Zorloo Aero Review

Some time back I looked at Zorloo’s first IEM, the Z:ero.  What made it special was that it has inbuilt its very own DAC and amp thus completely bypassing the potentially rubbish audio internals in their phone.  Phones are convergence devices that dont prioritise audio but with these they just dont matter.  The question is, are they any good?  Read on to find out.

 

2016-03-17 12.35.09 (Copy)

Thanks to Zorloo for the sample.

First Impressions

I hear have a pre production package, lol so the initial “new toy” tweet photo would have given recipients absolutely no idea what was inside.  But hey I like that, it adds a little mystery.  So inside the buds and the first thing I not is that everything is big.  The buds are physically large and the controls are huge.  Well huge by controls standards anyway, really huge.  It’s also weird to see a controller that isn’t up by the side of your face, you see these have no mic in them so it doesn’t need to be near your mouth.  Ahhhhh it must be there they hide the DAC and digital bits and bobs.  Hmm it’s also the Y splitter, sensible but it seems very, very far away from your face.  It’s nearer my navel than it is my face, why so long?  (Note, Zorloo have said this will be not the case in production models.)

So in the ears and while the buds are if they fit me perfectly.  Grabbing the nearby Moto G 4G and plugging them into the bottom, the micro USB socket and a dozen or so seconds later the headset icon appears in the notifications bar at the top.  I hit the play/pause/skip button and music appears.  Ooof these are bassy buggers aren’t they.  Fun for sure, lively, bouncy fun beasts.  Hmm I can see maybe long term the bass being a bit much but right now I’m smiling.  I may also slightly be singing along to Karma Chameleon and dancing about in my chair.

Source

Well there are their own source as it were.  So they should therefore be identical sounding plugged into your computer, or whichever phone you might have, bypassing entirely the likely piece of crap DAC /amp they have inside them.

Lows

Big, a great big thumping hearty bass.  I know that it’s too big, strictly speaking its really very boosted but it’s really entertaining.  It doesn’t bleed up the range much so vocals are unimpinged.  The bass can thump its little heart out.  They are not peeked at the mid/bass cusp rather a bit lower so the bass is entirely own its own.  The depth is good, it’s a big rounded hump for sure so the depth does trail away as you’d expect but nicely so.  Odd given their closedness I’d have expected a little more linearity but I’m confident its intentional.  These are not trying to be flat, acoustically balanced, neutral / natural whatever’s.  They are fun time party beasts.  However slapping on Tracy Chapman and the bass was quite happy to sit on its hands and chill.  Its exceeding dynamic over all, as Eric Hutchinson’s “All Over Now” came on next, the bass come barrelling out like a runaway freight train.  Bouncy bouncy bouncy.  God the layering is really very nice.

Okay in quantity terms it’s too much, I know that but given this is really aimed at those poor suckers who insist on using their mobile phones to provide them with music.  Even decently good phones still suck next to proper DAP’s  so Zorloo are trying to work around that.  It also means they can pair and match the DAC/amp internals exactly to the earphone as they control the whole acoustic chain.  That alone given them a massive leg up on everyone else.

Mids

WOO HOOO,   “I have nothing, nothing, nothing If I don’t have you, you, you, you, you!!!!”   Oh ****, was that out loud????  Note to self no matter how much I might like Whitney I cannot and any way shape or form go there vocally.  These have such enthusiasm and joie de vivre that it’s disturbingly infectious.  I recognise mentally that these are very capable but you know they aren’t as nuanced and well-articulated as the best mids at the price but that’s not important.  These are so full of joy and soul it’s aurally captivating, its alike an acoustic wind that just sweeps you up off your feet.  You want to just go with the flow and let it sing out want all the mirth and jollity you can muster.

They are so much fun to listen to.  The dynamics are so lively and entertaining I’m finding myself getting very little done productively.  I’m also noticing that the more I listen to them the more I find them tiring.

Highs

They are relatively tame.  That is bang on for me, I could happily and exuberantly throw on some old school Skunk Anansi “We Love Your Apathy”  “Infidelity”  and “Brazen”  all great songs that are very much let down by their god awful mastering.  The treble on them is brittle, broken up and scratchy as all get out. The Aero slaps a fine layer of plaster over all that mess shielding your ears from it.  Sure the bass is VERY dominant, to the point of ear tiring but its treble reproduction.  Okay so in absolute terms the treble is a little dialled down in comparison to the rest especially that whopper bass.  The detail retrieval is reasonable, it just not highly aggressive about presenting it to you.  It hasn’t really much in the way of edge either.  It’s going to be a little muted and little lacking presence for some.  It can get a little bit obscured in the melee, what with the bass is tearing up the place and the mids fighting to be heard, the treble is the 3rd newly hatched chick.  The chick that may or may well not survive because it hasn’t the strength to sing loud enough to get its parents attention.

Soundstage

Distance is pretty good, scale is whoa!!!! Big stuff, big power, big abundance, big wahhh!!!  It’s fun.  It’s a little bit inappropriate at times as intimate closed in tracks just aren’t.  You would think that given their bassy warmness things would be much more drawn in.  However they throw such an abundance of power at you they sound very largely scaled.

Fit

For me great.  I’ll confess their size concerned me and must surely be a problem for someone somewhere.  Me though, perfect.

Comfort

See Fit.  I was concerned but they worked perfectly for my ears.

Cable

Hmm it’s a flat cable, I don’t love those.  Also what’s with the Y-splitter being so very, very far down?  Otherwise it’s fine, nothing actually wrong with it but like I say I don’t love flat cables and I don’t get why the Y-splitter is miles away.  (Note, again Zorloo have told me the Y-splitter will be more reasonably located in production models.)

Isolation

For a dynamic these actually isolate really well.  Comply’s on them I’m sure assisted, however I was pleasantly surprised.  Though keep in mind they are still dynamics so while they are creeping in the direction of a BA they still aren’t BA’s.  Absolutely fine for on a bus and out and about, maybe even for the odd flight.  Not for regular flights nor a Tube commute but hey.  Oh and naturally more than enough to make you a road stain if you don’t use your eyes while out in traffic.

Phone Use

While these get plugged into your phone, they cannot be used for making or taking calls.  While I absolutely understand why this is the case it still seems odd.  I mean who actually uses their phones to make calls anyway right?

Amped/Unamped

So why is this section in here you may ask?  Well to give me space to clarify what makes the Aero special.  It is its own DAC and its own amp.  It bypasses the internals in your phone, now I do realise that phones are getting better.  They are, they really are but let’s face it, a phone is a convergence device and they are never going to put audio as a major priority.  They know that their customers on the whole don’t care and even if they did most use such terrible ear/headphones that it wouldn’t matter anyway.  The additional bonus in all of that being bypassed as that Zorloo effectively control the entire audio output chain.  The DAC, the amp and the earphones themselves an so they can tune them to perfectly pair up.  Any other earphone, no matter how good, may pair particularly badly with a particular mobile, there is no way for anyone to really know how it will sound with different pairings.  The Aero however will sound exactly the same no matter what its connected to.  There is a certainty, no hit and miss synergy pairings.  You can use these on any device and know exactly what you will be getting audio wise.

Accessories

Well I have a pre-production so I don’t know what it’ll be you get.

Value

As best I know the RRP will be US$120 which is about £86.  Woo hoo!!!  You’ll be hard pressed to find anything more fun and you get the added plus of not having to already have a good sounding phone.  I mean especially if you have say, an Iphone, you get to skip its inadequacies.  So yes I’d say bargain, big bassy bargain that’s oodles of fun.

N.B.  If you however get in early, they will be offered as a perk for just US$70 on their forthcoming Indegogo campaign.  That’s just £50, even with the horrible exchange rate just now that’s a bit of a steel.

Conclusion

The Aero’s are a bit of a queer duck as they say.  It’s not like a normal earphone you see, usually an earphone is a link, the last link in the audio chain, its output is a factor of each of those links.  However the Aero is the whole shebang.  There is a few negatives to this, most notably that everything uses a 3.5mm jack but these don’t.  These therefore will be more limited in how you can use them.  They come in 3 cabled versions, a lightning cable, a micro USB cable and lastly a micro USB 3 cable.  So right there, there is a limitation.  So most people have one phone this isn’t a huge issue and the fact you can change the cable helps but they just won’t ever have the ubiquity of the universal 3.5mm jack.  However what you give up you gain total control over the audio chain in way you cannot otherwise.  Swings verses roundabouts.

Overall I’m very pleased with the outcome here.  Back when I used their siblings, the Z:ero I was a bit of a fan of the idea but I felt they were coming in a price level where they simply didn’t have drivers that could make the best use of the DAC and amp.  The Aero however is.  They are really lively, fun and bouncy beasts and they will always be that no what phone you use.  Using these means you don’t have to care about good synergy because it’s all good and it is, all good.

So should you buy one?  Well if you are wedded to the idea of using your phone for audio, especially if you’re an Iphone user, then using these gets you good audio quality with a highly crowd pleasing sound.  The caveat is it won’t work for all phones (like they wouldn’t work with my P8.)  So that’s clearly a massive issue and its one that Zorloo have no control over.  Granted it’s a show stopper for some but it’s the incompetence of the phone makers (Huawei / Honor I’m looking at you here) so I won’t blame Zorloo any more than you’d blame Ford for the roads being full of potholes.  As it stands the Aero is a great product, its exactly what I said wanted to see when I looked at the Z:ero.  So congrats to Zorloo and I shall be eagerly awaiting getting to hear the two other variant and what they can do too!

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