The highs on the Zombie are very strong and clear, with some accentuations in the highs. This results in crisp driving high hats and cymbals, and a strong sense of impact for most instruments. It also gives a good impression of the room sound, and adds impact to drum beats. This sounds like it would (along with the direct drive bass) favor rock recordings, but I find jazz and other acoustic music to benefit as much or more from the clarity and impact of instruments and the room sound.
Mids are smooth and rich, with good color, tone and richness. There is good presence to vocals, male and female, though they are a bit back, maybe a 3rd-4th row appearance. Guitars, saxes, pianos have very good tonality, with, as is the Zombie claim to fame, good corporeality and impact. Color is maybe slightly exaggerated, oversaturated if you will, but in a very pleasant and involving way.
To paraphrase Sun Ra, “Bass is the Place!”. The Zombie bass is hard to beat. Acoustic bass is particularly well rendered, not just the notes, but the full body of that big stand up instrument is felt as well as heard. There is good sub bass and mid bass, with good, but not overwhelming impact. I’ve been big on downloads from the ECM label recently (a wonderful independent label from Munich releasing much Jazz, but also New Music, Classical, and much that straddles these genres). I’ve gotten many WAV downloads of artists I knew and many I didn’t, and the Zombies have me using a major portion of my listening time playing these albums. Bass holds down AND propels the entire performance-Zombies’ does this without being overwhelming, but avoiding being underwhelming as well. Take “Rumblin’”, from Gary Peackock’s Tangents (ECM WAV download), a nod to Ornette’s “Ramblin’”, with Marc Copland’s piano, Joey Baron’s drums (one of my fav jazz drummers), with the Peacock bass solo, backed by an incredible variety of cymbal taps and textures, and piano interjections, projecting, the bass is not overdone, but dutifully felt, as an acoustic bass should be. It’s not as tight as some (BA) bass, without the distinct leading edge, but very fine nonetheless.
SOUNDSTAGE AND IMAGING
The soundstage of the Zombies is wide and deep, with a nice placement of instruments, good depth. Width is about average. The space between instruments is black, but in an organic way, feeling like a real room. Detail is good, but not the best-some details in the mids, while there, need to be listened for, they don’t jump out at you. These probably are not the iem’s for detail freaks.
COHESIVENESS AND PRAT
This is where these babies shine! All Time Low’s “Somewhere In Neverland” has more detail on some other monitors, with guitar arpeggios here one of my tests for detail. HOWEVER, these just KICK ASS on this track-the bass drives, the bass drum is palpable, and dancing is just a must! If loving this is wrong, I don’t wanna be right…”Shema”, from Camp Songs, by Ben Perowsky (drums), with Uri Caine (piano), Drew Grass (drums) (Tzadik, John Zorn’s wonderful label, Flac rip from CD), brings the trio front and present-it’s not just drum/bass/piano playing, it’s them playing together, subtly shifting dynamics, interacting, it’s just captivating.
I can see how some might consider using the DD low driver full range to mess up the overall sound, and, in fact, I’d guess it has some to do with the relatively decreased micro-detailing performance (relative to the rest of its performance). But, there is always a trade off-it sounds to me like the cohesiveness and drive they exhibit COMES from having the direct driver full range, with the BA’s to add emphasis in the other ranges. But, yes, there is a slight cost in absolute detail, nothing comes for nothing…
I was wondering what happens with a better source; since I had maxed out the DAP sources I had at home, so I hooked them to the desktop system (PC/JRiver24/Geek Out Special Edition v1/LH Labs Revive (powered by LH Labs LPS)/Cavalli Audio Liquid Carbon v1. Did I say I was drawn to acoustic music with the babies? I pointed JRiver to Pop-Punk; Valley Lodge’s “Every Little Thing” (Valley Lodge, WAV rip from CD) just exploded out of these things. The stage was deeper, wider, details clear but in sync, not isolated. Weezer’s “California Kids” (White Album, FLAC rip from CD) is less dense, but just as powerful in its Zombification (a hint of the rawness of the drivers comes out, but it just makes it more exciting). Interestingly, bass is not overpowering in this setup, but, with the right fit/seal, is slightly soft but driving and anchors the bottom beautifully. The impact of these babies, which, as I said, is more about all parts being in lockstep, interacting as a live group should than one particular part of the sound fabric. And, again, that wide and deep stage, the detailing (which I suspect is still better on more “technical” phones, but is still quite strong). And, for a different acoustic experience, I clicked on The Hayden Triplets (“When I Stop Dreaming”, FLAC rip from CD, from the country album by Charlie Haden’s triplet girls-man, to have been in the car on their road trips…). The album is rich with all sorts of acoustic stringed instruments, and the lovely sister harmonies, and the mandolin, dobro and guitar lines are clear and distinct, and if you want to learn harmony singing, the lines blend, but easily pulled apart if you like (vocals are slightly recessed, but rich).