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LETSHUOER x Z Review Z12

LETSHUOER x Z Review Z12

Author:Andy.EF

Foreword

  • This unit was sent to me by HiFiGo for review purposes. 
  • At the point of this article, my Z12 has undergone over 150 hours of burn in and approximately 40 hours of actual listening
  • I don't do measurements, I just describe what I hear, from my own POV
  • I don't use EQ
  • The entirety of my impressions was done with the stock  Foam Tips
  • Ultimately, my reviews are purely subjective and biased to my personal preference in sound

Z12 is a limited release by LETSHUOER (only 500 units) based on their highly successful S12. Z12 has been designed and built with frequency tuning as advised by Zeos.

The Build

Essentially, Z12 is identical to S12. With the very same metal shells housing a pair of single Magnetic Planar 14.8mm drivers. The difference, Z12 comes in anodized Red/Blue color scheme which makes it stand apart visibly.

Rated at 16 Ohm, sensitivity level of 102dB, Just like S12, Z12 is tuned to be easily driven with most audio sources.

Z12 comes in a very neat package, the one that impresses me the most being the beefy stock S12 Silver Plated Copper (SPC) cable. Available either with 3.5 SE or 4.4mm BAL termination. Equally impressive, Z12 comes standard with very high quality foam tips on top of the regular selections of silicone tips. Last but not least, Z12 also comes with a nice carrying case for both the IEM and the tips.

Z12 turned out to be a very comfortable IEM to wear. I am truly impressed with the ergonomic design of the inner shells. From the get go I was able to wear Z12 for long hours. No fatigue or annoying pressure subjected to may rather sensitive ear cavities.

Equipment Used

  • Xiaomi Mi 9T (3.5mm SE and USB Port)
  • Sony Xperia X Compact (3.5mm SE and USB Port)
  • Windows 10 with Native USB Drivers
  • HiBy Audio Player USB Exclusive Mode with FLAC files
  • CEntrance DACport HD
  • Cayin RU6
  • Ovidius B1
  • NotByVE Abigail
  • NotByVE Avani
  • VE Megatron
  • MUSE HiFi M1

Timbre, Tonality & Dynamics:

One element that stand out the most, from the get go, Z12 being very organic and smooth with overall timbre. Totally free of any metallic or dryness element. By my own subjective observation, frequency wise Z12 has been tuned towards Harman U curve. Definitely not neutral as how I would normally hear from my regular arsenal of Neutral/Diffused Field tuned IEMs. There’s pronounced emphasis on the lower registers especially Sub-Bass region. What Z12 does offer in spades, good natural sense of sound some would even consider as “warm”.

Z12 exhibited very cohesive and mature dynamic transients, yet it is still vibrant enough to be fun sounding. Perhaps not as euphonic as V tuned dynamic drivers, but then that’s the appeal of Magnetic Planars – they tend to be better behaved. As with the overall theme of timbre, Z12 tonal balance is admirably organic too, smooth and well resolved.

Mids

With the appreciation for U curve tuning, the Mids of Z12 is less forward and less pronounced than what I normally favor. While the resolution and texture is succinct, I can’t help feeling that the presence of Mids being staged a step back. This will be evident when I use Z12 listening to some genre of songs especially Jazz and Bluegrass. This stepped back Mids will be less evident when listening to Rock, Pop or Metal genres.

Instruments wise, for the most part Z12 Mids offer clean and smooth edged attack and decays, perhaps not as clinical – yet the definition is evident and clean. 

I must say that Z12 may not be suited at all for listening to classical or stringed ensemble which require a bit more of sharpness. On the other hand, for those who are familiar with the sound signature of Sennheiser HD580 or Fostex T series, the Mids of Z12 bear close resemblance to those two, “warm” ish and soothing, never offensive. So this depends on the moods as well.

Z12 must be commended for a very well behaved upper Mids projection, closer to Treble region, I am impressed with the control of Z12 avoiding any element of sibilance or shouty output.

Vocals wise, similarly as noted above, Z12 does the job well enough for a U curved unit. However I must note that the normally peaky and shrill singing of Alison Krauss (Soprano type) would sometimes sounded a bit off with the emphasis on warm-ish tonality. It gets even warmer with the likes of Diana Krall (Contralto type). Z12 fares better with Male vocals, less warming and a bit more neutral.

Treble

Without a doubt, Z12 is not a Trebleheads IEM. Z12 exhibited ample sparkle and resolution with Treble definition. But do not expect far reaching extensions with the decays seemingly disperse slightly shorter that what I am familiar with. I also observed that Z12 also seems to be not as generous with air, the projection primary appearing clean edged, and prompt. It is generally smooth and non-offensive, no overcooking and unlikely for things to get shouty or unnaturally peaky. Despite the seemingly early roll-off, Z12 does still exhibit good sense of Treble micro details,  which are evident with how gentle yet audible cymbal splashes being presented.

In this aspect, Z12 will fit in perfectly with those preferring their Treble section well behaved and smooth, like a frothy Cappuccino instead of hard edged double Espresso – if that makes any sense.

As a matter of saying, Z12 will not be suited for listening to percussion heavy music – precisely classical or instrumental compositions. Or even modern Jazz – the warming of upper frequency can appear dampened a bit than what I consider neutral and transparent.

Bass

The highlight of Z12, BASS and BASS. This would probably the first Magnetic Planar IEM that I would consider as a Basshead unit. Most prominent would be the presence and authority of Sub-Bass performances. The depth and extension of Bass lower region being deep enough to match the likes of Fostex T40RP MK3 (a Magnetic Planar that I dearly love).

However I must note that, out of the box Z12 will exhibit some Bass bleed between Mid-Bass, Lower-Mids and Sub-Bass. This being evident when I listened to Alison Krauss Union Station outfit which contained some pronounced stringed Bass recordings. Composition of Mid-Bass being slightly engulfed by Sub-Bass presence.

The good news is, after 100 hours or so, I no longer observe this bleeding. Things actually turned our admirably well, I was able to identify the borderline of Mid-Bass to Sub-Bass transitions. It was somewhat hilarious – normally on Bass focused IEMs I have used before, the Mid-Bass would be the one to dominate (as observed with most dynamic drivers), but for Z12 it is the other way round. 

A well burned in Z12 will assuredly satisfy the need for rich, highly textured and dense Bass – the Mid-Bass especially being very solid and vibrant. The imaging and resolution is clean and smooth. The density satisfying. Z12 will project them all deftly from stringed, percussions or electronic Bass – most prominent with Electronic Bass perhaps. So in this regard, Z12 will absolutely be amazing for listening to Electronic or Dance music, for listening to the likes of Depeche Mode, KRAFTWEK, Hans Zimmer or Massive Attack. Deep and prominent Sub-Bass responses being very immersive and engaging.

Notably, the part that I like the most, Z12 Bass performances also worked amazingly well with Rock/Metal music. This is where I feel that the Mid-Bass and Sub-Bass both being equally impressive – coexisting side by side in fluid and harmonious transitions. Like the composition of Russian Circles “Harper Lewis”, thumpy and commanding Drum Bass complemented by equally graceful Bass guitar edge decays – the sort of sound that is felt as it is heard, seismic sensations – simply amazing.

Technicalities

Z12 is quite adept with technicalities. The only caveat, soundstage could have been wider. It is not exactly narrow but I feel that the big and vibrant sound would have been perfect if the width and breadth of staging offer more spaces. Otherwise I would say that Z12 being very competent with speed and resolution – always clean sounding with well defined separation lines. Spatial positioning being holographic and immersive. The imaging sharp enough despite being largely a “warm” sounding unit. Z12 turned out to be quite a good device for gaming as well as action movies indulgence.

While not exactly being the speediest of IEMs I have tried so far, Z12 must be commended for keeping it tidy. I haven’t observed any instances of things getting mucky or congested – no matter how complex the composition are or how outright fast paced they are.

Scalability

Drivability of Z12 is another highlight that I would regard as exemplary. Without a doubt Z12 is the easiest to drive Magnetic Planar that I have ever used. I was pleasantly surprised how good it sounded even when used directly with my old Sony Xperia X Compact (which has measly power under 1 Vrms with no more than 50mW of wattage). I don’t feel that the output was underwhelming – it was quite enjoyable.

But of course being a Magnetic Planar, Z12 also exhibited great scalability as more power are being fed to it. As the power scale goes up, it is evident that things get improved with dynamic density and depth. It felt richer and more resolved.

Z12 sounded at it’s best with the likes of Cayin RU6, CEntrance DACport HD, Ovidius B1 and VE Megatron. All of which are quite abundance with power.

Final Words

I reflect upon the values that Z12 offers and it is evident to me, this IEM is a very specialized unit. It was not designed to be an all-rounder. Z12 is probably the only Magnetic Planar that qualify as proper Bassheads earphone. For the most part, Magnetic Planar IEMs are not known to be strong with Bass performances – but Z12 is different. Z12 compete with the likes of SeeAudio Yume Midnight (Harman tuned) or Hidizs MD4 (W curved) – and surprisingly Z12 would stand out being the most dominant with Bass performances among all of them.

So it depends on the sort of sound we are looking at. Frankly for me, a self-styled Diffused Field Neutral junkie, Z12 would appear a bit overbearing to my senses. I am not used to, nor appreciative of this Big Bass thing subjectively. But I will not deny that if I do like Bass heavy stuffs, Z12 then is a worthy contender to satisfy that need.

LETSHUOER x Z Review Z12 must be appreciated for what it is intended for, Z12 is fun, cohesive, clean and big sounding unit – with lots of Sub-Bass :D – oh yes Z12 is also being one of the most comfortable IEMs to wear out there now and SUPER easy to drive too.

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