A guide to KZ earphones.

Last update to this list was in November 2018!
KZ released better IEMs since then.
My favorite older models are the AS10, ZS6, and the EI8.

First of all, please have some important things into consideration:
I only write about the earphones I have or had on my collection.
Unless I state otherwise, all earphones are bought with my money from various online shops.
I’m NOT endorsed by KZ in any way nor do I want to be.
Finally, don’t expect most of these earphones to compete with products priced above 100€, you get what you pay for. Higher priced KZ in-ears are often better sounding, also I’m not bashing the brand, I do use and collect their earphones after all.

I’m a consumer, not a professional reviewer, if you want “wine tasting” style reviews I’m sure you’ll find lots of great stuff online, some people can be very professional on their description and are by far better writers than me.
Besides the quiet of my home, I also test my earphones on commutes, it’s a great way to stress the gear in real life situations.
Auditions with stock tips unless stated otherwise.

The test setup source right now is my uncapped Sony Walkman NW-A45, using lossless and lossy pop and hard n’ heavy music like; Laura Pausini – Io Canto, and albums Karma and Epica by the band Kamelot.
With my Walkman, I don’t have the need to use a stand-alone headphone amp with these earphones, unless I feel they actually need juice and that was never the case.

KZ also known as Knowledge Zenith is a Chinese company based in the city of Dongguan and established in 2012. Some sites claim that one of the founders worked for Audio Technica, but I don’t have solid evidence about that.
Besides that I can tell you that they made the IE8, a model cloned very inspired on the IE80 from Sennheiser and also the ZS5 and ZS6 models also cloned very inspired on the Campfire Audio Andromeda in-ear.

I now give you dear reader the Journeyman’s fast guide to KZ earphones in all it’s boring glory!
To be sincere all the models below do sound great for the price asked unless stated otherwise.
The earphones are “reviewed” in order of purchase, the bottom of the list has my newest acquisition.
= Top favorite.

ED2 Special Edition
– Decent and balanced sound.
– Easy to insert in my ears.
– Made of metal.
– So cheap you can actually give them to coworkers and kids.

– The sport version of the ATE, not sure if they sound the same because I don’t have the ATE model.
– A really detailed sound for the price, especially if you buy them with a discount.
– They fit well on my ears.
– Basic plastic construction but solid, they are a sports version after all.
– Cables are not detachable.

– Some say this model has more bass than the ATE, it’s up to you to decide if that’s an upgrade or not.
– In a very subjective way, I find the sound more polished than the ATE S.
– Similar construction to the ATE S.

– If your version doesn’t come with dead balanced armatures drivers and if you enjoy the presence of high frequencies on your songs, then this model is great, but the bass feels a bit dull and might need EQ to boost it. It’s one of my favorite models from KZ but it’s an acquired taste and can cause fatigue on long listening sessions. Some people really hate it because it’s not a flat sounding earphone, but I find it fun for my style of music.
– The fitting is ok but beware if you don’t get a good seal.
– Decent plastics for the price, my wife loved the pretty colors. Jokes aside they are really nice to look at if you like the colors.
– Detachable cables and yes the “silver” upgrade might be a good idea if you want to tame that wire above your ears, plus from user measurements, the cable does have a slighter lower impedance.
– Due to the fact they have balanced armatures inside they are a little more fragile than most KZ earphones, so keep that in mind.

– ZST without the balanced armature, these sound more balanced than the ZST Pro but they are more veiled and sometimes very plain sounding.
– Similar in construction to the ZST Pro but in a more discrete color theme.

– I find these earphones veiled, then again I might have defective units. I’m serious, something is off with the sound of these earphones. I just can’t like them compared with other KZ models.
– Best fitting of all models I tried from KZ, they also have a massive sound isolation.
– Construction is decent but I don’t like the way those plastic tubes look inside my units.
– Detachable cable but not compatible with the ED12 or ZST models, yep you’ll have to buy another silver upgrade for this one.

IE8 (IE80 Clones)
– I can’t compare them with the original IE80 but some frequency response graphs claim a very similar sound signature.
– Sound wise these are one of my favorite KZ models. Clear highs and mids with an adjustable bass response. These are not for bass lovers, but they are pretty amazing with hard n’ heavy, pop and classical music. I never felt fatigue in long listening sessions with this model.
– The fitting on my ears feels great but I changed the tips for soft foam ones. Please note that these earphones don’t provide much noise isolation, keep that in mind if you want to use them in your commutes.
– The IE8 plastics feel sturdy, the side housing plates have the KZ logo engraved, something I found pretty nice for such cheap earphones.
– Detachable plain black cable. I don’t like the quality of the cable but it’s possible to change it if needed.

ZS5 (Version 1)
– One of the best KZ in-ear I own. Sure there is some hype on the community about these because after all, we are talking about a 2 dynamic driver + 2 balanced armature in-ear for less than 40€ at the time of their release.
– Their sound has all the good vibes of the KZ IE8, plus one amazing bass that doesn’t overtake the music even if you are hearing metal. They are detailed and very fun to hear but they can cause some fatigue in the long run with some types of music.
– Noise isolation is decent but the fitting inside the ear is not for everyone, some adjustments should be made for a comfortable fit and even so they can hurt a little in long listening sessions. In terms of comfort, these in-ears are not for people with small ears.
– The shells are made of plastic, they are sturdy enough but not amazing.
– Detachable stock cable is ok but I prefer the silver cable for some comfort around the ears.
I don’t know how the version 2 sounds but having 2 BA on the nozzle will surely make them very treble oriented.

– Sound signature is too bright compared with my V1 ZS5’s, lacks all around quality in the bass and treble control. The bass and sub-bass are all over the place, the ES3 has a really “in your face” presentation and even if you love bright in-ears the ES3 really accentuates sibilant recordings. I can’t recommend the ES3 over the ZST Pro or ZS5.
– It’s a very comfortable earphone, second only to the IE8.
– Shells are made of plastic and have a nice construction feel about them.
– Detachable stock cable with memory wire as usual with KZ earphones.
Click here for a full rant about the ES3.

ZS6 (My favorite treble oriented KZ) ⭐
– Imagine the ZS5 built with better materials, BA drivers in the correct position and better sound, well that’s the ZS6. For the lucky owners of the “defective” ZS5 V1, the ZS6 is a little better in everything sound wise.
– The sound of these in-ears doesn’t feel V-shaped, even if the treble can be a bit too much on some songs and can cause a bit of fatigue to some people. The ZS6 are not sub-bass canons, having a very controlled bass and great mid range. Probably due to the metal shell design they have a greater soundstage than the ZS5s on some songs.
– Noise isolation is good for a supposedly semi-open shell design, the fitting inside the ear is better than the KZ5 due to some changes on the angles of the design, even so, some adjustments are necessary for a comfortable fit. In terms of comfort, these in-ears are not for people with small ears just like the ZS5.
– The shells are made of metal, not sure if its aluminum but by the wear on the paint after some weeks it sure looks like it.
– Detachable stock cable is ok but some might want to upgrade it because it’s uncomfortable around the ears.
Click here if you want to read more about the ZS6.

– A fairly natural in-ear, with balanced mids, tamed treble and solid deep bass. If these in-ears weren’t branded by KZ I wouldn’t believe they were made by them. The ZSR is a not a hyper-detailed in-ear but what it lacks in treble detail it compensates by an easy to hear balanced sound signature.
– Noise isolation is excellent when I tested this model my wife had to walk to me and call me, that’s how good they are isolating the exterior sound. The ZSR is very comfortable but as usual, your mileage may vary depending on your ear format.
– The shells are made of good plastic and feel well assembled. I really hate the “right/left” wording on the face plates but that’s a personal choice.
– Detachable stock cable with memory wire as usual with KZ earphones.


– A V-Shaped frequency response with a slight piercing treble, not as bad as the ZST. All around this in-ear has decent deep bass, solid mids but lacks some control in the treble.
– Noise isolation is great even if the design looks like a semi-open one, the metal shells are tiny compared with other models of the brand. I didn’t have problems adjusting the in-ear but some people had problems with the fitting, some also report driver flex when inserting the ZSA, I had a similar problem but only to a small degree.
– The shells are made of metal, they look and feel amazing. – Detachable braided stock cable with memory wire as usual with KZ earphones, the Y-split is near the middle of the cable making it tangle all the time if you are not careful.

– An old model from KZ, with their typical piercing but detailed treble especially given the price you pay for them. You got two filters to adjust the bass, I enjoy the more balanced sound of the wide filters but your mileage may vary. Bass is nothing special but present enough, mids are solid but lose a lot to the fact the treble is so forward and piercing.
– Noise isolation is good, the shells are long enough to fit most ears.
– The shells are made of metal and the nozzles of a brass-like material. I actually like the simple industrial design of the shells.
– The cable is not replaceable but I wish it was, the strain reliefs near the plug, Y-Split, and shells are ok.

– A slight V-Shaped sound without the typical KZ frequency response with emphasis on the treble that is so typical of their hybrid designs, the bass goes deep without being muddy.
I feel the plastic housings on these in-ears limit what they could have been in terms of detail retrieval in the mids. The crossover is a nice touch and hopefully a stepping stone for future KZ designs.
– Noise isolation is actually great for this type of in-ear, the shells are very comfortable and not very big.
– The shells are made of good quality plastic, the smoky plastic shows a KZ crossfeed, looks like KZ is proud of their evolution, also a nice touch as design goes.
– Detachable braided stock cable with memory wire as usual with KZ earphones, the Y-split is near the middle of the cable making it tangle all the time if you are not careful.

KZ AS10 Close Up Crossover

AS10 (My overall KZ favorite 10/2018) ⭐
– This AS10 sample was sent by Lillian of Linsoul, so I could review it and give my honest opinion, for more information read the full review.
– The AS10 has an overall detailed sound quality for a V-Shaped in-ear, the new in-house low frequency balanced armature really kicks ass. The AS10 brings the typical KZ sound to a new level and I like it very much.
– Noise isolation is OK for this type of in-ear, the shells are very comfortable.
– The shells are made of good quality plastic, the smoky plastic shows a KZ crossfeed.
– Detachable braided stock cable with memory wire as usual with KZ earphones, the Y-split is near the middle of the cable making it tangle all the time if you are not careful.
Click here if you want to read a full review of the AS10.


– This ZSN sample was sent by Lillian of Linsoul, so I could review it and give my honest opinion, for more information read the mini review.
– The ZSN is a V-shaped in-ear, with a powerful lower range, good solid mids, and a detailed treble. It’s the typical fun KZ sound.
– Noise isolation is OK for this type of in-ear, the shells are comfortable to use.
– The build quality of the shells is rather amazing for the price point, with a metal faceplate and nozzle.
– A detachable braided stock cable without memory wire and a new type of plugs, old KZ cables will not be compatible. Cable tangles a bit.
– Click here if you want to read a full review of the ZSN.

Final thoughts about KZ.
Being a low cost Chi-Fi brand KZ doesn’t really need to step up their game mostly because their earphones are already pretty amazing for their price range.

If they really want to price their earphones higher they should solve some details first:
The balanced armature line needs to be better tuned, tame those highs and most people will love them. As of 2018, this was addressed in some KZ models like the AS10 and ES4.
– KZ also need to inform their clients on important changes made on their in-ears, the KZ5 balanced armature placement from inside the shell to the interior of the nozzle is something clients should at least be informed by some kind of version number.
– The brand should find a good translator, some bad translations look awful on the boxes.
– Last but also very important, KZ needs a decent website to show their products, a sales site just doesn’t cut it. KZ now have a decent website but their English translation leaves a lot to be desired.

09 Oct 2018 – Added favorite tags. Also edited some parts of the article.
13 Nov 2018 – Cleared some ambiguous wording on the ZST Pro and ZS6 reviews.
20 Nov 2018 – Added the ZSN to the list, small article layout editions.
19 Oct 2020 – Added Stars to my favorite IEMs and a warning to the top of the list, slight design changes.

17 thoughts on “A guide to KZ earphones.

  1. Dude…! good explanation and review about KZ IEM’s but you forgot something i really love about KZ. it is the KZ ZS1. ( haven’t tried the KZ ZS2 ), this is not for everyone but if you are one of those people who suffer from Highs and having sensitive ears to treble, this is the cheapest remedy. For me everything seems bright when it comes to headphones until i came across KZ ZS1. They sounds so warm, mellow, bass and laid back i could listen to them all day long.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Acha que o AS10 pode ser uma boa opção para performances ao vivo? Tenho o KST preto e ele não fica firme. Uma orelha sai mais que a outra e como ficam frouxos, o grave é quase inexistente quando tenho de movimentar mais.


  3. ZS5 V1 vs ZS6, I prefer the ZS5 by a large margin. Neutral, long-listenable sound vs the boomy, crispy ZS6 with its V shaped FR.


  4. Pingback: 5 cheap earphones audiophile newbies should try. | The Journeyman's Toolbox

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