Listening to V Moda’s all-new Zn in-ear headphones

vmodazn25.jpgI’ve reviewed my share of full-size V Moda headphones, but I wondered how the company’s signature sound would translate to its new in-ear design. Well, I’d say theZn’s is on target. It’s rich, robust, and lively. Build quality feels especially rugged, and the intricate sculptural detailing on the Zn’s zinc metal earpieces is impressive. Zn sports 8 millimeter drivers, impedance is listed at 16 ohms, and it’s available with either a 3-button remote/mic for iPhones, or a 1-button model for Android users. In typical V Moda fashion the Kevlar-reinforced cable and 3.5mm plug look like they can handle a fair amount of abuse. The headphone comes packed with sport earhooks for listening on long runs or a workout at the gym. You get a total of 8 pairs of ear tips, and a small carry case. When purchased from a verified V Moda dealer the Zn is backed by a 2 year warranty, and a 60 day trial period. The headphone sells for $180 in the US.

Zn delivers a big sound, with a sweet and warm tonal balance. Music takes on weight and gravitas you don’t get from similarly-priced in-ear headphones. That extra warmth comes in handy when you’re listening to massively over compressed recordings, the Zn brings the harshness down to a tolerable level. I found this headphone comfortable and easy to listen to for hours at a time, listener fatigue was never an issue. Isolation from external noise was good, but no better than average for this type of headphone.

The Focal Sphear in-ear headphones resolved the clarity of well-recorded acoustic guitar with superior precision, while the Zn dulled and muted the transient of each pluck and strum. The Sphears really shone with live recordings, especially when their concert hall ambience added to the realism, while the Zn’s subdued the presentation. The Hifiman RE600S in-ears were even more vivid and transparent than the Sphears, Zn was significantly lower in resolution/clarity than the Sphear and RE600S.

That turned out to be a good thing when I played Adele’s new “25” album. With that music, I preferred the Zn over the Sphear and RE600S. I can’t knock Adele’s talent, but I’m no fan of the sound of her music. Like a lot of contemporary music “25” sounds massively over-compressed and grating when played through high-resolution headphones. The Zn suppressed the harshness so I could listen to Adele without cringing — that’s a first. I really enjoyed “Million Years Ago,” it’s a great tune. Even so, I’m more of an Amy Winehouse fan, and her “You Know I’m No Good” lit up the Zn big time. Still, I enjoyed Winehouse’s music more over the Sphear and RE600S.

When I stopped comparing the Zn to other headphones the sound was engaging in an “organic” way, the Zn isn’t pushing detail or resolution, the sound is laid back. Listening to tunes on the New York City subway the bass is big and weighty, and the soundstage is broad, definitely not locked inside my noggin. Anyone searching for a solidly built in-ear headphone that gets out of the way and lets music speak for itself will find a lot to like about the V Moda Zn.

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