Sub-title: The KZ ZS10 Pro is an excellent pair of IEMs that provides a solid bang for the buck at just $49.
In the recent years, the chi-fi audio companies have developed themselves in leaps and bounds and one such company among them is KZ Acoustics.
I’ve had the KZ ZS10 Pro for about 2 and a half weeks now and have listened to them for a total time of at least 50 hours and have burned them continuously for 40 hours before that. I’ve used them mostly daily during this time period to listen to all genres of songs (rock, EDM, pop, movie soundtracks, Western classics, etc.).
Don’t want to read the full review? Here’s your TL;DR :
The KZ ZS10 Pro is an excellent pair of IEMs that provides a solid bang for the buck for anyone who is looking for IEMs on the cheap.
But wait! Before you dive into the review, I have a quick disclaimer for you: I have received the KZ ZS10 Pro from Tripowin Audio Store for reviewing purposes. I have received the IEMs for free as a review unit and I won’t have to return it but this doesn’t mean that I have been incentivised or pressurized by KZ Acoustics or Tripowin to write this review for them. All the words used in this review are my own and this review is written in the most unbiased way that I could have done.
Now, on to the unboxing of this IEMs.
Priced at just $49 (you can get them even cheaper at the Tripowin Store), these IEMs are placed very competitively in the budget category. The unboxing experience is very minimalistic with these IEMs. The IEMs comes inside a simple white cardboard box unlike some other IEMs out there at the same price but it helps to keep the overall cost of the IEMs down. Upon sliding out the outer packaging of the cardboard box, you will be greeted by the IEMs themselves which is protected by a plastic cover.
Once you pull out the IEMs from its resting place, you will be able to see the 4 included silicon tips and the detachable 2-pin cable (not your standard 0.78mm 2-pin cable, mind you but more on that later). You will find a quick instruction guide underneath all these accessories.
Anyways, to summarize, when you receive the KZ ZS10 Pro you’ll get:
So as far as accessories goes, I think that KZ Acoustics somewhat skimped out on the accessories department and I really expected to see at least a carrying pouch with the IEMs. But with what the IEMs are packing under the hood, I really can’t complain much.
The KZ ZS10 Pro is a hybrid pair of IEMs consisting of 4 Balanced Armature (BA) Drivers (2 50060 drivers for the mids and 2 30095 drivers for the highs) and 1 10mm Dynamic Driver for the bass. There is no mention of any crossover implemented by KZ on these IEMs.
At the price of $49, it has an overall good build quality. The faceplate of the IEM is made of stainless steel and the body is made of coloured plastic which is shaped in the structure of your ears for a more comfortable fit with the nozzle having a metallic cover so as to prevent ear wax from getting inside the IEMs. As the IEMs are mostly made of plastic, they feel very light on the ears. The design of the IEMs has a bit of a CIEM feel in them to be frank, which is a good thing in my opinion.
Now coming to the cable, KZ Acoustics has used a 4 core OCC QDC (0.75mm recessed pin) cable with the ZS10 Pro and like most other IEMs, the cables are braided but the cable is overall on the thinner side. Due to this, I felt that the cable is much easier to get tangled when you keep it inside your bag or your pocket. Also, another thing to mention are the ear guides. The ear guides on this cable is really annoying. It is too stiff, due to which it never sits on your ears properly. So, I can’t say that it does a great job in keeping the cable behind your ears (as it is an over-the-ear worn pair of IEMs).
But overall, cable is fine for the price and the overall build quality of the IEMs is simply great to say the least.
Now this a place where your mileage may vary a lot. The KZ ZS10 Pro uses an over-the-ear fit which is a rarity at this price to be frank as most of the IEMs are worn cable-down. My ear canals are small so I used the small tips included in the box. Now, the comfort that the ZS10 Pro provides to my ears is simply phenomenal for the price. They are very light at only 5g per IEM and they sit flush to my ears and sit inside my ear without protruding like some other IEMs.
The comfort (at least for me) is simply awesome with these IEMs.
As far as fit goes, it is very similar to that of the BGVP DMS. Since the insertion is not quite as deep as, say the Symphonium Audio Aurora, it doesn’t create a seal as good as the latter pair of IEMs. It sits just flush with the ear and the nozzle provides an overall good fit that is neither too loose nor too tight. So, the fit is also great in these IEMs and there is honestly nothing to complain about in here.
Now coming to noise isolation, since the fit and insertion was, overall, good on these IEMs (at least for me), basically most of the ambient noise was cut out by at least 10dB. Vocals were slightly audible and the horns of the vehicles and the rumbling of my bus was audible (I usually test noise isolation inside public transportation as it gives a very nice idea of what to expect). So, although it won’t be able to cancel out high frequency and/or loud noises like the metro or an airplane completely, at moderate volumes, you should be able to block out most kinds of environmental noises. But enough about this, let’s start with the main factor which is the make-or-break property of any audio gear, i.e., its sound.
Now, on to the most subjective part of the review: sound quality. Also, I won’t be posting any graphs in this review (or any review for that matter), as I don’t believe in graphs as much as I believe in my ears!
This time, I’ll be listening to the earbuds via 3 sources:
I will also list the soundtracks that I’ve used for each section of my sound test. (Note: All my tracks are either 44 kHz / 24-bits – 192 kHz / 24-bit FLAC or DSD64/DSD128).
The IEMs have a slightly V-shaped sound signature, although it is relatively on the neutral side. Anyway, the bass in these IEMs are handled by its 10mm DD driver. The bass response on these were, to be honest, on the lighter side of the spectrum. The bass did not hit too hard but was overall fast and accurate for the price. The sub bass lacks a bit of body and texture but at least it’s not overly pronounced like most other IEMs at this price point to cater to bass heads. The bass did not feel boomy in the least and was able to retain quite a bit of detail for the price.
The bass in these IEMs is not very impactful and energetic but at least its separation from the low mids is fairly decent which is a good thing
Something which was a bit unexpected is that there is no frequency mixing between the lows and mids and it sounds clean and detailed for the price. Bass guitars are well textured and sound natural in these IEMs as well. The mid bass is also tight and fast in the ZS10 Pro but it doesn’t have enough of a body to make it pop too much.
So overall, for a pair of IEMs targeted towards mainstream consumers and audiophiles on a budget at this price, I would say that the bass response is very clean, although a tad light on these IEMs which can be both a positive and a negative depending on what a person is looking for in their IEMs.
The mids here is relatively forward in nature in these IEMs which is, to be honest, not that much of a surprise to me as it had such a light bass. The vocals sound quite natural and textured for the price. Male vocals have a nice warmth in them and is a bit thick but they sound really natural and female vocals sound energetic, detailed and forward here without sounding in the least bit tinny and sibilant. Although these are not the most resolving IEMs, for the price you are getting these IEMs, I can hardly complain about that. I did not notice even a hint of sibilance even in the most sibilant which is a great thing as well and the separation between the vocals and the other instruments is also really great in here.
These IEMs produces the vocals in a much more energetic and forward manner which was frankly, not unexpected after hearing its bass.
Drums also sounded quite clear and detailed in these IEMs. In tracks like “Back in Black” or “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC, the drums sounded a little thin for my liking to be frank but it was overall a good experience. But the separation between them and the vocals was overall great for the price without any mixture of the different frequencies even in not so well-recorded tracks like “Paradise City” by Guns n’ Roses. In the song “The Reason” by Hoobastank, Doug Robb’s voice (the lead singer of Hoobastank) sounded slightly narrow but the vocal had a really nice energy in it.
So, for its price, KZ ZS10 Pro did an excellent job in the mids department for the price. Now, onto the treble.
Now, coming to the treble, I felt that the ZS10 Pro has a boosted treble due to its v-shaped sound signature. Let’s start with those cymbals and hi-hats. They sound crisp, energetic although it doesn’t have a lot of detail in them and the instruments tend to extend quite nicely without any roll-off. But their rendition of guitar is quite good for the price. They sound clear, well textured and natural and also felt a bit airy on the presentation. In tracks like “Numb” by Linkin Park, even though they are not the best recorded amongst tracks, the ZS10 Pro did an overall great job separating the electric guitar from the piano that is played at the part “I’ve become so numb…”.
Now coming to pianos, their rendition sounds natural, clear and precise with a hint of airiness in them. In the track “Rhapsody in Blue” by George Gershwin, the piano is handled quite well for a pair of IEMs that is this cheap.
So overall, I am really impressed with the treble that the ZS10 Pro has offered me considering it is only $49.
Now, there are 2 ways to accurately measure a IEMs’ soundstage and positioning. First, is to use well-recorded binaural tracks (see track list below for more info). The second method (which I personally prefer more) is gaming. I have used two games specifically for this purpose. One is the well-known CS:GO and the other is Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice (the latter is a much more immersive experience).
Now, soundstage. These IEMs have an average amount of soundstage in them. Its soundstage is as narrow as my Symphonium Audio Mirage but at least, they are wider than the RHA MA390u which had an even narrower soundstage. It has a circular soundstage and frankly, the overall soundstage that the IEMs provided was overall satisfactory considering the price.
Now coming to its positioning, I felt that it is very similar to that of the Mirage. To test it out, I fired up CS:GO and I could easily pinpoint the source of the gunshot. Furthermore, in Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, I could feel the voices whispering in my ears. Even in orchestral soundtracks like in Symphony No.5 by Beethoven, the overall layering and positioning of the instruments is ok for its price. So overall, although I was not extremely happy with the soundstage and positioning that the ZS10 Pro provides, with respect to its price, I would say that it gets the job done.
The separation of the instruments is quite good in these IEMs for the price. Again, coming back to orchestral music, the separation between the different instruments in, say “Symphony No. 5 in C minor” by Beethoven, is honestly remarkable. You can distinguish between all of the instruments that are being played in the track. Also, the instrument layering was also much better in the ZS10 Pro than in some other IEMs at a similar price range. So overall, I was really happy with the separation of instruments it provides for the price.
You should be able to easily drive them out of a smartphone and you really don’t need a DAC/Amp or a DAP to fully utilize them. They have an impedance rating of only 24Ω and a sensitivity of 111 dB +/- 3dB. Also, I got a good volume from them in my Hiby R3 in Low Gain at about 55% volume so you shouldn’t be facing any difficulty at all while listening to them out of your smartphones directly.
To be honest, for the price of just $49 (you can get them for $41.99 from the Amazon link below), you won’t be getting a better deal than this. Although it doesn’t come with a lot of accessories to get you started, it is overall a comfortable pair of IEMs and although they are not the most detailed IEMs in the market, provides you with an overall pleasing sound and at $49, you can hardly complain about the IEMs too much. So overall, I liked the KZ ZS10 Pro and I would say that these IEMs provide really good value for money and also would easily recommend it to people who are looking for an all-rounder pair of IEMs at a tight budget of just $50.