Live 1: Baby No.3
- Large low area, powerful, deep and fast.
- Brilliant highs, which provide very explicit detail.
- Large width and size of the scene.
- Separation and dark background.
- Very vivid, clear and energetic sound.
- Quality of the cable.
- So much energy can drain the listener
- Very explicit and close sound, from the middle onwards.
- There is no storage box/bag.
Link to the Store
Once again, the well-known IEMS brand, The Fragrant Zither (TFZ), based in the city of Shenzen, (Guangdong, China), is bringing out an economic model, the price of which does not exceed $40 (about 35 euros). On this occasion, the cable option with microphone can be chosen. In addition, there are 8 different models to choose from, whose colour of the external face, is their main difference. This new model, called Live 1, uses its patented Tesla unit, with a reoptimised design, with double magnetic circuit. In this way, the resolution is very high, favoring the positioning of the image and expanding the feeling of space, thanks to two magnetic circuits, providing a higher magnetic flux. This elevation also favours a greater sensitivity, a powerful low zone and the richness of detail is amplified.
The magnet used, is of high resistance, of level N52. It uses a nano level graphene diaphragm, which improves the transient response and the dynamic sensitivity, by more than 50%, with respect to the ordinary units. In this way, an HD bandwidth is achieved, from 5Hz to 40kHz. This controller has won the VGP award for 3 consecutive years.
The acoustic enclosure has been professionally developed and its sound has been tuned to provide high performance, which delivers a more impressive, dynamic and vivid sound.
I will now develop the rest of the features, of these attractive IEMS.
- Drivers type: Dynamic 11.4mm, with double magnetic circuit. Graphite unit with two-way frequency divider.
- Magnetic flux: 1 Tesla.
- Frequency Response: 5Hz-40Hz
- Sensitivity: 110dB/mW
- Impedance: 16Ω
- Minimum power: 8mW
- Jack connector: 3.5mm
- Capsule Connection Type: 2 pin 0.78mm
- Cable length: 1.2mm
The TFZ Live 1, come in an eminently white box, of dimensions 167x82x45mm. On the upper side, you can only read the model name, inscribed in capital letters and silver. On the narrower side, the brand logo is drawn in the same type of silver ink. On the longer sides it is written «IN EAR MONITOR». On the lower side there is information about the brand, photos of the 8 different capsules that can be chosen and the indication of the current model. There is also a holographic label, certifying the authenticity of the product, by means of a unique serial number, under a protective surface, which is removed after scratching. Finally, there is an EAN13 barcode and the legend «Made in China».
Inside, also completely white, are the capsules, embedded in a rigid plastic mould. Next to this mould, there is a white cardboard box with the brand logo in silver letters in the centre. Hooked into the capsule mould is the cable, wound with a velcro strip. Inside the box (sealed on both openings), there are two pairs of blister packs, containing the silicone tips, the user’s manual and a clothes peg. In short, the complete content is:
- The two capsules, each with a white silicone tip, are medium sized and have a narrow channel.
- A cable with a 3.5mm gold-plated plug, 0.78mm connectors and a velcro strip to collect it.
- A blister pack with three pairs of white silicone tips, semi-translucent, size SxMxL and narrow channel.
- A blister pack with three pairs of white silicone tips, semi-translucent, SxMxL sizes and wide channel.
- An instruction manual, in Chinese and English.
- A clothing clip.
The packaging is relatively large, for the contents it carries. The accessories box is somewhat empty, not even a bag to store the IEMS. This is the only thing missing. Otherwise, given the selling price, I find its contents and presentation adequate.
Construction and Design
The Live 1 has a capsule, whose shape is classic, within other models of the TFZ brand. The external face is very similar to that of the My Love III, of the semi-custom type, built in transparent polycarbonate, except for the outer plate. This side is opaque and has a colour that can be chosen from 8 varieties. In its centre, you can see the logo of the brand, painted in silver ink. Inside, there is silver glitter, unevenly distributed. At the lower vertex of this face, there is a diamond-like pattern embedded in the plate. The mounting of the two-pin connection is superficial, located on the upper edge of the capsule, and consists of a transparent rectangular plate with two holes, the connections of which are gold-plated. On the edge next to the plate is inscribed the phrase «TFZ-IEM COLLECTION», while on the inner side is the model name and the letter identifying the channel. All inscriptions are made in a light grey ink. The inscriptions on the inner side are difficult to distinguish, and it is almost impossible to see the letters R and L. This is due to the transparency of the capsule and the colour of the ink chosen, as well as the fact that the enclosure containing the dynamic driver, which is also silver grey, can be seen. In the centre of this face, there is a hole, which coincides with the centre of the driver. The nozzles are totally integrated into the capsule, being made of the same material, without any division. Its length is almost 4mm. The first part, the lowest one, has a diameter of 5.6mm. Then, there is a small widened crown, whose diameter is 6.2mm. Finally, the diameter of the outermost edge is again 5.6mm. Its interior is protected by a perforated metal grid.
The cable is the same as the one in model No.3. It is covered with plastic and is flat, but thick. The internal wires are silver and look somewhat thin, compared to their coating. The connector cover is straight, made of a light grey metal. The plug is gold-plated. The splitter piece is made of plastic, covered with a light grey metal plate. There is no fitting piece under the chin. The cable has a velcro strip to hold it. Fortunately, the cable lacks microphones and rigidity, despite its thick plastic coating.
Good construction, attractive design and proven quality cable. The inscribed letters could be in a different colour, to facilitate legibility. In any case, although all the colours are beautiful, the glitter and the inlay of the diamond pattern are of «dubious» taste. On the other hand, the base of the nozzles, could have a larger diameter, to avoid that the wide channel tips, sink when they are inserted in the ears.
Adjustment and Ergonomics
The size and classic appearance of the capsules, with a semi-custom shape on the outside, with a very rounded interior and no edges, provides a superficial fit, quite free from contact with the external parts of the ear. And, if there is any, the friction is very soft, due to the smoothness of the material used. This means that, as the hours go by, it does not represent a burden on the perception of comfort provided by this model. In this way, the ergonomics, widely contrasted in other models of the brand, is high and quite good. Once fitted, there is hardly any possibility of rotation and, with the right tips, there is no risk of the IEMS coming off or falling off.
With my silicone tips, filled with foam, although the fit is quite superficial, the seal is very adequate and the level of isolation, high.
Section overcome with a lot of looseness.
The profile of the TFZ Live 1 is presented as a W, where the accent is on the sub-bass, mid-high and treble. Both the lower mid-range and the middle part of the profile are moderately recessed, which polarises the sound. In that sense, it seems clear that the technology used, (the double magnetic circuit and the two-way frequency divider), has an influence on this particular profile.
TFZ is always TFZ and that is something I appreciate, as the lower zone never lets you down. And for that alone, it already justifies its purchase. The bass is very deep, full of energy, focused on a powerful and marked sub-bass, which provides a very clean and wide sonority. The execution surprises by its speed: its strike is hard, strong, but it recovers with an immediacy, improper of its price range, especially when the power demonstrated in the punch, is so great. Perhaps such speed limits its roughness, and it can be observed that the execution tends towards smoothness, rather than a richer and more perceptible texture. On the other hand, Live 1 has no problem reproducing complex passages of bass, being very capable of stratifying the different planes, both at the frequency level, as well as at the sound pressure level. Its emphasis on the lower zone frees up the mid-bass as well as the mid-range, providing, in addition, a greater sense of width and separation.
Finally, the level of detail and nuances, existing in the execution of the LFO, is quite eloquent, demonstrating a notable capacity for resolution and definition.
The midrange is the most polarised area of these TFZs. The lower half is characterised by its cleanliness and smoothness. The texture is simple and the execution is energetic, immediate, with a slight tendency towards coldness. The complexity is not very high and the decomposition of the different parts is not very developed, producing a cohesive, flowing, direct, vivid sound, but without great descriptive capacity. In spite of this, the level of cleanliness is high, expanding the scene, without losing the origin of the sounds, nor fogging them. The male voices, although not very wide, enjoy very good depth, standing out for the slight texture of the lower notes. As the voices increase in frequency, they become thinner, but still retain a good presence, without being predominant, but without feeling very distant or embedded. The instrumentation of this first half, enjoys a precise execution, but suffers from a more complete body, which relaxes and balances the sound and fills it, musically speaking.
The second half is different, more over-exposed, which makes the female voices and the predominant instruments in this area shine, especially in their details, rather than in their thickness or body. On this occasion, its texture is due to the nuances, richer and more marked, thanks to the greater emphasis on the upper zone, which accompanies and stretches the notes in their flashes, more than in their initial development. Perhaps, this characteristic produces a greater fatigue. The Live 1, as its name suggests, has a fairly lively, energetic and open sound, pronounced at its extremes and very dynamic. However, it is true that this energy over-exposes the listener to a greater flow of details, sediment and harmonics, offering a more entertaining and powerful listening, but in the long run less peaceful and smooth.
The Live 1 continue their expressiveness, also in the upper zone. The presence is remarkable and the first highs are quite complete, totally explicit, fine, bright and crisp. Despite what you might expect, they are not hurtful, nor are they squeaky. Their sound is also energetic here and treble lovers will certainly enjoy them. But it’s not an unpleasant, irregular or too sharp version, but rather a W-shaped profile, which seeks to impress at first glance. And boy do they succeed! A good example of this is the amount of detail that the treble is extracted from and the extent to which it is enjoyed. Thanks to their speed, the high zone is quite separate. The initial exuberance does not prevent the smallest nuances and details from being reproduced. On the contrary, the considerable amount of air that exists enables the small elements to be distinguished quite easily and clearly. To conclude, it should be repeated that the extension of the area favours the existence of enough air, improving the separation and enlarging the scene.
Following on from the previous sections, the TFZ Live 1 offers a very decongested, airy, clean, clear and detailed sound. Its scene enjoys great width, good depth and a more than acceptable height. The image is reconstructed in a frontal and vast way, with very good lateral separation, a remarkable definition and resolution capacity. In this way, the sound is perceived as very fresh, vivid, with quite sparkling and dynamic details. The instrumental positioning is not very explicit, but it is easier to locate the details, as well as their origin and fading, than to glimpse a complete instrumental or vocal reconstruction. And I don’t think it’s because of a lack of space, but rather because of the thinness or absence of a more complete body, in the first half of the middle zone, as well as the smoothness of the sound in that part. In any case, this reason should not obscure the very notable qualities that Live 1 possess in the sections on stage and separation.
The Blon BL-05 is a model that came out of the success of the BL-03, trying to «improve» some things of that first model. In my opinion, they were not able to overcome their sound, just the ergonomics, but not the weight. In that sense, although the capsules of the Live 1 are made of polycarbonate and the BL-05, metallic, I prefer the lightness of the TFZ. On the whole, the Live 1s are also more comfortable.
The profile of the Blon is in V, we could almost speak of a W, lighter, softer and less pronounced than the W of the TFZ. In terms of sensitivity, the Live 1 moves much more easily than the Blon.
In the first instance, the Live 1 has similarities with the BL-05: its sound is crystalline, with a brilliant tendency, with emphasis on the high mids, the highs and the sub-bass. But in the TFZ, everything goes beyond that. Something that I don’t like in the Blon is its anodyne low zone: it’s a I want and I can’t. Their response is agile and fast, but it barely has any texture and the punch is only halfway there. TFZ tips an aural review, in this sense, to the BL-05, surpassing them in presence, depth, punch, forcefulness and more descriptive texture, without losing, neither in speed, nor in recovery. This way, the low zone of the TFZ is more dynamic and has that point of extra amusement, of which the Blon suffer. If you want a slightly more balanced and less present low zone, you can choose the BL-05, but I am an avowed fan of the TFZ bass.
In the middle zone, a territory that should be for the Blons, due to the amount of presence, they have a less accurate timbre than their predecessor and than the TFZ. This is something that can be observed in the lower male voices. In the BL-05 they sound thin and incomplete, weighted by a lateral hollow, more pronounced in their lower zone. Despite the fact that the voices, in the Live 1, are more distant, the perception of their timbre is more accurate and, despite this distance, their body is more homogeneous, without sounding strange, just more distant. The negative point, comparatively speaking, is the greater tendency to sibilance, which the TFZ have. Even so, female voices have more sparkles and nuances than in the BL-05, which sound more muted and sleepy. This is another facet, where the TFZ stand out, the facility that they possess to shell details and to fill the scene with them, is something that the Blon do not manage to reproduce. The greater dynamics and vibrancy of the sound, in Live 1, is also undisputed. Although the Blons are not entirely smooth, they seem to be, along with the energy that TFZs radiate. For better or worse, this is a fact that jumps out at first sight. And proof of this can clearly be felt from the upper-middle zone onwards. It is not only a question of greater presence, but also of the drawing, execution and timbre reproduced. In my opinion, in these aspects, I prefer the TFZ, even though its energy is more fatiguing; but, the clarity, the strength and the closeness of the details and the bass, provides a more attractive plus, a blow of reality, as opposed to the more insipid sonority of the Blon.
And, to all this, we must add the amplitude of the scene, which is much wider, deeper, richer, airier, with more instrumental separation and details, than the TFZs enjoy. In short, live life, Live 1.
One could say that Live 1, is the little and daring brother of No.3. They share many things, having a more excited and polarized profile the Live 1, perhaps they are things of the youth… Even, the cable of both is the same, a clear reminiscence to the superior model. The efficiency is very high in both models, with the No.3 being even easier to move.
Starting from the lower zone, both IEMS have a very similar presentation, with a very close sonority. Perhaps the sub-bass of the Live 1 stands out slightly. But the bass of the No.3 is rounder, more compact, tighter, more complete and perhaps has a higher point of viscerality than its younger brother. On the other hand, in terms of speed and decay, the similarities are many, but I think that, as I said, the No.3’s bass is more vigorous and wider, which tilts the balance to its side. In addition, their timbre is somewhat darker, revealing itself to be more natural.
From the first notes of the mid-range, No.3 is perceived as a more balanced IEM than Live 1. Its timbre is more nuanced compared to the higher energy of Live 1, from the middle forward. Yes, it is true, the latter are livelier, bolder, more extreme, with a clear tendency towards light and brilliance. This makes details instantly noticeable, without searching for them. But, also, their echoes and harmonics are more noticeable, making them more unpleasant and less natural. The No.3s are not completely calm IEMS in this sense, but there is a greater containment, a more mature tuning, which seeks to combine balance and brilliance, within their marked profile. In this sense, the instrumentation has more body and the mids are closer and somewhat wider. Also, it is thanks to the fact that its highs are not as sharp, present and in the foreground, as those of the Live 1, whose level of daring is blatantly superior, offering more crisp and sparkling highs. The extension of the upper zone is similar, but there is a greater amount of air in Live 1. Thus, their scene benefits greatly, offering a feeling of openness, cleanliness and separation, even greater than in No.3. Thus, the width of the stage feels larger in Live 1. Its background seems darker and the details more exposed, causing the nuances to explode with immediacy and vibrancy.
When TFZ brings out a new model, one, which already has several of their previous IEMS, they wonder what the bass will be like… In this sense, they never disappoint. But, really, the more appropriate question would be… what will their treble be like? Because, in reality, the biggest differences are there. The Live 1s are a song to energy, light and dynamics. They are totally brazen, like that little brother, spoiled and irreverent, whose power never ends, becoming a little heavy… in the long run. We all have a member in the family, who can fit that description. And yet, we love him madly. That’s how Live 1 is, let them come into your house, you’ll see how life is lived.
Sources Used During the Analysis
- Burson Audio Playmate
- xDuoo XP-2Pro
- HyBy R3 Pro
- Tempotec Variations V1-A