LZ A7 – Silver or Gold?

If you're looking for a highly coherent reference IEM with superb transparency, resolution and imaging all with a smooth delivery and a level of refinement rarely found at its price point then you will enjoy the LZ A7 with its default black filter but the silver filter in monitor mode will go even further reaching performance levels beyond what you'd expect at this price point. If you like a warmer tone and slightly more relaxed variant the Gold filter will definitely do, without compromising the baseline qualities. 

If you're into brighter signature, the blue filter will be an interesting option and conversely the red filter will provide a darker and warmer tuning. 

Pros

  • Scales up beautifully with more powerful and better sources
  • Superb transparency and clarity with silver filter in monitor mode, punching well above its price point
  • Excellent resolution with silver filter in monitor mode, again punching above its price point
  • Open soundstage and excellent imaging with silver filter in monitor mode, very good with black filter
  • Clear and articulate midrange with the black and silver filter in monitor mode
  • Forward and clear yet smooth vocals with silver filter on monitor mode, gold filters is a sweeter tone with similar qualities
  • Spot on treble tone with silver filter in monitor mode, a bit warmer and very natural and smooth with gold filter
  • Excellent balance of lower treble energy and smoothness with a very engaging presentation
  • Powerful bass in Pop mode, good sub bass physicality and mid bass slam
  • Sturdy build and very nice stock cable

Cons

  • Silver filter in Pop mode can be agressive with upper mids peaks, also causes sibilance on vocals
  • Pop mode is overall less coherent than Monitor mode, I wished there was a more linear tuning along with bass boost

Product Page : https://penonaudio.com/lz-a7.html
Price : 318$

Packaging and accessories

The LZ A7 come in a nice package with a pseudo wood finish and a very nice hard leather green carry case but I wished there was a holding compartment for the filters and switch tool there.

The filter holder is metal and you can screw the unused colored filters on it when you’re not using them. The switch tool is used to switch the A7 from Pop to Monitor mode. The switch is located on the metal faceplate.

Note that the filters are color coded and easily identified. The notice for the filters and switch is printed in a small leaftlet that I found way too small to really be usable.

The LZ A7 user manual contains two frequency charts : one for Pop mode with all filters variants curves and one for Monitor mode with all the variants as well. Still, from what I can tell from the tiny graphs, Pop mode has more bass and upper treble presence while Monitor is more linear. The general peaks and dips are similar aside from the Red filter in both modes that seem to have a much more linear midrange with no peaks. All other filters seems to be variants of the same tuning.

Fit, Build & Isolation

The LZ A7 is a very sturdy IEM with a meta shell with black polished finish. The shape is reminiscent of shure IEMs in shape including position of the MMCX connectors but the bore is on the bigger side compared to shures. Given the material and shape, isolation is very good.

The filters include a grille that protects the driver from external elements. Everything is precisely machined and switching filters was flawless.

The fit is very good for me with good seal and a stable secure fit. There are clear left and right markings both on the shell and cable, kudos for this.

The stock cable is an 8 strands of 6N single crystal copper silver-plated cable and the sheathing reminds me of the ISN AG8 with a brown gold color that I find pretty classy. The cable is supple and the small gauge (my guess is 28 AWG) makes it a low footprint cable even with 8 wires. It features a single ended 3.5 termination.

Introduction

The A7 is the first IEM I have had the chance to audition from LZ Hifi Audio, although I had heard good things about the A4 and A6 but never had the chance to audition them so I’m coming to LZ with a fresh set of ears.

Sound

This is always a challenge to review IEMs featuring multiple filters because of how many variants are possible. The LZ A7 features no less than 5 filters along with a switch which equates to 10 different variant of the signature no less. A sound way to start with this kind of IEM is start with the baseline tuning, in the case of the LZ A7 the black filter is the reference position. The following overall sound impressions is therefore based on the black filter, with stock cable out of DX160.

With the switch set to Monitor, the LZ A7 is a clear sounding IEM with a fast, tight and controlled reference bass with decent punch. The mids are even bodied being neither full nor thin and overall it’s a clear midrange with good bite and no signs of harshness signs of a well mastered tuning. Vocals are clear and forward and my usual test tracks show no sibilance or harshness. Lower treble as good sparkle but the energy is well controlled and no hint of hotness, the tone is spot on to my ears. The stage is open with coherent and precise imaging, wider than it’s tall and deep though. Overall, the black filter with switch on Monitor is a very coherent reference tuning with vocal emphasis. This is quite impressive at this price point.

With the switch set to Pop, right the LZ A7 is clearly a more fun IEM with more bass presence down low and more sparkle up top. The bass is much more present with a significant boost. Sub bass now provides a real physicality that border bass head territory, mid bass has more presence and I had much more fun with my bass test tracks with a clear toe tapping factor. Compared to the Monitor setting, although they are not recessed per say mids take a back seat to bass and treble, vocal are neutrally positioned providing more stage depth. They have a smoother presentation with a warmer tone. Treble is consistent with the Monitor switch setting with a bit more energy and sparkle although the significantly more present bass balances this. Overall the black filter with switch on Pop is a fun tuning with a strong bass line, smooth mids and exciting treble.

Now on to filters here are quick impressions based on Monitor switch first then Pop :

  • the Red filters provides a more linear but also darker presentation things are more balanced and smooth relaxing nature on the Monitor switch. In Pop mode this is a bassier and relaxed presentation, thanks to more linear mids and dipped upper treble. I prefer the Monitor setting on the Red filter.
  • the Gold filters provide a less linear presentation than Red but more than the black with less upper mids emphasis, with makes for sweeter vocals and is my favorite filter for vocals on Monitor mode as it strikes the best midrange balance for me being a bit fuller sounding and smoother with a slightly warmer tone. Treble is also a bit less sparkly and energetic than the Black filter. This is consistent between monitor and pop mode where pop mode has more bass presence, mids are fuller and less articulate with less vocal presence and more treble presence. I like the Monitor switch much better with the Gold filter.
  • the blue filters provide a brighter presentation over the black filter, with significantly more upper treble and upper mids presence, but a bit more bass than the black filter with a sub bass focus. Lower treble sparkle though is still spot on and not overly different from the black filter. Lower mids have less presence than the black filter to my ears making the LZ A7 overall a bright, punchy and thinner IEM on the blue filter with Monitor on. Switching to pop, bass is meatier with more mid bass, vocals a bit recessed and treble emphasized further. Again I like the Monitor setting better on the blue filter.
  • the silver filters provide the closest presentation to the black filter to me, it’s close to the baseline signature but I hear better transparency and clarity thanks to more upper treble presence. Upper treble is very refined and impressive with the silver filter. The stage benefits and is the most open of all filters in Monitor mode, with the most holographic presentation. Resolution is also at its best with the silver filters and I must confess I was impressed by the performance of the LZ A7 at its price point. Mids are balanced and consitent with my impressions of the black filter with better transparency and a similar good balance of bite and smoothness. This is a mature, mastered tuning and the silver filter are my pick for Jazz. Switching over to Pop, the silver filter looses quite a bit of its magic in my opinion. It sure get a lot more bass making the bass line more prominent, but vocals loose their magic and I found it exhibited sibilance at times compared to the silver/monitor setting. Similarly while upper treble remain just as good the upper mids are not as clear and it looses the coherence of the silver/monitor setting.

Now let’s dive deeper into my two favorite filters on the LZ A7, the Gold and Silver filters!

Bass

Silver filter
The monitor mode provides a reference take with the silver filter, it’s a tight, fast and controlled bass with lots of detail and a sub bass tilt. It does convey the rythm nicely but lacks the engagement that you get from a more impactful bass and the bass line is a bit subdued at times. As we’ll see the beauty of the silver filter on the monitor setting lies elsewhere.

Switching to pop mode totally transforms the bass section with much more bass presence both sub and mid bass are affected. The bass line is much stronger and the LZ A7 bass is both more engaging and physical. But as we’ll see further down, this takes away a bit of what I consider is the magic of the silver filter mids and treble wise on monitor.

Gold filter
The monitor mode provides a natural sounding bass with good mid bass presence and moderate impact, it’s not a punchy but smooth bass delivery with good control. Sub bass presence is good and provides a good amount of physicality. The bass line has good presence but is not prominent in the mix either. I feel like decay is slower than the silver filter so it’s not only a matter of bass presence but also there is some damping happening here, frequency graph don’t tell the whole story.

Switching to Pop mode, there is much more sub bass presence with great physicality in both Sohn “Falling” and Aphex Twins “Ageispolis”. The bass is more seated on tracks that have more sub bass and provide a better toe tapping factor as well with a bit more mid bass presence. On the flipside, on bass heavy tracks the extra bass presence shadows the mids which take a seat back.

Mids

Silver filter
The monitor mode mids immediately struck me as impressively transparent : it’s a balanced midrange with superb clarity and separation and tonally spot on with very accurate instruments timbre. The resolution is nothing short of impressive at this price point and we’ll see how that relates to the treble performance of the silver/monitoring combo. There is something reminiscent of Cayin excellent YB04 and few IEMs manage to be highly transparent and with such a natural tone.

The lower mids are neither thin nor thick striking a great balance and contributing to this natural tone. Upper mids are a bit forward but show admirable restraint remaining smooth, sign of a well mastered and mature tuning. Again, call me impressed at this price range. Vocals are forward and clear and every minute aspect of the artist emotion is conveyed in a smooth way. Etta James “At last” is a good test and never did I wince when Etta goes to the upper registers, just to the limit but never accross. Hard to pull off. Male vocals don’t stand out as much as female vocals though, but I must confess I prefer a bit more lower mids to provide a more grounded portrayal of male singers. Don’t misread this, for example Pete Alderton “Malted Milk” or Big Daddy Wilson “Thumb a ride” were enjoyable with nuances aptly conveyed and the tessitura is beautiful and it’s not thin either so I am nitpicking here (because I do love the LZ A7 silver/monitor mids).

Now how does the silver/pop combo works for the LZ A7 mids? Well it’s a mixed bag in my opinion. The bass is more present so I think LZ thought relevant to boost the upper mids and there are peaks there that make them agressive to my ears, too much bite and prone to sibilance on vocals even on tracks that are usually not particularly problematic like James Blake “Vincent” or Gabrielle Alpin “My Mistake” were almost unlistenable.

Gold filter
The monitor mode provides a smooth and organic midrange with good lower mids presence tastefully done with a slight pleasing warmth. The mids retain some of the qualities of the silver filter here it’s a bit less transparent with the warmer tone but it’s still a very clear and articulate midrange with great clarity. Mainly it’s the same mids with a warmer tone and a slightly smoother presentation with a tad less upper mids bite. This makes for a fatigue free listen but not at the expanse of technicality as separation and detail are fairly impressive. Where the silver filter had me think of YB04 midrange, the golden filter is more along the lines of DK-2001.

Switching to Pop mode, I feel the overall tone is warmer with a bit more lower mids presence, the additional bass presence certainly gives a fuller tilt to the LZ A7. It’s also a more relaxed midrange and depending on what you’re listening to can be handy for thin/brighter recordings.

Treble

Silver filter
The monitor mode treble is once again a revelation at this price point, it’s spot on in terms of lower treble energy and tone making it an engaging and natural listen with smooth delivery. It’s also well extended in the upper section with a refinement that is utterly surprising at this price point. There is a lot of air and the resolution benefits greatly from the LZ A7 silver/monitor upper treble performance. On Guthrie Trapp “Buckdancer’s choice”, both electric guitars and percussions are beautifully portrayed. In totally different genres complex tracks like Infected Mushroom “Jeenge” and Stan Getz “Maracatu-Too” were quite impressive with the LZ A7.

Switching to pop mode, the treble is probably the most consistent with monitor mode contrary to bass and mids, but will definitely be perceived differently in the context of the overall signature in Pop mode. The upper mids peaks certainly make for a brigther sounding LZ A7 but it’s not due to the treble tuning specifically. For the same reason the increased bass presence makes it a much more fatiguing IEM with silver/pop.

Gold filter
The monitor mode with the gold filter is again quite close to the silver filter just with a warmer lower treble tone and a bit less upper treble presence. Despite the tone being warmer the lower treble energy is similarly engaging but more relaxed. Imaging and resolution are not as special as with the silver filter though but that’s natural, and remains very good.

Switching to Pop mode, I hear a bit more lower treble energy especially hi hats are more pronounced with higher percussions taking more space in the mix and also more electric guitar emphasis. This means on some tracks treble take over the mids in terms of presence. Despite the added presence, treble remain smooth.

Verdict

I had no expectations coming into this review, as I have never heard another IEM from LZ Hifi Audio. The LZ A7 was a totally fresh look at a brand and I didn’t expect anything good or bad to begin with except a slight concern on piezo drivers (do those right is hard). On paper the LZ A7 sounded like another midrange tribrid with a filter system. After reviewing it though, I must say I am impressed by the maturity of its tuning and the value for money.

Not every filter / switch combination are equal though, but that’s were filter systems are interesting to match personal preferences. I clearly preferred the monitor switch position no matter which filter but I see the appeal of Pop mode. My main concern with Pop mode is the upper mids peak and the less balanced signature overall. Monitor mode is consistently more coherent although if bass is among your priorities it’s clearly the route to take.

With the Silver and Gold filters in monitor mode, I can either choose between a highly coherent reference IEM with superb transparency, resolution and imaging all with a smooth delivery and a level of refinement rarely found at its price point or a warmer tone and slightly more relaxed variant with the Gold filter.

I was so impressed by the LZ A7 silver/monitor combo that I decided to plug it to my Hiby R8. A combo that won’t make sense in the context of a 300$ IEM review but I had to check and let me tell you : in low gain / turbo mode the LZ A7 scales yet further with a bigger soundstage that benefits separation and imaging, as well as more powerful bass and even more refined treble and better textures. A hint that plugging into an amp would maybe make total sense especially something accessible like iFi Audio Zen DAC/amp. Note that I didn’t try a balanced mmcx cable for the LZ A7 connectors are very tight and I didn’t want to get the cable stuck to it but I suspect a balanced would provide benefits out of DX160 with the additional driving power.

Listening notes
I spent approximately 40 hours with the LZ A7, listening on iBasso DX160 and Lotoo PAW S1 using the stock cable. Also using AAW Capri ligthning cable out of the iPhone XS Max. 

Special Thanks
Thanks to LZ for providing a review unit of the A7As usual, this review is my honest opinion. No incentive was given for a favorable review. 

Accessories

  • Leather hard carry case
  • Set of S, M, L tips
  • Switch tool
  • Set of filters
  • 8 strands of 6N single crystal copper silver-plated cable, Length :1.2 meters, Plug:3.5mm standard single-ended

Specifications

  • 1 dynamic for low frequency (liquid crystal molecule coating composite diaphragm) 
  • 2 BA for medium frequency 
    (Knowles)
  •  2 BA for high frequency 
    (Knowles) 
  • 2 Piezoelectric ceramic ultra-high frequency 

Frequency response range: measurable frequency response 5Hz-40kHz

Impedance: POP mode is 15Ω/ MONITOR mode is 13Ω

Sensitivity: 109dB/mW in POP mode / 113dB/mW in MONITOR mode, @ 1kHz

Distortion: <1%

Earphone pin: MMCX interface

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