TFZ Series 2: And another!
Last year TFZ went all-out releasing model after model, from the Exclusive lineup to new Series models that filled in the gaps between the 1, 3, and 5. Today we’re checking out the Series 2.
At 45 USD, the Series 2 is a fairly inexpensive earphone. Like most of TFZ’s current lineup, they use decently large 12 mm dual magnet, graphene diaphragm dynamic drivers with strong, N52 magnets. Their low impedance and high sensitivity make them perfect for pairing with basic mobile devices, and their removable 2-pin cables give them that extra added bit of durability and confidence to use them as a daily driver.
I’ve really enjoyed what TFZ has put out within the last year, and the Series 2 is no exception. Let’s check out why.
The Series 2 was provided free of charge for the purposes of a fair and impartial review. The thoughts here are my own and are not representative of TFZ, Penon Audio, or any other entity. There is no financial incentive for writing this review. The Series 2 currently retails for 45.00 USD over on Penon Audio; https://penonaudio.com/tfz-series-2.html
For at home use the Series 2 was powered by a TEAC HA-501 desktop amp or straight out of my Asus FX53V laptop. For portable use it was paired with an LG G5, HiFi E.T. MA8, F.Audio S1, or Shanling M1, all of which brought it up to listening volume without any effort. Through the S1 there was some noticeable hissing, not unexpected given that player is intended to be used with higher impedance, lower sensitivity devices.
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 in my headphones I generally lean towards slightly warm with elevated treble and sub-bass, an even and natural mid-range response, with reduced mid-bass. The HiFiMan RE800, MacaW GT600s, and thinksound On2 offer examples of signatures I enjoy.
- Sensitivity: 105dB / mW
- Impedance: 16 ohm
- Frequency response: 5-40kHz
Packaging and Accessories:
The Series 2’s packaging is a nice take on the Exclusive Series’ packaging with the same, elongated shape. The exterior cardboard is a reflective chrome silver with contact information for getting in touch with TFZ, The Fragrent Zither, printed on the back. The transparent, plastic lid shows off the ear pieces and some of the same, odd translations found on other TFZ packaging; “Make every song ambilight” and “Beautiful like the stars”. Ambilight is a technology Philips uses for some of the flat-screen T.Vs.
Removing the lid and pulling out the insert the ear pieces are contained within reveals the cable tucked away inside, neatly wrapped with a Velcro cable tie. In the chromed cardboard box below you find the product manual, a 12 month warranty card, and all the accessories. In all you get;
- Series 2 earphones
- 0.78mm two-pin detachable cable (OFC, silver-coated)
- Faux-leather carrying bag
- Shirt clip
- Single-flange, narrow bore silicone tips (s/m/l)
- Single-flange, wide bore silicone tips (s/m(x2)/l)
The omission of a set of foams tips is a bit of an oversight, just as it was with the Exclusive 1. The Series 2 is a brighter leaning earphone and foam tips would help those who are sensitive to treble. Other than that, the packaging is attractive, the accessories plentiful, and it’s all of pretty good quality.
Build, Comfort, and Isolation;
The Series 2’s housings are quite large but are also very light and ergonomic. That lightness comes at a cost, however. The plastic feels less dense than that used on the rest of TFZ’s lineup, save for the Exclusive 1. They don’t feel cheap or delicate, but they do feel like they’re missing something. It also doesn’t help that I was very easily able to pull off the rear faceplate, simply prying it off with my fingernail. The glue holding it on is pretty weak. Good for modders I suppose since they’re pretty straightforward to disassemble. Since the entirety of the shell is transparent, you can see all the inner workings which includes a metal mesh under the rear faceplate. It doesn’t do anything, but it looks neat.
The cable is not the same as that found on every other TFZ I own. It has a very loose braid and is just a touch thicker. It is very flexible, decently resistant to tangling, and uses the same uber-chunky jack and y-split, neither of which I am particularly fond of. The built-in ear guides do a great job of keeping the cable behind the ear, and cable noise is minimal. Overall a pretty nice cable. Better than many you’ll find at this price range, and in some ways nicer than that used on TFZ’s pricier models.
Once in place, the Series 2 is extremely comfy. I found this housing nice on the King, but ditching all the extra weight that model carries, just as they did with the My Love II, works wonders. It doesn’t quite disappear since it’s quite large, but it doesn’t tug or pull at your ears. The great fit is helped along by the preformed ear guides and the fact the ear pieces pretty much completely fill your outer ear, so once they’re in place there is little room to move around and lose a seal.
Isolation is sub-par. The well-ventilated, all-plastic housings let in a lot of outside noise and leak a fair bit too, pending you’re listening at unhealthy volumes of course. I consider them about average to slightly below for a ventilated, dynamic-based earphone; I can hear myself type, hold conversations with others around me, hear cars on the road outside my office, etc. These would probably not be the best choice for commuting if using the stock tips. Picking up some foam tips would definitely help with isolation and are worth looking into since they’re a cheap way to change/improve some aspects of any earphone.
Tips: The preinstalled wide bore tips provide a sound lightly tilted towards the treble that I can see many finding bright. The narrow bore tips help soften the treble response slightly and thicken mid-bass response.
**Since the Series 2 sounds so similar to the My Love II, I have re purposed that review’s sound section with mild changes to reflect the Series 2’s presentation. The Series 2 is slightly brighter, has a touch less sub-bass, and isn’t quite a smooth overall. These difference are minor, but together give the My Love II a noticeable edge.**
Like other TFZ’s I’ve heard, the my Series 2’s sound is on the brighter side with well-extended, vibrant treble. It’s presentation is more silky and less tiring than what I’ve come to expect from the brand, while still offering up loads of detail, though not quite a smooth as the My Love II. The electronic shrieks and shrill scratching during the opening and throughout the rest of The Chemical Brothers epic “Escape Velocity” are rife with texture and edginess, but are not painful to ensure. The cymbal work on the live recording of King Crimson’s “Cat Food” off their The Great Deceiver compilation sounds natural and engaging with just the right amount of shimmer and decay.
My positive impressions carry on down to the mid-range where I have yet to be disappointed by a TFZ. The Series 2’s midrange is just a nice with music as it is with vocal-only pieces like podcasts. Upper mids and female vocals are a touch thin as evident when running through Jessie J’s “Bang Bang” or Lenzman’s “Open Page (Feat. Riya). Things thicken up heading into the lower mids where Paul William’s voice on Daft Punk’s “Touch” has an adequate amount of weight heft to it. The same can be said for the stringed instruments and horns throughout the rest of the track. Pianos still seem to lack the bite I prefer, however.
The Series 2 won’t ever be considered bass light, though I doubt they’d be considered bass-head material either. They have a hefty low end boost with a good focus on sub-bass that really lets them rumble, but they don’t push air quite as well as BGVP’s DM5 for example. This is evident on Ephixa’s “Dubstep Killed Rock n’ Roll” whose deep sub-bass lines are clearly felt throughout the length of the track. Bass guitars also sound hefty and well-textured as found on “Seven Nation Army” by The White Stripes. Mid-bass has some nice kick and to it as well. If you like you bass boosted but not overwhelming and with some visceral feedback, these should satisfy nicely.
Like other TFZs the Series 2 has a solid sound stage with an open, airy feel to it. It’s not quite a deep as the My Love II, though it addresses the sound stage qualms I had with the similarly priced, and sounding, Exclusive 1. Imaging is crisp and fairly, smoothly shuttling effects from channel to channel. Songs are well layered with great separation letting you hear each aspect clearly. This is helped along by a solid level of detail retrieval throughout the entire range, though it falls short of what you can get out of the Exclusive 5 and King models.
TFZ Exclusive 1 (42.90 USD): The Series 2 feels like a direct side grade to the Excl. 1, but with a larger shell and some light improvements. The differences in ergonomics are significant. I personally find the smaller, even lighter shells of the 1 more comfortable, though the Series 2 is more stable given they fill the entirety of my outer ear. They share the same bright and bassy signature but the Series 2 feels larger and more open with greater width and depth to their sound. Other than that, listening to the two back-to-back the differences are minimal at most.
Auglamour RT-1 (55.00 USD): The RT-1 is a very unique looking earphone as a result of it’s stained-glass influenced exterior shell. Overall fit and shape is similar to that of the Series 2, and as a result I find them equally comfortable. The RT-1 isolates significantly better as a result of a deeper insertion and ventless design but unlike the Series 2, it suffers from debilitating driver flex. The RT-1 feels like a more expensive product with more dense plastics and aluminum being used on the backplate. The Series 2’s cable is significantly better. It is more flexible, uses preformed guides instead of memory wire, and is properly relieved. Cable noise is less too.
Both use graphene coated diaphragms on their dynamic drivers, though the RT-1’s is smaller at 10mm and is accompanied by a balanced armature to round out the signature. The RT-1’s bass presence is about as prominent as the Series 2’s however it’s mid-range and treble and notable dialed back. As a result the RT-1 comes across much darker and bassier, with it’s mid-bass hump being much more noticeable. The Series 2’s more energetic lively treble and slightly thinner presentation support it’s larger, more airy sound stage. Detail and clarity is similarly good, though less noticeable on the RT-1 until you up the volume to counter the low end. I personally think they perform on a similar level, though I lean towards the Series 2’s presentation which comes across more balanced at lower volumes. You won’t be struggling to pick up micro-details whereas on the RT-1, without sufficient volume the low end is a bit overpowering.
Like the Exclusive 1, the Series 2 gives you a good idea of what you’re going to get from the more expensive TFZ models. They look nice, are very comfortable as a result of their curvaceous, form-fitting shells, and they definitely excite with a vibrant signature that doesn’t make many trade offs in terms of treble, mid-range, and bass balance. It’s presentation isn’t quite as refined and it’s materials not as premium as others in the class, but for the 45 USD asking price you can’t complain too much.
If you’re looking for a solid all-rounder and don’t want to spend a ton, nor go with a lesser known Chinese brand, the Series 2 is well worth a look.
Thanks for reading!
***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Some Test Tunes:
Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid (Album)
Hail Mary Mallon – Are You Going to Eat That? (Album)
King Crimson – Lark’s Tongues in Aspic (Album)
King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black (Track)
Supertramp – Crime of the Century (Album)
Infected Mushroom – Legend of the Black Shawarma (Album)
Gorillaz – Plastic Beach (Album)
Massive Attack – Mezzanine (Album)
Fleetwood Mac – Rumors (Album)
Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels (Album)
The Prodigy – The Day is My Enemy (Album)
Tobacco – F****d Up Friends (Album)
Felt – Felt 2 (A Tribute to Lisa Bonet) (Album)
Michael Jackson – Thriller (Album)
The Crystal Method – Grace (feat. LeAnn Rimes) (Track)
Jidenna – Long Live the Chief (Track)
Skrillex – Ragga Bomb (Track)
Big Grams – Run for Your Life (Track)
Funkadelic – Maggot Brain (Track)
Aesop Rock – Fishtales (Track)