KZ BA10: Putting a square peg in a round hole.
Knowledge Zenith has yet another new IEM on the market. This time it’s the BA10, which like their last release, the AS10, has 5 balanced armatures per ear piece. The spec sheet shows that 4 of the drivers are the same which control the bass, upper mids, and treble, however the BA that controls the mids, shows a different driver number – though it could be a number error.
Disclaimer: I received this for the purpose of providing an unbiased review from LinSoul Tech. The review is my own opinion of it and I have not been compensated with any monetary or benefits. If you are interested in purchasing this item, the following links will take you to some of the popular marketplaces:
The KZ BA10 comes in the same packaging style as the AS10, with a larger premium box than their lower cost options. The inside of the box features a metal name plate, the two ear pieces, and below the presentation is a set of starline tips, and yet another braided cable.
This newer cable is more of a light copper color as opposed to the dark brown/copper ones in some of the recent KZ releases. The new cable is also less sticky and overall an improvement in functionality.
The biggest difference between this earphone and the other KZ offerings, or really ANY HEADPHONE EVER MADE is the shape and size of this odd beast. First off, it looks like Tony Stark had a little fun one day in his mansion and decided to make himself some custom Ironman Ear Monitors (IEMs). The red and yellow colorway, along with the vents and metal housing and square, sharp body all remind me of the robotic appearance of Ironman.
And that housing, everything about it. It looks awkward and uncomfortable. And no surprise, it’s extremely uncomfortable to wear. I’ve written a few headphone reviews now, and this is the first one that physically hurt me to review, because the fit on these is really awful.
I had quite a time trying to find a good set of tips to use, and I have dozens upon dozens of tips in my possession. I ended up finding the best fit with the included KZ tips, ironically. Other favorites just couldn’t go in deep enough, or cause other issues.
Then you have those square corners. Those slightly rounded, but still sharp, hard metal, corners. And that really thick, deep housing. And the wide body length, and the heavy weight. 6.9 grams (compared to say 4.8 grams of the Tin Audio T2 or the 5.4 grams of the KZ AS10). Those all combine to give me a very painful experience wearing these almost immediately after wearing them. The corners dig into my ear, no matter what orientation I put the earphones in with my left ear almost immediately and my right one within 10 or so minutes of use. This is pretty much a dead IEM to me at this point, but I struggled to continue to use it to give it a proper listening before I wrote this review. And so here I go…
The KZ BA10 differs in sound than the AS10 in many ways. Again, I don’t know if the driver spec on the marketing pages of the BA10 and AS10 are a typo or not, but my listening and measurements actually seem to infer that the mid-range BA is actually tuned differently or a different driver all together.
The AS10 was a U-shaped, warm IEM that had elevated bass and treble and slightly recessed mids, which was balanced in sound with a slight tilt towards warmth. The BA10, on the other hand, is a darker sounding IEM where it seems the mids and upper mids are less pronounced and treble sound tamer and less energetic. But, that said, there’s still great detail thanks to the double treble BA drivers, and although they sound darker, there are instances of very sharp, harsh peaks in the sound. You hear it especially in acoustic tracks where plucks of guitars will sound rather sharp.
The soundstage has got an intimate sound to it and imaging is quite good, both characteristics similar in the AS10 model.
Now, I want to explore the sound a little bit more with the MiniDSP measurements I took. I think that can help explain the differences between the two IEMs in my listening.
The bass region is elevated as stated before and follows almost exactly the same curve as the AS10. While the bass on the AS10 provided a good warm detailed sound, the additional recessed mids of the BA10 make the bass sound slightly more exaggerated in some songs and does sometimes create some muddiness to songs that are heavy in this area.
The upper mids and treble is actually lifted and this gives the BA10 a lot of good detail, though it can come across very sharp as I previously described. All in all, this sounds and the response looks like a V-shaped headphone, albeit a dark sounding one.
I found the BA10 an interesting experience. The build quality is exceptional and I feel like if I threw it at someone (I WOULD NOT DO THIS), it would hurt a lot. It’s got a big metal build, but with this, comes weight and pain. The pain is mostly due to the unusual shape, which is square. Putting a square peg in a round hole doesn’t work. Please remember this.
In terms of sound quality, these have very good detail and an intimate sound that some may find good for laid back listening. The darker sound isn’t something I prefer though. That along with the occasional sharp piercing peaks can be frustrating when you’re getting into a song. It’s the downside of having details to your music. But if it did not have that treble, I can see this IEM being extremely dark.
So for me, I can’t really recommend this IEM. It strikes out on comfort – being the most uncomfortable IEM I’ve ever used, and on the sound signature – it’s just not for me.