What are the KZ ATE earphones?
KZ or Knowledge Zenith popped up in the past year with a range of earphones that come in at an ultra budget price point. At first, I didn't really pay them any mind until I started getting Facebook and Twitter messages asking me to do a KZE ATE review and that they were absolutely worth trying out and one of the best cheap earbuds on the market.
So I hopped on Amazon to have a look, I half expected to see yet another half baked generic Chinese IEM. Instead, I was greeted by something that looked very impressive with a range of cool features which any budget audiophile would be expecting to pay a lot more for. So I picked up a set for around $12 if the earbuds sucked it would be no big loss really. Well about a week ago they finally arrived and it's time to put pen to paper and write the KZE ATE review I had been asked for. I must say, for the most part, it's an incredibly positive earphone review when you consider just how much value you are getting for such a low price.
Our sister site stozzaudio.com which focusses on more budget friendly audio gear has just recently published a review of the KZ ZS5 earphones. These are a little bit more pricey but show some improvements in sound and build over the already excellent ATE model.
KZ ATE - The Design and Build
The KZE ATE are in an over ear monitor style of earphones that come in both silver and a dark gray color. I opted for the dark gray as it seemed to be a little less cheap looking than the silver version. When you get them in hand you should be immediately impressed the design looks very cool indeed. It features a gold 3.5mm jack point with ample strain relief leading into a soft textured, barber pole style cable similar to the excellent one on the Vsonic GR07 Bass Edition.
Instead of opting for a simple cheap plastic splitter that you would expect on such a low priced set of earphones KZ have kitted the ATE out with a gold-copper colored number that fits in great with the overall aesthetic. There is an inline remote on the right-hand side that worked well with most phones I used it with and reports were that I came across clean and clear when taking calls. Now here is a really cool little feature that I kind of wish a lot of higher end earphones had. A few inches below the earpiece there is a small gold weight designed to hold the KZ ATE cable in place. As it is an over ear design and does not have a memory wire this is a very cool way of making the earphone cable sit comfortably.
However, the design is not without its fault though as it makes it a bit of a pain in the ass if you intend on doing any running in these. I found that when used for exercise this weight just bobs up and down behind your ear and so for the purposes of being a gym earphone, sadly, the KZE ATE is no good. Where the cable joins the unit housing there is a really cool copper knurled strain relief and the housing themselves is a lightweight plastic shell.
KZ ATE Review - How does it sound?
Absolutely incredible for this price range. In fact, this earphone is actually one of the best sounding earphones I have heard under $50 and is still competitive even as you edge towards $100. The sound is very smooth clear and has a slight bump on the low end that helps to create a very musical sound. Overall it is balanced but the emphasis seems to be focussed on the mids which are tuned in such a way that vocals and guitars (especially of the acoustic variety) are beautifully rendered. The highs/treble are also very smooth, not displaying the extreme detail of IEM's that can be found in the $100 category but it is very little (if any at all) sibilance again making the KZ ATE great for extended listening sessions.
The bass is really what sets the KZ ATE apart from its competition at this price point though. Others can have decent highs and good mids but the common downfall of many of the best budget earphones has to be with regards to the lows. The usual combination of poor housing design and an ultra cheap dynamic driver almost thrown in as an afterthought usually results in earphones sounding bloated and muddy with a slow and boomy bass response. Not on the KZ ATE this earphones has tight punch clear bass that is surprisingly fast in its response. It has a great ability as well to portray sub bass giving off a good amount of rumble without swamping the midrange sounds. All in I am incredibly impressed at the sound at this price it just doesn't get any better for those that really care about how there music sounds.
KZ ATE Earphone Review- So are they really the best budget earphone of 2015?
Well what more is there to say? The design is awesome, its well thought out and comes with a range of features you usually find on much more expensive earphones. The build is great and the sound is very good indeed....all this is said without even taking price into account. When you consider that you can pick up a set of the KZ ATE earphones at amazon right now for under $15 dollars you would be crazy not to grab a set of these.
Whether you are budget audiophile buying the KZ's to use as your main set of earphones or as a back up set of earbuds for those audiophiles who have a more expensive setup in play. Honestly, we liked them so much that the KZ ATE have recently just taken a spot on our top 5 earphones under 50 list.
Next month we are about to start a series of giveaways to our Facebook followers (here), starting with the KZ ATE. To be in with a shot just simply come follow and if you like what you see give us a thumbs up as well.