7hz Salnotes Zero: (T)chu (t)chu does the train

Pros

  • Price
  • Tunning
  • 2-pin cable

Cons

  • None at this price range other making you rethink your expensive collection.
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Disclaimer: This unit was provided by Linsoul for free in exchange for a written review. No incentives of any kind were given and the review you are about to read are my own thoughts and opinions. Thanks once again to Linsoul for the opportunity and support.


Product info:

Driver Setup: 1DD
Price: $20
Purchase link and info: Linsoul

Included in the box:

  • Salnotes Zero
  • Standard 2pin cable with a 3.5mm termination;
  • 5 pairs of silicone tips, color coordinated;

Comfort, fit and isolation: Great.
Source used: Topping E30 + L30 stack
Tips used: BGVP A07, Final E
Test playlist with some of the songs used: Tidal


Context – why did we need the Zero?​

Timeless – one of the words you can’t avoid reading anywhere when searching for IEM nowadays. Bought out of nowhere in 2021, 7hz took the market by the storm with a strong proposition on hand: filling the gaps. Given the fast paced moving markets and the introduction of better and better budget options by the day, brands and consumers want timeless things, but not the eternal ones (giant pun intended).

And 7hz just did it again with their Salnotes Zero (Zero). They aimed for the audiophile twitter trends: calling a set Zero and making it around 20 dollars. Step aside as the train passes, chu chu (ok I’ll stop!)

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I’ve been an advocate that tuning is (or should be) free. Consumers should be paying for technicalities, driver count, customer service, accessories, you name it, but not tuning.

Tuning is what makes or breaks an IEM for me. It is the most relevant thing when I hit play and with different tunings come different listening moods. There are exceptions and since I am talking about 7hz, might as well bring back Timeless to the table, as it’s one of the IEMs the tuning wasn’t as balanced for me but I could easily let it pass due to its resolving power at the given price bracket. Timeless was a setting stone and a true bracket disruptor and extrapolating that, so is the Zero.

The Salnotes Zero is a modest single dynamic driver IEM clocking in at twenty dollars without much fault. The costs were shorten where they should be – simple packaging, lack of any accessories other than tips, – but the focus was kept on where it matters – good enough shell, fit and comfort, using 2 pin connectors, a good enough to be usable cable and the most important thing, the sound.

As fast as Timeless took the world by storm, so did the more recently arrived ultra budget option, the Moondrop Chu. By not reinventing the wheel twice and focusing on taking something good and making it better, 7hz presents us a (spoiler alert) better Chu. If we rewind a couple of months back, the three major complaints about the Moondrop Chu were the following:

  1. Pillowy/soft bass;
  2. A hair more energy in the lower treble regions than needed for some libraries;
  3. Non-detached table.
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It doesn’t take a genius to look at the graph and find that the point number 2) was taken care of and as mentioned above, the number 3) as well. So we are left with the number 1) that we will segway us into the sound section.


The Sound​

The Salnotes Zero’s bass has what I would never describe as pillowy, but as the opposite. Once I played “5th New Century” remix by Len Faki, any doubt was gone as the microdynamics are there: it has a sense of rumble and slam that are commendable for its price and trading blows with most outliers in the budget range. “Why So Serious?” sense of claustrophobia is right there and the bass guitar on “Magnetar” is no slouch and very well positioned for my tastes.

The Zero has some of that warmth that just gives bones to the music, a tone to a party, but without ever spilling the drinks into the mid-rangeHania Rani’s piano on “Glass” has all the info with the right amount of weight despite the keys played. The “Prelude WTC I no. 2” by the Charl du Plessis Trio or “Mario Takes a Walk” by Jesse Cook just show how balanced these mids are with not much to fault on, tuning wise. Vocals are better portrayed when in their female form (Agnes Obel – The Curse) when compared to the male counterpart (The Dead South – In Hell I’ll Be In Good Company), showing better frontality and bite.

The upper mid-range is the only place I will nitpick by saying that I’d prefer a db or two less around the 4 to 5k area, as that is my sensible spot, but nothing I can’t adjust with some brain-in (Adele – Daydreamer). Again, I say this is a nitpick because I know most people reading this would be happy with it or even more energy here.

Past that, I have nothing to point on, as the treble is very well done and nicely extended, which was a rarity given the price range in the past (David Carroll – Hell’s Bells). Despite the graph, the energy up there is just right and never overcooked.

Now, as expected, the castle is made of cards and it would eventually fall down. Well, Zero’s weak spot is without a doubt the technicalities. The stereoimaging is not perfect, but I’ve heard much worse on things costing 20 or 40 times more, due to having just enough depth for the sound not to feel trapped inside your head. Another expected vital spot is the details and that goes along with the budget range – it is what you pay for. I would say the rest of the technical parts fall along the average for a sub 50 or 100 IEM, namely dynamics and timbre, which are neither bad nor good. (Polyphia – Playing God)


Quick Comparisons

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Moondrop Chu

I was one of the praisers for Chu and, as mentioned in the introduction, Zero fulfills the gaps left behind – in fact, it was probably just a matter of time before someone threw a shot at it. I find Zero to be an overall upgrade to the Chu and for that, a new king rules in the 20$ bracket.

DUNU Titan S

Let’s face it, Titan S trumps all over Zero in the technical department, as it should, since it costs 4 times more. But again, when we look into what Zero really shines, such as its tuning, I’d prefer it over the Dunu’s offer. Nonetheless, the Titan S is still a better overall IEM.

CCA CRA+

Same story as the Titan S, as I’d take Zero’s tuning, especially mids and treble, but CRA’s technicalities. Good budget compliments if you want something more laidback vs something more energetic mildly V-shape like the CRA.


The verdict​

If I praised CRA, Mele or Chu when they came out and given their price, it would only make sense to praise Zero as much as I can given it has almost literally my preference curve and it is now probably my favorite all-rounder IEM until the 100 dollar king pins touch base.

Is the Zero a perfect IEM? No, it is not, especially in the technical department. But in this reviewer’s opinion, as perfect as 20$ can get you right this moment. Highly and blindly recommended, with a cookie on the side.

With influencers like Crinacle and HBB basically confirming one of their next targets is also the 20$ bracket, I think we can expect even more competition here in the future. As for now, good luck beating the 7hz Salnotes Zero.

Value ranking: 5/5. Personal rank: C+.

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