TRN V30: KZ Killer?
Today we’re checking out TRN’s newest hybrid, the V30.
TRN is one of a number of companies that has seen a surge of popularity in the budget iem realm. With well received offerings like the V20 and V80 under their belt, I had high hopes for the V30. It does not disappoint. The V30 doesn’t break new ground with its 0.75mm 2-pin cable and hybrid setup of one 10mm dynamic aided by two balanced armatures perched within the nozzles. The shell may look familiar to KZ faithfuls taking some heavy inspiration from the AS series of armature-based models, but get them side-by-side and the differences are quite obvious. While it may seem like just another by-the-numbers release, leaving it at that would be a disservice to the V30. This is a very well-tuned and uncharacteristically refined sounding earphone for something in this price range, one that I have very much enjoyed my time with.
Let’s take a closer look, shall we?
A big thanks to Lillian with Linsoul Audio/DD-Audio for providing a sample of the V30 for the purposes of this review. The thoughts within are my own subjective opinions based on a month and a half of use. They do not represent Linsoul, TRN, or any other entity. At the time of writing, the V30 was retailing for around 25 USD. You can scoop it up on AliExpress or via Linsoul’s external web store;
For mobile use: LG G6, Shanling M0, Periodic Audio Nickel, ZiShan DSD
For @home use: TEAC HA-501, ASUS FX53V, ZiShan DSD
V30 does not need amping and is very easy to drive. Doesn’t seem to benefit from more power.
I listen primarily to various EDM sub-genres (liquid drum and bass, breakbeat, drumstep, etc.), hip hop, and classic rock. My preferences for earphone tuning are quite relaxed and as such their is no one signature I look for. The HiFiMAN RE800, 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.
- Drivers: 1 DD, 2BA per side
- Impedance: 20ohms
- Sensitivity: 99dB
- Frequency Response: 20-20,000Hz
- Cable Length: 1.2m
Packaging and Accessories:
The V30’s packaging is quite long, or tall depending on how you look at it, with a white color scheme that has been ever so popular the last few years. On the front of the exterior sheath is the usual branding and model info as well as an image of the V30’s earpieces with the cable in the midst of being plugged in. Neat way to show off a useful feature. The sides feature more branding while on the back you find location and contact information for TRN. Sliding the sheath off reveals a white, magnetically sealed cardboard box with the TRN logo on the front. Lifting the lid you are greeted to the V30’s earpieces set safely within a paper covered foam insert. Lifting that out using the ribbon tab, you find the accessories in individual bags tucked under a cardboard insert. In all you get:
- V30 earphones
- 0.75mm 2.pin braided copper cable
- Single flange silicone tips (s/m/l)
- QC card
Given the size of the packaging I was hoping to see a carrying baggie included, but nope. This is the same basic accessory kit common to the price range; earphones, cable, and tips. Just the basics needed to start listening. I’m not complaining since you can order a decent carrying case for under 1 USD on AliExpress, or for a little more on other sites like Amazon, but seeing them included is always appreciated.
Comfort, Build, and Isolation:
The V30’s shell on first glance looks like the KZ AS06 and AS10, with a half moon style front plate with a crossover visible beneath. Set them side-by-side and turn them over and you quickly see the V30 is it’s own beast. Not only is it much smaller, but the inner half of the shell has custom-like protrusions akin to more premium 3D printed products like the Tenhz P4 Pro and FiiO FA1. The small size, ergonomic shape, and extremely light weight makes the V30 an absolute joy to wear, for me at least. These cause zero discomfort and nearly disappear during long listening sessions. TRN did an outstanding job with this shell.
I’m less enthusiastic about the build quality though. While aspects are fine, like fit and finish, it’s the materials and aesthetics that hold it back. The plastics both look and feel quite cheap. The PCB for the crossover is overly thin and the unsanded breakpoints are an eyesore. There is also plenty of glue visible around the drivers and crossover, though it is neatly applied. It just looks like a budget earphone, unlike other models in the TRN lineup.
The cable will be familiar to TRN faithfuls since it has appeared on a number of other models. The black, braided sheath is a little plasticy and while fine in warm weather, gets somewhat stiff in cooler weather. The hardware is nice though with a compact metal straight jack, a durable metal y-split with some strain relief out the bottom, and handy preformed ear guides that keep the cable held neatly in place behind the ear. Those who are flustered with KZ and the placement of the y-split way down on the cable are going to lost their minds with this cable, as the y-split is only about 3 inches above the mid way point of the cable. This is a VERY low y-split which makes the top half of the cable very susceptible to tangling. It wouldn’t be so bad if TRN included a chin cinch, but that was omitted so you’ll have to make one yourself. Twist ties work well. Some also find that small dental elastic bands work well.
How well does the V30 block out external noise? Pretty darn well actually. Certainly better than most hybrids, likely thanks to the shapely, low profile design. Without music playing I can barely hear cars passing by on the busy street outside my window. When typing, key strokes are reduced to a slight clatter. In the local coffee shop, I can still hear my surroundings by they are dulled to a reasonable murmur. Once you bring music into the mix things get even better. Foam tips improve things even further. I can see the V30 being a good option as an everyday carry for those that ride transit on the regular.
The V30 has a pretty standard light v-shaped signature, but it’s one that has been done with a level of effortlessness and refinement generally reserved for more expensive products.
Despite the balanced armatures being mounted in the top of the nozzle with no damping, the V30’s treble is smooth. Only at very high volumes where notes can be somewhat strident does this placement hinder the presentation. Otherwise, at more realistic and safe volumes it is much more refined that I’m used to from products in the 25 USD price range. It is controlled and clear with any congestion or extreme peaks. Very nice.
The midrange is set back behind the treble and bass, but isn’t drowned out in any way. Vocals cut through and remain coherent and viable, even on very busy tracks. Guitars have a nice bite and satisfying attack to them. Timbre is a strong point with the V30 lacking qualities generally found in these budget earphones; too dry, too light, metallic, etc. It’s fairly natural through and through. Note weight is satisfying as well with vocals and instruments having the right amount of body and heft to them. Nothing is too lean or dense and as a result clarity is excellent.
Bass is tight and well controlled with great extension. The balance of mid- and sub-bass is pretty much spot on with the mid-bass seeing a small hump that at very high volumes sees it get a bit bloomy and lose definition. Otherwise, it’s rightly punchy and textured with a very head-bobbingly satisfying presentation. I also noticed that, like the V80, the dynamic driver increases in volume faster than the BAs making the presentation between low and high volumes inconsistent. It’s fun, sure, but at the expense of accuracy.
While the V30s sound stage is fairly average in terms of width and depth, imaging is excellent with effects sweeping from channel to channel with aplomb. Transitions are smooth and free of dead zones or vague areas. Layering and separation are also handled well keeping the V30 from muddying up on busy tracks, unless of course you’re listening at unsafe volumes.
KZ ZSN Pro: The V30’s treble is better balanced between brilliance and presence regions. ZSN Pro lacks upper treble making it sound a touch flat. V30 is slightly more detailed too. Mids on the ZSN Pro are a touch more forward, thicker, and warmer, but with similar levels of detail. V30 sounds a bit more natural with more accurate timbre, though the differences are minimal. Bass on the ZSN Pro is heavier and more aggressive with a strong mid-bass region that makes it sound slightly bloated at times; especially noticeable on chugging guitar riffs. V30 is more textured too. ZSN Pro has a wider, deeper sound stage with more precise imaging. Layering and separation seems to be about on par with neither muddying up on busy tracks. Personally, I prefer the V30. The ZSN Pro’s low end is too mid-bassy and distracting for my tastes, and the somewhat dull treble leaves me wanting.
TRN V80: The V80 has much more prominent treble than the V30, particularly in the upper regions. V30 sounds just as detailed but is better controlled, not as strident, and not as lean. Mids on the V30 are more forward and thicker with a touch less detail. I find male and female vocals through the V30 a more even in terms of emphasis. Bass on the V30 doesn’t dig as deep, isn’t quite as punchy, nor is it as textured. V80 has some amazing bass for the price so no surprise there. Sound stage on the V80 is larger but not quite as precise in terms of imaging quality. Layering and separation is equally good on both. Imo the V30 is the better earphone. Nicer treble, more forward mids.
To my ears the V30 is the best earphone to come out of TRN at this time, and one of the best options currently available for under 30 USD, at least out of what I’ve heard. I love the comfortable, highly ergonomic and well isolating shell design. While the signature follows a fairly traditional v-shaped tune, it is exceptionally well done with a level of refinement and smoothness generally reserved for products closer to that 100 USD mark.
The cable is typical TRN and for me that means it’s not amazing (esp. due to that extra low y-split). The quality of the plastics seem pretty mediocre though they don’t feel fragile. Other than that, I can find little to complain about and applaud TRN for such a solid release. These are well worth checking out if you are in the market for a new, budget friendly earphone.
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)