Tin HiFi T4: Single Dynamics Have Still Got It!
Today we’re checking out another new release from Tin HiFi, the T4.
Back in 2017, a great sounding earphone was released on the world. That earphone was the TinAudio T2. Despite receiving almost unanimously positive feedback, it flew under the radar until a few key hypsters got their hands on it. It has since become a staple recommendation to anyone wanting a well-built, neutral-leaning earphone for under 100 USD. Tin did not rest on their laurels and over the years have developed a handful of excellent followups like the single dynamic T1 and the planar magnetic P1. They rebranded to Tin HiFi, and have become one of the more highly respected Chinese hifi brands.
The T4 is the fifth earphone in the T Series and the culmination of everything Tin HiFi has learned from their past products. Is the T4 yet another outstanding release from Tin HiFi? Yes it is. Let’s look at why, shall we?
What I Hear I’ve been a big fan of Tin HiFi since the original T2 was released. It had a near-neutral signature that was a rarity for the price. The use of dual dynamics was also somewhat of a novelty since at the time, hybrids were still dominating the new release market. The T4 continues the Tin HiFi trend of neutral-bright signatures, but with only a single 10mm dynamic driver powering each side. The use of a carbon nanotube coating is kinda old school too since that was at it’s peak popularity in the early to mid 2010s.
Treble out of the T4 is light and sparkly with plenty of real detail, not just perceived detail because of some elevation in the brilliance region. That said, it has still been dialed back compared to earlier models like the T2 Pro, T3, and P1, and focus resides mostly in the lower treble. When combined with the improved low end performance that we’ll get to later, this makes the T4 the most balanced earphone in Tin’s lineup imo. Notes are lean with tons of air and space between them. This lightness translates into something that feels very nimble and well-controlled, regardless of how busy a track may get, and as such gives the T4 a very snappy presentation. Decay is maybe too quick. Not necessarily accurate, but it results in some impressive technical handling. While I know the treble here will bother some, I find it surprisingly non-fatiguing.
Like its predecessors, the T4 has pretty spectacular mids. They are forward, balanced and linear, have reasonably accurate timbre, and are technically capable. Female vocals turn out slightly cooler than I prefer, but are consistent in presentation with male vocals so neither ends up benefiting more from the T4’s style of tune. Clarity and detail are both above average with the T4 pulling the slightest nuances forward. It’s reasonably analytic, but not tiring in the process. As noted, timbre is fairly accurate but ends up making instruments sound slightly brighter than is correct. Still, it works in the context of the overall tune and minimal warmth injected into the overall sound presentation.
Bass is the aspect of the T4 I’m most impressed with when comparing to past Tin HiFi earphones. Extension is excellent and while sub-bass isn’t strongly emphasized and doesn’t overwhelm, it still gives off a proper rumble. Midbass is lean but extremely detailed and well-textured. It is fairly punchy for the most part, only occasionally lacking impact. It is very fast too and never drags it’s feet on rapid basslines, resulting in some of the most articulate and well-defined bass I’ve heard from in a single dynamic. Texture and detail is another positive, with the sort of grungy, low-res basslines your hear in tracks by The Prodigy and Malibu Ken coming out as offensively trashy as they’re supposed to.
When it comes to soundstage and related abilities, the T4’s weaknesses show. The soundstage itself is satisfyingly large with songs playing just around your head by default. Effects are effectively tossed off into the distance thanks to the width available. Depth is a bit more on the average side. More than workable since tracks still sound layered and there are no issues with instruments and effects blending together and losing their separation. But alas, now we come to imaging. This is where the T4 is a let down. While sound unquestionably moves from channel to channel, the process lacks precision and definition. Sounds sort of fade from one channel while becoming louder in the other, but without the impression of movement that usually accommodates that process. This was painfully obvious listening to BT’s ethereal “If The Stars Are Eternal Then So Are You And I”.
Imaging issues aside, this is to my ears the best earphone Tin HiFi has released to date. While it still retains the neutral-bright signature I have come to associate with the brand, brightness has been toned down and sub-bass improved both in terms of extension and emphasis. Where the T3 improved on everything I disliked about the T2 Pro, the T4 does a good job of tackling the T2s foibles.
Compared to a Peer (volumes matched with Dayton Audio iMM-6)
KB EAR Diamond (79.00 USD): Bass out of the T4 is notably less prominent, but slightly more impressive in my opinion. Like the Diamond it hits low notes with ease, but holds back the mid-bass and dials up the texture and speed. The T4’s driver gives off the impression of being exceptionally light and nimble, and feels like it runs circles around the Diamond when it comes to complex passages. That said, I can see the more weighty, thumpy presentation of the Diamond finding more fans because it’s a straight up more fun way to tune a low end. The T4’s mids are smoother and more refined. Upper and lower balance is improved benefiting both male and female vocals. Clarity is also a step up. Lastly, in my opinion, timbre also sounds more natural out of the T4. I was very surprised to find the T4 had less upper treble energy than the Diamond, with lower treble being similarly emphasized. Normally that would put the Diamond right into my preference crosshairs, but the midbass ends up being too distracting. The T4 also has better note control and is free of the slight splashiness present in the Diamond. Lastly, sound stage sits firmly in the T4’s favour with it being much more spacious all around. However, it has vague imaging with limited channel to channel differentiation that doesn’t hold a candle to the Diamond. Layering and separation are more in line though.
The T4 is definitely my preferred listen of the two thanks to it’s more balanced tune and all the extra detail it provides. Can’t help but be disappointed by the imaging though which the Diamond does much, much better.
In terms of build, the T4 is smaller, lighter, doesn’t isolate as well, is less comfortable, and has better fit and finish. I think the Diamond has a more appealing design though, and feels like the more premium product. A big part of that is the cable. The T4’s cable sucks. It is sticky, bouncy, and the loose braid is sloppy and gives the impression of cost cutting. Very similar to the P1’s cable, but worse due to the stickiness. Bleh…
Moondrop Starfield (109.00 USD): Bass on the Starfield is a little heavier and warmer with similar extension. The T4 is more textured and faster handling rapid notes even better, but like the Starfield can lack impact at times. The T4’s midrange is more forward with more upper mid emphasis. It has a cooler tonality and less accurate timbre as a result. Clarity and detail are similar with the T4 having a very slight edge. While neither earphone adds sibilance to a track, it’s more prominent through the T4. Overall a much less forgiving midrange than the Starfields is. Treble out of the T4 is more prominent from lower to upper giving it’s presentation extra energy and sparkle. Attack and decay are snappier than they are out of the Starfield giving it a more analytic feel. Sound stage is pretty even between the two with the Starfield’s less forward mids giving the impression of a more distant and rounded stage. The T4 can toss effects further away despite a more intimate starting point. Imaging is notably more nuanced out of the Starfield while both provide excellent layering and separation.
I’ll give the Starfield a slight edge in overall sound quality due to the T4’s mediocre imaging, but otherwise they trade blow for blow and are both outstanding earphones. Go with the T4 if you like a more neutral leaning sound, and the Starfield if you prefer some extra low end and general warmth.
In terms of build, both are great. The T4’s design isn’t as eye catching but fit and finish is better, and since it features bare metal, you won’t have to worry about paint chips as seems to be an issue for some with the Starfield. While I like MMCX connectors, the T4’s have too much play and feel nowhere near as secure as the Starfield’s excellent recessed 0.78mm 2-pin ports. The Starfield’s cable is also nicer.
While the T4’s cable is thicker and has a nice chin cinch, it’s also quite bouncy and sticky. The Starfield’s cable is light and lean and rarely gets in the way. Both have well-designed preformed ear guides.
In The Ear Modern earphones have really stepped things up in the build quality game. There are sub-20 USD earphones out there with full metal shells and a level of fit and finish that pretty easily shame pricier gear, without resorting to a generic design or shell that is shared with various other brands and products (see BGVP YSP04). The T4 is a good example of this with bare, polished aluminum shells that have taken inspiration from automotive and aviation realms. Fit and finish is excellent with a design that incorporates seams in a way that they are naturally hidden. My only complaint about the build centres around the MMCX ports. With the cable connected, there is a fair bit of play and I worry about longevity. I’d be totally okay with Tin HiFi moving over to a 2-pin design for future products.
Well, I guess I can complain about the cable too. In my opinion it’s a big step back for the brand. While it features quality materials, the sheath is loosely wound like it was on the P1. It makes the cable look somewhat sloppy and feels like they cut some corners to save on manufacturing costs since there is quite a bit less material being uses. The sheath is also quite bouncy AND sticky. The worst of all worlds really. Outside of the nice metal hardware, useful chin cinch, and well-formed ear guides, there isn’t much I like about this cable at all.
Even though the general barrel-like shape of the earphone doesn’t stray far from other models in the T Series, Tin HiFi did make at least one major change that improves the overall wearing experience, and that is their use of aluminum. The T4 is light. Almost worryingly so upon first grasp. When I took them out of the package for the first time the feathery weight came as a shock compared to its predecessors. It felt kinda cheap to be honest. However, pull out a past T Series model and you find that the T4 is just as solid, though the latter model’s matte finish is more appealing in my opinion. The turbofan texturing on the back adds some cool factor missing from the notably more plain T2, and to a lesser extent the T3 as well. Back to the point; the low weight combined with very similar ergonomics to the T2 and T3 fixes some of the stability issues with those models. The T4 is still somewhat reliant on your tip choice for a consistent and reliable seal that isn’t affected by movement, just not to the extent of past models.
Isolation is below average, which could be attributed to the ample ventilation and shallow fit. I’m guessing the aluminum shells are quite thin too, a decision that would help keep the weight as low as it is. Using them as earplugs with no music playing, I can go about my day more or less normally, only having to remove the earphones once in a while to hear something I missed. Tossing on foam tips helps, but still doesn’t make the T4 suitable for use in very noisy areas. With music playing things fare better, but I still wouldn’t be inclined to pick these up for a bus ride. A study session at the library or walk through the park would be more appropriate.
In The Box In the past Tin HiFi has shipped their earphones in some pretty unique packages. The blue book-like cases that came with the T2, T2 Pro, and T3 were like nothing else on the market. The T4’s packaging is nice, no doubt, but isn’t anything we haven’t seen elsewhere.
The matte black box has Tin HiFi and T4 branding and model information printed on the front in gold lettering, while various Tin HiFi logos can be found in white around the sides. Lifting off the lid you’re greeted to the T4 ear pieces set within a foam insert, with a snazzy new leatherette case down a little further. Lifting out the upper foam insert reveals a slew of tips. In all you get:
- T4 earphones
- Silver-plated MMCX cable (0.03/63C+200D enamelled wire*1C+0.08/28C silver-plated enamelled winding)
- Leatherette carrying case
- Foam tips (m)
- White single flange silicone tips (s/m/l)
- Grey single flange silicone tips (s/m/l)
Overall a pleasant but uninspired unboxing. The included accessories are excellent with high quality tips. The darker set appears to be the same as those included with the Moondrop Starfield which is kinda cool. Durable, well sealing, and comfortable. The case is the highlight though. It’s a bit too large to fit in most pockets, but the weight and clean construction makes up for it. It both looks and feels expensive, much more premium than it needs to be for a product in this price range.
Final Thoughts Let’s get the bad out of the way first; imaging quality is sorely lacking, the cable needs to be replaced asap, and isolation is minimal at best. Other than that, the T4 is amazing. The light weight aluminum housings improve fit over the similarly shaped T2 and T3, and the turbofan inspired backing looks pretty slick. While the general signature follows the Tin HiFi trend of neutral-bright, upper treble has been toned down and lower bass enhanced. Detail and clarity are above average for the segment. All of this results in what I think is the most balanced and capable earphone in their lineup. It’ll be joining the Moondrop Starfield as one of my benchmark products for around 100 USD.
Nicely done yet again Tin HiFi, and thanks for reading!
Disclaimer Thanks to Lillian with Linsoul audio for arranging a sample of the T4 for the purposes of review. The thoughts within this review are my subjective opinions based on nearly two months of time spent with the T4. They do not represent Linsoul, Tin HiFi, or any other entity. At the time of writing the T4 was retailing for 109.00 USD: https://www.linsoul.com/pages/tin-hifi-t4
- Driver: 10mm Carbon Nanotube Dynamic Driver
- Impedance: 32Ω ±15%
- Sensitivity: 102 ±3dB @1kHz 0.126v
- Frequency Response: 10Hz-20KHz
- Max Distortion: 1% @1kHz, 0.126v
Devices Used For Testing LG G6, LG Q70, Asus FX53V, TEAC HA-501, ifi hip dac, Shanling M0, Hifiman MegaMini
The T4 was easy to drive so there is no need for an amp, HOWEVER, tossing it on something more capable than a basic phone or DAP did help VERY slightly with imaging.
Some Test Tunes
Supertramp – Crime of the Century
Slipknot – Vol 3 (The Subliminal Verses)
Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid
King Crimson – Lark’s Tongues in Aspic
King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black
Infected Mushroom – Legend of the Black Shawarma
The Prodigy – The Day is My Enemy
Steely Dan – The Royal Scam
Porcupine Tree – Stupid Dreams