-clear enough mids
-decent technicalities for a basshead IEM
-decent balance for a basshead IEM
-thin bright uneven mids
-harsh slightly metallic timbre
-not for acoustic instrument
-lack of proper bass roundness-definition
-lack of treble sparkle-brilliance and snap
-not a versatile basshead tuning
-don’t excell with any music genre even rap, electronic or beat driven music
-not musical to my ears (subjective)
-big housing with short nozzle=not comfortable
SOUND VALUE: 7.5/10
7HZ is a chinese earphones company mostly know for their best seller the 7HZ Timeless which get incredible praise and fan boi hype at the time. Since then, they seem to struggle making a successor to this IEM that will earn as much popularity. Was it a ”Driam” like the Blon BL03 or 7HZ can offer other good IEMs that worth the attention (and $) of audio enthusiast?
While their Dioko planar was indeed a Driam that turn mediocre in term of tonal balance and musicality, 7HZ haven’t said it’s last word and their ultra budget Saltnotes Zero sure confirm that in term of good reception from audio communities.
Today I will review there latest offering call 7HZ Legato. The Legato is a 2 dynamic drivers earphones, priced 110$ it doesn’t aim the audiophile purist but as they suggest it try to achieve a ”fun analog musicality” that will remind us the 80’s era with big boom box speakers and those bombastic sound system with over sized woofer. I’m from this era, well, i’m born in 1983 so I have pass thrue walkman, CD player, vinyl etc.
But the best way to describe the tuning approach is certainly from the tuner itself, Larry Fulton aka Kopi Okaya.
”THE TUNING PHILOSOPHY BEHIND 7HZ LEGATO
Ray Chan and I are in our 50s. Both of us grew up in the 70s, 80s and 90s. We enjoyed many music from those era – from pop/rock to R&B to jazz. We also owned many vintage HiFi systems before plunging into the in-ear monitors hobby. Loudspeakers back then had at least 12″ (30cm) woofer drivers that produced deep and rumbly low-end with girthy, expansive bass notes. We didn’t need a subwoofer at all. Nobody used subwoofers at home in the 1980s. Those were primarily meant for cinemas, rock concerts and large performance venues.
I inherited my dad’s AKAI loudspeakers in 1978. It was a 3-way system with 1″ tweeter, 5″ midrange and 12″ bass drivers. It was a blast to listen to. The bass was so musically satisfying.
Fast-forward to the year 2022, Ray and I had a chat over kopi (Southeast Asian coffee) on how much we missed that vintage sound. The current IEM offerings could not satisfy our cravings for that long forgotten “magical” sound. Ray suggested why not 7HZ come up with something to bring back that vintage sound? No more Harman, no more Diffuse-Field. The IEM market is already flooded with them.
“Great idea!” I nodded. “Let’s do it…”
That conversation sparked the beginning of Legato. Achieving that classic sound signature is the baseline for our tuning philosophy.
“WE TUNE WITH OUR EARS AND HEARTS, NOT WITH GEARS AND CHARTS.””
Now let see in this review if this IEM achieve an addictive musicality that is both fun and immersive enough, and well: Basshead approved too!
To be noted that these IEM have been loaned to me without cable or anything, so I can’t comment on that.
In term of construction it’s just OK, i don’t find those very appealing design wise and the metal finish seem prompt to easy scratching-damage. I’m pretty sure my friend take care of Legato, yet we can see the the edge of shell can get scratched easily and back plate seem to collect dirt that will be hard to clean.
The shell is quite chunky too. It have an elongated nozzle as well, which is thick, so for small ears canal it might create discomfort. I find them a bit protuberant when wearing it so add that to slightly heavy metal shell and it mean cable with ear hook is mandatory here.As well, their 3 venting port directing outside the ears, so sound leakage is high here. It’s not an issue for me, but if i was taking subway it would be.
All in all, construction isn’t bad nor impressive for the price. But the design is a bit questionnable in term of comfort. It’s certainly not the type of IEM you forget you wear.
Let’s begin by saying I will do this review based on my pairing with the Moondrop Dawn 4.4 dongle at high gain. Why? Because I feel the Legato benefit from clear source with enough power output, in this case its 230mw@32ohm ,and while not stated, the output impedance of Dawn seem rather low. As well, i use couple of different eartips, most balanced one was with Azla but it kind of kill the fun too, so I stick with KBear KB07 wide bore that is suppose to be included with the Legato.
Disclaimer: these IEM are loan from a friend and I have no other reason than true passion to review them.
So are these true basshead IEM? Some people call basshead any V shape IEM, while for me it need to have higher than 12db bass boost, which is the case with the Legato. As well, to be true basshead fun it need big slam, again, it’s the case here so YES thos are legit basshead but not bombastic 20db brain damaging boom like SuperTFZ Force1 and this is good because we can listen to those more than 5 minute without fatigue!
I tend to always have very high expectation when it come to multi dynamic driver and it’s the case here again, I expect crazy bass performance but acoustic law tend to always confirm we need some trade off when we play with bass boost.
Here, Legato bass is about finding the sweet spot between a V and U shape signature, so unlike Harman tuning it will not be thin in mid bass and just about sub bass wacky boom but chunky rumbly slam with a sens of warm urgency to it. In term of resolution and definition of bass impact or extension, we are in luke warm territory, or analogish-euphonic one if we can say, it’s not a fast tight punchy bass that will have sudden sub bass scoop, it’s a warm but well rounded boom, bigger than life, that embrace the whole tonality in a uniquely layered way due to 2 DD implementation.
Still, sub bass rumble will dominate the kick drum definition and presence, and in fact, it’s vibrant and open in an appealing resonance that add physical sensation the music where brighter mids will sit on and not get swallow. I don’t think this type of bass would be possible with a single DD IEM, it’s gigantic in presence, yet warmish in texture but very bodied and hefty in dynamic. The rumble sustain is fast enough as well as the slam, but don’t except clean separation since their hint of bass bleed that act as a lower mid range glue.
When it come to sub bass tone and articulation, it’s not the best and quite resonant, not very flexible for cleaer bass line rendering and sometime it can go muddy too, but it’s when sub bass is alreayd overly boosted in a track. It’s all about fast enough boom here, including the contrabass that will sound boomy, it’s not about high quality and well controled extension nor fast bass attack control.
And now the mids have a trade off here for sure and I would never suggest the Legato for mids or vocal lover even if their worst than this for sure. Depending of number of bass slam in your music, it will sound open and gently bright, with above average resolution to veiled lower mids. These aren’t for piano lover which sound too distant, yet, have good note weight, you will tend to raise the volume with solo piano and then if next track is bassy, it will make explode your head.
Simply put I can’t enjoy any acoustic instrument timbre and tone with the Legato, their something off and it’s as if presence can mix with lower harmonic, even cello sound thin which is quite disappointing. While female vocal aren’t plain horrifious, they can get over shadow by bass, the track ”Fancy drones” by Amythyst Kiah is a good example, while her vocal presence is well resolved and clean enough, the big guntry bass line seem oversized and it’s hard to enjoy her voice since timbre is hint dry and thin too, yet, not sibilant and non shouty, those are relaxed mids with good but not dense texture.
With the bass, the treble is the most dynamic aspect of the sound, here it’s in a lean crunchy way that doesn’t go overly bright and doesn’t attrack as much the attention as the bass. It have good bite for attack lead of instrument like violin, but as said the timbre isn’t very dense. So yes, thin bright highs we have, fast enough in percussions rendering, well controlled even if not snappy but fastly dropping after 10khz, so we don’t have sparkle and brilliance too, those aren’t crisp, airy and open highs. These are here to offer extra texture to presence, which benefit electric bass grunt for ex, percussions grain, snare energy and some high pitch instrument or vocal. It add definition edge to instrument too, including vocal that can feel a bit rough. Again, this favor the presence texture and grain before anything else, it brighten it to avoid overly dark and warm bassy sonority. I can perceive slight metallic sheen to violin and saxophone, so this do not benefit acoustic instrument as I already say, it’s just here to boost overall clarity and personally i find these highs a bit rough, lacking in refinement and clean rendering, percussions extension is a bit fuzzy to me, not sharply define and cymbals crash sound foggy, damped in proper extension which can avoid splashyness but tend to make macro resolution feel foggy too, never clean enough to my ears.
The Soundstage is quite impressive in term of tallness and wideness but does lack deepness even if center stage is a bit recessed. We don,t have fake deepness nor real deepness to spatial cue. It’s like being surrounded by a big wall of sound which is close to us the listener.
This mean imaging is very average for the price, nothing to write about in fact. When bass occur it will swallow the perceivable space between instrument and when it don’t have bass, sharp definition of instrument isn’t clean and crisp enough to permit precise positioning.
VS TRI STAR RIVER (2DD-60$)
The River might be a cheaper 2DD IEM but technical performance are notably superior to the warmer Legato, anything from resolution to imaging and attack-speed is superior. But the tonal balance isn’t, it’s brighter, shoutier and notably more fatiguing. It’s isn’t a basshead either and more of a bright W shape where upper mids and treble stole the show, which is polar opposite of Legato where it’s bass and lower mids that dominate whole spectrum.
But I can’t bypass the fact that a 2 times cheaper IEM deliver higher technical performance, this is evident in transparency of bass and mids, as well as cleaner separation, less bass bleed, less mids and treble blur in sustain-releaste…it’s very sad that treble spike kill my ears!
So the bass is leaner, cleaner, faster and more texture but thinner, less punchy and more extended in sub bass in a lifeless and cold way compared to more vibrant and heavier slam that is better rounded, thicker in density and offer proper boom with Legato, the dynamic is notably heftier and bass feel more natural, euphonic and lively even if the presence isn’t as crisp, physicality is there and cold quality of Tri bass is just dull.
Then the mids are warmer with Legato, more natural and thicker in timbre, they more note weight but not as detailed rendering due to brighter presence of the Tri that can iduce more sibilance, shoutyness and fatigue. Yet, mids feel very darkish with Legato and instrument from piano to saxo to vocal will all sound more recessed but strangely more pleasing in tone and not as hot in edgyness.
The treble is notably brighter, more snappy, transparent and detailed with the River, but upper mids pinna gain is way higher too, so if your sensitive to that it will cause fatiguing shoutyness. Anyway, resolution is crisper still and treble extended furter. Imaging is more accuracte and sharper in instrument separation and sound layering is better resolve too.
All in all, Legato is bassier and more fun, but more coherent and smooth in balance too, so tonaly it’s an easy way since even if Star River offer better technical performance, they can’t be enjoy musicaly due to overly agressive tonality, thinner brighter timbre and light bass impact.
VS IBASSO IT01X (1DD-110$)
Now let see how a single DD IEM of about same price can stack up against Legato. Firstly, IT01X is warmer and more neutral to balanced V shape, it’s more laid back too and less energic in dynamic. Main difference is timbre which is more natural too, as well as balance that feel more coherent warm way. For vocal and mids lover, the choice is easy here. So Legato are more V shape basshead, the bass roundness is better define, more boosted and more punchy and impactfull, the punch of IT01X is mellower and darker in presence, so the transition in mids is more organic and thicker, which tend to offer fuller harmonic to mids instruments. So the mids are fuller and more upfront, i can enjoy violin, saxophone and acoustic instrument way more with the IT01X even if darker in resolution and less edgy in presence, its smoother and more liquid even if as said bodied presence is louder in a softer less dry and brightish way than Legato that offer thinner mids but more abrasive with attack that have more bite and cleaner rendering.
Everything is darker with the IT01X, so the treble is no exception and doesn’t attrack our attention at all, it’s smoother too, more laid back, more organic in balance and their a hint of understated sparkle. Legato offer greater amount of micro details, more texture and bite but thinner and even less brilliant treble on top.
Soundstage is wider and deeper with Legato, and just a notch wide with the IT01X.
Imaging is superior with Legato even if center stage is more recessed, it have a more open and cleaner spatiality and higher layering transparency and its easier to pin point percussions for example.
All in all, tonality wise they are about on par even if cohesion is more organic and mellow with the Ibasso, for technical performance the Legato is the winner here due to more articulate dynamic range, slightly better resolution and edgier attack control.
VS ISN H40 (1DD+3BAs-195$ (or 155$ with coupon))
The H40 is warmer in tonality and more W shape in dynamic. The bass is notably more boosted and focus on sub bass region and offer deeper thicker rumble but less well define and clean punch, the mid bass is warmer and bleed and darken and thicken more the mids than Legato bass which feel thinner and less rounded in slam chunky way, but better resolved and layered than H40. For me, H40 bass offer more guilty pleasure thus induce more headbanging fun and the sub bass line are fuller and more flexibile in articulation. The the mids are less open but thicker and more natural in timbre, more colored we can say than dryer-brighter mids of Legato that are more prompt to slight sibilance, anyway, clarity and definition is superior with Legato. And then the treble is darker, thicker but snappier with the H40, strange to say but it’s how I heard it. It pick up minimal amount of micro details but deliver it in faster and more controlled way than Legato DD which offer more micro details, texture.
The Soundstage is a big win from Legato, in all deparment. It’s wider, taller and yes deeper, as well as more holographic and 3D compared to thick darkish macro resolution of H40.
So, the imaging is superior too, even if not particularly good.
All in all, the H40 are even guiltier basshead pleasure than the Legato, but timbre-tone wise it’s thicker and more natural to my ears too, which question me about presence boost that can imply uneven timbre brightness to my ears. Technicaly speaking, the Legato is superior while tonaly it’s less cohesive as a whole even if it use 2 drivers instead of 4 drivers for the H40. If your all about rumble and sub bass, and prefer warm thick mids, i will suggest the H40, if you want big open spatiality with more transparent bass and better define mid bass presence, i will suggest the Legato. For my very subjective musical enjoyment I would choose H40 since it’s more laid back and fun to my ears (and i listen to alot of female vocal, so i can’t stand them when too thin).
While reading the positive feedback of the Legato on Facebook audio communities, I get extremely excited and as it often happen I let my expectation grow too high, so this might explain why i’m not blown away by them.
But this doesn’t mean they are bad at all and in fact it perhaps find the sweet spot between balanced and basshead IEM.
Yet, my memories of vintage soundsystem isn’t similar to the one of 7HZ since i remember warmer and more presence vocal and mids, i remember enjoying Lauryn Hill and Billie Holiday vocal with my father japanese Pioneer gigantic speaker that weight like 500kg and can make rumble whole house.
This sure underline that musicality have no common ground and is all about personal appreciation, even the bass presentation have a rumble with more air vibrance and physical pressure in my memories, while treble need to be boosted with the amplifier tone control to have the presentation of Legato.
All in all, the Legato is different and a refreshing IEM release within Chifi realm, and while it doesn’t choose to go warm mid range, it does avoid the muddyness inherent to this tonal coloring. We can say the Legato are Basshead IEM with above technical performance for it’s price and that even if an IEM like Simgot EA500 offer higher technical performance. The fact we can have this amount of bass without going plain messy is a tour de force in it’s own right. So, i would highly recommend the Legato for Basshead that want to preserve presence of their instrument and vocal, yet have a gigantic soundstage and fun dynamic tonality too.