TFZ King Pro: Hail to the Zither, Baby!
Today we’re checking out The Fragrent Zither’s (TFZ) second earphone in their new TFZLUX series, the King Pro. Like the Tequila 1, the first model in this premium lineup, the King Pro takes a step away from their lower end offerings in a number of ways and comes out looking all the better for it.
Your eyes are first drawn to their new packaging style. It has you holding a simple white box with minimal printing on the front of the exterior sheath letting you know what’s inside; The Fragrant Zither’s King Pro in-ear-monitor. Out back this info in repeated along with some company contact info. Sliding off the sheath things remain uncomplicated with the bright red, blue, or green earpieces of the King Pro set within a flat white backdrop, ‘King Pro’ printed in slender lettering below. Underneath within a foam inlay you find a product manual, nearly the same enhanced cable they included with the Tequila 1, and a palm-sized Pelican style hard case which holds the spare tips; 1 set of medium foams, 3 pairs of small bore single flange (s/m/l), and 3 pairs of wide bore single flange (s/m/l).
TFZ’s new cable loses the silver plated feature of the Exclusive series in favor of a more straightforward quad-core copper cable, though it is still terminated in the 0.78mm 2-pin connectors we’ve come to expect from the brand. Also returning are the pre-formed ear guides that work exceptionally well at keeping the cable behind the ear, and with reducing noise transmission through when it rubs against your clothing. You still get some cable noise, though not enough for it to be a serious detriment in any way. One major improvement is to the male connectors which wrap around the female connectors. This change gives the pins some protection from bending and addresses one of my main criticisms with the connectors on the My Love II, Exclusive 1, 3, and 5, and the Series 4, none of which provided any protection for the pins once plugged in.
Another change that I see as both a positive and a negative is to the materials used on the y-split and straight jack. Prior cables used dense rubber. With the new cable they’ve swapped them over to steel which certainly looks and feels more price appropriate. This also means they are significantly heavier to the point where it is a detriment in my eyes, though not to the extent as it was on the Tequila 1. The King Pro’s shells are more ergonomic and do a better job of accommodating the weight. The now present chin cinch, a welcome addition, is also steel and quite heavy. This results in it slipping down the cable during anything more vigorous than walking, reducing it’s usefulness. While flawed, it’s a step in the right direction as I’d rather have a chin cinch than not, even if this one isn’t particularly useful. The steel straight jack also retains the bulk of that found on TFZ’s prior models which means it’s going to be a tight squeeze for many cell phone and DAP cases. Too bad because it looks phenomenal.
Whereas the shells on the original Exclusive King were a mix of plastic and metal, the King Pro moves exclusively to CNC machined aluminum whilst retaining the same basic shape, comfort levels, and isolation of the original King. I was expecting this material change to result in a noticeable increase in weight, but nope, not the case. It’s large and curvaceous, and pending it fits in your ear is exceptionally form fitting. There are no sharp edges to scrape against your ear thanks to the flawless machining.
Tolerances for fit and finish are excellent. Everything fits where it should and lines up correctly. Like other earphones using the same shell, vents are hidden within a small gap between the faceplate and main body of the earphone. The gap does stand out, but it’s uniform in size all the way around and is clearly part of the design with a functional purpose to it. Paint application is handled well and the King Pro is free of blemishes. The left/right markers and website info printed on the back of each ear piece, along with the logos printed on the face of ear piece, are professionally applied. There is no blurring or smearing which I’ve seen from other brands. As has been the case with pretty much every TFZ I’ve tried, build quality on the King Pro is quite good.
When it comes to sound quality the King Pro is no slouch either. The original Exclusive King is a fantastic earphone with a detailed and vibrant, neutral-leaning signature, and makes for a pleasant alternative to the more common, bassy hybrids that are still flooding the segment. It’s lower treble can be a little brash and it is a touch dry in the mids, but those are minor flaws in the grand scheme of things. The King Pro, for the most part, retains the positives of the Exclusive King while making incremental improvements here and there that result in what is overall a smoother, warmer, more balanced, and more mature sounding product.
Treble is still a prominent feature of the King Pro’s signature, but not to the extent where I would consider the King Pro even remotely bright. Lower treble has been tuned down significantly compared to the Exclusive King which takes the bite out of the upper ranges. Cymbals are still vibrant and energetic but now fail to cross any thresholds into displeasure. Micro detail is pretty good too, but the slightly downplayed upper ranges mean it is less in-your-face than on other TFZ offerings. In addition, the King Pro’s treble is very smooth and lacks the mild grain present in the Exclusive King and even the Simgot EN700 Pro. While not quite as liquid as the Brainwavz B400, the King Pro does bring more energy to the segment than that BA-only model.
The King Pro’s mid-range is a touch lean but is injected with some warmth. It comes across quite natural and even, with both male and female vocals sharing near equal presence. There is still a touch of upper-mid bias, but its not as prominent as it is on the Exclusive King. Where I see the King Pro as a mild step back from the Exclusive King is in the mid-bass/lower mid-range balance. The King Pro’s mid-bass is slightly more emphasized and I noticed it tended to step up a little too far in some mixes, threatening to bleed over. This was particularly noticeable in Supertramp’s “Asylum” where vocals were fighting for presence. Not an issue on the Exclusive King, B400, or Simgot EN700 Pro.
The King Pro’s low end is reasonably thick and robust with the above mentioned mid-bass bias. Extension is still excellent and the texture is there, but I found visceral feedback lacking for my preferences, especially noticeable when coming from the Exclusive King. It is fairly snappy though with great separation and a natural decay, easily handing Meshuggah’s drumming on “Born in Dissonance”. Against the Tequila 1 the King Pro seems slightly slower and with less emphasis, but is more controlled and capable. The EN700 Pro has better mid-/sub-bass balance with improved texture and similar extension. The quad-BA B400 has a similar mid-bass tilt compared to the King Pro but is a notable step up in terms of speed and texture, though it lacks the depth and visceral feedback of the King Pro’s titanium coated dynamic drivers.
In terms of sound stage the King Pro is quite impressive. It gives off a good sense of distance with reasonably accurate imaging and fantastic separation, though to my ears falls a good couple steps behind the B400 in these areas. Layering is quite good too, but lacks depth. This is readily apparent on tracks that have particularly intimate sections, such as the final moments of Culprate’s “Undefined” where the vocalist closes the song whispering directly into your ear. Where other earphones like the B400, EN700 Pro, and Tequila 1 handle this well, placing the vocalist within an inch of your ear, through the King Pro she sits much too far back, losing the effectiveness of including such a section in the song in the first place. The King Pro just doesn’t do ‘intimate’ with much effectiveness in my opinion.
While I find the King Pro quite detailed, it is lacking something in absolute resolution. Moving from a low quality Youtube or SoundCloud rip to a FLAC file of the same song doesn’t net the improvement I would expect. The King Pro has a habit of smoothing out imperfections which is something the Exclusive King does not do. While this is great in terms of flexibility and makes the King Pro fairly consistent regardless of the source or quality of track, it doesn’t do much if scaling up to higher quality equipment. On the plus side, the King Pro already performs at a reasonably high level, so the lack of scaling isn’t a huge hindrance. You can enjoy it out of pretty much anything you plug it into which is never a bad thing.
While it doesn’t quite perform at the same level as my top two sub-200 USD earphones, the Simgot EN700 Pro and Brainwavz B400, the King Pro doesn’t fall far behind. The only thing I really ever found myself fighting was the weight of the cable, the y-split in particular. If TFZ were to change that to a lighter, less intrusive material, the King Pro would be all the better for it. Still, that aspect is nothing more than a minor annoyance and is easily overshadowed by the remaining positives. The King Pro is a very well-rounded and reliable performer with a refined sound and familiar design that makes for a pleasant ownership experience.
Thanks for reading!
***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Disclaimer: Thanks to Penon Audio and TFZ for the complimentary review sample. The thoughts within this review are my own and do not reflect TFZ, Penon Audio, or any other entity. There was no financial incentive provided to write this review.
The King pro retailed for 169.00 at the time of review and could be picked up here; https://penonaudio.com/tfz-king-pro.html
Sources: For at home use the King Pro was powered by my TEAC HA-501 desktop headphone amp. For portable use it was paired with the Auglamour GR-1 or Walnut F1 paired with my Shanling M1, LG G5, or HiFi E.T. MA8. The King Pro is easy to drive and doesn’t seems to scale much at all, though should you run it through a good amp like the HA-501, you might notice a small improvement in low end control and detail.
- Driver: 12mm titanium crystal dual-chamber dynamic
- Impedance: 55 ohm
- Sensitivity: 108 dB/mw
- Frequency Response: 5 hz – 40 khz
- Lowest Power: 8 mw
Some Test Material:
Aesop Rock – Skelethon (Album)
Daft Punk – Random Access Memories (Album)
Elton John – Yellow Golden Brick Road (Album)
King Crimson – Lark’s Tongues in Aspic (Album)
King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black (Track)
Supertramp – Crime of the Century (Album)
Infected Mushroom – Converting Vegetarians (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 Bone) (Album)