2022 will go down as the year of planar magnetic IEMs. We’ve seen some excellent releases this year, from the 7Hz Timeless and Dioko to the Letshouer S12, Raptgo Hook-X, and DUNU Talos. Tangzu, hot on the heels of its Shimlin Li, is stepping up to join the fray with the Zetian Wu. Featuring a 14.5mm dynamic driver, striking purple earpieces, and a bass-friendly tuning, these earphones remind you that listening to music and games should be fun. And boy are they.
Join us, as we take a closer look in this review.
We would like to thank HiFiGo for providing the sample for this review.
- Current Price: $154.52 (HiFiGo, Amazon)
- Key Features
- Newly developed 14.5mm planar magnetic driver
- 4th Gen DLP 3D printed resin cavities
- CNC machined aluminum alloy face covers
- Professional tuning adjustment
- Artistic traditional design on the face covers
- Ergonomic and Comfortable design
- High-purity 5N OFC cable
- Impedance: 16Ω
- Sensitivity: 100dB
- Distortion Rate: <1%
- Frequency response range: 20Hz-20kHz
- Connector type: 2-pin 0.78mm
- Termination plug: 3.5mm/4.4mm.
Tangzu Zetian Wu - First Impressions and Key Features
The Zetian Wu is Tangzu Audio’s (formerly known as TForce) first foray into the world of planar magnetic IEMs. Previously, it released the Shimlin Li, which I reviewed this summer. The emphasis we’ve seen from the brand so far is delivering the best bang for the buck. Its IEMs aren’t the cheapest you’ll find (the Shimlin Li was only $35), but they’re on the affordable end and deliver better audio and build quality than you would usually expect to see at a given price point.m
The Zetian Wu is its most expensive yet, coming in around $150-160 depending on if it’s on sale. For that money, you’re getting a high resolution planar magnetic driver that kicks out plenty of detail, a tuning that will surprise you with the amount and quality of its bass, and beautiful purple shells CNC milled from aluminum with traditional Chinese art depicting clouds.
The color they’ve chosen is unusual in the IEM world and immediately draws the eye. I happen to love rich royal purple, but you’ll need to be a fan to feel comfortable wearing these out of the house. The design isn’t audacious, but people aren’t used to seeing bright purple earphones, so you’ll likely have to field a few questions about them. The inner portion of the earpiece is made of 3D printed resin, modeled after thousands of real ear samples to determine a shape that will work for the most listeners.
Inside its bold shells are the planar magnetic drivers. They’re roughly the same size as the drivers we’ve seen in other planar IEMs this year (14.5mm in this case), but Tangzu has tuned them quite a bit differently than its competitors. That we’ve come to a time when planar magnetic IEMs are so widely available and accessible is a wonderful thing.
Planar magnetic drivers have long been favorites of audiophiles due to their excellent clarity and ultra-low distortion. Planar drivers have a way of crisping up details in what you’re listening to, giving you more perceived clarity and resolution to what you’re hearing. It’s a bit like jumping from a standard definition TV to high definition. Until this year, planar magnetic IEMs were few and far between and were also quite expensive. Not any more.
The Zetian Wu comes to market against stiff competition, so they had to do something different beyond just the look of the IEMs. That difference takes the form of a V-shaped tuning with heightened bass and treble. These earphones reach low and have excellent body, allowing them to work for mainstream music, movies, and games much better than more neutral IEMs. Even with this added bass, you can still hear plenty of details throughout the rest of the spectrum. Bass is big, but it’s not bloated and stays in its lane.
Tangzu was also fairly generous with the accessories it included here. The package comes with an excellent burgundy travel case, trimmed in faux leather. It’s too big to carry in a pocket, but has room for some accessories on top of the cable and IEMs themselves. You’re also given a selection of silicone tips to choose from. Oddly, in my package, one pair of the tips was labeled as being foam when they were silicon. I’m not sure whether retail units will actually have foam tips included or just silicon.
The cable is also quite nice. Tangzu opted for a 5N oxygen-free cable that ends in either 3.5mm single-ended or 4.4mm balanced connections. It’s very soft and nicely braided from four strands. There are no microphonics, and the brown, coppery hue compliments the purple of the faceplates very well.
Tangzu Zetian Wu - Fit and Comfort
The Zetian Wu is a comfortable IEM to wear over extended periods of time. The inner side is molded to nestle in the ear and even includes a small wing to aid in how securely it fits. I did find that I had to reseat them at times if I had moved my head vigorously but overall they were comfortable and secure, even over 3+ hour listening and gaming sessions.
Tangzu Zetian Wu - Listening Impressions
I tested the Zetian Wu using the Hiby R5 Gen 2 digital audio player and a 4.4mm balanced connection. Songs were a mix of Spotify streaming on Very High quality and local lossless audio files.
Bass: Bass on this set is very sub-bass focused. It reaches low. That means on songs like D.R.E.A.M. by Jonny Craig, you can almost feel the vibration of its underlying bass notes. The sub-bass emphasis gives songs plenty of body and texture. The bass tuning descends when it hits the mid-bass but still has plenty of pound for kick drums and explosions. It’s very well balanced bass, so you can hear and feel the texture of the lowest of the low notes and makes the earphones feel more performant overall.
Mids: Mids are quite a bit flatter than the bass, but vocals and mid-range instruments still sound great. Rosalia by Mandroid Echostar is a great example of this. The singer doesn’t come ahead of the instruments, instead those instruments are lined up and balanced with one another. This is perfect for rock and metal where you really want to hear everything the guitars are up to. It’s also wonderful for string-driven classical music.
There is plenty of detail and richness in this range. I was initially worried mid-range detail would be swallowed up by the bass and EQ would be necessary, but it’s truly anything but. The earphones are never shouty or grating. Instead, Tangzu has smoothed out the mids where they sound good across multiple genres.
Treble: Treble has good reach and is elevated to brighten the music. Tangzu didn’t push the highs, so the Zetian Wu never became sibilant or harsh. Instead, you get plenty of detail and air to enhance the soundstage. I did find that cymbals were affected by the roll-off however. The Suffering by Coheed and Cambria is a good example of this, where the cymbals sound slightly off as they decay. Overall, it’s not bad, but something that stood out to me in my listening. Since the overall tuning is so good, this really didn’t bother me very much at all.
Technical Performance, Soundstage, and Imaging: The Zetian Wu does a good job with details, soundstage, and imaging for its price point. Planar magnetics tend to be great at detail retrieval (at least, when they’re done well), and that’s certainly true here. Micro-details, like the sound of fingers on strings or the texture of particular cymbal strikes is easily audible. As a guitar player, I love listening for the texture of guitars and hearing what the artist may be doing to achieve their sound, and these earphones are great for pulling out that level of detail. Layers are clearly separated so you can focus on each individual instrument/sound/vocalist and hear exactly how your song comes together.
Soundstage on these earphones is also good. It’s a closed-back earphone, so you’re naturally more constrained than, say, an open-back pair of headphones. Compared to other closed-backs, however, the sound is fairly deep and fairly wide. I perceive sounds to be coming from slightly outside of my head instead of directly into my ears.
Gaming: The Tangzu Zetian Wu are a good IEM to game with. The sound signature is more fun and cinematic but doesn’t give up much in the way of details and resolution. The soundstage is wide enough that I could pick up the direction of enemies before I saw them. For single-player games, I wasn’t held back from getting engrossed in my game by an unnaturally constrained listening experience. Still, as I almost always recommend: turn on Dolby Atmos for the best IEM gaming experience.
Overall Impressions and Final Thoughts
The Tangzu Zetian Wu is an excellent earphone. Among all of the current planar magnetics on the market, this is the one that I’ve been reaching for. The tuning is excellent. Tangzu has focused on versatility, so you can listen to everything from hip-hop to Mozart and still have an exceptional listening experience. Audio enthusiasts sometimes get wrapped up in neutrality; that if a headphone isn’t perfectly flat, that it must be bad. The Zetian Wu proves that isn’t the case. This is a fun earphone to listen to, and at the end of the day, that’s what counts.
The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.