Today we’re checking out an impressive hybrid from Tenhz, the K5.
A couple years ago Knowledge Zenith (KZ) stirred the pot and started a new trend with the creation of their uber successful budget 2+2 hybrid, the ZS5. Tons of other companies hopped on the hype train to try their hand at the format, such as the BGVP DM5, BQEYZ KC2, TRN V80, Revonext QT3s, among many others. Even KZ took at stab at it once again with the ZS6.
At 99 USD, Tenhz’s take on this format is the most expensive I’ve come across. Does it do enough to warrant a more premium price point than it’s peers? Let’s find out.
Thank you Lillian from Linsoul for arranging a sample of the T5 for review. The thoughts within this review are my subjective opinions based on a couple months of use. The thoughts here do not represent Linsoul, Tenhz, or any other entity. At the time of writing the T5 retailed for 99 USD. You can check it out here on Linsoul.com or through their Aliexpress store, DD Audio.
I listen primarily to various EDM sub-genres (liquid drum and bass, breakbeat, drumstep, etc.), hip hop, and classic rock. My preferences vary greatly and as such I can appreciate a wide variety of tunes. The HiFiMAN RE800 Silver, Brainwavz B400, and Massdrop x MeeAudio Planamic are examples of earphones with wildly varied signatures that are enjoyable for different reasons. I generally listen at very low volumes, so keep this in mind when perusing my thoughts on how an earphone sounds.
I spent most of my time with the K5 paired up with the Shanling M0 or Radsone Eastudio ES100 paired to the LG G6, LDAC enabled. It was also powered by my TEAC HA-501 with the ZiShan DSD or HiFi E.T. MA8 acting as the source. The K5 doesn’t need to be amped, but I find the presentation slightly cleaner when it is.
- Drivers: 2 dynamic + 2 balanced armature
- Frequency Response: 20Hz – 40,000Hz
- Impedance: 32ohms
- Sensitivity: 99dB
- Maximum Input Power: 10mW
- Distortion: =/< 2%
Packaging and Accessories:
The K5 comes in the same packaging as the P4 Pro with a nearly identical accessory kit. Primarily a matte white, there are some flourishes here and there on the front. Along with the usual branding, there is a glossy image of the earphones themselves with the cable attached. Also present is the statement “Completely Transparent Headphones”. Not sure if they’re referring to the sound or build. A clipart style image of a record and player arm wraps around the bottom left and onto the left panel. On the rear you find a fairly extensive specifications list and a paragraph explaining the K5 and it’s features via roughly translated English. You might think that by now these companies would have worked to improve the quality of translations given how popular Chinese earphones have become in primarily English speaking countries. Not that it really matters though, since most people will extend maybe a cursory glance at the package before tossing it out. Below this paragraph is a frequency response chart free of the usual stylized flourishes popularized by more mainstream brands. Lastly, there is an accessory list. One item of note is “headphone cable with microphone”. No mic here.
Pulling the interior tray out from the top via a white ribbon, you find the tray is split into two sections. The top half is filled with a very premium looking and feeling, magnetically sealed leatherette carrying case proudly displaying a small metal plaque emblazoned with the Tenhz Audio name and logo. This thing is nice and a very cool inclusion. The second segment contains the earpieces and tip collection placed within a foam insert. Underneath is the cable, neatly coiled and wrapped, and the spare filters. In all you get:
- K5 earphones
- MMCX cable
- Leatherette carrying case
- Single flange silicone ear tips (s/m/l)
- Memory foam tips (s/m/l)
- Silver filters
The foam tips are of decent quality using a fairly dense, almost rubbery foam. I have quite a few of these kicking around and find they last a lot longer than Comply equivalents. Easy to wash too, if necessary. The silicone tips are the same generic set you get with numerous other budget earphones. While they work, they didn’t give me an ideal seal so I swapped them out after my initial listen for some Spintfit CP100s.
Build, Comfort, and Isolation:
The K5 features aluminum alloy shells with a beefy octagonal design. On the face is the Tenhz logo laser etched into the powered finish so that it is nearly hidden unless the light hits it just right. L and R markings are etched into the protrusion for the cleanly integrated MMCX ports using the same technique, as is the model name on the inside. Fit of the three component parts (inner shell, outer shell, and nozzle) is excellent with no unsightly gaps and tight seams all around. The threading for the nozzle filters is smooth and well-crafted. As long as you line them up properly, they screw into place with little to no resistance. Lastly, there is a pinhole vent up top in front of the MMCX port ensuring no driver flex or pressure build up upon insertion. Overall the construction of the K5’s ear pieces is pretty outstanding and I have little doubt they’ll last a long time.
The cable is pretty average in my opinion, despite looking quite similar to one of my favourite cables. Where most of the competition is including really high quality braided cables with their earphones, the more traditional single-strand cable here comes across somewhat basic. The clear sheath revealing the shimmery wires within looks fantastic, but it’s a touch thin and on the stiff and springy side. The straight jack is very small with a flare that makes gripping it easy, but the strain relief is too stiff to provide any real protection from tugging. It also looks very similar to the jacks I’ve got on a few sub-10 USD earphones. The simple, relief free y-split is much the same and doesn’t quite mesh with the angular design of the ear pieces. Things improve leading up to the MMCX plug where you find an outstanding set of preformed ear guides which oddly enough, have a slimmer section at the very end acting as extra strain relief. Cool. The plugs themselves are compact, clear sections of plastic that look pleasing to the eye and feel durable. It’s a decent cable.
You’d think the K5 would be uncomfortable thanks to the angular design. For me at least, that could not be more wrong. Despite the unconventional shape, they’re some of the most comfortable earphones I’ve ever worn. All the edges are rounded and smooth and despite having four drivers in each ear piece, they’re quite small so there is little worry about them pressing uncomfortably into your outer ear. The nozzle is a fairly standard size so you can swap on pretty much whatever tip you want, another thing that helps greatly with comfort.
Isolation is not a strong suit of the K5 so it isn’t an earphone I’d want to take with me on the bus. With music on at my usual low volumes and a video playing through my laptop speakers in the background, I could still follow along with the video no problem. Out in the chaos of our local coffee shop, the volume needed to be raised quite a bit to counter the noise. Foam tips help, but not as much as you’d want.
Filters: The K5 comes with two filters, neither of which has documentation stating what they are for. In my experience, the pre-installed gunmetal filters would probably be called “treble” and the alternate silver filters”balanced”. I wouldn’t call either a “bass” filter since the perception of bass doesn’t elevate under either configuration. Both filters are surprisingly smooth, especially when you consider the BA’s are tucked into the nozzle and quite prominent when the filters are off. The “treble” filter let’s the upper ranges shine and makes the K5 feel light and airy. The “balanced” filter draws the treble in quite a bit which brings the mids forward and evens things out. I bounced between both filters during my time with the K5 since I liked them both quite a bit, something I don’t often do with interchangeable filter earphones.
The K5’s treble is well extended with a fairly light, nimble presentation. Decay is quick but not unrealistic so the crashing cymbals on Supertramp’s “School” carry with them an appropriate amount of energy. Notes are well weighted with an airy feel giving the upper regions of the K5 strong definition and clarity. I couldn’t sense any graininess or unpleasant peaks, especially with the “balanced” filters which make the upper regions of the K5 a fair bit more mellow. If you’re treble sensitive and find hybrids a bit too aggressive, the K5 might be right up your alley.
The mid-range is set back slightly but that’s about the only criticism I can levy at it. The upper mids aren’t shoved forward making female vocals strident, and instead are nicely balanced with the lower mids. This lets Sarah Barthel and Big Boi’s vocals play off each other well on Big Gram’s “Fell in The Sun”. Guitars have a solid attack and crunch to them too as evident on Havok’s “D.O.A”, yet can still be soft and nuanced as evident running Porcupine Tree’s “Baby Dream in Cellophane” through the K5. I quite enjoy the mid-range presentation of the K5. It sounds accurate, detailed, and very dynamic.
Bass on the K5 is prominent but doesn’t really do anything to draw your attention. It does not come across as being particularly punchy and it doesn’t provide a lot of sub-bass rumble, but it still has a snappy decay as heard on the simple drumming on Porcupine Tree’s “Stop Swimming”. It’s kind of weird but pleasing at the same time, and despite being prominent plays more of a support role due to the somewhat soft, lightweight feel of it which really sticks out on Culprate’s “Undefined”. It can actually be quite relaxing. I think part of this is due to the fairly smoothed out texturing.
The K5’s sound stage to my ears is excellent. Certainly above average. It has a ton of depth and can be quite wide which gives tracks a very lively and dynamic feel since you’ll find elements playing at wildly varying distances. BT’s “Antikythera Mechanism” does a great job of showing this off with effects zipping rapidly from channel to channel while softer beats pitter patter in the background. Imaging is also handled well with small movements being picked up and easy to discern, though the size of the stage does make it a little more vague then an earphone with a more focused or confined sound. Layering and separation were never an issue in my time with the K5, likely thanks to all those drivers combined with the overall spaciousness of the presentation.
Select Comparisons (volumes matched with Dayton iMM-6):
Alpha & Delta D6 (99.00 USD) Treble filter on K5: The Delta’s single dynamic drivers are brighter than the K5’s hybrid setup, even with it’s “treble” filters installed. The D6 puts less emphasis on the upper treble giving it a less organic and more detailed, clinical presentation. I prefer the K5’s treble sinve the D6 can give cymbals an unnaturally, crunchy feel on some tracks. They have a similarly impressive sound stage. I’ll chalk that up to the D6’s HDSS tech which in my experience gives earphones are very open feel. The K5 does sound slightly wider and deeper though. The K5’s mid-range is warmer and less forward, with clarity that is just a step behind, but it sounds more natural and timbre accurate. Bass on the D6 isn’t as elevated but has better extension and a firmer, more authoritative feel to it. On one hand I like the D6’s more energetic presentation, but on the other hand the K5 sounds more natural and realistic. The D6 can also be tiring thanks to the lower treble emphasis.
When it comes to build both are nice. The D6’s braided, silver-plated cable is spectacular but fixed, so that might be a deal breaker for some. The hardware is especially nice with a large spring acting as strain relief for the 90 degree angled jack. I prefer the K5’s ear pieces though. The D6’s are chrome fingerprint magnets and can be uncomfortable due to their girth and shallow fit. The K5’s power coating feels more durable and looks nice, plus the low profile fit is immeasurably more comfortable.
Macaw GT600s (99.00 USD) Balanced filters on both: These two have a similar presentation with the GT600s’ 1+1 hybrid setup having a darker and more mid-bassy feel than the K5. Treble on the K5 is more energetic with improved extension and a tighter, cleaner presentation with greater control. GT600s’ mid-range is slightly thicker and warmer with a touch less detail and clarity. Timbre is about the same. Bass on the K5 extends more but lacks the slam of the GT600s, though neither is anything to write home about in that department. Both have a larger than average sound stage with the K5 excelling in imaging accuracy, layering and separation. I enjoy both earphones but the K5’s extra treble energy and deeper bass wins me over.
When it comes to build, the GT600s looks and feels like the more premium product thanks to it’s use of heavy brushed steel and Gorilla glass logo inserts. It’s filter system is also a big beefier and feels more durable since you remove the entire nozzle and not just a slender cap at the end. The GT600s has a nicer cable too being that it is braided with quality steel hardware and better strain relief. Comfort goes to the K5 easily. The GT600s’ shape isn’t as ergonomic and requires some mild fiddling to get them into the perfect spot. Once in they’re fine.
Looking past the K5’s entertaining spelling, grammar, and formatting errors on the packaging, average accessory kit (minus that quality pleather case), and reasonable cable, you’re getting a very capable earphone. It has a smooth, coherent signature with some functional tunability thanks to the included filters, and a wonderful sound stage. It’s above average sound quality is backed by excellent long term comfort and durable, well crafted metal shells that would look pretty slick paired with a higher quality third party cable. Unlike the HiLisening HLS-S8 which suffered from similar presentation and accessory issues, the K5 is actually worth the 99 USD being asked. 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)