RHA T20 Review
Thanks to RHA for the sample.
First Impressions: Well my first impressions of the T20 took place waaaay back at Canjam. My instant notes made there and then are up in the Canjam impressions thread if you care to go hunting. The main take away was, oh yes baby, these right here these are what the T10 should have been. Hells yeah!! These are looking to be top tier contenders. Certainly they look the part, they are maybe in my opinion the best looking IEM available right now. Mind you there are a few other stunners and looks can be subjective but surely no one looks at these and thinks they don’t look impressive?
In the ears and I’ve left the “Reference” filters on them. There is a good chance I’ll swap to the “Bass” ones shortly and never leave them but that’s my personal preferences showing. These things as are, are bloody good. These are the 750 but better, lots better. It’s safe to say right now these are one of the best IEM’s your pennies can buy, the only thing in doubt is to quite where exactly they slot in-between. It’ll be near the top I know that but it’s becoming a crowed area, sigh, I think there may be much swapping about, and then the filters. Urgh this is gonna be much work isn’t it.
Source: Hisoundaudio Studio V 3rd Anv., FiiO E7/E9 combo, HiFiMAN HM-650, Nexus 5 and FireyeDA.
Lows: Squeeee!!!!! Regulars will know I’m not a bass head. It’s not like I hate bass, I like it, I like it rather boosted too, just not insane vomit inducing levels (TFTA, yeah I mean you.) So here with the “Reference” filters on and they are awesome. Swapping to the “bass” ones and they are a boosted though I’m not instantly loving and preferring like I thought I would. It seems a little deep bass boosted disproportionately to the middle and upper bass region. The trouble also get muted with is what I expected to happen and the air is a little sucked out of the mids. Not that it’s bad just it’s more of a difference than I anticipated. Bass filtered its big, hearty and the bass warms up, takeing on a tiny hint of softness and smooths. Reference, its more ridged and marble like. God I rather like both, they are fantastic to the point I can’t bare to unplug myself from the Solo Ultra, Cyndi Lauper’s rendition of “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” is amazeballs good. So delicate and soft then it roars to life and tears your face off, squeeee!!!
Okay with the Bass filters it’s actually a bit much bass. It’s not compared to some crazy things. It’s up nearing the level of the IE8 except the IE8 sound flabby and slow beside it. Yes the IE8 sounds relatively flabby in the bass. I’m not saying one is “better” than the other they are differently styled. Here we a visceral impact, like being slapped by the missing marble hands of the Venus de Milo. Graceful and delicately sculpted but as unyielding as it is beautiful.
Mids: Bass filtered it’s a little enclosed and has a little bit of air sucked out of it. Reference in and it opens up notably, space, free open air and even more so with the ultra-sparkly Treble filter. Argh I find myself agonising between the Bass and Reference as to which I like more. The Reference is arguably the more tonally perfect but then I like the darkened hint the Bass one gives. Either way they are very clean and articulate. Rather unforgiving too and their rigidity makes them not super suited to soft and laid back vocals. It wants to be clean and precise as is the nature of its ultra-precision manufacture. Its unyielding, metallic, machine like lack of give. I find its tonality to be near perfect but it does now and then feel a little artificial and metallic. The faintest grace and beauty at times is subsumed by a digital accuracy. Most however was stunningly accurate and pleasing. Nora however just wasn’t pairing well.
Guitars, they twang with an almost cutting edge, such clarity and bight to them they feel super explicit and detailed on the first edge yet trail wonderfully and naturally. Maybe a little unfeeling but I can’t fault its cleanliness.
Quantitatively they vary as your expect with the filter in use. The Bass one is bass heavy, then the mids then a little reduced treble. The Reference is more or less even. The Treble is slanted the other way from the Bass. Mids however do dry and open up with the lighter filters. With the Treble a little too open and airy perhaps. They still rock with all the filters. Wonderful tonality and timbre.
Highs: I’m kinda treble sensitive so my time with the treble filter was minimal. Not that there was anything work with it, it was just too much more my preferences. Extension though feels practically endless. Super, ultra-mega clean too. Perhaps a little too hyper accurate metallic. Even with the bass filters its tonality is just so awesome. The only issue is its accuracy and bang on metallic reproduction means it can be extremely unforgiving. More than once with a badly mastered track the treble was grating on my ears. This was highly, highly noticeable with the Studio V, oh god a badly mastered track on the there can get savage on the ear.
Otherwise the treble is exquisite. Dynamics do the best treble in my experience and that here is among the best. I’d still maybe at a push give it to the IE8 as being the more refined and with its less explicitly crisp nature favourable to my ears but still, the T20 is right up there as simply one of the best, most, dazzlingly talented trebles out there. Just bare in mind it’s not got a forgiving nature.
Soundstage: Very good. Of course having been comparing to the IE8 it’s clear it’s not on that level but it’s still a very grandly scaled soundscape. The dry airy metallic nature on the Treble and Reference makes them feel so open. The bass is more enclosed but your still talking a large room. Placement is fine but it does rather better in integration, one big driver doing everything tends to make things seamless. They are big and powerful things. Just don’t hope for endless distance.
Fit: Great. The ear guides didn’t get in the way. Sadly they are built in so you can’t take them off but they are pretty good, for me anyway. No issues.
Comfort: Great. With a good fit comfort tends to follow and their shape fit my ears perfectly. Despite being metal and thus rather unyielding they never had any pressure points.
Cable: If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. The Cable from the T10 and 750 is replicated here and it’s an awesome cable. Its rubberised texture though can sometimes pull if it catches between jumper and jacket but that’s my only issue. It feels super in the hand and it looks super too. Then the Y splitter and jack, just look at them, they are just outstanding. One small point of note, the cable here is more of a charcoal black rather than the grey previously seen, I liked the grey one better.
Build: They are made by heating steel up to 1300 degrees Celsius and injection moulding them. Part of me thinks that must be overkill, they are earphones after all do they need to be constructed so as to be so utterly indestructible? Probably they don’t but wow, they are serious little beasties.
Microphonics: It was fine for me, you pretty much must wear them up which is fine with me and for the most part removes the issue. They is a neck synch if you do get any though.
Amped/Unamped: Weirdly while I found that I was consistently having to crank the volume dial, you’d expect that they demand an amp. Thing is they don’t, not really anyway. They still sounded great out of my crappy Nexus 5. The treble took a beating in quality and quantity but it was still very good overall. With more power you get noticeable improvements to speed and solidity so I would always say if you have an amp, or good DAP then please use it to get the very best from the T20 However…….if all you’ve got is your crappy phone you’ll still find the T20 to be excellent in the meantime, until you do get yourself a nice amp for them.
Isolation: For a dynamic they are really good. They are practically pushing at BA levels of isolation. So as ever easily good enough for out and about or bus journeys. At a push you could cope on the Tube or for long flights but not my first choice. As ever my warning, do look where you’re going because you won’t hear deadly traffic sneaking up behind you.
Accessories: RHA offer an amazing looking package don’t they? That tip holder thing, it’s just so impressive isn’t it? You name it pretty much and you get it, tips galore including their own foamies with I’m rather a fan of, shirt clip you’ll never use, filters and filter holding thingy. Then we come to the only downer, the case thingy. It’s not that its “terrible” but the rest of the bundle is so fantastic it just doesn’t feel like it belongs. I’d actually rather have the little hard case that came with the MA-450’s I believe. Actually what I’d love to see is an imitation TF10 case, you know the one that was supposedly titanium, that’s the kind of case these deserve to live in.
Value: Well can one ever say that any earphone costing £180 is good value? One could look at it beside something costing £400 and say this is practically the same level yet half the price so therefore must be great value, yet you can find something half of its price and say but that is nearly as good therefore it must be rubbish value. Fact is at this kind of level “value” stops meaning much. What we have here is a top class IEM that is top tier stuff, it costs at the lower end of top tier money yet has insanely crazy good construction and a great warranty. I’d say that all adds up to good value for a product of this level.
Conclusion: The T10, I think it’s not really a secret that I didn’t love it. Actually a lot of people didn’t love it and thus around Head-Fi the MA-750 was the RHA that would be recommended as the “best” offering from them. The 750 was great, is great and the T20 is the next step, a fairly big step too, up from it. The T20 is awesome.
I know it won’t be entirely for everyone as at this level it’s all about personal preferences and while the filters may alter things about there is still a crisp metallic nature to the treble especially. It has an edge and while it may quickly turn into a shimmer (quite beautifully in my opinion) it still won’t be to everyone’s tastes. Honestly we currently spoiled with an assortment of wonderful IEM’s to choose from at this level, and while I most immediately mentaly jump to the IE8 and the DN-2000 I really cannot say that any of them is “better” than another. They are all exquisite, they just are differently flavoured.
So should you buy a pair? Well if you have the money, yes. It would impossible for me to categorically say pick these over the 2000 or 8 as each person is different and will want different things. However I cannot for an instant see anyone buying these and being disappointed. They are joyous and symphonic little buggers that when amped can move like lightning, with such articulation and power. That bass especially is amazingly capable, so much fun too yet never overwhelming or suffocating. The treble too is especially skilled. Its timbre and tonality with metallic instrumentation is just so perfect, soooooo perfect. Its acoustics are every bit as wonderful as the thing looks. Love it!!!