Okay, folks, let’s get straight to the point as there are a LOT of people who have been eagerly awaiting this. I am, of course, talking about the Tin Hifi T4 which is the subject of today’s review. The T4 features classic T-series styling and a 10mm Carbon Nanotube (CNT) driver. Is it a true successor to the venerable T2/T3? Let’s find out.
The Tin Hifi T4 is currently only available on Indiegogo at an introductory price of $79 but it will also be sold at the regular outlets after the launch event for $109. Indiegogo page: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/tin-hifi-t4-in-ear-monitor-earphones#/
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.
Tin Hifi T4 Review
- Robust stainless steel shells
- Can be worn over-ear or cable down
- Detachable cable
- Tight bass, clear midrange, crisp treble
- Smooth and resolving
- Average imaging and layering
- Can only be worn over-ear with stock cable
Package and Accessories
The T4 unboxing begins with a simple black box with the Tin Hifi logo and T4 moniker in gold print on the top. Within, the standard black foam insert holds the earpieces on display and there’s a brown faux leather carrying case holding the accessories. Let’s break down the box contents in a handy list.
- Tin Hifi T4 earphones
- Detachable SPC, MMCX cable
- Carrying case
- 1 pair of foam eartips
- 3 pairs of grey silicone eartips
- 3 pairs of white silicone eartips
The included case is very nice; it’s similar to the one provided with the Tin Hifi P1 but is actually a more practical in design, making it easier to place and remove the earphones inside. Other than that, it’s a pretty standard bundle but the first impressions are positive and everything feels quite premium.
Build Quality and Design
Like the previous T-series models, the T4 has barrel-shaped housings with an additional bump on the side which holds the MMCX socket. This time around, however, the housings are stainless steel with a polished finish, much like the P1 shells.
Apart from the finish, the only other really noticeable difference between this and previous iterations is the back of the shells which have a turbine-esque design. According to the manufacturer “The TINHIFI T4 combines elements of high-end automotive and aviation design to create a unique and stylish expression perfectly formed for audio reproduction”.
The shells are lightweight and feel very robust. One thing I noticed is that the MMCX connection feels much more reliable this time around and there’s a reassuring tactile click when plugging in the cable.
For the stock cable, Tin Hifi included a twisted SPC type. It feels robust, handles nicely and is also fairly tangle resistant. The cable is grey in colour with polished aluminium connector housings, splitter and a straight 3.5mm plug with knurled grip.
As I mentioned above, I find it really strange that this cable has pre-formed ear guides, forcing you to wear the earphones over-ear instead of giving you the choice to wear them cable down if desired.
Comfort and Noise Isolation
For my ears, the T4 feels very comfortable. The simple barrel-shaped design is a proven one and in many ways, it makes sense that Tin Hifi chose to use it again. These earphones can be worn over-ear or cable down, although strangely, the stock cable has pre-formed ear guides which force you to wear them over-ear. I think this was an oversight and a cable without the ear guides would have been much more versatile.
Noise isolation is average and will depend a lot on having a good fit and seal with the correct eartips. With the right eartips in place, the T4 is suitable for any normal environment and blocks out a good amount of external noise.
Gear used for testing includes the FiIO M6 and Shanling M5s as portable sources. On the desktop, I tested with the FiiO K3 and also the Cozoy TAKT C, feeding both with Spotify or Foobar2000 from my Windows 10 PC and laptop.
The T4 has a typical T-series tuning, only this time, it has been refined further and improved across the frequency spectrum. It delivers sound in quite a substantial soundstage and continues the Tin Hifi house sound which leans towards neutral with a touch of added warmth and a sprinkling of top-end sparkle.
I must admit I’ve always been a fan of T-series bass; that conservative but speedy mid-bass and linear transition into a powerful, extended but moderate sub-bass. The T4 carries on in the same style and it’s addictive, engaging and shamelessly satisfying.
Firing up Twista’s “It Feels So Good“, the Tin Hifi T4 renders the 808 bass hits like a pro, laying it down like a champ without intruding on the machine gun lyrics. It’s a bass that delivers with authority mixed with nimbleness, fast and hard-hitting.
Not to be outdone by the stellar bass, T4’s midrange steps up with confidence. It’s delightfully smooth, laced with detail and natural in tone. Rupert Gregson-Williams’ “Climbing For A Kiss” sounds divine with the T4: In particular, the piano and classical strings sound clean and textured with an airy openness.
While the T4’s midrange presentation is detailed and appealing, a little extra warmth would make it sound more natural. However, the neutralness of the core midrange with the upper mids lift does have benefits; namely clarity, detail and a larger stage. This works well across multiple music genres but I found it especially good for classical music and string instruments.
T4’s treble is a bit lively but relatively smooth. A peak at 5-6kHz adds clarity and definition while avoiding sibilance. Another treble rise around 12.5kHz gives the sound its airiness and brightens the overall tonality.
This treble is aimed at clarity and detail retrieval which the T4 does well. But in this case, it also results in a slight sizzle and thinness that starts to get harsh as you turn the volume up. T4 goes for precision and micro-details over natural tone and while it does glare on occasion, it’s tolerable at normal listening levels.
As expected, the T4 has a fairly large stage, a result of its modest bass quantity and raised treble. It feels airy and open and the above-average treble extension definitely plays a role in creating that. There’s good detail retrieval and instrument separation. However, in complex music, the T4 struggles a little with resolution and only displays mediocre layering ability.
Tin Hifi T2 ($39)
Tin Hifi’s T2 has long held legendary status among budget earphone enthusiasts and deservedly so. It gives users an affordable way to experience a clean, fairly neutral presentation. Compared to the T4, the T2 has more sub-bass roll-off and a similar level of mid-bass, but the T4’s bass is punchier.
The T2 has a more even presentation and its midrange is actually more forward, making the T4 sound slightly V-shaped in comparison. One thing I’ve noticed is the T4 has a definite advantage in clarity from the lower treble peak. Listening to them side by side, the T2 even sounds slightly veiled but it’s not as sharp and more relaxed.
T2’s treble is smoother and not as bright as the T4 which makes it less fatiguing to my ears but the T4 gains more detail retrieval as a result. When it comes to soundstage, the T4’s is larger and airier but it’s not necessarily any more resolving than the T2. Yes, you will hear more micro-details from the T4 but in terms of resolution, there’s not much difference.
Tin Hifi T3 ($59)
The Tin Hifi T3 (review here) is closer to the T4 in tonality than the T2. It has a little more sub-bass roll-off than the T4. It is slightly fuller in the mids with more upfront and intimate vocals. To my ears, the T3 also has a very slight edge in vocal clarity thanks to the peak at 8kHz.
Both of these iems have a fairly energetic treble but I don’t have a problem listening to either at low to moderate volume. The T3 emphasizes the upper treble more while the T4 peaks in the lower treble. If you already know which area you’re sensitive to, it should be fairly easy to decide which of these 2 models would suit you best. Considering the T3 can be found for $59 and often even less, the T4 at the full MSRP of $109 might seem like a bit of a stretch.
BLON BL-03 ($39)
The BLON BL-03 (review here) is possibly the hottest iem of 2019. With its single CNT dynamic driver and basic metal shells, the BL-03 performs better than some much more expensive earphones. It’s loved for its natural tonality and great soundstage.
BL-03 has a very similar bass curve to the T4 but has roughly 4dB more in sub and mid-bass quantity. It’s not quite as tight or controlled at the T4’s bass but it is weightier and more easygoing. It also has a slightly longer decay which gives the overall presentation a touch more warmth and natural feel.
The BL-03 and T4 measure almost identically in the midrange but they don’t sound the same. With its extra bass quantity, the BL-03 infuses the lower midrange with more warmth, giving the mids some extra body and a more natural feel. However, there is a bit of graininess here while the T4, in comparison, although leaner, is more liquid-smooth.
In the treble, the BL-03 has a smaller 5kHz peak making it less edgy plus it has a dip around 11kHz before peaking again around 13kHz. This makes it less bright and again, feels more natural than the T4. I feel the BLON also has slightly better treble timbre.
Personally, I still prefer the BL-03 but it’s important to keep in mind that most people struggle with the BLON’s eartips, nozzle length and stock cable. This means that you would probably need to spend a bit more to get the best performance out of the BL-03 but even then, it’s probably going to still cost less than the T4, assuming you missed the early-bird deals. Of course, the best-case scenario is to own both of these and if you can manage, I highly recommend grabbing at least one of each.
Well, once again, Tin Hifi are proving that you don’t need to reinvent the wheel to make a good product. The Tin Hifi T4 is a natural evolution of the T-series earphones that simply improves on what the previous models did well. It uses the same proven shell form but has an improved bass response, better clarity and a bigger soundstage.
At the early-bird price, these are a great buy and I’d highly recommend them. At the regular MSRP of $109 the proposition isn’t quite as exciting but still one that’s worthy of consideration if you’re looking for an iem with a clean, detailed sound.
- Driver: 10mm high-quality Carbon Nanotube (CNT) driver
- Sensitivity: 102 ± 3dB @1kHz 0.126v
- Frequency Response: 10-20kHz
- Impedance: 32Ω ± 15%
- Rated Power 3mW
- Max Power 5mW
- Max Distortion: 1% @1kHz, 0.126v
- Interface: Gold-plated MMCX connector
- Plug: 3.5mm straight plug
- Cable: Silver-plated copper (SPC) with transparent TPU insulation