TinHiFi T5: Missed the Memo?

Greetings!

Today we’re checking out TinHiFi’s newest entry into their ever popular T-Series of earphones.

TinHiFi’s claim to fame is the original T2, a reference quality dual-dynamic earphone that didn’t break the bank. Since it’s release in 2017 put them on the map, TinHiFi’s lineup has been fleshed out with a wide variety of products, some great like the T2+, some lacking like the true wireless T2000.

When the T5 was announced, I was pumped for the gorgeous new shell design, the move to a 2-pin system, and the inclusion of super stiff DOC single dynamic drivers. It sounded like it was going to be a killer release. Since I wasn’t expecting the opportunity to review it, I scoped the usual suspects once reviews dropped and was shocked to see it being almost universally panned. Once that happened, I knew I needed to hear it for myself and reached out to TinHiFi to see if they would be willing to provide a sample. You’re reading this so you know how that went.

I’ve had it in hand and in the ear since early May with listening interspersed with a variety of much more expensive, top of the line products. Clearly I missed some important anti-T5 memo sent to my peers because the T5 is absolutely fantastic. Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

What I Hear Bass from the T5 is sub-bass biased with a lean mid-bass region. This leaves it with a cooler tonality. It has plenty of snap and attack to notes and if quite nimble and quick, easily tackling Havok’s ‘Time Is Up’ album with ease. Texturing is good but not class leading with grungy notes from The Prodigy and Tobacco being satisfactorily replicated. A bit more grit would be nice, but then it would probably end up being even more polarizing so this is fine. Quantity is certainly above neutral, but far from basshead, or even bass-focused. If you’re familiar with the T4 or T2 Plus, expect a presentation in line with those, but with less mid-bass.

The lower midrange is pretty much in line with the low end in terms of emphasis, with a prominent rise in the upper mids. While this boost does result in a strong presence for rhythm instruments that some will undoubtedly find fatiguing, this is right up my alley and in line with what I enjoy from other upper-mid boosted iems like the Moondrop SSR/SSP, Meze 12 Classics V2, Meze Rai Solo, among others. I love the way vocals are clear and prominent with amazing clarity and coherence, though deeper vocalists come across more natural. Those with a softer, warmer tonality would benefit from a mid-bass boost the added warmth that would bring.

With a presence region bias that gives the T5 it’s near class leading clarity and detail, you’d be excused for thinking they’d kill the brilliance region. Nope. A mild 7k peak is present giving the T5 plenty of sparkle and shimmer to go along with all that detail. The lean note weight present in the low end of course carries through to this region too which results in plenty of air and space between notes. The T5 is also plenty speedy in this region with notes hitting hard and decaying fairly quickly. I have no issues tossing King Crimson’s various, improvisation-heavy, jazz-addled tracks at it. Given all the emphasis going on up here, know this is a bright earphone. If you don’t like the sound of that, this one probably isn’t for you and you’d be better off with Dunu’s SA3, the Moondrop Starfield, or even BGVP’s underappreciated DMS.

When it comes to sound stage, I’m quite satisfied with the T5. Wider and deeper than average, it can very easily surround you with your music. Vocals have a semi-intimate default location, sitting just outside the inner ear. This still leaves room for closed in moments like the trailing vocals of Culprate’s “Undefined” to sidle over uncomfortably close, and for the sounds of shells ricocheting off a tank’s hull to careen off into the distance when playing World of Tanks. It’s also awesome with film since you can become completely immersed in the impressive sound design of most modern epics. When it comes to technical qualities, the T5 doesn’t lead the pack, but it’s far from a slacker. Imaging is reasonably smooth with it’s channel-to-channel movements, lacking the precision of multi-driver models like the BQEYZ Summer and Brainwavz B400. The wonderful depth of the staging allows layered tracks to appropriately space out, and for individual instruments to remain well-separated. At really high volumes these qualities falter somewhat, but you shouldn’t be listening that loud anyway. Unless of course you don’t care a bout your future hearing. In that case, go wild.

Overall, a pretty damn awesome earphone. Intoxicating sub-bass, amazing detail and clarity, and a spacious sound stage serve it well, while the general brightness and lack of warmth will turn some off. This is one I use all the time, so clearly none of those subjective negatives are of a concern to me.

Compared To A Peer (volumes matched with a Dayton iMM-6)

BQEYZ Summer (129.00 USD): The single-dynamic T5 has less bass emphasis with a more linear transition into the lower mids than the tribrid Summer. It sounds less meaty, cooler, and more lean than the notably bassier Summer. The T5 comes across a bit speedier with similar texturing. The midrange of the Summer peaks just before 2k then slowly tapers down as you head into the treble whereas the T5 peaks around 2.5k then remains fairly even in emphasis until you slip into the presence region. These differences result in the T5 being considerably more detailed and crisp, but it comes at the expense of note weight and some realism. The Summer’s timbre and vocal reproduction are more full-bodied and natural. Treble on the two is quite different with the T5’s presence region bias giving it a huge advantage in detail retrieval and general clarity. The Summer pulls this regions back in favour of a ~7k treble peak resulting in a more sparkly but distant presentation. Both earphones have a good sound stage with the T5’s coming across deeper and more layered. Imaging is a touch tighter on the Summer, but they’re both quite competent.

Overall I find both extremely enjoyable, though the T5 fits in more with my preferences for less bass and an upper mid push. I also appreciate the smattering of detail it outputs, though the Summer isn’t a slouch by any means. If you prefer a thicker, warmer, bassier, more natural presentation, the Summer will be the better choice.

Dunu SA3 (139.99 USD): Bass from the SA3 has a slower, thicker feel to it with a more linear and even run from sub- to upper-bass regions. It lacks the visceral feedback on the deepest of notes, and isn’t quite as nimble nor competent with congested passages. Heading into the mids the SA3 peaks earlier around 1.75k with a soft transition into a minor 3k peak, after which things take a strong drop into the treble region. In comparison, the T5 peaks later, around 2.5k, then continues to rise in emphasis as we head into the treble. This gives it a leaner, brighter presentation with a much snappier attack than the SA3, in addition to much more crisp and clear vocals. While timbre on neither is perfect, the SA3 gets the nod. While both products place a focus on the presence region over the brilliance region, the T5’s ~5k peak happens about 15dB higher than the SA3’s, which is also more of a mild plateau than a peak. Peaks occur again around 7k, with the T5’s occurring a mere 10dB higher this time. These two vastly different presentations give each earphone their own unique presentations. The T5 is quite a bit more vibrant and detailed with technical chops the SA3 can’t match. These technical advantages carry over to the T5’s sound stage which is considerably wider and deeper. Thanks to the improved layering and separation qualities of the T5, the SA3 falls behind on congested tracks leaving it better suited to less complicated passages. Imaging on the SA3 is similar, with precise enough channel-to-channel movements.

Overall I much prefer the T5. I like a bright, vibrant earphone with prominent upper mids and the T5 is just that. While it’s not as natural sounding or relaxing over long listening sessions, the T5’s technical advantages are too much to ignore, as swapping between the two leaves my wholly underwhelmed with the SA3. If you prefer a more relaxing sound, obviously the SA3 will be a better choice for you.

In The Ear The T5 features a completely new shell design for the brand, and I’m completely on board. Gone is the awkward over ear bullet design of past T-Series models (T2 Plus excepted). In place of this is an extremely well thought out, highly ergonomic low profile design that makes this TinHiFi’s best shell yet, in my humble opinion of course.

As is standard for the brand, build quality is quite good. The aluminum shells are very neatly crafted with smooth curves, a clean, brushed face plate and subtle branding. On the inner sides of each ear piece are laser etched left and right indicators. Up top are deeply recessed ports to accommodate a 0.78mm 2-pin system. I’m very glad Tin has decided to move away from MMCX with this model since so many customers have had problems with it in the past. Fit and finish is generally quite good with just the slightest misalignment of the main components leaving the otherwise extremely tight seams more pronounced than they otherwise would be. It’s nothing that will cause any discomfort, it’s just not perfection. I can forgive a brand for falling short of perfection.

The cable is another winner in my opinion. It reminds me of the types of cables TFZ and TRN include with some of their products, but without the sticky, bouncy sheath of the former, and annoying memory of bends and twists inherent to the latter. Advertising likes to pitch the Kevlar plating that should in theory help with overall durability, but who really knows since the T5 hasn’t been out that long. Strain relief is minimal at best with a small, but fairly soft relief present at the straight jack, none present at the y-split, and preformed guides carrying double duty leading into the earpieces. That Kevlar will have it’s work cut out for it if it’s going to keep this cable alive at the typical failure points. Sheath aside, the hardware TinHiFi uses is excellent. The straight jack is surrounding in two bands of fine knurling which not only looks nice, but provides plenty of grip. The tiny metal y-split has the TinHiFi logo laser-etched into it so it won’t wear off over time. I can overlook the lack of relief since they opted to include a chin cinch. While it’s a little more loose than I prefer, and can be forced out of position with relative ease, it works well enough to warrant being included. Last but not least, the tiny metal 2-pin plugs have the channels marked with L/R and colour coded plastics, meaning there is no excuse for a user to plug them in incorrectly. Overall an awesome cable in use, but boring to look at thanks to the plain black sheath and tight twist that must be looked at up close to truly appreciate. Not a cable I’ll be swapping out anytime soon.

Comfort is where the T5 is a step over everything else TinHiFi has released in the past, at least for me. The size will be a hurdle for this with smaller ears, but for everyone else it should be just right. It has soft curves, a short nozzle, and excellent weight distribution, all qualities that result in a product that can be worn for long periods without any discomfort. I have used the T5 for hours on end multiple times without any need to adjust the fit or take a break due to physical discomfort. It also isolates really quite well with the included tips, silicone or otherwise. I have no issues using it out and about in loud areas, though when using silicone tips a slight bump in volume is needed around construction sites and screaming children.

In The Box The T5 comes in a large, vibrant white, textured box. One neat detail that will likely be overlooked is the embossed TinHiFi logo pattern that makes up the texturing. On the front of the package you find the usual branding and model information. Flipping to the back you won’t find a list of contents, specifications, measurements, or much information at all really. Beyond some QR codes for their website and social media platforms, all that is present is a retail bar code and where the T5 was made. Lifting off the lid you are greeted to a sizable, bright white carrying case and the T5’s earpieces safely tucked in shaped foam cutouts. Lifting the insert in which the earpieces are set, you find a user manual in various languages, a social media card, some ear tips, and other accessories. In all you get:

  • T5 earphones
  • 0.78mm 2-pin 4-core cable with 40/0.05 high-purity Oxygen-Free-Copper cable with Kevlar 200D plating
  • Carrying case
  • Sony Hybrid-like single flange tips (s/m/l)
  • Spintfit-like single flange tips (s/m/l)
  • Foam tips (m)
  • Spare filters (3 pairs)
  • Tweezers
  • Cleaning brush

Overall a very premium unboxing. I was quite impressed. The modern, minimalist design and white colour scheme looks classy and the simulated scent of leather given of by the case smells nice. All of the accessories have a purpose. The case definitely gives off the impression you’re getting a more expensive product than you are. It’s a bit too large for anything but a jacket pocket or bag, but the construction is top tier. It has neat stitching and a metal TinHIFI badge, along with a spacious padded interior that can accommodate the earphones, some spare tips, and a compact DAP like the Shanling M0 and/or type-C dongle like the VE Odyssey HD. It’s a wonderful case.

The included tips are also worth a mention. The Sony hybrid style tips are stiffer than the real deal, but they still work well. The same or very similar tips have been included with some Kinera products. Unlike Sony’s tips, they hold up extremely well over time and are not at all fragile. While the hybrids are good tips, it’s the Spinfit-like tips that really caught my attention. They feature a similar pivoting design between the shaft and flange, but unlike Spinfits are a standard tip length. I found they provided an impressively reliable seal along with outstanding comfort. These are something I’d buy a bunch of and use with quite a few different earphones, they’re that good.

Final Thoughts With the T5 TinHiFi has released something that is apparently polarizing. I’m taking the side of it being a good release and have no issues recommending it. If you like earphones with a sub-bass over mid-bass bias, and can appreciate the decision to highlight clarity and detail over absolute tonal accuracy, or just like a brighter sounding product, then check out the T5. It’s both fun and technical. The new shell looks fantastic and has some of the best ergonomics to cross my path, and it comes with a well appointed accessory kit. This slots in as a personal favourite and is something I will continue to use long after this review has been posted and the next new hotness has become long forgotten.

Great job TinHiFi. Keep releasing products that cater to a variety of customer preferences, even if it doesn’t make you a ton of money. It’ll earn you respect, something that can’t be bought.

– B9

Disclaimer A huge thanks to TinHiFi for accepting my query and providing a sample of the T5 for the purposes of review. The thoughts within this review are my subjective opinions based on just over 2 months of extensive use. They do not represent TinHiFi or any other entity. The T5 retails for 139.00 USD but was on sale for 129.00 USD at the time of writing; https://www.tinhifi.com/products/tinhifi-t5

Specifications

  • Driver: 10mm dynamic with DOC diaphragm
  • Impedance: 48 ohms +/- 15% @ 1kHz
  • Sensitivity: 103dB +/- 1dB @ 1kHz
  • Frequency Response: 10Hz-20kHz

Gear Used For Testing LG G6, DDHiFi TC35B, Earmen Sparrow, Earmen TR-Amp, Asus FX53V, TEAC HA-501

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

Fleetwood Mac – Rumors

Tobacco – F****d Up Friends

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