Updated: Dec 29, 2020
Pros: Bass Quantity and rumble (What Beats could only dream to be), Fun and engaging listen, Comfort
Cons: Bass can be overwhelming for some, Inaccurate tonality for instrumentals, Mids are recessed and compromised, All-plastic build
Driver Setup: 11.4mm “Diamond Tesla” Dynamic Driver
Price: $95 (USD)
Disclaimer: I borrowed the TFZ No.3 from mistereden on Carousell Singapore for review purposes. It currently retails at $125(SGD)
This is a review on the No.3 IEMs from a company called The Fragrant Zither, or more commonly known as TFZ. The No.3 sports an 11.4mm driver with a Diamond Diaphragm and a Tesla Magnetic Group. TFZ designs its own dynamic drivers and the No.3 is their single dynamic driver featuring the 3rd generation of TFZ Drivers.
I don’t have any pictures to show as this is a borrowed set but it’s really the bare minimum in the >$100 range. You get a flimsy white pouch coupled with a few silicone tips. The tips are basic but decently comfortable and I didn’t find the need to switch out to third party tips.
Build Quality and Fit (Score: 7.5/10)
The Build Quality of the IEMs is very simple yet is an aesthetic that I really dig. It features an almost fully plastic build that some might say it feels cheap to the touch. However, the transparent housing is curved in the right places, making the earpieces look very elegant and functionally comfortable. I have no complaints and everything seems very sturdy and well-made. These earpieces just sit comfortably and disappear in the ear without having to fiddle with them at all. The earpieces have wide bores but I did not experience any trouble with fit. The main problem I have is with the cable. It’s a nightmare to manage and spoil the otherwise clean aesthetic.
Sound (Score: 7.2/10)
Frequency Response Graph of the TFZ No.3
- Fiio μBTR
- Shanling M3s
Albums and Tracks tested with
- ABBA Gold
- The Lumineers – The Lumineers
- Panic! At The Disco – Death of a Bachelor
- Andy Gibb – The Very Best Of
- Capital Cities – In a Tidal Wave of Mystery
- Osaka Shion Wind Orchestra
- Grease Soundtrack
- NEEDTOBREATHE – Acoustic Live Vol. 1
- Post Modern Jukebox – The New Classics (Recorded Live!)
Bass (Score: 8.5/10)
There’s bass and then there’s BBBass with a triple B. The bass on the No.3s take center stage with no intention of sharing the spotlight. Yes, you heard me right, this is a bass lover’s dream. The bass extends deep and the richness of the sub-bass was really unique. If you’re more used to more balanced sounding earphones, the No.3 would take some getting used to. Listening to “Safe and Sound” by Capital Cities or “Death of a Bachelor” by Panic! At The Disco resulted in a satisfying session of head thumping bass.
Mids (Score: 6.5/10)
With such an overpowering response in the bass, it comes as little surprise that the mids would be compromised upon. They really take a back seat on the No.3s and at times even feel like they are being crushed by the weight and impact of the bass. On tracks by Osaka Shion Wind Orchestra, woodwind passages sound really muted and suppressed. Instruments like clarinet and saxophones would seem very distant. I sometimes find myself having to turn up the volume in these passages as it’s just too soft. In “The Gun Song” by The Lumineers, Wesley Schultz’s beautiful rich vocals become a tad too lifeless.
Treble (Score: 7/10)
Treble is not very well extended but does a decent job. That said, it’s nothing to scream about. In Panic! At The Disco’s “Crazy = Genius”, it struggles to maintain composure in the upper ranges, where the Hi-Hats and can be fatiguing if the volume is turned up too much. This was a bigger problem than I thought it would be due to me constantly turning up the volume to hear the mids.
Fortunately, the treble never really gets sibilant and, in my books, that is already a big step towards a decently tuned V-shape. The No.3 does well in keeping the treble natural sounding, without getting tinny or metallic, unlike many V-shaped chi-fi. This helps let the bass shine without a thorn in your side to spoil the experience.
The No.3 proudly flaunts its V sound signature and is unabashed about it. It does boast pretty good layering and separation, especially in the bass region, and these all add to a very engaging and fun-sounding earphone. The detail retrieval is not superb but not a big surprise or deal-breaker at this price point.
To be honest, the sound signature of the No.3s is not my cup of tea, which may result in my scoring it significantly lower than someone who loves their bass. However, I do acknowledge that although the No.3 doesn’t aim to do it all, it sets out to do one thing right – to nail that bass. And it does that well with a decent amount of quality to back up that quantity. I would be hard-pressed to think of another earphone that does this job as well as the No.3 in its price range.
Admittedly, the No.3s do not look that all fancy and may even look a little cheap when placed side by side with their lower-priced counterpart, the T2 Galaxy. However, it is still built sturdily and I have no doubts about its ruggedness. I would recommend the TFZ No.3s to anyone wanting to take a step into the hobby and looking for a bass-heavy IEM.
Overall Grade: C
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