Today we’re checking out TRN’s newest release, the quad-driver V80.
TRN is a new company under Dongguan Zaodu Acoustic Technology Co. LTD, yet they already have four earphones under their belt; the V10, V20, V60, and now the V80. Customer feedback on the V10 was mixed, positive for the V20, and again quite mixed for the V60. The V80 is TRN’s most complicated release with a quad-driver setup; 2 balanced armatures and 2 dynamic drivers per side. It features stylish metal housings and the same excellent 0.78mm 2-pin cables and connectors from their other models, all for under 40 USD.
Seems like a good deal. Is it? Let’s find out.
Thanks to Lillian with DD-Audio for arranging a sample of the V80 for review. The thoughts within this review are my own and do not represent TRN, DD-Audio, or any other entity. No financial incentive was provided to write this review. At the time of writing, the V80 was retailing for 38.00-39.00 USD, dependent on if you add an inline mic or not. Check them out here on AliExpress or here on Amazon.
Source and Amping:
For at home use the V80 was powered by a TEAC HA-501 desktop amp with my Asus FX53V laptop sourcing music. For portable use it was paired with an LG G5, Shanling M1, HiFiMan MegaMini, or HiFi E.T. MA8. While they sound better at higher volumes, I didn’t find the V80 particularly difficult to drive. They are quite sensitive and do not need an 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 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. I generally listen at very low volumes, so keep this in mind when reading my thoughts on how an earphone sounds
- Driver: 2 balanced armature, 2 dynamic driver, per side
- Frequency Response: 7-40,000Hz
- Sensitivity: 108dB
- Impedance: 24ohms
As seems to be the case lately with these budget products, the specs on the box do not match the specs advertised online. Take this info with a grain of salt.
Packaging and Accessories:
The V80 arrives in some fairly attractive but basic packaging. The compact white cardboard box features a wire frame image of the V80 in the front with branding bordered in red bands. The rear contains some contact information from the brand along with some basic specs, most of which are printed in Mandarin.
Lifting off the lid you find the interior split into two sections. The top portion contains the ear pieces nestled in some dense white foam. Beneath, under a cardboard flap adorned with the TRN logo, is the cable and spare tips secured in plastic bags. In all you get:
- TRN earphones
- 0.78mm 2-pin braided cable
- Single flange ear tips (s/m/l)
Overall it’s a very basic package, completely fair for the price and when taking into consideration the quality of the V80’s build, cable, and the fact that this is a quad-driver hybrid.
Build, Comfort, and Isolation:
The V80’s build quality is quite good. It uses beefy, dense metal housings.which seem to be coated in a dense paint job with a glossy lacquer. The TRN logo and L/R indicators are printed on very neatly. Upon closer inspection, they might even be laser printed. Either way, they don’t look or feel like they’ll rub off anytime soon. The receptacle for the 2-pin cables sits nice and flush with the rest of the housing and shows off a nice attention to the finer details that go into the construction of an earphone. Weight is definitely up there, not to be unexpected given the materials and contents, but it is plenty manageable as a result of the weight being spread evenly within your outer ear. Dunu did a great job with the design of this shell, to TRN’s benefit.
The black braided cable will be familiar to those who have purchased other models from this brand. It features a clean, tight, four strand braid from the compact metal straight jack up to the y-split. From there is divides into two twisted sections branching off to the earpieces. As with KZ’s cables, it is a bit long above the y-split allowing it to tangle easily, especially since there is no chin cinch to keep things in check. The preformed memory wire is quite nice and bends at a sharp angle. I found it especially effective in keeping the cable secured behind the ear. The angled plugs are fine, but as with many of TFZ’s earphones are a clear weak spot. There is no support for the pins, so if you’re being careless there is a good change you’ll snap them off. I would like the see TRN include a plug with a broader base that provides more protection for the pins. Overall the cable is good the price. It’s flexible, feels durable, doesn’t transmit much noise during movement, and sits comfortably in place behind the ear.
Despite the weight, the V80 is a reasonably comfortable earphone. The nozzle extends at a fairly mild ~70 degree angle which lets the main body of the shell sit flush and rest gently within your outer ear. I didn’t notice any hot spots or sharp edges that caused discomfort, and as a result could wear these for extended periods without issue. I did need to re-seat them to regain a solid seal every once in a while, but no more than needs to be done with other products.
For a fairly shallow fitting, ventilated earphone, isolation has been shown to be excellent. For example, I’m sitting here now listening to them with a noisy old fan blustering away a couple feet behind me with the window open, cars driving by on a rainy roadway, and all I can hear is the occasional hiss as a car drives by, and a creak as the fan pivots and changes direction. Using these outside around town is a job, as they passively block out a fair bit of noise. One of the better isolating hybrids I’ve come across for sure.
Tips: The stock tips are fine, but I do recommend tip rolling to find something that provides a better seal.I didn’t find the V80’s sound was effected as much as other earphones by tip rolling, and as such settled on those from the EarNiNE EB120. They were more comfortable, came unsealed less often, and retained the stock signature. That last one in particular is a helpful quality when reviewing, as not everyone is lucky enough to have a ridiculous number of alternate tips to play around with.
While I generally prefer to listen at very low volumes, the V80 is best suited for mid to high volume listening. I found that as you increased the volume, bass presence increases disproportionately to treble and mid-range levels. At low volumes the V80’s treble is overpowering and splashy, and bass is simply lacking. Increasing the volume brings bass and mid-range presence up considerably more than the treble, so the V80 ends up reasonably well-balanced. Treble quality increases too, with it gaining a much tighter, more controlled presentation. While I do find this earphone tiring at higher volumes, since it was much more enjoyable that’s how I spent the majority of my listening time.
At a suitable volume, the V80’s treble retains a forward and aggressive nature, but is well-controlled with impressive extension. Upper treble is quite prominent giving the V80 a lot of sparkle to instruments and air to it’s sound stage, but at the same time ends up feeling somewhat lean and unnatural. Compared to another quad-driver hybrid, the KZ ZS6, I actually found the V80 at least as bright if not brighter, so I was quite surprised to see next to no one having issues with it. With the ZS6, “piercing” seems to be the main descriptor for it’s treble, something I could easily say about the V80. This presentation happens to be quite enjoyable to my ears, if not slightly over exuberant on some tracks, but you won’t hear me complaining.
The mid-range on the V80 isn’t as recessed as I have come to expect from hybrids in this price range and shows off a level of clarity and detail you don’t commonly hear in the under 100 USD field. Vocals are extremely crisp and clear, and while they come across somewhat lean or thin, there is a pleasant bit of warmth that keeps them comfortable and non-fatiguing. Sibilance is kept in check, only cropping up when it’s a part of the track. The V80 is revealing of flaws like that, and as such I recommend sticking with high quality source material. Tossing on some music on SoundCloud or Youtube will sound fine, but you’re notice the digital compression right off. Timbre I found overall fairly accurate, though not up to snuff with my baseline, the JVC HA-FXT90, with instruments sounding slightly lighter than they should. Still for the price it’s handled well.
Bass is where the V80 kicks it into high gear. At low volumes it lacks impact and depth, but dial in some volume and it picks up considerably, battling the KZ ED15 for my self-imposed title of “best budget bass”. It is vivid, impactful, and full of dynamic range and texture. You need rumble for that explosion? No problem. Those speedy double bass drums tripping up your other earphones? The V80 is up to the task. Are the Prodigy’s grungy low-fi bass lines lacking texture? Not through the V80 they’re not. The bass presentation here is addictive and will probably have you seeking out tracks to challenge it. For something costing under 40 USD, the quality of bass on tap is impressive.
The V80 is no slouch when it comes to sound stage either. The quad driver setup gives it some excellent layering depth and separation qualities, letting sounds fly between channels with abandon. Imaging accuracy is a step behind the KZ ZS10 and AS10, but easily bests the BGVP DM5 which was vague at best.
If you like to listen loud and favour a vivid signature, the V80 will unquestionably satisfy.
KZ ED15 (<20 USD): The ED15 is a 1+1 hybrid vs. the V80s 2+2 setup, yet they perform similarly. The V80’s treble emphasis is shifted up leading to a brighter and more detailed sound with a cleaner treble presentation and slightly more forward mid-range. Bass on the ED15 still takes the cake, but the V80 comes close. The ED15’s low end digs deeper with more sub-bass presence, is even better controlled, and has even more texture and depth to it. That said, the ED15 is a bit of a one trick pony with it’s slightly loose treble and some invasive sibilance hindering the rest of it’s presentation. Not an issue with the V80. If you like the ED15 and want to upgrade, check out the V80.
In terms of build, the ED15 has it’s own unique shells with nigh flawless fit and finish and a better paint job. Their cables are extremely similar, the ED15’s is fixed and has better strain relief. Still I’d rather it be removable. Comfort will depend on your preferences as I found them equally nice to wear. If you don’t like cable-up designs, you’ll prefer the ED15 since it has a more traditional barrel shaped shell.
KZ ZS6 (<40 USD): The was an obvious comparison since it was KZ who started the budget 2+2 hybrid crazy that everyone seems to be jumping on. In my opinion, they’re still the leaders. Treble on the V80 is more upper focused giving it a more sparkly presentation than you get with the ZS6, but it is also significantly more fatiguing for me. The ZS6’s additional lower treble presence can make it sound a little harsh on some tracks compared to the V80, such as on The Prodigy’s “Beyond the Deathray”, but, I also found this led to an even more detailed and clear presentation. Their lower mid-ranges are similarly emphasized with the V80’s upper mids being less prominent. As a result, I found the ZS6’s vocal presence to be slightly stronger. The V80’s vocals are slightly warmer and less aggressive on the other hand. Bass quantity on the V80 is greater, particularly in the sub-bass regions where the ZS6 starts to trail off. V80 also hits with a bit more authority and has more texture. Overall, I prefer the ZS6 for it’s less fatiguing treble and greater overall signature balance. If only it has the V80’s engaging low end…
Tin Audio T1 (36.90 USD): In contrast to the V80’s high energy sound, the T1 is more mellow and warm. It’s treble is much less emphasized and lacks the extension. The T1 is a much more relaxing listen, though you’re giving up detail and clarity. The T1’s mid-range is more forward and dense and once again gives up detail. Timbre is more accurate though, giving the T1 and more realistic presentation. Bass on the T1 isn’t as urgent or textured as what the V80 outputs, nor does it hit as hard. Sound stage is similar in size, but the T1 lacks the layering and separation and as such comes across less spacious and dynamic. The T1 is definitely better for more relaxed listening and is significantly less fatiguing, but you give up a fair bit of technical ability in the process.
In terms of build, the only issues with the T1 is a lack of strain relief. The machining of it’s metal shells is flawless and the cable is wonderful despite looking so very basic. Comfort goes to the V80 which isn’t nearly as tip reliant. The T1 requires a longer tip and some finagling to find the perfect spot and get a great seal.
TFZ Series 2 (45.00 USD): The Series 2 has a cooler tonality with a more physically forward presentation. The Series 2 is slightly less smooth and refined. Treble on the Series 2 has a more even emphasis on upper and lower regions giving it a little less sparkle and air, but a similar level of clarity and detail. The Series 2’s mid-range is more forward but not quite as detailed and controlled. Bass on the V80 digs deeper, hits harder, has more sub-bass emphasis, and is slightly more textured. The Series 2 has a similarly spacious sound stage but lacks the depth, layering, and separation of the V80. Channel to channel imaging is more precise though. There are aspect of each I really enjoy. Since they sounded so different, I’d say they compliment each other quite well.
The V80’s build is much better. The Series 2’s plastic shells simply look and feel cheap, though TFZ’s implementation of the 2-pin system is better, offering the pins some protection from unwanted movement that could snap them. TFZ’s cable is nicer too. It is more plush and flexible with stiffer, but still flexible, preformed guides that hold the cable in place even more effectively. Comfort is about equal, though I suspect the V80’s slightly smaller shells will offer a better fit within a wider range of ear shapes and sizes.
Budget earphones have come a long way since I first started in the hobby. A few years ago, a 2+2 hybrid for less than a few hundred dollars was pretty much unthinkable. Now? In 2018 we are spoiled for choice for under 50 USD thanks to KZ’s initial push with the ZS5. The cool part? These cheapo multi-driver hybrids often don’t skimp on sound quality or features, like removable cables.
Obviously more drivers doesn’t equal better sound. The components used aren’t high end Knowles or Sonion armatures, and the application of the budget drivers selected often lacks finesse in their tuning. Still, products done well like the V80 are what drive competition and force the market to innovate and move forward. If you can get past the borrowed design and are looking for a well built, comfortable earphone with great isolation and a vibrant, detailed signature, you could do a whole lot worse than to drop 40 USD on the V80. Such as visiting your local Best Buy and spending more!
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)