The KZ AS10 is an in-ear monitor with five balanced armature drivers per side. KZ is the brand that started my Chi-Fi journey years ago with the ATE. Since then I have owned the KZ ED9, which I liked, and the ES4, which I disliked enough to return. I also own the C10 from KZ’s sister company, CCA, which is my go-to recommendation for a sub-$50 hybrid IEM.
The AS10 is the most expensive KZ model I have evaluated so far, retailing for $59.99 on Amazon at the time of this review. The AS10 was provided to me by Linsoul Audio in exchange for a fair and objective review.
I have used the KZ AS10 with the following sources:
Windows 10 PC > JDS Labs The Element > KZ AS10
Pixel 3 > Fiio BTR1K (Bluetooth Apt-X) > KZ AS10
Windows 10 PC > Fiio BTR1K (Bluetooth Apt-X) > KZ AS10
Pixel 3 > Apple USB-C to 3.5mm dongle > KZ AS10
I have tested these headphones with local FLAC and Spotify Premium.
PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES
The KZ AS10 comes in a black rectangular cardboard box marked with the KZ logo on the front panel. Stickers on the bottom panel indicate the mic and color options as well as the contact information for the manufacturer.
The box has a flip cover which opens to the left, revealing a foam inlay containing the earpieces and a metal plaque. Behind this inlay are two translucent white plastic bags containing the AS10’s removable cable, 3 sets of KZ Starline eartips (S, M, L), a user manual, a QC pass chit, and a warranty card. The AS10 does not come with a carry bag or case.
BUILD QUALITY / DESIGN
The AS10 earpieces have piano black plastic housings with transparent faceplates. The housings are on the larger side with deep nozzles. The AS10’s KZ-branded circuit boards are visible behind the transparent faceplates. Although I love this look, there are many who do not. The model name, “Left/Right,” and “10 Balanced Armature” are printed in silver on the top face of the black plastic housing. “L/R” are also identified on the transparent faceplate above the cable connection.
Each earpiece has a tiny circular vent near the top of the inner face of the housing. The AS10 is an all-BA design, so driver flex is not a concern.
The nozzle does not have a traditional lip for securing eartips, and instead has 3 small protrusions along the edge of the nozzle. This worked just as well as a lip in my experience.
The AS10 has a copper-colored braided 2-pin cable with an L-shaped 3.5mm jack. The KZ logo is printed on the jack housing. The cable has pre-formed plastic ear-guides and “L/R” markings on the 2-pin housings. There is no chin-adjustment choker, and the Y-split is around halfway-down the cable length, roughly 2 feet from the bottom of the 2-pin connections. The cable is not as tangle-prone as the cable included with the CCA-C10, but is still problematic in this regard. Microphonics are minimal.
COMFORT / FIT / ISOLATION
The KZ AS10 is intended to be worn cable-up only. The wide housings and relatively deep insertion depth make the AS10 tolerable at best from a comfort perspective.
Noise isolation is above average relative to dynamic driver or hybrid designs, but not as good as the Tenhz T5, a sealed all-BA design.
The AS10 accepts a wide variety of eartips. The relatively deep insertion depth makes getting a good seal easy. I used the small silicone eartips from the Fiio F1 for my listening.
The KZ AS10 has a warm, mildly-V shaped tuning.
The AS10 emphasizes mid-bass slam rather than sub-bass rumble. Sub-bass is present and well-extended but not visceral. Bass articulation is quick and precise. Bass texture is dry and clinical. The mid-bass hump bleeds into the lower mids, thickening deep and growled male vocals and causing distorted electric rhythm guitars to come off as boomy.
The lower mids are slightly recessed and a tad warm. Both male and female vocals are clear and full-bodied. The upper midrange could use a touch more presence. Both male and female vocals, while natural-sounding, come across a bit flat.
The treble, while smooth and inoffensive, has a plastic-sounding timbre. Resolution is adequate for the price, but the AS10 is lacking in sparkle.
Imaging and instrument separation are very good. Soundstage is slightly larger than average for the price point and compares well with more expensive IEMs.
My measurements were conducted with a Dayton iMM-6 microphone using a vinyl tubing coupler and a calibrated USB sound interface with a resonance point at 8k. The measurements are presented with 1/24th smoothing and without compensation. Measurements above 10k are not reliable.
AMPLIFICATION REQUIREMENTS AND SOURCE PAIRING
With a sensitivity of 105dB and an impedance of 14ohms, the AS10 can be easily driven to adequate listening volumes by a smartphone. I did not notice hiss with any of my sources.
KZ AS10 [$62] vs Simgot MT3 [$66]
The Simgot MT3 has slightly more prominent and extended sub-bass. The MT3 has slightly more textured bass. The AS10’s bass is better articulated, with more precise attack and decay. The MT3’s mid-bass hump rolls off earlier and does not bloat the lower midrange as much.
Male vocals are more prominent on the AS10. The MT3’s lower midrange does not exhibit the boominess that can be heard on the AS10. The MT3 has a livelier but more aggressive upper midrange, which makes vocals sound more exciting at the cost of sibilance. The timbre of the MT3 is thinner than the AS10’s. Distorted electric guitars can be too bright on the MT3.
The MT3’s lower treble rolls off earlier than the AS10’s, but is harsher, splashier, and grainier. The MT3 has more air and sparkle. The AS10 has more realistic transients.
The AS10 has better instrument separation, a larger soundstage, and more precise imaging. The MT3 is slightly harder to drive. The MT3 is more comfortable thanks to its smaller housing. The MT3 comes with a wider variety of eartips, a nicer cable, and a mesh carry bag.
The AS10 errs on the side of caution, presenting a safe tuning that is unlikely to offend. Build quality and technicalities are very good for the price point.