Knowledge Zenith has been changing things up quite a bit lately. All kinds of shapes and configurations have been coming out of the Chinese giant’s factories. Today I’m looking at the KZ BA10,a 10 balanced armature (5 per side) earphone that is not only the most expensive KZ to date but is also arguably their best sounding earphone.
Solid build quality
Balanced sound and clarity
Value for money
The stock cable isn’t great
Sensitivity: 105 dB
Impedance 14 Ω
Frequency: 20-40000 Hz
Plug Type: 3.5 mm
Pin Type: 0.75 mm
Weight: 27±3 g
Cable Length: 120±5 cm
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
Similar to the AS10, the KZ BA10 comes in a low-key black box that is plain except for the KZ logo embossed on the top. Once you open it up the BA10 is there in all its glory, seated in a black foam insert. Below the earphones is a KZ BA10 Plaque which doesn’t really serve any other purpose except to look badass!
Under the foam are, of course, the rest of the accessories, which are the bare minimum in true KZ fashion. So what’s in the box?
KZ BA10 earphone
1 metal plaque
3 pairs of KZ Starline eartips (S, M, L)
Detachable 2-pin cable
That’s about all you get, which kinda makes me wonder why use such a large box? It seems they could have cut down on the packaging and perhaps fleshed out the accessories a bit more instead. Still, this is something we come across quite often so nothing to see here folks, move along!
Build Quality and Design
If Iron Man and Optimus Prime had a love child I imagine it would look something like the KZ BA10. There’s nothing wrong with that though because we all know that under the suit Iron Man is quite a strapping fellow and Optimus has a big, kind heart and has saved the Earth several times.
Seriously though, the BA10 has a unique appearance with its squarish physique and anodized matte finish. The all-metal housings have a bit of heft to them but are not what I would consider heavy and feel very well-built and robust.
The faceplates have 3 angled vents and an L and R marking to easily identify each side. The shells are also metal and joined together seamlessly with the faceplate with no signs of any glue residue or rough edges.
To keep your eartips firmly in place the angled nozzles have a solid ridge. At the end of the nozzle is a metal mesh to keep out ear wax and other undesirable aliens matter.
Overall the KZ BA10 is a chunky looking IEM but its build quality is certainly worthy of the model’s flagship status.
The cable provided with the BA10 is similar to what we’ve seen with some other recent KZ models, such as the AS10. It’s a coppery-brown colour and consists of 4 tightly twisted strands.
I don’t mind this cable as it has a good mix of pliability and stability but once again we find the hardened rubber Y-split placed way too far down. This in conjunction with the omission of a chin slider, the “hooks” formed by the memory wire and relative thinness above the Y-split means that this cable will become tangled easily and often.
So, yes, that horrific memory wire is still sadly still present (thankfully it’s not on the ZS4 or ZSN). The cable terminates in a right-angled 3.5 mm plug. Strain reliefs are pretty good throughout the length of the cable.
Comfort and Noise Isolation
Although it looks chunky and large the BA10 can be quite comfortable. I say it can be because when using the stock cable the earphone was barely usable for me. The combination of the memory wire and the angled 2-pin connectors on the cable forced the IEM into an unnatural angle that just would not stay secured in my ears.
However, once I had replaced the stock cable one with a third-party variant that had straight connectors everything fell into place. Now the BA10 feels secure in my ears and comfortable as well. In this configuration, I can comfortably wear the earphones for hours on end without any problems whatsoever. Those with smaller ears might have a hard time though.
Noise isolation is fairly average and about the same as I would expect from a similarly sized dynamic driver IEM. It should be suitable for most daily environments. Noise leak is a little above average and shouldn’t be an issue unless you’re in a really quiet office or a library etc.
Gear used for testing includes the Shanling M0 and Earstudio ES100 as the portable sources. On the desktop, it was my Windows PC with JRiver Media Center feeding the Topping DX7 DAC.
Here is where this awkward love child finds a firm footing. The KZ BA10 makes strides in sound quality that place it above any other models I’ve heard from this brand.
The sound signature is slightly V-shaped with no particular frequency taking precedence over the others but a mild recession in the midrange. There is an abundance of clarity, a natural timbre and overall pleasing and somewhat energetic presentation. Let’s break it down.
KZ have gone for a more conservative bass tuning this time around and it pays off. The BA10 still has the weight to give the overall sound body but it’s also light enough to shine some extra light on the midrange.
The bass has good extension with a sub-bass that can get a decent rumble going. Mid-bass is tight and packs a punch, with a natural sounding attack and decay but at the same time it’s more reserved in quantity than we’re used to from KZ.
Upper bass notes get some love too, so the transition from bass to lower midrange is smooth and adds richness to male vocals. The BA bass is very tidy but there’s more than enough life in it to drive bass dependent music and I found it great for some oldskool hip-hop like Makaveli’s “Hail Mary”.
This is possibly KZ’s most natural sounding midrange to date. With just the right amount of upper bass providing body and the upper midrange peak, the BA10 produces an engaging tonality with good clarity and vocal density.
Another standout with the BA10’s mids is that its upper octaves aren’t so thin as other KZ models. The result is a less grainy, more earthy and natural timbre throughout.
There’s a dip at that crucial 4.5kHz area which is known to be fatiguing to the human ear but the instruments and vocals still have plenty of presence without being overly bright.
The BA10 has a lively treble that sparkles and energizes the sound. The extension is good, giving cymbals an accurate timbre and sheen and providing a nice amount of detail. Listening to Joy Wants Eternity’s “Of Dead Loves and Waning Perfume” I can thoroughly enjoy the enthusiastic crashing of cymbals (along with everything else).
However, that 6-7kHz peak is a double-edged sword. While it does provide extra clarity and presence it also treads a fine line between definition and sibilance. For the most part though, I find the treble to be of good quality.
With a stable and fairly large stage, the BA10 does not disappoint here either. Instrument separation is quite good – and one of the benefits of having 5 drivers if done correctly!
Instruments are given plenty of space to work in and vocals are front and centre with solid body and density. There isn’t a lot of height but depth and width are good for something in this price range.
KZ BA10 vs Tin Audio T2 ($59 USD)
The BA10 has a similar amount of sub-bass rumble and more mid-bass punch. The extra weight in the bass gives the BA10 more overall body. While the BA10’s midrange is slightly recessed (less so than it appears in measurements) the Tin Audio T2 (review here), in contrast, is extremely linear throughout the mids.
Vocals are more forward on the T2 and are more intimate. Neither IEM favours male or female vocals in particular. The BA10 has more articulation and clarity because of its lower treble boost but both earphones manage to avoid any sibilance, although the KZ does get close.
The BA10 has more treble energy and some extra sparkle. Balance and neutrality define the T2 while the BA10 is more V-shaped and has a more aggressive tuning although I would still call it reasonably balanced.
KZ BA10 vs KZ AS10 ($68 USD)
Although these 2 look to have a very similar bass on the graph the KZ AS10 (review here) has more bass presence. It’s most likely due to the AS10’s plastic housings compared to the rigidity of the BA10’s aluminium body. The difference is not stark but is noticeable to my ears.
That extra bass weight gives the AS10 more body throughout. Some extra elevation in the BA10 treble makes the AS10’s midrange sound more forward and intimate. A more energetic treble on the BA10 gives it more air and lightness but also pushes the midrange back more ever so slightly.
These 2 monitors share a lot in common in terms of sound with the AS10 focusing more on the bass and thus being warmer and thicker. The KZ BA10, on the other hand, shifts some of its weight towards the high frequencies giving it more articulation and a thinner, brighter signature.
IF you can get a good fit and possibly are willing to shell out for a better cable, the BA10 is a fantastic IEM. Once you find the right tips and get a secure seal then the magic happens. Hopefully, others will have a great experience out of the box and if that’s the case then they’re in for a real audio treat.
Ergonomics aside, the KZ BA10 is probably KZ’s best sounding IEM so far, surpassing even the AS10. So if you’ve been searching for a sub $100 multi-BA monitor then the BA10 deserves your attention.
What is your favourite KZ model? Leave a comment below!