Here's my review for the LZ A7! You can check it out on audiodiscourse.com as well for better formatting.
Today we're going to take a look at the LZ A7, a $338 IEM with a rather exotic 1 DD + 4 BA + 2 piezoelectric driver configuration. Though I have seen it go for $280 on sale at (Mass)Drop. What's unique about the LZ A7 is that it comes with 5 sets of tuning filters in addition to the tuning switch on the IEM itself. This means the LZ A7 has a staggering total of 10 different tunings! That said, this isn't the first time that LZ has made IEMs with tuning filters. I remember demoing to the LZ A4 a few years ago and wasn't impressed with it. How will the A7 fare with a few iterations under its belt?
Disclaimer: The LZ A7 was provided to me by Linsoul in exchange for this honest review. I am not or will be compensated in any other way.
What's in the Box?
Interestingly, the LZ A7's box is wooden. Though its clearly a cheapish box, big props to LZ for going the extra mile. Nestled inside in the foam is the LZ A7 itself and a circular carrying case. Inside the case is the MMCX cable, tuning filters, a tuning tool that looks like a SIM card ejector, and 3 unique sets of S, M, L tips for ta total of 9 pairs of tips. One is the whirlwind tips, one is the super generic silicon tips, and the last is a set of weird gummy, rubbery tips. I find that each type seals differently in my ear and settled on the gummy ones. YMMV. The cable is quite good. It's soft, pliable, no cable memory, and little cable noise. You definitely won't be needing an aftermarket cable for this.
The fit on the LZ A7 is excellent. It adopts that Shure shell that makes it quite comfortable in the ear. Isolation is alright. The LZ A7 is actually a vented IEM in the same vein as the Shuoer Tapes. Thus, it doesn't isolate very well but I think its good enough. The body of the IEM has a little dip switch that says POP on one end and MONITOR on the other for tuning, giving two variations per filter set. There is a little text box on the shell that says LZ HIFI AUDIO that I don't think was necessary and just makes it look crowded. The tuning filters (i.e. nozzle) is surprisingly long allowing for a pretty good fit and has a substantial lip that keeps tips very secure on there. To swap filters, you screw them on. The black one is stock.
I must say, with 10 different tunings, there's a lot going on with the LZ A7. Let me go through the stock tuning as a baseline before tackling to other wacky tunings you can play around with on the A7.
The stock setting for the A7 is the black filter on Pop mode. It's V-shaped and with plenty of vocal forwardness. Bass quantity isn't at basshead levels but is more than enough to give a meaty low end and satisfy most people who want to a filled in bass. The A7 has a minor hump right at the 30 Hz mark that consistently brings rumble to the table. However, at those lowest registers, the bass starts to lose a bit of control and definition is lost. Bass quality is actually pretty good. It's leans on the boomy side of things but is tight enough to handle most of what I throw at it without much loss of definition. No real complaints here; the DD is about as competent as I would expect for something in this price range. I quite like it; it's a fun bass that isn't of sterile. Surprisingly, there isn't really much bass bloat though there is a bit of mud right at the bass-lower mids transition. While you might say the bass bleeds into the mids from the graph, I think of it more as a counterweight to the upper mids. With how much upper mids the A7 has, this bit of low mids is sorely needed. I don't find it overly strident though any more would really be pushing it. Timbre is fine for a V-shape but tone is absolutely on the thin side. I don't hear any sibilance or harshness. The treble dip right after the 4 kHz mark tames some lower treble fatigue. Despite this, cymbals have a softened splashiness to them that's followed by an abrupt decay. Treble clarity and timbre suffers at times thanks to this awkward combination of splashiness without supporting upper harmonics. I'm not too sure what's causing this but I'd like to attribute it to the piezo driver.
On the Monitor setting, the A7 becomes a much more balanced sounding IEM. The mids are immediately restored. The bass is made relatively less elevated, cleaning up the slight muddiness in the lower mids without sacrificing the meatiness and oomph in the low end. Nuance in bass notes shine through more easily. The treble is a touch brighter and brings some clarity along with it but is overall still recessed. Vocals are also better balanced, sounding less shouty and definitely a lot less thin. I'd say its a rather well tuned IEM on this setting, with a neutral or balanced frequency response. The pinna gain centered around 2 kHz might not seem ideal but it isn't an issue thanks to the upper mids being sustained till 4 kHz. The A7 on the black filter is an IEM that prioritizes vocals first followed by a filled low end presence.
There's plenty of horizontal soundstage, likely due to the venting of the IEM, but the A7 lacks depth and height. I'd say resolution is actually pretty good for the price, though the lack of treble clarity does hurt it in the upper harmonics. Overall, technical performance is good. It might not be on par with something like the venerable Moondrop Blessing 2, but I want to say that it's a small step up from the Thieaudio Legacy 5.
Looking at the Pop vs. Monitor comparison graph, the Pop setting brings a dip in the mids that results in a more V-shaped sound. The biggest effect is that it makes the IEM bassier while making the vocals sound thinner. I find that if you listen to either the Pop for an hour or so to let your brain "burn in", you don't really notice the mid dip. But if reverse that and listen to the Monitor for some time then switch to Pop, the vocal thinness really sticks out. On all filters, I enjoyed the Monitor mode more for fuller vocals but YMMV.
The filters themselves follow the order: Red > Gold > Black > Blue > Silver in terms of how much of the actual filter is present in the nozzle. That is to say, how much dampening there is. For example, you can practically see right through the dampening screen in the blue filter while the red filter has a much tighter wall of tuning mesh.
The silver filter's mesh has much larger holes compared to the finer mesh of the red filter.
The Red filter is the bassiest with the least amount of upper mids. I don't think the Pop mode on this is good. Bass is muddy and bloated without upper mid clarity to salvage it. Monitor mode is much better and I would actually have liked it the most in theory since it has the most moderate amount of upper mids. However, I found that the red filter makes the A7 sound low res compared to the black and gold filters. So I opted to stick with the other two. Though I do think some may like the Red filter on Pop despite the trade-off in technical performance.
The Gold filter is very similar to the black filter but lowers the upper mid elevation by a good 2-3 dB for more mellow vocals. There's still plenty of vocal presence, just not as much as black. I do think the bass quality tightens up a bit too with the gold filter. It feels more controlled overall, even if its just a little more than the black filter. The tradeoff however is that the treble feels more recessed. The initial attack of the hats and cymbals are dampened and notes quickly fizzle out. For less complex tracks with prominent treble notes this isn't an issue. But in your typical rock tracks where the hats and cymbals play in the background, they basically get buried. The splashiness of the black filter is curbed. The Pop filter made the mids too thin for my liking so I kept it on the Monitor setting. I would definitely recommend you go for this filter if you're looking for a more balanced sound but keep in mind the treble tradeoff.
Comparing all three filters, you can really see how they differ.
The Blue filter takes things up a notch. There's even more upper mid elevation and the bass is tamed down. With the blue filter, you'll definitely have to turn down the volume compared to the the red, gold, and black filters to volume match the vocals. I really wouldn't go to the Pop mode here as vocal thinness borders on excessive. On the Monitor setting, vocals are lean and very, very forward. Bass presence is still good however, with more a neutral elevation versus the bassier, fun feeling in previous filters. Treble is really brought to life with this filter. The awkwardness of the treble in the black filter is mostly resolved here. Note decay is still on the short side but tone is definitely more realistic. Technical performance seems more refined on the blue filter as well, though this may be just due to the tuning. If you want a more neutral-bright tuning, the blue filter is it. It's just a question if you can stomach really forward vocals. I can for a while before it starts to feel tiring so it's definitely something to watch out for.
The Silver filter is actually rather similar to the blue filter except the treble is now in the realm of exaggeration and timbre starts to suffer once again. It doesn't really have any advantages over the blue filter so I don't really see a point to this one.
Should You Buy It?
Ehhh. At an MSRP of $338, it's getting pretty expensive especially when something like the Moondrop Blessing 2 exists. At a sale price of $280, it's a bit more reasonable. Personally, I think it's worth it at the $250 mark as that's in a different price class altogether. All that being said, the LZ A7 does bring to the table some strong points. The fit and comfort is excellent. Soundstage is pretty wide. Resolution is surprisingly competent. It has a fun sounding bass that isn't sterile. Tuning filters to fit your tastes.
Yet it is those same tuning filters that end up hindering the A7 too. None of these filters end up feeling "just right". I found that I pretty much only stuck with the Monitor mode. The silver filter doesn't any much sense and the red filter felt like a step down. Altogether the blue, gold, and black filters have a sound quality that I liked but split up, it felt like I was making a small compromise here or there. Ideally, I would blend the bass of the gold and black, take the mids of the gold, and the treble of the blue. Sadly, that isn't possible.
At the end of the day, I think the LZ A7 is a decent IEM with a few unique features that may sway someone to buy it. While it is definitely a step up from the A4 I heard years ago, going purely by "objective" performance, it does falter in the price class it competes in. Yet as audio is a game of compromises, the A7 stands as a reasonable second or third choice.