One of the benefits of micro-drivers is the housings they reside in can be itty bitty and weigh next to nothing. Such is the case with the subject of today’s review, the AK Audio Light T2.
AK Audio is pretty well known AliExpress seller on Head-fi. My experience buying from them in the past was limited to ordering a slew of Knowledge Zenith cases they had on sale. At the time I reached out for more information on the Light T2, I was not aware they were developing their own earphones. They have 15 models, most being relatively pricey multi-driver units like the Super Dolphin 6BA RedJohn456 and Hisoundfi from Head-fi covered last year. I actually thought the T2 was a MusicMaker product because it uses the same cable as the TW1 and comes with a ToneKing case, a common inclusion with MusicMaker products. That earphone’s 6mm micro-driver unit produces some hard hitting bass from a sleek, stylish, chromed aluminum housing.
The Light follows a similar design philosophy with a compact, light weight aluminum housing but takes it’s sound in a much more hi-fi friendly direction. It also features an even smaller 5mm driver and places it in my preferred location, the tip of the nozzle. This driver orientation is well known from such classics as the Yamaha EPH-100, JVC HA-FXD80, Monster Miles Davis Trumpets, and my personal though less popular favorite, the JVC HA-FXH30.
What’s the benefit of mounting the driver in the tip instead of recessing it into the housing like the vast majority of earphones? In theory, less interference from resonating soundwaves, improved isolation, and more natural bass decay. Are there downfalls? For sure. Do you have small ear canals? If so, the oversized nozzles needed to accommodate the driver probably aren’t going to fit, though a genius alteration to the nozzles of the T2 may make this a moot issue. We’ll be covering that later. Micro-drivers also tend to suffer from more distortion than their larger relatives.
What made me want to review the Light T2? Well, a couple things. They’re advertised as the perfect earphone for a “quick snooze”. My bedside earphone is currently the YHC S600. It uses the old Shure E2 housing which despite being somewhat bulbous, is actually really comfortable to lie on. Even though the S600 falls into what I consider “hyper-budget” territory with it’s sub-5 USD price tag, their sound quality is pretty darn outstanding. That said, I was desiring something even more comfortable and better sounding for my pre-sleep listening sessions.
I’ve heard rumblings of the Light T2 giving the significantly more expensive AAW Q a run for it’s money. If you’ve read my review of those, you’d know I hold them in high regard for the quality of sound AAW pulled out of an earphone the size of a standard medium eartip. Plus, being a canal phone (the entire thing fits in your ear canal) they ARE the ultimate product for sleeping since they don’t protrude from your ear, at all. Why don’t I use them instead of the S600. At ~215 USD they’re not inexpensive and I don’t want to risk damaging or ruining them as I won’t be able to replace them anytime soon, especially as they were a sample.
Enter the Light T2. It’s small and offers a comfortable, low-profile fit. It’s affordable at under 40 USD. And finally, it’s been touted to have sound quality that rivals one of my top micro-drivers, the AAW Q, but at a fraction of the price. Plus, it uses the same cable as the TW1 which I already know from personal experience is of excellent quality and quite durable. It’s got a lot going for it, but also some lofty goals to meet. How has the Light T2 held up since they arrived at my residence on March 21st, 2017? Let’s find out.
The Light T2 was purchased from AK Audio at a discounted rate for the purposes of this review. I am not affiliated with AK Audio. The thoughts and opinions within this review do not represent them or any other entity, and are mine alone.
At the time of this review the Light T2 was selling for 50.52 CAD or 36.80 USD. You can order it from their AliExpress store here;
My Gear and I:
I’m a 30 year old professional working for what is currently the largest luxury hotel chain on the planet. I have a background in Psychology which probably explains my somewhat dry writing style. My entry into the world of portable audio was due primarily to a lack of space for a full-sized stereo system during my university years, and truly began with the venerable JVC HA-FXT90. After reading pretty much the entirety of IjokerI’s multi-earphone review thread, reviews from other established reviewers, and thus being greatly inspired, I took a chance and started writing my own.
Fast forward a couple years and I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to write about products for wonderful companies like RHA, Accutone, ADVANCED, NarMoo, Mixcder, Brainwavz, Meze and many more. I don’t do it for money or free stuff, but because this is my hobby and I enjoy it. If my reviews can help guide someone to a product that makes them happy, I’ll consider that a job well done and payment enough.
Gear used for testing was a Shanling M1, HTC One M8, LG G5, Topping NX1 portable amplifier paired with an XDuoo X3 (Rockbox), and my aging Asus G73 gaming laptop paired with a Creative SoundBlaster Recon3D usb amp. I listen primarily to various EDM sub-genres (liquid drum and bass, breakbeat, drumstep, etc.), hip hop, and classic rock. While I enjoy a variety of signatures I generally lean towards slightly warm with elevated treble and sub-bass, an even mid-range response, and reduced mid-bass, though lately I’ve been enjoying more mellow and relaxed products with a bass tilt. My favorite in-ears, the Echobox Finder X1[i] with grey filters installed and the Fischer Audio Dubliz Enhanced are good examples of my preferred signatures.
Packaging and Accessories:
The Light T2 does not come with any formal retail packaging. When the package containing them arrived I carefully cut it open to reveal a simple, semi-hard, ToneKing branded clam shell carrying case. Inside that was the following:
– Light T2 earphones
– white, small-bore, wide-core silicone tips in small, medium, and large sizes
– clear, wide-bore, medium-core silicone tips in small, medium, and large sizes
All the tips of a good quality material and seal well. You might notice that they are of very different styles with the white set having a massive core vs. the clear set which look more traditional. The inclusion of these two tip types is integral to what I think is one of the most important features of this earphone, the unique nozzle. We will look at that in the next section.
If you’ve read any of my reviews in the past you’ll know I’m a sucker for nice packaging. The complete lack of any with the Light T2 is a bit of a bummer but at least the included accessories are useful, especially the case. The included tips serve their function well and are not disposable throwaways as is often the case with budget earphones.
Design, Build, Comfort, and Isolation:
Ain’t it cute? I think so. The Light T2 with it’s petite frame, glossy silver and white color scheme with muted blues and reds for determining channel has a distinctly feminine, delicate air to it’s design (an impression shared by my wife btw). I personally think they’re a beautiful headphone and truly enjoy looking at them, absorbing the finer details. Don’t think that this attractive design means they are fragile, because they’re absolutely not.
The housings are neatly crafted from aluminum with the constituent parts put together with great attention to detail. The nozzles connect securely to the housings with a metal mesh protecting the drivers within. The rubber nubs that act as strain relief for the cable where it enters the housings fit perfectly. That’s not a statement that can be applied to the use of identical nubs on the MusicMaker TW1. On that earphone they tilt at an awkward angle, taking away from what is otherwise another beautifully built micro-driver earphone.
The cable is drop dead gorgeous. Just look at it. The silver sheen, the wires within carefully coiled beneath a perfectly transparent sheath. It’s not just good to look at, but it’s well-behaved too. It doesn’t tangle, memory is non-existent, and cable noise is kept to a minimum. Strain relief at the compact straight jack is acceptable, while clear improvements could be made everywhere else. A very handy and effective chin cinch sits just above the y-split. It looks a little out of place since it cannot sit flush with the y-split, but that’s about the only visual blemish I can think of on an otherwise well-designed earphone.
When it comes to the Light T2’s comfort levels, they’re pretty darn good. One aspect of a tip-mounted micro-driver that often holds them back in regards to comfort is the unusually broad nozzle, necessary to accommodate the driver tucked within. AK Audio has pretty much completely negated this issue with the T2. At the end of the nozzle you’ll notice a little notch. This permits them to properly accompany a wider variety of tips than would normally be compatible with this style of earphone. Do you have smaller ear canals? Toss on the included clear wide bore tips or maybe some Sony Hybrids. This versatility means you’re very likely to find a tip that works well for your ears if the included sets don’t do it for you. Note that for the deepest insertion you’re likely going to have to stick with the traditional wide-cored white tips. Once you find the right tip the Light T2 is easy to seat comfortably, cable up or down, and virtually disappears.
How do they work for sleeping and are they better fit than my current go-to, the YHC S600? I’d say they’re about on par actually. While the S600 sticks out more, the bulbous ear pieces spread the weight comfortably over your outer ear. The Light T2 inserts just far enough to avoid them stabbing too far into my ear canal when lying on my side. Given they don’t insert all that deeply into my ears due to the shape of my ear canal, those of you with more accommodating ears are really going to enjoy how these fit.
Isolation is slightly above average for a dynamic-based earphone, though I was hoping it would be a little better given their design and limited ventilation (a small hole in the strain relief nubs). In the end it’s quite acceptable and suitable for transit and city use, especially if you toss on some foam tips.
Overall the Light T2 is beautiful in it’s simplicity. It’s made from quality materials and is put together with care and precision. They’re exceptionally comfortable and the unique nozzle design is frankly quite genius in my opinion.
Tips: Either of the stocks tips were perfect. I gave them a go with my usual favorites from JVC, KZ and Ultimate ears but never found swapping them out necessary. I ended up sticking with the preinstalled medium wide-cored white set as I enjoyed the extra sound stage width and depth they brought with them.
Amping: Like many micro-driver earphones, the Light T2 requires a bit of extra power to drive to their full potential. I can listen to them just fine through my cell phone, but unlike most earphones in my collection can easily bump up the volume beyond 50 percent without experiencing discomfort. Keep in mind I spend most of my time listening at 20-30 percent volume through most of my devices. Amping recommended if you like your music loud.
The Light T2 has a pretty unique, ever so slightly warm, mid-forward signature among the micro-drivers I own. There is a bit of roll off at either end that keeps them from coming across bright nor bassy. I could see those who are treble sensitive finding this earphone a bit too vibrant up top, though not if you’re coming from a JVC FXD or FXH series earphone, or something like the Dunu Titan 1 or Macaw GT100s. Those are notably more energetic and emphasized in the top end. Bass quantity is certainly on the more reserved side, more in line with the Havi B3 Pro II or Blue Ever Blue 1200EX.
I really enjoy the treble presentation of the Light. It’s well controlled and slightly thin, letting it pull some great detail from your music. It does have a tendency to come off a touch dry though, evident on cymbal crashes. They lack a bit of shimmer and sparkle. Its a lot like the VSonic AN16 in that regard. It’s lightweight presentation also give the T2’s upper ranges a very airy head which means it avoid congestion on busy tracks.
The Light T2’s mid-range is it’s sweet spot to my ears. Vocals stand out above all else, but still have a good sense of depth to them. Detail and clarity are excellent with words and effects coming through unimpeded. Tossing on some classic rock tracks really shows off their chops with acoustic and vocal tracks, areas where the Light is at it’s best. The Light has a very expressive and emotional mid-range.
When dipping your toes into the Light’s bass, you might be left underwhelmed at first, especially if used to more bass-heavy products. This isn’t going to be a basshead’s first, or last choice. Instead, the Light T2 should please those that want their basslines playing a supporting role. It’s quick, punchy, but never invasive or overwhelming. It’s a very polite presentation, along the lines of Havi’s B3 Pro I/II, or something a little more high-end like the FLC 8S. Texture is outstanding and it digs just deep enough into sub-bass regions to give some solid visceral feedback. It won’t be moving air like the Fisher Audio Dubliz Enhanced though.
The Light’s sound stage is also pretty nice for a single micro-driver, able to portray a comfortable impression of distance and space. It’s especially immersive on tracks with background vocals or whispers which truly feel like they are coming from somewhere off in the distance. This feeling is aided by excellent separation, layering, and imaging qualities that allow sound to freely move about.
How does the Light T2 stack up to the AAW Q? Shockingly well, especially given the price difference. Tonally they’re very similar, with the same sort of dry, mostly sparkle-free treble presentation. Light’s mid-range is slightly clearer and more forward, though it gives up detail to the Q everywhere else. Bass on the Q is much more visceral, giving me some serious sub-bass rumble that’s missing from the T2. I found the Q to have a more intimate soundstage. While their technical performance is similar, I’d give the nod to the Light. Separation and layering are on par, but the T2’s imaging is more accurate. The Q has more impressive end to end extension with greater thickness and weight behind it’s presentation. I found it to be the more natural sounding of the two. Overall I’d say they perform on nearly the same level with the Q having a very slight edge due to it’s more natural sound, greater extension, and slightly improved detail retrieval.
While the Light T2 has some limitations, what they do well they do better than most. Fans of acoustic or vocal heavy tracks will find themselves at home with this earphone. While I adore them with my preferred genre, liquid drum and bass, I suspect many would find them lacking the low end grunt for electronic heavy tracks.
The Light T2 both looks and sounds phenomenal. It absolutely achieved what I was hoping it would, that being offering the comfort of the YHC S600 while upping sound quality significantly, going toe-to-toe with the AAW Q.
Their unique nozzle design is a particularly notable highlight as it permits them a level of fitment flexibility that the vast majority of tip-mounted earphones could only dream of. The slightly feminine design won’t be for everyone, but it’s different and I quite enjoy it.
I’d consider the Light T2 the Mazda Miata of earphones. You get great performance at an affordable price with a pretty, though not entirely unisex design. Great job AK Audio!
Thanks for reading!
***** ***** ***** ***** *****
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