Today we review the Tin Hifi P1, an earphone utilizing the latest hot tech in Chi-Fi; planar magnetic drivers. The P1 has a single 10mm planar driver per side. For those who don’t know, planars offer incredible speed, fast transients and very low distortion. The best part is the P1 comes in at a very affordable price. But the big question remains “Is it any good?” (Spoiler) You bet it is.
I feel that in today’s market, planar drivers are where balanced armatures were a few years ago. At first they were confined to the more expensive products but eventually, the tech started to trickle down into the budget segment. Fast forward to today and you can get multi-BA IEMs for under $50. Crazy! I’m pretty sure exactly the same thing is going to happen with planar IEMs and the P1 is the perfect example of why I think that.
He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.
The Tin Hifi P1 is available from Linsoul Audio at the MSRP of $169. It is also available from Drop with a super early bird price of $149 for a limited time.
This sample was provided for the purpose of an honest review. All observations and opinions here are my own based on my experience with the product.
Durable stainless steel shells
Small and comfortable earpieces
Fantastic instrument separation and layering
Tonality and timbre
Requires a fairly powerful source
Sub-bass lacks authority
Package and Accessories
The P1 unboxing experience begins with a black box. A big one. There is a black outer sleeve with P1 on the top in large white print. Removing the sleeve reveals the actual box which is also black and simply has Tin Hifi on the top in white print.
Opening the box you’ll find the earphones seated in a foam insert with a pseudo-velvet type surface. Under the lid is the same surface material with Tin Hifi branding. You’ll also see the branded faux leather carrying case presented here as well. The cable and other accessories are found in the carrying case. In total you get:
Tin Hifi P1 earphones
1 detachable MMCX 5N OFC and copper alloy cable
Velcro cable tie
3 pairs of narrow-bore silicone eartips
3 pairs of wide-bore silicone eartips
2 pairs of foam eartips
It’s a sensible bundle with a good choice of eartips and a very nice carrying case, although the size of the box probably could have been reduced by almost half! It does offer a premium feeling unboxing regardless.
Build Quality and Design
TIN HIFI P1 uses food-grade 304 stainless steel for the shells which are hand polished to achieve their glossy finish. The shells are a rounded triangular shape and the faceplates have a recessed triangle channel to add some visual interest.
The P1 earpieces have a little heft to them making them feel slightly heavier than an aluminium shell but they’re not in the least bit cumbersome. On the inner side of the shells are left and right markings etched into the casing. The nozzles are angled and have a proper lip to hold your eartips securely in place. There is also a metal grill covering the nozzle opening.
Inside the housings are, of course, the planar drivers. According to the distributors website:
P1 adopts a 10-millimetre planar magnetic driver and ultra-nano diaphragm technology with a thickness of just 1 micron that allows for higher resolution and faster transient response
Comfort and Noise Isolation
The P1’s shells are very small and easily fit into your ears. All the surface and edges are rounded and smooth so there is no sharpness or offensive areas. As a result I find the P1 super comfortable and I can wear them for long periods of time.
Noise isolation is about average, which means the P1 is suitable for normal everyday environments, such as bus rides and work offices etc. Noise leak is minimal too, so you don’t need to be concerned about disturbing the people around you.
The 5N OFC and copper alloy cable is nice but a bit loosely braided below the Y-split, making it looks a bit mangy, despite the nice materials used. At the top are metal MMCX connectors that match the look of the IEM shells. There is a red ring on the right side to denote…the right side (what did you expect?)
Pre-formed ear guides are present too, in the form of tight heat-shrink tubing. Above the Y-split is a transparent plastic bead acting as a cable cinch. The Y-split is small, cylindrical and once again, a polished metal that matches the shells and MMCX connectors.
Finally, the cable terminates in a straight 3.5mm metal plug with a band of carbon fibre material in the middle. There is minimal microphonics and the cable handles comfortably and well.
Gear used for testing includes the FiiO M6, Shanling M5s and Sony NW-ZX300 as portable sources. On the desktop, I once again plugged into the Arcam irDAC-II. The P1 is more difficult to drive than the average IEM and requires more than a smartphone to perform at its best. The little FiiO M6 performs admirably, so you don’t need anything really powerful but a dedicated music player or an amplifier is highly recommended.
The P1 has a reasonably balanced sound with the bass, midrange and treble fairly evenly spread. It has natural decay and body despite its super fast transients and lean notes. The presentation is smooth with a bit of extra energy and airiness given from the upper treble boost.
In some ways, the P1 bass is similar to that of a single balanced armature driver, albeit with even more speed and less distortion. The sub-bass has some significant roll off. It lacks authority and only offers a light tone without any real rumble. P1’s mid-bass is much more forthcoming and packs enough punch to fill out the low end and lend some warmth to the overall tonality.
If you’re familiar with the Tin Hifi T2 bass then you can know what to expect for the mid and upper bass as they’re quite similar. It’s only below around 80Hz where the P1 starts to roll off more in comparison. The mid-bass has a nice weight and natural decay but is extremely tight and fast at the same time.
P1’s midrange has a forward presentation that is quite linear. It’s fairly neutral with a hint of warmth which gives notes some added body, although they’re still on the leaner side. This aids in the P1’s transparency and resolution as it creates space between instruments in the moderately sized stage. Gone is the thickness from the original tuning and now the midrange has much more clarity albeit at the cost of some smoothness.
Vocals have a nice size too, whether male or female. I got chills listening to Polina Gagarina’s live performance of “A Cuckoo(Кукушка)” even though it was just the lower audio quality of a YouTube video. Likewise, “Under The Fragmented Sky” by Lunatic Soul was satisfying, giving the mellow male vocals adequate density and a natural tone plus the detail of the guitar strings being strummed is vividly clear.
The core and upper midrange remain linear too, leaving it up to the treble to provide the lift and clarity. This can be risky and is a different approach than the one that the earlier tuning took. The new tuning has a slightly larger peak at 7kHz but thankfully this does not introduce any sibilance.
As I mentioned earlier, the P1 gets its clarity from the upper treble and attenuated lower and sub-bass, rather than an upper midrange boost. This makes treble notes thinner and brighter, not uncomfortably so but I do miss the extra solidity of the early version.
The P1 doesn’t have the most detailed treble presentation. Instead, it gets its detail from the above average instrument separation and fast transients. There is plenty of extension and a decent amount of air too. Cymbals and hi-hats sound a touch thin but they’re not harsh. While I did enjoy the earlier tuning’s treble a bit more, this one is still very good indeed.
The P1 has average stage dimensions that are rounded with even amounts of width and depth. Vocals are fairly forward but instruments are more distant. The P1’s instrument separation is absurdly good, thanks to its stellar layering and airy stage. This is where it gets its extra detail from too; it places air where other IEMs just clump sounds together.
It’s able to dissect the sounds and lay them out around the listener. It is this ability that makes the P1 so outstanding; tonally it could be a dynamic, BA or hybrid IEM but the P1 has mastery over layering and separation above and beyond what similarly priced alternatives can achieve.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect from the P1 as the only planars I’ve had extended listening time with are full-sized headphones, not IEMs, and especially not closed back ones! Well, let me just say that if this is the future of entry-level in-ear monitors then there are exciting times ahead. In reality, we don’t even need to look ahead because the Tin Hifi P1 is exciting already.
If you’d like to jump into this new tech (well, it’s relatively new in this price segment) the P1 is one heck of an introduction. It’s not perfect but it is very, very good and I will be adding it to my Best Universal IEMs list. Highly recommended.