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The latest affordable Crinacle-tuned IEMs are hard to fault for the price.
- Follows Crinacle’s tuning target to a “t”
- Very linear mids
- Comfy to wear
- Decent technicalities for the price
- A bit bass-light
- The cable is barely there
- You have to like the Crinacle curve
- Can be shouty with busier recordings
The 7Hz x Crinacle Zero: 2 are the latest entry in a long line of collaborations between Chinese IEM manufacturers and the headphone measurement celebrity Crinacle. Manufactured by 7Hz, the Zero: 2 isn’t Crin’s first rodeo with this design.
The previous iteration – 7Hz Salnotes Zero, used a similar single 10mm dynamic driver design. They garnered a lot of attention by being affordable Crin-tuned IEMs. The main points of criticism were lean bass and a tendency to be sibilant.
So, let’s delve into the newest Zero and whether they can one-up on the other Zero-IEMs on offer right now!
Unboxing and First Impression
Design and Build
The Zero: 2 shells are made from translucent plastic and come in three colorways – light blue, silver, and black with orange faceplates. The faceplates have a brushed metal finish with an etched Zero: 2 logo. Overall, I don’t mind the more colorful look.
In terms of shape, the Zero: 2 shells have a tech-inspired angled design. The ear-facing half of the shell is nice and curvy, so I don’t expect any issues with the fit for most folks. The nozzles are pretty chunky, which seems to be the trend lately with most IEMs.
Frankly, only airline freebie earbuds have dinkier cables.
Don’t get me wrong, the cable works fine, but I wish it didn’t. The cable that comes with the Zero: 2 is thin and tangles easily, and mine, out of the box, has a few permanent kinks.
In use, it’s not so bad. Microphonics are well-handled, and the 3.5mm jack should fit most setups.
Some have complained about angled shells not playing nice with their curvy ears, but my experience can’t confirm that. Even after a few hours, there are no odd pressure points, and the lightweight construction means that the Zero: 2 feel like they are barely there.
The bundled-in ear tips are silicone single-flanges, which worked fine for me. They all come in different colors, giving the already colorful IEMs a cheerful look. I tried some other tips from my collection, and I’m happy to say that the stock ones do the job just fine.
Under the Hood
The heart of the Zero: 2 is a 10mm dynamic driver that handles all of the audible frequency range. In front of the driver, there’s a tiny port with an acoustic filter. The back cavity seems sealed, but the relatively thin walls of the shell mean that the isolation isn’t as good as with fully sealed balanced armature IEMs.
How Do the 7Hz x Crinacle Zero: 2 Sound?
When I first plugged in the 7Hz x Crinacle Zero: 2, I was a bit taken aback by their sensitivity rating! Only 108dB/V means that some weaker outputs might have little headroom. Taking into account the more healthy 32-ohm impedance rating, we can calculate that the Zero: 2 are only 93.1dB/mW efficient. Ouch!
In comparison, the Sennheiser HD650 are 97dB/mW! Want to get a nice 110dB SPL peak? The HD650 will need 16mW whilst the Zero: 2 will gobble 50mW. The decent voltage sensitivity is the only thing that keeps them from being an amp-only recommendation.
Keep in mind that the Zero: 2 will go full Nosferatu on your portable gear.
The low end is extended, yet the bass shelf to my ears ends too early and makes the midbass too thin. It’s a common criticism of the Crinacle target curve; generally, it is up to the listener whether it works for them.
I’ve discussed this with some recording engineers I know from back in the day, and they tell me that the 200 – 300Hz region is very hard to get right. Too little, and it’s a very resolving sound signature, but it lacks “meat on the bones.” Add too much, and it’s mud, mud, mud.
I have very little in terms of critique here. The Zero: 2 have a very linear midrange. For the price, there’s very little more I could ask of it. The resolution is nothing to write home about, but only mid-fi IEMs have enough technical performance in the midrange to give me goosebumps.
The main strength of Zero: 2 mids is that without tonal masking we get a lot of detail even if the driver isn’t particularly resolving.
Again, it’s hard to complain about anything for the price. And there’s enough technical prowess that the Zero: 2 achieve very decent imaging. The overall tuning favors lower treble a bit, so it can get shouty with the right kind of music. At the same time, the top end is ear-friendly enough not to evoke fatigue.
I think it’s pretty obvious that if you like (or think you like) Crinacle’s target curve, then the Zero: 2 are a no-brainer purchase in their respective price range. Nothing else for the same money will come close to having the same sound, so let’s compare them to something that does sound similar – the Truthear x Crinacle ZERO: RED!
Okay, the overall presentation and the build are miles ahead on the ZERO: RED. The cable is still dinky, but it looks better and doesn’t tangle as easily. The carry pouch is also handy to have. Both IEMs have pretty decent ergonomics.
As for the sound – they’re super close. The ZERO: RED has more and better low-end. Other than that, the mids and highs are pretty similar. Both IEMs are well-tuned, making the ZERO: RED a worse value proposition if it’s only the sound you’re after.
Where to Buy
Who Should Buy This?
Low on cash or just starting out? The 7Hz x Crinacle Zero: 2 are a great way to taste one of the more popular IEM sound targets. They’re also a great second pair of IEMs to keep around as a reference. Just keep in mind that the target sounds more informative than outright fun.
Like with the Truthear x Crinacle ZERO: RED, the 7Hz x Crinacle Zero: 2 left me plenty impressed. According to measurements, it’s the bee’s knees, and no one should ever yearn for more. Most of my sound quality critique has more to do with the tuning target than the IEMs themselves.
Those looking for a more fun sound signature should probably look elsewhere, but if you’re more of a thinking than feeling listener, be sure to zero your sights on the 7Hz x Crinacle Zero: 2!
What’s in the Box?
- 7Hz x Crinacle Zero: 2 IEMs
- A 1.2m cable
- Silicone ear tips – S, M, L
- User manual
- Form: IEM
- Driver: 1x dynamic driver
- Impedance (Ohm): 32 Ohms
- Sensitivity (dB): 108dB/V or 93.1dB/mW
- Weight (g): 4g
- Frequency Response (Hz): 10 Hz – 20 KHz
- Removable Cable: Y
- Source Jack: 3.5mm
- Shell Jack: 0.78mm 2-pin