Tangzu Zetian Wu is a planar magnetic IEM, that comes at a price of 149$ MSRP (154$ if you prefer a 4.4 mm balanced cable.) Maybe this review is a little bit later than the first wave but, I wanted to explore them too, as their tuning seemed to my liking but also there were some negative reviews too. I hope it would help your purchasing decisions just before 11.11 sale.
- Addicting Subbass Focused Low End
- Snappy but not Splashy
- Different Take on the Recent Planar Game
- Does not Have the Usual Planar Timbre
- Not Fatiguing Like Other Planars
- Exceptional Packaging, Accessories and Box Art
- Because They are Mid-Centric, Perceived Soundstage is not Particularly Wide
- Maybe Just a bit more Air would have been better
- Cable could have been better
Without boring you too much, I don’t necessarily have a sound preference. I tend to enjoy different sound profiles as long as they do well at what they intend to do. I try to be critic in my reviews but I might be somewhat biased one way or another (Recency bias, buyer’s bias etc.). Please keep these in mind. Also, I bought Tangzu Zetian Wu as well as other headphones mentioned here with my own money from Keephifi.com for a price that would be more or less what I would pay in 11.11 sales in exchange for this review. If a unit I reviewed is given or loaned to me in the future, I will say so here.
Build, Comfort and Trivia
Zetian Wu or Wu Zetian as Chinese use family names before their given names, was the only female ruler of China History. The Empress belonged to Tang Dynasty, which also gave the name of the brand Tangzu. However, Tangzu was named T-Force before they changed their name. Yuan Li was their first entry to IEM market, although they were relatively experienced driver producers and sourced driver to many other brands.
Yuan Li started, what they call Dynasty Trilogy, as they name their IEMs after Tang Dynasty Emperors. A few months ago they released Shimin Li, which was budget oriented and the second episode of the Trilogy. Shimin Li got mixed reviews. But Tangzu didn’t give up, addressed those criticism without straying from their house sound when they released Zetian Wu. Zetian Wu is not necessarily a part of the Trilogy, but more of a spinoff. Trilogy is to be continued in 2023.
Zetian Wu, like every Tangzu (T-Force) product, has expectional packaging and accessories in its price range. Carrying case is similar to the one 7hz Salnotes Dioko. It is quite large, not very suitable for carrying IEMs. However, in my experience, none of the IEM case really is. Cable is a decent 2 pin 0.78 mm connection one, but I would expect something a little better from Tangzu. There are 7 pair of tips in the package, which are the same as 7hz H07 and H08 tips. Also, a black pair is on the IEMs which makes it a total of 8 pair.
IEMs have plastic shells with slight wings and purple metal faceplates. Shells of Zetian Wu are larger than S12 or Timeless, although Timeless have unnecessarily big faceplates. They are light and fairly comfortable. Plastic construction is somewhat of a concern but I haven’t heard of any reports of failure yet.
Driver Size: 14.5 mm
Frequency Response: 20 – 20.000 Hz
Sensitivity: 100dB (1kHz)
Impedance: 16 ohm
Channel Difference: 1dB (1kHz)
Tangzu Zetian Wu, distinguishes itself from the other planars those flooding the market recently. They have a subbass focused Mid-centric balanced sound which is not fatiguing at all. I even heard some reviewers say these don’t sound like usual planars at all.
Bass is, as I said earlier subbass focused. Midbass is just right too in my honest opinion. They don’t sound lean but bass don’t bleed to midrange either. Subbass is rattling, full, aggressive. Although not really at the same level, it kind of remind me Audiosense AQ4’s bass.
Mids are very clean and forward. At this point, I started to think this is the house sound that Tangzu is going for. I heard from their head that they love the Sennheiser HD600 sound. To be fair, I haven’t heard Yuan Li, hopefully I will. Even if I do, now that they are discontinued, I doubt I will review them. We will see. Anyway, Shimin Li was tuned similarly but they were excessive in this aspect and very aggressive and shouty for the most of the listeners. So, they pushed the gain further to the 3k range in the Zetian Wu, which helped a lot. They still have more energy than most of the other, but it doesn’t get annoying like it did with Shimin Li. Vocals are still pretty much in your face and “S”s, “Sh”s and “T”s can get sibilant when pushed a little. But those occasions were very rare.
Treble in the Zetian Wu is also kind of a mixed bag. In my personal opinion, I love the treble of them. It is snappy but not splashy. It didn’t fatigue me at all, even after hours of listening. But I also understand they lack a bit of air for some. If you check the graph of Zetian Wu, the upper mids and treble of them follows Harman In-Ear Target, pretty much the same as Truthear x Crinacle Zero and rolls of earlier than some of the recent IEMs. It can be either a good or a bad thing depending your preference.
Due to their pushed mid-range, Zetian Wu doesn’t have particularly a wide perceived soundstage. As I said earlier, presentation is more of a in your face style. I don’t mind it but, I’m aware a lot of people are after wide sounding IEMs. Also, while I don’t particularly agree, I kind of understand why some people call these congested. In that sense Imaging and separation was pretty good but could have been better with a wider presentation.
Detail and Resolution performance of Zetian Wu was exceptional in my experience. Details are not pushed forward like some airier IEMs, sure, but I got more than why asked for from the tracks. In that sense they sounded more natural more often than not. Timbre was also very natural, which is the most important strength of Zetian Wu compared to other planars on the Market.
Comparison with 7hz Timeless
Shells of Zetian Wu is bigger so Timeless, although weirdly shaped, is more comfortable for my ears. Zetian Wu is slightly harder to drive.
Timeless has more midbass and lower mids, therefore is slightly warmer. Zetian Wu has more upper mids and more forward vocals. Though if pushed, it can be in your face and shouty.
Timeless is brighter and airier in the upper treble. Zetian Wu is less fatiguing in the treble but some may call them congested. Instruments like cymbals and high-hats in Timeless gets is a little splashier.
Neither is particularly sibilant, but due to its emphasis in 3-6k region, Zetian We becomes sibilant earlier with the volume.
Zetian Wu has noticeably more subbass. Timeless may be punching slightly harder in the midbass but less subbass doesn’t back it up.
Perceived sound stage is slightly wider on Timeless. Imaging is decent on both. Timbre is better on Zetian Wu. It really doesn’t feel like you are listening with a planar IEMs at all. Timeless has that tinge of zing you can’t just shake off.
Resolution, in my opinion on par and what you perceive as detail is really comes down to the tuning. Because of the treble, Timeless might come as more detailed or the mids in Zetian Wu can mask other frequencies more. These ears of mine pulled a little more nuances with the Zetian Wu, but Timeless felt like it was faster more often than not.
To sum all these up:
Bass: Zetian Wu > Timeless
Mids: Timeless > Zetian Wu (it depends to your preference, to be honest I’m more inclined to Zetian Wu)
Treble: Zetian Wu > Timeless
Soundstage, Imaging, Seperation of Instruments: Timeless ≥ Zetian Wu
Resolution and Detail: Timeless ≥ Zetian Wu
Zetian Wu is, in my opinion, one of the best sounding planars on the market. Of course, that depends on your preference. I like how they don’t push the treble for details’ sake and go for their own unique sound. They don’t have the usual planar timbre that is preventing some people from trying them and don’t get fatiguing at all. Bass is addicting. Maybe they could use a bit more air, though if it would make them fatiguing like others, I could do without some. They sound very intimate and natural which I like. If all these sound appealing to you, do check them out. I hope this review helps your purchasing decisions.