Zero Audio Carbo Tenore Review
One of the best in-ear monitors under $50.
Overall score: 3.6 out of 5 points.
A great pair of IEMs (in-ear monitors) that produces the sound comparable to $100 models for less than $50. The only bad thing is their fragile build-quality.
The Japanese Zero Audio Carbo Tenore (code name: ZH-DX200-CT) have been very well known in the audiophile society for providing great sound for very little money.
(BTW, don’t you like their name “Carbo Tenore”? It’s original and sounds pretty. But this is not an objective criteria. More relevant data below…)
- Balanced, detailed sound
- Can still play bass-heavy songs
- Great for vocals
- Good noise isolation
- Build quality could be better
- No warranty outside Japan
Zero Audio Carbo Tenore are listed in:
Also, used to be in our Best cheap earbuds guide (but were replaced with cheaper models).
Frequency response: 8Hz〜24,000Hz
Weight: 0.42oz (12g)
Cable length: 47inches (1.2m)
Microphone & Controls: no
Active noise-cancelling: no
What’s in the Box?
- Zero Audio Carbo Tenore in-ear headphones
- 3 pairs of silicone ear tips
- Soft fabric carrying bag
- User manual (not in the picture)
Fit (Isolation) – 4/5 Great
The silicone ear tips coming with these IEMs are decent. But to improve the sound and comfort you should get different, softer ear tips for better fit and sound seal.
Getting a good seal is crucial if you want to enjoy the high audio quality. Otherwise, you’ll think they sound bad.
Moreover, the earbuds themselves are quite big and do stick out of the ears a bit. You can’t sleep in them, but they’re comfortable enough to wear for hours.
Also, overall, sound isolation is pretty good with original tips but getting better—memory foam—ear tips is highly recommended. Excellent sound isolation means you will hear your music over the outside noise.
Comfort – 4.5/5 Almost Perfect
Carbo Tenore are very light and thus comfortable, as all quality IEMs (in-ear monitors) should be. Listening to them for hours on end won’t leave you with irritation, there is really nothing to complain about. As always, pick the right ear tips and enjoy the excellent sound quality.
The only thing you need to remember is these aren’t sports or active earbuds. There are no ear wings, and the design isn’t exactly ergonomic, so it doesn’t stick into your ear canal so well. For sports, these probably aren’t suitable.
For regular listening during the day, these feel perfectly fine.
Durability – 3.5/5 Almost Great
It’s always good to know how long you can expect your pair of earbuds to survive.
Generally, Zero Audio Carbo Tenore are not very durable compared to others at this price tag. Nonetheless, they still do a decent job surviving the wear and tear of everyday use if you take good care of them.
We knew these are quite fragile so we always put them in a small, hard carrying case. So far, after months of medium use, they still work perfectly fine (you can see from the pictures these aren’t brand new anymore).
They are made of carbon and aluminum, so these are strong materials. But the earbuds aren’t the problem. The biggest durability issue is the thin wires. They are slim and have virtually no cable strain relief. Thus, you can easily entangle or break them. You have to be careful.
The only strong point is the plastic-reinforced 3.5mm L plug.
Another problem is the fact that Zero Audio Carbo Tenore are sold internationally, but the company doesn’t recognize the warranty outside Japan, though this might have changed by now.
Build quality is their main weak point.
Features – 1.5/5 Meh
There’s no in-line controls or microphone. In the package, you only get a soft, fabric carrying bag. It’s better than nothing but doesn’t offer a lot of protection.
Sound – 4.5/5 Almost Perfect
Now let’s go to the sound quality.
For testing, we used OnePlus 5T smartphone and 320kbps music of various genres.
For many people, these are the best sounding budget earphones. Producing very balanced sound with clean, deep bass yet not enough for a basshead.
All ranges of sound are nicely balanced while still producing punchy, fun bass on bass-heavy music. Bass response is tight.
You’ll be able to hear a lot of detail in a way that it was meant to be.
Well-balanced sound means very natural sounding music. The vocals are just like the singer would be singing next to you. They reproduce the voices really well. It’s something more expensive headphones are known for.
Also, there’s a tiny bit of cord noise if the cord is hitting at your body but isn’t actually bothersome. It’s minimal at worst.
The soundstage is better than with your average in-ear monitors. You’ll hear instrument separation and where the sound is coming from.
In addition, if you use a smartphone to drive them you get high enough volume (to damage your hearing) so be careful not to abuse it.
Overall, Zero Audio Carbo Tenore have one of the best balanced and detailed sound signatures at this price range (it’s hard to beat). So, if you’re looking for high audio quality on a budget, get these. Just make sure to take good care of them as they tend to be a bit fragile.