Yinyoo Z&W Earbud Review – Flashy Looks, Dynamic Sound

Introduction –

Yinyoo are a small Chinese manufacturer who have probably the most divided product lineup I’ve ever seen. On one hand, they produce immensely affordable MX500 and Yuin style earbuds and on the other, they create some stunning in-ear designs that will run you almost 4-digits. Fortunately, what we’ll be looking at today is of the vastly more affordable variety, the Z&W is their latest product that replaces the Tank as their flagship earbud.

With an attainable asking price of $29 USD, the Z&W slots nicely in-between hyper budget earbuds like the $5 VE Monk+ and $17 MusicMaker TP16 and more mid-range earbuds like $40 MusicMaker Tomahawk and Penon BS1. Yinyoo claim that the Z&W should perform similarly to the more upper echelon earbuds despite their accessible price so let’s see how they stack up in real world performance.

 

Disclaimer –

I would like to thank Chuanxiang Sun very much for getting in touch and providing me with the Z&W at a discounted price for the purpose of review. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review and I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.

 

Accessories –

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The Z&W does not share the more extravagant unboxing of the Tank but rather downsizes to a more modest cardboard with simple WOOeasy branding. Inside is a practical zippered hard case containing the Z&W in addition to a shirt clip and 8 pairs of foams, 4 black and 4 grey to help differentiate between left and right. Unfortunately, no

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While no donut foams are included, they are easily purchased online in bulk for just a few dollars and the earbuds sound balanced enough with the full covers. It’s a basic setup that simply gets the job done.

 

Design –

The Z&W assumes the typical Sennheiser MX500 style shell that is identical to the vast majority of earbuds from Venture Audio and lower end MusicMaker buds. It’s a nice housing that finds a comfortable balance between size, comfort and stability though those with particularly small ears may find more comfort from Yuin style earbuds and the Penon BS1.

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The first thing that catches the eye is the Z&W’s chromed finish. It’s honestly a pretty garish look though Yinyoo also offer a gold/bronze variant that isn’t as bright. The finish is exceptionally smooth and lacks that feeling of hollowness that affects some MX500 earbuds. And despite being very glossy, the earbuds resist smudges and didn’t pick up any outstanding scratches or scuffs during my month of testing. While they are one of the better-constructed plastic earbuds I’ve handled, they still fail to match the in-hand feel of the metal BS1 and Tomahawk. The earbuds also look pretty generic, they’re unbranded with only left and right markers on the bottom of the stems.

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In terms of comfort, the Z&W will feel familiar to anyone who has experience with this style of housing, they are a shallow fitting earbud with large stems that still lies flat enough for comfortable sleeping. They are decently stable, much more so than Apple’s Earpods and for some users they will likely best the Yuin housing on behalf of their slightly larger, more ear filling dimensions. They don’t really seal nor do they exert any pressure on the ear which is great for long term comfort and in situations where users want to retain some awareness of their surroundings but essentially unusable in even a moderately louder environment.

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The cable is a braided copper affair that proved to be relatively pliable if slightly stiff in use. It has a smooth texture and coils easily for storage, the cable also does well to resist tangles. In addition, I haven’t noticed oxidation or hardening like the MusicMaker TP16 and Shozy Cygnus.

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The earbuds have a matching aluminium y-splitter and imitation Oyaide plug finished in a satin silver. Strain relief is minimal, only the jack is visibly reinforced and very minimally so though earbuds aren’t really suited towards portable use anyway. Otherwise, the jack is nice, it’s gold plated and case friendly, the cable is much improved over the Tank but still lacks the suppleness of the BS1’s exemplary cable.

 

Sound –

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The Z&W produces a very bright sound that well compensates for the dampening produced by foam covers. When equipped with my usually preferred donut foam covers, they were actually a little over bright and found more balance with the included full foam covers. However, this also came at the cost of a little clarity and definition, a common problem with earbuds. Ultimately, the Z&W handles this over dampening better than the majority of budget earbuds I test like the TP16 and Monk+ (without their special blue/red foams), creating a sound that is full, dynamic and spacious.

 

Burn – in – 

The Z&W’s sounded harsh and unnatural out of the box so I put them through my usual 150hrs of burn-in with pink noise. I didn’t notice a huge difference, highs were slightly smoother and mids perhaps a touch more even. The biggest difference was swapping through various foam covers, the Z&W’s found best synergy with thinner full foam covers which further smoothed off their exuberant highs and added some deep bass body to balance things out.

 

Tonality –

The Z&W is a mildly v-shaped earbud with a brighter tonal tilt that is somewhat offset by the dampening caused by the foam covers. I do very much enjoy such a tuning since the majority of earbuds are far too lean naked and become overly polite when equipped with any sort of foams. The Z&W, Tomahawk and TP16 are among the few earbuds I’ve tested that don’t compromise too much high-frequency presence at the cost of being almost unlistenable without covers. But with the included full foams (Heigi’s and donuts were a bit bright), the Z&W’s are a nice, dynamic sounding earbud with nice clarity and body.

 

Soundstage, Imaging and Separation –

The Z&W really maximises the potential of the earbud form factor with their soundstage. Width is especially impressive, even coming from the $999 Noble Audio Django, the Z&W was immediately out of the head whereas the Noble would teeter more on the periphery. The Z&W produces some nice depth too, not quite as much as the BS1, but live vocals are immersive and stage placement is convincing. Imaging has never been a strong point of earbuds, some sound diffuse, some simply lack the resolution to discern fine details and layering. The Z&W is not really an exception, unfortunately, listening to Arcade Fire’s “Wake Up” and the Yinyoo’s produced immense space stretching beyond the head in every axis except height though both instrument placement and centre image were quite hazy compared to the BS1 and Tomahawk. That being said, the Z&W had the immediately more immersive presentation to the TP16 and Monk+ even if imaging wasn’t hugely improved over these cheaper earbuds. While the aren’t super ethereal or holographic, the Z&W’s excellent sense of space really enhances listening.

 

Drivability – 

The Z&W has a higher 105dB sensitivity combined with an average impedance of 32ohms. They were notably easier to drive than the Monk+, TP16 and BS1 though they still weren’t quite as efficient as the Shozy earbuds. Still, the Z&W is easily driven from almost all portable sources not requiring much voltage or current, they sounded perfectly fine from my HTC 10 and iPod Touch. On the contrary, the earbuds don’t scale hugely with dedicated sources, my A5 didn’t make a notable difference nor did they gain as much resolution when plugged into my Fiio X7 or Chord Mojo as the majority of earbuds I test. While this can be seen as a negative, buyers on a budget can feel content that their current source will maximise the potential of the Z&W, after all, it would be unwise to design a $30 earbud for use with a $500+ source.

 

Bass –

Bass is well done for an earbud with notable mention going towards texturing and definition. They don’t have the greatest sub-bass extension, the BS1 and Tomahawk both best the Z&W. And though the earbud can create the sensation of moving air on sub-bass heavy tracks, rumble is minimal and even deep bass is lacking some body. The Z&W holds the majority of their emphasis within their mid-bass though bass isn’t too muddy with an appreciable texture advantage over the BS1. That being said, the more linear, more extended BS1 is the superior performer overall; bass is tighter on that model and generally more defined. My biggest gripe with the Z&W is with upper bass which is a little too boxy causing bass to sound a bit boomy and spill into lower mids, something that the BS1 isn’t affected by. Bass resolution is decent and they are a nice, full sounding earbud though while some listeners may prefer the more dynamic Z&W, the more balanced BS1 is undoubtedly the more accomplished earbud when it comes to technicality.

 

Mids –

Where most earbuds have a natural midrange presentation that sometimes errs on the side of muffle and veil, the Z&W is quite the opposite with a decently clear response that can come off as somewhat unnatural. In particular, voicing is slightly off which makes vocals sound a little hollow and artificial though instruments are less affected. This is especially noticeable when listening to Asian genres and modern pop due to their already thinner, brighter mastering styles though essentially every album I listened to sounded a bit off. This also didn’t improve when switching around various foam covers, it is simply due to the tuning of the in-ears. But while they don’t sound as integrated and natural as the Penon BS1, the Z&W is more spacious and separated in return. The Z&W also possesses similar clarity to the BS1, both male and female vocals are clear if thin and a bit distant and detailing is nice; they have a little more upper midrange aggression than the more laid-back BS1 which, combined with their dynamic bass response, adds some extra engagement to genres such as pop and rock. Occasionally upper midrange elements do sound slightly over-forward, higher piano, lower strings and acoustic can dominate male vocals though the Z&W is hardly a fatiguing earphone nor a sibilant one. And while the BS1 is more mid-forward and natural, the Z&W does have a slight edge in resolution, some background effects are rendered clearer on the Yinyoo than the BS1 though the BS1 remains a more resolving earphone overall on behalf of their more linear tuning and lack of bass spill which can muffle lower midrange details on the Z&W.

 

Highs –

Treble is the Z&W’s trump card, they do somewhat redeem themselves with their added treble bite which enhances detailing and openness. While the Z&W hardly has the sparkliest, most enhanced treble response, they do have a more aggressive lower treble response which adds some vibrancy to their sound. The BS1 still has a clearer treble response overall and I would still give them the advantage on pure detail retrieval, but the less mid-forward Z&W sounds a bit cleaner which enables a little more separation and a greater perception of detail. Atmospheric effects radiate outwards with convincing width and space and cymbals sound quite naturally bodied and airy. They still have a bit of top end roll-off with truncated high-hats though this is an issue that affects essentially every earbud designed to be used with a foam cover, even the $160 Shozy BK (though to a lesser degree of course). Treble texturing is a little muffled but high notes are smooth and free of fatigue. Wind instruments, strings and trumpets are all flattered by the Z&W’s treble response which avoids being either overly laid back or overly aggressive. When compared to similarly priced in-ear earphones, the Z&W will likely sound more on the polite side, but as far as budget earbuds go, it is pleasingly resolving and present.

 

Verdict – 

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So the Z&W fails to be as versatile as the similarly priced BS1, it’s generic plastic build and unnatural midrange being notable shortcomings. However, in return, the Z&W produces a nicely dynamic sound with exceptional soundstage space and a nice sense of treble attack as far as earbuds go. They are also as comfortable as any MX500 earbud, perfect for sleeping and for listeners object to in-ear pressure and isolation. Furthermore, they have a nice cable that is smooth and tangle resistant. While I would prefer a more subdued styling, their chromed silver finish is a bit too eye grabbing in the public library, in addition to a more linear bass and midrange, the Z&W nonetheless provides an engaging experience at a very modest price.

Verdict – 6/10, The Z&W is engaging, comfortable and affordable but competitors costing just a few dollars more provide considerably more refined tuning and more robust housing designs. The Z&W gets a limited recommendation for listeners wanting a warm, easily driven earbud with a modest asking price.

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