Knowledge Zenith (KZ), CCA, Tripowin and Associated Brands Discussion

This is the place to discuss the budget IEM brand KZ, and their associated brands CCA, Tripowin and anything else that may show up.

Knowledge Zenith
KZ originated in 2013 advocated ultimate,fashion and simplicity focusing on the faith of revolutionary pursuit ultimate attitude forwards life.

KZ is the world’s leading audio earphones device manufacturer, provide professional audio KZ service covering more than 100 countries and regions.

KZ slogan — Don’t forget, the original intention use headphones to enjoy music!

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Index of Prior KZ IEM Reviews and Impressions

AS06

AS10

AS16

BA10

ZSA

ZSN

ZSN Pro

ZS4

ZS6

ZS7

ZS10

ZS10 Pro

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Index of Prior CCA IEM Reviews and Impressions

CCA 10

CCA 16

CCA A10

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Index of Prior Tripowin IEM Reviews and Impressions

TP10

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Review of the Knowledge Zenith AS16 and Tripowin TP10

The latest IEMs from Knowledge Zenith and KZ-Spinoff Tripowin are the AS16 and the TP10 models. These two models have a lot of similarities so I’ll be comparing them together in this comparision review. Both of these models were provided for review by Linsoul (http://www.Linsoul.com) and both items can be found on their website directly, or through Amazon.

The AS16 features 8 balanced armatures per shell with 2 designated for bass, 2 for mids, and 4 for treble. The TP10 reduces the count to 5 BAs with 1 bass, 2 mids and 2 treble. Both share the same shell design, which is very large, has a translucent inner shell, and a metallic faceplate. Within the shells are the BA drivers as well as a white cover, which I assume is a dampener of some sort right below the nozzle. The layout is identical for both shells internally, sans the 2 additional drivers in the AS16.

The shell design is quite big, and is even larger than my Campfire Solaris. This makes the fit quite uncomfortable to wear for me for long periods of time. I never really found a tip combination I felt comfortable in with this design, and therefore had a frustrating time using these two.

Both share the same KZ-style cable, though the TP10 comes with a straight 3.5mm connector, while the AS16 comes with a right angle connector. Accessories are identical, as well as box packaging, and even the manual wording.

Neutral-like Sound

Both of these IEMs seem to be targeting a diffuse-field target, similar to how Etymotics approaches sound signature. The glaring differences in both of these is the lack of bass quantity, and overly extended treble, making them rather lean, bright, and pretty dull and boring sounding.

The TP10 actually has a more extended subbass and bass quantity in general, but also more elevated treble peaks. The KZ AS16, on the other hand, does have pretty glaringly missing bass response but a much smoother upper-mids and treble experience. The TP10’s bass is more weight and impactful than the AS16, but both fall well short of anything else I’ve tried, ever. They’re bass response is more reminiscent of classic ear bud designs.

The mids are recessed on both models, but I’d say a little less so than more KZ models. Both the mids and treble region are surprisingly detailed and clean. Imaging isn’t super great but soundstage is wide and open. They both present a very bright, airy sound signature, which is noticeably brighter and airy than the Etymotics Studio series. Even when compared to Tin Audio T2, or KZ ZSN’s or some other popular budget IEMs, these still seem quite bright. That said, I never found either of these to be sibilant, which is a bit of a surprise.

I found that these two do well for very specific genres, and I’d recommend staying clear from anything that needs a proper bassline, punch, impact, or anything with any semblance of bass required. That really kicks off the island anything EDM, most rock, pop, hip hop, rap, and a slew of other genres. It does do well for piano music, and some lighter jazz fares. It also isn’t bad for acoustic songs where bass and impactful drums are needed. You will still get a slightly brighter than normal presentation, but the lack of the low end is less effective here.

In the end, I find that neither of these are good all-around IEMS.

The AS16 is massively overpriced at $149, and you really are paying for marketing fluff and driver count. They do bring out a lot of detail and actually sound very clean, but at the asking price, I’d highly recommend at Etymotics ER2 or ER3 series, the Moondrop Kanas Pro, or a variety of other IEMs that do it better.

The Tripowin TP10 is priced more reasonable. It actually has better bass performance than the AS16 and in general, sounds similarly spacious and detailed, however it may have some occasional spikes of harshness. But at the $69 asking price, it can become a little more acceptable if you’re looking for a genre specific IEM or really like a bright diffuse tuning. But again, there are much better all-arounder options at this price point, starting with the Tin Audio T3 and the lower priced T2 and KZ ZS10 Pro.

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This looks like GREAT organization.
Good job Anthony!
John

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Fantastic job! I have purchased ZS3 last year to use on the way to job because it does not have sound leakage which is important. Overall price/performance ratio is high.
Regards
Serkan

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KZ ZS10 Pro Review

Hi this is my first review at this forum.
I own a few KZs, including the original ZS 10, and I gotta say the ZS10 Pro is by far the best KZ so far.
It easily outperforms some of my Westones/expensive IEMs that I owned, and at only a fraction of the price. Truly amazing, I wonder how these CHIFI IEM company break even sometimes.

Build:
The ZS10 Pro has 5 drivers each side, and comes in a good build with metal faceplate.
It comes with the standard KZ braided wire which is quite adequate, but I personally changed it to a NICEHCK 8 core copper one.
It comes with the usual KZ starline tips (small/medium/large), for which I also changed it to a spinfit as I found the isolation better.

Isolation/comfort:
The ZS10 Pro is very comfortable to fit and provides good isolation. Its predecessor the original ZS10 was very bulky and I had friends with smaller ears who complained about the poor fit.
I use this IEM on the subway with no issues. I also have tried it on stage for live monitoring in a band setting in a large hall and it provides excellent isolation without sacrificing musical details.

Sound:
This IEM is very sensitive and doesn’t require external amping. I even found a slight hiss on my desktop while using it in the 3.5 mm jack due to the impedence mismatch/lousy desktop DAC. This can be easily fixed by using a volume controller or impendence mismatch device, or by using an external amp, and the hiss goes away.
It is easily drivable on my cheap smartphones.

The IEM features a V shaped sound profile, typical of other KZ brand IEMs.
The bass is very well controlled and has good quality/quantity. I personally like it a lot. The subbass and midbass are powerful but detailed and controlled, with no midbass bleed.
The mids are recessed, but still manages to maintain microdetails/seperation effortlessly. Vocals and acoustic guitars sound good and natural.
The highs are not bright or silibant, but manage to give fatigue free listening, but still maintain details and resolution.

Comparisons:
I owned the ZS6 and original ZS 10 before this, and this IEM outperforms them all definitely.

ZS6:
The original ZS6 had very harsh treble which is not the case with the ZS10 Pro. The ZS10 Pro still manages to get detailed treble across with no silibance or harshness. Microdetails/clarity/seperation/resolution are handsdown won by the ZS10 Pro. Maybe the bass is more authoratative on the ZS6, but it is not as clean/fast as on the ZS10 Pro.

Original ZS10:
The original ZS10 is totally different from the ZS10 Pro.
Probably the only area the original ZS10 is better is it has a slightly better soundstage and slightly better treble extension/details/timbre.
All other areas such as bass/mids/detail retrieval/clarity/responsiveness/technincallities are better on the ZS10 Pro. I found a very bad midbass bleed on the original ZS10, and this is not the case on the ZS10 Pro. The Pro also has better build and is more comfortable to wear as it is smaller. It has better isolation too.

Conclusions:
This is one of the best IEMs u can buy at this price point. I would say it measures up to some of my expensive westones, and at only a fraction of the price. IMHO to get a marginal improvement over the sound quality of the ZS10 Pro, you would need to pay hundreds more.
This is a very versatile IEM, provides good fit/comfort/isolation, with excellent sound quality. It is easily drivable.
I am very pleased with this purchase and this is going to be my daily driver from now on.

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Hi and welcome @baskingshark. Great review.

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Great review, man. Glad to have ya here!

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Nice review! Welcome aboard. For future reference, I did just make a KZ specific thread for discussion and reviews here: Knowledge Zenith (KZ), CCA, Tripowin and Associated Brands Discussion

I’ll add it to the index

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Welcome @baskingshark!

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Hi have you tried the CCA C16? It seems similar in driver count and configuration but cheaper than the AS16, so wondering if the AS16 is worthwhile to purchase for the price differential. If it is just a marginal upgrade I would be keen to just purchase the CCA C16.

Also, I am puzzled why KZ and their subsidiaries CCA/tripowin are churning out many similar multidriver IEMs with just different branding and shells this period eg the TP10, CCA10. It looks like they are just diluting their potential customer base? Or maybe they are just hoping for the best by dumping as many drivers in and hope for a nicely tuned IEM to appear?
I’ve not heard any of them so is there really a marked different sound signature?

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I have not tried the CCA16 but just from reading what people have said and using the AS16, they are not the same tuning.

I would not recommend getting the AS16. Its not worth the price.

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I have the CCA C10 and KZ AS10. On a relative scale, the C10 is mid focused and rich, while the AS10 is bright and clear. Honestly, both are fatiguing so I’m not using either very often. I prefer the C10 overall.

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@baskingshark I dont really recommend any KZ products to be honest, besides the ZS10 Pro.

Yeah I agree the ZS10 Pro is the best in their lineup.

I only jumped onto the CHIFI bandwagon a couple of years ago when they released the ZS5 and ZS6 and I was wondering how they could sell multi driver IEMs at such a low cost compared to the western companies.

But after exploring more of the CHIFI budget world, I realize that there are better tuned IEMs around, with similar pricing to KZ IEMs. Nevertheless, IMHO, for the ~ $50 market segment, I feel KZ still offers decent sound quality, and gives us a cheap option that would have cost more if you bought a western brand for the same quality/specs. But now that KZ is trying to target the > $100 market with the AS16 and such, at this level it is not just about the number of drivers you can squeeze into the shell, but also the tuning and more.

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I have been listening to the ZSN lately as I have been writing the review for it (will post it soon) and to be honest, I have actually grown pretty attracted to it. It is not as technical as the ZS10 Pro but as a relax and listen while doing other things, I think the ZSN is pretty good (especially at its price point).

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Yea the ZSN is a pretty good budget starter kit. It’s a very good slightly warmer than neutral IEM that I think gives people a nicer alternative from the heavier V-shape signatures, with its lighter U-shape sig.

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After mentioning the ZSN, while this is not a new item, I thought I would share this review here as I am posting it on my blog in English and Spanish (achoreviews.blogspot.com)

KZ ZSN review

I purchased this IEM a couple of months ago, by accident. At the time I was actually ordering the KZ ZSN Pro but luck would have it that I clicked on the wrong model. I was pleasantly surprised by the build quality when I received it and though it had a decent sound but I’ll get to that in a moment.

As a first IEM review on my blog I wanted to actually post a different IEM. My intention was to post a review of the Tin T2, the IEM that had most pleased me to date and the one that I made most of my comparisons against. However, luck would have it (again) that a couple of weeks ago the right side decided to die. I did order another T2, which has arrived and I will post that review soon, but again, that’s a different topic. The truth is that I ended up focusing more on the ZSN, without comparing it, and the sound started to appeal to me more and more. I have received various sets of IEMs since then, and while some seem to be technically superior to the ZSN, I keep picking up the ZSN whenever I just want to listen to music while doing other things.

So, as luck seems to have played a part in this IEM getting more attention than the others, I think it deserves to be the first IEM review on this blog!

Anyway, on to the review!

Disclaimers and info

As is noted by the previous rambling (if you didn’t just glaze over), I purchased the KZ ZSN with my own money and this review is just a personal and honest opinion.

Unboxing and first impressions

The packaging of KZ products varies very little, so if you have seen the box of one KZ then you have an idea of what it looks like. It is nothing special, although the IEMs are well protected and the packaging works, so no complaints.

Inside the packaging there are the two IEMs, the cable and a selection of KZ silicone tips. Upon extracting the monitors, the first impression is of quality. I am not talking the quality of some high end offering, remember we are in sub 50€ territory, by they certainly look well built and the metal plate on the exterior, in a dark grey in my case, offers an impression way above its price bracket. The interior is a tinted translucent plastic that allows you to see the internals of the monitor.

The cable is a simple bronze coloured braided cable, this is included with the majority of KZ IEMs at the moment. It is quite thin and feels a little plasticky, but it does its job ok and is nowhere near as bad as some cables included by other brands.

One thing to note is that the ZSN uses the “Para C” connector which has the pins recessed in to the connector. Other KZ cables will work but they will not look correctly seated on the connector.

Build quality

The first impressions of being well built continue when holding and using the ZSNs. They are light, small and well shaped, at least for my personal fit. Even upon close inspection, they still show a build quality way above their price range.

The change to the way the connector fits, with the recessed pins, means that it feels sturdier than on other KZ offerings.

Comfort

Now, in the world of IEMs, comfort changes a lot from one person to the next. Nobody has my ears and I can only speak for myself, so what I say is to be interpreted very broadly. I find that the ZSN fits inside my ear better than other larger IEMs, but that is mainly because the form of the shell fits my ear well. However, I never really forget that I have these in my ears, they are not comfortable enough to just “disappear”. I recently took them on a 4 hour flight, along with the T2 which I wore on the way back, and to be truthful, the ZSN were tiring to wear (comfort wise).

I’m afraid that I can’t really say what the comfort is like with the stock tips as I really don’t like silicone so I use foam tips on all IEMs. This will also be something to take into consideration when discussing the sound.

Power requirements

I don’t know the specs for these IEMs but based off of my use with various sources (phone, DAP, amp etc) these are pretty efficient. My weakest device is my phone and I could get to decent listening levels without maxing it (maybe around 80%), on the M0 around 40/100 on high gain with the Atom at around 30% on low gain. You must take into account that I don’t normally listen to music very loud.

General listening

I have used these IEMs a lot lately, they probably racked up 80% of my listening time over 3 weeks, whereas I have been comparing them more to others over the last 7 days or so. I have listened to all kinds of music through them and to be honest, I have found them to respond well to all genres.

At first I had the impression that they were low on bass, however, when the tracks called for it, such as when listening to hip-hop, the bass became very present. When listening to acoustic songs, mainly with female vocals, the ZSN reveals plenty of detail but without sounding harsh. Even with electronic music, the bass maybe wasn’t as present as with the DT6 but it was clear and articulate.

I also used these on various flights, powering them with the Shanling M0 or the M2x, and while these are not the most isolated IEMs, they isolated enough that I didn’t need to increase my music in order to be able to ignore the drone.

When switching between sources, the differences are noticeable on the ZSN but I do not feel that these need any specific source or amplifier as could be the case with othe IEMs.

Detailed and Comparative Listening

Originally I was mainly comparing these to the TIN T2, until it decided to fail. The comparisons I have done over the last week or so have been (mostly) with the replacement T2s and the ZS10 Pro and the Senfer DT6.

BASS: I said above that, at first, I felt that bass might be lacking, this is definitely not the case. The bass is very present, even down towards sub bass levels, however, I found that it was easy to distort it if EQ was used to try and increase it more (not that I could ever need to personally). I also find the bass to be pretty clear and articulate, although it is not as detailed and fast as the ZS10 Pro, nor is it as rumbling as the DT6. In comparison to the Tin T2, I would say that the ZSN pulls ahead in the bass department, offering more bass and slightly better response and speed.

Listening to Busta Rhymes “Gimme some more” and other tracks from the Extinction Level Event album, I really enjoyed the bass on this IEM. I also like the way the ZSN reacts with upright bass. Listening to Carol Emerald “Back it up”. it’s easy to hear the tonality and the effects used on the Bass.

MIDS: I feel that the mids on the KZ ZSN are slightly recessed, while it does react very well to bassy tracks, this can sometimes make the IEM seem lacking in mids and voices sound slightly behind. When listening to a few songs that were piano only, I found the ZSN to be very pleasant, more so than the ZS10 Pro, but as soon as other instruments were added, especially string instruments, the ZS10 Pro offers far more detail and the ZSN can sound a little “cluttered” in comparison.

However, some songs that are also busy, such as “Black Muse” by Prince, sounded great on the ZSN, with good instrument separation.

HIGHS: I haven’t found the IEM to be sibilant and harsh, except on tracks that are harsh themselves. For example, “China In Your Hand” by T’Pau sounded sibilant and thin, but other recordings that are better balanced cause less harshness than other offerings.

In this regard, I prefer the highs of this IEM to the DT6 but I prefer the T2 and the ZS10 Pro.

SOUNDSTAGE, IMAGING AND OTHER: I do not find the soundstage very wide on the ZSN but then again I don’t find it very wide on any IEM (so far). While the imaging is not bad on these, the ZS10 Pro offers much more clarity and definition in this regard.

The clarity of the ZSN is present and lets you hear the details, however, I find detail retrieval much better on the ZS10 Pro and on the Tin T2, while the DT6 falls a little behind.

When comparing the ZSN to the others, it is as though the sound through the ZSN has been masterized differently in comparison to the others. It doesn’t sound veiled but it does seem like someone has put a ribbon around the outside and pulled everything together, whereas the ZS10 Pro and T2 have much more separation between things.

I also tested the ZSN using the M2X to compare single ended to balanced outputs, using the NiceHCK 8 Core balanced cable. I find that certain tracks that sound a little cluttered in SE benefit from the balanced option, this seems to separate the instruments slightly better. A couple of tracks where I noticed this to a larger degree were “Que Suerte La Mia” by Estopa and “Killing In The Name” by Rage Against the machine. Using the SE output, The Estopa track became rather muddy when the spanish guitar and bass came in, the Rage song was also a lot cleaner using balanced. This could obviously be the placebo effect, without a blind test I can’t guarantee, but I found the difference very noticeable (I made sure the volume matched).

Measurements and graphs

As always, please note that the measurements and graphs posted below are taken by me and should not be used in comparison to graphs or measurements posted by other parties. My system is far from industry standard and will not match in calibration to those made by others.

I do stay as consistent as possible when taking measurements so that they are at least relevant among themselves. For this I use the EARS sistem, being fed by a Topping D10 into a JDS Labs Atom, returning into REW. Stock cables are used unless otherwise noted and NewBee Foam Tips are used I will explain in more detail in a post at some point.

Looking at the frequency response of the ZSN, the bass does extend pretty low with very little drop off. There is a clear peak at around 2.5kHz then a pretty steep valley before another 10kHz peak. To be honest, if I had looked at this graph before listening to them, I would have guessed that the 10kHz peak would have bothered me but I haven’t found it to be the case.

Conclusions and final notes

I can certainly conclude that I do like the KZ ZSN. At the time of writing this review you can get them for less than 20€ on Amazon or for less than 15€ direct from China. These are an incredible value for that price.

The are not the most detailed IEMs but they don’t lack the details that need to be there. I have found them to be great for listening to music while performing other tasks, especially with music that needs a good bass response without being overpowering. The mids are slightly recessed but that is only really noticeable when the track has a lot of bass, whereas the highs perform well.

IMG_20190714_122759

When performing mundane tasks, such as washing my car, I usually choose the ZSN. Whilst I usually pair them with the Shanling M0, I feel these are ideal for those of us that listen to Spotify directly from our phone.

Would I recommend these?.. For less than 20€?.. Yes!

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