The Fragrant Zither Live 3 is everything you would expect and fragrant to the ears for many reasons.
I have collected a few pairs of IEM’s over the years. One interesting fact is not all the IEM’s and headphones reviewers are asked to review actually make it into their collection. As a collector, I look for an IEM that is either unique in design or sound. Will the TFZ Live Check out Clai’s review of the TFZ Live 3 – a dual dynamic driver IEM with a sexy marble textured faceplate.3 make the cut? Read on to find out.
- Build quality
- Instrument separation
- Tuning for Classical, Rock, Blues and County music
- Lack of accessories
- Mid and Sub base bleed depending on music genre
- At times details lost depending on music genre
- Driver: 11.4 MM Double Magnetism, Double Cavity, and Double Voice Coil
- Impedance: 20 OHMS
- Sensitivity: 108 dB mW
- Frequency Response: 5Hz-40 kHz
- Lowest Power: 8 mW
- Colors: White, Brown, Tan, Green, and Black
The Live 3 is actually sparse when it comes to included accessories. It did have the basics… a cable, the IEM, and a user’s guide. That was it. At its price point, I was expecting at the very least a pouch to protect the Computer Numerical Control (CNC)-machined marble textured faceplate and top-notch high-end silver-plated cable.
The only redemption was the seven pairs of ear tips to play around with. They were important; because with IEMs the more tips you have, the better chance you have to get the correct fit or seal around the ear when using them. As most enthusiasts know, achieving a sound that works for you requires you to find the correct tips for your personal ear size.
The user’s guide included in the packaging emphasized the importance of just that. According to the TFZ guide, you should “find the right size and wear them for a long time.” I actually took the manufacturer’s advice and found a pair of included tips that made the IEM’s fragrant to my ears, which was a pleasant supersize.
The unboxing experience was not too exciting. It’s because I have received more accessories with some different IEM’s that I have purchased in the past. Yet, what was inside made up for the simple presentation and lack of accessories that I wanted to see at its price point.
At the current price point of USD$69, the build quality is good. The tan pair that was sent for me to review is sleek and stylish. While collecting IEMs and other audio gear, I have come across several items that start off stunning, but after a few weeks of normal use, some of the fine detail’s start to fade, are hard to keep clean, and in some cases wear off completely
The Live 3 is not that way at all. They are designed to be heavily used and are made mostly of plastic. The cable is built to last, thick, and very easy to connect. That cable felt and looked so good I actually thought it was pure silver for a hot second. However, build quality without good sound would make any headphone useless to me. How does the Live 3 sound?
The sound of the Live 3 is on par with its build quality. I actually found them to be very niche in connection with their use. Yes, they’re very easy to drive, built to be used everyday but for some reason they didn’t always reach its full potential. The fluctuating performance I found was due to the way they are tuned.
If you listen to a lot of classical music, country, opera, classic rock, jazz or blues, you will love these headphones. Vocals are always smooth and silky.
The soundstage for an IEM is good. As someone who prefers large open-back headphones I was expecting the sound stage to be worse. I absolutely love the instrument separation that was on display while listening to classical music.
These headphones are musical, lively and handle most genres well. At times they miss the mark but at other times they are spot on.
The sound is on par with the price point. They are tuned perfectly for classical, country, rock and blues.
The base is a mixed bag to me. If you listen to trap music or anything with a deep sub-base or mid-base, I find it gets a little muddy to me. These are not made for hip-hop. In other words, these headphones are not tuned for all music.
The midrange is where the F in The Fragrant Zither truly comes out. It rocks the midrange frequencies especially vocals.
The highs at times were present and very clear. But, depending on the genre of music, the bass would seem so boosted that I would lose all the beautiful details I know are present in some songs.
The nice thing, however, is that when the highs do make an appearance, it is very pleasant to the ears.
I had a hard time making a choice on what IEM/Earbuds to compare the Live 3’s to because they are tuned like no other IEM in my collection. Finally, I narrowed down to two uniquely different IEM’s.
Whizzer Kylin A-HE03
The Kylin A-HE03 is the complete opposite of the TFZ Live 3’s. If you can find them in stock, they are about double the price. The unboxing experience was phenomenal and I got all the accessories I wanted along with the expected premium look and feel. Unlike the TFZ’s, these can be used as your daily IEM and sound better with power.
In connection with sound, the Kylin’s highs are very present clean and at times sparkle. Unlike the Live 3’s, they were never overshadowed by the bass. I actually think the highs are on par with the Live 3 but not as dark.
The mids are good and get better with power. While listening to Hip-hop, RNB, EDM, and genres like them I love the tuning. But when it comes to vocals I prefer the Live 3’s because in comparison Kylin’s vocals felt like they were missing something energy and sounded shallow.
The bass on the Kylins are way better than the Live 3’s. It’s clean, tight and on point most of the time. It’s tuning on the low makes it perfect for listening to mainstream music. In just about all genres of music, I could not find any problems with its bass.
Overall I feel that the Whizzer’s have a more warm and analytical sound signature. Due to the IEM’s shape, you won’t get good noise isolation in loud places; thus I would always prefer the Live 3’s. The Kylin’s in comparison would be my daily driver.
I had the Simgot EM1 for a while and love everything about them except the accessories. I forgot about the whole unboxing experience of the EM1’s so it must not have been that great. They are not sensitive and easy to drive. When it comes to the EM1’s sounds in comparison to the Live 3’s, I have to say they are extremely different.
The EM1’s highs are clean, clear, and bold. I absolutely love them. They are rhythmic and non-fatiguing. I heard better but I’m very used to their sound. Definitely lighter on the ears than Live 3’s. If I had to compare the two, I have to choose Simgot’s brighter sound signature when it comes to upper frequencies.
The mids are good and balanced. They are smooth, you will hear all the details and are very pleasant to the ears. But when it comes to the midrange I have to give the nod to the Live 3’s. The reason being is they just have that x-factor. I actually find myself time and time getting lost in the vocals and details when I listen to them.
Like the Kylin A-HE03, the Simgot EM1 low end is way better than the TFZ’s. It is balanced and suited for every genre of music. It’s pleasant to my ears and for the most part, it is accurate and never feels boosted.
For me a huge part of understanding how good a headphone is pairing it with different types of audio equipment. I actually tried many different types of audio sources with the TFZ Live 3’s. I actually tried many different types of audio sources with the TFZ Live 3’s. The results were not even close to what I had assumed.
These headphones, as I mentioned earlier, are not for your everyday use. I had no problem driving the Live 3’s with my iPhone, computer, or Nintendo Switch. I was taken back at first and knew I needed more time to understand where they would be of use in my headphone collection. Unfortunately, while using them with all those devices, I would experience feedback that was very noticeable.
After taking a few minutes to read the user’s manual, it made it very clear that this specific unit will have unwanted feedback. It suggested two things:
- using a Hifi losses sound source
- low impedance playback device.
When I took the advice, it made a world of difference.
When I paired them with a Hiby R3 using a Tidal Masters lossless music subscription, I realized that these IEM’s are made to listen to music. I could not believe the difference in sound. They are not made for gaming, watching videos, or listening to compressed music tracks through a basic MP3 player.
If you are listening to music on your phone, you should have music in a lossless format. This is because playing lossless music files used by HD streaming services like Tidal and Amazon preserve the original recording information to deliver the highest quality of sound available. It’s a good idea to also have a good DAC because it increases the bit depth and sample rate you will be able to play music at.
For me, an Amazon HD subscription along with an Audirect Beam DAC was the best pairing for my iPhone. To achieve the best sound, it’s imperative that the source of the music track is lossless. So if you want to stream music and get the best out of the Live 3 IEM, give one of the HD streaming services a try.
Where to Buy
At a price point of USD$69, the Live 3 does stand out at moments. If you have a higher budget, I actually would recommend spending more. On the flip-side, even though you could find something similar at a lower price point it won’t be easy to find a pair that shine in certain genres of music like these.
If you are a serious collector and budget isn’t an issue, go with the TFZ T x BEAR MONICA for about thirty to forty dollars more. They have exact same specs and possibly the same overall sound signature. If you go that route you will get a housing that is metal and a more unique look along with a few extra accessories.
Don’t get me wrong, these are great headphones that actually have a place in my collection. The TFZ Live 3 can be bought through the manufacturer’s website. If you’re interested, check the sale out on Linsoul.com.