Tin Audio continues their campaign for budget IEM market dominance with the Tin Audio T3 after finding enormous success with the T2/T2 Pro.
If you haven’t heard of Tin Audio as an IEM enthusiast, then you’ve definitely been missing out. The latest in budget ChiFi (Chinese hi-fi) hype, their T2 was immensely popular as a budget IEM that didn’t just focus on stronger bass. In fact, it went the route of having a rather bright and neutral sound signature. When the T2Pro came out, it somewhat addressed some of the criticisms of the original for not having enough bass and not being extended enough in the high frequencies, but in my opinion it was a bit of a halfhearted attempt. The T3 has taken the sound of the T2 and further improved it.
We’d like to thank LinSoul, an online audio shop, for providing us with the Tin Audio T3 for review. It can be bought for 69.99 USD over at www.linsoul.com.
|Driver Type||10mm dynamic + Knowles BA|
|Frequency Response||10–40,000 Hz|
|Sensitivity||95 dB +/- 3dB|
|Cable||4.1 ft (1.25 m) 5N 8-core OFC-plated silver|
|Plug||3.5mm Straight plug|
Packaging & Accessories
The packaging for the T3 definitely follows in the same vein as the T2 – a navy blue magnetic lid in a thick cardboard box, designed to be as sleek as possible while containing all the bare necessities inside.
The accessories are largely the same, save for the noticeable absence of the bright blue coloured foam tips which have now been replaced with easier on the eyes light grey tips. The cable is also a more robust, and premium looking 8 strand gold and silver braided cable that has a metallic Tin Audio branded cable splitter, plastic bead cable cinch, and improved MMCX connectors that look and feel better built than before.
I do appreciate the new cable as it has individual plastic sleeving around each strand which gives it a bit of a light and soft stickiness to the touch, and with its extra thickness it is easier to untangle and feels like it will last longer too.
Packaged along with the cable is a generous 7 pairs of different tips from plain silicon tips, silicon tips with different coloured bores inside, to soft foam tips. It’s quite a basic set of accessories, but a pretty good quality set, especially with the new cable which is much better than the highly tangle-able cable that came with the T2.
Design & Ergonomics
Overall, the form is still pretty much the same, two toned metallic cylindrical design with an extension for the mmcx cable attachment point, save for an some new extra details like a raised, chamfered edge on the circular outer face of the iem housing, and an inset notch on the MMCX cable connector.
Ergonomically, Tin Audio’s designs haven’t exactly been the best – the straightforward cylinder design serves to house round dynamic drivers well enough, but the rather long sound nozzles have never fit me too snugly and always have me occasionally checking if the IEMs are in my ear properly. The T3 unfortunately continues this trend, BUT I am definitely happier with the design of the T3 compared to the T2.
The reason is that in the T2, the cable attachment point on the earphones seemed reversed to me in that it was further away from the ear. It’s now been flipped in the T3, and to me it feels more secure; with the cable more comfortably looping around the ear instead of floating just in front of it. If this sounds confusing, just imagine swapping the left and right sides of the T2 to the opposite cable and wearing it like that instead of the normal orientation.
Detailed Sound Analysis
My experience with the T3 is that it is a little source dependent – the devices I’ve tried it with are my OnePlus X, FiiO M9 and iPad Pro in order of ascending rank. While the overall sound signature was the same, the mids and highs felt a little harsher from the phone while the warmth of the iPad Pro really pulled back the brightness of the T3 and gave it a little nudge and boost of warmth. The FiiO lay somewhere in the middle – less distortion and harshness, but experience with FiiO devices is they are rather neutral and light sounding as well so the T3 sounded too sterile from it.
The Tin audio T3 has a neutral-leaning-bright sound. Some notable qualities are a good sense of positioning and a pretty wide soundstage with an emphasis on sense of height. The T3 excels in bringing mid and high frequency details to the forefront the most, combined with a bit of support coming from the bass.
As a hybrid design, the T3 does have the slightest bit of disconnect in terms of timbre difference between low frequencies and mids and highs, though it isn’t distracting for the most part. The bass is actually quite restrained for a dynamic driver design and thus somewhat matches the brighter mid to high frequencies from the balanced armature driver.
The dynamic driver reproduces bass with quick impact happening around the mid-bass region, supported in the background by notes of rolled off subbass. Bass quantity generally won’t be enough for bass lovers, but there is a good low to medium amount of warmth on the low end to keep things from being sterile.
With a balanced armature driver on mid and high duty, the T3 confidently bringing out vocals, snares and high frequency details with lots of crispness. Depending on your source and music, there can sometimes be bit too much emphasis on mid-high frequencies, resulting in vocals that have a bit more air than a full bodied sound to them. It’s great with higher pitched vocals, but not so much with lower pitched, baritone notes, unless you prefer the emphasis on air more than fullness. With genres like rock and metal which have a lot of distortion, the mid-highs and highs can become very harsh, and male vocals undoubtedly get covered up. This amount of emphasis on the higher frequencies can sometimes prevent the dynamic driver from truly showcasing it’s bass. If you push the volume high enough, you do get a pretty decent bass response, but in practice the T3’s bass often ends up being held back by the highs because the highs inevitably get too harsh at that level.
However, I may be biased and putting a little too much emphasis on bass. Overall, the T3’s rather neutral presentation with a bit of low end warmth and detailed high frequencies is great with most music. As someone who’s listens to heavier genres the majority of the time, I wouldn’t pick the T3, but listeners of pop, country, or quieter genres will find the T3 to be a great budget choice which brings out the best particularly with female vocals.
Comparison with Tin Audio T2
The T3 will undoubtedly be compared to the T2 which has made such a big wave in the audiophile community so here goes.
First off, just like it’s predecessors, there seems to be somewhat of a higher impedance in Tin Audio’s products as I always have to jack up the volume to reach similar levels as other IEMs – my guess is their dynamic drivers are not the most efficient.
The T3 has a slightly stronger and warmer bass than the T2. Slightly more impact, but still not very deep and rumbly – mostly mid bass impact. Lower frequencies are louder too, with those low soft bass notes creeping in in the background, giving more warmth than its predecessors.
One of the more noticeable changes is more presence overall, especially in vocal range and high frequencies. The slight mid-high frequency peak is a bit too much for me – some of the lower vocal frequencies that give voices that depth and presence seem to have been left behind a little bit here.
The T3 has a slightly sharper presentation in the mids and highs than the T2. But not reaching sibilant levels – it’s simply that the T3 has a more forward and engaging sound compared to the T2/T2 Pro. A big difference is also in its timbre – compared to the T2, the slightly more mechanical and clear, revealing sound of balance armatures is noticeably present in the mids and highs. With the addition of the BA, the crisp snappy attack of snares is now readily present as well, where it was much milder in the T2. The soundstage and imaging is also quite clear with the T3, something that I think the refined high frequencies coming from the balanced armature is helping with.
The takeaway from all of this is that the T3 has retained the bass-light, neutral-bright sound signature from the T2 and pushed certain frequencies so that it is a much more engaging listening experience. I would say that this isn’t necessarily a clear upgrade from the T2 – it’s more well resolved in the upper mids and highs for sure, but loses some of the coherency and smoothness of the dual dynamic design. The T3 will be an upgrade for listeners who liked the sound signature of the T2 but felt that it was too laidback.
- Improvement over the T2 in terms of giving a more engaging sound overall from low to high frequencies.
- Good sense of imaging and detail retrieval in highs
- Great build quality with improved 8 strand braided cable
- Still not a very ergonomic design
- Rather poor isolation for an IEM
- Still pretty bass-light (personal preference)
- Midrange frequencies have taken a slight backseat, with bass and highs being more emphasized.