*Note: The TFZ Exclusive King will be updated soon to become the TFZ Exclusive King Formal Version. Sound and design will remain the same, but it will now feature removable cables. I’m fully on board with this change given the fixed cable version has limited strain relief and heavy housings which was not a good recipe for longevity.*
*Impressions of the new TFZ Exclusive 1, 3, and 5 here.*
Today we’ll be checking out the newest from TFZ, the aptly named Exclusive King.
TFZ, whom you may be familiar with already from their prior releases under the TTPOD brand, surged onto the market last year with their Series 1, 3, and 5 earphones which were positively received. While I haven’t had the pleasure of listening to those models, I understand that with The King here they’ve taken their sound in a different direction, one that’s more suitable for those that like their bass subdued and emphasis on detail and clarity. Those of you who fall into this camp should be right pleased with The King. Why? Let’s find out.
Huge thanks for Penon Audio for working with me on this one and sending over a complimentary (i.e. free of charge) sample for the purposes of this review. I am not receiving any monetary compensation for this review and the thoughts within do not reflect Penon, TFZ, or anyone but myself.
Your very own King can be purchased over at PenonAudio.com for 99.00 USD: http://penonaudio.com/TFZ-EXCLUSIVE-KING-Experience-Version
My Gear and I:
I’m a 30 year old professional working for what is currently the largest luxury hotel chain on the planet. I have a background in Psychology which probably explains my somewhat dry writing style. My entry into the world of portable audio was due primarily to a lack of space for a full-sized stereo system during my university years, and truly began with the venerable JVC HA-FXT90. After reading pretty much the entirety of IjokerI’s multi-earphone review thread, reviews from other established reviewers, and thus being greatly inspired, I took a chance and started writing my own.
Fast forward a couple years and I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to write about products for wonderful companies like RHA, Accutone, ADVANCED, NarMoo, Mixcder, Brainwavz, Meze and many more. I don’t do it for money or free stuff, but because this is my hobby and I enjoy it. If my reviews can help guide someone to a product that makes them happy, I’ll consider that a job well done and payment enough.
Gear used for testing was a Shanling M1, HTC One M8, LG G5, Topping NX1 portable amplifier paired with an XDuoo X3 (Rockbox), and my aging Asus G73 gaming laptop paired with a Creative SoundBlaster Recon3D usb amp. I listen primarily to various EDM sub-genres (liquid drum and bass, breakbeat, drumstep, etc.), hip hop, and classic rock. While I enjoy a variety of signatures I generally lean towards slightly warm with elevated treble and sub-bass, an even mid-range response, and reduced mid-bass, though lately I’ve been enjoying more mellow and relaxed products with a bass tilt. My favorite in-ears, the Echobox Finder X1[i] with grey filters installed and the Fischer Audio Dubliz Enhanced are good examples of my preferred signatures.
Packaging and Accessories:
TFZ did a good job packing The King into a low cost package with nice visual appeal. The simple silver-coated cardboard with glossy silver logo and writing looks fantastic and is unexpectedly easy to read. Lifting off the lid has The King’s beautifully blue, glistening housings on full display, securely held in place in it’s plastic tray by a King branded sticker, the silver-colored, braided cable coiled below and neatly tied up with a handy Velcro strap.
Lifting out the plastic tray reveals a couple extras nestled in underneath; manual, 12 month warranty card, an information card replicating the information from the back of the box, and a small cardboard box containing the accessories.
– single flange silicone tips in s/m/l
– one pair of bi-flange silicone tips
– one pair of foam tips
– cable clip
– removable silicone ear guides
It’s a nice selection of accessories. I was initially worried about the included tips as they are somewhat slick in hand, but they seal just fine. To my surprise the bi-flange tips ended up being my preferred set. Normally multi-flange tips are a no-go due to the shape of my ear canal.
The King’s unboxing experience is simple and well thought out with a comprehensive accessory kit that should ensure a good fit for most.
Build, Comfort, and Isolation:
An earphone with king in the name better be well built, and TFZ’s Exclusive King doesn’t disappoint. Yes, they are mostly plastic (metal face plate), but the feel in hand is reminiscent of a all-metal infused monster. The weight of those thick, dual-magnet, graphene coated 12 mm drivers combined with nearly flawless, super smooth molds means The King exudes a serious feeling of quality.
Back that with a gorgeous silver-colored, braided cable and The King’s quality feel continues to ooze forth. The translucent, well-relieved 45 degree angled jack looks fantastic giving you a quick glimpse of the cable it’s protecting. On one side TFZ is printed in a shocking red that really stands out amid the electric blue and white used everywhere else. Strain relief along the rest of the cable is non-existent which I found quite disappointing given The King’s cable is fixed. With such heavy housings The King would benefit greatly from either a removable cable or some seriously beefy strain relief.
I was expecting The King to be a comfortable earphone given it uses the same housing as the KZ ZST hybrid (but nicer plastics), and it is, though I’d give the comfort edge to the KZ entirely due to weight. The King’s hefty drivers had a tendency to drag the housings out of my ear when using anything but the stock bi-flange tips or large-sized KZ “Starline” tips. Thankfully there is a chin cinch present which enables a more secure fit. I found them best suited to use around the house while relaxing and reading a book, or doing low-activity chores, surfing the web, etc.
That’s not a bad thing either as I didn’t find The King doing a particularly great job of isolating me from the outside world, at least not when using silicone tips. Sitting at my desk at work, using them to passively block sound (no music helping out) I could clearly hear myself type, cars on the nearby road, people chatting as they walked through the parking lot, birds chirping, and everything else under the sun. Tossing on the included foamies boosted isolation to the point where I could hardly hear any outside noise. A pretty stark difference really. If strong isolation is important to you, I highly recommend picking up some extra foam tips at the time of purchase to get the most out of The King’s varied isolation capabilities.
Overall The King is a very well built earphone that could stand to benefit from either better strain relief or removable cables to accommodate those heavy housings. Comfort despite the weight is quite excellent, though I found myself moving to deeper insertion tips to accommodate the weight. Isolation ranges from mediocre (silicone) to stellar (foam), almost entirely dependent on the tips you use.
Tips: The stock tips are quite nice and I spent the vast majority of my two weeks and tens of hours with The King using the included bi-flange pair. The extra insertion depth helped draw out the bass and reduce treble emphasis which, with the single-flange tips installed, I can see some finding a touch over-done. The included foam tips had the same effect of balancing out their signature nicely, soaking up some treble energy, while vastly improving isolation. KZ Starline tips are also a good choice for the extra insertion depth and the stability that brings, but the stiff core doesn’t do much to soften the treble. If you have Sony Isolation Hybrids on hand, they are also a fantastic choice for their treble-taming qualities, though I worry they’ll tear upon removal as they’re fragile and the fit is quite tight.
Amping: I had no issues driving The King from any of the sources I have on hand; PS Vita, HTC One M8, Shanling M1, LG G5, XDuoo X3, etc. mind you, I had no need to listen to them loud. The King performs exceptionally well at low volumes. I did find the treble increased in prominence and bass became more authoritative when amped and when the volume increased, but it didn’t add anything to the experience.
‘TFZ Hi-Fi MONITOR EXCLUSIVE’ is printed smack dab on the exterior of the housing. Makes it pretty clear as to whom TFZ’s target audience is with these earphones, and once you’ve got them in your ears, I think you’ll agree. It takes on a slightly warm and thin, treble prominent, mid-ranged focused sound that has a well-extended, sub-bass focused low end playing support. It’s a sound that truly involves and envelops the listener.
The upper registers are extremely crisp and tight. The clarity and detail retrieval is pretty impressive for a dynamic driver, quite easily keeping pace with BA equipped earphones I’ve tried, be they BA-only or hybrids. The air between effects is clear and even on chaotic tracks like King Crimson’s ‘Starless and Bible Black’ nothing blurs together.
The King’s mid-range has just the right weight, presence, and tonal qualities to engage you on any track with vocals. I love the way both male and female vocals are presented, with female vocals have a slightly more forward sound to them. The aggression and emotion in Killer Mike’s ‘Reagan’ or Scroobius Pip’s ‘Death of the Journalist’ shines through, as do the sultry tones of Sarah Barthel on Big Gram’ ‘Run for Your Life’. Toss on something overly textured and gritty like, well, anything from Tobacco’s ‘F***ed Up Friends’ and you’re in for a treat.
While The King’s bass presence does take a backseat, I’d hesitate to call them bass-lite. Throw on some bass heavy EDM like AC Slater’s ‘Bass Inside’ or even an action movie and you’ll be shocked at how much this earphone can let loose when called upon. Considering how tame it’s low end is the majority of the time, the heavy wallops of rumbling sub-bass they can send your way is a real eye-opener. Part of what makes this possible is a down-tuned mid-bass region, or at least that’s how I hear it.
Sound stage size is very large, throwing effects everywhere around you and at a good distance if called for by the track. Unlike other earphones I’ve tried with larger than average sound stage size, The King isn’t afraid to get intimate as heard in the closing moments of Culprate’s ‘Undefined’.
I found it quite accurately places sounds as well, with stellar separation and layering. This is quite evident when used with Dirt Rally in the cockpit view. The sound design on that game is amazing and truly shines when paired with a good set of headphones or earphones like the Exclusive King.
The TFZ Exclusive King is a very, very good sounding earphone. It’s detail and clarity is near unmatched compared with other earphones in this price range I’ve tried. I can definitely see some finding it a little bright, and others thinking the bass lacking quantity, but to my ears the tuning is spot on for giving you a quality, yet versatile, high fidelity sound.
Havi B3 Pro I and II: For a while now the Pro I has been a Head-fi staple for those wanting a very capable, neutral-ish budget earphone. The Pro II does just a good of job as the Pro I, shifting its neutral-ish emphasis by taking a little from the high end and adding a bit to the low end. The King’s presentation contains the best of both of these (soundstage, imaging accuracy, layering, etc.), but adds some extra energy and sparkle in the high end, while improving on their end-to-end extension. It’s much easier to drive too.
BeB 1200EX: The 1200EX and Exclusive King are two sides of the same coin when it comes to their sound signatures. The King is a touch brighter, it’s sub-bass slightly more prominent, and layering improved, but other than that the differences are hard to pin down. Choosing between the two comes down to preference really. Cable down, go 1200EX. Cable up, go with The King. Care about sound quality only, The King edges out the competition. Build is split as I prefer The King’s design and fit and finish but the 1200EX’s metal housings and overall durability.
TFZ’s decision to call this product the Exclusive King is not without merit. It’s easily one of the best single driver earphone experiences I’ve come across. It’s clean, crisp, and detailed signature brings out every nuance in a track without being overbearing or uncomfortably aggressive. It’s not perfect though. Due to the weight of the earpieces it could really benefit from either better strain relief or removable cables. With the wrong tips, it can also be a touch strident in it’s treble.
Overall this earphone is a very rewarding experience, from the design, to the build, to the sound. Everything about it has a premium and refined air that many products at this price flat out lack. Awesome work TFZ.
Thanks for reading!