Just as there are foods that are normal in one part of the world but not in the other, the same goes for earphones. Small earbuds are normal in North America, but in Asia big ones are common. I decided to try out a typical set.
I went with a low-priced model from Linsoul-7Hz named "Salnotes Zero" ($27). See image at left. Why is it called the Zero? "By naming it ZERO, we intended to deliver our philosophy of life to every customer."
TIP How to tell if a set of ear or headphones will sound pretty good: look for the Sensitivity or Sound Pressure Level. If it is over 100db, then the headphones probably sound good. These ones are rated at 108db.
The company offers variants on this model:
- Body color, like black, white, red, blue...
- With 3.5mm or USB-C plug
- With or without inline controls
I went for the white one, with USB-C plug and inline controls. The benefit to going with the USB plug is that the earphones then bypass the DAC (digital signal to analogue sound converter) chip in the phone, which isn't necessarily of high quality. The DAC is inside the stub of the USB-C plug.
You can, naturally, pay lots of money for questionable benefits. The claims remind me of the gadgets claimed to make record players sound better in the 1970s. There is a market in buying replacement cords that are longer and shorter, with different colors and braid patterns, and more expensive ones that claim to provide better sound. Replacement cables can cost $100 and provide the vendor with ongoing revenue.
Here is how Linsoul describes the cord: "The earphones include a detachable cable with gold-plated 0.78mm 2Pin connectors. The cable is made of 4 core high purity Oxygen Free Copper in a parallel structure while each core is made of 19*0.08 wires+250D to maximally avoid signal loss and ensure a high fidelity transmission."
The package included five sets of ear plugs, each pair a different color. It took a bit for me to clue in that each color represented a different size. But, I was thrilled by the colors, for I could have a red one on the right side and another color on the left. I don't know why most earphone vendors make it so hard to figure out which side is the right side.
TIP When earphones have an inline control, it is usually mounted on the right side. But not always!
These Zero earphones have one other important feature: the cord wraps around the back of the ear, and they end up looking like the monitor earphone musicians wear during live performances. For me, this is important, because most earphones don't stay in my ear. I have been using ones with wingtips, which helps, but these wrap-around cords definitely lock the earphone in my ears.
What The Zero Sounds Like
They fit, so how do they sound? I hooked them up to my Android phone's USB-C port and played back music with the high-end Neutron music app. I found I needed to boost the bass and treble to my satisfaction.
The sound produced by the headphones is very neutral, what I would call cold, which I prefer to a warm sound. The sound also is open, as if I were wearing on-ear headphones. Yet, as the earphones fit snugly in the ear, they block much outside noise.
I also tried the Zero with the high-end Hidizs AP80Pro-X music player. Here I needed to boost the bass and treble. Listening to jazz trios and quartets, such as drummer Wolfgang Haffner's 'Acoustic Shapes' album, the bass was impressive. I like to feel the bass, not just hear it, and the Hidizs-Linsoul combo did a nice job of punching out the bass. So, yah, they are pretty good for $27, and I suspect I'd have to go to $270 to hear a better sound.
The only disappointment is that the cord tangles. The instructions are non-existent, so I hope I attached the cord correctly to the earphones.