John Ruskin once said “Quality is never an accident, it is always the result of intelligent effort” and we could all say that we have questioned Knowledge Zenith’s commitment to providing quality audio products knowing that they launch at us a slew of products that keeps us from looking at the big picture and evaluating our purchases. What we have now to realview is one of their many recent releases and make no mistake, more is surely coming as I’m told yet for now, we can focus on the KZ BA10 which sports a spec sheet of 5 Balanced Armature drivers (1 Low-1 Mid-1 Mid/High and 2 High), 20hz – 40KHz Frequency Response, 14 Ohm Impedance and 105dB Sensitivity. You can grab a pair for around $76 to $89 depending on promotion off Linsoul and DD Audio’s Amazon and AliExpress sites which provided the review unit in exchange for an honest review. Did Knowledge Zenith trick us again with the BA10 or is it just worth getting? Let’s find out.
Packaging and Build Quality
The BA10 came sheltered on a black matte box with a minute KZ logo on the front and some minor company and product information sticker on the side. Opening it up shows BA10 right away, no introductions needed boys and girls, KZ is and will keep it that way until when I don’t know exactly. 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 product manual.
The IEM housing itself has sharp edges (in IEM housing norm) and is quite huge again against IEM norm, this risky move for me isn’t a good thing since it made the BA10 usability lean on the uncomfortable side since most of the edges doesn’t sit flush on the ears and the rest of the puny jagged edges are the ones that get in contact with the ears and after having tried this while in bed or moving around, the more those sharp edges gets into contact. The housing though feels sturdy and doesn’t feel that it would be coming apart anytime soon and the paint (if it was ever paint) looks good in both matte gold and red, there are 3 lateral vents on the faceplate which is covered with a metal mesh and the nozzle has a lip which is great for eartips rolling and is also covered by a metal mesh. The BA10 still uses the KZ standard .75mm 2-pin interface which has a deep groove around it and doesn’t look great at all with other 2-pin male housings although why would you do cable rolling on this, right? The included stock cable is where it diverges from the usual KZ norm, it isn’t the usual dark tint round braid copper cable from the ZSA and the AS10 although they have the same specifications, the Y-split is a black hard rubber with decent strain relief on all terminals, the gold-plated 3.5mm plug still sits on a black hard rubber which also has decent strain relief and there is also an in-house KZ memory wire tech (using a metal strip along a sheathed cover) near the 2-pin plugs to aid over ear usage. Microphonics is mininmal on the BA10 cable and the mic controls and the mic itself works just fine however there is no chin slider as usual. Overall the build quality of the IEM is well-built but compromises on comfort while the stock cable is indeed improving.
Being the most costly amongst the KZ lineup, the BA10 sure sounds its price in comparison to its peers. It exhibits a balanced sound with distinct attributes on each respective frequency which we would later tackle on. Using the BA10 on multiple phases of daily life was a positive experience in terms of sound, it didn’t show any great extremes that would keep one to dislodge it from your ears except for one, which isn’t related to its sound. I know this is about the overall tonal performance but the sharp edges just didn’t compliment the BA10’s sound. We would be using the Final Audio Type E tips as well as the Opus 1 and Xduoo X3ii for the realview, do note that there is some annoying hiss when I plug the BA10 to my MSI laptop and the Sony CAS-1 system.
I decided to pull out Lana Del Ray’s Love in 16/44 Flac to test out the BA10’s low frequency performance, right off the bat, the track drowns the listener with sub bass drops and the BA10 did fine with its interpretation with it, it doesn’t sound boxy and decay isn’t that fast as well. It enables the bass bursts to progress through smoothly, it however doesn’t deliver great impact, another thing to look forward for the next group of KZ launches.
KZ BA10’s midrange is its lover, working its way gently with its delivery. Michael Buble’s From Russia with Love in 16/44 Flac, the lower midrange entry of Buble’s vocals was quite intelligible giving good accurate pitch and occasional belting gives out a nice air to his voice. Norah Jones’s Shoot the Moon in 16/44 Flac which possessed more upper midrange focus still has good clear delivery and renders it naturally yet a bit devoid of energy which would have been great for that added feel of liveliness. Guitar plucks however were distinct and resounded well even when accompanied with wind instrument tones.
Although the BA10’s is already sounds promising on its other aspects, its high frequency performance is its 2nd biggest area of improvement next to the discomfort of its body silhouette (I can’t stress this much, do I?). There is noticeable harsh peaks and a false sense of sparkle. Listening to treble-heavy tracks on the BA10 is, if not a big No, totally warrants a small No. It performs well when you prefer the vocal-heavy tracks and genre. We could say its tolerable but don’t just try using it when watching an action movie or treble-heavy track where suddenly a gunfire, a tire screech, a sudden burst of energy from the drummer guy comes out of nowhere, the BA10 isn’t your friend in such situations.
Soundstage and Imaging
Don’t go feeling so low if you have been eyeing the BA10 as your next IEM after reading its High frequency performance. The BA10’s soundstage and imaging is one of the things that alleviates the discomfort of both the highs and the silhouette from the BA10. Those 3 vents on the faceplate certainly works, can’t wait for an actual video of a teardown of the BA10 and seeing the vents covered, LOL. Track dynamics is depicted well and gives distinct instrumental imaging which isn’t too intimate. Left to Right and Right to Left sound movement pans out good as well, a sure recommendation for tracks exhibiting such.
Our earlier quote of “Quality is never an accident, it is always the result of intelligent effort” is clearly not being used by Knowledge Zenith but instead uses the “Strength in Numbers” philosophy, churning out release after release after release and hope some hits the mark as a great audio purchase in terms of overall sound and build. The BA10 is another great statesman for the KZ empire which although has apparent shortcomings such as the weird body language causing discomfort from the 1st 5 minutes of use extending until it is unbearable and also the high frequency which already touches sibilant territory is not a good news for them considering this is their priciest offering to date. We just hope someone inside the KZ Empire takes note of all these observations, the BA10 is doing well but will surely won’t do greater things.