Alright, here’s one for all the KZ fans out there (and I know you’re out there!) The KZ AS10 has 10 balanced armature drivers, or more precisely; 5 BA drivers per side. It’s smooth, comfortable and it looks super cool too.
Anyone who has an interest in Chi-Fi will most likely be familiar with the KZ (Knowledge Zenith) brand. They have a huge portfolio of budget IEMs and are well known for delivering good quality audio at affordable prices.
With the AS10, KZ has left the shallow end of the pool and is wading into deeper territory, not just with an increased driver count but also their most expensive product to date.
Fantastic unique design
Comfortable and lightweight
Great opportunity for people on a budget to experience a multiple BA IEM
The nozzles don’t hold non-KZ eartips very well
KZ are still using that pesky memory wire on their cables
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.
Driver unit: 5BA hybrid driver units for each side
Frequency range: 20-22000Hz
Cable Length: 1.2m±3cm
Earphone interface: 2-Pin
Package and Accessories
The KZ AS10 comes in a fairly large, black cardboard box with the KZ logo on the front. Once you open the magnetically sealed box lid the AS10 is presented in a black foam inlay with Right and Left labels printed just below the earpieces.
At the bottom is a metal plaque with the model name and a brief description. The packaging is simple but the way the earphones are presented with the addition of the plaque feels really premium and gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling.
At the bottom of the foam inlay is a little pull ribbon. Lifting out the foam reveals the cable and accessories below. In typical KZ fashion, the accessories are minimal. Apart from the IEM and cable, you get 3 pairs of the iconic KZ Starline tips (S, M, L).
Build Quality and Design
There can be no doubt that the KZ AS10 has a striking design. Some will notice the similarity with the ZS10 and ES4 which look very alike but have some differences.
The AS10 comes in 2 colour options: green and black. With both variations, the shells are piano black and have transparent, coloured faceplates. Through the faceplates, you can see the circuit board inside which gives the AS10 (and its siblings) such a unique appearance.
The connectors this time around are the 0.75mm variant. A single pinhole-sized vent is located on the inner side of the shell. The earpieces are constructed from a lightweight ABS polymer and look to be built really well.
One design aspect of the AS10 that I don’t like is the lack of a ridge on the nozzles. There are 3 very small bumps right on the edge but they don’t hold eartips very securely and quite a few times I removed the AS10 from my ears and the eartip was left behind.
The included cable is KZ’s brown-coloured, braided one which they’ve been bundling with their higher end models recently. At first, it was a little stiff but during my testing, it softened up considerably and now I’m liking it quite a lot.
The cable terminates with a rubberized, L-shaped plug. Now, here’s the part I don’t like: The rubberized Y-split is placed very far down the cable and with the lack of a chin slider, makes the cable very prone to tangling. Not only that but the top of the Y-split is not rounded off in any way, so the sharp edges have a tendency to get caught on buttons and belts etc.
I was hoping that with the AS10 KZ would abandon the memory wire but sadly it is still present. However, I will say that the microphonics (cable noise) is very minimal and apart from the strange Y-split, it’s a good cable.
Comfort and Noise Isolation
While the diameter of the AS10’s shells is large, the depth is quite shallow, so they earpieces sit fairly flush against your ears. The smooth edges, lightweight materials and ergonomic design of the shells make them very comfortable to wear.
I did find that the earpieces have a tendency to work themselves out slowly from my ears so I had to do some extensive tip rolling to find something that not only gave me a good seal but also held the IEM in place.
The noise isolation is below average for an all BA earphone but it is still as good or better than a lot of hybrids and single dynamic driver IEMs. Noise leak is minimal too, so they’re pretty much ideal for everyday environments.
Gear used for testing
The AS10 was tested with my usual everyday DAPs, including the Acoustic Research AR-M20 and Sony ZX300. I also used the Radsone Earstudio ES100 and the new FiiO BTR3 Bluetooth amplifiers with my Android smartphone. For the desktop, I plugged the AS10 into the Audinst HUD-MX2, which was fed via USB from my PC and Tidal Hifi.
The KZ AS10 has a slightly warm but resolving and articulated sound. It’s much more balanced than the usual KZ offering, going for more linearity rather than the usual V-shaped signature.
This is the first time we’ve heard KZ’s new bass tuned balanced armature driver and I can tell you, I hope it’s not the last time. KZ have managed to produce a BA driver that can perform very much like a dynamic one. It’s meaty, it has body and weight to it and does not leave you wanting in the least.
The sub-bass is impressive too. It’s not as earth-shattering as a good dynamic driver but it’s got enough gusto for bass-hungry genres like hip-hop and EDM.
Mid-bass notes are nimble and punchy and have the perfect mix of BA speed, texture and natural decay. It’s a full-bodied bass that sounds natural and effortless and it’s clear that the 22955 that KZ developed specifically for the AS10 is a f*****g good one.
Continuing on from its strong bass performance, the AS10 also proves itself to be adept in the midrange. Vocals are not nearly as recessed as they are in many of KZ’s other earphones. In “Lullaby” from The Cure’s classic Disintegration album, lead singer Robert Smith’s muted whispers and slurping sounds are clearly audible and intelligible.
The KZ AS10 plays it safe when it comes to treble. Notes are crisp, detailed and easy on the ears. You’re more likely to get the occasional hint of discomfort from the upper mids than from the treble which makes it unremarkable but at the same time it’s somewhat of a quiet achiever. It’s a great way to round off an impressive overall performance.
One of the big advantages of a multi-driver configuration is improved separation and it shows with the AS10. The stage feels open and airy with palpable space between different instruments. It makes for good layering and a sense of depth that’s well showcased in pieces like Sibelius’ “The Swan of Tuonela”.
KZ AS10 vs Tin Audio T2 ($49 USD)
The KZ AS10 has a warmer tonality and a thicker midrange. Its bass doesn’t have the same punch although it does sound great for a BA bass. The T2’s sub bass extends further and has more authority – you get more of a sense of power emanating from it.
The T2’s midrange has amazing tonal accuracy for something in its price range but the AS10 isn’t far behind. The AS10’s midrange, however, has superior separation and is able to pick up more micro-details. It’s also easier to drive, meaning it will likely sound better when hooked up to the average smartphone.
Both IEMs have a fairly sedate treble but the Tin Audio T2 sounds more natural here. In terms of build quality well, that’s a tough one to call. The T2 has superior materials with its metal housings but the AS10 looks and feels really well built and for me it’s the AS10 that wins in terms of comfort. Either way, these are 2 of the hottest earphones around the $50 mark right now.
KZ AS10 vs Whizzer A15 ($69 USD)
The A15 has a very organic, natural sounding bass but it’s not as textured or well-defined as the AS10. There’s significant bass bleed on the A15 that doesn’t muddy up the midrange but makes it thicker, warmer and less resolving.
The AS10’s upper midrange can get a little glaring at higher volume, while the A15 is less aggressive in this area. This grants the AS10 much better clarity, separation and layering.
Where the A15 really shines is it’s sparkly and airy treble, which prevents the overall tonality from being too dark. The AS10 though is more adept at revealing details and has a larger, more open soundstage.
Listening to these 2 IEMs side by side reminds me just how much earphones have evolved over the last 12 months. The AS10 is a technical powerhouse at this price level and the A15 sounds clunky and definitively old-school in comparison.
I was super curious what Knowledge Zenith could do with a higher tier IEM and they did not disappoint. Now, thanks to KZ almost anyone can afford to experience and own a multiple BA-driver earphone.
There’s really not much else to say about it. The KZ AS10 looks great, feels great and doesn’t hit you too hard in the wallet. It is a triumph from the Chi-Fi giant and if you’ve ever been curious about an all BA IEM there’s no better place to test the water than right here.