TinHiFi P1: Evolution
Today we’re checking out TinHiFi’s newest release, the P1.
Back in October of 2017, TinHiFi (previously known as TinAudio) quietly took over the budget scene with the T2. It was a dual-dynamic earphone and it’s combination of low price, outstanding build quality, and one of the closest things to neutral without being deathly boring won over a crowd infatuated with hybrids and flashy specs. Since then TinHiFi has released a number of products in the T1, T2, T2 Pro, and T3, all of which were well received, some more than others. Their strong lineup of sub 100 USD earphones has kept them relevant, and to some, a leader in a very competitive segment.
The P1 is not only their first earphone over 100 USD, but also their first to move away from traditional dynamic and balanced armature driver tech. The P1 features a single 10mm planar magnetic driver per side. While that’s pretty cool, TinHiFi is not the first to bring planar tech to the earphone market, though I do suspect they’ll have been the most successful to date. Other brands have done it with varied levels of success, such as RHA with the CL2 and Toneking with the BL1. There are a handful of other examples out there if you take the time to hunt them down, all of which seem to have some critical flaw you either need to live with, or work around via EQ or some other method.
Let’s take a closer look at the P1 and why I think this is a standout product in the sub-200 USD market.
Thank you to Lillian with Linsoul Audio for arranging a sample of the P1 for the purposes of review. The thoughts here are my own subjective opinions based on time listening to the P1. They do not represent TinHiFi, Linsoul Audio, or any other entity. The P1 will be releasing on June 20th at an introductory price of 149.00 USD. MSRP will be 169.00 USD.
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 or Zishan DSD paired with the Periodic Audio Nickel amp
@home: ZiShan DSD or Asus FX53V laptop plugged into a TEAC HA-501 desktop amp
While it’s sensitivity hints at it being a bit more power hungry than some earphones, it doesn’t tell the whole story. The P1 is a very hungry little earphone and requires a ton of power to get up to volume. Amping is absolutely necessary in my experience, unless you’ve got a stupidly powerful DAP available.
- Driver: 10mm planar magnetic driver
- Impedance: 20 ohms
- Sensitivity: 96 +/- 3dB
- Rated Power: 5mW
- Max Power: 10mW
- Frequency Response: 10Hz to 40kHz
- Cable: 1.2m mixed braided (5N OFC and copper alloy) with MMCX
Packaging and Accessories:
TinHiFi did a great job with the P1’s packaging, providing an experience reminiscent of something you get from much more premium brands. The P1 arrives in a large matte black box with a matte black sheath covering it. The overall design is quite subtle with minimal branding and information printed on both the sheath and main packaging. Sliding the sheath off and opening the lid reminded me of the HiFiMAN RE2000 unboxing. While Tin’s packaging is plain cardboard vs. the faux leather of the RE2000’s box, it’s no less impressive. The lid is restricted in the amount it can open thanks to a black ribbon. The entirety of the interior of the package is lined with a smooth fabric, imprinted with the TinHiFi logo and website. The P1’s ear pieces and leatherette carrying case are set within a foam insert lined with the same smooth fabric lining the rest of the interior. Lifting out the insert you find a simple manual. In all you get:
- P1 earphones
- 1.2m mixed braided (5N OFC and copper alloy) with MMCX cable
- Leatherette carrying case
- Single flange, wide bore tips (s/m/l)
- Single flange, medium bore tips (s/m/l)
- Foam tips (s/m)
- Velcro cable tie
Overall a decent kit. The tips are nothing special in terms of design or materials. I have plenty others like them and find they do a fine job. They’re durable and provide a reliable seal. The carrying case is quite nice and reminds me of the one Astrotec recently included with the Lyra Nature. It looks good, is spacious, and magnetically seals, though it’s not the most pocketable.
Lastly, I do have one issue and that is levied at the foam insert holding the ear pieces. Both on this P1 and a previous version received, the earphones were loose and rattling around inside the box when I first opened it. They sit too loosely in the foam insert and fall out with little movement. I can see this resulting in damaged or scratched products being delivered to customers and as such is something that should be rectified ASAP.
Build, Comfort, and Isolation:
The P1 uses food-grade, hand-polished 305 stainless steel for the earpieces. Fit and finish is outstanding with the two sandwiched components that make up each side fitting together tightly and with minimal seams. Even the MMCX port out the top is integrated with minor seams. On the face of each earpiece is a unpolished triangular indent giving the design some contrast. It looks nice, but gives off the impression it was modelled after the face of a golf club. Perched in the pointiest end of the triangular depression is a pinhole vent. One more vent can be found near the laser etched L and R markers on the inner face of each earpiece, right near the bass of the nozzle. The nozzle itself protrudes at around a 45 degree angle and is slightly wider than what I consider average at around 5.5mm. A small lip is present just below the end of the nozzle and does a good job of holding tips in place. Lastly, the nozzle is protected by a stainless steel grill so you don’t have to worry about earwax or grime finding it’s way inside.
The mixed 5N OFC and copper alloy braided cable is a nice inclusion. The clear sheath puts the copper coloured wiring within on full display and is very flexible and memory resistant, though the exceptionally loose braid below the y-split speaks of cost cutting. It takes a fair bit less material to make a 1.2m cable with a loose braid than it does with a tight one. This is one of the reasons I prefer the T3’s cable, though in the P1’s favour each strand is a hint thicker. At least the rest of the hardware is quality stuff. The 3.5mm straight jack is nearly the same as that used on the T3’s cable with the silver carbon fibre look swapped out for black. The y-split is a simple metal cylinder filled with plastic within which the cable splits off into two twisted strands per side. Strain relief is unfortunately absent, though the bead-like chin cinch makes a return. It’s a bit smaller and less obvious this time around which I like. The MMCX plugs are again nearly identical to those used on the T3, though the knurling is a hint deeper, and the taper at the top a bit longer. Colour coding is present with red and clear plastic bands at the base of each plug denoting the right and left channels respectively. Lastly, preformed ear guides are present. I quite like the angle and how tightly they cling to the cable. I find loosely applied preformed guides occasionally make crinkling sounds when the cable bends, as experienced on the T3’s cable and some third party cables from HiFiHear.
When it comes to comfort, the P1 is outstanding. Sure, the steel housings have some heft to them but they are surprisingly small and free of sharp edges or unusual shapes that could cause hotspots or discomfort. The straight MMCX plugs also fit in well with the design pushing the cable up and around the ear at a natural angle keeping the cable from positioning itself in a way that rubs uncomfortably against your helix. While they will be a little cold on first touch if using them in chilly weather, I suspect that is about the only discomfort you’ll experience with the P1.
The P1 has very good isolation. Without music playing and a video playing in the background at my standard listening volume, not much beyond some muffled vocals gets through. The same can be said for use outside in the real world, like a noisy coffee shop. The P1 does an oddly good job of muffling high and low sounds, with cloudy vocals being about the only thing that cuts through.
Tips: The P1 seems to be pretty tip sensitive. Wide bore tips (ex. Stock set, JVC, etc.) were not my favourite option as they reduced the already reasonably reserved sub-bass presence. Small bore tips, like Sony Hybrids, softened the treble a touch and brought up the mid-bass making the experience slightly warmer. Medium bore tips (ex. Stock set, RHA Dual Density, etc) were my preferred option. They provided a balanced sound with just enough sub-bass presence to satisfy while doing little to alter mid-bass or treble. Foam tips also sounded great with a presentation similar to small bore tips, but with added sub-bass.
TinHiFi does a great job of bringing neutral leaning signatures to the budget segment. Bass is well controlled but generally reserved. Mids are forward and clear. Treble is slightly (and in one case significantly) boosted to add excitement and energy. Sound stage is well spaced and airy. The P1 tweaks the TinHiFi formula resulting in their most balanced and accomplished earphone to date.
It wasn’t always like that though. A few short weeks ago a P1 arrived. While I was excited to put them through their paces, it didn’t take long to realize there was something off. Kinda how I felt about another planar earphone I reviewed back in November of last year. What was off? Upper midrange and lower treble. Everything was completely veiled resulting in a product that had the worst clarity in Tin’s existing lineup. Not good considering this was to be their new flagship.
Feedback was passed along to TinHiFi from a number of us lucky early reviewers, of which mine included the EQ settings I used to fix the midrange, and shortly thereafter news was passed back that the P1 was held off in favour of a quick retune. I suspected that wouldn’t be something TinHiFi could apply overnight, but only a week later a new P1 arrived. I cracked open the packaging expecting more of the same. Apparently TinHiFi can completely rework the sound of an earphone overnight because version two of this product is phenomenal.
I suspect this is a story TinHiFi wouldn’t want shared, but in my opinion it is one that needs to be told. Unlike some companies, they did not go ahead and release a flawed product then issue a silent revision later on down the road, or worse, leave it be. No, they listened to the feedback provided, made the necessary changes, and as a result all of their customers are getting a better product the first time around. So, major kudos to TinHiFi. Seriously. Okie dokie, onto how this thing actually sounds.
Treble is well extended without any significant roll off. For the most part brilliance and presence regions are fairly well balanced with the presence region seeing a mild hump. This results in an earphone that is quite detailed and clear, but not harsh and tiring. Some of the laser-like effects present in Tobacco’s “Berries That Burn” are quite sharp. Even at the relatively low volumes at which I typically listen (60-65dB, 80dB if I feel like “letting loose”), this song can be tiring. The P1’s treble is tuned just right to take off the edge without sacrificing clarity and detail. Decay is also quick. Not quite typical BA quick, but faster than all but the snappiest dual magnet dynamic based earphones I’ve used. This earphone has no issues with upper range congestion on tracks rich with treble.
The P1’s midrange went from it’s worst aspect to it’s best as a result of TinHiFi’s tuning adjustment. What was once horribly veiled and extremely disappointing is now crystal clear and completely coherent. Both male and female vocalists are well represented with female and softer male vocalists getting a little more love, as evidenced listening to Muse and Big Grams’ “Born to Shine” and “Run For Your Life”. Sarah’s vocals are a bit warmer and sweeter with a touch more body than what you hear from her male counterparts. Other instruments fare well, such as the heavy guitar riffs and high pitched guitar solo on Havok’s “Covering Fire”. That said, guitars could benefit from some additional attack and anger. Piano’s fare even better with a more natural weight and tone. This makes the opening of Muse’s “Exogenesis Symphony Part 2: Cross Pollination” an absolute joy.
Bass on the P1 is good but not amazing. While extension is there the sub-bass lacks emphasis. While there is some physicality to it, it’s less than I like. This leaves the somewhat punchy mid-bass region to carry the torch and while it does an admirable job, texture is also smoother than is preferred. As such, the grungy basslines oft used by Tobacco and The Prodigy lose some of the intended rawness. Speed is quick with the P1 handling the rapid bass present in a lot of metal songs, but it can’t quite match the rapidity of most armatures. It’s speed is alike that of the dual magnet drivers used by TFZ, but without the bass quantity or depth. Note that you can improve the sub-bass presence by blocking the inner vent, though the difference is fairly minimal.
When it comes to sound stage, the P1 doesn’t disappoint either. It doesn’t provide the cavernous experience of the old Havi B3 Pro I, but it’s far from intimate. Width and depth felt equally present to my ears and whether I was watching John Wick or wrecking fools (more like getting wrecked…) in World of Tanks, the P1 did a killer job of immersing me in the experience. A big part of this was it’s impressive channel to channel imaging which is precise and accurate, as well as it’s ability to provide very definitive layers to music and other audio tracks. Everything comes across quite organic and natural in the way depth is perceived. Separation is very good too, though I prefer how it is handled by some of the better multi-driver earphones I’ve used.
Select Comparisons (volume matched using Dayton iMM-6):
TinHiFi T3 (69.99 USD): The T3 has a brighter, more aggressive presentation with more heavily emphasized upper and lower treble. The T3’s armature pumps out a little more detail at the expense of control with cymbal strikes coming across less well defined. The T3’s mid-range is similarly emphasized but lacks weight and body in the vocals that are present in the P1. This gives the T3’s mids more air and space, but it sounds less natural with vocals. I prefer the T3’s leaner presentation with guitars though. They have a more aggressive edge which is lacking on the P1 making it less suitable for metal and rock genres when compared to the T3. The P1’s tonality and timbre are more accurate otherwise. Bass on the P1 has a heavier feel and greater emphasis. Mid-bass is more prominent aiding in the overall warmer tone it has when compared to the T3. Texture and speed comes across as superior on the T3. While sub-bass extension is similar the T3 provides a slightly more visceral experience. Sound stage on both is quite good though the P1 is clearly superior. The P1’s default listening position sets the listener slightly further from the performance. The P1 can toss effects further away, and with a greater and more accurate sense of depth and movement. This also helps with it’s layering which is outstanding. Separation is also above average, though I’m giving the T3 the nod thanks to it’s leaner presentation which keep notes even more defined.
The T3 and P1 are both exceptionally well built. I’ll give the edge to the T3 though. The design is more complicated and interesting, with fit and finish that is no less impressive. TinHiFi knows how to put together a quality product. The bleeds over to the cable too. As noted earlier, I prefer the T3’s cable. The tighter braid and extra material combined with similar hardware makes it feel a bit more premium in my opinion. That said, the P1 cable’s copper colouring looks better than the white and gold of the T3’s cable.
Overall I’m torn on which I prefer. Pitting the T3 against the P1 just shows off how good it is, but it also comes across more analytic and worse off as an all-rounder. The P1 is nicer to listen to for longer periods, feels more versatile, and while it isn’t better in every way which might disappoint some, the final package gives off a greater sense of completeness and tuning maturity.
BGVP DMS (159.00 USD): The DMS has a similar level of treble emphasis as the P1, though without the same expert balance. While fairly even, it eschews some upper treble emphasis for added lower. This gives it a drier tonality that drops some of the pleasing sparkle present in the P1. The DMS’ midrange also takes on a less organic tone, and with a touch less weight to vocals and instruments, though timbre is near equally good. Clarity and detail are also quite similar with the P1 having a very slight edge. Not sure which presentation I prefer. Bass is where the two really separate. The DMS is notably bassier with additional mid-bass and sub-bass. Mid-bass is punchier and sub-bass extends deeper and with a much more visceral feel. Texture is similarly satisfying on both. Could be better, could be much worse. Speed seems about similar with the DMS’s dynamic driver having a longer decay time. Sound stage on both is excellent with the DMS coming across slightly more confined thanks to it’s more intimate default position of the listener. Imaging is tighter and more accurate on the P1 though the the DMS rivals it pretty easily in layering and betters the P1 in separation.
Like the P1, the DMS has a metal shell. Unlike the P1, the DMS’ shell is aluminum. It has tight seams too, but you can see lines from the machining whereas all that is smoothed over on the P1. The P1’s build feels more polished (no pun intended), whereas the DMS’ is unquestionably more interesting thanks to all the curves and prominent vents. I have a soft spot for the DMS’ cable given the old school flavour, but I can’t deny the P1’s more premium materials and design.
Due to the differences in the low end, these two satisfy different crowds. When I want the technical competence with some extra low end grunt, the P1 cannot satisfy the same way the DMS does, even with the vent mod. But, if I want that lighter bass response and overall tuning balance, the DMS cannot do what the P1 can without busting out the EQ. After directly comparing the two, I lean towards the DMS due to my preferences for electronic music. However, I know could go either way depending on my mood. They’re both head of the class imo.
Shozy & Neo CP (165.00 USD): Despite their vastly different driver tech, the CP and P1 are tuned quite similarly. Treble on both is similarly emphasized and balanced but I find the CP smoother and better controlled. The CP’s midrange is a touch thicker, warmer, and not quite as forward. Clarity is slightly worse out of the CP’s armatures while matching the P1 in terms of timbre and tonality. Neither has game changing bass but I find the P1’s more satisfying. The CP has a mid-bass focus and rolls off in the sub-bass earlier. While notes have a bit more punch through the CP, deep notes are mostly lost and lack the visceral rumble of the P1, however tame it still is through that earphone. Sound stage is larger on the P1 which has a wider, deeper presentation. Imaging is equally impressive on both. While the P1 is a hint more layered, the CP takes the freshly baked separation cake home with it.
The CP and P1 couldn’t be more different in build and materials; steel vs. acrylic. Both are great examples in their respective fields, but the CP does what it does better. There are few earphones that can match the perfection of the CP’s construction, both inside and out. It’s cable is nicer too. While the MMCX plugs look to have been provided by the same source, and maybe the straight jack too, the y-split is thicker and more ornate. The wiring itself is about the same gauge but is more tightly wound (but still loose) and more flexible.
Once again, choosing between these earphones is a harrowing experience. They’re both wicked good. The CP is a little smoother and more intimate with technical capabilities that are just as good. The P1 is larger and more open sounding with a more satisfying low end, but isn’t quite as refined sounding. I think the P1’s more spacious presentation and low end extension would win me over in the long run though.
The P1 provides a very premium experience for not a lot of money. From the gorgeous packaging with it’s classy presentation and soft touch interior, to the top of the line build, to the balanced sound signature that does everything at the very least well, the P1 shows itself to be a fantastic all-round package free of any significant flaws. As a result of the consistency in positive experiences, the P1 is a top tier pick in it’s price range.
Are there improvements I would make? Sure, though none to the sound (well, sub-bass presence could be bumped up a bit) since the final product ended up remarkably similar to what the original sounded like with EQing in place to address the issues. I would like to see TinHiFI revise the packaging to better hold the ear pieces in place. Nothing is worse than getting a damaged product, even if it is something as simple as a small scratch or mark. I would also like to see a cable with a tighter braid. The existing cable is fine and better than most, but the cheaper T3 has an arguably nicer cable in my opinion. If they could make it more sensitive without hindering performance, that might be a worthwhile change too. The P1 is currently a very challenging to drive earphone. Cell phone users and those with basic DAPS won’t get much out of the P1 without an amp.
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)