The Fragrant Zither, popularly known as TFZ, known for their dual chamber dynamic drivers, shore up to the lime light with its popular series 1, series 3 and series 5 earphones, targeted to please the everyday consumer with a bass tilted tuning, later the TFZ king with its more detailed and better balance took the brand to newer heights. The king specially was the star of the brand which was pleasantly received by reviewers too.
As a refresh to the lineup, TFZ introduced newer versions of the series and king lineup with removable cables and added a newer series to the lineup, the series 4 with 12mm graphene driver, which more or less looks like the King 2pin version with a marginally different tuning. The best thing TFZ has done with the newer versions is that all of them have removable cables.
Series 4 is priced at 100 US dollars and comes in two colors, grey and blue. What I have with me is the Grey version and I will be comparing it with the Fiio F9, TFZ king 2pin, Titan-5 and Magaosi K3 pro.
Grab one from here:- ( I would like to thank penon audio for this review unit)
Here is the specification of the series 4:-
• Brand: The Fragrant Zither
• Model: TFZ SERIES 4
• Sensitivity: 108dB / mW
• Impedance: 16 ohm
• Frequency response: 5-40kHz
• Connectors: 2-pin 0.78mm
• Lowest power:8MW
• Microphone: None
• Plug : 3.5mm
• Cable length: 1.2m
ACCESSORIES & PACKAGING:-
The series 4 comes in a classy looking box. Opening the box for the first time can be a struggle. The inner box is tightly placed in the outer box to keep things tightly packed.
First thing you see is the earphone itself without cables attached. There is a cable in the other chamber of the box, grey variant comes with black cable and blue comes with white cable. You will find 6 pairs of rubber tips in S/M/L sizes and a pair of foam tips. There is a Shirt clip too with the pack of tips. There is a draw string pouch and some documentation completes the package.
Keep in mind that Penon audio retail version comes with a hard carry case too.
BUILD, FIT AND CABLES:-
Like most of the TFZ earphones the Series 4 looks stunning with its high gloss metal back. The body and front nozzle are made out of a single piece of semi transparent plastic housing. There are two vents, one on the back and one of the other side next to the nozzle.
The series 4 is on the heavier side of the weight scale but one doesn’t need to worry about it thanks to its over the ear wearing style. Size on the other hand can be a problem for people with smaller ears. It fits perfectly inside my ears and nicely stays in place. If it keeps slipping out you should use the foam tip which comes out of the box.
The .78mm 2pin cable with nicely braided 4 cores is one of the lightest and most supple 2pin cable you will find in the market. The cable guides are without any internal wire support, giving it a more comfortable fit. There is no microphonics to worry about either.
Now I have to say this TFZ cable has better top end extension compared to the stock 64audio cable.
COMFORT AND SEAL :-
If your ears are of the size to accommodate the series 4 inside it it’s a pretty comfortable earphone. There are no uncomfortable side to it, everything is nicely rounded, nothing uncomfortable there. Let it be the cable guide or the earpiece, the series 4 is a pleasantly comfortable earphone.
Seals well with rubber tips and if you want more comfort, use the foam tips.
The Series 4 uses an interesting earphone housing single driver with dual magnetic circuits and voice coils which acts like two drivers but actually are one.
Out of the box the series 4 was bassy, and I was like.. “here comes another bassy earphone” but after burning it for more 100 hrs the bass was more controlled, treble has better control and smoother mid range.
I have to say along with the king, the Series 4 is one of those earphones which pleases all type of listeners, bass heads wont hate it, and the purists wont sideline it thanks to its balanced signature with a brighter warmer tilt. Driving this earphone is not difficult at all, no need to amp at all.
FYI I am using my Plenue R and D for this review and stock single flange tips on the earphone. Use wide bore tips for lesser bass and narrow bore tips for bigger bass. As the tips used matters big time.
The series 4 has one of the most detailed bass in its price range, it has a fantastic balance which is neither too bassy nor is lacking. It grabs attention quickly with its quantity and quality. A bass head will like to use the narrow bore tips and someone like me will prefer the wide bores.
With the wide bore the impact is smaller and slam is softer, everything else is same. The good thing is the amount of organic touch it brings with it, it’s just fantastic, others like Fiio F9 or magaosi K3 pro sound lean and unnatural. The series 4 sounds full with fantastic body which most of the earphones in this price are unable to archive. Another good thing is its decay which is neither too fast nor muddy too and stays for the right amount of time to make its presence felt, to let us enjoy it.
It doesn’t have any kind of shyness with nay part of the spectrum and reflects with bass too. When there is sub-bass you will get the visceral impact you like (don’t expect bass head level of bass like wooduo2 but this is not far off). But there is some mid bass emphasis, more than the sub-bass, still its not bas, the mid bass’s decay helps the cause big time.
I have no doubts in my mind that this has far better bass than competition. You are treated with fantastic amount of details and notes presentation is fantastic too. You are not going wrong with it.
Do you see me drooling.. Thank god it’s not a hybrid. Hybrids tend to make the mid range thinner and sharper, their presentation even though feels more focused lacks the required amount of thickness with it, which is not the case with the series 4.
Its nicely balanced with the bass, the transaction from upper bass to lower mid is as good as it get for this price. You can feel the maintained amount of details and energy there. Far better than competition.
There is class leading amount of details with vocals and, notes are slightly more thicker than usual but that adds to the authority and energy with it. Female vocals sound slightly less sharper and notes depth too is slightly lesser thus can’t be labeled accurate but this is to keep the fatigue out of the frame. Male vocal on the other hand sound fantastic, its as food as it gets for the price and around 200usd. It’s the benchmark for male vocals thickness and energy. The best thing is by doing this they have eliminated the edginess.
Vocal notes are presented with beautiful texture, resolution and transparency, it is far more satisfying than others in this price.
Instruments too are up to the mark. they don’t attack like a mad god but have the good amount of bite which the fiio F9 lacks big time. Thanks to the fantastic energy with the upper mid range, which doesn’t drown makes the instruments shine when required. Thanks to that there is no sibilance to worry about.
Sound stage too is really big, far bigger than the Fiio F9 and K3 pro. It has huge height and width, depth is not that good when compared to width but still deep enough to let one enjoy it to the fullest.
This how you do it, brands like vsonic should take a note from TFZ series 4. This how you maintain energy and extension without being hopelessly sibilant and sharp.
Series 4 has fantastic amount of energy and forwardness with it. There is nothing bothering at all unless you don’t like energy (yes energy, not sibilance) with your highs. This is one of the best highs you will see on an 100 dollar earphone. It’s got the details and extension worthy of writing home about.
Thanks to its fantastic amount of effortless details you are treated with a presentation unlike anything else. Let it be pianos, trumpets or cymbals the sharpness and the finishing of the note along with the presentation is up to the mark. All you do is sit back.. and enjoy!!
Let it be the layering, separation or presentation the Series 4 is fantastic. With plenty of air and nicely spaced instruments it’s a delight.
AGAINST THE ODDS:- (source – plenue R)
VS TFZ exclusive king:-
These are the exactly same earphones, exactly similar packaging. The only difference is an extra air vent on the face plate of the Series 4.
King has exactly same bass but with a slightly lesser air in it. Mid are slightly more sharper with marginally smaller stage. Highs are slightly less extended and airy.
I find the Series 4 a bit more like what I want from an earphone of with this type of Balanced but engaging tuning.
Titan-5 has better sub-bass and overall better bass impact. It has more sub-bass emphasis and lesser mid-bass and has equally good amount of details. It has smaller body and the stage is small.
Energy t both lower and upper mid is not up to the mark. One can definitely tell the difference when these two are side by side.
Where it loses is the mid range, it lacks the resolution and forwardness (titan-5 is V shaped), micro details are behind a veil which affects transparency. It does make up with its better sonical abilities and ability to place cues but details is details. Vocals are slightly better with a bit more sharpness but instruments lack the bite. Stage is smaller with width and height but has a slightly deeper depth.
Highs are more sharp and extension is not as good. Lacks upper treble energy too.
Over all even though titan-5 is priced more than the series 4 it’s not a better earphone in comparison.
VS Fiio F9:-
The worst earphone I have ever owned from fiio, It’s not good. Lacks sub-bass, there is mid bass but is smaller in size compared to the Series 4, doesn’t sound full, body is small, extension is bad, details is good but sounds seriously unnatural.
Because of the seriously bad stage size mids are really not up to the mark. Its unnaturally sharp and sounds tinny. Instruments are unnaturally sharp and notes have edginess and jagged finish to them. Only good thing is details, it has good amount if details marred by bad tonality and presentation.
Highs.. Do the fiio F9 has highs? its sooo bad, doesn’t have extension of a $50 earphone like Mee audio a151p. Lacks layering and transparency too.
F9 is not in the league of the Series 4.
VS magaosi K3 pro:-
One of the highly regarded sub $100 earphone, known for its balance and accuracy. This is a hybrid which blows the Fiio F9 away.
K3 pro is vastly different than the Series 4. Where K3 is more accurate and precise Series 4 entertains.
Has better sub-bass reach and smaller mid bass. Quantity and size of impact is considerably smaller. Decay is similarly fast and has better amount of details.
Where it loses is its mid range which is leaner and less lively. Vocals are sharper than natural and notes are deeper than they should be. Has slightly more details but thanks to the lees forwardness one needs to pay attention it. Lower mid or upper mid are not as good as the Series 4 either. Stage has hald the height and width but has slightly more depth.
Highs are sharper and slightly cleaner thanks to better decay and sharper notes but then again it can introduce fatigue due to it. Can be sibilant too.
Choosing one of these two is not easy but Series 4 sounds better with its more natural and lively presentation.
The series 4 is far better than Macaw GT-600s, which lacks bass extension, details and tonality is bad too.
TFZ king pro is an overall upgrade. Bigger stage, deeper bass, better details, sharper and more natural vocals, better layering and has better looks too. For twice the price?
If your last earphone was dry, lifeless or tinny or lacking details, and you want something for under $100.. Welcome the series 4 and enjoy the lively, more natural and organic presentation with plenty of details and layering.
For me, it’s the best under $100. Nothing, and let me say it again nothing beats it.
It has its flaws, its slightly on the heavier side. Doesn’t have MIC or remote unit. (you can get an aftermarket cable for that) But for music the Series 4 sets the benchmark. And an upgrade can only be found at over $200.
Have a nice day, enjoy!!
Audio gear reviewer at TechMinions.in