Today we’re checking out a new tri-hybrid earphone, this time from LZ.
The A7 builds on the rampant success of it’s predecessors. With a 7 driver setup (one dynamic for the lows, two Knowles BAs for the mids, two Knowles BA’s for the highs, and dual Piezoelectric ceramic tweeters for ultra-highs), removable cables, and a tuning system replete with interchangeable nozzles and a single tuning switch, the A7 is quite a feature packed product and at under 350 USD, is a comparative bargain when looking at similarly equipped products.
Admittedly, I have not been LZ’s biggest fan in the past. I purchased an A2s based on emerging feedback and the near legendary status the A2 had earned. While I enjoyed aspects of the A2s, like the build and design, the sound quality was somewhat lacklustre. A few years later I was sent an A5 for review. It was a very good earphone, but even with the updated filter set could be a little sharp in the treble region. There was also an elephant in the room; the winged Honda logo (okay, it wasn’t identical. but pretty darn close) which adorned each ear piece. I’ve also heard some other models thanks to meet-ups with a local Head-fi-er (pre-Covid of course), none of which really tickled my fancy.
When I was contacted about reviewing the A7, I expressed my hesitation but was assured the A7 was a significant step up from the A5. Going against my gut feelings, I accepted the review opportunity. It’s a good thing because the A7 has seen nothing but praise. I think it’s valid too, as will be discussed throughout this review.
Let’s take a closer look at the LZ A7, shall we?
What I Hear The A7 has a highly customize-able sound signature thanks to the combination of five nozzle filters and a crossover switch resulting in a total of 10 potential signatures.
Tuning Switch: The tuning switch present on the face of each earpiece swaps the A7 between Monitor and Pop modes. As you can guess from the name, Monitor mode is more balanced while Pop mode scoops the mids giving the presentation a stronger v-shape. The difference between the two isn’t huge with at most about a 5dB drop in emphasis on the monitor mode between 500Hz-1kHz. It’s certainly noticeable though, and when combined with some of the more exaggerated filters can provide quite a varied listening experience. I preferred to leave it in Pop mode as the low end carried more presence without losing control. Also helped to counter the lower mid peak and balance out the brightness added in by the blue and silver filters.
Filters: The A7 comes with five filter options that influence emphasis between 1.5kHz and 5kHz. The Black filters are the default upon which the others are measured, so we can consider it to have no influence on the signature (aka. +/- 0dB). I don’t mind this filter. Everything sounds well-enough balanced if not a bit bright.
The Red filter has a significant effect applying a -8dB drop. This filter warms the signature a bit too much for my preference, but will likely still be too bright for treble sensitive listeners.
The Gold filter has less effect with a -3dB drop. This is my preferred filter since it keeps the A7 energetic without veering into harsh territory.
The Blue filter adds +3dB to the A7’s upper mids and presence region. I find it quite comfortable to listen with thanks to the introduces of sibilance. The A7 gains some additional technical ability, but it’s not worth the aggression imo.
The Silver filter bring things up +6dB turning the A7 into an analytic monster. Oddly, I found this filter less harsh and more listenable than the Blue one as it avoids the sibilance issues.
For my tastes, these are the order in which I liked the various filter options. Gold, Black=Silver, Red, Blue.
Tips: The A7 is quite receptive to tip selection which is great since it comes with three varied styles. Included are wide bore tips in the style of KZ/Tennmak Whirlwinds, generic blue-cored medium bore tips, and Sony hybrid style soft-bore tips. Along with these, I tested the A7 with a number of other third party options.
Whirlwind: I have a ton of these tips from other earphones and have found basically nothing to use them with. To my pleasant surprise, they work on the A7 and sound pretty decent! Bass steps back in terms of emphasis and warmth but keeps its quick, punchy nature. Mids unfortunately step back too and on some tracks feel too far behind the treble. Treble with these tips loses some control but I like that fine details are pulled to the forefront and the sound stage opens up.
Blue-Core: Bass and general warmth are increased over the Whirlwinds. The added warmth helps out the midrange giving vocals a more natural presentation. Treble takes a hit though, becoming a bit sharp and somewhat unpleasant. The broad sound stage of the Whirlwinds also closes up a touch. These tips are a bit hit or miss in my opinion.
Sony Hybrid Clones: These offer more or less the same experience as the Blue-Core tips, but with some of the treble edge smoothed out. I like to think that’s a result of the softer silicone absorbing. These are the second best of the included options for me.
RHA Dual Density: These have been my go-to tip with the A7. At first glance they look very similar to the Blue-Core tips. Upon further inspection they have a wider bore and use a much softer, higher quality silicone. Sub-bass really stands out with these, treble is the smoothest of the bunch, and the midrange retains good presence. There are no downsides with these for my preferences.
Standard JVC Wide Bore: These provide a similar experience as the Whirlwinds but with more sub-bass presence and better controlled treble. The mids really shine with the JVCs, and the soundstage opens up giving the most spacious experience of the bunch. These are my second in line behind RHAs offering.
Spinfit CP-145: These are a new addition to my tip selection and I’ve not used them much with the A7, but initial impressions are excellent. Bore size finds itself between the RHA and JVC with the soft silicone of the JVC. Female vocals can sound a hint thin and the sound stage loses some depth to the JVCs, but they do nothing to hinder the low end, mid presence, or treble quality. These are nice.
Sennheiser Bi-Flange (wide bore): Once again quite similar to the Whirlwinds but with better isolation and more sub-bass. Treble can be a bit rough around the edges but the midrange stays prominent. Sound stage sounds pretty big, gaining width and depth over most of the other options. If the treble were smoother these would be a top pick, but alas, they’re not a front runner.
General Sound Impressions (Monitor + Gold + RHA Dual Density)
Treble out of the A7 has excellent extension thanks to that piezoelectric driver. Detail is aplenty which also helps give the presentation outstanding clarity. The upper end air also allows plenty of space between notes, keeping things from blending or mushing together. The presentation is on the thin side and for the most part is free of splash or sloppiness which is nice because notes attack and decay quite rapidly. The presentation could certainly be tighter, but I’m not going to fault the A7 much here. My only main qualm is that the piezoelectric driver is a bit sharp and lacks the refinement of this techs implementation in the BQEYZ Spring II. Had I not heard that earphone first, I’d be plenty satisfied with the A7’s piezo.
Dipping into the mids I found vocals to be very clear and punchy with a nice weight. The A7 finds itself in a good place between those earphones that come across overly lean, or overly dense and meaty. Sibilance is present but overall well managed with just a hint of “tsst” present in places it shouldn’t be. I didn’t notice any issues with midbass bleeding in and hindering clarity and coherence, nor with treble sheen overshadowing find details. Timbre for the most part is quite decent with the A7 having a light metallic edge placed on instruments and effects in the upper ranges. I blame that piezoelectric driver since I’ve noticed this quality on other earphones using this tech.
The low end is impressively linear with enough extension to provide a solid display of visceral feedback. It’s not going to rattle your eardrums though. Texture and detail are above average and give the A7’s low end a very dynamic and lively presentation. Thankfully there is no dull, one note bass to be found here. The driver’s attack feels fairly quick with notes hitting solidly and with purpose. Things decay a little slower which helps those sub-bass rumblings linger realistically. I would like a hint more meat to the midbass as it would give the A7 some added warmth and thickness. This can somewhat be achieved by tossing it into Pop mode and swapping to the red filter.
When it comes to sound stage, the A7 is a bit of a mixed bag. I find it better on Pop than Monitor. On Pop, vocals pull back and give the presentation more depth and space while on Monitor mode the A7 has quite an intimate presentation. On Pop mode I found the nuanced imaging more accurate thanks to the extra space in which sounds could move. This also led to a more layered feel to tracks and improved separation of instruments. While I didn’t find the A7 congested in Monitor mode, it nearly took on a wall-of-sound feel with sounds staying unnaturally close to the head. This mostly hurt live performances where instruments need room to breathe. EDM and more electronic reliant tracks fared better.
Overall I find the A7 to be quite technically competent and enjoyable. Bass quality is top notch and makes a strong showing. The mid range is quite clear and coherent. I find the implementation of the piezoelectric driver to be good, but BQEYZ did it better with the notably more affordable Spring II. The A7’s tuning system is fairly extensive and while it can never push the earphone into neutral territory, it offers plenty of versatility and is something other brands could look to for guidance if looking at how to implement such a system properly.
Compared To A Peer (volumes matched with Dayton iMM-6)
FLC 8S (319.00 USD): The 8S is a classic at this point but is still untouched when it comes to customizing the sound signature. The A7 offers a generous 10 signatures through the combination of its five tuning filters and two crossover settings. The 8S? 36 possible combinations. Finding the right combination is as tiring as it sounds, but having so many options means the 8S can grow with you over time as your tastes change and evolve in a way the A7 simply cannot. Despite it’s age, the 8S is smoother in the treble and more refined in the mids. It can be just as impressive when it comes to clarity and detail. Timbre is similarly good but where the A7 can sound somewhat metallic, the 8S can be a little plasticky. Bass is where the two really separate and the A7 will be more of a crowd pleaser. Even in it’s bassiest setup, the 8S lacks the grunt of the A7, even in it’s least bassy setup. The 8S has good extension but you really need to crank the volume to feel it. Texturing is also a step behind the A7. It all just feels a little soft. When it comes to staging the 8S walks all over the A7 to my ears. Notably wider and deeper, the A7 comes across quite constrained in comparison, though imaging, layering and separation capabilities remain close. If you want a neutral sounding earphone that can kinda sorta let loose at times, the 8S is still the one to beat. If bass quantity and quality is of importance, however, the A7 handily outshines the 8S.
Dunu DK-3001 Pro (469.00 USD): The hybrid DK-3001 Pro (4BA + 1DD) has only one signature which is a huge negative if you’re looking for something with the inherent flexibility of a product that can be re-tuned on the fly. On the other hand, the one signature it outputs is more natural, coherent, and fine-tuned than any of the 10 signatures provided by the A7. In favour of the A7 is raw detail, particularly in the treble region. I also find the quality of the bass coming from the A7 to be superior with it having the edge in extension and texture. That said, I prefer the weight and warmth the Dunu’s dynamic driver brings to the signature. Timbre is better on the Dunu, the mid-range is thicker, more natural and free of sibilance, and while less detailed, the treble it outputs is smoother, tighter, and easier on the ears. Even though it’s not particularly large, the Dunu staging is also more impressive. If feels wider and deeper with additional air between instruments and notes. Imaging quality is similarly good on the A7. While the extra cost is significant, if you suspect you’ll rarely utilize the tuning features of the A7 it might be worth springing for the DK-3001 Pro instead.
In The Ear The A7 follows the same design philosophy as the A5 before it, that being take the core Shure SE846 egg-like shape, toss out the cheap plastics, and recruit aluminum for a more premium feel and improved durability. Compared to the A5 the A7 is quite a bit thicker. That’s a logical change given all the extra tech LZ has crammed into this new model. Most visually apparent is the switch added to the face plate. Affecting the crossover, it switches the A7 between “Monitor” and “Pop” modes of which the latter scoops the signature around -5dB between 100Hz and 2kHz. The switch is neatly integrated into the shell. It’s quite small though, so you’ll likely need to make use of the included tool if you want to swap between modes. Another prominent feature of the face of the A7 is the ventilation present below the laser etched branding. The twin vents are just one of three ways to determine channel thanks to red and blue coloured interiors. I personally find the L and R markers printed on the shell, and again on the cable, up near the MMCX ports easier to see. Flip the shell over and the A7 is mostly featureless, save the interchangeable tuning nozzles that can be swapped out quickly. Rubber o-rings are present to help ensure they don’t work their way loose and fall off.
The A7 comes with a fantastic 8 strand, braided, 6N silver-plated, single crystal copper cable equipped with MMCX connectors. Braiding below the y-split is reasonably tight and uniform while above where it splits into groups of four strands per side, is much more loose. The hardware used is fine. The straight jack is branded with LZ HiFi Audio in cursive with adequate strain relief in place to protect the cable. The y-split is a compact piece of metal. No strain relief is found entering or exiting the split. Thankfully LZ thought to include a chin cinch. As has been the trend over the last year or so, the cinch is a clear bead. It works fine. Lastly, preformed ear guides lead into the MMCX plugs. They’re reasonably flexible with some inbuilt stiffness that helps ensure the fairly weighty cable stays in place behind the ear.
Comfort is a standout for the A7. While somewhat thick, the smooth shells are not particularly large and fill the outer ear comfortably. They are free of sharp and uncomfortable edges. Thanks to the use of aluminum they are also quite light. Even during heavy movement the A7 is secure. Isolation isn’t terrible either, though I wouldn’t say it’s really any better than average. Without any music playing, the clacking of my keyboard is present but dulled and the nearby roadway can still just barely be heard through the window. Take the A7 and my music into a more challenging location, like our local coffee shop, and I found I needed to turn up the volume just a hint to counter the noise. That or swap to foam tips which work wonders.
In The Box The A7 comes in some pretty unique packaging. The mid-sized box is made from what feels like particle board adorned with faux-wood panelling and contrasting black text that covers details like branding, the model, and location/contact information for LZ. I’ve yet to see another brand go this direction with their packaging. It immediately catches the eye. Flip back the lid and you see the earpieces and carrying case tightly set within a foam insert overlaid with a burned orange fabric. Lift out the insert (easier said than done) and you find some set within a much less dense foam panel. In all you get;
- LZ A7 earphones
- 6N silver-plated, single crystal copper cable
- Faux-leather carrying case
- Small-bore Sony-hybrid tips (s/m/l)
- Medium bore single flange tips (s/m/l)
- Whirlwind wide bore tips (s/m/l)
- Switch tool
- Velcro cable tie
Overall a pretty decent accessory kit. I really like the variety in ear tips, and the plastic case they come stored in was a thoughtful touch. The aluminum block the extra screw into is a carry over from previous models, but that’s not a bad thing. It means they are always accounted for and since the setup is quite compact, it’s not inconvenient to take them with you should you feel the need to change the signature. Lastly, the carrying case is quite premium with neat stitching and a lined interior to help further protect the earphones within. The only negative is the size which keeps it from being suitable for a pants pocket. A bag or large jacket pocket, sure.
Final Thoughts LZ has shown itself to be a bit of a forgettable brand for me in the past. While I’ve generally found their stuff to be competent, none of the models I’ve tried (A2s, Z03A, Z04A, and A5) left me fully satisfied or excited to see what they were developing for future release. The A7 changes this.
Their dual-tuning system is one of the more effective ones I’ve come across. 10 tuning options is a lot, but there isn’t a ton of redundancy in the available signatures. 10 options is not particularly overwhelming either, unlike the FLC 8S’ with it’s 36 combinations that are also difficult to swap between thanks to the teensy, tiny filters they used. LZ has done a fantastic job here.
Not only that, but the shell they’re using is very comfortable and highly ergonomic, even if the busy face plate isn’t the most attractive. Well, I think it looks cool, but then I also like cursive writing sooo… yeah. LZ seems to always pack in a ton of accessories with their gear, and the A7 is no different. The carrying case is gorgeous, you get a ton of tips with good variety, and the cable is high quality too. It’s a very complete package that feels fitting for the price range.
Do I recommend the A7? I sure do. The piezo can be a bit harsh and the sound stage isn’t particularly large, but I’m willing to overlook these qualities given how versatile the useful tuning system and outstanding technical capabilities allow it to be. Great work LZ!
Thanks for reading!
Disclaimer: A huge thanks to Peter123 over on Head-fi for suggesting I cover the A7, and to LZ for providing a sample of the A7 for the purposes of review. The thoughts within this review are my own subjective opinions based on months of regular use. They do not represent LZ or any other entity. At the time of writing the A7 was retailing for around 340 USD. You can find them through various retailers like HiFiGo, Linsoul Audio, Penon Audio, and others.
- Drivers (per side): one dynamic driver (liquid crystal polymer diaphragms), two Knowles balanced armatures (mids), two Knowles balanced armatures (highs), two 7-layer piezoelectric Ceramic drivers (ultra highs)
- Frequency response: 5 Hz – 40 kHz
- Impedance: 15 ohms (Pop), 13 ohms (Monitor)
- Sensitivity: 109 dB / mW at 1 kHz (Pop), 113 dB / mW (Monitor) at 1kHz
- Channel error: ± 0.5 dB
- Distortion rate: <1%
- Termination: 3.5 mm
- Connector: MMCX
- Cable: 8-core 6N OCC silver-plated copper cable
- Cable length: 3.9 ft (1.2 m)
Gear Used For Testing LG Q70, FiiO M3 Pro, Earman Sparrow, Earmen TR-Amp, Asus FX53V, TEAC HA-501
Some Test Tunes
Supertramp – Crime of the Century
Slipknot – Vol 3 (The Subliminal Verses)
Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid
King Crimson – Lark’s Tongues in Aspic
King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black
Infected Mushroom – Legend of the Black Shawarma
The Prodigy – The Day is My Enemy
Steely Dan – The Royal Scam
Porcupine Tree – Stupid Dreams
Fleetwood Mac – Rumors
Tobacco – F****d Up Friends