TSMR Zodiac – Stellar

If you’re looking for a smooth and transparent IEM with superb soundstage and imaging that packs good punch down low, open transparent mids with good bite and refined upper treble then the Zodiac deserves your consideration! Tansio Mirai is not here to play and they built a seriously impressive IEM. The Zodiac definitely has the chops to compete in the upper segment : resolution, extension both ways, transparency and clarity are all in line with flagship performance. 

Pros

  • Reference signature with a subtle organic touch
  • Very open sounding, superb soundstage with pinpoint precise imaging
  • Superb transparency and resolution
  • Top notch treble extension and good lower treble energy delivered in a smooth and refined way
  • Superb balanced and very open sounding mids with good bite and smooth delivery
  • Bass is well extended, controlled and layered with good textures and impressive detail
  • Value for money

Cons

  • Isolation is only average (due to vented design, can’t have it all)
  • Bass might lack impact for bass-heads even with bass switch on

Manufacturer’s website : https://tansio-mirai.com/

Price : 1349$

Fit, Build & Isolation

The Zodiac feature a lightweight shell and the build quality is very good, the inside of the shells show the craftsmanship is very good up to the switches system with tight tolerances.

The fit is perfect with lightweight shells that you quickly forget once you wear them. The included tips are high quality, a good thing because the stem of the Zodiac is on the bigger side (over 5mm) and this means not everyone of your tip collection will fit. The fit is not too deep either which make the Zodiac quite comfortable especially for those who don’t like deeper fits.

The Zodiac features some unusual vent ports with filters

Isolation is fair but not as good as TSMR-5 I reviewed earlier. This might be due to the vent port that is fairly unusual for an all BA IEM. I can only theorize that this port is used as a controlled vent for the 4 BA array used for the lows, we’ll see how it translates in terms of the Zodiac signature.

Introduction

I must confess I hadn’t heard much about Tansio Mirai before I reviewed the TSMR-5 but I am very happy that my fellow headfiers mentioned it as a brand to get a look into. Just like Fearless Audio, Tansio Mirai is one of the chinese brand to keep tabs on as they are getting quite a bit of traction among audiophiles that want to get high sound quality at affordable prices.

The TSMR-5 review clearly put Tansio Miraï on the map for me as a strong contender with great build and tuning knowledge. It’s one thing to be a solid option on a mid tier offering, another one to be able to contend in the higher tier.

Did Tansio Mirai hit a home run on their first attempt at a flagship IEM offering? Let’s see!

Sound

It didn’t take me a lot of time to realize the Zodiac is well above the TSMR-5 and clearly worthy of contending in the upper tier, I expected the Zodiac to be good but not by that big a margin over TSMR-5. The very first minute I clearly was impressed by the soundstage and imaging, the Zodiac is a very open sounding IEM with superb imaging and a very balanced signature with a subtle organic touch.

A very refined IEM for sure and one that does not usurp its flagship positioning, with great extension both ways, a solid midrange and smooth delivery all across the range while at the same time featuring good bite in the upper mids and good lower treble energy.

Let’s dive a bit more into the Zodiac signature!

Note : All the following impressions are provided based on setting 123 with all switches to ON.

Bass

The Zodiac bass is the epitome of audiophile bass done right : excellent sub bass extension, great but not overdone mid bass presence as well as good speed providing a great sense of rythm and a layered and detailed presentation with impeccable control. I was unable to get more information on the technical implementation so I can only theorize as to the purpose of the filtered vent ports but it would make sense to assume that it helps the ability of the Zodiac to exhibits great control as well as a layered presentation.

Sub bass extension is great, I ran Aphex Twin “Ageispolis” and Sohn “Falling” and on both tracks the massive sub bass is felt with very good power and impeccable control. This gives the Zodiac a sense of physicality somewhat of an exception to an overall smooth delivery.

The mid bass is spot on in quantity, which in my book is a strong but not overpowering bass line that does provide a sense of rythm while not take the attention away from the rest of the signature. This is exactly what the Zodiac delivers, and then some. The Zodiac exhibits an outstanding ability to portray a very detailed bass, with an onion like layering that seems to be limited only by the recording and source quality.

This is especially apparent on percussion rich tracks like african percussions from Guem “Le Serpent” : congas, darbukas and djembe are portrayed with such rich nuances of tone and textures that it’s quite a mesmerizing experience and you can almost feel the percussionist hands. Guem always says he is telling a story, it sure felt like a fascinating story with the Zodiac.

Back to one of my genres of predilection, John Coltrane “Equinox”, Elvin Jones drums have nice punch and girth, Steve Davis bass guitar good hefty weight and Coltrane Tenor Saxophone has a nice satisfying growl. This track is portrayed as well as I have ever heard it. Color me impressed.

Setting the bass switch to OFF, sub bass has less presence and the Zodiac looses its physicality but it's still very enjoyable. Mid bass presence is more reduced with much less presence and overall this result in a less bodied presentation. 

Mids

The Zodiac midrange is characterized by remarkable transparency thanks to a delicate balance : just the right amount of fullness to provide body to the airy presentation, just the right amount of upper mids presence to grant instruments spot on bite while remaining smooth at tall times and a spot on timbre for vocals and instruments alike.

The Zodiac simply gets out of the way and paints a very accurate and highly detailed picture of the midrange : it’s a smooth yet vivid presentation, with lots of details and great separation between instruments with a very open soundstage. Each instruments has great space, but the overall coherency is high therefore it doesn’t sound artificially separated.

Lead instruments as well as vocals are positioned slightly forward, there is no artificial sense of depth but rather a sense of depth provided by superb imaging that does stand out on the z axis. The Zodiac soundstage is very natural and participate in the “live” feeling you get when listening, especially through a very good source on very good recordings this is really a stunning attribute.

Vocals are beautifully portrayed, both male and female and I enjoyed both Ibrahim Ferrer and Omara Portuondo’s soulful duo, “Quizás, Quizás” has never sounded better.

Setting the mids switch to OFF, the mids balance remains similar the balance between lower and upper mids is unchanged, the switch seems to affect  vocals and lead instruments placement. The slight vocal and lead instrument emphasis with the mids switch to ON reverts to a balanced presentation with mids switch to OFF. I do prefer the extra clarity of the vocals with the mids switch to ON but it's useful to have the ability to choose.  

Treble

The Zodiac is an IEM with superb upper treble extension which is key to its excellent resolution, air and refined presentation.

It’s not in your face let me show you what I can do kind of treble but more like just the right amount of presence to actually present exquisite details without loosing any naturalness. The lower treble follows the same philosophy with a nice balance between energy and smooth delivery, the Zodiac is never fatiguing but it sure packs plenty of excitement especially with the treble swicth set to ON.

Snare drums packs good crispness and snap, cymbals have a satisfying sizzle, electric guitar buzz with energy and piano and saxophone overtones are exquisite. This might explain why I found myself enjoying my favorite Jazz albums a lot with the Zodiac, in fact I think I have a new favorite IEM for the genre.

Setting the highs switch to OFF, the Zodiac upper treble presence and lower treble energy is reduced significantly. While resolution is close, there is less air and shimmer. The treble energy is still very good but less exciting. I could see how the highs switch OFF could be appealing to more treble sensitive people. It retains the refinement but to me the Zodiac is a more exciting IEM with the treble switch ON.  

Verdict

It’s a hard venture to build a flagship IEM in the current market for any brand, let alone a brand that has no track record in the upper segment other than solid lower and mid tier offering like the TSMR-5 I reviewed recently. On paper, even harder to distinguish itself as a multi-BA offering in a time where tri-brids multiply. A switch system is always nice to have but is certainly not enough as others have ventured there as well, like the QDC Anole VX I recently reviewed. 

One thing surprised me when I received the Zodiac : a vent port, for a BA array is quite unusual and I am still a bit puzzled that the product sheet doesn’t mention it or the lack of information on why it was implemented. Implementation interrogations notwithstanding the Zodiac has the chops to compete in the upper segment : resolution, extension both ways, transparency and clarity are all in line with flagship performance and it’s definitely what matters here. 

If you’re looking for a smooth and transparent IEM with superb soundstage and imaging that packs good punch down low, open transparent mids with good bite and refined upper treble then the Zodiac deserves your consideration! 

Listening notes
I spent approximately 140 hours with the Zodiac, listening on Cayin N6ii with E01, Lotoo PAW 6000 and Lotoo PAW Gold Touch with the stock cable, PW Audio N°10 and ISN AG8 balanced upgrade cable. 

Special Thanks
Thanks to Tansio Mirai for providing a review unit of the ZodiacAs usual, this review is my honest opinion. No incentive was given for a favorable review. 

Accessories

  • Cary case
  • Switch tool
  • Stock 4 wire SPC cable

Specifications

  • Driver configuration : 12 drivers, 4-way crossover, 3 tube
  • Sensitivity: 110dB/mW
  • Impedance: 32ohm

Select Comparisons

Note : All the following comparisons are provided based on Zodiac on setting 123 with all switches to ON.

Custom Art FIBAE7

The FIBAE7 is Custom Art latest flagship with 7 balanced armature drivers including top firing drivers for treble and an elaborate 5 way crossover. If you’ve read my FIBAE7 review, you know how special it is in my collection and my personal favorite IEM.

The FIBAE7 is a very rich sounding IEM, a soulful and romantic presentation that combines power and energy with finesse and nuance. It’s a full, rich, natural and smooth signature with amazing musicality and great sense of pace rhythm and timing with no compromises on technical foundations. Compared to the F7, the Zodiac is significantly more open sounding with a wider soundstage and more space between instruments. It’s a very different tuning with much less body than the F7.

For this reason the F7 has better slam factor although I’d say they extend similarly the sub bass of the F7 can be physically felt almost like a dynamic while the Zodiac has very nice sub bass extension but with much less impact due to the vented design. For the same reason the F7 has a fatter mid bass with significantly more body and the textures are richer as well. The Zodiac has a satisfying mid bass presence but a more detailed and layered presentation. 

The F7 mids are fuller sounding with more lower mids presence, there is significantly more body and at the same time more bite, the F7 is a more forward IEM with more upper mids presence. Comparatively, the Zodiac is more balanced with leaner lower mids and a more conservative upper mids tuning. Again the Zodiac logically has a more open presentation with more space between instruments, it’s forward as well just less so than the F7 but because of the airier presentation vocals stand out just as well as the F7. The F7 is more textured and rich while the Zodiac has the edge on layering and imaging by way of more space between instruments everything is easier to pick out. 

Up top, the F7 is the more energetic of the two with more lower treble presence and again, notes have more weight it’s a physical lower treble and hi hats can be felt, piano notes have a hefty presence… comparatively the Zodiac has good energy but a less thrilling character. The Zodiac has greater upper treble presence and is airier and more open sounding. 

ItsFit Lab Fusion

The Fusion share quite a bit with the Zodiac and of all the IEM in the comparison section their tuning are the closest to the Zodiac : both are open sounding with remarkable soundstage and imaging, both feature fairly balanced signatures.

This being said the Fusion is punchier with snappier attack, bass hits harder and decays faster with a cleaner presentation and the dynamic driver provides more slam. Both have good sub bass rumble and what I consider to be a spot on mid bass presentation, enough presence to grant the bass line good ability to provide great rythm while not overdone as to not compromise the signature balanced nature. I would give the edge to the Zodiac in terms of bass detail and layering while the Fusion is a bit more textured.

The midrange is where Zodiac and Fusion differ the most, the Fusion is more balanced with less forward vocals and lead instruments but also less bite in the upper mids section. This makes the Zodiac more exciting, while the Fusion is smoother and safer. Both have enough lower mids to grant sufficient body but a rather balanced approach and male vocal might be found lacking a just bit of power.

The treble section was an interesting comparison, both Fusion and Zodiac have superb upper treble extension and presence but once again the Fusion is cleaner with a snappier attack and faster decay while the Zodiac is the epitome of smooth delivery and more romantic longer decay. The Fusion definitely conveys more lower treble energy, and is more exciting while the Zodiac is quite close in quantity but its smoother nature makes it a safer version of exciting so to speak.

Overall the Zodiac is the more open sounding of the two and it’s no small feat as I consider the Fusion to be exceptional already in that department. But the Fusion is the king of imaging precision with its cleaner, faster attack and decay.

Earsonics EM10

The EM10 is Earsonics current audiophile flagship and exist only in custom form (the Grace being a universal variant of the EM10 with its own signature). For those who haven’t heard it, the EM10 is one of the most engaging IEM I have heard with fantastic pace, rythm and timing thanks to a superb mid bass and engaging lower treble as well as great speed across the range.

The EM10 is very different from the Zodiac from the get go it’s abundantly apparent with more kick and slam factor down low, compared to the Zodiac the EM10 has much more mid bass presence with more weight. The Zodiac bass could seem anemic going from one to the other, but it’s not the entire story as the Zodiac is cleaner and more articulate with more detail and a more balanced presentation. Comparatively the EM10 sub bass is a bit drowned out by the mid bass presence.

On to the mids, the EM10 is much thicker with a full body and lush midrange. Male vocals have more power, instruments have a bigger size. On the flipside the Zodiac is much more open sounding and has much better separation and a more balanced presentation. EM10 upper mids have more bite, the Zodiac is not far behind but with a much smoother delivery it doesn’t provide the same excitement.

Last but not least, treble wise the Zodiac is more extended but the EM10 is faster and cleaner with more energy and weight in the lower treble while the Zodiac has good energy as well but a airier, lighter presentation that results in a more open stage with better separation.

Overall, the Zodiac is more open with greater separation, layering and a more balanced presentation, the EM10 is a much more energetic IEM with a lot of body and richer textures.

StealthSonics U9

The U9 is StealthSonics flagship 9 driver hybrid featuring a dynamic for the lows and no less than 8 BA for mids, highs and super highs. As I covered in my U9 review, it’s a reference IEM with top notch detail retrieval, great soundstage and accurate tone. The first thing that struck me during the A/B was how big the soundstage how the Zodiac was compared to the U9, but separation and imaging are clearly a step up as well and the U9 was pretty good to being with. Impressive…

Despite the U9 being a hybrid and featuring a dynamic driver for the lows, the Zodiac has more sub bass presence with the bass switch ON, things are more or less level with the switch OFF. The mid bass section is more similar than not, with richer textures from the U9 dynamic but a more layered and detailed presentation for the Zodiac.

The U9 midrange is a bit brighter than the Zodiac, with leaner lower mids and a tad more upper mids presence which gives it a tad more bite. The Zodiac has a slight touch of warmth comparatively and a smoother signature although it’s subtly done and both are very transparent and accurate. The Zodiac has significantly better separation the presentation is much more open with more space between instruments and sweeter vocals that are more forward. This also stands true of lead instruments. I find this makes the Zodiac more engaging while the U9 is a more reference approach, less forward and more restrained.

As far as the treble go, the Zodiac is different from the U9 in the lower treble section : it features a more energetic delivery making the Zodiac more engaging in my opinion, both for instruments but also female vocals. The upper treble is closer although once again the Zodiac has a smoother delivery with a natural attack and decay where the U9 is more precise in its attack and has faster decay. The Zodiac has to me an extra touch of refinement, because it finds superb balance between energy, extension and smoothness.

2 thoughts on “TSMR Zodiac – Stellar

Add yours

  1. Thank for the review ! Interesting as always, and it’s great to discover new brands like that can get some coverage !

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: