KZ ZST Headphones Review

Tested using Methodology v1.4
Reviewed May 07, 2019 at 10:19 am
KZ ZST Picture
5.6
Mixed Usage
6.4
Neutral Sound
5.4
Commute/Travel
6.3
Sports/Fitness
5.6
Office
3.9
Wireless Gaming
5.9
Wired Gaming
2.2
Phone Calls
Type In-ear
Enclosure Closed-Back
Wireless No
Noise Cancelling No
Mic No
Transducer Hybrid

The KZ ZST are okay mixed usage wired in-ears. They have a passable sound quality but will be better suited for bass-heavy genres. They have a unique style and stand out from other earbuds. They have a similar look to the KZ AS10 and KZ ZS10 but feel slightly cheaper made, and their fit won’t be great for commuting. On the upside, they are still well-built and their cable is braided and detachable. You can also get a Bluetooth adapter to make them wireless. The model we tested didn’t have in-line controls or a microphone, but KZ does offer a variant with both.

Our Verdict

5.6 Mixed Usage

Passable for mixed usage. They have a decent audio reproduction but will be better suited for bass-heavy music. Their fit isolates a decent amount of ambient noise, but won’t do much against the deep rumble of engines, meaning they won’t be the best option for commuting. On the upside, they are very stable and breathable, which is great for sports. However, their wired design won’t be as convenient at the office, although you won’t have to manage battery life. These headphones won’t be good for watching TV as you don’t have much range with their cable and they don’t have a microphone for online gaming.

Pros
  • Durable design.
  • Decent audio reproduction.
Cons
  • The variant without an in-line remote is a bit limited.
  • Slightly bulky earbuds.
  • Uneven treble performance.
6.4 Neutral Sound

Decent for neutral listening. They have a deep, powerful, and consistent bass on top of a good mid range. Unfortunately, their treble is a bit uneven and the mid-range is a bit recessed, pushing the vocals and lead instruments to the back of the mix. Overall, these headphones will be better suited for bass-heavy genres. However, the in-ear fit might not be ideal for long listening sessions.

5.4 Commute/Travel

Mediocre for commuting. They don’t isolate lower-end noises like the deep rumble of a plane or bus engine. On the upside, you don’t have to manage battery life, but you might feel their wire is in your way sometimes. They are easy to carry around and will offer no delay if you watch video content during your commute.

6.3 Sports/Fitness

Decent for sports. These earbuds are very portable and won’t make you sweat more if you use them for sports. Their ear-hook design is very stable and will be adequate for sports, but this also means they won’t offer the freedom of a wireless design. You might find their cable gets in your way while exercising.

5.6 Office

Okay for the office. The in-ear fit might not be the best to wear for hours during a work day, but on the upside, they do a good job at blocking work environment noises. They also don’t leak much so you can listen at high volumes without disturbing your colleagues. You can also use them the whole day as you don’t need to monitor battery life.

3.9 Wireless Gaming

Poor for gaming. The model we tested doesn’t have a microphone, although there is a variant with one. Their sound is slightly boomy and their fit won’t be great for long gaming sessions. On the upside, their wired connection means you won’t have any latency issues.

5.9 Wired Gaming
2.2 Phone Calls
  • 5.6 Mixed Usage
  • 6.4 Neutral Sound
  • 5.4 Commute/Travel
  • 6.3 Sports/Fitness
  • 5.6 Office
  • 3.9 Wireless Gaming
  • 5.9 Wired Gaming
  • 2.2 Phone Calls
  1. Update 3/24/2020: Converted to Test Bench 1.4.
  2. Update 11/21/2019: Converted to Test Bench 1.3.1.
  3. Update 11/21/2019: Converted to Test Bench 1.3.

Test Results

perceptual testing image
Design
Design
Style

The KZ ZST are very similar in style to the other KZ headphones we’ve reviewed so far, but their overall build is smaller and feels a bit more plasticky than the rest. These headphones still look better than what their price tag suggests, thanks to their transparent casing that lets you see the electronic parts of the headphones. Their braided cable also adds to their premium feeling. They come in a few flashy and colorful designs, as well as a black and a carbon fiber designed one, to suit your preferred style.

7.0
Design
Comfort
Weight 0.05 lbs
Clamping Force
0.0 lbs

The ZST are as comfortable as the other KZ models. They are very lightweight and their angled design fits nicely inside the ear without putting too much pressure. They are a bit bulkier than most in-ears, but their overall build is a bit smaller than other KZ headphones. On the upside, they also come with different tip options to help you find a better fit and air-tight seal.

0
Design
Controls
OS Compatibility
No Controls
Ease Of Use No Controls
Feedback No Controls
Call/Music Control No
Volume Control No
Microphone Control No
Channel Mixing
No
Noise Cancelling Control No
Talk-Through
No
Additional Controls No

These headphones do not have an in-line remote with controls. However, there is a model variant with a one-button control scheme on the in-line remote.

9.2
Design
Breathability
Avg.Temp.Difference 0.8 C

Like most in-ear headphones, the KZ ZST don’t trap much heat inside the user’s ears. While their design is a bit bulkier than most in-ears, you shouldn’t feel a big difference in temperature after wearing them for a while.

8.6
Design
Portability
L 2.5 "
W 2.0 "
H 1.1 "
Volume 6 Cu. Inches
Transmitter Required No

The KZ ZST headphones are very portable and will easily fit inside most pockets or in a bag. Their ear-hook design and the bulkier buds take up slightly more space than most in-ears, but you shouldn’t have any problems carrying them around. However, they don’t come with a pouch or a case to protect them.

0
Design
Case
Type No case
L N/A
W N/A
H N/A
Volume N/A

These headphones do not come with a case or a pouch.

7.5
Design
Build Quality

The KZ ZST feel slightly cheaper-made than the other KZ headphones like the KZ ZS10, KZ AS10, or the KZ ZSN. There is a clear distinction between the backplate of the earbud and the earbud frame itself while other models feel like one solid unit. The plastic also feels fairly thinner and doesn't look like it would be able to survive the same amount of pressure before breaking as the other models. On the upside, even this very affordable option has a detachable and replaceable cable, which makes them more durable. You can also buy a Bluetooth adapter cable for these headphones to make them wireless.

7.5
Design
Stability

Like most ear-hook designed headphones, the KZ ZST are stable, and you should be able to jog with these without any problem. They don’t move around in your ear and should be fine for most light sports. However, the cable might get stuck on something, yanking the headphones out of your ears or hurting you because of the ear-hook design.

Design
Headshots 1
Design
Headshots 2
Design
Top
Design
In The Box

  • KZ ZST headphones
  • 3x tip options
  • Manuals

Sound
Sound
Sound Profile
Bass Amount
1.13 db
Treble Amount
-1.04 db
9.6
Sound
Frequency Response Consistency
Avg. Std. Deviation
0.09 dB

Like most in-ears, the ZST have excellent frequency response consistency. If the user can achieve a proper seal using the assortment of tips, then they should be able to get a very consistent bass and treble delivery every time they use the headphones.

Sound
Raw Frequency Response
6.1
Sound
Bass Accuracy
Std. Err.
5.48 dB
Low-Frequency Extension
10 Hz
Low-Bass
3.73 dB
Mid-Bass
6.28 dB
High-Bass
7.23 dB

The bass of the KZ ZST is great. LFE (low-frequency extension) is at 14Hz, which is excellent. Low-bass follows our neutral target very well, meaning these headphones produce just the right amount of thump and rumble, which is common to bass-heavy music and sound effects. Mid-bass, responsible for the body of bass guitars and the punch of kick drums, is fairly flat and within a dB of our curve as well. High-bass, responsible for warmth, is overemphasized by more than 3dB, making the bass of these headphones a bit boomy and muddy.

7.6
Sound
Mid Accuracy
Std. Err.
3.17 dB
Low-Mid
4.38 dB
Mid-Mid
0.06 dB
High-Mid
2.42 dB

The mid-range of the ZST is good. However, there is a broad 5dB recess centered around 800Hz. This pushes vocals and lead instruments towards the back of the mix by giving more emphasis to the bass and treble frequencies.

5.8
Sound
Treble Accuracy
Std. Err.
5.59 dB
Low-Treble
6.52 dB
Mid-Treble
1.44 dB
High-Treble
-4.21 dB

The ZST’s treble performance is okay. The response throughout the range is fairly uneven. The 4dB overemphasis in the low-treble will add too much detail and brightness to vocals and leads. On the other hand, the broad drip in mid-treble will make sibilants (S and T sounds) in those frequencies quite lacking in detail while the peak around 9-10kHz will make them overly sharp and piercing, especially on already bright tracks. However, not everybody experiences treble frequencies the same, so your listening experience may vary.

6.9
Sound
Peaks/Dips
Peaks
1.95 db
Dips
1.69 db
9.3
Sound
Imaging
Weighted Group Delay
0.18
Weighted Amplitude Mismatch
0.09
Weighted Frequency Mismatch
1.09
Weighted Phase Mismatch
1.42

These headphones have excellent imaging. Their weighted group delay value is 0.18, which is very good. This results in a tight and fast bass and clear trebles. The L/R drivers of our test unit also showed very good matching, which helps with proper placement and localization of instruments and sound effects (like footsteps) in the stereo image. However, these results are only valid for our unit, and yours may perform differently.

1.3
Sound
Passive Soundstage
PRTF Accuracy (Std. Dev.)
N/A
PRTF Size (Avg.)
N/A
PRTF Distance
N/A
Openness
3.8
Acoustic Space Excitation
1.9

The soundstage is poor. This is because creating an out-of-head and speaker-like soundstage is largely dependent on activating the resonances of the pinna (outer ear). The design of in-ears and earbuds is in such a way that fully bypasses the pinna and doesn't interact with it. Also, because these headphones have a closed-back enclosure, their soundstage won't be perceived to be as open as that of open-back earbuds like the Apple AirPods 2 2019, Google Pixel Buds, or the Bose SoundSport Free.

0
Sound
Virtual Soundstage
Head Modeling
No
Speaker Modeling
No
Room Ambience
No
Head Tracking
No
Virtual Surround
No App
8.1
Sound
Weighted Harmonic Distortion
WHD @ 90
0.195
WHD @ 100
0.083
Sound
Test Settings
Firmware
No Firmware
Power
Passive
Connection
Wired
Codec
PCM, 24-bit, 48kHz
EQ
No EQ
ANC
No ANC
Tip/Pad
Silicone (small)
Microphone
No Microphone
Isolation
6.1
Isolation
Noise Isolation
Isolation Audio
Overall Attenuation
-15.74 dB
Bass
-2.38 dB
Mid
-14.75 dB
Treble
-31.24 dB

The isolation performance of the KZ ZST is acceptable. In the bass range, where the rumble of airplane and bus engines sits, they achieved about 2dB of isolation, which is inadequate and won’t be great for public transit. In the mid-range, important for blocking out speech, they reduce outside noise by more than 15dB, which is good. In the treble range, occupied by sharp S and T sounds and A/C noise, they isolate by 31dB, which is quite good. The KZ ZS10 and KZ AS10 have a better isolation performance overall.

8.3
Isolation
Leakage
Leakage Audio
Overall Leakage @ 1ft
31.59 dB

The leakage performance of the ZST is great. These in-ears do not leak in the bass and mid ranges, and their leakage is concentrated in a narrow range in the treble range. Therefore, their leakage will be thin and sharp-sounding. The overall level of the leakage is quiet too. With the music at 100dB SPL, the leakage at 1 foot away averages at 32dB SPL and peaks at 55dB SPL, which is just over the noise floor of an average office.

Microphone
Microphone
Microphone Style
Integrated
No
In-Line
No
Boom
No
Detachable Boom
No
0
Microphone
Recording Quality
Recorded Speech
N/A
LFE
N/A
FR Std. Dev.
N/A
HFE
N/A
Weighted THD
N/A
Gain
N/A

The ZST do not have a microphone and therefore, the recording quality has not been tested.

0
Microphone
Noise Handling
Speech + Pink Noise N/A
Speech + Subway Noise N/A
SpNR
N/A

The ZST do not have a microphone and therefore, the recording quality has not been tested.

Active Features
0
Active Features
Battery
Battery Type
No Battery
Continuous Battery Life
N/A
Additional Charges
N/A
Total Battery Life
N/A
Charge Time
N/A
Power-Saving Feature
No
Audio While Charging
No
Passive Playback
Passive Headphone
Charging Port None

They are passive headphones that don’t have a battery. You can also buy a Bluetooth adapter cable for these headphones to make them wireless.

0
Active Features
App Support
App Name No App
iOS No
Android No
macOS No
Windows No
Equalizer
No
ANC Control
No
Mic Control No
Room Effects
No
Playback Control
No
Button Mapping No
Surround Support
No

They do not have a compatible app or software support for added customization options.

Connectivity
0
Connectivity
Bluetooth
Bluetooth Version
No Bluetooth
Multi-Device Pairing
No
NFC Pairing
No
Line Of Sight Range
N/A
PC Latency (SBC)
N/A
PC Latency (aptX)
N/A
PC Latency (aptX HD)
N/A
PC Latency (aptX-LL)
N/A
iOS Latency
N/A
Android Latency
N/A

These headphones are not Bluetooth compatible. However, you can buy a Bluetooth adapter cable for these headphones to make them wireless.

Thanks to their wired connection, you won’t have any latency issues and shouldn’t experience a delay when watching video content or gaming. If you buy a Bluetooth adapter, expect latency issues like most Bluetooth headphones.

0
Connectivity
Non-Bluetooth Wireless
Non-BT Line Of Sight Range
N/A
Non-BT Latency
N/A
9.5
Connectivity
Wired
Analog Audio
Yes
USB Audio
No
Detachable Yes
Length 4.0 ft
Connection 1/8" TRS
Analog/USB Audio Latency
0 ms

These passive headphones provide audio over their 1/8” TRS connector on pretty much any platform that has the appropriate jack.

Connectivity
PC / PS4 Compatibility
PC/PS4 Analog
Audio Only
PC/PS4 Wired USB
No
PC/PS4 Non-BT Wireless
No
Connectivity
Xbox One Compatibility
Xbox One Analog
Audio Only
Xbox One Wired USB
No
Xbox One Non-BT Wireless
No
0
Connectivity
Base/Dock
Type
No Base/Dock
USB Input
No
Line In
No
Line Out
No
Optical Input
No
RCA Input
No
Dock Charging
No
Power Supply
No Base/Dock

These headphones do not have a dock.

Compared to other headphones

Comparison picture

The KZ ZST Hybrid are passable in-ears that set themselves apart by the value they offer. They are very affordable but feel slightly cheaper than the other headphones in the KZ lineup we’ve tested so far. Some may feel like they are overly sharp and don’t passively isolate noise as well as other KZ headphones. See our recommendations for the best noise cancelling earbuds, the best wired headphones, the best cheap earbuds, and the best earbuds under $20.

KZ ZSN

The KZ ZSN and KZ ZST are very similar headphones with slight differences. The ZSN feel a bit more high-end thanks to the metal-like backplate on their earbuds. Some may find them overly sharp, but both headphones have very similar sound profiles. That said, the treble of the ZSN is more uneven. Other than that, they are practically identical and your choice will rely on which headphones you think look the best.

KZ ZS10

The KZ ZS10 are better headphones than the KZ ZST. Their earbud casings feel better made and sturdier than the ZST’s. Also, their sound profile follows our target curve better and will sound noticeably better in the treble range. Overall, both headphones still have very similar sound quality. On the other hand, the ZST are more affordable and could offer a better overall value for most people.

Apple EarPods

The KZ ZST are better headphones than the Apple EarPods. The KZ sound is better, and they also feel noticeably sturdier. However, some will prefer the one-size-fits-all design of the Apple, which seem to be more comfortable than the in-ear fit of the KZ. Also, the Apple have an open design, so this means they don’t block noise well and won’t be a good option for commuting. On the upside, they have an in-line remote and microphone, which the KZ model we’ve tested is lacking, though there is a variant that has them.

KZ AS10

The KZ AS10 will be a better option than the KZ ZST. Their overall build feels slightly better made than the ZST and their sound is more accurate for critical listening. Also, their fit is better at isolating noise, so they’ll also be more versatile if you want to use them for commuting. On the other hand, the KZ ZST are noticeably more affordable and offer great value.

Skullcandy Jib Wireless

The Skullcandy Jib Wireless are better mixed-usage headphones than the KZ ZST. Their wireless design makes them more versatile and noticeably better for sports. They also have a microphone and controls, which our model of the ZST lacks. On the other hand, the ZST are noticeably better built and feel more durable than the cheap, plasticky Skullcandy Jib. Also, the wired ZST won’t give you any latency issues, while the Jib Bluetooth connection might result in a noticeable delay.

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KZ ZST Price

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