Today we’re taking a quick first look at the new AS10 from Knowledge Zenith (KZ).
Since the release of the ZST, KZ’s first hybrid, they have been refining their use of balanced armature (BA) drivers with each subsequent release. With the AS10, KZ is stepping out of their comfort zone and bringing to the market their first pure balanced armature earphone. You’d expect them to start off with something simple, one or two BAs. Nope, not KZ. As it’s name implies, the AS10 uses 10 BAs total, 5 per side, with a crossover to divide frequencies across the various drivers. After spending nearly 11 hours with it yesterday and today, I can happily report that the AS10 exceeds my expectations.
The first thing I noticed was just how full the low end is. I was expecting the low end to be a mess. For their first go at a bass specific armature, KZ did an amazing job replicating the experience of their dynamic drivers.
True, it doesn’t dig into sub-bass regions quite as well, but on Kavinski’s “Solli” the opening sub-bass line is strong and very noticeable, providing you with the ear-ticking experience you would expect from a bass-focused track. It’s not boomy or bloated either. The low end certainly isn’t lacking, yet it retains the speed and texture you’d expect from a BA.
The mid-range is noticeably more forward and better balanced than on their other recent five driver release, the ZS10, keeping the AS10 from venturing into the v-shaped territory they are well familiar with. Vocals have just the right amount of thickness and weight thanks to a smartly tuned upper bass region. The upper ranges find a nice balance between the dark, recessed tones of the ZS10 and the slightly exaggerated nature of the ZSR.
The brilliance region is emphasized enough to give the AS10 good air between notes and some shimmer in cymbals, without the piercing nature of many of their hybrids. The presence region finds itself in a good place too, giving the AS10 excellent micro detail and clarity without crossing over into harshness. Like the ZS10, the AS10 excells at imaging, laying and separation, but to my ears has a larger sound stage to go along with it. Whereas I find the ZS10 is only slightly above average, the AS10 can toss effects quite far.
Overall they are exceptionally well balanced with excellent technical ability.
The shell is reminiscent of the ZS10 with a base only slightly smaller. It is significantly less deep, however, making the AS10 a much more low profile earphone. That said, I found fit to be pretty similar and still somewhat tip dependent.
It fits me well and is very comfortable. Build quality is also similar to the ZS10, but with a solid black backing that prevents you from seeing the driver layout inside. Looking into the nozzle, the mesh is set deep within and covers two separate openings. I assume one for the bass driver and the other for the mid and treble drivers.
While the AS10 is lacking a traditional nozzle lip for holding tips on, it does have three small protrusions that perform the same function. They seem to work quite well. The cable is the same copper braided option included on the ZS10 and ZSA, but with the ZS10’s larger connectors. This is great as all of KZ’s older silver upgrade cables will fit. The included tips are the same as always, Starlines. I love em.
What do I think so far? The AS10 is outstanding. It impresses on a technical level like the ZS10 but without the bloomy mid-bass and recessed lower mids, and is nearly as easy on the ears for long listening sessions. It’s not as bright and potentially harsh or piercing as the ZS6 and other models in the lineup.
They’re still fairly large, but smaller than the ZS6 and ZS10 so I suspect fit should be quite pleasant for most. KZ has been killing it with their releases this year, and the AS10 is no different. Hopefully the BA10, another 5 BA per side model coming soon, sounds this impressive.