+ Tonal balance
+ Planar speed and resolving power
+ Good imaging chops for a planar
+ Build and accessories
– Those who are looking for a basshead/V-Shaped planar should look elsewhere
– For those who prefer warmth over anything, this won’t be for you
– Might turn some items in your collection redundant
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.
Driver Setup: 14.5mm Planar Driver
Purchase link and info: Linsoul
Comfort, fit and isolation: Average to good fit and comfort. Average isolation.
Sources used: Topping L70, Shanling M6 Ultra, Fiio BTR7
Tips used: Final E
My usual test playlist with some of the songs used: Tidal
Tracks mentioned in this review, by order of appearance (Youtube):
- Hans Zimmer – Why So Serious?
- James Blake – Limit to You Love
- Mark Lettieri – Magnetar
- Govi – Espresso
- Karen Souza – Tainted Love
- Postmodern Jukebox – Can’t Feel My Face
- Sam Smith – Money On My Mind
- John Wasson – Caravan
- Recomposed by Max Ritcher: Vivaldi’s Four Seasons – Winter 1 (2012)
Table of Contents
- Prologue, Accessories and Build Quality
- The verdict
Prologue, Accessories and Build Quality
Author’s note: The following review is based upon my original Wu Zetian take, and will mostly highlight the differences. It is my advice that you read that article before this one.
– Can you smell it? Do you feel the vibe?
That’s right. After a forced hiatus, I am now back with my first full review of 2023, and I decided to start this year with a banger by bringing an offer from TANGZU. The brand made it into the spotlight with the release of the original Wu Zetian (WZ, OG), a 14.5mm planar IEM, and then took a jab at the ultra budget market with the single dynamic Wan’er S.G., being successful with both. In fact, during a year flooded with planars, the Wu Zetian was acclaimed as one of the best by many. Some reviewers fully recommended it (guilty as charged), including HawaiiBadBoy. Needless to say that a collaboration between HBB and TANGZU was bound to happen and so, here we are, taking a look at the last planar release of 2022 – the Heyday Edition of the Wu Zetian.
This reissue aims at improving not only the sound, but also the packaging and aesthetics.I already talked about Wu Zetian’s accessories and praised them, but the Heyday took it a step further:
- Tips: Just like the original, the BGVP A07 tips are included inside the box, alongside the A08, both in three sizes. This is a great touch, given I enjoy them and I encourage you to try them if you end up buying a pair.
- Cable: The cable included with the original version wasn’t the best around, but the Heyday did a complete spin regarding that. The new included blue cable is much more supple and now incorporates an interchangeable termination. 3.5mm, 2.5mm and 4.4mm are included and are very easy to swap, using a push/pull mechanism. Do keep in mind that this cable is slightly heavier and much thicker than your usual stock cables used all over the market.
- Case: I praised this case in my Wu Zetian review and I will keep doing so. This isn’t the type of case you carry around or throw in a pocket, but rather a great storage one. And to top that out, this time is featured in a stylish black instead of the previous red one – which is a win in my books.
Besides all the above, the build quality has also been improved, massively, by switching from purple plastic shells to shiny black metal ones. The difference in weight is not substantial, given the original was too light and I found the Heydey to be on the same weight of a multi-driver IEM – so nothing out of the ordinary, despite the material used. As far as manufacturer’s information goes, the driver and internal wiring have been improved to provide better sound quality.
Needless to say that where the Wu Zetian felt like a child’s toy given the cheap materials used, the Heyday feels way above its tag – that by the way clocks in at the $200 mark.
Given all the above, you might be wondering: how do the two sound in comparison?
Disclaimer: All the critical listening was done through my Topping L70 fed by an iFi Zen DAC V2. All sets were volume matched to 77dbs @ 440hz using a decibel meter.
My frequency response graphs are measured using a clone IEC-711 coupler, using stock tips matching the resonance peak at 8k Hz whenever it’s possible. As per usual with this coupler, this resonance peak is usually a coupler artifact (non-existant to the ear) and the measurements after it may not be totally accurate. If you would like to see or compare the graphs for this set and many others, you can do so on my squig.link database.
The original Wu Zetian is a mild V-Shaped planar monitor like most of the planar nest, but the Heyday takes a different approach:
- The bass shelf was tuned down by almost 4 dbs @ 20hz, but preserving the same slope. This also means more mid-bass ratio over sub-bass.
- The upper-mid range was polished;
- The mid and upper treble got a slight boost.
Overall, this translates into a more neutral bass, forward mid-range, a better treble response and an overall rank up in tonal balance – oh and to label it, the Heyday is neutral with a bass boost.
To drill-down these differences, I will be using the same scheme and tracks used on my original Wu Zetian review to analyze the Heyday. This review assumes that you have read that article, as it will be mostly covering the differences.
As far as the lowest frequencies are concerned, the sub-bass Heyday is extremely competent. Due to a 4db difference around 20hz, it still does not compare to the original Wu, which gave me one of the best replays (out of the planar spectrum) during “Why So Serious?” – but do not get me wrong, the replay is still great, impersonating a moment of claustrophobia during the 3:25 mark, with its rumble extension passing the test of “James Blake – Limit to You Love”.
The less is more approach stops around the 100hz bar, as the mid-bass and lower mid-range were basically kept untouched, and this is where the real deal starts. By the constraints of super fast decay that can be found within the planar drivers, most people tend to prefer a slightly warmer lower mid-range to compensate for that fact, including me, since it provides almost no bleed into the other frequencies.
If I found “Magnetar” replay commendable for a planar in the original WZ, I have nothing different to say about the Heyday. From the bass guitar to the drum’s pedal, everything has a slight sense of physicality to it, which can be witnessed right from this track’s intro. The well done bass shelf pops this section enough to be present, presenting these instruments just right – not overly popped to the front or thrown into the background and mixed with the rest of the song.
When you sum all the parts between the tuning, speed and microdynamics the result is obvious: Heyday has a very clean, precise and palatable mid-bass region, without blurring or smearing any note.
Now with all that said, it’s also important to note that this tuning won’t be appealing for everyone. Those on the hunt for a generous amount of bass (read: bassheads) should stop reading this review right now, and look for something else like the original WZ or the Timeless AE. For the other half of the population that has not closed this review yet, buckle up, as the fun is about to begin.
Mid-range and Vocals
The mid-range of the Heyday is where it starts distinguishing itself from the original and the rest of the competition – opposing the recessed mid-range of the original version, this version comes out as north of neutral, close to forward – especially in the upper section.
During the listen of “Govi – Espresso”, the tuning changes were obvious – the mid-range is now cleaner, more balanced and there’s a better sense of layer and separation between the instruments trough and trough – with the small details like Govi’s finger sliding and the guitar chords’ vibrations popping up, à la planar style.
As far as vocals go, the female ones are somewhat forward in comparison to the rest of the replay, just like the OG, but with a twist. If during its review I wrote “Wu Zetian doesn’t have the best female vocals in the hobby, but it sure doesn’t fall short”, I will say that the Heyday has the best female vocals for a planar that I’ve heard so far in a planar iem.
Using the same track (Tainted Love), I found the overall timbre of her voice to be precise and easy to spot every little detail of her voice. The overall tuning favors a correct position of Karen’s voice with enough bite to not feel overly dull, but never on the verge of becoming shouty.
Despite all the commendation for the female vocals, male vocals fall short somewhat short of my expectations – a common ground across all planar IEMs for me. Casey Abrams’ during “Can’t Feel My Face” vocals take a set back in the replay, blending with the rest of the track too easily and displaying some lack of bite and definition, improving just an inch over than the original. Just like its predecessor, the Heyday portraits high-pitched male vocalists better (Sam Smith – Money On My Mind).
If the upper-mid range got a polishment, the treble region got a bigger facelift – the dips are now gone and the extension got improved. On paper this results in a more linear downslope that starts in the eargain region, with a smaller tilt, as the graph shows.
If we ignore Heyday’s fast decay (more on that later), its replay for Caravan is nothing but commendable at this price range. Energetic but non-fatiguing, sharp but not overly so and pretty well extended. It still aint perfect like every other planar, but it sure runs circles on them. A prime example of this would be around the 8:50m mark, where the cymbals get out of control, but the Heyday doesn’t.
In a direct comparison to the original version, the correction of the mid-treble dip and extra extension are some of the reasons I think this set has some special sauce for me. The string section on “Winter 1” has a completely different rendering to their harmonics, clearly a step above.
As far as treble goes, it is still that usual planar treble that could use the last leg on refinement, but up to its price bracket, I can’t remember many IEMs with a better execution than the Heyday.
Overall, as per usual with good planar drivers, I find the Heyday very proficient as far as intangibles go. There’s a good sense of sheer detail, transient sharpness and insane speed.
Compared to the original, the tuning improvements brought out a better sense of depth, layering and separation to an already good stereoimaging renditon, minus the center imaging and given the bracket. As for the fabled planar timbre, the original Wu Zetian is often characterized by sounding closer to a DD than to a planar, and the Heyday follows through.
If I was to nitpick on Heyday’s technicalities, it would be their overall macrodynamics that feel average, but I don’t find it needed at the price it competes.
TANGZU Wu Zetian
This comparison has been analyzed all over the review so far, but if I had to do an executive summary of the differences it would be pretty simple:
Tuning: The bass is more authoritative on the original due to the 4db tuning difference, but the inverse goes for the mid-range where the Heyday shows its claws. The treble region is nowhere near close, as the newer edition gives out a masterclass to its predecessor.
Technicalities: As far as these go, there’s improvements made in the rework, but I wouldn’t call them groundbreaking. There’s more sense of sheer detail and stage depth.
Tangibles: build, accessories and overall quality are a bloodbath in favor of the Heyday.
Price: Heyday comes with an extra 50 dollar price tag – which is a no brainer to me due to all the above, but might be for you.
7hz Timeless AE
I decided to keep the comparison section short and decided to only include what I find is the best V-shaped planar in the market right now – the Timeless AE – and if we take a look at the graph, the similarities scream right out of the window.
Starting out by the most differentiating factor, the bass, the Timeless AE (AE) also displays a 4 db boost like the original WU, but correcting itself later in a later frequency. This difference makes the replay of “Masked Wolf – Astronaut In The Ocean” much more authoritative than the Heyday, but also warmer. This warmth comes as a trade-off for overall clarity, making Heyday sound crystal like in comparison. As far as physicality goes, the impact on the AE is commendable and runs circles versus Heyday’s.
Obviously, this change affects the mid-range and vocals. The Heyday renders instrument layering and separation better than the AE during “Radiohead – Bodysnatchers”, which can get blurred and mushed during this busy track. The Timeless lineup feels congested in comparison.
Despite the upper mid-range being so similar on paper, the female vocals sound more correct on the Heyday (Snow On The Beach), but the tables turn when we look into the male ones. Lil Silva’s voice on “Backwards” has more presence on the AE, popping out above the melody, where the Heyday thins it out, despite being cleaner.
To top it off with the treble section, they are virtually identical on paper, with the Timeless having more energy in the presence region (5-6k hz) and sounding less refined – as in overall more sharp and evasive, – while listening to the drum kit on “Ace Of Aces”.
Now, as far as technicalities go, the biggest swing goes into the imaging chops, where the Timeless AE has terrible stage depth and positional accuracy, and the Heyday shines. The Timeless AE comes out on top – by a hair, – in the sheer detail (presence region boost) and macrodynamics.
Overall, I find them sidegrades more than direct competition, especially given they cost roughly the same. If you are looking for bass and dynamics you will look for the Timeless AE while the mid-heads with a soundstage obsession will pick the Heyday.
I kept one aspect out of the way until now, and that’s the price increase. The Heyday got a $50 price increase, which is around 33% more than the original, placing itself close to the other higher priced planar competitors like the Timeless and Hook-X. Would I like to see it going for less? I think that’s an obvious yes – who wouldn’t?
But the real answer is more complex than that because the price got a bump, but so did the overall package and quality. While the original Wu Zetian had a clear cut in the build and cable department, the Heyday went above and beyond to fix that, while improving the internals. Besides that, how do we measure value, rather than those factors? Well, to me personally value is where I feel I paid for a set that does give me joy when listening to, because after all, that’s why people are in this hobby – or at least, that should be it.
Regarding collaborations – a topic that has been hot in the last couple of months amongst various communities – I do find them important. Thanks to some of them, the market has evolved to something unthinkable four or five years ago, bringing either better quality products or spinoffs with a smaller price tag to the masses. There’s for sure an argument to be made in terms of the quantity of these releases, but so can it be done regarding chi-fi’s never stopping chimneys – with some of them even being silent collabs.
As anything in life, you will never please everyone, everytime. But as far as these collaborations go, I’m confident to say that the TANGZU Wu Zetian Heyday Edition is my favorite collaboration that HawaiiBadBoy has released and I’m happy to give it a full recommendation.
Doubling down, I will go ahead and say that it is my favorite planar of the bunch and the one I will recommend further on, as long as your preferences and libraries align with mine. Furthermore, as of the day of finishing the review, Heyday is my default recommendation for an IEM under $200, if it fits your bill. Tagging along with Kiwi Ears Orchestra Lite, these two are my favorites under the $300 mark, and a comparison to come in the review of the latter.
Oh, and did I mention that it is good to be back?
Thanks for reading!
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