display top. Inside that is a contoured plastic packing piece where the earbuds are neatly embedded in. The wire, which is detachable/replaceable, and accessories are beneath the packing piece in individual baggies.

Included with the headphones:

  • two different sized pairs silicone replacement tips
  • instructional pamphlet
  • warranty card

headphone front and back

The ZS5 earbud is somewhat big and bulky. I don’t understand why they went with the retro looking polygonal design instead of just contouring them to the shape of the ear, but it didn’t seem to cause me any fitting or comfort issues. One other small issue is that the fronts don’t have a ridge for the tips to snap onto which might leave them prone to sliding around/off.

ear wrap and two pin connector

How to wear these isn’t immediately intuitive – they’re actually supposed to be inverted with the wire running out the front, which you then wrap around the ear. The extra ~4 inches of insulation on the wire coming off the male connector is actually malleable, so you can shape it to your liking. It takes a little work to get them feeling right, and taking them on and off is a bit of a pain, but all in all they fit decently out of the box. I did lose a bit of the seal if I moved my jaw enough, and that could probably be fixed with trying various tips, but it was fine enough for the sake of doing this review.

wire and jack

The wire is decently thick and sturdy but has a kind of sticky/gummy insulation that can catch along clothing. The jack and support are nice and thick, and plugged firmly into my device without issue.

in-line mic

The mic is on the right wire and is pretty basic, with a single on/off call button.

All in all, these headphones are somewhat bulky and take some work to get a solid fit and take on/off, but are decently sturdy and comfortable.

Spec/Performance Discussion, Listening Impressions, Other Related Observations

General impression: the ZS5 sounds good overall for an earbud that can be acquired for less than $20. Reproduction is very even and consistent, and the overall detail and clarity are very good. The sound stage feels very wide with good separation. These also manage to remain non-harsh and had easy extended listening. The only downside is that boxiness and sibilance is pretty immediately apparent, particularly so with percussions.

Sound signature: I’d say these are fairly neutral/flat, but the trebles are definitely emphasized and bright and crisp, but in a good non-harsh way.

Bass: the quoted response range of the ZS5 is 20 – 20k Hz, which is average for budget earbuds. The bass sounded pretty good and non-recessed, but you can tell there’s a lack of extension when I tested various drops – the effect was only slight though, a little loss in pitch and that’s about it.

Power/Volume: the quoted impedance is 18 ohms, which is means these should work with pretty much any device no problem. The sensitivity rating is 106 which is decent for a budget earbud, though I did find I needed to turn up my device volume slightly more than normal to get these to where I like it.

Isolation: I’d say its OK, somewhere between light and medium, should suffice for basic ambient noise with commuter use, but might not in noisier environments.

Warranty: The ZS5 has a one year warranty, which is comparatively average for budget earbuds.

Overall Take, As Compared To The Competition

I wouldn’t say the ZS5 is worth it at it’s original MSRP, but if you can get it at less than $20 it’s definitely a viable option. They sound good overall, and have a wide feeling sound stage with great separation and individual instrument clarity. They’re a little bulky and hard to fit and take on/off.

Get the KZ ZS5 on Amazon

See our current picks for the overall best budget earbuds