Zero adopts a similar design to its bigger sibling the Tanchjim OLA. The clear acrylic shells are short and cylindrical. The right aluminium faceplate sports the Tanchjim logo while the left side has Zero text etched into it.
You can see the 10mm composite diaphragm dynamic driver through the clear shells. The nozzles are angled and have a proper lip to hold your eartips on securely. As usual, there’s a protective mesh on the nozzle opening to keep out ear wax and dirt.
The shells are really small and sit right in your ears. They’re lightweight and for the most part, comfortable. However, just like the OLA, the edge of the faceplates is sharp and it sometimes digs into my ears causing some discomfort. Some rounded edges would greatly improve the comfort (at least in my case).
The cable is non-detachable so you’re stuck with it whether you like it or not. To be fair, the silver-plated OFC cable is pretty good. It has a rubber Y-splitter and plug and comes with a chin slider. Small acrylic shells like this are usually quite susceptible to cable noise but it’s only minimal here.
The Zero has a neutral sound signature with a lifted upper midrange and lower treble. It doesn’t sound flat though, despite how it looks on the graph. True, it’s not the most dynamic sound but it has great resolution for a $15 IEM.
You’ll need to give these some power to hear their full potential. Most smartphones won’t have the drive to make these come alive. At the very least, you should plug them into a dongle DAC.
With its warm undertone and laid-back upper treble, Zero sounds pretty smooth and chill. I’d recommend not paying too much attention to the graph. It looks as though there’s next to zero (no pun intended) bass but in fact, there’s plenty of bass presence.
Bassheads need not apply for sure but most people should be satisfied with the quantity in the lows. However, finding the right eartips and getting a proper fit is essential to put the meat on Zero’s bones.
Regardless of the flat bass region shown in the graph, the Zero has a pretty beefy bass response. It’s not the kind of bass that you feel in your chest by any means but it doesn’t sound thin or lacking.
The main issue I have with the bass is that it lacks texture and definition. Leading edges are softened and most bass notes sound pretty much the same. The sub-bass feels a bit lacking in authority too although it can produce a light rumble.
My first thought about the mids was that the overall resolution is good for such an affordable IEM. While the Zero doesn’t sound dark or veiled, it’s not exactly brimming with clarity either. This is due mainly to the relaxed upper treble tuning.
Vocals and instruments have a fairly neutral note weight and sound natural but they don’t exactly pop. But the upper midrange lift is done well and comes across evenly. There’s not really any shoutiness and the overall tone remains slightly warm.
The treble is fairly relaxed, especially in the upper regions. Crash cymbals sit at the back of the mix but have a reasonably natural fall-off. The treble timbre is decent (again remembering we’re talking about $15) but there’s no sparkle and not a whole lot of air.
Thankfully, there are ample details, thanks to the overall resolution and relative lightness of the bass. Zero delivers a smooth treble and one that’s free of sibilance. However, if you’re looking for radiant splendour in the highs, this probably isn’t the right IEM for you.
Soundstage and Technicalities
The soundstage is fairly intimate but organized thanks to good instrument separation and understated bass. Imaging is decent and the level of detail retrieval is sufficient.
The Tanchjim Zero is another ultra-budget IEM that aims to bring audiophile-ish tuning to the masses. For the most part, it succeeds in this venture and the end result is quite impressive considering the price. It might not wow you on the first listen but given sufficient driving power, it’s sure to grow on you over time.