KZ wanted to make a statement with its first planar IEM and they’ve pulled it off superbly. There are two variants of the PR1: the HiFi edition and the Black edition. I’m looking at the HiFi edition in this review.
The KZ PR1 has lightweight aluminium alloy shells with a smooth matte finish. There are grilles on the faceplates that give the design some visual flair. The nozzles are medium in length and have a solid lip to securely hold the eartips.
The 2-pin sockets are the typical shrouded 0.75mm type favoured by KZ and the PR1 comes with the standard stock SPC cable. It’s a cable that won’t win any beauty awards but it’s functional and durable.
I find the comfort to be very good and can wear the PR1 in my ears for extended periods without issue. Passive noise isolation is about average making the PR1 suitable for typical everyday environments. Despite the open appearance of the IEMs, there’s hardly any noise leak at all. So you can enjoy your music without disturbing the people around you.
With a mild V-shaped sound signature, KZ hasn’t strayed far from its regular house sound. That’s a plus, in my opinion, and I’m pleased that they didn’t try to ‘Harmanize’ it as some other recent planar IEMs have done.
The KZ PR1 is tuned for fun first and foremost but its tuning is still reasonably mature. Yes, the bass is boosted and the treble gets a lift too but the driver inside this IEM is capable and holds things together well. As a result, the sound is cohesive and never sounds like a cheap ‘we can do planar too’ effort.
Bass lovers will enjoy the lows that the KZ PR1 has to offer. The bass is elevated and powerful, with good sub-bass rumble and mid-bass punch. It doesn’t quite reach basshead level though because it maintains a good tonal balance.
It’s not a blundering bass either; it’s controlled, textured and fast. Furthermore, the bass has good layering. It doesn’t dominate the scene nor does it bleed into the midrange or cause any bloat.
The overall sound signature is V-shaped. As a result, the mids are slightly recessed in terms of forwardness. However, the mids have good clarity and spacing, which aids in increasing the soundstage depth.
Vocals and instruments have a credible tone quality and note weight. As expected with planar magnetic drivers, PR1’s mids have fast transients with highly-controlled attack and decay. There’s a level of articulation here that’s rarely seen in sub $100 IEMs.
PR1 does a great job with the treble. It strikes an admirable balance between energy and smoothness. There are a good amount of macro and micro details, especially considering the fullness of the bass.
Treble notes are crisp and resolving. They have ample bite without being harsh or overly bright. Like many recent KZ products, the PR1 shows consummate control and is free of graininess and artefacts. The treble works to balance the sound against the large bass and provides clarity, definition and air to the overall presentation.
Soundstage and Technical Performance
Whether you like the tonal balance or not, it’s impossible to ignore the PR1’s strong technical performance. The soundstage is wide and deep and gives the impression of a large open space.
Instrument separation is superb for an entry-level IEM and in conjunction with the airy stage, it enables good imaging with a stable centre image. The PR1 handles complex music with aplomb and the sound doesn’t get congested even on more demanding songs.
We didn’t really know what to expect from KZ’s first planar magnetic IEM. But the KZ PR1 turned out to be an excellent first attempt by the ChiFi giant. It has great build quality and is both attractive and comfortable. It has a powerful yet speedy bass, fantastic instrument separation and a clean extended treble.
The KZ PR1 truly brings a quality planar magnetic IEM within the reach of the masses with this affordable yet accomplished product. Would I recommend it? Heck yes.