RHA T10i Review: The British made T10i’s are a well designed, solidly built pair of in ears with an innovative design that allows the user to tailor the sonic signature to their liking. Although the included filters don’t quite match their description and it does take some experimentation to get a good seal with the right tips, the sound quality is still very good and The Pro Audio Web Blog recommends the T10i’s to the budget audiophile and prosumer markets.
RHA T10i Review Preface:
British In-Ear specialist RHA have a history of producing value for money designs that are well received in the consumer market. With a vast product line spanning six unique models (ten if you include all the ‘i’ models) from £29.95 to £179.95, the T10i was the flagship until recently when the T20i was released in May 2015. To produce the T10i RHA completely revolutionised their production method in order to create a sonically and structurally competitive model that supports a unique swap out filter design which, subsequently, won a prestigious Red Dot design award.
Sitting as the vice-flagship model, the T10 comes two variants – the T10 and the T10i. The difference between the two is that the T10 has no in-line controls whereas the T10i has an inline iOS/Android controller to allow the user the ability to take calls, skip, fast forward, and play/pause tracks. In terms of pricing the T10 weighs in at £139.95 and the T10i at £149.95. Whether the included in-line controller on the ‘i’ model will benefit your iOS/ Android DAP pairing is up to you, but with a modest £10.00 difference RHA certainly haven’t been greedy.
Unboxing, Features, and Build Quality:
The T10i arrives in your hands looking rather dapper with it’s signature RHA polished dark-lord looks and highly informative consumer labelling. It has to be said that I am very impressed with the packaging of the T10i, it certainly does look premium. However, before you take the plunge on the T10i, RHA have included a transparent window behind a magnetic flap that allows you to peer in at the design and weigh up whether it’s suitable for you before you sacrifice your right to a refund by breaking the seal. Because the T10i’s have such a unique design it is possible that some won’t like it’s raw industrial looks so this simple window is very honest of RHA and could become a godsend for those who aren’t 100% comfortable with their purchase, or forthcoming purchase.
Internally RHA have put together a good package for the T10i purchaser. Besides from the obligatory ‘User Guide’ and warranty information, RHA generously include a branded hard case for you to carry around your T10i’s when not in use, an in-line clip to allow the cabling to be securely routed to the users clothing, a very very nice metal punch card with Large and Medium double flange tips, two pairs of small single flange silicone tips, two pairs of medium single flange silicone tips, two pairs of large single flange silicone tips, and two sets of Comply style memory foam tips, the next item is reference card with your interchangeable filters, and the T10i’s themselves. If we come back to the filter reference card, the T10i’s come with three interchangeable filters; one for a ‘Treble’ sound, one for a balanced ‘Reference’ sound, and one called ‘Bass’ for all those down and dirty music lovers. Without getting into it too much, I get the distinct feeling that the filter descriptive’s should be taken with a pinch of salt because in many respects they are totally inaccurate. However, the construction of the interchangeable tips appears to be good because the way in which they work is that you unscrew the driver housing’s nozzle bore, which is where the sound comes out, and then you screw the small metal replacement filter in. The filter isn’t too long, but it does give a good enough length with a lip for the ear-tips to be very secure. The way in which the filters work is by using a small piece of foam to absorb and dissipate the acoustic vibrations to give the impression of a different sonic signature. My only issue with this is that the foam is loose within the filter and can potentially come loose or even dislodge within the driver housing, honestly I would have preferred the filter material to be secured internally with a metal mesh like on the outside. Anyway, coming back to the included ear tips now, I feel that RHA have included a very good range that will surely work for the large percentage of users. The silicone of the ear tips all appear to be of good quality, the only issue that I have experienced is with the metal card in which they live in. This metal card can be rough on the surface of the silicone when it comes to removing them, but I am, as of yet, to experience an issue with tearing.
With regards to the cable construction and mouldable ear hook design RHA have utilised solid materials and a unique design in some respects. If we begin at the bottom of the cable, we note that the 3.5mm jacks contacts are gold plated and have are terminated with a textured straight steel jacket to help remove the jacket when unplugging them from your chosen device. I would have preferred if the jack had a right angle design as this would reduce the strain on the socket of the device being used, but still the straight jacket allows the cable to be guided up without any issues at all considering that the jacket is completed with a very nice spring strain relief mechanism. It should be noted that RHA’s socket design is much better than the offerings of its competitors and so is the materials and cable design. The bulk of the cable, before it heads off past the Y-splitter is very rugged and sports a chunky 4mm cable width with a grey rubberised finish that helps the cable to grip onto the clothes and hopefully not allow it to tear out of the users ears. According to RHA, the T10i’s 1.35m cylindrical cable design and its 4mm diameter is extremely resilient as it sports a high quality oxygen free multicore conductor and an apparent nylon reinforced sheath for increased resilience. Crucially, the 4mm cable width helps the earphones to not get trapped in clothing and, if it does, it is unlikely that it will permanently damage the cable which would otherwise mean that the user would have to purchase another pair of headphones (the cables are not user removable or replaceable). Something that I have found frustrating with the T10i’s is that the cable does have a bad habit of tangling. The rubberised finish certainly doesn’t help the situation and I would have liked to have seen an in-line cable tie mechanism to encourage the headphones to be appropriately coiled post-use, the inclusion of such a device would be simple to implement and could have precious minutes for the user who will fumbling around with a cable instead of listening to music or navigating public transport on the move.
Just like the style of the 3.5mm jack, RHA have used a nice rugged potted steel jacket to protect the delicate mechanism and I certainly cannot see any issues with this for the lifetime of the product. Likewise, if we move our way up to the T10i (only) MFI (Made For iPod) in line remote, RHA have placed this component on the right earphone cable in an area which is close to the mouth and convenient for the user to reach. The structure of the remote is extremely solid due to its aluminium housing, which is usually plastic at this price point, and sports premium rubberised buttons for truly weather resistant operation. The design of this component is excellent and the ergonomic feel allows the user to be in control of their music or incoming calls. Crucially, I can conform that the quality of the microphone is crystal clear with no murkiness and has great headroom in case you ever have a quiet caller. If I were to be picky I would have preferred the tactile finish of the plus and minus buttons to be raised more so the user can be confident in their button presses.
Further up the cable we finally arrive at the ear hook design. Just like many IEM/CIEM cables the T10i has a user mouldable memory wire inserted into the cable width that allows the user to guide the cable down back behind the ear. In terms of comfort, something that I am not too keen on is that this memory wire mechanism is hidden behind a rather weighty spring. Because the cable is not strong enough to permanently remember the position it was placed in, once the earphones have been removed it makes this process a little longer when inserting them back into the ears. The design is innovative, but I can see a number of problems with it. First, glasses users may find this design cumbersome to guide around the arms of the glasses and potentially uncomfortable for medium to long periods of use. The second issue is that the spring mechanism length is 11cm and this seems way too long which, when combined with the increased weight, in comparison to that of the driver housings, makes everything feel too cumbersome. Plugging in a pair of earphones into the ear should be a simple process, but this design makes the process much more fiddly and the weight doesn’t quire feel right in the ear. Regardless, it’s certainly clear that RHA have focused on the design of the cable to be practical and an area that should not prematurely break so I do respect their approach. On both driver housings RHA have attached a respective blue or red collar to indicate what ‘earphone’ goes in what ear for foolproof operation, but sadly I do feel that this is the weakest link as there appears to be some wiggle room where the cable attaches to the driver housing. I can’t say that this will become more of a problem over time, because I doubt it will, it’s simply a passing observation of their build quality which is, otherwise, excellent. Something that I do feel is missing from the T10i’s is user removable/replaceable cables even if it would mildly increase the retail price of this model. Sure removable cables are exceptionally uncommon at this price point, but I can see that this would be of great value to the budget audiophile – a market that the T10i intends to target alongside the prosumer. However, with the ability to remove the cables the user could replace them once they have become worn to increase the longevity of these brilliant in-ears and add value to the whole package.
In terms of the driver housings, it’s clear that RHA have spent a lot of time getting this right. The housing conforms to typical IEM dimensions, if a touch smaller, where it is designed to nestle within the outer ear (Concha). Having tested the T10i’s position for multiple users, I can report that the design fits many ear sizes without any unsightly protrusions and have found that the T10i’s are certainly discreet if it wen’t for their bold RHA faceplate branding and the spring ear hook mechanism. Still, RHA have put on an excellent show with their solid steel housing and are undoubtedly one of the most rugged earphones designs on the market – the build quality is obviously exceptional. In the ear I have to say that the T10i’s feel moderately comfortable, certainly not the most comfortable in-ears I’ve come across partially due to the heavy ear hook design, but mainly due to the difficulties finding the right ear tips to maintain a consistent seal. When the T10i’s are in the ear you get a sense that there is too much wiggle room, along with a larger than life soundstage, to which RHA have obviously attempted to remedy this with the ear hook design. In order to overcome this difficulty it’s best to go with the double flange tips, and even better to go with the memory foam ear tips. The problem that I have found with the memory foam tips is that they are difficult to insert into smaller ears and that they are a bit awkward even if they yield the best sonic results. To overcome this I strongly advise purchasing the Comply Premium memory foam tips in the T500 size.
Apart from the build quality, what really separates the T10i’s from the rest is the pairing of their custom dynamic driver, the semi-open vented design, and user removable acoustic filters. Just for the T10i model, RHA engineered an entirely new dynamic driver design which pairs with a small vented reflex port in the driver housing to be able to deliver an expansive soundstage with a balanced sonic signature that helps to afford the user with the ability to tailor the sound signature of their in-ears to their liking. Within the package RHA include three filters; a pair of a more treble sound, a pair for a more reference type sound, and a pair to enhance the bass. Swapping out the filters is as simple as screwing and unscrewing both the filters out from the driver housing, which approximately takes a minute to do both, and before the user knows it they’ve transformed their listening experience. Crucially in terms of quality, the filters all have a small rubber gasket at the bottom of their screw mechanism which seems to make it difficult for them to fall out during use or storage and, to date, I have not experienced any issues with the design at all. However, if we come back to the semi-open vented design, it has to be said that the RHA T10i’s don’t quite have the isolation that you would typically expect from a pair of in ears of this calibre. The semi-open design is there to help naturally enhance the soundstage, but it does also mean that you will leak some of your enjoyment into the environment around you. The leakage isn’t huge so it doesn’t become a massive problem unless you are a person who likes to really pump the volume up, but even if you do I can’t say that you need to feel self conscious – the levels are still moderately low and definitely lower than a pair of Apple EarPods. On the other hand, if we revert to something even more positive RHA have designed the T10i’s to be friendly with a whole host of devices. With a 16Ω impedance the T10i’s will work excellently with all your portable devices (maybe with the exception of those who have original the AK100, even if that is unlikely at the price point) and I have found there to be no issues with amplification or bass image whatsoever.
Various lossless and lossy tracks from 44.1kHz/16bit to 192kHz/24bit (WAV, FLAC, MP3, and AIFF), Apple ‘iPhone 5s’, Apple MacBook ‘Air’, Apple ‘iTunes’, Sonic Studio ‘Amarra’, iBasso ‘DX90’, Epiphany Acoustics ‘EHPO2D’, and Comply T500 sized memory foam ear tips.
As previously mentioned, it is difficult to maintain a consistent seal with the included ear tips. To remedy this issue it is best to purchase the Comply memory foam ear tips in the T500 size and, by doing this, you will be able to enjoy the T10i’s for what they really are. At this point it should be understood that the following review has been conducted only with the Comply tips. As well as maintaining a consistent seal and increasing comfort I have found that the Comply tips roll off some of the harshness in high end, which makes the T10i’s sound utterly brilliant. Put it this way, I can say that the resolution of T10i’s is outstanding and very similar to that of some professional single/dual balanced armature IEM models. True, that’s a bold statement, but you have to remember that this is only the case with the Comply tips.
Okay, so lets really kick off a controversial conversation by saying that, regardless of the filters being used, the T10i’s will still deliver a significant bass presence. Some will like this and some certainly will not. Put it this way, even with the ‘Treble’ tuning filter which allows you to enjoy those 770.1 drivers in the nude (with no filter material), the T10i’s deliver a modest bass presence with a more larger than life sub-bass image. With certain genres, such as acoustic, RHA’s T10i’s will highlight the baselines to some extent. As a self confessed audiophile I can’t say that this descriptive would appeal to me if I was reading this review, but weirdly I find the T10i’s bass image to be endearing. My possible explanation for this is that those 770.1 drivers seem to deliver the sub-bass with such resolution that you can’t help but be impressed with their acrobatics, if you’re not it’s best to EQ the sub-frequencies down a little. I do have to say that, if you’re someone who enjoys a natural, fun, or bass heavy sonic signature then the T10i’s will undauntedly be an excellent pair of in-ears to go with. On the other hand, at the other end of the spectrum, I have noticed that the very treble frequencies do have a habit of appearing quite crystalline, again, regardless of the filters you choose to go with. As we know, getting the treble frequencies to be smooth at this price point is an exceptionally difficult task. I feel that RHA have tried to tame the beast, the problem is that the frequencies around 10kHz are too prominent in some respects, which seems to bring out the piercing crystalline nature at higher volumes, ultimately leading to premature listening fatigue. From this analysis it appears to me as if all the filters are doing is focusing on a specific bandwidth and not the entire frequency range. My guess would be that the filters are impacting the frequencies around 240Hz to 1.6kHz. This is just a guess, but it gives you a sort of rough guideline into how the T10i’s work.
Before we go onto a more detailed sonic descriptive of each filter I would like to take the time to highlight the fact that, regardless of filter (with a modest exception for the ‘Bass’ filter appearing slightly more intimate), the soundstage seems to stay the same and maintain its coherence. With this said, I feel that the T10i’s generate an intimate, more ‘closed-set’, performance. Everything is very matter of fact across the T10i’s moderate soundstage which makes them a great pair of in-ears for solidifying vocal performances and rhythmic elements, but not so good at providing a truer more lifelike and contrast rich image. An example of this is with acoustic performances, the T10i’s just don’t capture the air around a beautiful solo acoustic guitar or a greater sense of depth. To be honest the T10i’s do much better with Rock of Electronic music genres where you can get away with a more intimate set that has a matter of fact ‘wall of sound’ approach. Don’t get me wrong, the T10i’s can differentiate left from right, it’s more that the space between the two is more like a small to medium sized room and not a stage or auditorium.
In terms of dynamics and of micro to macro detail presentation the T10i’s, again, exhibit exactly what I would expect from a pair of in-ear’s of this price and a little bit more. With the bass filter the bass frequencies do show signs of a slightly slower attack, but have the same decay as the ‘Treble’ and ‘Reference’ filters – medium slow. At every instance the bass carries the weight very well and with total solidity. Every now and then I can hear evidence, with bass-heavy electronic tracks, of pumping – where the bass frequencies merge into each other as the attack and decay can’t keep up with sharp compression ratios. Regardless, my expectations are still met and the bass appears rounded and does keep up with the beat in many respects, just with a rounded edge. In the midrange the attack has a moderately faster attack in comparison to the bass frequencies which allows them to cut across clear, but the decay is still only mildly faster than the bass which adds a nice smoothness across the midrange and makes vocals come across in the best light possible. The main aspect of the midrange is that the detail is presented loud and clear, and it comes across with many warming attributes. On the other hand, the treble dynamics appear completely different than either the bass of midrange. As mentioned before, the further you get to the super high frequencies the more crystalline the performance becomes. Sure this brings all the detail to the fore, but I would have liked the attack and decay to be a little slower than it currently is. Currently the macro details in the midrange are noticeably less, whereas those in the treble region are more pronounced which does sound a little odd when the trebles are noticeably more energetic. If the trebles were a little slower I think that RHA would have been able to make the best out of both worlds.
Regardless of filter, the T10i’s exhibit a beautiful rich and warming timbre that encompasses the full range – except for the treble region. Granted, for some it may take longer to acclimatise to their charm, mainly because of that bass region and crystalline treble region, but I still can say that the T10i’s are excellent for the price and have excellent resolution regardless with no hint of incoherence. I have to say that the worst thing for me is actually that the ‘Reference’ tuning is so far from reference that it hurts, it’s more warm natural than anything else and, funnily enough, the ‘Bass’ filter sounds very similar. The only real difference between the two, apart from what’s been discussed within the separated sections above, is that the ‘Bass’ filter adds more apparent sub-bass onto the ‘Reference filters’ tuning to the point where the low end becomes increasingly round and ultra warm. There’s no doubt about it, the ‘Bass’ filter delivers bass in spades without sacrificing the treble coherence but, as the ‘Reference’ filter is not far behind, RHA should not have ever called it this… it feels misleading. If anything the ‘Treble’ filter should be labeled as ‘Reference’ because it is noticeably lighter in bass and still has the same top-midrange/treble identity that you would associate with ‘Reference’… if it wasn’t for the sub-bass presence. Either way some will feel that the T10i’s have an issue with bass, some might not, it’s all a matter of preference and I’d like to think that they cover most bases in this crowded market. If you don’t like any of the filters for the bass presence I would advise EQ’ing it out. This isn’t an ideal situation, but it will allow you to enjoy the T10’s as they do have immense resolution.
RHA T10i Conclusion:
With the T10i’s, British born RHA Audio have produced another pair of excellently priced in-ears that set the bar high. With some minor exceptions (the cable constantly tangling when not in use, the non-user removable cables, the ear tips being a pain, and the modest imaging), the general design of the T10i’s is very well thought out and the build quality exceeds my expectations to the point that I am genuinely impressed. Overall the package that RHA have is clearly comprehensive and having the access to three different sonic settings is a massive advantage to the end user. Sure the filters don’t quite match RHA’s sonic descriptives, but there is no doubt in my mind that most will be happy after a quick experimentation with each of the three settings. If you do intend on purchasing the T10i’s then to get the most out of them you will want to grab a pair of Comply T500 premium memory foam ear tips as this will both overcome the seal difficulties and roll some harshness off the top end. As it stands, with the Comply T500 tips, The Pro Audio Web Blog award the RHA T10i in-ears with a four star rating.