Believe it: This $13 headphone is an overachiever

For $13 the Audiophiliac wasn't expecting much, but the KZ-ATE-HiFi looks better than you would expect.

The KZ ATE-HiFi in-ear headphones are getting a lot of attention from audiophiles craving decent sound, but don't have much dough. So I had to hear them for myself and bought a pair of KZ ATE-HiFis on Amazon for $13, with free shipping for Prime customers. When I received the headphones I tore open the package, and they looked better than expected.

The KZ ATE-HiFi isn't just a one hit wonder, as it turns out KZ offers a slew of cheap but interesting in-ears. I'll try more soon, but right now I'm here to tell you that this set is a serious overachiever.

KZ ATE-HiFi in-ears in somebody's ears

Photo by KZ

Tech details are skimpy, but here's what I know: The headphone weighs a mere half an ounce, it has 8mm drivers and impedance is listed at 16 ohms. The ear pieces fit best with the cables dressed up and over your ears. I never found an easy way to identify the left from right earpieces and fit is just OK. Isolation from external noise is average for in-ear headphones.

The KZ ATE-HiFi's clarity on Regina Spektor's take on "Dear Theodosia" from the all together terrific "Hamilton Mixtape" album drew me into the music, her vocal as well as the piano were pretty natural and dynamics were solid. The Rolling Stones new album "Blue & Lonesome" sounds dreadfully harsh and compressed over the KZ ATE-HiFi, but that's not the headphones' fault as the music sounds bad on every speaker and headphone I've tried. The KZ ATE-HiFi doesn't hide the nastiness, and that's OK with me.

Ah, but R.E.M.'s delicious "Unplugged 1991-2001" was clear, and the acoustic setting was well represented. Mica Levi's sumptuous orchestral soundtrack score for "Jackie" was wonderful, so play a decent sounding recording and the KZ ATE-HiFi will let you hear how good it is.

With reggae master Lee "Scratch" Perry's "Dub Triptych" album, the KZ ATE-HiFi's command of low bass beats was mighty impressive. The bass wasn't muddy or bloated, there was definition and power aplenty.

The KZ ATE-HiFi is good for what it is, but I assure you spending a little more for a Sennheiser HD 220 II ($25), or more for a FiiO EX1 ($70) or the 1More Triple Driver ($85) headphones will reward your ears with even better sound.

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