TinAudio T1: Ready For Summer
Today we’re checking out the T1 from Tin Audio, a worthy follow up and pre-runner in the lineup to the outstanding T2.
TinHIFI/TinAudio has been around since 2010 acting as an OEM/ODM for other brands, finally crafting their own brand and entering the market last year (2017). I can believe they acted as an OEM given their initial release, the dual-dynamic T515, looks and sounds to me just like the NarMoo B2M. Great build, fun bassy sound, but lacking a touch of refinement. Perfectly fair given the low price. The T2 was next in line for release and was another dual dynamic swapping out the bassier sound for a refreshingly refined and mature neutral tune. Now we have the T1 which ditches the dual dynamic setup for one large 12.5mm dynamic driver. With a warmer, more bass heavy and silky smooth signature, the T1 is certainly targeting a different crowd than the T2.
Based on my extremely positive experiences with the T2, I had high hopes for the T1 going in. Was I disappointed? Far from it. Let’s take a closer look.
Thanks to TinAudio for giving me the opportunity to check out the T1 and for sending over a complimentary sample unit. The thoughts within this review are my own and do no represent TinAudio or any other entity. There was no financial incentive provided. You can check out TinAudio on their official Facebook page here; https://www.facebook.com/tbqtlh/
The T1 is still available for purchase through Linsoul Audio: https://www.linsoul.com/products/tin-hifi-t1
For at home use the T1 was powered by a TEAC HA-501 desktop amp or straight out of my Asus FX53V laptop. For portable use it was paired with an LG G5, F.Audio S1, or Shanling M1. The T1 isn’t particularly difficult to drive, nor does amping seem to make much of a difference to overall performance.
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 in my headphones I generally lean towards slightly warm with elevated treble and sub-bass, an even and natural mid-range response, with reduced mid-bass. The HiFiMan RE800, Brainwavz B400, and thinksound On2 offer examples of signatures I enjoy.
- Sensitivity: 102 dB/mW
- Impedance: 16 ohm
- Frequency response: 18-25 kHz
- Cable: 1.3m TPU
- Driver Type: 12.5mm dynamic
Packaging and Accessories:
The T1 carries over the simplistic but stylish and high quality packaging found on the T2, initially greeting you with a simple white cardboard box. On the front in the bottom left corner is the TinAudio logo, while in the top right you find the model. On the back is a QR code and a brief statement about where the T1 was made.
Inside you find the same blue and white, elongated, book-style case seen with the T2 that I loved so much. It’s such a unique take on packaging an earphone when comparing it to other brands, and makes it feel like you’re getting something special despite not spending a ton. Opening this you find the T1 tightly set safely within a foam cutout with the cable wrapped neatly underneath along with the instruction manual and spare tips. In all you receive;
- T1 earphones
- Black single flange silicone eartips (s/m/l)
- Translucent black single flange eartips with a red core (s/m/l)
Overall it’s not a content rich package lacking extras you might get with competing products, such as more varied tips (bi-flange, foams, etc.), a traditional carrying case, or even a 1/4” adapter. The blue book-style case the T1 is stored within looks great though, and isn’t something you’re likely to throw away. It’s more than large enough to carry the earphones and a compact player like the Shanling M1, F.Audio S1, or HiFiMan MegaMini, or maybe a compact amp like the Walnut F1 and some spare ear tips, coming in handy when traveling as something to protect your gear.
Build, Comfort, and Isolation:
Like the other models in TinAudio’s lineup, the T1 features durable and flawlessly crafted, all-metal shells in a gunmetal color. The matte, power-coated finish on the inner portion of each ear piece is smooth and free of any edges or poorly matched up seams. The nozzles are on the short side and exit at a natural 60 degree angle with a prominent lips to keep your ear tips held securely in place.
Also metal and well constructed are the chunky y-split, slim straight jack, and in-line microphone and three button control unit. The controller’s buttons are plastic and extremely slender, similar in design to the unit found on the Xiaomi Piston 3. They work well, but can be difficult to differentiate from each other without taking a moment to feel for the button you want. With my LG G5 they have full functionality able to raise and lower volume, skip through tracks, turn on voice control, pick up and close calls, etc. The mic sounds really good too, though should the textured metal sheath happen to rub against the collar of a jacket or other piece of clothing, the lightly ribbed texture creates some noise. I didn’t find that an issue in normal use given the near perfect placement of the mic on the cable
The traditional fixed cable features a black rubber sheath and protrudes out the top of each housing from small rubber knobs, showing their intention to be worn over-ear. Strain relief is present at the jack but is short and not particularly effective. It’s missing entirely at the y-split and leading into each ear piece, which in my eyes is a major oversight in terms of longevity. The cable overall is quite nice though with limited noise transmission, great tangle resistance, and no memory. With proper strain relief it would be fantastic.
Comfort on the T1 is excellent due to the low profile fit, light weight, and smooth housings. The twins vents on each housing ensure driver flex and pressure buildup are not a thing. Oddly enough, the only aspect of their design that causes any issues are the rubber protrusions for the cable which aren’t rounded off. If left tilted forward to touch my ear they tend to cause a very mild hot spot. Twisting the T1 back just a touch on insertion prevents this letting them disappear for long listening sessions.
Isolation is pretty average, and better than I expected to be honest. Well-ventilated, low profile designs like this tend to isolate poorly in my experience, but the T1 fares well. With only a small bump in volume to compensate for outside noise bleeding in, I was able to use them in a noisy coffee shop comfortably. I wouldn’t recommend them for daily transit use, but in an office or as a general runabout earphone they’re great.
Damn. These are good. Seriously, attach a brand name and you’ve got yourself a costly little earphone. The T1 takes the tonality of the mids and treble of the T2, dials down the upper ranges a couple dB, and ups the low end a few dB to make a fun yet capable sounding earphone.
Bass on the T1 is elevated but retains the smooth, easygoing presentation you’ll find everywhere else. There’s just enough slam to give your ear drums a bit of feedback, but not a hard smack. Extension is pretty good for a large driver with a smooth rolloff that sounds quite good with Kavinski’s “Solli”. It’s polite but not boring. Like a Canadian 😉 While the presentation is silky smooth, there is still a lot of texture further showing that while Tin Audio is a fairly new company in an independent sense, they’ve got some talented engineers tuning their earphones.
The midrange of the T2 is to my ears near neutral in presence with a slightly distanced physical presence. Tone and timbre are very natural, leaning towards a mild, warm tonality. It’s a very full, lush presentation that retains it’s presence regardless of the track. Detail is good as well with minute intricacies being smoothed out by the glossy presentation. There are no particular peaks causing male or female vocals to be shouty and sibilance isn’t present.
Treble is decently well-extended with what comes across as a pretty swift roll off. There is just a touch of sparkle and shimmer. Enough to retain track engagement, yet reserved so as to avoid being unpleasant and/or uncomfortable. Upper frequencies thin out somewhat compared to the mids and bass which helps retain overall clarity and coherence.
Sound stage on the T1 is very competent with a presentation that is more broad than deep. The slightly set back mid-range helps round out the staging. Imaging is quite accurate with clear steps in the transition from channel to channel. Layering and separation are also solid in performance, handling the congested closing to King Crimson’s “Starless and Bible Black” without muddying up.
KZ ZS10 (~40 USD): Despite their varied ways of getting there, i.e. 5 driver hybrid vs. single 12.5mm dynamic, the ZS10 and T1 sound remarkably similar with their warm signatures and natural tonality. The ZS10 ups the T1 with improved imaging and separation, though lags behind on sound stage. T1 is also slightly brighter with more forward mids, with better extension into sub-bass regions. ZS10 is a little quicker overall and with more impact, though neither is particularly strong in that regard. T1 lags behind in detail retrieval.
In terms of build, I have no qualms with the ZS10’s plastic shells. Fit and finish is good and the plastics feel dense and durable. The T1’s metal shells look and feel more premium as might be expected, and fit is improved due to the significant decrease in size over the ZS10. Both have good cables that each have their own positives and negatives.
TinAudio T2 (49.90 USD): The T1 and T2 are definitely cut from the same cloth, with the T1 coming across as a more relaxed, bassier version of the T2. Mids are exceptionally similar with the T2’s being slightly more lean, more quite as warm, and with additional micro-detail and clarity. Treble on the T2 is more emphasized with again, it being touch leaner and with more detail. This gives them a slightly more airy feel too. Bass on the T1 digs deeper, is more mid-bass emphasized, and has more punch to it. Texture and speed goes to the T2. Sound stage on both is good with the T1 sounding larger but less nuanced in terms of layering and separation. The T2 is clearly the more technically adept of the two with a neutral, but far from boring signature.
Build is excellent on both with neither having an edge, though I do appreciate that the T2 is equipped with removable cables. Comfort and fit goes to the T1. The T2’s longer housings fit me well but never feel as secure as the T1’s resulting in the occasional adjustment to put them back in place. If you enjoyed the T2’s general sound but found it a bit bass-lite,treble heavy, or struggled with fit, the T1 is worth a look.
The T1 is the perfect budget friendly earphone to pick up leading into the summer months. It’s got the kind of signature that you can lean back in a chair with, cold drink in one hand and a book in the other, up at the cottage or while out camping. Easy on the eyes, easy on the ears. The build quality is outstanding, they feel right in the ear, and they sound very capable. That they’re quite affordable doesn’t hurt either.
Thanks for reading!
***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Some Test Tunes:
Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid (Album)
Hail Mary Mallon – Are You Going to Eat That? (Album)
Skindred – Roots Rock Riot (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 – Community Service (Album)
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)