disclaimer: First off, a big thank you to Lillian and LinSoul Audio who provided the E10 for review and sent it before the release date. I love it when I can scoop the competition. If you ahve an interest in the E10, visit Linsoul Audio or their Amazon Store.
Unboxing / Packaging:
The KZ E10 arrived in a new style of packaging from KZ and I must admit mixed emotions. In one respect, I like the understated look, in another, the black on black can make it near impossible to read the writing on the packaging under certain lighting and made photographing the text near impossible. I gave up on trying to read the box and read the details online. Removing the slipcover reveals a small box on the left and the charging case in a foam recess to the right of it. the box contains the tips (3 sets), the charging cable (USB-c), the manual and warranty card. Having now reviewed more than a few Bluetooth in-ears, my tendency is to ignore the manuals and just start with pairing. The E10 has a few quirks that make taking a look at the manual a good idea before getting started so don’t throw it out during un-boxing.
The E10 is basically a bluetooth incarnation of the Zs10 Pro. Shell shape is similar but this time we have a permanently attached earhook. Shells have a metal faceplate and plastic inner shell with a brass nozzle. The faceplate has a V shaped inlay at the bottom and a large flat touch sensor above it. The mics are hiding at the bottom of the faceplate and a pin-hole in either faceplate gives away their presence. The battery tube on the earhook is made of matching colored aluminum as the touch sensor while the inner shell is opaque plastic. The central portion of the earhook is silicone rubber so those with allergies will want to be aware. The earhook at first glance appears like it ought to be detachable but is actually quite sturdy and well attached to the shell with no play.
Shells are mid-sized, fairly ergonomically shaped, and combined with a forward rake of the nozzles sit fairly deeply in the ear so moved little during exercise. Overall, comfort is good and I suspect unless you have smaller than average ears, the E10 will likely be a comfortable fit. The earhooks are loose enough that the battery component only touches the rear of the ear at the lower end near the earlobe and were comfortable even for a glasses wearer like myself.
As previously mentioned, the E10 can be thought of as the Zs10 Pro with the addition of a Bluetooth receiver and a battery. Looking at the diagram provided by KZ below, I found it odd that they didn’t take advantage of the earhook as a way to included a much larger battery. the block above the mid-frequency drivers in the diagram is the battery and it sits to the north of the dynamic driver inside the shell, rather than using a cell in the earhook and conserve space in the shell. Drivers are a 10mm dynamic that handles bass and sub-bass duties, a pair of KZ 50060 balanced armatures handling the mid-range, and a pair of 30095 balanced armatures handling the high frequency details. A Qualcomm 3020 Bluetooth chip handles the communication duties and supports Apt-X as well as SBC protocols. Somewhat surprisingly, with KZ having previously released an Apt-X HD cable, the E10 does not support Apt-X HD.
The first thing you will find is the pairing process is a bit different on the E10 than on most models. To pair the E10 they must be left in the case, and the button in the center front between earpieces held down for 3 seconds until the LED at the top center begins to blink. At this point they are in pairing mode and can be removed from the case. They will automatically re-pair after initial setup, but they do not automatically go into initial pairing mode.
Once connected, the E10 did a good job of staying connected with no cutouts in with the source and earpieces in open space unless the distances exceeded 30 feet. Interior walls sometimes defeated the signal while other times it took multiple layers of drywall to defeat it. I would put the E10 as above average for connection quality at its price point.
The touch controls are nice once you get used to using them, but do have some latency between tap and music on/off or call pickup and do not offer volume control as an option. Also worth noting, only the upper portion of the faceplate is sensitive to touch so touching the lower portion, or the hook will not have the desired result.
The documentation lists a battery life of 6 hours of continuous use with an 1100mAh battery, a charging time of 2.5 hours, and a standby time of 180 hours. This is a mix of specs and needs some sorting out. The 1100mAh battery is the one in the charging case and not the battery size in the earpieces themselves as they would have to be much larger and heavier in order to house a battery that large. The 180 hour standby time is based on this battery and that the earpieces will remain active in the case on standby for 180 hours while discharging both the internal batteries and the case battery in the process. The charge time of 2.5 hours also seems to be a reference to the case as when discharged completely, it took roughly that length of time to recharge the case with the earpieces included.
Batteries in the earpieces themselves lasted on average a bit over 4 hours in my use so the 6 hour statement is possible depending on source, volume, etc. but possibly a bit optimistic. Recharging the earpieces in the charging case took right at an hour from completely discharged until the case indicated that charging was complete.
4 hours on a single charge for an earpiece this size is pretty good performance and on par wtih the Helm Audio and Dudios Shuttle models that I have recently reviewed.
I found call quality to be quite good and the active noise cancelling worked well to reduce environmental noise during calls. Wind was still a problem but I have yet to find a bluetooth set that does well in that regard. Voices were clear to both caller and recipient and unless other noises were sourced from something extremely close to the mic, it did a good job of sorting out the vocals and minimizing the rest.
And here is where it gets interesting. Most are going to expect that the sound notes are going to be a rehash of my notes for the Zs10 Pro since this model shares all the same drivers and is billed as a Bluetooth Zs10 Pro in some places. This is not the case as the tuning is distinct, probably partially because of the differences in cross-overs, and partially because of the differences in housings. The E10 does have some similarities to the Zs10 Pro particularly in the mids, but to suggest they are duplicates is simply incorrect.
Sub-bass has some rumble and is slightly elevated above the baseline, but is not the star of the show here and is in much more linear proportion than its wired cousin. After the sub-bass emphasis, the mid-bass drops back just slightly and then is linear until the transition to the mids. Overall bass speed is good with decay being slightly slower than attack and leaving a little warmth lingering. There is no perceptible mid-bass bleed, and transition to the mids is a bit cleaner than I found the Zs10 Pro to be.
Lower mids are at almost exactly the same level as mid-bass and begin climbing almost immediately. The nice thing is that the lower mids are not the weak link as the usual and have good detail, no major bass bleed to hide them, and a more natural timbre than expected. Lower range vocals are well presented and while the upper range vocals are slightly pushed forward, the two work well together and don’t seem like one is markedly in front of the other. Guitar is well rendered with electric being a bit more natural sounding than acoustic. Upper mids are highlighted but not massively so while I would characterize the overall signature as slightly bright, I did not find it off-putting. Violins still sound a touch dry to my ear (much like the Zs10 Pro) and a little extra warmth here would make the presentation a bit more convincing.
Treble on the E10 is actually slightly hotter than on the Zs10 Pro. I’m not sure if this is due to a bit more linear bass and mids that don’t step as far forward on the E10 as they do on the Zs10 Pro, or if the treble is indeed tuned a bit hotter. Lower treble has good energy but drops above 4kHz and prevents the E10 from being able to render high-hat or snare particularly well. There is a boost at the 10kHz range that gives the E10 some air but sparkle is somewhat limited all the same. There is an odd dichotomy to the E10 in that it is both bright in the overall, and limited in the treble reach.
Soundstage / Imaging:
Soundstge of the E10 is wider than deep and fairly intimate in all dimensions. It does manage some sense of height at times, but at others seems a bit 2 dimensional. Seating the orchestra is fairly easy as instrument separation is fairly good considering the price point. Imaging is good with spatial cues well represented and movements easily followed. Layering is good but has some tendency to get a bit compressed as tracks get more complex and faster like “Blues hand me down” that I use to intentionally try and induce mud.
Thoughts / Conclusion:
I think I am officially getting old and jaded. Awhile back, I’d have thought the E10 was monstrously good for a Bluetooth in-ear and in actuality, it is. The sound quality you are getting was not even available at any price point in a wireless earphone not very many years ago, let alone at Sub<$75. Wow have times changed. Now the E10 has stiff competition from several other brands, and is even undercut on price by several of them (not a normal thing for KZ to the be higher priced competitor for sure). So, is the E10 worth a try, or is your dollar spent better elsewhere? For those that like a slightly bright tilt with good linearity and a vocal push, yes. For those that want an accentuated bass and a deep V tuning, consider looking at one of my other recently reviewed models as an alternative.
- Bass - 6/106/10
- Mids - 7/107/10
- Treble - 6/106/10
- Soundstage - 5/105/10
- Imaging - 6/106/10
Pros: fairly linear signature with upper-mid/lower treble boost, comfortable wear, long battery life
Cons: Must be in case to pair (odd), no volume control on earpieces, bright signature