Pros: Price to Performance, Tuning, A Coherent Package
Cons: Technical ability and separation is its bottleneck…. but at this price, already impressive, Potential Unit Variation
Driver Setup: 1DD
Disclaimer: I purchased the QKZ VK4 with my own money at full price and this review is written of my own accord. Should you find yourself interested in a pair after reading this review, they are available online here.
The QKZ VK4 has been around for quite some time, even before the BLON BL-03’s rise to fame (or notoriety). In a similar fashion, the VK4 had its minute of fame on the hype train, where some have compared its frequency response curve to the likes of Campfire’s Andromedas. There are some who love it to bits, some who absolutely hate on it, and today we shall weigh in with our two cents for what it’s worth. Better late than never.
Accessories and Build Quality (Score: 5.5/10)
Accessories are the bare minimum to get you going right out of the box. The usual squiggly 4-wire twisted cable with some usable silicone tips. It has the option of an in-line microphone should you require one. The VK4 sports a flushed 2-pin socket, opening up many options for third-party cables should you want to spice up the aesthetics of your VK4.
It comes in 2 colourways. Of course, I went for the flashiest one – the “Candy” version. It also has a more discrete black design with a printed carbon fibre design on the faceplate.
Fit (Score: 7.5/10)
The fit of the VK4 is the typical lower-end KZ IEM shape. The buds are not the snuggest or most ergonomic, but with the right tips, comfort is pretty good. The choice of tips does have quite an impact on how the VK4 sounds. I enjoyed SpinFits with it as it kept the bass to a reasonably balanced level. For those who enjoy a more present bass response, the Final Audio Type E Silicone Tips work well too.
Sound (Score: 7.5/10)
Frequency Response Graph of the QKZ VK4
- Lotoo Paw S1
- Hiby R5
Music listened to
- Chicago Symphony Orchestra – Beethoven Symphony 7
- Boston Symphony Orchestra – The Nutcracker Suite
- The Vamps – Cherry Blossom
- Stevie Wonder – In the Key of Life
- Bastille – All This Bad Blood
- The Lumineers
- Børns – Blue Madonna
- McFly – Memory Lane
- Avicii – Stories
- Coldplay – X&Y/Parachutes
- Family Company
This is possibly the most divisive section of the VK4. Many have claimed that the VK4 is excessively bassy. However, I never once felt so. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure if it’s due to unit variance, choice of tips or just differences in tastes. That said, while I appreciate some warmth, I’m certainly not a fan of copious bass. In fact, the bass is tamer than the likes of BLON’s BL-03 and KZ EDX. The bass nevertheless has a good presence and thump to satisfy bass lovers and lends some warmth to the overall sound signature.
If there is one thing I would improve on the VK4, it would be the “cleanliness” of the bass. It is a The mids sing really well and I would only wish the Bass was a tad bit more refined to go well. But alas, I am probably asking for the improbable.
The VK4 has a U-shaped frequency response. The mids are noticeably recessed, but not to the extent where vocals start getting compromised. Instruments and vocals sound very natural and it transitions from where the bass left off smoothly. I especially love how brass instruments sound on the VK4. Too many times do trumpets and female vocals become shrill and uncontrolled on more budget IEMs but the VK4 handles those very maturely. The bass doesn’t ever undermine the mids and the presentation is relatively clean with good staging and breadth. Imaging is limited but not terrible.
Treble is rolled off significantly in the upper regions. This limits the height of the sound you get. Hence, there isn’t that air of extension, serving as a constant reminder that you are after all listening to a $10 IEM. After all, the VK4 does so much well that it is easy to forget that. Treble is also pushed backwards quite a bit, such that it sounds rather relaxed and muted in a sense. Instruments like cymbals and jingles lack the sparkle and additional layer to their tone that is typically present in more refined treble responses found in higher-end IEMs.
Don’t expect too many layers and separation from the VK4. It offers a rather one-dimensional sound. That said, there is still a very reasonable amount of detail present, very much more I would have expected. Nevertheless, the VK4 is rather well-tuned and is a coherent package overall.
vs TRN MT1
Full review of the TRN MT1
The TRN MT1 has a slightly more detailed sound, albeit still limited within the range of what a $5 Single DD can do for you. However, the MT1 also has a less natural tuning, with slightly more aggressive and thinner upper mids and treble, Thus, I would say the VK4 edges out the TRN MT1 being the better tuned IEM of the two. Nevertheless, the MT1 (US$5) is about half the price of the VK4 and a very capable IEM in its price bracket, with a slightly different tuning in mind. However, comparing them side by side, the VK4 has the Wow-Factor that takes it beyond the realm of normalcy and has a tuning more aligned with my tastes.
vs KZ EDX
Full Review of the KZ EDX
The KZ EDX is also another ultra-budget IEM, coming in at about US$5. It offers a rather Bass-focused tuning, minus the technicalities. It has all the bare-bones of an IEM, but lacking in anything worthy of much praise. I am also not really a fan of the head-shaking bass on the EDX. As much value the EDX has, the VK4 does better and goes beyond in tuning and tonality. The VK4 gives a much more balanced sound and even if your budget caps out at $5, I would prefer the MT1 over the EDX.
The QKZ VK4 has certainly impressed me with what it can do with $10. It has a very nice tuning and presentation. The timbre of instruments is relatively accurate with the overall tuning being slightly warm and musical. I first purchased it mindlessly just for the lols as a beater IEM for my calls. Over time, I caught myself enjoying them a little too much and I was like “Hey weren’t these dirt-cheap? Music wasn’t supposed to sound good.” The fact that I found these enjoyable speaks volumes about what they can achieve.
Ultimately, do yourself a favour instead and not try to compare the VK4 with IEMs many times its price. Instead, just sit back, appreciate that such a deal exists and enjoy what VK4 brings to the table. For anyone thinking of having just a small taste of what audiophiles ramble about all the time, THIS is the IEM you’re gonna want to get.
edit: I’ve removed the VK4 from the ranking list due to the underhand practices of QKZ and the revision it has done on it.
Overall Grade: NIL
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