Z:ero, The World’s First Digital Earphones
Zorloo is a another small startup with lofty goals, which include successfully marketing the world’s first set of earbuds to have a built in digital to analog converter, or DAC, paired with a quality set of “high powered amplifier” earphones. In theory, this technology could in turn produce some of the highest grade earbuds to ever exist, without the use of an external DAC. You can listen to your high grade digital music on the go using your existing microUSB port as the power and data source, so no need for the 3.5mm port with these bad boys.
Who makes them?
Still in its Indiegogo stage, Zorloo is comprised of just three guys with a dream; JW Cha, Andy Ho, and Andrew Lim. There isn’t any biography info about the three, but it’s safe to assume they’re knowledgable in the fields of marketing, hardware development, software development, and hopefully the science of sound and how it’s perceived by our brain (after doing some digging, it seems they’re plenty knowledgable according to other sources e.g., their website Zorloo).
Why should I care?
To put it simply, in order to get the best possible audio out of their digital devices, audiophiles have been purchasing DACs to convert the signal from digital to analog prior to it reaching the headphones, earphones, or speakers. Now I’m no specialist in the study of sound, but according to many purists, using a DAC is a must if you’re playing from a digital file source. Handset manufacturers should have already been integrating DACs into their devices but instead have just been using processing power to ready the signal prior to exposure. And for most of us that’s good enough, marginally less amazing even. The reason regular consumers like ourselves don’t have an external DAC unit on our computer desk right this minute is because it’s still a niche market, and the items can be costly.
The Zorloo Z:ero product line will be affordable, that’s been one of their primary goals from the get-go. You can currently snag a pair of these from the crowd sourcing campaign for only $25, and they’re expected to retail between $25-$35. That’s already way less than most people spend on the DAC unit alone. They’ve figured out how to do it cheap, and if these earbuds sell well enough, I predict they’ll release a micro sized stand-alone DAC to use with your favorite set of headphones or earbuds.
What about availability and compatibility?
They’re available for order now from their Indiegogo page and compatible with most flagship *Android phones; LG, Samsung, etc.. and they even suggest using third party apps from the Play Store to increase the number of supported handsets. An iPhone version is in the making as well for those who’re concerned. (* Z:ero is tested to work with Samsung Galaxy S3, Galaxy S4, Galaxy S5, Note 2, Note 3, Note 4, Google Nexus 5 (Android 5.0); you can also use USB Audio Pro Player (purchased separately at Google Play Store) with Z:ero digital earphone. See full list here.)
The cheapest package available is $25 and includes either the gold or red color scheme. I’m fond of the gold myself, and I’ve never really been a gold kind of guy. Regardless, they’re a quality build, aluminum with a high gloss finish, and transparent plastic cables with braided metal sheaths protect the audio wires from common obstacles. There’s a control module halfway up the cable to switch songs and adjust volume. The indiegogo units are going to ship by April of 2015.
I just ordered a pair of Grado SR60e for about a $100 in search of better sound, and although I haven’t received them yet, I am very excited. However, I can’t justify spending too much more than a hundred bucks on some barely noticeable, if at all apparent, improvement. I’m considering getting the Zorloo Z:ero model as well and comparing them side-by-side, and if I can get comparable sound for $75 less dollars in a more portable package, it would be silly of me to not return the highly praised “budget” Grados.
What I’m getting at in a nutshell is this, Zorloo is attempting to offer a truly mobile and pain-free solution to opening the flood gates of digital audio into our ears. And for an insanely low price point. I wish the company the best and sincerely hope their product is everything it’s cracked up to be. Check out their indiegogo here.
What’s your opinion of audio quality? Should we expect more from handset makers, say built in DAC qualities? Can our brains interpret these minute changes as positive, or recognize them at all for that matter?