TFZ Exclusive 5 Review – Sound Like Salted Caramel

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Sound –

The TFZ Exclusive 5 is another earphone that demonstrates that a simple, well-done driver setup can provide some stunning results and at a reasonable price to boot. The 5 implements a single dynamic driver with the same dual circuit graphene diaphragm as the King. However, one would not postulate, given the Exclusive 5’s smaller 9mm driver as opposed to the 12mm driver in the King, that the Exclusive is actually the more vibrant, dynamic earphone and not just of the two but in general. Where the King was all about balance and high-frequency detail, the Exclusive 5 rewards listeners with a super clear, engaging listen that is still very technically impressive.

 

Tonality –

The Exclusive 5 is a V-shaped earphone with a powerful sub-bass response followed by a mild treble boost and a more recessed midrange. They are a great departure to the TFZ King with essentially the opposite tonality though their tuning and presentation are similar in that the both earphones carry a similarly clear, resolving sound with a more aggressive detail presentation. The Exclusive 5 is also more v-shaped than the Kinera H3, it is similar to the K3 Pro with more sub-bass emphasis and less mid-bass bloat. The Exclusive 5 also has a more coherent treble response than the Magaosi though they don’t resolve quite as well as the updated but more expensive K3 HD.

 

Soundstage, Imaging and Separation –

With their slightly recessed midrange, the Exclusive 5 produces a nice presentation with abundant space and separation though imaging does suffer slightly on behalf of their more sculpted tuning. Unlike a lot of earphones, the 5 is more depth biased, with expansive vocals and instruments and above average width that never causes compression. They aren’t a huge sounding earphone, but their clear tuning can create a convincing sense of space when the track calls for it. In addition, the exclusive 5 has excellent separation, they are actually more separated than the more mid-forward King and Kinera H3 though they don’t sound as clean as the Basic. Imaging isn’t bad on the when compared to the competition around this price but they clearly lack the speed and precision of the King and their slightly more incoherent high-frequency response does compromise placement in a lot of instances.

 

Drivability –

The Exclusive 5 is an efficient earphone with a sensitivity of 107dB and a lower 24ohm impedance. While it isn’t quite as efficient from lower powered sources as the King, the Exclusive 5 is appreciably easier to drive than the K3 HD/Pro and Kinera H3. Being a single dynamic driver earphone, the Exclusive 5 doesn’t experience any impedance swing from higher output impedance sources, sounding tonally identical from my HTC 10, Laptop and Fiio X7 II. The Fiio X7 II did provide a notable improvement with regards to bass tightness and sub-bass control though treble didn’t become notably more coherent than the HTC. They don’t respond exceptionally to amplification since they are very sensitive but if you are hiss sensitive, the Exclusive 5 can relatively easily discern hiss from noisier sources.

 

 

 

Bass –

The Exclusive 5 has a notably emphasized bass response when compared to the King, they even outstrip the Kinera H3 and Magaosi K3 HD in terms of outright quantity. However, the 5 retains much of the quality provided by the King and their style of bass emphasis is far more tasteful than the more bloated K3 HD and Simgot EN700 Bass. The majority of the Exclusive 5’s emphasis lies within sub-bass with a little extra mid and upper bass imbuing their low end with a sense of richness without encroaching on their lower midrange. And where a lot of similarly priced in-ears struggle with sub-bass extension, the 5’s easily matches the King and H3, even giving the Oriveti Basic a run for their money in terms of overall bass slam. For electronic, rock and pop, the 5 provides a tight but super solid thump to sub-bass notes with a lively mid-bass response that never comes across as tubby or boxy. They have a very clean sound, again, not dissimilar to the Basic which is a great thing in my books. While they don’t possess the low-end warmth of the H3 and K3 HD due to a relative dip in upper bass fullness, the 5 is rich, lush and achieves separation that these earphones don’t glimpse.

Of course, due to their emphasis, some muddiness and bloat is apparent, though their more restrained mid-bass and more even integration with sub-bass provides an appreciably more nuanced and textured bass response to the Magaosi and Simgot earphones. Bass probably takes the biggest resolution hit from the King, their additional quantity also coming with a layer of dampening that saps them of some bass definition. They also lack the excellent speed of the King; when listening to faster rock songs, metal and electronic, the 5 could get a bit lost where the King rarely ran into an issue. That being said, I still found bass generally more revealing on the Exclusive 5 than the Simgot EN700 Bass, K3 Pro and lower TFZ Exclusive earphones.  But while the exemplary Kinera H3 is appreciably more textured and the King has clearer, more immediate bass details, the Exclusive 5 is easily the most dynamic and engaging of the bunch. If you’re looking for outright bass slam and thump without sacrificing too much bass quality, the Exclusive 5 provides a more aggressive alternative to the Oriveti Basic.

 

Mids –

Being a clearly v-shaped earphone, midrange details can and often do come across as slightly distant and recessed though they retain a lot of the exquisite clarity and resolution carried by the more expensive King. As such, the Exclusive 5, like the Magaosi K3 HD, tends to draw attention towards midrange elements through their clear, more aggressive tuning, providing a skewed sound but one that has greater perceived balance than their V-shaped description would suggest. And it’s no surprise that the Exclusive 5 has a slightly brighter tonal tilt with somewhat recessed lower mids leading into a more present but smoother upper midrange. It’s a really enjoyable, insightful presentation that many listeners will love. If you’re a big jazz and vocal listener, a warmer, more natural earphone like the Kinera H3 or Simgot EN700 Bass will likely suit you better, but the Exclusive 5 is so delightfully dynamic, engaging and vivid, easily besting both in terms of clarity, resolution and vocal layering.

However, this presentation isn’t all good, of course, the Exclusive 5’s midrange does not sound particularly natural to me, especially when compared to the Kinera H3 and Oriveti Basic, with their notable clarity boost making vocals sound quite raspy. Strangely, this quality is actually more noticeable with male vocals than female vocals, listening to Bruno Mars’ “That’s What I Like” and the Exclusive 5 provided a guilty pleasure level bass response with excellent detail and clarity combined with a really pleasing sense of midrange resolution and layering. However, both Mars’ and background vocals did sound somewhat unnatural, not thin but quite raspy and dry. How much this bothers you will depend on the type of sound you are accustomed to and your preferred style of tuning and the Exclusive 5 is certainly no worse than something like the Magaosi K3 Pro. And upper mids are largely improved though their smoother character does rob the Exclusive 5 of that immediate sense of resolution possessed by the King. Listening to “Officially Missing You” by Tamia, and the 5 provided a crisp, detailed presentation of acoustic guitar along with silky, layered female vocals. The Exclusive 5 wasn’t quite as impressive as the King in terms of outright quality though they are still a resolving and well-tuned earphone. So despite their more dry lower midrange, buyers will still find plenty of enjoyment in TFZ’s more dynamic offering, especially those that fear the King’s aggressive, forward upper midrange will not suit their preferences.

 

Treble –

Being a v-shaped earphone, highs tend grab attention more than the King since they lack the upper midrange aggression and presence of TFZ’s Exclusive flagship. And, like their bass response, the Exclusive 5 has that layer of smoothness on top which trades some of the excellent detailing and resolution of the King for a little extra listenability and musicality. But besides the difference in quantity, the actual tuning of that treble is quite similar to the King albeit with less of a middle treble spike. This makes them a sparkly, more detail-forward earphone though treble notes are more natural than their midrange; texturing and extension are both fantastic though treble is still a bit on the thinner side. Listening to “Carry On My Wayward Son” by Kansas and the Exclusive 5 provided great separation between the electric guitars and cymbals with a pleasing sense of both clarity and texture to all elements. However, high details weren’t quite as raw as the King nor were they as coherent.

In terms of detail retrieval, the Exclusive 5 still gets a bit uneven in their high-frequency response to retrieve details like more expensive, more linear earphones such as the Kinera H3 and Magaosi K3 HD. However, the Exclusive 5 sounds more coherent than the older K3 Pro and extends appreciably further than the Oriveti Basic, it also demolishes older earphones like the Shure SE215 when it comes to high-frequency reproduction. The King is noticeably faster throughout, the Exclusive 5 getting more overwhelmed with more complex, faster-paced songs even though separation is excellent. That being said, extension is great, high hats sound accurate and any roll off rarely presents in average listening. They also have a nice sense of air and shimmer to notes and their shortcomings in outright detail retrieval and texture are relative to the more expensive King, K3 HD and H3 so I would still consider them to be a very strong performer around this price.

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About Author

Avid writer, passionate photographer and full-time student, Ryan's audio origins and enduring interests lie within all aspects of portable audio. An ongoing desire to bring quality audio to the regular reader underpins his reviewer ethos as he seeks to bring a new perspective on the cutting edge and budget dredge alike.

3 Comments

  1. Martin on

    Hi,
    What would your choice be out of Oriveti Basic or 1More Quad driver.

    Or can you recommend any IEMs in the £100-200 mark. I love deep bass but i also like them to sound balanced as i love jazz fusion and acoustic music too.

    Thank you for all your efforts in your informative and welcome site

    Best
    Martin

    • Martin on

      Sorry. I meant to include these as an option as well as the Basic and 1More

      • Ryan Soo on

        Hard to say, if you’re looking for balance, the Basic and TFZ 5 aren’t the most even, linear earphones though they also aren’t horribly sculpted either. For acoustic, I might take the Basic since it’s smoother with a more natural midrange, treble isn’t super sparkly or airy but has a little more aggression that makes acoustic sound nice and crisp. The 1More Quad is more balanced than both, it has nice clarity and a great soundstage, it’s a good choice if you don’t mind the ergonomics and lack of removable cable. Pinnacle P1 is a pretty good option as well unless you’re treble sensitive of wants loads of sub-bass but deep and mid-bass are organic and full. It’s a good all-rounder and the tuning is nice for acoustic.

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