Today, I’m reviewing the KZ AS16 Pro earphones. The AS16 Pro features 8 balanced armature drivers per side (an octet) and resin shells. It’s priced at $55.
Disclaimer: This sample was provided by KZ for an honest review. All observations and opinions here are my own based on my experience with the product.
KZ AS16 Pro
- Drivers: 8 balanced armatures per side (31736 BA *4, 29689 BA *2, 22955 BA *2)
- Resistance: 18Ω
- Sensitivity: 114dB
- Frequency Response Range: 20 – 40000Hz
- Price: $55
What’s In the Box
- KZ AS16 Pro IEMs
- Detachable silver-plated OFC 2-pin cable
- 3x pairs of silicone eartips
- User guide
The KZ AS16 Pro adopts a similar shape to the original model, except this time it has a metal bezel instead of all-metal faceplates. It has a double-layer faceted pattern on the faceplates that give them some visual interest. The KZ AS16 Pro is available in either black or cyan.
With the help of modern 3D-printing technology, KZ was able to implement 3 sound tubes to improve separation between the bass, midrange and treble frequencies. In addition, AS16 Pro also has a 3-way electronic crossover.
Although the shells are rather large, I find them comfortable for long listening sessions. As a result of the long nozzles and large body, the passive noise isolation is above average. This makes the AS16 Pro great for blocking out external noise so you can enjoy your music without interruption.
Once again, we are provided with KZ’s current standard silver-plated OFC cable. The cable handles well and despite having all plastic components, it feels robust and durable. There is no noticeable microphonics or cable noise.
Gear used for testing includes the TOPPING E30II + L30II stack, Shanling UP5 and Sony NW-ZX300. In addition, I used the Ovidius B1 impedance adapter.
To be clear, you don’t need an impedance adapter but it makes the AS16 Pro sound calmer and more cohesive to my ears. On top of that, it gives you finer control over volume levels (this is a sensitive/efficient IEM).
The AS16 Pro has a balanced sound that allows the bass, mids and treble to all play together on an even playing field. No particular band is given preference over the others. The tonality is on the warmer side of neutral but is countered well with clear mids and crisp treble.
Compared to the original AS16, the Pro model sounds more rounded, complete and musical. It sounds more like it’s built for enjoying music rather than trying to impress with technical ability (although it can do that too).
The bass has a physicality that’s unusual for an all-BA IEM, especially a $55 one with a balanced sound signature. Granted, it’s not as gritty as a dynamic driver but nonetheless, it feels full-bodied and adequate.
What really surprises me about AS16 Pro’s bass is its ability to conjure up legitimate sub-bass rumble. It won’t hit you in your chest like a certified basshead IEM but it is impressive regardless.
Of course, the other benefit of BA bass is the speed and tightness that you get here in spades. Not only that but there’s hardly any bleeding into the midrange, a benefit of those dedicated sound tubes.
The mids are forward and spirited. This isn’t the typical V-shaped presentation we’re used to from KZ but one that’s front and centre. Vocals are vivid and articulate, close enough to be intimate but not in your face.
Perhaps what’s most endearing about the midrange is the level of cohesion they have with the bass and mids. This isn’t an effect of simply jamming a large number of drivers into a shell but a calculated, expert tuning.
To further impress us, the upper mids don’t get shouty, even when female vocalists like Adele or Ariana Grande start belting. Electric guitars have ample bite with abundant texture. Violins sound sonorous and clear yet rich and smooth. Furthermore, the tone of instruments and vocals is more accurate than I normally expect from a budget IEM.
I would call the treble polite and satiny. For some, it may lack bite or sparkle but I personally appreciate the smooth, rounded notes. KZ treble has often been an area of contention for me as it often came across as grainy or metallic. But I’m happy to say that the AS16 Pro’s treble is free of stridency and sharpness.
However, it’s not the most detailed or precise treble and the IEMs failed to present certain micro-details that I look out for. This is due, in part, to the dips at 4kHz and 6kHz that have been attenuated to create a smoother presentation.
While I do miss some of those smaller details, I appreciate being able to listen for longer periods of time without fatigue. But we’ve seen many times that it’s possible to have your cake and eat it too in regards to detail retrieval, so I hope future KZ models can improve on this aspect.
Soundstage and Technicalities
Despite not having the best treble extension, the AS16’s soundstage is fairly expansive, lending itself nicely to classical music. The AS16 Pro creates a good sense of scale that is perfect for orchestral works but, of course, it benefits all music genres. Instrument separation is good and imaging is adequate, even if a bit underwhelming for something in this price range.
The KZ AS16 Pro is a clear evolution from the original model. This newer model has better cohesion and sounds more natural albeit less detailed than its predecessor. If you’ve been wanting to add an all-BA IEM to your collection, this is a good (and affordable) place to start.