If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it - Reid Heath Acoustics (RHA) from Glasgow, Scotland set aside that axiom when they decided to upgrade their top-of-the-line T10 in-ear monitor.
The T10 (reviewed in June) is one of the most natural sounding IEMs I’ve ever heard and one would have thought RHA would be hard pressed to improve on it.
But the T20, which has just been launched round the world, is even better. And all thanks to a brand new DualCoil dynamic driver developed by RHA. What RHA has done is put in two voice coils within an annular magnet, with each operating independently – the outer coil produces upper mid and treble frequencies while the inner one generates bass and lower mid tones.
In all other respects, the T20, provided for review by Headphone Zone, is very similar to the T10 – from the injection moulded stainless steel earpieces to the heavy duty oxygen-free copper cable to the 3.5 mm gold-plated jack that looks like it belongs in a cable to connect full size audio components such as an amplifier.
The T20 comes with three interchangeable filters that fit on the nozzle and can fine-tune the sound for reference (or flat), enhanced treble and enhanced bass. This can be a little tricky as one has to remove the silicone tip, unscrew the filter that’s fitted and replace it with another one – not easy if you have big fingers.
Included in the package are 10 pairs of ear tips, including six pairs of standard silicone tips in different sizes, two double flange tips and two memory foam tips and a classy carry case.
Other features show this IEM is aimed at the discerning listener, including the red and blue bands to indicate the right and left earpieces (taking a cue from the red and blue markings on RCA jacks in full size audio components) and the mouldable over-ear hooks that hold the earphones in position with the cable running over and behind the ears.
The T20’s earpieces are larger and heavier than those of most IEMs and may not be a great fit for folks with small ears. For some strange reason, I couldn’t get a proper fit with any of the tips provided with the T20 and had use a pair of tips from another IEM.
But once the T20 was up and running, almost everything was perfect. The isolation was so good that I couldn’t hear announcements within the Delhi Metro even when the music was playing at moderate volume levels.
The T20 sounds a touch warmer than the T10, with the new DualCoil driver bumping up the bass just a little bit. The T20 retains the T10’s terrific ability to dig out every little detail but takes things up a notch or two.
Listening to a 320 kbps MP3 of Cream’s “Tales Of Brave Ulysses”, Jack Bruce’s bass lines sounded just like they would coming through a great pair of speakers. The new driver produces a wide soundstage and zero distortion even at high volume levels.
The T20 sounded, no matter what was thrown at it, from John Lee Hooker’s bluesy stomp on “I’m In The Mood” to Daft Punk’s retro disco. And like its predecessor, the T20 was merciless with low-quality audio files or YouTube videos with low-res sound.
The T20 conforms to the Hi-Res Audio standards of the Japan Audio Society, and paired with my Geek Pulse DAC/headphone amplifier and fed with high-resolution FLAC files, everything that was good about the T20 became better. The soundstage was wider and the bottom end had more bite while vocals and the highs came through crystal clear.
The T20 is easier to drive with smartphones than the T10, though the volume had to be pushed to 2 o’clock to get decent levels in a quiet environment. Using the treble filter made the focus of the sound shift to the highs and the vocals while the bass filter added a tad too much bottom end for my liking.
For an IEM priced at Rs 18,999, the T20 comes without two features that I feel should have been included at this price point – user replaceable cables (yes, IEMs have them too nowadays) and an inline remote control for both iOS and Android because most folks use IEMs with their smartphones.
Bottom line – it’s hard not to recommend the T20 if good sound is a priority for you.
Frequency range: 16-40,000Hz
Impedance: 16 Ohm
Rated/max power: 2/5mW
Tell your experience of the T20 to the author on Twitter @Rezhasan .