Earlier this year Vlad Savov at TheVerge posted a glowing review of the Zero Audio Carbo Tenore earbuds, so glowing in fact that it actually caused a price spike in these buds for a while. They’re back down to $38 on Amazon so I thought I’d give my two cents on these. TLDR: buy them.
First, the build quality. The Carbo Tenores are made in Japan, not China, so I would expect a high build quality. Indeed, they are very well built from quality materials but they seem somewhat delicate. The cable is very thin, with no strain relief. There’s some cause for concern here as my previous favorite buds, the Xiaomi Pistons, died when the cable broke at the jack and that cable seemed much more substantial. The Tenore buds themselves are abnormally small and light, much smaller than most earbuds. They’re the only pair I’ve tried that are small enough to wear in bed, even laying on my side I don’t feel any pressure or discomfort. Microphonic noise is minimal for me, I can hear it if I touch the cable but it’s not bad at all. Sound isolation is very good, with the music off I can still hear the annoying Christmas carols playing in the coffee shop as I type this, but anything at even a low volume is enough to block out the outside world.
So how’s the sound? Fantastic, especially at this price. Clear, detailed mids and highs, deep but not obtrusive bass. My main home-use headphones are the Philips SHP9500, an open back over-ear headphone that features terrific soundstage and detail, and these Tenores compare favorably in every way, and beat the Philips in bass.
I’m not going to make claims that the Carbo Tenores beat earbuds costing ten times as much, because frankly I’ve never tried anything costing that much and probably never will. But I can say that they’ve become my favorite earbuds, both for their terrific sound as well as comfort. If I had paid $100 I’d be just as satisfied, so the $38 price tag makes these a must buy.
Product link: Zero Audio Carbo Tenore ZH-DX200-CT at Amazon.