In true KZ style the company has been releasing a deluge of new earphone models in recent times; so many it’s hard to keep up with them all. Recently I got my hands on the new KZ AS06 triple balanced armature driver IEM which is what I’ll be reviewing today.
In case you haven’t heard (been under a rock?) KZ or Knowledge Zenith is a giant among budget Chinese earphone manufacturers. For years they’ve been making products that perform extremely well for their price.
Not long ago, the company began making multi-BA (balanced armature) earphones and have been very successful with them to date. Models like the KZ AS10 and KZ BA10 deliver fantastic sound quality at an affordable price.
- Very comfortable earphones
- Good passive noise isolation
- Tonality and clarity
- Value for money
- Cable is prone to tangling
This sample was provided for the purpose of an honest review. All observations and opinions here are my own based on my experience with the product.
Package and Accessories
Like we saw with the BA10 and AS10, the KZ AS06 comes in a plain, black box with the KZ logo on the front. This time, however, the box is a bit smaller which seems more sensible to me than the superfluous packaging of the aforementioned models.
Opening the magnetic flap reveals the earpieces seated in a foam slab. Down at the bottom is the now familiar KZ plaque that states the model number and boasts of a “Six Drivers Balanced Armature Earphone” which, in classic Chi-Fi style is market speak for “3 drivers per side”.
Underneath the foam we find the rest of the accessories. So let’s take a look at everything in the box:
- KZ AS06 earphones
- Detachable 0.75 mm 2-pin cable
- KZ AS06 metal plaque
- 3 pairs of Starline silicone eartips (S, M, L)
- User guide/warranty card
That’s the usual KZ bundle, which is pretty much the bare minimum. That’s not necessarily bad though; as I’ve said before, the less fancy packaging and minimal accessories allows KZ to provide IEMs that perform above their price points. It would be really nice though, if some type of rudimentary carry case was provided with the higher priced models.
Build Quality and Design
If you’ve tried the KZ AS10 (review here) then you should know what to expect because the KZ AS06 shares the exact same housings. The only difference is that now there’s a silver-coloured metal plate sitting below the transparent faceplate, instead of the circuit board on the AS10.
The housings are lightweight and made from plastic. All the edges are rounded and the 2 halves of the body are joined seamlessly. Again we find a single pinhole vent on the shell’s inner side.
Sadly, the nozzles have these tiny little bumps at the end of the nozzles instead of a proper ridge so I found that quite often the tips would come off and get stuck in my ears after I removed the IEM. This probably isn’t an issue if you use the stock tips but of course, those are too small for my freakishly large ear canals.
Once again we find the same coppery-brown cable
This cable has the standard KZ 0.75 mm 2-pin connectors. There is no chin slider and the hardened rubber Y-split is still absurdly far down the cable meaning that it will get tangled just about any time you pick it up.
I’m sure (and hoping) that we’ll see a more sensible cable from KZ soon. There’s nothing wrong with the quality of this one but there are some serious design flaws.
Comfort and Noise Isolation
I get a fantastic fit with the KZ AS06. The housings sit nicely and securely in my conchae and I can literally wear them all day long. All the edges are rounded and smooth and I don’t get any pressure buildup.
Noise isolation is not as good as some other balanced armature phones but it’s still pretty darn good. Once the music is playing you’re not going to hear much of anything else. Noise leak is very low so you can blast all your guilty pleasure songs on the train and nobody will shame you out for it.
Gear used for testing includes the Shanling M0 and Acoustic Research AR-M20 playing the role of my portable source. At home on the desktop, I had MusicBee and JRiver Media Center feeding FLAC files to the FiiO K3.
The KZ AS06 has a V-shaped sound signature that is energetic and has good clarity with a sprinkle of warmth. The bass and treble are boosted, making the midrange a little recessed but personally, I find the tonal balance pleasing and really enjoyable.
As mentioned above, the AS06 bass is boosted, particularly in the mid-bass region. It has that excellent balanced armature texture and speed, making it punchy with a nicely defined leading edge. Although the bass is fast, notes have a realistic thickness, weight and decay.
The sub-bass extends well for a BA driver in this price range. It rolls off fairly quickly below 50Hz and has a fast, controlled rumble. It doesn’t shake your skull shake quite as much as a dynamic driver can but it can get surprisingly close in tracks like R+R=NOW’s “Awaken To You”.
There is very little bass bleed and the quantity of the bass should satisfy everyone except the real bassheads. The mid bass especially has great impact and drives music along effortlessly.
Smooth with excellent articulation, the KZ AS06 mids are fantastic for a budget IEM. Male and female vocals alike sound great, although male vocals are pushed further back a bit compared to their female counterparts.
But because the instrument separation and overall balance are well constructed, vocals shine through even in songs like Anathema’s “Underworld” which has a lot of driving electric guitars and a busy drum section going on throughout the verses.
Speaking of electric guitars, they sound great with lots of texture and crunch. Classical lovers can also enjoy the AS06; listening to Sibelius’ “Symphony No.5 in E flat, Op. 82: 2” had me double checking to make sure I did actually have a KZ IEM in my ears.
Treble is an area that KZ usually plays fairly safe and it’s the same with the AS06. The treble is crisp and detailed, even if it does have a hint of KZ dryness to it.
It’s lively and energetic but fairly even and there’s no sibilance or harshness. In “The Night Subscriber” by Katatonia, the frantic cymbals throughout the track are not unpleasant in the least to my ears which can be sensitive to that track.
The soundstage is bigger than average and is wider than it is deep. Instrument separation is decent, although in busy segments things start to coalesce and layering takes a hit. Imaging is middling but definitely on par for something in this price range.
KZ AS06 vs KZ AS10 ($68 USD)
There are definitely similarities in this comparison (as there are with the BA10). The AS10 (review here) has a warmer and more inviting sound than the AS06.
Bass decay is a bit slower on the AS10 and bass notes in general, are thicker. Despite looking very similar in the measurements, these 2 earphones definitely each have their own unique sound. Bass sounds more forward and aggressive on the AS06.
The AS10 midrange is more forward and smoother than the AS06. Male vocals sound richer and more coloured on the AS10. The AS06’s treble is more forward and livelier as well. The AS10 has a laid back treble that is very non-fatiguing and more suitable for relaxed listening.
The soundstage on the AS10 is fairly intimate but it has superior imaging compared to the AS06. Instrument separation is superior on the AS10 but the warm signature and forward midrange make the stage feel smaller.
KZ AS06 vs KZ ZSN ($22 USD)
The KZ ZSN (review here) with its dynamic low-frequency driver has fantastically delicious sub-bass that the AS06 simply cannot match. However, the ZSN mid-bass lacks the texture and speed of the AS06.
While the AS06 mids are behind the mid-bass, the ZSN’s upper midrange puts it foremost in the mix. The AS06 has noticeably better clarity because of the extra emphasis at 6kHz-7kHz.
The ZSN can sometimes have a little bit of grain in the upper midrange but the AS06 sounds more natural in this area. Its treble is similar but is slightly airier and more laid back compared to the AS06.
The ZSN has an average soundstage with more depth than the AS06. On bassy tracks the ZSN stage is reduced. Imaging is similar on both earphones but the AS06 has better instrument separation.
KZ AS06 vs BQEYZ K2 ($49 USD)
The BQEYZ K2 (review here) has dual dynamic drivers which naturally give it a more powerful and resonating sub-bass. Mid-bass is similar on these 2 IEMs but the AS06 is punchier and more textured.
Vocals are more forward on the K2, with special favour given to female voices. The AS06 has more clarity because of its lower treble emphasis whereas the K2 sounds more earthy.
Both IEMs can be energetic in the treble despite the K2’s dip at 5kHz-6kHz but that dip makes the transition from upper mids to lower treble less even on the K2. The treble itself is where the 2 earphones sound the most similar but the K2’s treble is just a bit sweeter.
The K2’s soundstage has more height than the AS06 and both have a similar amount of depth. Instrument separation is a little better on the AS06 on busy tracks
KZ AS06 vs KZ BA10 ($67 USD)
The KZ BA10 (review here) has a more balanced signature compared to the V-shaped AS06. As a result, the AS06 is more lively with a more boosted bass and treble.
Bass on the BA10 is similar to but has less quantity than the AS06. Leading edges are more defined and bass notes in general are a bit leaner. Both IEMs have a similar midrange but because the BA10 has a linear tuning the mids become more forward.
In the treble area the AS06 has a bit more liveliness and although it’s not harsh it could be fatiguing for some after a while depending on what music you listen to.
The soundstage on the BA10 is fairly intimate and rounded with its forward midrange but the AS06 has more width. Imaging and separation are better on the BA10 but the AS06 is more musical.
Well, the KZ AS06 was certainly a surprise for me. To be frank, I’m stunned at how good it sounds. I believe it competes extremely well with the more expensive KZ models like the AS10 and BA10 and depending on your musical preference it could satisfy you more than either of those.
The AS06 housings also feel almost as if they were moulded specifically for my ears and are one of the most comfortable earphones for me (along with the AS10 naturally).
Right now it seems like KZ’s biggest competition is itself and each new earphone they release is better than the last. Simply put, the AS06 is a truly outstanding sub $50 IEM and now has a place on my best universal IEMs list.