KZ ZS10

Rating:
3.71429/5,
  1. Dobrescu George
    KZ ZS 10 - Small Package, Big Sound
    Written by Dobrescu George
    Published Jul 25, 2018
    4.0/5,
    Pros - - Good Resolution
    - Nice Build Quality
    - Extension both ways, especially for 50 USD
    - Natural to Slow Decay Bass
    - Easy To Drive
    - Passive Isolation is good
    - Excellent Value
    - Colored, Fun, Engaging Sound
    - Great Choice for EDM, Electronic, Dubstep and Pop
    - Good choice for Rock and Metal
    Cons - - Colored Sound not for everyone
    - Doesn't work well with Acoustic, Classical, Jazz or Voice-Centric music
    - No Carrying accessory included
    - Some sacrifices in Coherency were made to be able to create a 5-driver-per-ear at this pirce
    - Not a very universal IEM in sound
    - IEM shells are on the large side, so it won't work well with all ear sizes
    KZ ZS 10 - Small Package, Big Sound

    KZ ZS10 is quite an intriguing IEM we are going to be looking into, being one of the least expensive IEMs with 5 Drivers for each ear. We're going to stack it against similarly priced IEMs, as well as more expensive ones to see where it stands, and we're going to see if the hype about them is real or not.

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    Purchase Link (Linsoul Audio): https://www.linsoul.com/product-pag...ar-monitors-high-resolution-earphones-earbuds

    Purchase Link (Amazon)

    Purchase Link: (AliExpress)


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    Introduction

    KZ is a company from China famous for having designs for their IEMs quite similar to other models. KZ ZS10 is actually quite unique in its design, they have a design where the crossover circuit is shown on the face plate, and most important, they have 5 drivers for each ear. This is the highest number of drivers per ear for any IEM we reviewed so far, as well as absolutely the highest number of drivers per ear at this price point. We don't know much about KZ, as we haven't spoken with them directly, but we can ensure you that their seller, Linsoul Audio, is quite trustworthy, and that they will offer their best help with warranty and such.

    It should be noted that I have absolutely no affiliation with KZ or Linsoul, I am not receiving any incentive for this review or to sweeten things out. This review is not sponsored nor has been paid for by KZ, Linsoul, or anyone else. I'd like to thank Linsoul Audio for providing the sample for this review. The sample was provided along with Linsoul's request for an honest and unbiased review. This review will be as objective as it is humanly possible, and it reflects my personal experience with KZ ZS10. Every opinion expressed is mine and I stand by it, the purpose of this review is to help those interested in KZ ZS10 find their next music companion.



    About me

    https://audiophile-heaven.blogspot.ro/p/about.html



    Packaging

    First things first, let's get the packaging out of the way:

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    KZ really didn't try to impress their customers, or at least not by having a large or imposing package. Quite the contrary, KZ ZS10 has the smallest package from all IEMs we reviewed to date, they come in something smaller than the typical long-matchbox case. On the other hand, this means that they were quite efficient with their space and storage, so you may have an easy time with the customs process, since it really doesn't look big.

    The IEMs themselves come detached from the cable, seated in a plastic cutout, with the cables and two pairs of spare tips hidden beneath. There is a warranty card, and there is a user guide, but there's not much else in the package, so no carrying case or adapters. In all fairness, this is already a IEM with 10 Drivers in total for 50 USD, so we can't really complain about the box contents, but you should know that you'll be expecting a really tiny package with KZ ZS10.

    Other than that, the overall package has a nice font to it, and the company seems to have put a good amount of care to details, they aren't made on the cheap, but the package not feeling or looking cheap, just small in size.



    What to look in when purchasing an entry-level In-Ear Monitor

    https://audiophile-heaven.blogspot.ro/p/what-to-lookl.html




    Technical Specifications

    Connectivity : Wired
    Application: Apple iOS and Android
    Driver: 1pcs dynamic driver + 4pcs balanced armature
    Sensitivity: 104dB/mW
    DC resistance: 32ohms
    Frequency range: 7Hz-40000Hz
    Microphone: Optional
    Audio Jack: 3.5mm
    Cable length: about 3.9 foot
    Color: black/red/blue




    Build Quality/Aesthetics/Fit/Comfort

    The entire IEM body is made of plastic, transparent plastic. On the outside, you can see the crossover, which has a set of resistors, along with other electronic components on the show. You can also take a peek inside KZ ZS10 and see the large dynamic driver sinide, and very close to the bore, you can see all 4 BA drivers, which are really really small. All drivers are connected to the crossover, and, as we'll see in the Sound Quality section, you can tell that they didn't skimp on the number of drivers.

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    The aesthetics are pretty cool, the IEMs are smooth, glossy, they don't have hard edges, and they look pretty trendy, if you're a little of an electronics lover. Even if you aren't they will fit well with both the the music lover looking for a cute yet with a twist look, as well for the more niche-loving fan who is looking for a IEM with more personality.

    In all honesty, we like how they look, they are pretty cool in the long run.

    Now, when it comes to their fit and comfort, those are made to be worn over-the-ear, and we doubt anyone will be likely to wear them otherwise. They are on the large to very large side, but the comfort is quite good actually. The bore is lipless, but it is long enough so the IEMs can reach a medium insertion. There are two vents on the inner part of the IEM, so driver flex isn't really an issue for KZ ZS10. The cable has a remote, which we can confirm works very well with Samsung Tab 10.1 580/T585.


    The cable doesn't have microphonic noise for the most part, but this is to be expected from an over-the-ear cable. The part that goes around the ear, is quite hard. This means that it will need to be adapted every time you place them on. The cable itself is just a little springy, but it isn't hard nor tangle-prone. The cable is braided and has a reddish - rusty color, which in practice is beautiful and very attractive.

    The cable connectors are 2-pin, which is lovely, they fit right into place, they were thought well, and the cables have a specific shape to the connectors, but this also means that the cable will most probably need to be adapted for them and we can't say for sure which 2-Pin cables will work with them, though we don't really recommend purchasing aftermarket cables for a 50 USD IEM anyways.

    All in all, the whole IEM feels well made, feels sleek, they feel like you invested your money well, everything fits well into place, there are no irregular edges, or parts that don't combine. For a IEM at this price, we are in love with the build quality and the aesthetics, although the fit won't work well for those with really small ears, as the IEM shells themselves are on the larger side.



    Sound Quality

    Here is where the "Big Sound" part of the title comes into play.

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    Basically, KZ ZS10 is one heck of a large sounding IEM. There's much more to it though, it seems that the drivers themselves are tuned in such a way that certain drivers reproduce certain frequencies, but they are tuned a little differential, so basically, the upper treble is enhanced, along with the bass and the sub-bass, so you get what would otherwise be a typical U-shaped sound, but there's a trick to it. The midrange also has a higher region, which brings female vocals forward, especially those in J-Pop and J-rock, making female vocals sound especially sweet. The bump in the upper midrange, besides the sub-bass and the treble, will make certain instruments and vocals a little too forward in that area, while for other types of music, like EDM, it will just make everything too amazing to believe it can be done by such an inexpensive IEM.

    The bass is large, it hits deep, and it goes low. The whole bass feels enhanced, so the overall sound can be a tad bassy, but this is for the good, as it makes good balance with their sparkly treble. The bass resolution is okay, but nowhere near the resolution of the midrange.

    The resolution of the midrange is more than impressive, it is outstanding. The large number of BA drivers are a big help in giving the midrange a much better resolution than most IEMs in this price range have. Here, though, KZ made a choice, which for some will be a gift from heaven, while for other may be a nuisance. The upper midrange is a little enhanced compared to the rest of the midrange, so vocals can sound a little off, the types of music KZ ZS10 works best with being instrumentals, EDM, Dubstep, Electronic, Rock, Pop, Metal, J-Pop, J-Rock, but not Classical, Jazz, or Vocal Centric music. With Pop, this little peak in the upper midrange doesn't come as bad at all, giving music a slightly sparkly and fun presentation, but for something like Jill Tracy, it can be a little too much. The resolution, which is mainly tied to their ability to reveal textures, is outstanding for this price point. KZ ZS10 surely can take on bigger IEMs, priced higher in this aspect.

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    The treble initially lowers off from that upper midrange bump, to a lowered state, then it gets up in the upper treble, where it gives music a certain air and nice spatial presentation. The sound can be a bit technical and a bit metallic with certain music though, the main thing to blame there being the upper midrange peak rather than the treble, which is done quite well. The texture of the treble is fair, not too smooth, nor too harsh, but its resolution, like the bass, is almost as good as that of the midrange, which has a very impressive resolution.

    The overall sound is on the bright / sparkly side, those are not smooth or relaxing IEMs, and we doubt anyone will be able to fall asleep while listening to them, on the contrast, being IEMs that are engaging and impressive, sparkly and explosive.

    We would absolutely recommend KZ ZS10 for Pop and EDM, Electronic, Dubstep, and electroni - instrumental music in general.

    They work fairly well with rock, metal and more aggressive music, like Punk.

    We don't recommend them with Classical, Jazz, and Vocal-Centric music.




    Soundstage

    Now, here's an advantage to having so many drivers, the soundstage can be really huge. Now, this seems to depend a little on the music piece as well, so the soundstage is achieved by having the treble BA driver do some extra effort with the airy part of the sound, but in all fairness it works really well. Especially with Electronic music, you can hear that holographic presentation for special effects and such.

    The instrument separation is also quite good, which isn't quite that amazing, considering their 5-driver setup. We even managed to hear certain details that aren't audible with IEMs at 100 USD or even 200 USD, due to this great instrument separation.

    In all fairness, they do well in all aspects of soundstage and instrument separation, without any visible issue there. Especially for 50 USD, if soundstage is a central element for you in picking a IEM, those are a steal.

    The soundstage works better for Electronic music and electronic special effects than for orchestral instruments, the reason behind this being the midrange peak, which gives spatiality to most Electronic Music effects, but which can make guitars and violins sound louder and closer to the listener, resulting in a more intimate experience with certain instruments, this also being dependent on how the album was mastered, most electronic music sounding holographic and dynamic, explosive, and well separated.



    ADSR / PRaT

    The ADSR and PRaT (Texturization) is quite varied. The drivers clearly don't have the same impulse response and the same speed, thing which is quite easy to tell even by an untrained listener. The bass is quite slow, to very slow. This is not something bad, as it makes it a bit larger, and a bit more natural, it is punchy, but this slowness means that it may be a bit too slow with music that has a lot of sub-bass. Works really well with most electronic music though, like Infected Mushroom, Datsik, or Hardwell.


    The midrange is really quick, and by contrast, really revealing. Where the bass is there for impact, the midrange is there for textures, and it can resolve textures very well, being quite good at revealing how micro-textures in guitars sound like within rock and metal, or at revealing electronic textures in electronic music.

    Many reviewers have noted their sound to be a bit lacking in coherency, and this is what they have been talking about, the drivers are not exactly in perfect sync in speed or in their revealing abilities. A better crossover section, or better Knowles drivers would have helped with this, but those would have also added to the price exponentially, so this is a price one has to pay for a IEM at 50 USD with 5 Drivers per ear.



    Portable Usage

    The portable usage is fairly good. The IEM bodies are comfortable, they don't tend to lose fit after a while, and the cable is not very microphonic. As a bonus, KZ ZS10 is very good at isolating you from the outside noise.


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    They can even manage to seal you away entirely, and you can blast some death metal in a library, if you desire to, as they leak very very little to the outside.

    The cable has good walking ergonomics, but if you'd want to run with them, you should consider the fact that they are quite large, and the weight of the IEMs themselves might be a problem by then. You can walk at a quick peace without them falling out though, we tested this, and they were quite good.


    Now, KZ ZS10 is fairly sensitive to its source, being better off with smoother sources, like Shanling M2s than something more energetic like HIFIMAN MEGAMINI. They are also a bit sensitive to hiss, so something very hissy may make itself heard while music isn't playing, but like we always mention, hiss is really not an issue in practice as almost everyone in this world listens loud enough for hiss to not be audible while listening to music. This being said, if you have a hissy source, you will hear that when music is not playing, with KZ ZS10.



    Comparisons

    We'll focus on the sonic part of the comparisons since most people are probably curious about that when it comes to something like KZ ZS10, which is made well, but which has a colored and probably curious signature.

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    KZ ZS10 vs Kinera SEED - The biggest difference in build quality is at the cable connector, where Kinera SEED had a generic cable, not necessarily made for them, where KZ ZS10 are clearly tailored with their cable in mind. Both IEMs could have done as well without detachable cables since at their price points, most users will upgrade the IEM before the cable. When it comes to their comfort, they are similar through and through, KZ ZS10 being a tad larger, but both fit well in our tests. When it comes to their sound, Kinera SEED is more of a classical V-shaped IEM, without much other coloration going on for it, while KZ ZS10 also has that upper midrange bump which gives it a more specific sound. The resolution is not really comparable, KZ ZS10 resolves more textures considerably, and has a better overall detail, but Kinera SEED is the more natural experience, especially with voices. If you're looking for something really impressive, fun, twisted, colored, and if you listen to a lot of EDM, we'd recommend KZ ZS10, while if you want the vocals to be more natural, at the price of some detail, we'd recommend going with Kinera SEED.

    KZ ZS10 vs Shozy HIBIKI MK1 - Shozy HIBIKI went for detachable cables, but this doesn't mean they are any less impressive in their build quality, being a top-notch IEM through and through. The comfort is similar between the two, neither IEM doesn't have Driver Flex, and both have a good cable included in the package. The sound is quite different, with Shozy HIBIKI MK1 being more mid-centric than KZ ZS10, so they have a more intimate listening experience, although in all fairness, they don't sound constrained. The bass definition is better on Shozy HIBIKI, but the midrange definition and resolution is better on KZ ZS10. The treble is on the smoother and calmer, more natural side on HIBIKI, when compared to KZ ZS10 which is quite sparkly and treble-happy. IF you're looking for a more mid-centric experience, especially for vocal-centric music, HIBIKI makes a very compelling purchase, while if you're looking for a more colored, explosive and fun experience, KZ ZS10 is winking at you already.


    KZ ZS10 vs Westone UM1 - Westone UM1 is priced quite a bit higher, but KZ ZS10 can still fight for sure. The build quality is great on both, but UM1 is much smaller, so its comfort will be better for those with small ears. The fit is deeper on UM1, so they make better running IEMs, but both UM1 and KZ ZS10 have great noise isolation, so you don't have to worry about your music leaking out or taking in noise with either. The signature is quite different between the two, UM1 being quite a thick-sounding IEM, with a clear love for bass, while sacrificing some extension on the treble, and some sparkle for that thick, impactful bass. KZ ZS10 has quite a bit better resolution in the midrange, and they also have a much better treble extension, but ironically, although KZ ZS10 employs a dynamic driver, which is supposed to be better in the bass, UM1 actually has a better bass performance, with a cleaner, deeper bass with better resolution. If you're looking for a smooth and bassy IEM, which is relaxing, then UM1 is a great choice, while if you're looking for something with more resolution, with a more colored sound, and with more sparkle, along with a more engaging sound, KZ ZS10 surely makes an interesting choice.



    Recommended Pairings

    KZ ZS10 is one of those IEMs that really relies on pairing it with a good source to sound good. They can easily become a bit too much or a bit too little with the wrong source, and they are a little sensitive to hiss, so if you know you have a smoother-sounding source, you will be fine, but if your source is more energetic, more dynamic and quicker, then it may be a bit too much with their signature. This being said, KZ ZS10 works quite well with most smartphones, so you don't really have to worry about a source if you don't have one already.

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    KZ ZS10 + Shanling M2s - M2s is a great source for KZ ZS10 being smoother in the treble, with a warmer sound, and less explosive, along with being smoother in the textures, providing a great chill pill to KZ ZS10, making them more natural and an easier listen, if you felt they were a bit too energetic before.

    KZ ZS10 + Cayin N5ii - Cayin N5ii is a more neutral source than M2s, but still a little warm. KZ ZS10 will not be quite as calm with N5ii, but maybe this wasn't what you were looking for, and instead, you were trying to get an even more vibrant and energetic sound out of them, thing which works well with N5ii, as the pairing sounds pretty energetic, vibrant, sparkly and explosive.


    KZ ZS10 + Hidizs AP200 - This one is a great match for KZ ZS10, as it sounds quite energetic and dynamics, all while toning down on the treble of KZ ZS10, which are a bit treble happy, and while making them sing with better naturalness. AP200 also makes them a tad thicker, so you will notice the sound being a bit more even in the midrange as well, quite good for a pairing if you're on a budget.



    Value and Conclusion

    We need to start by noticing that KZ ZS10 runs for about 50 USD, which is quite an inexpensive IEM even by Chi-Fi standards. This is especially impressive since they have those 5-drivers per ear configuration which surely seems attractive, especially if you're at the beginning of your journey and if you're looking for something with a funky setup.

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    The package is very small, but practical, you get all you need to enjoy them, but not really something to carry them in. The tips and cable included with KZ ZS10 don't really call for being changed after you just got them, so they're fine.

    The build quality, on the other hand, is something else entirely, they are made really well, with good attention to detail. While their looks will be a subjective thing, they are not one bit ugly. They also look like they can take a beating and come back for more. The comfort is okay, but you need to consider the fact that the IEM shells are quite large, so for anyone who's looking for a smaller IEM or anyone who has smaller ears, it may not fit exactly as you expect.


    The sonic performance is most impressive, KZ ZS10 being quite colored, but fun, explosive, engaging. They will really work well with anything electronic, and pop, and they will surely work with Metal and Rock music, but we don't really recommend them with anything that's classical, or Voice-Centric, as they have a little upper midrange hump which changes the way they render voices. Even so, the textures, especially in the midrange are quite impressive, especially for 50 USD, they really are a steal, if you want to experience what an interesting Chi-Fi IEM sounds like, but if you're looking for a very natural sound, there are other options, which while not quite as textures, will be far more natural, especially in the midrange. We'd consider KZ ZS10 to be a real treat if you're looking for something sparkly, punchy, fun, interesting, and engaging, but not a good option if you want something relaxing, natural or smooth.

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    All in all, we consider that they are a great IEM for 50 USD, and in terms of resolution and clarity, it is hard to find something quite as good, but you should keep in mind their little downside, that the coloration will work well with electronic, but not quite as well with other types of music. If you're looking for a great place to get KZ ZS10, then Linsoul Audio is a great little shop, with helpful people ready to serve you, and we're fairly sure they will also help you with warranty claims if any are to arise. They have a great selection of products, including KZ, MAGOSI, LZ, Shozy and TRN.

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    Purchase Link (Linsoul Audio): https://www.linsoul.com/product-pag...ar-monitors-high-resolution-earphones-earbuds

    Purchase Link (Amazon)

    Purchase Link: (AliExpress)


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    I hope my review is helpful to you!



    Stay safe and remember to always have fun while listening to music!



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      Nymphonomaniac and B9Scrambler like this.
    1. xxAMAROKxx
      From my KZ earphones, ZS10 has the best treble presentation. Very detailed, but calm and without hearable peak. It is pleasure to hear them even on higher volume.
      xxAMAROKxx, Jul 31, 2018
      Dobrescu George likes this.
    2. Dobrescu George
      @xxAMAROKxx - That is very possible, I wasn't comparing them to other KZ IEMs, because I don't have any others, I am mostly comparing them to pretty much everything else when I say that the treble is not on the calm side :) Something calm at 50 USD would be a Shozy HIBIKI, which has a smooth treble, but ZS10 is fairly sparkly and energetic. This is not a downside, I like sparkly treble. I will continue looking into new ZS IEMs and will provide more info on those as well
      Dobrescu George, Jul 31, 2018
      xxAMAROKxx likes this.
  2. alffla
    KZ ZS10 - Long Live ChiFi!
    Written by alffla
    Published Jul 13, 2018
    4.0/5,
    Pros - That great price and value, beating out a ton of other budget earphones
    Overall good resolution
    Pretty decent, solid bass
    Comes with a nice very soft braided cable, so no microphonic noise
    Cons - Mid high – high frequencies slightly too boosted; can become fatiguing
    Slightly mechanical sounding
    Needs a good source to smoothen things out a little, and bad source can make it sound very muddy/especially harsh in the mid-highs
    Slight graininess, but hard to complain at this price point
    Form factor is pretty darn big
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    ChiFi audio products often get a bad rep. Especially Knowledge Zenith (KZ), who has become infamous for straight up copying the aesthetics of many other companies. But the KZ ZS10 is something different.

    We would like to thank Gearbest.com for sending us the KZ ZS10 for review. Gearbest is a site that sells many affordable and quality electronics. We are not commercially affiliated in any way and this review is our honest and independent opinion. You can get the KZ ZS10 from them for just 40USD!

    Knowledge Zenith is a small Chinese company that started off by making really budget products like the KZ ED9 and the KZ ZST, and started to garner more interest from the audio community when they released the KZ ZS5 which looked, well, pretty much exactly like the Campfire Audio Andromeda. And then they did it again with the ZS6. But that hasn’t stopped budget minded audiophiles from buying their products.

    I never had a chance to try those previous products myself, but from reading reviews, it seemed like the past products were pretty unrefined. The ZS5 and ZS6 were known to have unpleasantly harsh highs, and build and cable quality were, to put it nicely, pretty crappy.

    I was still eager to try out the ZS10, because with its non-copied design and a big KZ logo on the crossover circuit, it seems as if this is something that they are proud to have designed from the ground up, and I do think that this may be a turning point in the company’s image.

    Specifications
    Driver Type 1 x 10mm Dynamic Driver + 4 x Knowles Balanced Armatures per side
    Frequency response 7Hz ~ 40kHz
    Sensitivity 104 dB/mW
    Impedance 32 Ω
    Plug 3.5mm stereo jack
    Cord length 1.2 m
    Weight 24 +/-5 g
    Colour Red
    Detachable cable design 0.75mm 2pin Cable
    Packaging

    There’s really not much to talk about in terms of packaging and accessories here. We’re in the realm of the extreme budget ChiFi market, so any corners that can be cut will be cut.

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    While you only get the bare minimum here – that’s not to say what’s supplied is of extreme low quality. In fact, the cable is still a very decently made, soft, braided cable which serves to significantly reduce microphonics. It’s also connected to a one-button control in-line microphone, which is a small bonus for people who want mics. You also get a small packet of earphone tips in S, M, L sizes.

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    Admittedly, it isn’t a 100% perfect product by any means – the 3.5mm connector and the 2-pin connectors are made of cheap feeling plastic and aren’t fancy Oyaide connectors or anything, the cable is really prone to tangling a lot, and the in-line control doesn’t have any volume adjustment buttons. You don’t even get a little pouch or any sort of carrying case with it. But, if you’re only paying around 40USD for this IEM with a pretty decent braided cable and standard set of tips, you have no right to complain because honestly, with the quality of sound it provides, it’s a steal.

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    Design & Ergonomics
    The first thing you will notice about the KZ ZS10 is that it is pretty massive for an IEM. It is basically a big “D” shaped IEM that covers up the entire concha portion of the ear. Even as someone who has no problems wearing larger IEMS such as the Oriolus or iBasso IT03, I was slightly taken aback by is size. Upon closer inspection, it would seem that apart from having to fit 5 drivers into the shell, they also created a massive crossover circuit, with The letters KZ emblazoned on the surface, hence the massive form factor.

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    KZ tried to mitigate this problem by making a slightly longer nozzle so that unlike designs that actually lie against the concave surface of the ear, the main bulk of the IEM hovers just above it. Despite this, I can see its size being a potential problem for some. While the unit we received for this review is an eyecatching red, those looking for a more discreet colour will be happy to know that it is also offered in transparent black and blue, although it seems that the big crossover circuit board can’t be changed from the bright red look.

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    As with all IEMs that make use of dynamic drivers, there’s always a small hole for venting which allows the driver to flex properly as it moves back and forth. This will reduce the isolation of the IEM as sound can also get into it. The ZS10 oddly has 3 small holes for venting and despite being on the inside face, I still felt that its isolation was a little worse than some other IEMs with vents.

    Detailed Sound Analysis
    The KZ was an interesting budget IEM for me to review. I went through wildly different phases when I thought it was horrible, then OK, then even considered it to be what they call, a giant killer. And then I found out it was due to it being more source dependent than the other IEMs I’ve reviewed before. It was basically pure mud when I ran it out of a Lenovo laptop, significantly improved from my phone, and only was I satisfied when I ran it from my FiiO E07K or the iPad Pro. Finally, with my gear setup did I feel like I could enjoy listening from the ZS10.

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    With hybrid designs, it is more often than not that is designed to take advantage of the natural, slightly boomier bass sound of dynamic drivers. The KZ ZS10 is no exception to this rule and doesn’t shy away from using the 10mm dynamic driver inside, bringing an impactful bass that I greatly enjoyed while listening to EDM. Add onto that the clarity and high end extension of its 4 balanced armatures to highlight the myriad of twinkling and shimmering synth notes and cymbals and you get a perfect symphony of trance enjoyment.

    The ZS10 also performs wonderfully with progressive metal and rock tunes, able to render bass notes with above average levels of detail and control, as subbass notes show themselves but quickly fade away so as to not take over the other frequencies. Though soundstage is not the widest, there is still a decent sense of positioning especially noticeable in the high frequencies allowing you to clearly differentiate positioning of instruments. Guitars also chug with pretty sweet amounts of textural detail as well.

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    Unfortunately, things began to sound a little off when I tested tracks with vocals mixed in. It wasn’t apparent to me at first what the issue was, and only revealed itself over time. The main issue lies in the fact that there is what I perceived to be too much mid-high and high frequency boost at certain frequencies which made it sound harsh and fatiguing over long listening sessions. To be fair, it will probably not be very obvious to a non-audiophile, and the brashness of the mid-highs can be tempered with a good source that is either a little warmer to add a pinch more bass or something very neutral.

    Overall, the KZ ZS10 is a very admirable effort from this still growing Chinese IEM company. Though it is a little rough around the edges and reveals a certain lack of refinment and attention to details, at times, it can sound quite close to IEMs that go for much higher prices.

    Comparisons
    Oriolus Mk2
    The KZ ZS10 tries to be an Oriolus at the fraction of the price, and it sort of, nearly succeeds. Like I said, the KZ ZS10 does have some flaws and if you are a discerning audiophile nerd like myself, you will be able to spot them here and there. Resolution is generally lower although with certain more forgiving tracks it’s harder to tell, the bass goes deeper in the Oriolus, and the KZ ZS10’s midhighs are elevated more so than even the Oriolus. It’s informative of the fact that more driver count does not necessarily mean better quality, but the fact that I’m even comparing a 30-40USD IEM to a 800USD one just goes to show how great the ZS10’s value is.

    [​IMG]

    “X” Budget IEM
    There are simply too many earphones in today’s market for me to really choose any particular IEM to compare to, but I would say compared to the typical budget earphone offering the ZS10 has a much more refined sound that leans a little bright instead of the bass focused sound signatures that others have. Feel free to leave a comment with any questions!

    Measurements
    [​IMG]

    I measure everything with the Vibro Veritas v1, and while it is not a professional rig it can still give pretty reliable results. Right off the bat we can observed the hump in the bass with its gentle subbass rolloff. Despite appearing to be the largest dB, the low frequencies are not the main attraction in my experience. Rather, the perceived sound tends to seesaw between bass and boosted mid-high frequencies, and I think that this may be the case due to our innate sensitivity to the frequencies of the human vocal range. Lastly, although I doubt the Veritas suffers in accuracy are around 10kHz, the peak there also seems like it might be contributing to the occasional harshness.

    Summary
    [​IMG]



    If I haven’t gotten the point across clearly enough, the KZ ZS10 has really good value. It’s got some issues, but they’re not big enough that I would instantly discredit it, especially given its price. It has a pretty refined sound with warm-ish bass combined with pretty extended mids and high frequencies although they can get a little too much at times. Resolution sounds grainy at certain moments though for the most part it sounds okay.

    Audiophiles who can afford the big budget TOTL offerings will probably appreciate it for its value but ultimately not give it a second look, but I am sure that budget audiophiles will love this little gem. Let’s hope that KZ continues to improve their designs!

    Pros

    • That great price and value, beating out a ton of other budget earphones
    • Overall good resolution
    • Pretty decent, solid bass
    • Comes with a nice very soft braided cable, so no microphonic noise
    Cons

    • Mid high – high frequencies slightly too boosted; can become fatiguing
    • Slightly mechanical sounding
    • Needs a good source to smoothen things out a little, and bad source can make it sound very muddy/especially harsh in the mid-highs
    • Slight graininess, but hard to complain at this price point
    • Form factor is pretty darn big
    [​IMG]
      Dobrescu George and B9Scrambler like this.
    1. ttdo
      While adjusting the earphone position, I push the earphone deeper into my ears, surprising the base comes alive and it sounds much better. I replace the earphone tips (Large) and now I really enjoy them.
      ttdo, Jul 17, 2018
      alffla and sup27606 like this.
    2. Dobrescu George
      Very good and spot-on review. Also pretty much what I found listening to them, although I found their sound to be fun when listening to some good electronic music, instead of fatiguing being somewhat engaging and sparkly. Though, with vocals, that midrange bump surelyt sounds as you describe it.
      Dobrescu George, Jul 25, 2018
      alffla likes this.
  3. thatBeatsguy
    Five Driver Flop
    Written by thatBeatsguy
    Published Jul 4, 2018
    4.0/5,
    Pros - KZ actually did it.
    Cons - But not without sacrifice. And they sacrified everything.
    [​IMG]

    Not too long ago, an earphone design arms race reached a fever pitch. This race challenged IEM designers to cram as many drivers (speaker units) as they could into a single earpiece. This resulted in such incredible earphones as the JH Audio JH16 (with 8 drivers per side) and the Noble Kaiser 10 (with 10 drivers per side). That arms race has since waned, but it has no doubt cemented the idea that more drivers equal better performance.

    The question is, why would you need so many drivers in a pair of earphones? The principle behind that is similar to why some cars have V12 engines. Simply put, a larger number of units each doing a fraction of the workload can do the work more efficiently. As a result, V12 engines produce more power and 10-driver earphones sound better. However, such setups have more operating parts, which increases complexity and, in turn, the price – hence why the Ferrari GTC4Lusso and the Kaiser 10 are so expensive.

    But what if they don't have to be? This week, we're having a look at the KZ ZS10, the Chinese brand's latest attempt to cram a bunch of drivers into earphones that cost no more than $50. With 5 drivers per side, the ZS10 also happens to be their most complex and most expensive earphone yet at around 45 dollars. Will their efforts pay off in the end, or will this be "just another" KZ?


    TL;DR: Yes, you can get a 5-driver earphone for $50. It doesn’t mean it’ll be a good one, though.

    (Full Disclosure: The ZS10 was sent out to me by Gearbest.com free of charge in exchange for this review, and to advertise a sale on their website. The purchase link for the earphones is an affiliate link; however, this link was provided by Gearbest and therefore, I will earn no commission from any sales made through said link. The earphones were tested for about a couple weeks.)

    KZ was never one to butter up first impressions, instead letting the earphones speak for themselves. This can be seen quite clearly in the packaging for their older earphones like the ED9 and the ATE. And no, they didn't do it to pursue some sort of minimalist aesthetic – it's just basic, cheap packaging.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    I will say, however, that the ZS10 looks a bit better. With its little transparent display case, it definitely outclasses its predecessors in the packaging department. Despite this, though, you can still tell that KZ kept its packaging budget very tight: the box print looks pretty cheap, and you only get two extra pairs of eartips as 'accessories'. Having reviewed two of their earphones in the past, this is no surprise to me, but it's still a bummer.

    [​IMG]

    The earphones themselves, though, look great. The translucent housings are sculpted like multi-driver earphones priced in the hundreds of dollars, giving you a peek of the five drivers inside. The outward 'face' of the earphones place the ZS10's crossover circuit on full display, showing you all of the bits that keep the five drivers working in unison. I would have loved to see a clear plastic version of the ZS10 so we could better see all of its internals; regardless, you can definitely tell that KZ put some effort into its design. That said, they're not perfect. The housings, for instance, are bulky and cumbersome, which makes them uncomfortable for those with smaller ear canals. Their cable, while decent, is not very confidence-inspiring and feels pretty cheap.

    [​IMG]

    Knowing how many corners have been cut to cram one dynamic and four balanced armature drivers into each earpiece, have their efforts paid off? I want to think so, but the end result is a bit underwhelming. Its bass has good extension, although it doesn't really punch hard enough and can sound a bit muddy at times; their midrange is nice and clear but is otherwise unremarkable; and their treble is alright in general but lacks a bit of snap.

    [​IMG]

    Yes, that really is all you get with the ZS10.

    All in all, it sounds quite good. On paper, it sounds quite good. However, I do have one major problem with the ZS10: it sounds very disengaging. Despite their enjoyable sound signature, the ZS10 can't envelop you in the music it plays. I feel like this could be attributed to its rather lacklustre soundstage. It lacks the space and air to allow each of the five drivers to sing freely, leaving you without that immersive feel. The symphonic instrumentation of Gareth Coker's Fleeing Kuro, the aggressive synthesisers of Haywyre's Sculpted and M2U's Myosotis, the soothing vibes of Meine Meinung's Colorful – all of them just feel lacking through the ZS10.

    [​IMG]

    I have always seen KZ as the kind of manufacturer that proves why jokes about Chinese-made products are still around. Their products are often rough, cobbled-together pieces that cut as many corners as possible to make their earphones as cheap as possible. And at times you get some earphones like the ED9 and the ATE that sound good yet are priced ridiculously low. The ZS10, however, is not priced ridiculously low. Sure, compared to other earphones with five drivers per earpiece it definitely is cheap, but $50 dollars is still a lot of money. For that price, you could get an earphone with all of the bells and whistles you want and all of the sound you need – without needing to cram 5 tiny speakers and a crossover circuit. It's like choosing between a sensible family sedan with a small inline-four and a kit car with a V10 but no air conditioning, no windows, or even doors.

    And who would want to buy one of those?

    upload_2018-7-4_21-16-54.png

    Thanks for taking time out of your day to read another of my reviews, and thanks to Gearbest for sending out the ZS10 to review. If you’re at all interested in buying these earphones for yourself, you can buy them at Gearbest.com right now. I guess I should also have to let you know about their Mid-Year Sale, which will end on July 9th, 2018, so if you want some deals on Chinese-brand gadgets that you probably can’t get through Amazon, click on this link here. But why would you do that?

    Until next time, have a good one!
      kaiteck and volly like this.
    1. kaiteck
      had the same experience with this review. have a good one
      kaiteck, Jul 12, 2018
  4. ostewart
    Fun, v-shaped with some issues
    Written by ostewart
    Published Jun 9, 2018
    3.5/5,
    Pros - big bass, smooth highs, fun
    Cons - Not the most comfortable or coherent
    Firstly I would like to thank DD-Audio Store for sending me this ZS10 sample, it has been burnt-in for over 50hrs before writing.

    *disclaimer: This sample was provided for the purpose of writing a review, no incentive was given to write a favourable review. All opinions expressed are my own subjective findings.

    Gear Used:
    Audio Opus #2 > ZS10

    DSC_0356.jpg

    Tech Specs:
    Impedance: 32Ω
    Earphone sensitivity: 105dB/mW
    Frequency range: 20-22000Hz
    Interface: 3.5mm Gilded
    Plug Type: L type
    Cable Length: 1.2m±3cm

    Shop HERE

    Packaging, Build Quality and Accessories:
    The ZS10 come in typical KZ packaging, a very small plastic box with the headphones tightly sat in a plastic tray, and accessories underneath. The packaging is simple and small, which saves on shipping costs, it has a little information about the IEM's on the outside. The packaging is far from luxurious, but it is effective and for the price it is hard to complain.

    Build quality is overall quite good, the housings are translucent plastic but quite large in size, there is a metal mesh wax filter at the end of the nozzle. The ZS10 have a detachable cable which uses a standard 0.78 2-pin connector, the stock connectors have a small recess to make them stronger but normal 2-pin cables can be used without issue. The cable is far better than previous KZ offerings, with good strain relief and a chunky rubbery y-split. It is a 4 core braided cable, and has memory wires which I personally don't like. Overall the build quality is good, but KZ do not use the most sturdy 2-pin female sockets on the IEM itself.

    Accessory wise all you get are 3 pairs of tips, S, M and L silicone single flange ones. Again at this price point I cannot complain, but a carry pouch would be nice.

    DSC_0371.jpg

    Comfort, Isolation, Driver Flex and Cable Noise:
    The ZS10 are big, and I have small ear canals. I found getting a good fit was not too much of an issue, but they do look a bit silly in my ears due to the way they stick out. If you have larger ears, you should be fine, if you have small ears these may look off when you wear them. Overall comfort is good though, as the housings are lightweight.

    Isolation is quite average on these, there are multiple vents in the housing which allows some outside noise to leak in.

    Driver flex and Cable noise are non-issues here.

    DSC_0361.jpg

    Sound:
    Split into the usual categories with a conclusion at the end.

    Lows: The ZS10 has a very full low end, but one that is not overbearing. The lows extend way into the sub-bass with ease, and have great impact but they are lacking a little control. Due to the fullness of the bass, they are not the quickest in terms of recovery, and don't quite handle fast tracks with grace. But stick on some modern pop recordings, or dance music and the lows are great fun.

    Mids: The midrange is a little peaky in places, and the transition from lows to the midrange is not as seamless as a few other multi-driver designs. Saying that the midrange is not wildly recessed, it only sits a little behind the lows presence wise. The midrange may not be the most coherent, but it still digs out some impressive detail. Vocals are not the focus with the ZS10, and female vocals are placed slightly ahead of male vocals due a dip in the lower midrange.

    Highs: KZ have really tamed the slightly exuberant and over the top highs of some of their older models, these are not ear piercing. They are well placed without being subdued; my only issue with the highs is that they are not the most realistic sounding. They extend well, and have plenty of presence and sparkle, and just stop short of being bright.

    Instrument separation is good on these; there is actually a fair amount of air between everything. The soundstage is also not bad, they are a little narrow sounding but there is enough space to not sound claustrophobic.

    DSC_0359.jpg

    Comparison:
    KZ ZS5 v1:

    The ZS5 v1 is the cleaner, but slightly brighter sibling of the ZS10. The ZS5's bass is tighter and kicks with more authority, but doesn't have quite as much presence in the sub-bass region.
    Immediately I find the vocals to be much clearer and not as recessed as the ZS10. Some have issues with sibilance on the ZS5; and yes there is a little bit of a treble peak that can induce a little more fatigue over the ZS10. But this is the only part where I think the ZS10 have the upper hand.

    Conclusion: Whilst the ZS10 is definitely a step forward for KZ, I still think the ZS5 v1 is slightly better. The ZS10 is no doubt smoother, with fewer peaks, but it also comes across a little muffled and boring. The ZS10 is still and excellent IEM for the price, and I would still easily recommend them if you are looking for a budget v-shaped IEM. The detail and separation are still excellent for the price, and KZ seem to be putting a little more into the tuning now, rather than throwing as many drivers as they can in an earphone.

    Sound Perfection Rating: 7/10 (v-shaped, fun but lacking refinement)
    1. Dobrescu George
      Very good review, pretty much what I thought of them as well :)
      Dobrescu George, Jul 25, 2018
      ostewart likes this.
  5. Wiljen
    KZ Zs10 - A solid Step, in the wrong direction!
    Written by Wiljen
    Published May 15, 2018
    3.0/5,
    Pros - Treble much more well behaved than previous Kz Hybrids, cable improved, use of a crossover in design
    Cons - Fit/Size, coherency of sound signature, muddy at times, distant sounding.
    earpieces1.JPG

    I’ve been on the Kz train awhile now and recently purchased the Zs10 in order to compare with the previous flagships the Zs5v1, Zs6, and ZsR. The hype surrounding the 10 has been strong as it is the first Kz to sport 5 drivers per side and also was to have a proper cross-over which lack of has drawn criticism for some earlier models (Zs5v1 with its impedance of near nothing for example). I had hopes that this would be a step above what we had seen from Kz to date and at the pre-order price, figured I couldn’t go too far wrong for $42.


    Packaging:

    I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this. Typical white box, sliding cover, plastic insert with buds in insert and cable and tips hiding underneath. Nothing exceptional or worth spending a lot of time discussing.


    Build:

    The earpieces are 100% plastic and are extremely large by normal standards. The easiest way to compare the size is that the face of the zs10 is nearly the same size as a US quarter dollar coin and nearly a full cm thick at the bi-pin connector. They jump to nearly 2cm thick at the nozzle. The nozzle itself is short, wide, and has no lip to retain the tips. On the upside, the star tips provided didn’t have any issues staying put on the nozzles once attached. Tips provided are the normal 3 sizes of star line Kz that have gotten a fairly good reputation.

    onquarter.JPG nextquarter.JPG thicknesspenny.JPG


    The Zs10 has two balanced armature drivers dedicated to treble, two more dedicated to mids, and the dynamic driver handling bass according to Kz media. The crossover harkens back to earlier days (Zn1) with 4 resistors and 2 capacitors clearly labeled on the exterior of the board. The inner side of the board seems to house the mount for the dynamic driver and the connectors for the wires out to all the drivers but no other active components. This will make experimentation with changing resistors or caps an easy option for those looking to mod the Zs10 which I am sure has already begun.


    The cable is an improved version of what was shipped with earlier Kz models with one exception. The 3.5mm jack is a 90 degree model with adequate strain relief. A 4 wire braid exits the jack and runs to the splitter where two two-wire twists exit and head to the bi pin connectors at the far end. The one step backward on the cable is the strain reliefs where the two-wire cables exit the splitter were better on the old design than they are on this current one. The strain relief is only about 2mm long on this new model and is not sufficient to prevent a sharp bend in the cable at that junction that could cause a break. Overall, I like the new cable and think it is step forward from the old, but they should have retained the design of the older splitter. Above the splitter, no chin slider is provided and the connector ends do sport a memory wire design that will please some and have others reaching for the Xacto knife.

    jack.JPG splitter.JPG connectors.JPG

    Sound:

    I did my testing with an I-phone, an HTC M9, and a Cayin N3 player as these are the types of devices most likely to be paired with the Zs10. I used my standard playlist of review tracks with all three devices to see if moving to a more powerful amp did anything to benefit the Zs10.


    Bass:
    Sub-bass is present in good quantity and has very good extension. Not basshead kind of rumble, but when the timpani hits you feel it. This is detracted from by a muddy mid-bass with a poor transition between the dynamic and the balanced armature responsible for handling mids. At times, both the dynamic and the BAs are overlapped and it makes for what sounds like bass bleed into the mids as it is a doubling of sound in that frequency range with two different attack and decay speeds that causes a lack of coherency. I did find that this “bleed” for lack of a better term was more pronounced with lower powered sources and amping did help but did not completely eliminate it. This is the first place I can see a modder adjust the cross over. Moving the crossover point of the dynamic downward slightly might eliminate this overlap or at least roll off the Dynamic enough in that register that it is basically masked by the BA.


    Mids:
    In my estimation the weakest point of the Zs10. The mids are recessed significantly and they do not move forward to equal the rest of the signature until well into the upper mids leaving all of the lower-mids and true mid-range well behind the rest of the signature. This causes real problems with presence and can lead to vocalists sounding distant and thin. When combined with the forward upper-mids, you get an odd dichotomy in which a male vocal sounds significantly behind a female during a duet. I found this on several tracks where it made for very odd instrument placement and vocal positioning. For something with dual BA drivers, I expected better.

    Treble:
    I haven’t been able to make this next comment in a Kz review in quite sometime. The treble on the Zs10 is well behaved and if anything slightly understated. Gone are the days of ear-piercing treble knives that we have seen in all the 1st generation hybrids from Kz. The treble has good extension and more air than expected without getting harsh or out in front of the rest of the signature. One of the advantages of earlier treble forward Kz’s was that detail retrieval was quite good. I am happy to report that detail retrieval has remained very good on the Zs10 without needing the extra treble energy to do so. This is easily the best feature of the Zs10 as far as I am concerned.


    Soundstage:

    Here again, I expected more than I got. The Zsr has a larger stage than the Zs10 and manages to handle instrument separation and layering nearly as well as the Zs10 despite being several drivers short handed. The Zs10 does a good job with layering but the recessed mids and odd presence region make it very tough to call it pleasant or technically correct as you end up with instruments that normally sit behind others well out in front of them. If you don’t mind playing musical chairs with the orchestra positions, the Zs10 does a good job of separation.

    wplayer1.JPG


    Thoughts:
    Kz has obviously been busy working on new models and has listened to some of the criticisms of existing models in their development of the Zs10. From a technology perspective, I applaud Kz for taking on the challenge of building a 5 driver in-ear as I think it is good for Kz and good for the industry in general. If it helps drive prices of other multi-driver hybrids down, even better. I think the fact that they took on such a big task and managed to make a listenable iem that nearly matches the sound quality of its previous flagship (ZsR) is a good showing. As a stand alone product though, I don’t feel that the Zs10 succeeds in improviing on the sound quality of the ZsR. The mids are a step backwards and vocals suffer as a result. The cable is good and again shows Kz is listening to feedback but again suffers from some changes that didn’t need to be made. The Zs10 can be thought of as a series of compromises in just about every measureable category. To me, that isn’t the description of a flagship.

    images

    1. earpieceInside.JPG
    2. earpieceInside2.JPG
    3. earpieces2.JPG
    4. earpieces3.JPG
  6. B9Scrambler
    Knowledge Zenith ZS10: Chaos!
    Written by B9Scrambler
    Published May 8, 2018
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Good materials and build (cable esp.) - Impressive staging qualities - Not a typical KZ signature
    Cons - Bass quality could be better - Fit will be hit or miss due to large housings and a stubby, lipless nozzle
    Greetings,

    Today we’re checking out what is currently Knowledge Zenith’s (KZ) flagship earphone, the ZS10.

    The ZS10 is a five driver hybrid with four balanced armatures (BA) and one dynamic driver (DD), per side. It’s an earphone KZ has spent the last year or so developing. Two balanced armatures take on treble duty, two more cover the mids, and the dynamic addresses the low end. All of this is kept in line with a large crossover visible through the transparent shell. A crossover is something we haven’t seen in a KZ since the original ZS1 and the ZN1 with the inline amplifier and EQ module. The addition of a crossover is fitting as the ZS10 goes back to it’s roots, reviving the boisterous signature of the ZS1 while imbuing it with some additional technical competence. It also does away with the crazy, over boosted treble we have come to expect from this particular brand. The ZS10 is much more laid back than the ZST, ES3, ZS5, ZS6, ZSR, and recently released ED15, along with the most of the rest of their non-hybrid legacy lineup. Nope, it hearkens back to models like the ZS1, ED3c, HDS1, ATE, ATR, and DT5.

    20180426_083340~2.jpg

    This laid back presentation signals a shift from the vast majority of KZ’s more recent releases, and is unlike the majority of like-priced Chinese earphones on the market which tend to be bright and bassy. On first listen the ZS10 lacks panache. It doesn’t have that in-your-face, over-the-top appeal of the ZSR, the Audbos/Magaosi K3, or the TFZ Exclusive 5. It is unlikely to pull you in right away and plant a goofy grin on your face. No, the ZS10 is more subtle than that. It drops a seed in the back of your mind. The more you listen to it, the more it grows and expands to reveal the nuances of what makes it so good. Of course this is dependent on your liking of this style of signature in the first place, or at the very least being open minded in trying new things. That is what makes KZ such an interesting brand for me and why I keep coming back; variety. That said, they have gotten quite samey as of late. The ZS10 is a welcome change, though one that not everyone will appreciate.

    20180508_155942.jpg

    Let’s start the discussion on how they sound, beginning with what I feel is their least impressive aspect: bass. The ZS10 is on the bassy side, though not to the point it will please bassheads. The mid-range and treble regions being dialed back helps push forward the low frequencies. The ZS10’s low end is swole, but reasonably quick with a realistic decay, and yet a bit too smooth in texture. It counters these foibles with a hefty, thundering sub-bass presence and a soft but prominent mid-bass that dips off quickly as the mid-range BAs take over. There is some bloat that gives the impression of mid-bass bleeding into the the lower mids. Note that hooking them up to a good amp, like my TEAC HA-501 tightens up the low end considerably. With modern pop, EDM, and classic rock, admittedly the genres I listen to most, this style of tuning is very suitable and pretty much in line with where I would want it to be. Start shifting to other genres that require a more deft hand with greater precision, namely those that roll with less electronic influence, and the ZS10 starts to lose some of it’s appeal. While this style of bass is entertaining, it’s not particularly versatile or technically impressive. The newly released ED15 is much more successful in the nether regions to my ears, digging just as deep but with an improved mid-/sub-bass balance, more control, way more texture, and with a much more authoritative kick to it. That’s the dynamic driver they should have installed in the ZS10. The rest of the ED15 is pretty mediocre though, so that can stay where it is.

    Leading into the ZS10’s mid-range sees improvements in my opinion. The middle and lower mid-range are recessed with a nice raise in the upper mids that gives vocalists who tend to sing in the upper registers more presence. The overall presentation is reasonably thick and robust with a fair bit of warmth to it, achieving a tonality and timbre that is much more natural than you’ll find on most other KZs, including the ZSR. This is shown in side-by-side comparisons, including those with the classic timbre-champ, JVC HA-FXT90 and significantly more expensive, modern earphones like the HiFiMan RE800 and RE2000. Detail and overall clarity is good, though not quite as impressive as you might want it to be for something with two balanced armatures working in tandem. Still, I find it a small step up from the ZSR. It’s not quite as impressive as the ZS6 though which is a detail monster. The presentation is smoother than both, playing into the warmth of the overall presentation. Overall I enjoy the ZS10’s mids and while I would like them to be more forward and carry more presence, I never found them being overshadowed or difficult to hear, especially at the lower volumes I listen and where the dynamic driver loses potency and prominence. They are also free of sibilance which is always a pleasure.

    20180508_155558.jpg 20180508_155740.jpg 20180508_155845.jpg

    Speaking of being prominent, the ZS10’s treble isn’t. It is very laid back and mellow with decent extension and more airiness than would be expected from something so chill. Detail and clarity here is deceptively impressive. It’s not shoved in your face like it is on other products from KZ and competing brands like Kinera, Magaosi, and Brainwavz, among others. It’s a lot more like the TinAudio T1 in this regard, though with a touch less prominence and better extension. If you tend to listen to darker, less treble heavy products, it’s something you’ll be right at home with. Otherwise, give yourself some time to acclimatize. There is just enough emphasis across the board to give the ZS10 some mild sparkle and shimmer, keep the sound transparent, and limit opportunity for fatigue. Unless of course you listen at ridiculous volumes that risk damaging your hearing. At that point, yeah, they can get shrill and tiring, but that applies to pretty much everything at this price point.

    20180508_155928.jpg

    What the ZS10 does better than most any sub-50 USD earphone I’ve heard is provide an engaging and immersive sound stage presentation. Just as with the ZS5, I don’t hear the ZS10 as having a massive, open stage and it falls behind the ZS6 and ZSR in overall size. It’s just above average to my ears with a little bit of extra added depth. No, what the ZS10 does especially well is combine the various layers of a piece of music, or the elements of a film’s auditory score, etc. and separate it beautifully. I’ve been using this earphone for media beyond music, namely film (catching up on Marvel films in anticipation of Infinity War), gaming (World of Tanks, Wipeout, and Dirt Rally, among others), and video commentary, for all of which it is outstanding. The ZS10 places you in the mix and surrounds you with sound.

    While I think the ZS10 sounds pretty good, it also happens to be quite a large earphone. I suppose it would need to be given each side contains four balanced armatures, a fair-sized dynamic, and a large crossover board. KZ didn’t stuff those BA drivers in the nozzle as they’ve done on nearly every other hybrid they’ve released. This practice was never more evident than on the ZSR which ended up with monstrous 6mm nozzles in order to accommodate two BAs. With the ZS10, there are three separate sound chambers within the main housing, one for the dynamic, and two more for the mid-range and treble BAs, with all meeting up in the nozzle. The transparent housings show off this internal pipestry, including the construction of the crossover so you can visualize how everything is wired up inside. The overall build is good with very neat fit and finish, and the plastics feel just as dense and durable as those used by other brands like TFZ, Auglamour, Optoma Nuforce, among others.

    20180508_160318~2.jpg

    Despite the size and that they tend to stick out a bit (read: a lot), I also found the ZS10 very comfortable, though that’s going to end up being a very personal thing. The nozzle is quite stubby so I went with tips that countered this; large Sony Hybrids, Spintfits from the CA Polaris, or basic foam tips you can get on AliExpress for under a buck a pop. Xiaomi’s huge triple flange tips from the Piston 2 also worked well. With the right tips and the memory wire bent into place, the ZS10 slipped into my ear without a fuss and never felt unstable. Isolation is pretty decent too, even with three fairly significant pin-hole vents along the inner portion of the housing. I never experienced any significant issues with external noise creeping in while using them out of the house, especially with foams in place.

    The 2-pin receptors are the same as those found on every other recent KZ, meaning prior upgraded cables work just fine, both straight and L-shaped plug variants. I don’t really see the need to use them though because the ZS10 already comes with an upgraded cable, at least compared to the ones we’re used to. It’s braided and contains the same VSonic-style 90 degree angled jack and y-split found on the majority of their new products. This means that strain relief is merely okay, easily overshadowed by the excellent relief provided on KZs older products. Leading into the ear pieces you find some memory wire and L-shaped plugs. The memory wire used here is typical KZ; very good. You can set it to a shape and it will hold it, something you can’t say about the craptacular memory wire more established brands set upon their premium earphones. The cable itself is very flexible, doesn’t retain memory of bends or kinks, and transmits little noise when rubbing against things. The only aspect of it I dislike is that above the y-split it is on the thin side and tangles easily. It untangles just as easily though so it’s never more than a minor annoyance, for me at least. Oh, and no chin cinch. KZ really needs to start including those. Overall a great cable upgrade, one we should hope KZ includes as standard on everything from here on in. They did with the ED15, so there’s hope.

    20180508_160033.jpg

    Packaging is typical modern KZ with the ZS10 arriving in a compact white box. The front of the outer sheath contains a colored image of the ZS10 and a brief product description while the rear contains the specifications and contact information for KZ. Sliding off the sheath shows off the ZS10’s bulky earpieces set loosely within a plastic tray. Underneath the tray is an instruction manual, spare ear tips, and the cable. The included tips are KZs community named “Starline” model with small ridges around the bore, provided in small, medium, and large sizes. I personally am a huge fan of these tips because they rarely alter sound quality, are made of a dense yet flexible rubber, provide a reliable seal, and if buying them separately, are hilariously inexpensive given the quality. They’re awesome and for me easily rank up there with the best tips from Final Audio, JVC, and Sony. Feel free to think otherwise, cause I ain’t agreeing with you.

    Oh, and because there will undoubtedly be questions about it, how does the ZS10 fare against the TinAudio T2. Is it better? No. They’re both great in their own ways. The T2 is much more neutral and balanced with a brighter, more lively sound, and a similar sound stage. The ZS10 bests it in terms of layering and separation, giving off a greater sense of depth and dynamic-ism to my music. All accomplished while having a laid back presentation more in line with the T1. How does it fare against the ZSR, the KZ I said was their most accomplished hybrid to date? It’s smoother, just as detailed, but isn’t as bright, nor as bassy. ZSR has a more capacious stage but lacks the ZS10’s imaging and layering capabilities. After listening to the two back-to-back, it takes some time to get back into the ZSR’s more edgy, vibrant, forward signature. How about against the Brainwavz B400’s quad-BA setup? No comparison. The B400 has a near-neutral signature with more detail, tighter bass with more punch to it, more treble energy, and exceeds the ZS10 in terms of staging qualities like separation and imaging accuracy. The B400 is much more delicate though with it’s 3D printed housings, and doesn’t feel as robust or durable as the ZS10. What happens if you pit it against my 100 USD benchmark, the MacaW GT600s? Well, it certainly can’t complete in terms of build, packaging, accessories, or features, but it does sound at least as good, if not a little better. As with most of the aforementioned earphones, the ZS10 takes the cake in imaging accuracy, layering, and separation. The ZS10 loses out in balance with it’s bassier signature but is more detailed. Just as I felt about the ZS5, ZS6, and ZSR, the ZS10 competes with 100 USD earphones, just not the best of that bunch.

    zoom.jpg

    The ZS10 is exactly what Knowledge Zenith should have delivered as their new flagship. It is visually impressive with the see through shell letting you glimpse at the drivers and crossover. It has a reasonably versatile signature that pairs exceptionally well with modern pop and electronic music. It also happens to show off some killer imaging, layering and separation qualities, all wrapped within a warm, non-fatiguing sound.

    Comfort will be a hit or miss given the massive shells but you can counter that with average to large outer ears and the right tips. Although, I suppose not everyone can change their ear size at will, nor does everyone have a large collection of tips to cycle through. At least the included tips are pure quality and should work well enough for most. The warm signature won’t be for everyone either, but that’s okay. Variety in tuning is a good thing, and you have other great options in the price range like the neutral TinAudio T2, or the mid-focused Kinera SEED, or maybe the vibrant and audacious Audbus DB-02.

    20180508_161347.jpg

    The best thing of all? KZ managed to create and release a five driver hybrid with good looks, build quality, and an engaging sound, all for under 50 USD. Of course you can argue that others do better with just one dynamic, but this is the culmination of years of expensive tech trickling down to affordable prices. Products like the ZS10 are going to continue to force the competition to step up, something which greatly benefits us, their customers. To me, the ZS10 is a worthy purchase and easily validates it’s current flagship status in KZ’s expansive lineup of products.

    Thanks for reading!

    – B9Scrambler

    Disclaimer: A big thanks to Lillian with DD-Audio for sending over a sample of the ZS10 for me to review. The thoughts within this review are my own and do not represent DD-Audio, Knowledge Zenith, or any other entity. There was no financial incentive provided either. Here are some links to DD-Audio’s stores (no affiliate links…I don’t participate in those programs):

    AliExpress: https://www.aliexpress.com/store/pr...-Monitor-IEMs-Sports/2894006_32858656236.html

    Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07BVKXYBB/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&sr=8-5&keywords=kz+zs10

    For those that dislike reviewers covering samples, know I separately ordered and paid for another ZS10 using my own hard-earned Canadian dollars during the initial pre-order release period. Cheers!

    Sources: For at home use the ZS10 was powered by my TEAC HA-501 desktop headphone amp. For portable use it was paired with the Auglamour GR-1 or Walnut F1 paired with my Shanling M1, LG G5, or HiFi E.T. MA8. The ZS10 is easy to drive and does benefit slightly from some extra juice, seeing improvements in bass quality, though this is far from necessary and not something that is worth buying a separate amp for.

    Specifications: Impedance: 22 ohm / Sensitivity: 107dB +/- 3dB / Frequency Response: 10hz – 30khz

    Some Test Material: Aesop Rock – Skelethon (Album) / Daft Punk – Random Access Memories (Album) / Elton John – Yellow Golden Brick Road (Album) / King Crimson – Lark’s Tongues in Aspic (Album) / King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black (Track) / Supertramp – Crime of the Century (Album) / Infected Mushroom – Converting Vegetarians (Album) / Infected Mushroom – Legend of the Black Shawarma (Album) / Gorillaz – Plastic Beach (Album) / Massive Attack – Mezzanine (Album) / Fleetwood Mac – Rumors (Album) / Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels (Album) / The Prodigy – The Day is My Enemy (Album) / Tobacco – F****d Up Friends (Album) / Felt – Felt 2 (A Tribute to Lisa Bone) (Album)
      havagr8da, GuddoggEli, btkli and 12 others like this.
    1. DocHoliday
      A great review with a level-headed approach to a nuanced in-ear monitor.
      DocHoliday, May 8, 2018
  7. Otto Motor
    KZ ZS10: Big Trees – Small Forest!
    Written by Otto Motor
    Published Apr 27, 2018
    3.5/5,
    Pros - Outstanding clarity, image size, and resolution; great value for money
    Cons - Recessed mids; muddy bass; lack of homogeneity and coherence; huge earpieces with short nozzles may cause fit issues
    Executive Summary

    The ZS10 is Knowledge Zenith’s most technically advanced earphone at the time of its release. It excels in terms of resolution and clarity but falls short in the midrange and bass departments. It does not deliver a homogeneous enough sound and also not a non-fatiguing listening experience to me for justifying a full score. Many will prefer the similar but more balanced sounding (and also recent) ZSR model.


    Disclaimer

    I thank my friend and neighbour for performing all measurements. The ZS10 was purchased on sale for $33–34 from Aliexpress.

    As to the evaluation: I don’t like the stars scheme as it is somewhat ambiguous and therefore meaningless so long as the evaluation criteria are undefined. How do two 5 star earphones compare, when one is, let’s say, $30 and the other is $300. My numeric judgement is therefore reluctant. It is also strict owing to the fact that KZ pumps out new models like rabbits.


    Introduction

    Knowledge Zenith (“KZ”) has gained a large following over the past few years by offering a series of well-made, good-sounding and good-looking earphones at very reasonable prices. Around mid 2017, they released their first four-driver hybrid earphone in the ZS5 v1 (2 dynamic drivers “DD” + 2 balanced armature drivers “BA”) that was somewhat marred by source sensitivity. This was followed by the four-driver ZS6 (2 DD + 2BA), an optical clone of the pricy Campfire Andromeda. This stunt generated much attention for both KZ and Campfire alike. A three-driver earphone the ZSR (1 DD + 2BA), followed suit in early 2018 and has probably been the most critically acclaimed of the bunch.


    KZ ZS10.jpg


    Specifications


    Cable length: 1.2m
    Connectivity: Wired
    Driver unit: 10 mm dynamic driver plus 4 balanced armature drivers
    Frequency response: 7Hz - 40KHz
    Impedance: 32ohms
    Sensitivity: 104dB
    Price: $38–45


    Packaging and Accessories

    The content of the white box is as spartanic as this paragraph. 2 earpieces, 3 pairs of “starline” tips (S, M, L) and a 2-pin cable.


    Physical Appearance, Haptic, and Build

    The ZS10 is the first KZ earphone that comes with a braided cable, which is less prone to “microphonics” than their previous rubbery fare…but it tangles up much easier. I chose the one with a one-button remote incl. microphone that works fine with Apple and Android devices alike. The earpieces are made of robust, transparent plastic and are at least as good a quality as the ones of the much more expensive UE900S. No complaints here.


    Ergonomics, Comfort, and Fit

    The earpieces are big, really big (my friend looked like his own grandfather with 1980s hearing aids). And the nozzles are rather short – so fit may be a problem for some. Owing to its design, the vents may be covered up by some ears more than by others – which may causes differences in perceived bass volume.

    I personally had no problems with fit. The earpieces sat comfortably in my ears for hours. Isolation was ok, and the sound does not bleed (much) to bystanders…or your partner who wants to fall asleep next to you.


    Source and Eartips

    I used the iPhone 5S with or without the audioquest dragonfly 1.5 black or the FiiO E12 Montblanc portable amplifier. I sometimes used my iMac or MacBook Air, but never without the dragonfly or the original Schiit Fulla dongle amplifier. The large included tips worked well for me.


    Tonality

    The ZS10 has the most prominent V-shape of all recent KZ hybrids (ZS5, ZS6, ZSR), which is confirmed by the superimposed frequency response curves. Its image is huge and transparent; resolution, detail, and clarity are outstanding. This results in a great spatial representation, layering, and instrument separation, which can be tainted by a strong bass overlay. Soundstage is accurate but not the biggest around.

    The bass is prominent and full, and it can be boomy at higher volumes depending on source (the bass tightens a bit when amped) but it is always warm and fuzzy and never dry.

    Mids are strongly recessed, more so than in the recent ZSR model – see graphs. Voices are very clear albeit slightly distant and analytical (but never nasal and hollow), and they can be aggressive - brass instruments can also be aggressive – which may cause fatigue. The voices can lack richness and then appear thin, which creates a contrast to the thick bass. There is no sibilance whatsoever. Treble has a peak just above 2kHz, which is stronger than in the ZS5 v1 and KSE, but never unpleasant or piercing. Cymbals are resolved very well.

    I am wondering whether KZ toned the midrange down so that not to create an overly harsh listening experience. The combination of “Bellsing” BA drivers appears to create more “bell” than “sing” – I apologize for this pun.

    The overall signature can be warm in bassy pieces such as traditional jazz with a string bass, and rather cool, analytical, and somewhat harsh when midrange oriented, for example with “a capella” or choir or horn sections.

    KZ_ZS10_ZS5_ZSR_FR-2.jpg


    Source Sensitivity

    The impedance curve indicates that the bass vs midrange of the ZS10 will not be expected to change in level with the output impedance of the amplifier used. What will probably change with stronger (or better, or whatever) amplification will be sound quality.

    A concise, detailed interpretation of the measurements is here: https://goo.gl/7J5kZE

    Impedance_ZS10_ZS5_ZSR-2.jpg


    Select Comparisons


    KZ EDR1 ($5): Well...the EDR1 is technically much inferior however very natural sounding and overall very pleasant. Soundstage, resolution, harmony, enjoyment…it is all there – even at 1/10 of the ZS10's price. Still a great stocking stuffer not only for the glove compartment.

    KZ ED15 ($15–18): The ED15 is a hybrid earphone with one BA driver and one DD. It has a smaller image and soundstage, and a stronger, slightly firmer bass than the ZS10, and some sibilance.

    KZ ZS5 v1 (discontinued; was $25): The source-sensitive first-generation ZS5 sounds unbalanced on my iphone with a not too prominent however boomy bass, and recessed, distant, nasal and hollow sounding voices. But when amped by a low-impedance source, the ZS5 actually shines: voices obtain coherence, and image and stage widen, although the image remains flatter albeit more homogeneous compared to the ZS10.

    KZ ZSR ($23–36): The ZSR is a very similar sounding beast compared to the ZS10, particularly at their thick lower end. Voices are warmer and fuller in the ZSR, albeit soundstage, clarity, and resolution are minimally smaller. The ZSR can be sibilant in contrast to the ZS10. The ZS10 appears to confirm the quality of the ZSR.

    KZ ZS6 ($40–55): The ZS6 has an outstanding haptic which makes it the most “premium” of all KZ models. In terms of sound, it features a well-controlled bass, more forward mids than the ZS5 v1, but also a treble peak only suited for strong eardrums. Technically, the ZS6 is up there with the ZS10, but its tonality causes polarized responses.

    Fidue A65 ($60): Although this is a single dynamic driver earphone, I use it as comparison because of its pricing. The A65 is technically less advanced than the ZS10. Its stage is slightly smaller but it plays more relaxed, slightly darker, and more homogeneously than the ZS10. In the A65, voices float atop the bass section where they may get buried in the ZS10. The A65 is not fatiguing compared to the ZS10 but bleeds to bystanders. It is an underappreciated jewel.

    iBasso IT01 ($99): This is a single DD earphone that is sonically head and shoulders above the ZS10 as it has the tender melt the ZS10 is lacking. In particular, there is no comparison in the vocals department. The “fun-tuned = V-shaped” iBasso renders voices much fuller, more naturally, and with way bigger presence and aura than the ZS10 – that’s what justifies its higher price. Whether the resolution of the ZS10 is better or not plays no role in the big picture.


    Concluding Remarks

    Knowledge Zenith has implicated its latest technological advances into the ZS10. It has the best imaging, resolution, and clarity of its model range yet, all of which are outstanding. But the midrange is a step back and to me, the value of an earphone rises and falls with its midrange. This causes a lack of homogeneity and coherence: the thick, warm bass section does not harmonize well enough to my taste with the recessed but nevertheless sometimes aggressive midrange. The “tender melt“ that holds them together is missing in my books. People who liked the ZS5 v1 will probably like the ZS10 for the same reasons. The ZS10 has better detail so that ZS5 v1 fans would likely view them as an improvement.

    The FR response curves show why people who like vocals will likely prefer the ZSR over the other two models. Many listeners will prefer the more fluid but otherwise similar ZSR with its warmer, fuller (but still recessed) midrange.

    In this respect, the ZS10 may be a somewhat redundant model that will appeal to KZ aficionados, tech freaks, design lovers, deal conscience listeners, and/or simply the curious on a limited budget. While the ZS10 is fun to handle, many will remain very content with their (almost new) ZSR. For those who own the ZS10: I am wondering how many of us will make them their daily driver and how many will deposit them in a drawer waiting for the next KZ hybrid to be released – one with yet another two additional drivers [EDIT: no, six additional drivers].

    IMG_6482 copy.jpg-1.jpg
    1. Nymphonomaniac
      Interesting take! So OttO, do you sincerly prefer the ZS5v1 over the ZS10? (I don't like the ZS5v2 and ZS6, and I appreciate the ZSR but its not a big love story either: too hall like sounding.)
      Nymphonomaniac, May 11, 2018
    2. Otto Motor
      I definitely don't with just my phone. And with amping both are soso. The ZS5 v1. is cheaper. Neither is fantastic. And I expect you will think similar. I prefer the Fidue A65.
      Otto Motor, May 11, 2018