Yin And Yang
- Good level of construction.
- Very light capsules.
- Natural and well executed bass.
- Very open, three-dimensional, ethereal and separated sound.
- Very good level of detail for the price.
- The upper mids and treble can become incisive, energetic and unpleasant, even predominant in the environment.
- Bass and mids without much character.
- Very sparse sound that limits the naturalness of the music, which feels somewhat forced and unreal.
- Somewhat stiff cable.
- Not very useful tips.
- Complicated adjustment, it is not at all easy to find tips that can offer a good sound.
- Heavy reliance on the right tips to find a good seal and the best sound they can deliver. Something that also limits persistent fitting and use on the move.
- They are not sensitive and need more power than usual.
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TinHiFi has been very active lately. But it had been a few months since I had reviewed any of their models. After the successful C-series product range, Tiantian Dongting® TinHiFi® has now released the most affordable model of the line called C0. It is a cylindrical-shaped IEMS with a detachable 2Pin 0.78m cable that uses a dynamic driver with a 10mm PU+titanium-plated diaphragm. The back of the C0 is open for a more transparent and natural sound. The body is made entirely of aircraft grade aluminium alloy and CNC machined. The basic price for this model is $14 with microphone or USB TypeC + microphone connection, $16 without microphone and SE 3.5mm connection, while there is a special blue option for $18 with SE 3.5mm connection. Let’s take a look at what the brand has to offer for this reduced price.
- Driver Type: 1 dynamic driver with a 10mm PU+titanium plated composite diaphragm.
- Frequency Response: 20Hz-20kHz.
- Sensitivity: 105±3dB @1kHz 0.179V
- Impedance: 32 Ω±15%.
- Power rating: 3mW.
- Maximum power: 5mW
- Maximum distortion: 3% @1k Hz 0.179V
- Jack Connector: SE 3.5mm gold plated / USB Type-C connector.
- Capsule Connection Type: 2Pin 0.78mm.
- Capsule Weight: 3.8g.
- Cable length: 1.25m.
- Capsule colour: gold or blue and black.
The TinHiFi C0 ELF comes in a small white square box, dimensions 91x91x33mm. The logo of the brand is on the top left side, you can read ELF with some faded letters in the middle and the model on the right bottom. There is little else on the back of the box, again the logo at the top, where it has been manufactured in the centre, 3 QR at the bottom and the rest of the logos of the certifications that the product complies with. After opening the lid, a booklet with the guarantee is displayed. The capsules are inside a black foam mould, underneath there is a long white box with the rest of the accessories. They are as follows:
- The two TinHiFi ELF C0 capsules.
- One cable with SE 3.5mm straight plug.
- Two black rubber over-ear guides.
- Five pairs of grey silicone tips, two large pairs, two small pairs and one medium pair.
- One warranty card.
At $16 of my choice it is an affordable price. There is no carrying bag and the tips are not the most suitable, although this task is somewhat complicated.
Construction and Design
TinHiFi C0s have an open cylindrical design at the rear, which is covered by a perforated metal grille. The body is made entirely of aircraft-grade aluminium alloy and CNC milled. It is not a pure cylinder, but offers a flaring and arrow-like tapering as it approaches the nozzles. The body of my model is gold-coloured, with a micro-sandblasted surface. The 2Pin 0.78mm connection is on the back of the cylinder and consists of a hard plastic disc, red for the right side, transparent for the left. The connectors are gold-plated and there is a blue paint bump to indicate polarity. There is a hole in the cone that tapers towards the mouthpiece. The nozzles have three levels of diameter. The one closest to the base measures 6.15mm, the intermediate one measures 5.4mm and the outer crown measures 6.15mm. The length of the nozzle is approximately 5.5mm. The nozzles have a perforated metal grid with concentric holes.
The cable has a straight plug coated with black plastic. The connector is a gold-plated 3.5mm SE connector. The cable is a transparent PVC coated strand with gold and darker strands visible inside. It has a velcro strap and has a stiffness that is prone to take shape and offer microphonics. It is for this reason that the rubber over-ear guides are very welcome. The splitter piece is made of black rubber in the shape of a joined Y, oval and flat. The adjustment piece is of the same type, but smaller and does its job quite well. The sleeve for the 2Pin 0.78mm connectors is a cylinder that matches the material and colour of the capsules. The connectors are gold-plated, mounted on a transparent plastic plate with a blue dot on one of the connectors to indicate the polarity.
The construction of the capsules is impeccable, flawless. The parts are very light. The cable matches the capsules, but the wire is stiff and microphonic. Thanks to the rubber over-ear guides, this effect can be avoided. But the quality of the cable invites to use a better one.
Adjustment and Ergonomics
Despite the freedom of the cylindrical design, the fit has been extremely problematic. The first problem is with the cable, which is stiff and microphonic. It can be used with the connectors facing downwards or upwards, with the cable over the ears. You can use the rubber guides that come with it or not. The capsules have the freedom to do so. But, the most critical thing is the fit. At first glance, it might seem that a straightforward design like this would offer a higher degree of freedom. On the contrary, although the fit may seem simple, the sound is very dependent on the seal. I had to go through a large number of tips in my collection to find the most suitable ones, very large, wide, but low tips, flexible enough to offer a degree of occlusive, but not very long-lasting fit. Depending on the tips used the sound can be totally forgettable, with no bass feel and very little punch, something the open back design doesn’t help either. If the right fit is found and a good seal is achieved, the bass can begin to flourish and acquire a certain degree of isolation. But this is likely to be costly and impossible. As I say, after a lot of testing, I have found the ideal setting, with which the sound has been saved. Even so, the sealing is very critical, with any movement it can get out of adjustment and ruin the sound. Only recommendable if you reach this point and for a stationary or office use, although the open design lets out the sound that can be annoying all around.
If a good fit is achieved, the sound is close to what the measured frequency response suggests. It is a balanced and neutral profile in its first half, with emphasis on the mid-highs and first treble. While the low end is smooth and controlled, the high end is more exalted. The rear opening may offer a more volatile and spacious sound. But, in reality, it serves to soften notes throughout the range, losing punch and punch. The result is more inconsistent and dispersed, rather than cohesive, cohesive and precise.
On the other hand, C0s are not easy to move and need power to offer a minimum of punch.
If the right fit and seal is achieved, bass response can be significantly improved. Even so, the bass is neutral, somewhat gummy and springy. They don’t have a lot of power and the punch is a little tender, as if their power is diluted by the rear opening. It is true that this sensation adds volume to the low end, but it also makes it lose power and precision, offering a somewhat more diffuse and inoffensive behaviour, although still with a neutral level. On the other hand, I was surprised by the driver’s behaviour in my very low frequency pure tone test. Starting at the low end, the way the LFOs are reproduced is quite realistic, offering a natural and sensory sound, with hardly any interference. Perhaps, the rear aperture is not so bad in this respect and the performance is freer and the oscillations find no resistance in the materials to colour or distort their sound. Barely audible at that lower end, of a sensory but pleasant nature, they gain in presence with the rise in hertz. The tone at 40Hz is very pleasant, rounded, clean and well executed. Perhaps the sound becomes coloured as you move up the frequencies, losing depth and naturalness, although the execution is realistic. The result transposed to music doesn’t seem quite as good. The bass lacks punch, energy in the punch and seems to be diluted. On the other hand, its behaviour with complex, unfiltered and very powerful bass lines is not bad. There are much more expensive headphones that do much worse in these situations. All in all, it is a neutral low end, without much power or boost, somewhat fuzzy, of medium speed but with a good performance all in all. To give it any more faults would be somewhat unfair.
Sometimes an open sound is sought after for a more scenic and three-dimensional feel. In this case, the rear aperture and the low adjustability of this model limit a more pleasant musical sensation. The mids have that point of dispersion that counteracts their quality. Instead of benefiting, it limits its potential. The note separation is there and the female voices sound quite free and ethereal. It is true that some sibilance escapes, the result of that certain open uncontrol. And this is how the mids can be observed, open, unattached and somewhat uncontrolled. It gives the impression that the notes are stretched out too much and that the execution is not entirely precise. Despite this, the timbre feels quite natural, even neutral. The male voices have an adequate body and proximity, there is no physical predominance and their presence is average, but it is pleasant, maintaining that close timbre. The notes are not powerful, nor physical, the sense of punch is restrained. That can offer a sense of satisfying sound that can fight with that escapist feeling that the music possesses. Certainly, this is a duality that can favour or penalise depending on the music played.
Undoubtedly, the mids still persist in this idea of neutral, balanced representation, but without too much force. But when they approach the mid-high range, their personality changes to accentuate their closeness, their presence, losing homogeneity and entering a more abrupt territory that can limit the balance and relative good work of the central range.
The treble clashes with the sense of openness. The dispersion of the sound makes them somewhat brighter and more expansive, to make them unpleasant, because they seem to linger too long in the scene. In fact, they are somewhat resonant and seem to stretch out more than they should. Their presence is greater than the FR projects, as if there is some multiplier effect. The crackle is incisive and soars in energy, lingering in the environment in an ethereal way, something that makes them more volatile and extended, but also more off-putting to sensitive people, who may find them piercing and too noticeable in the music as a whole. They even have good air presence for such a low-cost single driver.
Perhaps among the strengths is the sense of openness and separation. It is possible that coupled with those sharper trebles, they allow details to become more evident. And it is true that they are capable of revealing micro nuances layered in the background, even better than more expensive sets. In this sense they can be revealing, without being very precise. But the good level of sound separation and dispersion, together with a simply adequate precision, form a set with a level of detail that can be surprising.
On the other hand, the very conjunction of energetic and extended treble, together with the sense of openness of the sound, can give the music a somewhat forced, ethereal and unreal three-dimensional capacity, and can be perceived as unnatural, being detrimentally affected by the strident and not very peaceful treble.
It is true that there is good laterality, some holographic sensation that can surround the head. But it’s a sparse scene, with a somewhat diffuse image where the notes don’t seem very focused. Despite this, the soundstage is large and open for its price, but these are also niceties that can penalise other aspects of the sound.
The TinHiFi C0 are a set of very economical IEMS that give me mixed feelings. They have a remarkable theoretical behaviour in the low end and an OK midrange. Their sound is open, so much so that it is dispersed and lacking in energy up to the point beyond the centre of the frequency range. But, in that second half, the energy level soars and both the upper mids and the highs are energetic to the point of becoming noticeable, even strident, lingering in the environment. On the other hand, that openness delivers a separate sound with a good level of detail and micro nuance, excellent for the price. However, the biggest sticking point of these IEMS is the fit. The appreciable sound quality will depend on whether the right tips are found to achieve the sound that the FR represents. If this is not achieved, the sound will be totally ruined, bassless, shrill and unbalanced. However, this might not be too predictable as the construction is not bad and the cylindrical design might offer, a priori, more freedom than other capsules.
Undoubtedly, there are too many points on either side of the scale to find the balance, offering a more uneven than homogeneous sensation in the sum of all the factors.
Sources Used During the Analysis
- Tempotec BHD Pro.
- Hidizs S9 Pro Plus.