The KZ AS10 has a very coherent sound signature. The whole sound is very well balanced from bass to treble and the frequency response is an ideal one for the lovers of warm sound.
The overall character is slightly warmer than neutral with a soft approach, including very good control over the spectrum. I found it better and more organic sounding than its hybrid sibling, which sounds a little more v-shaped. This is a more natural and analog type of sound in my opinion.
The lows of the AS10 are more subtle than its hybrid sibling, therefore you don’t have that rumbling subbass with this model. What you have is a more mid-bass focused presentation like a typical BA earphone. The hit and kick still are on a satisfying level and the midbass notes are easily audible.
The bass overall is pretty much under control even with bassy recordings. Lows are natural sounding with good air and they have a good decay. It’s a bit faster then the ZS10 and that’s not a surprise. At the end of the day it’s all about BA bass and Dynamic Driver bass and if you like a cleaner, more conventional bass, the AS10 model is the answer.
The bass stays away from lower mids & the rest of spectrum beautifully. Lows are still dynamic and they have good texture in them, despite coming from a BA setup. All in all this I think is a more natural bass presentation than the ZS10’s.
The mids are at a natural distance in the stage with a realistic positioning. They’re not very upfront and they have good tonality, so it’s an ideal presentation in my book.
But overall transparency is not on a great level. Resolution however is good but micro details are not very apparent and you might need to focus more to hear them. Those are totally understandable for the price though. The ZS10 on the other hand has clearer mids when you compare them. Yet that can be related to the lesser mid bass level and the ZS10’s mids are slightly recessed.
The mids have good body and timbre for a budget IEM and that was the most surprising part for me. Especially male vocals have a nice weight and overall instrumental tonality is pretty good. In this regard, the AS10 puts up a very good job and to me it passes the ZS10 with ease. A better mid performance top to bottom.
The AS10 has a controlled treble response which is soft and non-aggressive. It’s not very thin or thick and there’s a good balance there. Highs have a little darker tone than most IEMs but it’s not much. That plays beautifully well with the overall character of the IEM, which is soft and slightly warm.
So that means that the AS10 is a coherent one, which is not easy to find among budget IEMs. A brighter and more focused treble response could’ve resulted a v-shaped tuning but that’s not the case here. It instead gives you effortless treble which is in a good position in the stage. The emphasis on this part is quite good and in line with the earphone’s overall tuning.
Micro details aren’t on a level that you’re used to see in mid-fi region, but to me that’s not even a problem for this budget level.
The ZS10 gives a wider perceived sound stage. Yet, the AS10 gives you a more realistic one with good space between the instruments. However they’re not very far from each other like in the ZS10 and that’s a good feature to have. Otherwise the stage becomes a little artificial. Both the width and the length are quite good and ideal with the AS10.
Instrumental separation reminds me of the high end IEMs I listen to. Of course it’s not remotely on that level, but since the AS10 has a slight warmth, it shares a resemblance. Warm IEMs in this price range usually struggle to give good space, but this one is very capable in that regard.
Transparency is good for the price, as well as the overall resolution. At first the ZS10’s resolution comes a little better but sooner or later you understand that that’s not the case. The AS10 in reality gives a better resolution and good tonality & timbre altogether. Once the perceived impression passes, you understand this IEM’s gifts.
vs. KZ ZS10: I included this comparison many times in the text but to make it short; the ZS10 is more v-shaped with greater subbass presence and lesser midbass with a slightly colder approach. The AS10 is warmer with a focused midbass and closer mids with better tonality & body.
The stage is a little narrower and closer but to me it makes it more realistic. Once you think about the design and better fit, the AS10 becomes the better option to me.
vs. Shozy Hibiki Mk2: Now this is a tough one. The Hibiki was my favorite budget IEM until this point and they go for around the same amount of money. The difference is that the AS10 has more midbass which gives it a warmer and fuller sound overall. Also the male vocals have more blood with the AS10. The Hibiki MK2 on the other hand has thinner mids with a slightly brighter tone.
Overall the Hibiki has a neutral sound compared to the fuller and warmer sound of the AS10. But the AS10 has a better bass and its mids have better tonality. Treble is very very close but to me the AS10 I think is in the advantage for the rest of the spectrum. But the Hibiki’s neutral tuning is still a great one, so I think it all comes down to your preferences.
The ZS10 left me with mixed feelings. I loved it but something felt missing with its sound, and the huge part had something to do with its midbass. Yet, the AS10 proved itself to me in many ways.
Now I know I praised the Hibiki a lot. But sorry, Hibiki is not alone in there anymore and it has a new companion in our Universal IEM Recommendations list.
I recommend the AS10 to anyone who’s looking for an IEM that costs less than $100 and has a warm, organic tuning with good midbass body. Not to mention its nice fit with very good isolation. Overall it’s a really successful piece of work and I need to say I’m surprised. Congrats to Knowledge Zenith.