The 7Hz Salnotes Zero was one of last year’s most sought-after IEM for those who are on a budget. For an IEM tuned (somewhat) discreetly by Crinacle himself for only $19.99 (about RM90), it’s not hard to see – or rather, hear – the appeal of the Zero.
A year and some changes later, 7Hz has released the sequel to the acclaimed Zero. This time around, Crinacle is making it clear that this is an official collaboration with his name right on the box, as well as in the naming of the product itself. Enter the 7Hz x Crinacle Zero:2.
What It Is
The lengthier name aside, there is a bit of a price increase with the new Zero:2, though not by much. Linsoul was kind enough to send us a review unit of the IEM, and the vendor is also selling the Zero:2 for $24.99 (approximately RM115); that’s a $5 price hike. It would have been nice to see the Zero:2 stay at the $20 price point, though a $5 increase isn’t too bad.
The original Zero was by no means perfect: it had a generally neutral sound signature, which I personally felt at the time to be a bit too safe. Many, myself included, wished for a bit more bass and a touch more warmth to the Zero’s sound profile. Well, Crinacle must’ve been aware of this, as one of the main changes to the Zero:2 is a 3dB increase in the low-end.
Tuning aside, the list of changes made to the Zero:2 isn’t too extensive. While the design remains the same, there are three new color options. The silver faceplate model can be bought with a transparent or clear blue shell, while the orange faceplate version you see here has a smokey black shell instead.
Another improvement to the Zero:2 is a new 10mm dual cavity dynamic driver, promising stronger bass and a “crispier” presentation. The switch to this driver does offer an audible difference when compared to the first Zero, and I’ll elaborate more further down the review.
Packaging of the Zero:2 is almost exactly the same as the original’s. Aside from the IEM, you get a new high-purity oxygen-free copper cable with silver plating, as well as the usual yellow bag with an assortment of ear tips you would get with any 7Hz product.
The Zero:2’s new cable is a bit more manageable and feels better than the previous one. While there are still some microphonics present, it’s nothing too serious if you’re just casually listening at the desk. Plus, this is a pair of budget-centric IEMs.
While the edgy, angular design of the Zero:2 is quite unique, it isn’t exactly the most comfortable design. The nozzle of the IEM is on the shorter side, which means I need to insert the shell deeper into my ear to get a proper seal. Doing so causes one of the edges of the shell to sit against my ear pinna, so it’s not a particularly comfortable IEM for me personally.
This problem isn’t mitigated through tip-rolling (I’ve tried), which is a shame as I can’t listen to the Zero:2 for more than 20 minutes before my ears get irritated. But the fit of an IEM, as always, is very subjective, and the Zero:2 might be perfectly comfortable in your ears.
How Does It Sound?
As mentioned before, the Zero:2 features 3dB of extra bass compared to its predecessor. This certainly helps elevate the IEM to be fuller and more fun compared to the flatter nature of the original Zero.
There is now more depth in the low-end of the Zero:2, with more sub-bass extension and rumble. The mid-bass has tasteful amounts of warmth that add texture to the overall sound signature. Bass impact is round and meaty, but not totally tight, so it might not be enough to satisfy a basshead. However, for pop and rock genre, the Zero:2’s bass is more than sufficient to initiate some foot-tapping.
The extra warmth from the Zero:2’s bass lends itself to the mid-range and provides added weight and body. This coloured tone doesn’t sound unnatural at all, as vocals sound richer and more organic; male vocals in particular are thick and prominent. Female vocals are a little more distant, but not at all recessed and still engaging. I do miss the forwardness of female vocals of the original Zero though, but I do appreciate the added warmth of the Zero:2 overall.
The treble of the Zero:2 is much more tame in comparison to the original’s, a change that I’m quite a fan of; the more laid-back treble presentation makes the listening experience smooth and fatigue-free. That being said, this does make the Zero:2 sound like it has less perceived detail and clarity. There also isn’t much air or sparkle present at the very top, but it’s still crisp enough to not be too dull-sounding. If you’re a fan of more treble energy, however, the original Zero might be more suited for you.
Staging of the Zero:2 is fairly identical to its predecessor, which was decent in width but lacking in height and depth. There is a bit more vertical depth this time around though, and instruments are also better separated and more defined. But tracks with heavier instrumentals do still tend to sound busy and congested.
Is It Worth It?
For me personally, I do highly recommend the 7Hz x Crinacle Zero:2. It has much-needed boost in the lower-end for added warmth and stronger bass, and for only $25, it is still a very affordable IEM that would be a great pick for both audiophiles and those who are new to the hobby.
My only gripe with the Zero:2 is its angular design and short nozzle that affect the overall comfort and fit of the IEM for my ear shape. But, again, fit for an IEM is subjective, and given the budget-friendly nature of the Zero:2, I honestly cannot really complain.