The KZ reptilian overlords never sleep! They have been working in their underground dungeons creating another TWS model. In this review, I’m checking out the KZ SA08 TWS earphone. The SA08 has 4 balanced armature drivers per side, for a total of 8 drivers (hence the name). It also has Bluetooth 5.0, a high-performance mode for gaming and the earpieces weigh in at just 5.7g each.
Disclaimer: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.
Charging case is very small and portable
Earphones recharging time is pretty fast
Detailed sound with a balanced tonality
Shells are bulky and protrude out of your ears
Narrow nozzles make tip rolling a challenge
No onboard volume controls
Package and Accessories
Packaging is the usual KZ stuff i.e. a minimalist box with the KZ logo on the front. Inside the box, you get the KZ SA08 TWS earphones, 3 pairs of silicone eartips (XS, S, M), a USB Type-C charging cable and some documentation.
Design & Functionality
KZ seems to make chunky TWS earphones and the AS08 is no different. The shells are large and are designed for deep insertion wearing. They’re made from acrylic and come in a glossy piano black colour.
On the right faceplate there’s a KZ logo and on the left is the model name in a stylish font. It’s a little disconcerting to see the same non-standard narrow nozzles that were on the KZ S2 which make tip rolling a challenge.
Internally, the SA08 has one 22955 BA driver for the bass, a 29689 for the midrange and a dual 31736 driver for the highs. These drivers are hooked up to 3 audio tubes or channels for improved instrument isolation and resolution.
Both earpieces can be used independently for both music and phone calls. The SA08 has touch-sensitive buttons on their exterior and I found them to work consistently. Sadly, like the previous KZ TWS earphones, there is again no onboard volume control on the earpieces.
Comfort and Noise Isolation
Comfort-wise, the KZ SA08 is pretty good for me and my large ears, although it took me quite some time to hunt down some suitable eartips (the stock ones are all tiny)! Once I found the right match I was good to go for several hours at a time.
Noise isolation is pretty good if you get a proper seal. The deep insertion design of the SA08 fills your ear canal and concha area and the shells block out a lot of external noise. You’re going to need to stop the music or take them out of your ears if someone’s talking to you because there’s no ambient monitoring mode like some other TWS models have.
The charging case is small and disc-shaped. It’s very similar to the Tronsmart Apollo Bold case in size and dimensions which means it’s perfect for pockets and portability. It has a USB Type-C port on the back for charging and a single LED under the lid which shows battery level and charging status.
The KZ SA08 comes with Bluetooth 5.0 and pairing with my phone was a breeze. I haven’t had any signal loss or dropouts during normal use. The range is moderate at about 10 meters before the sound starts to stutter.
There isn’t any aptX support but it does have AAC which works with iPhones and most modern Android phones. Like the KZ S2, the SA08 also has a performance mode which reduces latency and extends the battery life. I found it to work really well for online gaming and the bonus is there’s almost no loss of audio quality.
I generally got around 2.5 to 3 hours battery life from the SA08 which by today’s standards is pretty low. Like I said in my S2 review, this might be fine depending on how you use your TWS earphones but I think this is an area that KZ needs to address seriously with future TWS IEMs.
The KZ SA08 has a lively balanced sound with a neutral-bright presentation. It has a satisfying bass and great detail retrieval too. However, there is some background hiss which can be distracting if you’re sensitive to that kind of thing.
KZ does excellent balanced armature bass, in my opinion, and it shows in their TWS models. The sub-bass is emphasized over the mid-bass but both can hit unexpectedly hard. Leading edges of bass notes are dense and slightly rounded giving them a natural slam while decay speeds are fast and tidy.
It genuinely sounds very much like a dynamic driver at times. In Sundial Aeon’s “Stratospheric Solar Clouds” the SA08 slams with an impact and authority that surprises me every time I listen to it.
The SA08 midrange is remarkably clear and has good instrument separation. Fast transients, lean note size and the controlled bass all work together to make the mids clean and detailed. But it sounds a little thin sometimes, most notably in male and female vocals. High-midrange notes can be a bit bright too but they’re generally tolerable.
Guitars and pianos sound pretty nice overall although the piano’s upper registers can be sharp at times. Stringed instruments such as violins and cellos sound quite good and have enough richness to prevent them from sounding dry.
The treble is light and airy. Crash cymbals have good tone without sounding overly bright or brittle. Detail rendered is good too and the SA08 is quite adept at picking up subtle nuances. Because of SA08’s brighter tonality, I was expecting sibilance but it actually performs really well in this regard, Even sibilant recordings like Utada Hikaru’s “Traveling” didn’t make my ears bleed which is always a plus in my book.
The soundstage has reasonably large dimensions with good width and depth. The airy treble pushes sounds out to the edge of the headspace on the sides and the reach of the bass creates some complementing depth. Vocals are centred and fairly intimate and overall imaging is satisfactory.
The Knowledge Zenith masters have once again produced a pretty good TWS earphone. However, there are still issues that need to be addressed to make IEMs like the KZ SA08 truly contentious. Most notably, the battery life needs to be improved.
The ergonomics and fit could use some refinement as well. The quality of the included eartips is questionable unless you have tiny hamster ears but I like the size and shape of the charging case which make portability a breeze.
When it comes to sound, I think the SA08 performs well. It’s detailed, has punchy bass, clear mids and detailed highs. Once the other issues are ironed out, I expect KZ will be truly competitive in the wireless earphone space. In the meantime, if you’re a KZ fan and don’t mind an underwhelming battery life, this TWS is at least worth considering.
Bluetooth Version: 5.0
Frequency response: 20-40kHz
Earphone weight: 5.7g (both ears)
Charging case weight: 44g
Earpiece battery: 30mA (single ear)
Charging case battery: 400mA
Unit configuration: x1 22955 balanced armature, x1 29689 balanced armature, dual x1 31736 balanced armature unit combination