KZ Knowledge Budget-Fi IEMs - ZSN, BA10 and ZSN Pro Review

by - May 17, 2019


KZ Knowledge Budget-Fi IEMs - ZSN, BA10 and ZSN Pro Review


Today's review will focus on the latest releases from KZ, namely ZSN, Ba10 and ZSN Pro, all very close in terms of pricing to each other, trying to help you decide which, and if any will be a good fit for you as your main IEM, or as a backup IEM for music listening! 






Introduction

Knowledge Zenith is known for designing outrageous IEMs in terms of drivers, or better said, in terms of how many drivers they include inside one IEM, for the price asked, BA10 being an excellent example of this insanity, with 10 drivers in total, or 5 per each ear, for just 75 USD. The samples for today's review were provided by Linsoul Audio, though, which is a large and well-known shop from China, being one of the best places to purchase all your Chi-Fi equipment from. Linsoul will always ensure excellent warranty and return conditions, along with a really friendly response, and although KZ doesn't feel like the kind of brand to offer much in terms of support, Linsoul for sure will make sure you have an excellent experience when you purchase from them. 

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 or Linsoul or anyone else. I'd like to thank Linsoul for providing the sample for this review. The sample was provided along with Linsoul's request for an honest and unbiased review. This review reflects my personal experience with KZ ZSN, BA10 and ZSN Pro. Every opinion expressed is mine and I stand by it, the purpose of this review is to help those interested in KZ ZSN, BA10 and ZSN Pro find their next music companion. 


Product Link

KZ ZSN

https://www.aliexpress.com/store/product/KZ-ZSN-1BA-1DD-HiFi-Hybrid-Dual-Driver-In-Ear-Earbuds-with-Metal-Resin-Housing-and/2894006_32949460599.html

KZ BA10

https://www.aliexpress.com/store/product/KZ-BA10-5BA-Balanced-Armatures-Drivers-HiFi-Stereo-in-Ear-Earphone-IEM-Metal-Earphone-0-75mm/2894006_32923468108.html

KZ ZSN PRO

https://www.aliexpress.com/store/product/KZ-ZSN-Pro-1BA-1DD-HiFi-Hybrid-Dual-Driver-In-Ear-Earbuds-with-Metal-Resin-Housing/2894006_32993180366.html



About me

https://www.audiophile-heaven.com/p/about.html



Packaging

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



ZSN 







BA10 








ZSN Pro







All 3 IEMs come in a very minimalistic package, with almost nothing included in the package, besides the IEMs, the cables and one selection of tips. For the price, this is more than enough, and in line with what the competition provides. 



What to look in when purchasing an entry-level or backup / emergency IEM.

https://www.audiophile-heaven.com/p/what-to-lookl.html



Build Quality/Aesthetics/Fit/Comfort



ZSN / ZSN Pro 

Those two have exactly the same construction, at least as far as I can tell. 

The build quality is pretty much excellent, those are 15 USD IEMs, each with 2 drivers per ear. They are made of plastic, but they are assembled nicely, there's no residue glue or leftover glue anywhere, everything feels in place. 


The comfort is okay, they are on the large side, and may not fit smaller ears, if you're not careful you may experience some driver flex, and they are both over-the-ear only in style. This being said, the inner part of the IEM shell is quite ergonomic, and the industrial metallic place on the outside feels and looks very nice. 

There is no microphonic noise, which is pretty awesome, and the cables are not overly tangle-prone, so you don't have to worry about them getting all tangled-up. You also get about 25 dB of passive noise isolation, so you won't have to hear literally anything while wearing them, I think that KZ delivers on the things they promise when it comes to the comfort and build of ZSN and ZSN Pro. 


Overall, good build quality, and fair comfort for both. Both being pretty much the same IEM in terms of ergonomics. 



BA10 

BA10 is a different animal, with 5 drivers for each ear, all BA drivers. The build quality feels quite excellent, full metallic shell. Shockingly, there is no driver flex, and no void, they seem to have thought really well about how they designed BA10 to be comfortable. 


This being said, KZ failed at making BA10 comfortable, because there is a pretty strong corner at the back of the IEM, which is there for design, but which really cuts into my ear, making BA10 uncomfortable to wear for more than 15 minutes in one listening session. If you ear shape doesn't mind that corner, you're set for fun with BA10, their cable is not microphonic, and their overall construction is solid. 

The design is mostly industrial, with modern accents, and they fit well with a more urban style, rather than a casual or a grunge one. 


Overall, BA10 is made just as good as most 75 USD IEMs, they are assembled together, they come with fairly good cables, and the only downside is their corner, which may cut and eat into your ear, as otherwise, they are really comfortable. 



Sound Quality



KZ ZSN 

The sonic quality of ZSN makes it a backup IEM, or an emergency solution rather than what I'd usually recommend as a IEM. I initially started being an audiophile, then reviewing, because I kept purchasing more and more expensive products, and ZSN reminds me quite well why I started doing that. 


The overall sound of ZSN is thick, warm, relaxed, and rolled off and both ends, compressed in every direction possible. The soundstage feels really compressed and small, the dynamics are heavily compressed, and the instrument separation is almost non-existent, leaving you with a pretty mashed-up presentation of your music. 

Of course, this is a 15 USD IEM, so this kind of is the sound you'd expect from them, and well, having BA10 on my desk, which sounds pretty darn impressive, I can't help but criticize ZSN, and not against some expensive IEMs from other companies, but against other KZ IEMs. 

The bass of ZSN is the focus of their tuning, with most of the energy being in the mid-bass area, with the sub-bass rolling off almost entirely below 50 Hz. The main focus being at about 85 Hz, you get both a decent impact, and a large amount of thickness. The good part is that the bass doesn't seem to be very slow or flabby, instead being pretty good in terms of speed and impact, especially compared to what exists in the ~20 USD price range. 

The midrange of ZSN is recessed, distant, and may give you an itch to dial up the volume. The midrange gets some coloration from the bass, it the bass doesn't veil the midrange entirely, rather it simply warms it up a bit. Relaxing would be a good way to describe this kind of midrange, not forward, but actually sitting chill and warm in the back. 

The treble is mostly focused in the upper midrange and lower treble, as KZ ZSN rolls off at 6-7kHz, after which there's little treble to talk about. This kind of treble is very good if you're sensitive to fatigue and if you want a really smooth and relaxed signature. 

Overall, if you want a smooth, relaxed and warm, bassy IEM that you'll use most probably as an emergency or backup IEM, for 15 USD, KZ ZSN delivers rather well. 



KZ BA10 

KZ BA10 is pretty much the best KZ has to offer in terms of sound quality. They even beat AS10, which I reviewer previously, and they come with even better details, more instrument separation, and even better overall quality and coherency. 


BA10's bass is well extended in the lows, but it is considerably faster than AS10, for example, which was natural-slow, leading to a pretty natural overall presentation on BA10. The mid bass is not bloated, and instead it delivers a very clear punch, and could be named pretty high-quality, being as good even as 200 USD IEMs. 

The midrange of BA10 is probably the best of KZ's midrange to date. The timbre of each instrument is actually very natural and very clean, crisp, with great detail, and a lot of soundstage and instrument separation. If I didn't know, I probably couldn't tell that this is a 75 USD IEM. They are on the analytical side of things, rather than on the musical side, BA10's upper midrange being actually more natural than other KZ models, which would get either shouty or be thin and sibilant. 

The treble of BA10 is crisp and clear, has a decent extension, and again, feels considerably less forced and less sibilant than other KZ IEMS, this time making me think that this is the treble you'd usually find on a 200 USD+ IEM. 

Overall the sonic quality of BA10 is quite good, and I could easily recommend them for their sound alone. 



KZ ZSN PRO

KZ ZSN PRO is very much the same IEM as the ZSN, if you make it more forward and add more sparkle in the upper midrange. This has some effects, as they are more open, slightly more bright, more airy, and achieve a better instrument separation. On the not-so-great list, they added more mid-bass, which colors the midrange more, making the PRO version stand out as "trying to sound more dynamic". In fact, this is how I'd describe the ZSN PRO, where the ZSN was more on the relaxed side of things, the PRO tries to be more balanced, by making the ZSN signature forward. 


This doesn't work so well, as the bass is now a bit too enhanced, and doesn't keep up with the speed quite as well, making the original ZSN stand out as better in terms of resolution. The PRO version still rolls off below 45 Hz, so KZ mainly increased the quantity where the bass existed already, not necessarily the extension, and the quantity on ZSN was already pretty large. 

The midrange now has considerably more upper midrange emphasis, which helps a lot with the clarity and instrument definition, but this is a 20 USD IEM's upper midrange, it is shouty, and sibilant a lot of times, making the original actually more enjoyable and fun. I usually prefer a more enhanced upper midrange and treble, but they need quality and refinement, and ZSN PRO's refinement goes pretty much as far as their rather pocket-friendly price tag does. 

The treble has the same roll-off as the original ZSN, making the sound just peaky in the upper midrange and lower treble. This being said, the sound does get some more detail, air and instrument separation, but this is pretty much that kind of cheap instrument separation people talk about when they criticize entry-level Chifi IEMs. 

As an emergency or backup IEM though, KZ ZSN PRO is pretty great, it can get you through an entire day, has good isolation and fairly good comfort. The sound is more exciting than the original ZSN, so if you listen to electronic and rock, it will be a better fit. 



Comparisons 

When it comes to comparisons, the list of IEMs I reviewed in the ~20 USD is really low, so I'll focus on comparing BA10 to some competitors, since there I have both a larger experience, and the results are more intriguing. 

KZ BA10 vs Shozy Hibiki - Shozy Hibiki comes with pretty much the same package, but their comfort is considerably better than BA10, because they have both a smaller overall size and a better inner design. The sound is considerably more midrange-forward on Hibiki, more accurate and with better midrange, but less bass and treble amounts. BA10 may feel a bit cold compared to Hibiki, which is simply quite sweet. The soundstage is larger on BA10, and so is the overall instrument separation, but Hibiki is easier to listen to, especially for long periods of time. 

KZ BA10 vs Flare Jet 2 - Flares Jet 2 come with a better package, because they come with a little carrying pouch. This being said, their cables are non detachable. The comfort of Jet 2 is similar to BA10, both IEMs have comfort issues, BA10 having that sharp corner that cuts into the ear, while Jet 2 has driver flex, microphonic cables, and a springy cable. The sound is better on BA10, with better overall resolution, more instrument separation, more clarity, more detail and better overall resolution and definition. 

KZ BA10 vs FiiO F9 - FiiO F9 has a much much much more complete package, comes with more accessories, and is considerably more comfortable than BA10. F9 also has a better overall ergonomic design. The default cable is slightly better on BA10, despite being slightly tangle-prone. The sound is colder, more neutral on F9. Here, BA10 actually shows more instrument separation and a more refined treble presentation, being slightly more on equal ground with FiiO F9 Pro rather than F9, which is interesting, BA10 is able to hold its ground quite well in terms of sound. The bass is higher in quantity on BA10, and BA10 has more overall depth to its soundstage, although F9 has a wider soundstage. 



Value and Conclusion

The IEMs of today are all an excellent value, and despite the fact that they all have shortcomings, and that it may feel like I've been a bit rough with them, we're talking about two 20 USD IEMs, that pretty much perform well for that price, and one 75 USD IEM, that performs really well for that price sonically, but has a comfort issue that makes it quite unpractical. 


The build quality on KZ IEMs is pretty much always exceptional, with no leftover glue, good usual reliability, and excellent overall attention to details. This being said, the comfort is actually not the best on BA10, although both ZSN and ZSN PRO are better in that regard, and the fact that they are on the larger side makes both ZSN and ZSN PRO a bit uncomfortable, as otherwise, they'd both be pretty comfy. 


The sound is pretty great for all of them, and in a few short words, ZSN is the thick and relaxed IEM, which although is pretty much compressed in every way possible, still manages to be a pretty good deal at its 20 USD price point. BA10 is the V-shaped IEM with what I could call the most solid sonic signature from KZ so far, with really excellent overall details and clarity, great midrange, and a pretty quick and punchy bass, and a pretty sparkly treble that's neither sibilant nor harsh, but actually quite good. KZ ZSN PRO is a tweak on ZSN, trying to have more dynamics, and to be more forward, but feeling a bit too hot in the treble, with a touch too much mid bass bloom compared to the original ZSN. 


Overall, if you're looking for nice backup IEMs, you should totally consider ZSN and ZSN PRO, depending on whether you want a more relaxed IEM, or a more forward one, and if you're looking for a really good entry-level IEM, then KZ BA10 surely may be your next love, just make sure to test it, make sure if their design and shape fits your ears.  


Product Link

KZ ZSN

https://www.aliexpress.com/store/product/KZ-ZSN-1BA-1DD-HiFi-Hybrid-Dual-Driver-In-Ear-Earbuds-with-Metal-Resin-Housing-and/2894006_32949460599.html

KZ BA10

https://www.aliexpress.com/store/product/KZ-BA10-5BA-Balanced-Armatures-Drivers-HiFi-Stereo-in-Ear-Earphone-IEM-Metal-Earphone-0-75mm/2894006_32923468108.html

KZ ZSN PRO

https://www.aliexpress.com/store/product/KZ-ZSN-Pro-1BA-1DD-HiFi-Hybrid-Dual-Driver-In-Ear-Earbuds-with-Metal-Resin-Housing/2894006_32993180366.html



Full Playlist used for this review

While we listened to considerably more songs than those named in this playlist, those are excellent for identifying certain aspects of the sound, like PRaT, Texturization, Detail, Resolution, Dynamics, Impact, and overall tonality. We recommend trying most of the songs from this playlist, especially if you're searching for new most, most of them being rather catchy. 

Tidal Playlist

https://tidal.com/playlist/64555551-ec3c-4279-ae44-248fdfcf6c4b

Song List

Bats - Gamma Ray Burst: Second Date
Eskimo Callboy - Frances
Incubus - Summer Romance
Electric Six - Dager! High Voltage 
Kishida Cult - High School Of The Dead 
Dimmu Borgir - Dimmu Borgir 
Breaking Benjamin - I Will Not Bow
Thousand Foot Krutch - The Flame In All Of Us 
Gorillaz - Feel Good Inc.
Infected Mushroom - Song Pong 
Attack Attack - Kissed A Girl
Doctor P - Bulletproof
Maximum The Hormone - Rock n Roll Chainsaw 
Rob Zombie - Werewolf, Baby!
Escape The Fate - Gorgeous Nightmare 
SOAD - Chop Suey
Ken Ashcorp - Absolute Territory
Machinae Supremacy - Need For Steve
Ozzy Osbourne - I Don't Wanna Stop  
Crow'sclaw - Loudness War
Eminem - Rap God
Stromae - Humain À L'eau
Sonata Arctica - My Selene
Justin Timberlake - Sexy Back
Metallica - Fuel
Veil Of Maya - Unbreakable
Masa Works - Golden Japang
REOL - Luvoratorrrrry
Dope - Addiction
Korn - Word Up!
Papa Roach - ... To be Loved
Fever The Ghost - Source 
Fall Out Boy - Immortals 
Green Day - Know The Enemy
Mindless Self Indulgence - London Bridge
A static Lullaby - Toxic
Royal Republic - Addictive
Astronautalis - The River, The Woods
We Came As Romans - My Love
Skillet - What I Believe
Man With A Mission - Smells Like Teen Spirit
Yasuda Rei - Mirror
Mojo Juju - Must Be Desire
Falling Up - Falling In Love
Manafest - Retro Love
Rodrigo Y Grabriela - Paris
Zomboy - Lights Out
Muse - Resistance
T.A.T.U & Rammstein - Mosaku
Grey Daze - Anything, Anything
Katy Perry - Who Am I Living For
Maroon 5 - Lucky Strike
Machinae Supremacy - Killer Instinct
Pendulum - Propane Nightmares
Sirenia - Lithium And A Lover
Saving Abel - Addicted
Hollywood Undead - Levitate 
The Offspring - Special Delivery
Escape The Fate - Smooth
Samsara Blues Experiment - One With The Universe 
Dope - Rebel Yell
Crazy Town - Butterfly 
Silverstein - My Heroine




I hope my review is helpful to you!



---

Contact me!







---


You May Also Like

0 Comments