Another Round, Please
- More balanced, clear and transparent W sound.
- Fast bass.
- Improved tuning.
- Elegant design.
- High level of construction.
- Overall, this is a model that is an improvement in many respects.
- They need very low power to sound good and achieve high sound pressure.
- The tuning is still a W profile, with the first half of the mids a bit far away. I would have liked a smoother tuning in this respect, with a less sunken valley and more body.
- The tuning may not be as fast as more classically shaped models.
- No storage box.
- It could improve in aspects of micro detail and offer a more immersive soundstage.
- There is a roll-off in the treble of the air zone.
Link to the Store
There is no doubt that TFZ has been active lately. This is the third product I have reviewed from this brand so far this year. And this time, it’s a review that’s been three years in the making. It is the new TFZ Tequila Pro, an emblematic model that I already had the opportunity to review at the beginning of 2019. It’s true that both models have similarities in the shape of the capsules: they are both cylinders with a slanted nozzle attached near the rim. The first version has an open outer face and the Pro version is closed, with a glazed white plate, bearing the brand logo. The surface has gone from sandblasted to completely smooth, polished and shiny, silver in colour. The other parts of the capsule are similar. The cable has changed, evolving to the model already seen in Live X. Internally, the dynamic unit uses a new, optimised and improved diamond nano-diaphragm, which is lighter, thinner, stiffer and more elastic. The dual cavity system has also been revised to adjust the signal more efficiently. The result of all these innovations will be discussed in this review.
- Driver Type: Tesla magnetic group with 11.4 mm diamond diaphragm.
- Frequency Response: 5-40kHz.
- Sensitivity: 108dB/mW.
- Impedance: 20Ω.
- Minimum power: 8mW.
- Jack Connector: 3.5mm SE straight plug.
- Capsule Connection Type: 2pin 0.78mm.
- Cable: mixed silver + high purity copper cable.
- Cable length: 1.2 m.
The box is the same as that of the My Love 4 model. With this it seems that TFZ is falling back into the same facile approach it had with the previous models and their packaging. I can’t deny that I like this new box, as well as its clearly functional design, but I don’t like the fact that the packaging is the same for products in different ranges. The box is like a pouch with dimensions 146x101x33mm. The model name can be read in landscape format, in large black letters. They have some relief and are located at the top. Below them, in a much smaller source, the brand name is written. The back side has only the address of the brand, the guarantee seal and little else. With the help of a cloth tape, a black cardboard tray can be slid in, as if it were a drawer. This reveals a large, ecru-coloured cloth bag with the name of the brand written in black letters at the bottom left. Inside is the entire contents. It is as follows:
- The two TFZ Tequila Pro capsules.
- A cable of 4 mixed strands, silver + high purity copper.
- 3 pairs of transparent white silicone tips, wide channel, sizes SxMxL.
- 4 pairs of white silicone tips, medium channel, sizes SxSxMxL.
- 1 Serial number card.
- 1 user guide.
- 1 cloth bag.
The cloth bag is a bit big and I prefer the stiffer boxes. The two sets of tips are much appreciated, although some foam ones would have completed the set.
I like that the packaging is small, but it doesn’t live up to the price, it doesn’t even have the large rigid box that the old Tequila 1 model had.
Construction and Design
The design retains the cylindrical shape of version 1, but loses the opening on its outer face. The cylinders, 16.1mm in diameter, appear narrower (10.5mm) and the surface is complete, polished, shiny and smooth. The outer face is a glazed sheet with the brand logo and is closed. There is a visible joint between the outer and inner side. A small hole can be seen on the edge of the outer face. There is another hole in the flat part of the inner side, at the foot of the inclined nozzle. The nozzle is a cylinder with three levels of diameter, the base is 6mm, the inner part is 4.9mm and the outer crown is 6.1mm. The whole, at its longest side, measures almost 9mm. There are three generous holes on the outer surface of the nozzle. Finally, the model name is inscribed on the surface of the inner surface of the capsules. The connection to the cable is made by means of a translucent plastic piece, attached to the edge of the capsule. The connection is perpendicular to the edge of the capsule, the connectors are embedded in a recessed, rectangular enclosure. The cable does not have the classic TFZ shape, but uses a classic two-pin connector wrapped in a straight, rectangular piece, slightly recessed near the connectors. It is clear that the cable is male and the capsule is female. On the inner side of both connectors is a circle inscribed with the channel letter inside.
The cable is mixed, silver plated and high purity copper plated. It consists of 4 strands protected by transparent plastic, wound together. The connector jacket is straight, made of a light metal. It has a rough, thick and noticeable pattern. The plug is gold plated. The divider is made of plastic, cylindrical, covered with a gold-plated light metal plate. There is no adjustment piece under the chin. The cable has a Velcro strap to collect it. With the cable coiled, the microphony is non-existent, although the over-ear guides also help to avoid this effect.
From that iconic Tequila 1 model, we have moved on to a sleeker, polished and shinier version with a distinctive mirror metallic finish. The body has a thinner rim, which improves ergonomics. The white, glazed back plate, with the brand logo in metallic colour, stands out on the outer face. Although subtle, the glazed face has a pyramid shape, with multiple triangular faces. The height of the pyramid is very small and its apex is rounded. It is clear that model 1 was more aggressive and had different motifs on the openings of the outer face. This new model stands out as being more beautiful and refined.
Adjustment and Ergonomics
There is no doubt that the distinctive design of the Tequila 1 had a daring point of fit, due to its peculiar cylindrical design and slanted nozzles. This time, the body is slimmer. But it is clear that the critical point of the design is the diameter of the cylinder: if it fits our anatomy, no problem. If our external pinna is small, it may not be the most suitable design. Fortunately, my ears must be quite common and almost every design fits me well. This way, the fit is shallow, with good ergonomics in the nozzle tilt. The capsules rest nicely in the pinna and being less thick, they are more comfortable and don’t protrude as much.
It is clear that they still have a compromised shape, but the ergonomics are slightly improved compared to model 1.
The TFZ Tequila Pro delves into a W-profile, which is born in a powerful sub-bass, but balanced with respect to the mid-highs and first treble. The last peak refers to the extension of the high treble. Compared to the Live X, the tuning is not so bass-centric, but there is more balance between sub-bass and treble, which means a clearer and less heavy sound, with more cleanness and equilibrium. Even so, the bass power of this new model is undeniable, but, this time, it is better accompanied from the centre onwards.
The new Tequila Pro’s bass is arguably faster than its siblings, with whom it shares the same profile. You can feel it, both in the power of the punch, as well as in the decay and the dryness of its execution. There is a clear violence in the energy given off in each bass drum or sub-bass note and that is something that tickles my eardrums in a subjugating way. TFZ still bears the stamp of assurance in the low end that has brought them to fame. This is not a new tuning in this sense, because it is reminiscent of older models. Rather, the work lies in perfecting the formula, gaining in speed, precision, dynamics, decay and technique. For a start, and leaving aside the balance between energy/power/speed, another distinctive feature is the light. The new profile allows the lower range to be relieved of darkness, which raises its level of transparency and takes away the oppressive character of models such as the Live X. In my opinion, it recaptures the light of the No.3, but with a gain in technicality, both precision and resolution have taken a step forward. The faster speed means that low-frequency vibrations don’t feel as continuous, generating a distinctive response to other TFZ models. It is clear that the level of depth is elevated, just as the bass projection is extended. The greater mid-bass emphasis of the Tequila 1s has been lost, and I think rightly so, with the clear intention of keeping the midrange freer of intrusion or bleed. In addition, another positive consequence is that there is no hint of rubberiness. This, together with the technical improvements already specified, contributes to a more noticeable and evident perception of the bass texture. It is not that it is a rough or harsh bass, because both the level of precision and resolution avoid that sensation. But there is a pleasingly descriptive feel to the bass surface, which also helps to enhance layering and the recreation of layers, even height.
There are no obvious surprises in the timbre or sonority of the bass notes, compared to relatively recent models. However, the new capabilities accentuate the colour of the TFZ bass, but with a superior performance, which helps to improve the overall perception and quality of the low end. In this respect, TFZ continues to make progress in order to keep up with the competition.
For many, TFZ will always have an unresolved issue in the midrange, in its IEMS with powerful basses. One of the hot spots, in this sense, is the overexposure of the bass over the mids and the consequent loss of prominence, due to its sinking. I don’t want to say that the Tequila Pro’s midrange enjoys spectacular width and presence, but there is a clear improvement over previous models. Starting with the level of precision and speed, which I have already highlighted in the bass, again, serves to elevate the quality of the zone, especially in the first half. It’s clear that the transition between bands is another one of those hot spots and I can’t deny that there is a certain perception of distance and a leaner sound in this valley. But that doesn’t prevent an improvement in terms of transparency and definition, avoiding opacity, darkness and a more nuanced sound in this first half. The transition is less abrupt, cleaner and the bleed is reduced. The midrange is reproduced more completely, achieving greater neutrality, better balance and separation. The component reproduction of this initial part has improved in its complexity, achieving a more abundant richness. It is clear that this is not an exuberant low-mid range, but it does manage to awaken a more articulate and juicier sound than on other occasions. In doing so, the performance gains in three-dimensionality, layering and separation, moving away from a mere recessed exposition, with no planes or stratification. There is, then, a better sense of volume in this first half, allowing for more textures and detail to be seen. The male voices feel fuller, but without being opulent, the body is still relatively lean at its base, losing some initial strength, but allowing that liberation in the transition from both zones. The landscape improves as the frequencies advance and the female voices already reap the rewards of a more emphasised and productive mid-high zone. But despite this greater presence, the exposition remains smooth, never analytical, but more mature, resolute and refined, but without being specifically detailed, subtle or concise. TFZ always advocates cohesion in that sense, but insists on improved precision and resolution. Here it achieves this, without the sound suffering from high brilliance or excess clarity, in the over-exposure of the mid-highs or first highs. This coherence balances the timbre, giving the sound a natural, organic/analogue quality that is already characteristic of the brand, but this time, richer and more select. Also, it avoids unwanted sibilance, managing to control this aspect before a critical point. Quite good.
The Tequila Pro’s manage to raise the exposure of the first treble, but without losing control or making the sound overly bright or overly bright. It’s an emancipated presence, but not an over-exposure. In its representation, the high notes persist in their softness and roundness, they are not thin or sharp. The treble is not crisp or completely sharp and bright, but the sound has a more natural and organic presentation. Extension is quite good, notes are stretched nicely, gaining in harmonics and end details, without effort or excited exposure. The result is a present, relatively rich zone, which shows itself without being penetrating, excessive or too marked. In this sense, coherence with the rest of the sound is not lost, nor is smoothness or naturalness. At the top end, one misses a little more air, adding a little more volatility to the sound.
The perception of the scene is natural, its drawing is realistic and it enjoys remarkable depth and width. The sense of envelopment is not very high and the music is more frontal than three-dimensional. It has good laterality, but not enough height, nor the necessary development to go around the head. Although, the frontal sensation is quite semi-spherical, which allows a good amplitude exposure of the scene, a quite acceptable location of the elements, although not too precise, nor concrete, deepening that sensation of natural softness.
What TFZ has not yet achieved in its IEMS with this type of profile is a more complete sense of cleanliness. The perception of cohesion persists, avoiding more transparency and separation. The sound is more refined, but there is still a patina that threads the sound and prevents the exposure of a purer silence and a greater distance between elements, as well as a more concise, rigorous and exact placement. This sensation abounds in the appreciation of this more natural, analogue sound, which distances it from an analytical or more liberated representation.
TFZ Live X
The Live X are semi-custom shaped IEMS, with a larger capsule. They are also very comfortable, but I prefer the smaller size of the Tequila Pro, even though the fit may not be as traditional, universal or quick as the Live X. Sensitivity-wise, both models move very easily, but the Tequila Pro is even more sensitive, something to keep in mind with high-powered amps and the hiss that some less-than-delicate sources can produce. I also like the metal construction and design of the Tequila Pro better, while the cable is the same.
Sound-wise, the Live X’s tuning is slightly more bass-heavy and darker than the Tequila Pro’s. There is more brightness, clarity and transparency, as well as a more balanced equilibrium in the Tequila Pro. The bass of the Live X is perceived to be above the rest of the music, while the Tequila Pro manages to reverse this situation, even gaining in quality, technical ability and speed in its low end, as well as in the rest of the range.
In the mid-range, the differences are even greater. TFZ has been able to evolve and prove that it is possible to come out of the darkness, without losing energy and presence in the bass. The driver has been streamlined and the sound is cleaner, clearer, more evident, transparent and present. Comparing the Tequila Pro to the Live X is not just a change in tuning, it’s a clear step forward. Bass doesn’t feel as rubbery and is more concise, tighter and more precise on the Tequila. The midrange is more expressive, more present, more textured, more nuanced and detailed, it doesn’t feel dark and the transition from the lows to the midrange is better achieved, there is less hollowness and emptiness. The balance is more evident and after a quick change, the overall improvement is felt instantly. Also the high end gains in expressiveness and precision, the resolution is higher across the whole spectrum and the sound is not as nuanced, not as soft, not as muffled or warm. The Tequila Pro’s provide more life and light. In addition, the scene is larger and better structured, with more obvious layering and more noticeable laterality. The Live Xs are more diffuse and opaque, resulting in a more uniform image and less separation.
Overall, the Live X’s versus the new Tequila Pro’s have been outperformed, with only a year’s difference. I would only recommend the Live Xs to hardcore bass-heads who prefer a darker or warmer sound. For everyone else, Tequila Pro for everyone and Cheers!
With the intention of making things more complicated for the new TFZ model, I wanted to compare them with a hybrid bass model, with a DD driver and a BA driver, which provides a clearer analytical profile in the mids and highs. These are my beloved Ikko OH10.
The first big difference is the weight of the Ikko, although their surface fit and ergonomics never cease to amaze me. They are not a new model, as they have been on the market for 2 years, but their sound is still valid, at least for me. Both models are very well built, with an elegant and attractive design, each in its own way. It is difficult to choose, but I would go for the Ikko, because they are built like a tank and because they are more comfortable, despite the heavier weight. On the other hand, I prefer the TFZ cable.
If you have a low power system, the TFZs are much more sensitive, while the Ikko needs more power to move.
In the low end of the TFZs there is a little more colour, while the Ikko’s are a little deeper and more sensory. The OH10s are bass-heavy, with a more oppressive density. It seems that the Ikko’s better fit favours this sensation. The TFZs seem to have a bit more speed, dynamics and are a point more concise. Although the Ikko’s seem to dissipate in a more realistic way, with more natural decay, which gives a very pleasant sonority. While the TFZs sound a little more linear, keeping the tone more even, that influences in slight bass colouring. Both have large, highly enjoyable lows with a similar level of presence. The colour, timbre and some technical characteristics that differentiate them can make the choice of one model or the other.
The midrange profile is also similar, with a similar level of presence, with a little more body in the TFZs, but with a different precision in the Ikko, which makes use of the better resolution of its BA driver to offer finer and more delicate details. If before the density was higher in the low end of the Ikko, in the midrange it has changed to the midrange of the TFZ. It is clear that in the midrange the battle is also very hard and tight. Again, small differences separate one from the other.
In the high end there are subtle variations in profile, which can emphasise some notes over others, although good control predominates in both IEMS. The differences are in timbre and treble execution. The more analytical character of the Ikko offers a more precise and concise treble draw, with a delicate and fine crunch. High notes appear smoother and rounder in the TFZs and the detail falls towards the OH10s, enjoying more resolution in the high end. There is also a more airy feel. Both contribute to the improved separation of the Ikko, offering a darker, more concrete, faster background sound in the high end, which results in a higher dissipation, capable of stripping the elements down more, so that they can be better felt individually.
Although the positioning is more precise in the Ikko and they have a more defined image, the perception of the scene is not as oval as in the TFZ. Without there being any major differences, I think the OH10s are a little flatter, with a little less height. And I notice a bit more openness and front and side expansion in the Tequila Pro.
The new Tequila Pro is an improvement in many respects. While they lose the boldness of the Tequila 1 design, they have become more refined, elegant and luxurious. And that’s not only attributed to the looks, but also to the sound. Tuning is deeper, focusing on a linear sub-bass, which frees up the midrange. Clarity and transparency are superior, providing a cleaner midrange with more presence and better detail. The high end has very good projection and proximity, but without losing smoothness. The relationship between bass, mid-high and treble is very well balanced, resulting in a more even, pleasing, enjoyable, complete and complex sound. TFZ may still be bent on iterating on their classic models, but the improvements are clearly noticeable.
Sources Used During the Analysis
- ACMEE MF02s.
- ACMEE Magic Sound 4 ES9018K2M 192K/24Bit.
- xDuoo Link2 Bal.
- Hidizs S9 Pro.
- Earmen Sparrow.
- E1DA #9038D.
- HiBy R3 Pro.
- Burson Audio Playmate.
- S.M.S.L Sanskrit 10th MKII + iFi ZEN CAN.