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KZ S2 TWS Earbuds Review

Are these the best true wireless headphones under $50?

Christopher Coke Updated: Posted:
Category:
Hardware Reviews 0

Have you been on the fence about picking up a pair of True Wireless earbuds? The KZ Acoustics KZ S2 feature dual drivers, Bluetooth 5.0, high-quality AAC audio and more for only $29.99. Sound too good to be true? I’ve spent the last week putting them through their paces to find out exactly that. Let’s dive in.

Specifications

  • Current Price: $29.99 ($49.99 normally) (Indie GoGo)
  • Drivers: 1 Balanced Armature, 1 Dynamic Driver
  • Frequency Response: 10 - 20,000 Hz
  • Chip: Realtek 8763
  • Bluetooth: Bluetooth 5.0
  • Codec: AAC
  • Wireless Range: 20 Meters
  • IP Rating: IPX5 Splash Proof
  • Battery
  • Earbud Battery: 40 mA (3-4 hours)
  • Case battery: 500 mA (18 hours total)
  • Charge Time: 2 hours, earbuds/case

KZ S2 Box

I’ll admit, KZ Acoustics isn’t a brand I’d heard of before finding their IndieGoGo campaign. Like many crowd funded projects, they promised big things, calling these earbuds “next generation” and the “Ultimate HiFi TWS” earbud.  I play a game with these kinds of campaigns, seeing if I can guess the price based on how hard they’re selling it. $100, bare minimum, I thought. Could be as much as $150, since they were dual driver, which isn’t super common in wireless earbuds.

Early bird price: $29.99.

You read that right. $29.99. Without doing any more research, you’d better believe I was skeptical. It’s hard to find any decent bluetooth headphone for that price, let alone a true wireless pair.

As luck would have it, I had been talking to Linsoul about another pair of headphones I wanted to review around this time and they asked me if I would be interested in trying the KZ S2s for myself and letting our audience know what I thought. Well, yes. Yes, I would.

KZ S2 Package

Over the week or so it took for them to arrive, I researched KZ Acoustics. The company, formed in 2013, and also known as Shenzhen Yuanze Electronics Co. Ltd., specializes in making budget Hi-Fi headphones. In fact, the S2 was preceded by an even earlier TWS budget banger, the KZ S1, which you can pick up for $23.99 now. And you know what… most of their headphones look good. They’re hot on the trends of audiophile IEMs right now, at least in look and drivers, but pricing most of their models below $50. Reading reviews of some of their gear, they’ve actually developed a pretty good reputation for punching above their class.

It’s clear KZ knows a thing or two about delivering value for the dollar. After doing a late night deep dive, I was more interested than ever to see these headphones for myself. Even with that reputation… $29.99 for dual driver TWS? That’s crazy cheap. There had to be a catch somewhere.

Fast forward to last week and a tiny package arrived at my door.  The KZ S2s had arrived. I was actually surprised at how small and lightweight the package was, and for good reason. The actual packaging is fully half the size of any big brand TWS headphone I’ve had. Inside, there’s a couple small bits of documentation, the buds safe inside their charging case, and a short USB Type-C charging cable. There are also two extra white silicone ear tips, the same size as those installed on the buds.

It’s a sparse package. You’re getting the product and little else. But again, $29.99. You really can’t expect a bunch of extras at that price

Onto the KZ S2 itself. The charging case is a bit larger than I’d like, fairly close to the case that shipped with Jabra’s last-gen Elite 65ts. There are still nice touches, though, like the fact that it’s held closed with a magnet. Each bud is also held down with a magnet, making it unlikely they’ll pop open on their own or spill out in a bag, and ensuring they’ll pull down for a solid connection to recharge every time you put them in their case. They charge with a durable USB Type-C connection and can replenish the earbuds four times from being completely dead. I also like that the status light is inside the case. After charging the Jabra Elite 75ts at my bedside, I’ve grown to hate bright charging LEDs that shine all night long.

KZ S2 Charging Case

The earbuds themselves are very lightweight and made of plastic. The nozzles, however, are metal, and I really like the black and gold finish. They’re molded like a traditional IEM, which follows the contours of your ear. There are no physical buttons. Everything it touch-controlled — a surprising feature at this price point. Even more surprising is that it works well at this price point. I had an easier time controlling the KZ S2s than the original Sennheiser Momentums, and that’s saying something since they’re about ten times the cost. Still, I would have preferred physical buttons.

Additionally, there is no volume control. This was a big letdown to realize since wireless headphones are supposed to free you from being tethered to your phone. Here, there is no cable, but you’ll still be pulling your phone out every time you want to make a volume adjustment. That said, that’s really all you’ll need to get your phone out for since you still have media controls and even access to your digital assistant.

Now, with that being said, these certainly don’t feel like the most durable in-ears money can buy. I’d be very cautious not to drop them because they’re clearly not made to stand up to abuse. That goes with the territory at this price point, and even at their regular $49.99 price point (after the Early Bird special is done).

Golden Nozzles

Under the hood, the KZ S2s feature dual drivers per ear and the latest in connection tech. The lows and mids are handled by a custom dual-coil dynamic cone driver. The highs are covered with a custom balanced armature. This is not only extremely rare at this price point for TWS headphones, but also sets the stage for greater clarity and definition in your music, calls, and games. The headphones also sport the AAC codec for high-res transmission, so you won’t have to worry about your music sounding worse just because you’ve cut the cord.

For connectivity, they integrate Bluetooth 5.0 for increased range and reliability and also incorporate the Realtek 8763 chip for high quality AAC transmission and the ability to use each earbud independently, theoretically doubling listening time if you like to listen with a single earbud. This is a major win. My Jabra Elite 75ts can’t do that and I routinely run my right earbud dry listening to audiobooks and YouTube videos. If that happens with the KZ S2, I just swap to the left earbud.

I experienced my first hiccup trying to get them paired. No matter what I tried, I could not get my smartphone to see the earbuds. Eventually, I had to follow the instructions in the manual to completely reset them. After that, they synced up no problem and have been perfect since.

KZ S2 Full Package

Battery life is a bit generous with what KZ quotes. Listening at 80% volume, I was able to get about 3 hours of life out of each bud. There is no fast charge, so you can’t put the buds in the case and come back in 15 minutes expecting an extra hour of runtime. From dead, it takes about two hours to recharge the buds. Generally, though, I only found myself using them for an hour or two at a time and then putting them away. In that use case, I never found the buds drained and unable to be used.

So let’s recap: dual drivers, excellent connection tech, decent case. Lightweight plastic design that doesn’t feel super durable, no button controls or volume, one size ear tips. There are some trade-offs here, but not bad if they sound good.

Do they?

Sound and Usage Impressions

This is where the KZ S2s impress the most. For the cost, these headphones absolutely punch above their class. If you’re used to expensive IEMS or over-ear headphones, these aren’t going to blow you away. BUT, if you’re used to other $20-50 headphones, these are downright impressive.

KZ has gone for a very balanced tuning here. The bass isn’t over done. The highs are slightly elevated to bring out details. Vocals sit in the middle of the mix but are quite clear and present. It’s a headphone that’s middle of the road, which means it’s going to be a good fit for lots of different genres of music and content. It also means that it’s fairly easy to EQ to get exactly the sound you’re looking for.

KZ S2 in-ear

As a detail-head, I actually really enjoyed the stock tuning. I spent a good hour enjoying Amazon’s Acoustic Chill playlist, enjoying the articulation and voicing of the acoustic guitars. A bit later I threw on some Coheed and Cambria and classic Taking Back Sunday and went in the opposite direction. The KZ S2s were clear, detailed, and enjoyable across the board. Compared to my wired Skullcandy headphones, it was like lifting a veil to hear the music underneath.

Do they compete with my Jabras, Jaybirds, or RHAs? No, but they’re damn good for the price and better than anything you’ll find in a department store in that range.

But — and this is something you need to plan on if you consider picking these up — you need to find an ear tip that fits your ear, and KZ doesn’t give them to you. Using the stock tips, I couldn’t get the left earbud to stay in my air and both of them sounded thin out of the box. Thankfully, I have weird ears and need different sized tips for left and right, so had some extras on hand. Spend the extra $10 and pick up a decent set of silicone or foam tips on Amazon. Unless you’re a Medium in both ears, you’ll need to, especially if you plan to move around while wearing the KZ S2s.

Final Thoughts

For the Early Bird price of $29.99, the KZ S2s are clearly trying to deliver big sound for a budget price and they’ve wholesale succeeded in that. There are catches. The build quality could be better. You may need extra ear tips. No volume control on the buds themselves. But even despite all that, they deliver where it counts most. For the Early Bird price, the KZ S2s deserve your attention. At $49.99, things become more competitive, but there are enough features here to make it a compelling buy even then — though when they do, we should rightfully expect a few extra eartips in the box.

The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.

7.0Good
Pros
  • Uncommon dual-driver design (for TWS)
  • Audio quality is very good for the price
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • Realtek Chip, AAC support
  • Can use each bud independently
Cons
  • Plastic build
  • No physical button or volume control
  • No fast charging
  • One-size eartip included in the box


GameByNight

Christopher Coke

Chris cut his teeth on MMOs in the late 90s with text-based MUDs. He’s written about video games for many different sites but has made MMORPG his home since 2013. Today, he acts as Hardware and Technology Editor, lead tech reviewer, and continues to love and write about games every chance he gets. Follow him on Twitter: @GameByNight