Can these cheap in-ear monitors hold up to their more expensive cousins?
The Size & Weight are a little out of proportion and can fatigue your ears if worn for an extended period.
If you are looking for a cheap, low-profile earbud for video production, these are worth a try. But, if you need detailed audio reproduction, you'll want to look elsewhere.
Where To Get It
Because of the Design and Build Quality, the KZ ZS10 PRO is a decent buy at its price point. For those who are doing on-camera video work who need to hear people speaking, these are an earbud to consider. While the Sound Quality may not be good enough to master audio or to listen to music of almost any type, for vocals they are adequate. But, for any other usage, you'll likely want to pass on these and get yourself some proper in-ear monitors.
The KZ ZS10 PRO are modeled after traditional in-ear monitors used in professional productions. Musicians and television reporters alike wear fitted in-ear monitors because of their Design. These earbuds imitate some of the features of those in-ears, such as the ability to remove the earbuds themselves. You could swap out the earbuds, have multiple colors for different outfits, of just replace a single broken piece. You also get the replaceable ear tips like most earbuds.
But, while these are modeled after those high-quality products, they miss a number of the things that make a professional in-ear monitor the perfect production companion. Obviously, for the price, these earbuds will not be custom fit to your ears. The fit as they ship is pretty decent, though - especially when you consider the retail price. However, the small amount of potential customization is also missing from these earbuds.
For example, the piece that fits over the top of the ear is flexible but has no retention. The flexibility helps keep the earbands from breaking, but the lack of retention means that there is no way to create a more proper mold to the shape of your ear. If you're adventurous, you can grab a heat gun and reshape the band yourself, but that's not going to be a task for everyone.
The Sound Quality of the KZ ZS10 PRO is not anything to get excited about, but it is also not embarrassing. The highs are a little tinny and the lows a a little muffled, making them not ideal for music. In fact, if you want to try and use these for music, you'll be incredibly disappointed. While the vocals might sound pretty normal, instrumentals are going to be distorted.
However, if you intend on using these exclusively for vocal use, like we use in the studio during F5 Live: Refreshing Technology, then the sound quality isn't going to be a challenge. That's because the sound replication within the human vocal range is decent. There is a small amount of distortion, but not enough that the wearer is going to be annoyed (unless they are trying to master the vocals using them). But, for simply listening to someone else talk, they sound pretty good.
Because of the higher than normal Size & Weight, the Comfort level is certainly diminished. The heavier earbuds will fatigue your ear faster than normal earbuds, even though these have earbands to offset the weight. In addition, the eartips that come with the product are not a perfect fit for everyone. I, for example, have a well-documented problem finding an eartip that fits me well. To be able to use the KZ ZS10 PRO regularly, I had to dip into my stash of aftermarket tips.
These are not going to be your go-to all-day earbuds. However, for short-term use in a live stream or podcast-type environment you'll likely not encounter enough of a problem to want to replace them. This is made even more likely if you are adventurous enough to custom-fit the earband with a heat gun.
The Build Quality is the best feature of the KZ ZS10 PRO. Despite the lower cost, these eabuds do not seem to have a single offset injection seam. There are no sharp edges to be found, and the fit between components is firm but removable. The joints where the earbuds connect to the cable, which is a removable connection, does not feel like it is going to come loose while wearing, and there is no jiggle or rotation in the joint. A slight pull on the cable, though, releases the cable from the earbuds for transportation or replacing the earbud.
The cable is also a surprisingly high quality. The whole cable is braided and coated in a plastic sleeve to prevent pulling from tension. The base of the cable is thick, with two sets of wire braided together. The parts leading from the junction to the individual earpieces are thinner, but still protected. The junction itself is a solid plastic with strain reliefs on all three entry points. The jack is made of the same material and also has a strain relief. The jack itself is a 90-degree cable, which is unusual but not totally off-putting.
While the Size & Weight is a little higher than a normal pair of in-ear monitors, they are not too much for a comfortable experience. The earbuds are a little bigger than normal, particularly in the base. Part of the size is created by the removable nature of the Design, while some of it is intended to help produce the passive noise blocking (covering the ear canal completely helps outside noise from entering, passively blocking out the sound form being heard).
The weight of the earbuds is also a little on the high side, but not the heaviest earbuds we've tested. The extra weight is offset well by the earband. Earbands are specifically designed to take weight off of the inner ear and disperse it across the entire ear, and this one is definitely a welcomed addition. Even so, a few hours of use is probably going to be the maximum - they are too heavy for a full day's use.