Anyone aware of the brand called AZLA? Perhaps you may have heard about the Sedna Earfit eartips. Previously in About Audio, we have covered two AZLA IEMs as a review – Horizon and Orta. Fortunately enough, I have joined one of the Japanese show in the past where AZLA first made their debut to the portable audio market. The visitors’ impression turned out to be very positive, thus I have purchased their first model, 01R, and started to keep myself updated with products from AZLA.
This Korean brand that is rather new to the scene has been growing an explosive amount of interest from the Asian market and especially from Japan. AZLA recently announced two new IEMs that will be joining the family, this time with a rather affordable line-up. One is named Zwei which is a mid-low priced IEM, and the other is named Azel – a lowest-priced entry model released from AZLA which we will be covering today. Let us now see how they have done their sounds at a budget level.
Azel comes in a small box yet packed with a fair amount of accessories. Other than the earphones, the package contains 5 pairs of Sedna Earfit Light Short eartips, a portable soft case, a pair of cloth pockets, a velcro tie, and a user manual. The included pockets are made of soft to the touch and would protect the earpieces from collecting scratches or dings. I like how they have included those pouches despite the low retail price. It is also highlightable that AZLA included a full set of Sedna eartips which would cost some money once purchased separately (roughly $20~25), giving extra merits to this $59 IEM. Azel comes in 4 color variations, which are Beluga Black, Forest Green, Oyster Grey, and Dakota Red.
The housing is made CNC’d metal with hairlines engraved on the sides and fine circle patterns on the back, overall showing a high-quality finishing. While Azel uses an in-house built 8mm HD dynamic driver, AZLA also incorporated with a Fibonacci damper structure where the holes are mathematically divided and helps the treble to retain its clarity within its rich bass response.
At the back of the earpiece, there are 16 vent holes which are also equally spaced in a circular form. No other dampers or structures are applied except the above, leading the sound to be resulted by the custom driver, the Fibonacci damper, and the multiple vents on the back. Comfort-wise, the earpieces fit in the ears without a hassle and have no particular edges or shapes that could cause discomfort. The diameter of the nozzles is about T400~T500, making them compatible with a majority of aftermarket eartips.
The cable is made of 4-core silver-plated OFC wires with enforced Kevlar. Both the Y-split and the 3.5mm plug are using metal housings to give a universal look, plus AZLA claims that they have excluded all outer brushing but instead applied with a double internal brushing process which further increases its durability. However, the cable is not detachable from the earpieces. The cable is soft, light, and well-braided without any loosen parts. Due to the cable not having any pre-formed earguides, the cable could be worn either over-ear or straight-down.
Sound impression: Lows, Staging
First and foremost, Azel produces a large and heavy bass that outdoes its small cavity. In case I have listened without being aware of the size, I may have recognized this one to be an over-ear IEM that fills a fair amount of my ears, to say the least. This full, but with no crammed impressions, bass contains high density and moisture that adds up to its rich texture. Azel also does a fine job pulling out the ultra-low details with plentiful quantity while maintaining a leveled altitude, preventing the bass ringings from getting excessive.
There are numerous budget IEMs that show nice extension towards the ultra-lows, though Azel differs in its quality as the deep bass smoothly and cleanly spreads out, thus forming a mellowed up presentation. The bass quantity is similar to typical v-shaped sound signatures, but just before reaching the basshead level – mildly more quantity than those slightly v-shaped IEMs but at the same time, lesser than strong V-shaped IEMs. Azel’s large and firm bass presentation shows absolutely no signs of being superficial.
Sound impression: Mids (1/2)
Other than being imaged as large as the lows, mids keep its prominence by placing themselves right on top of the lows than artificially pulling them forward. One of the strongest merits from Azel, along with its relatively large imaging, could be found from its vocal textures. Azel well exposes the small particles and details from the vocals which are then finished with a creamy, soft surface exterior. I could also use an expression that Azel highlights the grains without having them actually grainy.
On top of that, the mids have a warm tone to it which adds to the smoothness. It may appear that Azel has a rather dark, soupy taste to it, yet that is not the case as a mild shininess feels to be glazed throughout the mid-range. It Azel’s sound was a food, it would be something like a freshly baked mint chocolate donut – soft and moist on the inside, sweet and mildly refreshing on the outside. Since that, mids are clearly distinguished apart from the lows meanwhile sharing an extensive, natural connection. Sibilances do not occur whatsoever but instead added up with a slightly husky tone and an extra crisp to the vocals.
Sound impression: Mids (2/2), Highs, etc.
While highs show relatively lesser in quantity, apparently its presence was not affected to that as highs are just as prominent as the other two ranges. Highs stand right behind (if not next to) the lows with detailed tings and crisp splashes, without really getting muffled in transparency or clarity. I would also like to point out that its imaging accuracy is spot-on. It is easy for budget IEMs to rather show less attention in showing the correct locational details for instruments, though Azel sure was not the case as it leads out nice separation and imaging, all while keeping the sound harmonic and coherent.
We have to consider that it has been quite a while since V33 was released, but apparently Azel shows its superiority once we put these two up for comparison. Lows and mids are denser, meatier, and fuller on Azel – not only the thickness but also the image of the sound is visibly bigger. The timbre is more moist and lively timbre on Azel. In pretty much all aspects, Azel is worth to be considered a proper upgrade from V33.
Again, Azel takes another win once compared with T1s. The overall sound from Azel is more balanced and neutral in tone while T1s is rather colored along with carrying lighter depth and weight. Vocals from T1s would put much more emphasis on the upper-mids, quickly thinning out in thickness, causing a sudden change in brightness and tone as they head towards the top-end. Though, in the case of Azel, the vocals would visibly stay even in thickness throughout the range. Compared to Azel, T1s’ lower-end has a smaller and thinner body while Azel produces a significantly bigger body as well as achieving more bass quantity and depth.
Compared to Cora, Azel is slightly bassier, showing higher thickness and body in lows and mids. The slams are more impactful with the overall sound being warmer. Cora, on the other hand, tilts more on the neutral side, but still staying warm, possessing a bit more cool breeze throughout the upper range. Also, throughout the range, Cora delivers mildly more crispness and bite to the sound, but not particularly superior as the slams from Azel are stronger. The staging style differs as Cora creates a leveled and widened sound stage while Azel’s staging focuses on the darkness of the color, largeness, and depth.
There is always a big enough market available for entry-level hobbies hence the numerous budget earphones available out there. But even still the budget price, there still are gaps between those budget IEMs that shows different quality and performance, and Azel sure is the one that took the advantage. AZLA gave a twist to this cute looking earphone by featuring rich tonality and a large, weighty sound. Azel is a fine example that represents AZLA’s take on a budget IEM and those who are looking to make a good bang for a reasonable amount of bucks shall find this more than pleasing!