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Review of Zero Audio Carbo Tenore and Carbo Doppio in-ear headphones w/lots of pics!!

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vectron
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(Last edited by vectron; 7th June 2014 at 02:27 AM.)
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Default Review of Zero Audio Carbo Tenore and Carbo Doppio in-ear headphones w/lots of pics!!

This is a review of Zero Audio Carbo Tenore (ZH-DX200-CT) and Zero Audio Carbo Doppio (ZH-BX700-CD) in-ear headphones. http://www.zeroaudio.jp/product.html

If you ever been to Head-fi community, there is a very common phrase used to describe headphones with an amazing sound quality sold at a fraction of a price in comparison to a similar sounding headphones from bigger brand names. That phrase is a "Giant killer", and that's exactly how I would refer to Zero Audio headphones, designed in Japan. Both Carbo Tenore and Carbo Doppio models feature a very unique housing design with a blend of real carbon fiber and aluminum composite materials and a very detailed sound with a wide soundstage. Let me take a closer look at each individual model.

Starting with Carbo Tenore, these micro-dynamic driver headphones come in a compact package with a clear display of the product, and a basic set of accessories which includes 3 pairs of S/M/L small bore eartips and a nice drawstring storage pouch. The headphones itself are VERY lightweight (3.2g w/o cable) and compact in size, probably the smallest headphones (piston shell diameter) I have tested so far, thanks to it's 5.78mm micro-dynamic drivers. The outer coating of the aluminum shell housing is all carbon fiber with a nice 3D graphic effect. The back of the shell has a pinhole opening, which is one of the contributing factors to widening the soundstage and making the sound airy.

The attachment of the cable is angled at the end of the shell with a short strain relief. Though it doesn't look too flimsy, as a caution you have to be careful not to pull on the cable when removing them from your ears. The cable itself is made out of OFC (oxygen free copper) wires and has a typical Y splitter cable config with a convenient chin-slider above the splitter. The rubbery wire coating looks durable as well. It's soft, not springy, and easy to manage when you wrap it for storage. The cable is terminated with 90deg gold plated connector. There is no special marking to easily identify symmetrical left/right earpieces, so you have to rely on L/R letters printed on the shell itself. Also, I would like to mention that I actually found stock eartips to be excellent for my ear fitment, and with a right size selection I was able to get a really good passive noise isolation. Also, I found no microphonics with the cable.

So the Big question is how these "small" micro-driver headphones sound? For starters you do need to crank up volume a bit higher since they do require a little more power to drive these 16 ohm, 102db/1mW drivers to it's full potential. It's feasible to drive them from any source, but you might need to operate at higher volume/gain. That's only a minor inconvenience considering the sound results are truly AMAZING!!! Carbo Tenores have a very detailed balanced sound with a smooth revealing signature. Staying true to it's dynamic nature, they have a beautifully crafted low end with a fast punch of mid-bass and a nice warm sub-bass layer. It's well controlled without muddying the mids and also comes with a satisfying quantity without exaggeration. For anybody craving more bass, Tenores respond very well to EQ adjustment around 50-70Hz. Mids are very revealing and detailed with a striking clarity, but at the same time they are not too bright or harsh and very smooth which helps during extended listening. Tenores have a beautiful delivery of vocals with a very natural tonality, which also extends to other instruments within upper mids and treble. Treble is crisp and extended. But the real star in here is their wider/deeper soundstage that puts you in a middle of an open airy space. This was probably the first time I was able to hear detailed echoes of the sound. I was very impressed! For example in comparison to RE400B which has a remarkable sound width, Tenores sound was more open and airy, though less intimate.

Here are the pictures.


























Doppio feature a similar package with a revealing display of their newest addition to Zero Audio family. Also, it includes a similar selection of accessories with 3 pairs of narrow bore eartips in S/M/L, and a premium spring-closure pouch. Though double in weight (7.2g) and larger in size (due to dual BA driver design) in comparison to Tenores, Doppios are still very lightweight and compact and feature the same signature carbon fiber finish covering the aluminum shell, and I believe what looks like a brass nozzle/filter part, thus I assume a reference to "tricomposite housing".

The build of Doppios is a lot more heavy duty in comparison to Tenores. Beside a meatier shell, the cable has a decent strain relief with a dimple on the left side to identify left/right sides. You can also refer to L/R letter marking on carbon fiber coating, but a dimple ID on strain relief is just more convenient. Cables itself are identical to Tenores, with a same 1.2m OFC and Y-splitter with a chin-slider, 90deg gold plated connector, and soft durable cable coating for easy tangle free management. Though included eartips were great, I actually preferred to use UE900 eartips in here with a wider bore opening. Since I have rather larger ear canals, those tips are usually my go-to to get the best seal using the largest one. Here I was able to get a good passive noise isolation as well. Just keep in mind, they have a very high sensitivity level (113dB/1mW) where typically such headphones once plugged into a source will exhibit a faint level of white noise.

So how about the sound? With Doppios, Zero Audio nailed it again!!! Here, because of a more neutral bass quantity and even higher level of details thanks to a better separation of fine tuned Balanced Armature drivers, the sound signature is definitely on a level of reference analytical monitors you can expect from big cans. The bass is very detailed, has a great punch and extends down to sub-bass, but it doesn't have enough quantity to balance it out with mids/treble to warm up the sound. Here you are dealing with surgical accuracy to study every detail of the sound. Mids have an accurate representation, upfront, and have a high level of clarity. Treble is crisp and extended, and still under control without even a hint of sibilance. It's interesting how typically we expect analytical reference headphones to be too bright and not comfortable for extended listening period. Here Zero Audio guys found a perfect balance of revealing performance without being overly bright. The soundstage is also wide and deep, but a little more private and closer in comparison to Tenores.

Here are the pictures.




























Overall, I think both of these Zero Audio headphones offer an amazing sound quality with a very unique build and design. Fortunately, both are offered for sale on Amazon and have a lot of sellers. I started this review by mentioning "Giant killers", and with it's current price of around $50 for Tenores and $165 for Doppios you can clearly see how Tenores fit this category where you can easily spend 3x as much to get a similar quality sound signature. But make no mistake, Doppios also have an amazing reference headphone quality that could cost 2x as much from other brands. Tenore and Doppios are not really competing against each other but rather occupying their own space of a specific sound signature. I just hope that between their individual headphone offerings of dynamic drivers and BA drivers, the next product from Zero Audio will be a hybrid design combining the best of both worlds!
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addsfsds
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Hi mate! How are you? Hopefully you still remember me! I'm so glad to see you got the Tenore too and liked them! I think I hit the jackpot with these as I spent the right amount of money and finally got the right amount of bass I was looking for
I have a question for you, how do the Tenore compares to the dm-2?based on what you told me last month I'm still interested in those. So I'd like to have your precious opinion! Cheers
 
vectron
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Originally Posted by addsfsds View Post
Hi mate! How are you? Hopefully you still remember me! I'm so glad to see you got the Tenore too and liked them! I think I hit the jackpot with these as I spent the right amount of money and finally got the right amount of bass I was looking for
I have a question for you, how do the Tenore compares to the dm-2?based on what you told me last month I'm still interested in those. So I'd like to have your precious opinion! Cheers
SIDY DM2 has more bass, but they are not as accurate as Tenores. I actually haven't even touched DM2 since I got Carbos One thing to keep in mind, as you probably read from dozens of pages on Head-fi, Tenores will need at least 100 hrs of burn in for the bass to start shining. I like a little more bass for my taste, so I'm somewhere around 50+ hrs of burn in mark The only thing with Tenores - they do look fragile... But when I read from some people on the forum who compare them to HA-FX850, you know you got something special Btw, I'm also waiting to get review samples of KC06 and KC06A. Curious about "A" model which supposed to have more bass, just hope not at the expense of recessed mids... And then there is VSonic VSD 3S (very much hyped by everyone already...) - will have to figure out how to get a review sample of those
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Thanks for the reply! So, are we safe to say that the Tenore sounds better than the dm-2 to you? I was looking to get another pair of Chinese iem and the dm-2 were on my list. I'm really looking forward to read your thoughts about the ostrys and the new vsd 3s!
 
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Originally Posted by addsfsds View Post
Thanks for the reply! So, are we safe to say that the Tenore sounds better than the dm-2 to you? I was looking to get another pair of Chinese iem and the dm-2 were on my list. I'm really looking forward to read your thoughts about the ostrys and the new vsd 3s!
Yeah, Tenore is better than DM2. No need to buy it, in my personal opinion. Hopefully will get Ostrys in a week or two. Not sure about VSD3 yet, but Mochill on Head-fi has been going nuts last night posting updates every 5 min how much he loves these. Hopefully it's not another hype train. But for $46 with removable cables and such an ergonomic design - it's hard to ignore it
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Originally Posted by vectron View Post
Yeah, Tenore is better than DM2. No need to buy it, in my personal opinion. Hopefully will get Ostrys in a week or two. Not sure about VSD3 yet, but Mochill on Head-fi has been going nuts last night posting updates every 5 min how much he loves these. Hopefully it's not another hype train. But for $46 with removable cables and such an ergonomic design - it's hard to ignore it
After the Tenore choo choo train I started to value what Mochill says (still filtering something out ), I found they have the quality of my PFE 122 but with the right amount of bass. I might buy another pair in future as backup. Still i'm really curious about the VSD3, they also look so good
 
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Default Totally agree

I absolutely agree with everything you said about the Tenores. Afteer owning hundreds of IEM's, with a price range from $600 (Sennheiser IE800, UE 7 Pro) to $6.00, I finally found that true "giant killer", that IEM with the perfect combination of fit and sound at a completely affordable, but at the list price, completely INSANELY undervalued when you compare price to performance ratio. These things destroy even the JVC FX650's, which are three times the cost. The Tenores don't even hit their stride until after 200+ hours of listening. This is when they truly transform, especially the bass. The bass goes from being kinda thick and intrusive, to this rich articulation, with punch, where you hear and feel each note as it's played. The complete opposite of say the popular Pistons 2.0 (which I still own) or the FX650 (sold). This reveals itself at about 200 hours, and there's no looking back.

I just ordered the Doppios, after spending a month wrestling with the ergonomically disappointing Fostex TE-05 and bloaty and not as detailed JVC FX650. The Fostex did have a beautifully clean and even lush reference sound, but the isolation and fit were so godawful poor, that i just didn't find any joy in them, or desire to keep them. The JVC's fit better, but isolation wasn't much better, and the woodies are just bulky and don't provide the sick awesome soundstage and detailing the Tenores provide at a 1/3 the price. So I unloaded, got a great deal on amazon, and I await the Doppios with great excitement. If they can provide the type of enjoyment or leap frog the sonic pleasure I got from both the UE 700 or TEAC ZE-1000 dual armatures (both broke on me at the wire at different places), then I think I've finally found the perfect dynamic and BA IEM's for my long term listening pleasure?

Thanks for the great review!

btw yes, this is IEMagnet, who was grossly and unfairly banned from head-fi, and repeated requests to be reinstated over the last year have gone unanswered and ignored. But i still read and follow every day.
 
vectron
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Originally Posted by IEMagnet View Post
.....

Thanks for the great review!

btw yes, this is IEMagnet, who was grossly and unfairly banned from head-fi, and repeated requests to be reinstated over the last year have gone unanswered and ignored. But i still read and follow every day.
What did you have to do to get kicked out of head-fi?!? Btw, on head-fi I'm "twister6", just like in every other forum where I post, except XDA where I'm "vectron". If I can go back in time a few years when I registered here, I wouldn't make a mistake of random name... but anyway.

Btw, if you are following Head-fi and their Tenore thread, it kind of went in a totally different direction of "reference" vs "bassy" models, and so on. Another Discovery thread with Zero Audio's been all over the place as well.

I'm still waiting to receive my KC06/KC06A and want to compare it to Tenores. I know the sound isolation of Ostry is not that great, but a lot of other people say they prefer KC06 over Tenores. Will see. With KC06A, at least I don't have to wait 200hr for bass to shine But still, Tenores are at the top of my list when I listen to acoustic music or music with non-electronic instruments. The sound delivery is truly breathtaking!
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