Today we’re check out a release from yet another KZ spinoff brand, the Tripowin TP10.
So what is the TP10 all about? Well, it features a pure balanced armature driver line up, five per side. It uses the same shell we recently saw with the AS16, though the ornate face plate has been replaced with something much more plain. I’m a little confused as to why KZ is diluting their already complicated brand like this, and by “like this” I mean releasing competing products under different brand names. The TP10 doesn’t help since on a surface level it brings literally nothing new to the table.
Let’s take a closer look.
Thanks to Lillian with Linsoul Audio for providing a sample of the TP10 for the purposes of review. The thoughts within are my own subjective impressions based on time listening to the product. They do not represent Tripowin, Linsoul, or any other entity. At the time of writing the TP10 was retailing for 69.99 USD: https://www.linsoul.com/product-page/Tripowin-TP10-IEM
I listen primarily to various EDM sub-genres (liquid drum and bass, breakbeat, drumstep, etc.), hip hop, and classic rock. My preferences for earphone tuning are quite relaxed and as such their is no one signature I look for. The HiFiMAN RE800, Brainwavz B400, and Massdrop x MeeAudio Planamic are examples of earphones with wildly varied signatures that are enjoyable for different reasons. I generally listen at very low volumes, so keep this in mind when perusing my thoughts on how an earphone sounds.
Mobile: Shanling M0 with the Periodic Audio Nickel amp, or, ZiShan DSD by itself
@home: ZiShan DSD or Asus FX53V laptop plugged into a TEAC HA-501 desktop amp
While it has lower than average sensitivity (i.e. below 100dB), I never found the TP10 difficult to bring up to volume. Adding in an amplifier does really seem to do anything to boost performance either.
- Driver: 5 balanced armatures per side
- Impedance: 15 ohms
- Sensitivity: 98dB/mW
- Frequency Response: 20Hz to 40kHz
Packaging and Accessories:
If the TP10’s packaging looks familiar to you, you’re not alone. Swap out KZ or CCA branding, toss on Tripowin, and you’re got yourself the TP10’s box. The white exterior sleeve has a nice colour image of the TP10 on the front showing off the ear pieces and 2-pin setup, as well as the usual branding and model details. On the back you have contact information for Tripowin as well as specification info.
Slide off the sleeve and you find the earpieces nestled in a cardboard coated foam insert, protected by a transparent plastic cover. Thankfully the Tripowin version of this cover has a plastic pull tab built in, something commonly missing on the KZ versions. It’s a real pain to lift out without that tab, unless you have long nails. Lifting out the plastic cover and foam insert you find a manual and included accessories. In all you get:
- TP10 earphones
- Copper braided cable
- Single flange ‘Starline” silicone tips (s/m/l)
Yup, this is the same accessory kit pretty much all KZ and CCA models come with. Enough to get you going and nothing more. I don’t understand why Tripowin needs to exist when even the packaging and accessories are redundant with it’s parent brand. CCA already does that.
Build, Comfort, and Isolation:
The build is virtually identical to the KZ AS16, therefore, it is outstanding. High quality acrylics. A weight aluminum alloy faceplate. A neatly integrated metal nozzle with an oddly stylish protective steel screen. A protruding 2-pin 0.75mm input that is screwed in place, not glued. A wonderful 3D printed insert that holds the drivers securely in place and acts as directional tubes for the sound. There is a well-soldered crossover present out back too, somewhat hidden by ’10 Units Balanced Armature’ printed on the shell. Sub 100 USD earphones simply aren’t built like this, but KZ/CCA/Tripowins are.
The cable is the same braided option KZ has been using for a while now. It’s flexible, doesn’t transmit much noise when rubbing against your clothing, and has been proven quite durable. The hardware used by Tripowin is probably my least favourite of that used by the KZ trifecta. The preformed ear guides and 2-pin plugs are fine since they’re shared with the ZSN. The y-split is a tiny, completely unrelieved aluminum and plastic cylinder and I suspect will be a weak point. The jack is a simple straight cylinder as well with a small rubber relief. It is quite still and short, and as such offers a level of protection that falls well short of what KZ and CCA provide for essentially the same cable. And then of course the y-split is still set way too low resulting in the slender wires above tangling way too easily.
Comfort is pretty good. The TP10 is heavier than your average plastic bodied iem, but it doesn’t do anything to hinder fit. Neither do all the smooth curves and rounded edges. All this combined with the nicely formed ear guides leads to something I can wear for quite a while without experiencing discomfort.
Isolation is solid as well, and reminiscent of the experience provided by the AS06. Right now we still have quite a bit of construction going on in the area as they are resurfacing a number of parking lots. The TP10 effectively dulls the constant rumbling going on outside, even without any music playing. These should be fine for those planning to take them on the bus or subway.
Tips: To my borked ears the TP10 benefits from small to medium bore tips with a very soft silicone, such as Sony’s Hybrid tips or Spinfit’s CP100. Foam tips are also great because they soften the peaks slightly and make the TP10 more listenable. Not a fan of the stock Starlines with this earphone. The stiff silicone and medium bore do nothing to hide the peaks in the mids and treble.
The TP10 is a bright, mid-rangy earphone with a fairly reserved low end and a lean, airy nature.
Treble is peaky and aggressive which makes it quite a tiring listen, even at the low volumes my listening sessions inhabit. It feels like there are fairly aggressive peaks in both presence and brilliance regions because the TP10 can come across both quite harsh and overly sizzly and sparkly. In the TP10’s favour, it is a very detailed listen with excellent clarity and plenty of space between notes. These drivers are quick too with notes decaying quite rapidly. Not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, especially if you prefer the typically weighty, slower decay of a dynamic driver.
The mid-range, upper mid-range especially, is plenty forward. This is great for keeping vocals at the forefront and away from any mid/upepr-bass bleed, but unfortunately has the side effect of making them shouty and sibilant. Timbre is also off, lighter and leaner than it should be. Instruments simply sound off. That said, I really like how aggressive guitars are as they display plenty of attack and aggression. You also don’t have to worry about lyrical coherence.
The TP10’s low end is set back and plays a clear supporting role in the overall signature. Listeners wanting deep, thundering sub-bass or full, punchy mid-bass will certainly be left wanting. That said, the quality of bass is quite good. I am routinely impressed with KZ’s low range armatures and while I’m not always a fan of the tuning, you can’t deny they give Knowles and others a run for their money. Extension is pretty decent with some roll off present as is common with armatures. Texture is stellar with grungy basslines having the right attitude. It is well controlled and quite quick too, easily tackling rapid bass notes with ease.
The TP10 has a fairly intimate default presentation set within a decent sound stage. Imaging is sharp and accurate with clean channel to channel transitions that are free of dead zones or any vague spots. Tracks sound layered keeping instruments and staging dynamic. Instrument separation is quite good too with the TP10 taking on congested tracks with ease.
Overall I’m not really a fan of this tune. It is too harsh, too sibilant, and overall just not that enjoyable… at least for my current preferences. I appreciate the clarity and detail it can output and find the bass quite accomplished. The underlying issue, with the exception of the low range drivers, is they feel like they are tuned to play right at their upper limits. This gives the TP10 a strained presentation at every volume and that can be quite distracting. It’s the opposite of effortless.
Select Comparisons (volumes matched with Dayton iMM-6):
TinHiFi T3 (69.99 USD): Where the TP10 is a five driver, armature-only earphone, the T3 is a dual-driver hybrid. Like the TP10, the T3 has elevated treble but it is less peaky, smoother, and better controlled. The TP10 has a more forward midrange. The T3’s is more natural sounding and lacks the shouty qualities of the TP10. Bass on the T3 digs deeper and is slightly more impactful, but lacks the speed and texture of the TP10. It’s not far off though. The T3 has a wider and deeper sound stage, but it’s imaging qualities lack the immediacy of the the TP10’s. TP10 also feels slightly better layered and on congested tracks does a better job of separating instruments and effects. Overall I prefer the T3. It’s tune feels more balanced and refined, it doesn’t display the TP10’s sibilance, it’s bass is more satisfying, and in general it just sound like the all-round better earphone. Build quality is about on par, though the edge goes to the T3; all-metal shells for durability and Tin’s cable is vastly superior.
KZ AS16 (~125 USD): The TP10 and AS16 show of the two brand’s familial background beyond more than just how they look. While they have a similar sound, to my ears the TP10 is brighter, has more aggressive mids, is more sibilant, and has a more pronounced low end with better extension and a hint more presence. The AS16 has a wider, deeper sound stage with improved technicals, but not by much. Decay and speed is basically the same. Timbre is improved on the AS16. Personally I think the AS16 is the better product, and it should be given the price, but it’s not to the point that I’d say it is worth the extra cost over the TP10. Though if we’re being blunt I wouldn’t recommend either.
The TP10 isn’t a terrible earphone, but it’s not a good one either. All positives, like the tight bass and sharp imaging, are countered by undesirable qualities, like sibilance and general treble harshness. It’s biggest fault to me though is that it has no identity to call it’s own.
This is a KZ in all but name, from the packaging, to the shell, to the drivers, to the KZ-esque sound. It’s a further dilution of a brand I held in fairly high regard for their ability to bring good sound to those who traditionally could not afford it. But, ever since the ZST their prices have been increasing, products becoming more complicated, and the lineup ever more confusing, redundant, and congested. CCA appearing didn’t help much since it brought little in the way of something new to the market, continuing the trend of tweaking the same basic signature in a refaced package. Tripowin and the TP10 do it again, but not nearly as well.
If you’re a treble head and don’t mind EQing or modding products to get the most out of them, you might enjoy the TP10. There is a good earphone hidden in there, it’s just not that apparent out of the box. For everyone else, there are other, better products to spend your money on.
Thanks for reading!
***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Some Test Tunes:
Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid (Album)
Hail Mary Mallon – Are You Going to Eat That? (Album)
King Crimson – Lark’s Tongues in Aspic (Album)
King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black (Track)
Supertramp – Crime of the Century (Album)
Infected Mushroom – Legend of the Black Shawarma (Album)
Gorillaz – Plastic Beach (Album)
Massive Attack – Mezzanine (Album)
Fleetwood Mac – Rumors (Album)
Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels (Album)
The Prodigy – The Day is My Enemy (Album)
Tobacco – F****d Up Friends (Album)
Felt – Felt 2 (A Tribute to Lisa Bonet) (Album)
Michael Jackson – Thriller (Album)
The Crystal Method – Grace (feat. LeAnn Rimes) (Track)
Jidenna – Long Live the Chief (Track)
Skrillex – Ragga Bomb (Track)
Big Grams – Run for Your Life (Track)
Funkadelic – Maggot Brain (Track)
Aesop Rock – Fishtales (Track)