RHA T10i Earphone Review - PREFACE
A few months back I reviewed RHA’s previous flagship, the RHA-MA750, an outstanding pair of sub $150 earphones and as an overall package there is very little that can touch it in its price range. Now the Glasgow based company has its sights set on bigger things. Step in the RHA T10i with its injection moulded housing, redesigned earguides, new dynamic driver and of course a filter set which allows you to tweak the sound to your preference. Its really another step in the right direction but where does it stand in relation to others in the highly competitive sub $300 price range?
THE MEAT OF THE REVIEW
RHA T10i - Packaging
Yet again RHA smash it out the park and manage to put together one of the best consumer headphone packages on the market. The graphics, photos and branding all work together to make the item desirable and if you got this one for Christmas this year you would be very excited when you open that package. There is a book like flap on the front of the box that when opened reveals the headphones through a small packaging window and on the left is one my favourite features on RHA's T10i Packaging, the information. The packaging is loaded with detailed information ranging from the concept of the design, to technical specifications, how to use them and frequency graphs. Almost everything you need to know is on the outside of the box which can certainly help a buyer in store.
RHA T10i - Accessories
Yet again, they nailed it. Everything you would want in an earphone is included but not only that its RHA T10i's little touches again that make the overall package stand out against similarly priced competition. On inside you get the RHA T10i earphones themselves (more about them later), a par for the course shirt clip that I never use on any earphone, a carry case. The case is a synthetic material designed to carry the earphones, tips and filters all in one place and. There is some nice RHA branding on it and whilst a good case I would prefer to have seen a hard case being provided instead of soft (something similar to the Dunu DN2000 case or a Pelican 1020). Next up you have the spare tips of which there is a plentiful supply of high quality tips meaning anyone can find a decent seal. What is great about the RHA t109 is the way they don't just throw a bunch of tips together in a plastic bag as so many manufacturers do, they go the extra mile and created a card style tip holder carved out of aluminium to keep everything in place and make size matching tips a breeze. The RHA T10i's tip holder was something I have seen in both the RHA MA600i and RHA MA750i and its most welcome again here. What’s new though is that they have done the same for the filters, with there own aluminium engineered filter holder. So about those filters? The filters come in three different tuning options, one for highs, one for neutral and one for enhanced bass and unlike other companies who seem intent on making filter switching the most fiddly and frustrating exercise in the hobby RHA have made simple screw in metal units. Its incredibly simple and quick to do and one of the best systems I have seen for tuning the sound to date. Thats a lot of accessories, a lot of high quality accessories.
RHA T10i - Looks and Build Quality
RHA are kings when it comes to build quality, there really is very few earphones that can match the RHA T10i for build quality and that runs right through almost every feature of these excellent IEM’s. Lets start at the jack its custom machined metal and attached to the excellent slightly extended cable with a strain relief that is unlike any other. Its like on of those spring door stops wrapped around the cable and doesn’t just stop the cable from bending at strange angles it also jumps back to its optimal position as soon as pressure is relieved the jack could have been left as smooth metal and I would have been perfectly happy but once again the extra thought is put into function and the design team have added knurling give additional grip. Further along is the cable split which is also made out of machined aluminium (no off the shelf parts here) and then even further along is the very nice volume control and microphone. Call quality was excellent on the T10i with everyone saying my voice was being picked up clearly and without distortion. Next up is the Housing. The RHA T10i earphones are, in my opinion at least, one of the best looking IEM’s that I have ever seen, maybe even better looking than the Final Audio Heaven Earphones reviewed last year. Ergonomically injection moulded stainless steel housings look incredibly sleek and are very well put together. Quality control obviously a priority at RHA. The company again stand by their earphones with a continuation of the outstanding 3 year warranty offered on other sets and I just can’t see them getting a lot of returns on them as they seem about as indestructible as a set of earphones can get.
RHA T10i - Isolation & Fit (9/10)
Isolation of course is tip/user dependent and I found that when using the standard sized tips the RHA T10i were good isolators that would work well for travel and commuting, this would obviously improve further by using the included comply or bi-flange tips..
The RHA T10i are one of the most comfortable earphones I have worn all year. Of course those long term readers will know that I prefer to use over the ear earphones and with the fixed ear guides such as the Shure SE215 and the T10i sit beautifully in my ear never losing their seal. I thought the RHA MA750i fitted well but the ergonomic design on the T10i RHA has yet again taken it up another notch.
RHA T10i - Sound Quality (8/10)
Unexpectedly during the RHA T10i review I found sound produced, in my opinion, is unlike anything I have ever heard from an In-Ear headphone. After having tried literally hundreds of earphones in the past 15 years from $10 dollar cheapie's to $1000 AKG's the RHA T10i, whilst maybe not technically perfect, may just be my favourite sounding in ears of all time. The RHA, to me, sound real. They sound like what I would here live, they have the impact and depth to portray the music that makes me regret all the time I have wasted on neutral and reference grade gear for casual listening.
Soundstage is simply massive and airy displaying levels of width and depth to which I have only found to be present in dynamic driver such as these or hybrid setups like DUNU's DN2000. The T10i give an out of head experience that you are more likely to accustom with a set of good open headphones and its quite remarkable just how grand a scale the RHA T10i is able to put across from an in ear monitor. Separation and imaging benefit from having the space to place the instruments in a way that makes binaural recordings sound eerily realistic, for example slap on Dr Chesky's "Sensational, fantastic...." and get massively creeped out on the "one meter microphone test track"... i swear you will get the chills as he breathes down your neck and whispers in your ear.
Now about that realism. As mentioned this is not a studio reference or neutral headphone and in my opinion that is a great thing. As the community grows bigger there is more of a movement towards these afore mentioned stylings, maybe its came from herd mentality or maybe Beats by Dre have so badly damaged the landscape for anything that can produce copious amounts of bass. One thing I do know, for the most part, is that neutral, cold reference grade phones, simply suck a fatty when it comes to reproducing music for the purpose of enjoyment. The RHA T10i do thankfully not suck and far from it, they are the best sounding earphones I have used all year.
The sound is warm & rich, bass realistic and strong with ability to hit lower than any other in ear on the market, vocals are engaging and detailed. There is very very little I dislike so lets take a look at the individual frequencies. (All impressions bellow are using the standard filters, I will discuss the others later on)
Highs - The treble is laid back and not overly intrusive but still manages to retain good clarity and detail. Nothing there that will piece your ear drums its a non fatiguing listen and one that fits in perfectly with the type of modern genres that the T10i's targeted customers will be inclined to
Mids - Mids are laid back with warmth and a rich tone. This made vocals sound excellent and never was this more evident on a tracks like Battleme's "Hey Hey, My My", Joshua James "Coal War" and the entire "Born on Flag Day" album from Deer Tick. It made for and incredible experience hearing how the mids intertwine and stand their ground against the bass creating a thoroughly engaging experience. The mids are exceptional in their own right and deserve every bit as much praise as the bass gets.
Bass - Bass is, as mentioned, outstanding. If, like me, you are coming into RHA's T10i review from something more lean sounding (I was testing the Grado SR80e the week before) you will be in for a shock to the system. Persevere for a few days before you make judgement and you will be rewarded in spades. This is what bass in modern music should sound like, impactful yet still retaining detail. It lends itself to a very realistic recreation of live music. For example kick drums sounded amazing from the likes of Kings of Leon, giving that deep thump and almost the impression of air being moved in your direction. When you move onto electronic music, club anthems from Paul Van Dyk or Teisto its like being at a right there at a concert with those massive speakers smashing away just as the DJ intended, its unreal how real it sounds.
A final word on bass and its reproduction that I would like to mention that in my mind exemplifies just how good an earphone the T10i is is the performance in Industrial, EBM (Electro Body Movement) and Darkwave genres. I lived in Tokyo in the mid 2000's working in this scene and there is nothing I have ever found like it when it comes to raw and brutal bass and sub bass drops, its the one genre that I cant actually listen to unless live as only good quality club speakers can do justice to it. RHA's T10i however sounds incredible when pairing them up with these genres, even better that Denons AH-C3000 bass earphones due to there ability to go extremely low and move the sufficient amounts of air necessary to create a higher level of realism. For an intro to what i am talking about try the T10i with something like Chaos Royale's "Anna Supernova" at the first bass drop you should have a smile from ear to ear.
One last point when it comes to sound will be in regard to the filters. I found that the treble and regular filters worked best over a range of genres with the Bass one coming in handy for the genres mentioned in the paragraph above. What you need to know is that the filters do not make a gigantic difference and more than alter the presence of the tuning as a whole it has an effect on the frequencies each filter is labeled for. For example when changing from the regular to treble expect everything else to remain the same but the treble to become more pronounced and when changing from regular to the bass version you will see the treble and mids remain the same but the bass become more prominent. This is in stark contrast to other companies that see to alter all frequencies with a filter change.
RHA T10i - Source interaction
I don't normally include specific source comparisons but really noticed a significant difference when the RHA T10i was paired with a good Amp DAC combo. Not to say you have to spend that much extra, it sounded good out something like the Colorfly C3 audiophile DAP alone but benefited from something like the excellent low cost SMSL SAP4s amplifier. My choice though to open sound and add significant clarity when on the go was with using my LG G2 in combo with Audioquest Dragonfly DAC 1.2.
RHA T10i Earphone Review - Conclusion
I didn't expect to be as blown away as I have been during the RHA T10i review as I have been. When they were releasing it I had envisioned a flat neutral reference phone and that too would have been fine if done right. RHA went big on everything with the T10i, the went exactly the opposite direction and created a headphone that sounds above and beyond all of my anticipated expectations. The sound is big, energising fun that makes the music come alive. I have taken almost a month now to write this review, they are now the earphones I personally use on a day to day basis and I'm almost as enamoured with them as I once was with the Audeo PFE 112. I think that shows testament to how much I enjoy listening on these things. For me its now about enjoying the music than analysing technicalities, dealing with neutrality and anaemic bass of boring reference phones. If thats your thing thing then have at it but to me the RHA T10i do a better job of portraying the music in a realistic way in which the artist intended than any of the "high end BA's" I have debuted this year and for that reason with just 2 weeks left in the year I will be naming the RHA T10i the best portable audio product of 2014 they sound incredible, have outstanding build quality, look stunning and even though the compete with earphones many times the entry price still cost under $300 (£150).