They say the higher number of drivers in an IEM doesn’t translate to stellar sound quality but instead how it was implemented. The tendency of determining the performance of an IEM by solely relying on the number of drivers used in an IEM is a topic that will get audiophiles want to chime in, and speaking of audiophiles, it is safe to say that most are no stranger to Knowledge Zenith, popularly known as KZ. Their aggressive marketing strategy and their spam of numerous product launches for prices that are cheap in comparison to other audiophile offerings have made them the ultimate choice for new audiophiles hungry to be in the scene. What we have now to realview is their current flagship in terms of their pricing scheme, the KZ AS10 which was provided by DD Audio in exchange for an honest review, you can secure a pair for $55-$65 depending on store discounts from their respective stores in Amazon and AliExpress. The KZ AS10 is spec’d out with a whooping 5 Balanced Armature per earpiece, 20-22,000Hz Frequency Response, 32 ohms Impedance and a 106dB Sensitivity. I tried to dig out more information about the BA’s used on the AS10 and hit no luck, no further information is present on any of their marketing platforms.
Packaging and Build Quality
The AS10 was packaged on a black matte box with nothing but a subtle KZ logo on the front and some minor company and product information sticker on the side. Opening the flap will reveal KZ’s special note: Don’t forget, the original intention of using earphones is to enjoy music (changed for correct grammar and spelling, not that its important). That was a nice conditioning note in my opinion, one that will remind you of the AS10’s price when judging its performance. The package included 3 silicon tips (S, M, L) with the medium tips pre-installed. The foam inserts had a metal plate with the KZ logo and the reminder again that this is a 10BA IEM. Underneath the foam inserts were the silicon tips, warranty card and a manual on how to use the AS10 and not much product details. It also hid the cable underneath which was a 1.2M round braid copper cable on a gold plated 3.5mm L-plug with strain relief both on the jack and the Y-split yet no cable cinch which would have been appreciated since the Y split sits lower than most cables I have tried. The cable is easy to store and easy to tangle as well even though it’s a braided cable and glad to have found that it isn’t microphonic as well when used on the go.
The memory wire on the cable near the .75mm 2pin connection had a thin metal strip to aid in the memory wire conforming to your desired shape. The IEM itself was a smoky black on the faceplate and a solid black on the shell leaving no way to admire the insides yet it has a clean maroon chamber with the KZ logo in gold print and the L and R markings near the 2pin sockets. The included silicon tips that came with the AS10 is clearly a mismatch for it and it is highly recommended to get a 3rd party tip hence in this realview, the JVC Spiral Dots M was used due to its perfect bore size that matches the AS10 nozzle nicely, at 1st it was weird not seeing a nozzle lip to aid with tip security however the Spiral Dots didn’t come off when the IEM was removed for the duration of the realview, do note as well that the mesh for the AS10 nozzle is embedded inside providing a tube-like aesthetic where one might think that the mesh came off.
Knowledge Zenith aka KZ has been ruling the budget level market for sometime now and is already a household name in various audiophile groups specially in the SEA region but this is my 1st KZ IEM to have ever get intimate with, I am not familiar with the KZ sound but the AS10’s tonality lies on the warmer sector of IEMs, throughout the duration of the realview, the signature of the AS10 doesn’t alter much irrespective of the ear tips and file format used which is a good thing to see on this price range, we’d find out later on if this scales well on various sources given its 5 BA setup, I have used the Opus 1, Hidizs AP200, Sony ZX1 players all churning out 16/44 FLACs and the Sony CAS-1 desktop system for the realview.
The Lows has never been my preferred frequency when considering my affection for an IEM and providing sufficient low-end is enough for my preference. The AS10’s performance on the low-end is composed where the sub-bass extends in a clean transition for the frequencies to mesh well with the lows, it presents the midbass with a thump that is full bodied and impactful that doesn’t linger. The Black-Eyed Pea’s Greatist Hits playlist in FLAC 16/44 was a joy to run through as the low-end performance of the AS10 was panned equally providing pleasurable and non-fatiguing low-end experience. This is not your bloated type bass IEM that just throws the whole dynamic off but the type that allows cohesion across frequencies.
Tackling the Midrange frequencies for the AS10 gives it a smooth ambiance feel and the vocals are energetic and lifelike in delivery although it is on the softer side in its presentation, male vocals are breathy and often times emanates reverb that gives it a distinct sense of air even for softer modulations of the masculine gender. Female vocals mimic the sense of masculine presence, Norah Jones’s Come Away with Me and Land Del Rey’s Cherry was lush and full, inviting and will indulge the listener to relax and take it easy. Even Foo Fighter’s Best of You still retains the authoritative vocal presence and still clear and had great resolution. I even used the AS10 for movie watching for its great performance on the midrange.
Great low-end, Great midrange and a touch of subtle sparkle on the highs would make the AS10’s highs its official weakest link which if targeted specifically will still find one losing out, listening to Angela Bofill’s Angel of The Night on the AS10 is a luxury you can afford without being at risk of piercing highs.
Soundstage and Imaging
It is a joy for any ensemble member to find their band having individual awareness of where to position themselves amidst sudden and abrupt formation and the AS10 does this well. Soundstage is less than that of a cinematic feel yet no congestion as well is observed, it handles dynamics well and imaging is fleeting yet articulate. There is definite detail retrieval. The Spiral dot tips did well for the seal and isolation aspect for the AS10 and would recommend it over the Comply T500 and Final Audio tips after using all 3 ear tips.
The AS10 did well with pairing it over various sources, from bright, neutral and warm sounding sources, it didn’t exhibit heavy adapting behavior when paired with such sources yet only sounded fuller when fed with more power. I have enjoyed it most off the Sony CAS-1 with its ability to give the AS10 its well-blended frequency delivery and smoothing the low-end impact even more. Overall pairing the AS10 on a source that would enable the low-end to exhibit a cleaner sound will make the AS10 sound its best.
KZ has flushed the budget level market for some time now and have always eluded me, given the feedbacks I have heard from other previous KZ users, the AS10 is a great IEM to start exploring the KZ line which allowed me to hear what they are capable of. The build quality is something to be improved specially that nozzle design and the ear tips included would have made the AS10 a better package overall. The cable quality is great for its price and adding a cable cinch will complete make it even greater. The AS10 sound performance enables a cohesive sound across all the frequencies resulting in an experience that will welcome any user to the KZ dominion on a good note.