Inside the box are the 7Hz Salnotes Zero earphones, a detachable 2-pin cable and 6x pairs of silicone eartips.
At a glance, the Zero has a blocky shape and looks like the fit may be a bit awkward. However, I found these shells to be really comfortable, even after long periods of use. The body of the shells is acrylic with a stainless steel faceplate.
A single vent sits near the base of the nozzle. The 2-pin sockets sit flush with the shell surface. Not only are the earphones comfortable but they also provide an above-average level of noise isolation. So, if you’re around one of those people whose voice drives you crazy then these are a wonderful thing to have on your person.
The detachable 4-core OFC cable feels sturdy and has good strain relief. It has an aluminium plug and Y-splitter and even comes with a chin slider. The handling is good and it has no significant microphonics or cable noise.
You’ll have to excuse my gushing here but when a $20 IEM sounds this good I get excited. The Zero has a balanced sound signature with a fairly even spread of bass, mids and treble. It’s easy to drive as well, so feel free to plug it straight into your phone or laptop.
But it’s the tone and timbre that make this budget earphone stand out in the crowded budget space. The naturalness and tonal accuracy found here are rare for something in this price range.
And it’s the lifelike presentation that makes these so immersive and engaging. Zero will have you listening to music new and old and wondering why everything sounds so good.
The bass is lifted slightly above neutral in quantity. There’s a good blend of slam and thump that gives the bass notes a nice natural note weight. In a technical sense, Zero’s low-end performance is an integral part of the overall delivery. It extends well enough to provide ample sub-bass power and rumble when necessary.
The mid-bass thumps with confidence but doesn’t linger or leave a train of thick air in its wake: it has a physicality but it’s disciplined and always stays in control. Furthermore, it’s a cohesive part of the overall sound and never sounds separated or dissonant.
Zero’s midrange is tuned for naturalness over clarity. It’s articulated and nuanced but has a pleasing warm undertone. As a result, instrument and vocal notes have a neutral note size that’s organic and transparent.
There’s ample clarity in the midrange but the focus is on musicality and tone. Despite that, however, this midrange performs well in a technical sense too, with good instrument separation and spacing.
Vocals are placed up front and rise clearly above everything else. This makes them engaging but leaves enough space around the centre image for other layers of sound. The tone of vocals and instruments sounds just right – neither too thin nor thick. There’s a subtle lift in the upper mids that adds presence and vitality without shoutiness.
Most of the treble focus is on the lower range. The treble peaks at 4-5kHz and rolls off steadily from that point. It sits just behind the upper midrange in terms of forwardness and is fairly spritely but generally smooth in nature.
It’s a gorgeous treble tuning that has a hint of warmth giving it a natural tone. And despite its smoothness, the treble is adept at revealing details; not by being bold and upfront in its presentation but simply as a result of its evenness.
Sure, it might not be the most glamorous or sparkly of trebles but it’s easy on the ears and free of sharpness. It’s a wondrous treble that blends naturally because of its coherency and finds an ideal balance relative to the bass and mids.
Soundstage and Technicalities
Zero’s soundstage is modest in dimensions with an almost even mix of width and depth. Although it’s not particularly wide, the depth of the stage enhances its layering and imaging ability.
The instrument separation is better than most IEMs in its class. This improves the overall resolution and lets more details filter through. While it can’t compete with more expensive sets, it’s quite exceptional for a $20 earphone.
The Moondrop Chu (review here) is another good performer in the budget arena. It shares a similar frequency response to the Zero but is a tad leaner in the lows and brighter in the highs. As a result, Chu’s detail retrieval is a bit better but the prize for the most natural tone goes to the Zero.
In addition to having slightly more detail, the Chu is more inclined to get a tad shouty in the upper mids. Chu’s treble is also more forward, making Zero a better choice for treble-sensitive listeners.
Like everything, personal preference will determine which of these IEMs sounds best to you. Objectively, however, it’s hard to deny the extra benefits that Zero’s detachable cable brings. It adds longevity in the case of a cable failure and customization choices if you want to swap out its stock cable for something more aesthetically or sonically pleasing.
The BLON BL03 (review here) has long been a favourite among budget IEM enthusiasts. It has a warm sound signature with forward mids. The BL03 has more fullness in its mid-bass and lower midrange than the Zero. Its bass isn’t as tight as the Zero either but it has an inviting, rich presentation.
Vocals on the BLON are upfront and intimate with rounder, silkier notes. The Zero, on the other hand, has more midrange clarity and better instrument separation. Treble on the BL03 comes across as a bit softer because it inherits warmth from the lows. Despite its warmer treble, the BL03 still sounds airy but it has a smaller soundstage and less precise imaging than the Zero.
The BLON usually costs a few more dollars than the Zero, making the 7Hz a very tempting proposition, especially considering it has a better cable and more included eartips.
The 7Hz Salnotes Zero is a budget gem that took me completely by surprise. I’m a believer now. It’s comfortable and comes with a decent cable (that is also detachable). But it’s audio quality that has me in awe of this little wonder.
I like to think of the Salnotes Zero as the 2022 equivalent of the bl03; it’s a budget IEM that sounds fantastic and outperforms its peers. Sonically, it leans more towards the current trending style of presentation i.e. more balanced with added clarity and detail.
This is the new king of budget IEMs and is worth jumping on because right now it’s the leader of the pack. If you’re into budget earphones, you need this one. Period. From this day forth you’ll find it on my best IEMs list. Recommended.