Duel Of Tunings
- Harman tuning adequate.
- Good balance between the three ranges.
- Great ergonomics.
- Remarkable cable.
- Very good value for money.
- Compact packaging.
- No carrying case.
Link to the WEB
TinHiFi has released two new IEMS C2 and C3, opening the C series. According to the website, they are dedicated for the cold winter of 2022-23, with the intention of making it warm. Following the descending order of my trio of reviews (T4, C3 and C2), it is now the turn of the C3. These are IEMS with a 10mm dynamic driver with a PU + LCP composite diaphragm, an ultra-powerful N52 magnet, all inside a semi-custom, 3D printed capsule that adopts a carbon fibre pattern on its outer face. To top it all off, a 4-strand 270C silver-plated 270C cable with 2Pin 0.78mm interface has been added. The C3s have been tuned in accordance with Target Harman. They weigh only 4.39g per capsule and have an impedance of 32Ω. Let’s see what these new IEMS, priced at $49, have to offer.
- Driver type: 10 mm PU+LCP composite diaphragm
- Frequency Response: 10Hz-20000Hz
- Sensitivity: 106±3dB@1kHz 0.179V
- Impedance: 32Ω
- Jack Connector: 3.5mm SE
- Capsule Connection Type: 2Pin 0.78mm gold plated.
- 1.25m 4-strand 270C silver-plated transparent PVC braided cable.
- Maximum power: 5mW.
- Weight per capsule: 4.39gr.
The size of TinHiFi’s packaging is becoming a classic of minimalism. It is a small white square box, 101x101x33mm. There is only the brand logo, in blue, in the top left corner and the letters C3 as if scratched, in grey ink, in the centre. The back is not much more explicit: the logo, where it was made, 3 QR codes and a barcode, along with several other logos of the certifications it meets. Inside there are several cards, while the C3s are inside a light grey foam mould. Underneath is a little white cardboard box with the rest of the accessories, all protected by separate clear plastic pouches. In a summary:
- The two C3 capsules.
- One cable.
- Three pairs of black silicone tips, narrow core, sizes SxMxL.
- Three pairs of black silicone tips, medium core, sizes SxMxL.
- One warranty card.
- One certificate of authenticity.
The quality of the cable makes it unnecessary to buy a replacement. Although it would have been nice if there had been a choice of cable with a balanced plug. There is no cloth bag or storage case, something I find clearly negative.
Construction and Design
The C3 have been 3D printed in a polished and smooth resin. Their semi-custom shape is very precise and adapts very well to my morphology. The outer face uses a checkered pattern of carbon fibre. In the centre is the logo of the brand, with silver edges. The outer shape is that of a triangle with very soft rounded edges. It has a medium thickness. On the hypothetical edge of the smaller cathetus there is a hole, while the 2Pin 0.78mm gold-plated connectors are integrated into the hypotenuse. On the inner side, on the edge, there is a smooth protrusion for anchoring in the ear. But there are also other rounded contours on this side, which fit my ears very well. There are two large letters L and R in gold ink. For once, these letters are clearly distinguishable. The mouthpieces are integrated into the body itself and are slightly projected. Their length is 4.2mm. They have two diameters, the smaller, inner diameter is 5.6mm and the upper edge is 6mm. They are protected by a dense metal grid.
The cable consists of 4 strands of clear PVC braided strands and 270C wires, silver plated, with 2Pin 0.78mm interface. The connector is 3.5mm SE gold plated. Its sleeve is a spiral fluted metal cylinder in a pinkish champagne colour. The divider is the same, but smaller. The pin is a metal disc with two through holes on its edge. The brand logo is printed on each side, in white ink. Its functioning is optimal. The cable, on its arrival at the 2Pin 0.78mm gold-plated connectors, has transparent over-ear guides. These are integrated into two metal cylinders, which have the same colour as the other parts of the cable. There is an inscribed groove near the cable and, as a base for the 2Pin, there is a translucent red or transparent plastic disc to indicate the channel. Additionally, there are letters R and L printed in white ink on each connector. Finally, the cable can be tucked away thanks to a light grey Velcro strap with the logo and brand name printed in white.
I think the capsule has been very well designed and studied to offer a very high level of comfort. It is light, only 4.39 grams. The cable is also excellent for the price, very manageable and with a low memory effect. The metal parts have a design and colour that I would call attractive. The silver plating is very eye-catching and denotes quality. The only downside is that there is no balanced option, because that would be a definite plus, even as a separately purchased cable.
Adjustment and Ergonomics
Thanks to the 3D printing, the smooth, polished resin used and, above all, the great capsule design, the C3s are very comfortable. They integrate excellently in my ears and don’t move at all. There is not a hint of rotation, the degree of fixation and adjustment is outstanding. The insertion ranges from shallow to medium, it can’t be any greater because of the perfect coupling with the pinna. I have had no problems finding the best insertion with my foam-filled tips. Isolation is high, thanks to the superior fit. The weight of each capsule, 4.39 grams, still accentuates the comfort of the set. The over-ear cable does not get in the way. All in all, the C3s are top of the line and a great choice for outdoor use, for everyday use, even for sports.
According to the brand itself, the C3s are based on the Harman target. Compared to the T2 DLC 2022, C2 and T4 Plus, it is clear that TinHiFi is squeezing a tuning with slight tweaks in the treble and bass. The C3s have the highest sub-bass boost of the four models. While the mid-highs are slightly earlier and subtly higher in excitation. There is little variation in the treble, maintaining a parallelism with the T4 Plus. The tendency towards the sub-bass turns its profile towards a U, but in no case is it an unbalanced profile, as the difference between the maximum and minimum of the FR does not exceed 10dB.
Again, this is a frequency response that can be slightly misleading. From the graph, I would have thought the C3s would have a predominance of upper bass. Of course, they’re not exactly light, but I wouldn’t put them at the bass-head level either. And I think that, in part, this is due to the emphasis of the sub-bass area, while the mid-bass has a downward, albeit present, tendency. On the other hand, it’s nothing abnormal, not even new, but it’s right. The sonority and timbre of the lower frequencies in pure tones is realistic and natural, offering a vibration that is consistent and without artifice, as befits a good dynamic driver. There is a good level of presence in the LFOs, combining a good level of physicality and sensory capability, without the sum being too much. The surface is slightly soft, resulting in a light but perceptible texture, without being too descriptive. The hit is relatively deep, subtly coloured, but quite acceptable. I would have preferred it to be more sensory and rougher, but for the price level it is quite pleasant. The speed of execution, the recovery and the sustain are remarkable for its range, something that puts the tuning in this range in a positive light. It performs well in complicated passages, being able to reproduce complex bass lines, although possessing a slight tendency to simplify these situations. It does not flood, nor does it overwhelm. The result is realistic and pleasant, without losing its composure, even showing a good performance in this kind of situations with powerful bass, with several lines, saturated and unfiltered. I have certainly put the C3s to the test in this type of complicated reproduction and the result has been quite remarkable. It manages to layer well, the bass lines are clearly discernible, with no muddiness, blending, merging or over-simplification, which gives a lesser sense of fidelity. Best of all, it even manages to respect the midrange very cleanly, in this kind of borderline situation.
I finished the description of the previous range by commenting on the good behaviour between bass and midrange. And it is true that this situation is superior when female voices are involved. The respect for this aspect is very good and its representation is always well assured. Its emphasis is not primordial, but its prominence is at the level of the sub-bass, being a coexistence that can reach the limit, but without being critical. It is clear that technically better IEMS will be able to resolve these passages with better grace, but within this range, I feel that realism is not lost, nor is the performance relativised. The point of sibilance may depend on the source connected. It is not a completely smooth performance in this respect, as the C3 demonstrates a relative flare at its initial point, but there is certainly a control phase that paralyses any uncomfortable situations. The result is a graceful whistle, which never comes across as piercing or excited.
In comparison, the male voices are slightly behind their male counterparts, yielding a bit of prominence to them. I’ve found that I’ve tried to compensate for this difference by playing with volume on tracks with male soloists, and I’ve found that the C3 has a good degree of richness in performance and a good physical balance. But a little more body and strength would have been great. The result is an ensemble that acquits itself very well in its first half, though better in its second, enjoying remarkable realism, adequate timbre and natural, attractive recreation, but lacking a greater emphasis to generate a fuller, more balanced sound. But, hey, this is an economical model that acquits itself with a good degree of detail, separation and descriptive ability, despite the classic midrange dip in this U-profile. The result is a very coherent, smoothly pleasing sound that coordinates male and female voices and instruments in good consonance, separation, descriptive power and a quite natural sonority that combines sparkle with control. And all this without feeling any compression or compactness in the sound. Again I repeat that the overall result is quite good and I only regret a closer presence, especially in the first half of the range, which would have made for a fuller and more remarkable sound. However, the final mix is clear, clean, with a notable dose of transparency and separation, in which the details or nuances are shown better than expected, achieving a very musical recreation, attractive and enjoyable for hours.
The mid-range is also the grace of the treble. And it is this aspect that TinHiFi continues to focus on, repeating the pattern in up to 4 models, with only subtle differences. In this case, except for a more enhanced presence in the second half of the mids, the treble is very similar to the T4 Plus. But here, the emphasised tuning in the sub-bass benefits the final set. And, in this case, I consider the overall musical fit of the C3s to be more positive than that of its bigger sibling.
Again, the treble starts with a good initial representation, but restrained and controlled by that little roll-off, which is giving TinHiFi such good results. The consequence is that the initial sparkle, contained in projection, feels relaxed as well as stretched, the result of this relatively balanced rise and fall. The good relationship between power and persistence remains, enriching the sound, providing a brightness that enjoys good projection and presence, not that I can say it is soft, but remarkable. In no case is the sound vigorous or overtly bright, but the presence is adequate, subtly vivid, relatively crisp and with a more than decent extension for the price range. Thus, the upper range performance is more than satisfactory, in keeping with the rest of the range, enjoyable, both individually and overall, as well as valuable to the overall sound of the C3s.
It is one of those times when the U-tuning manages to represent the scene in this way. There is a closer presence at the edges of the image, generating a concave scene, eminently frontal, of notable laterality and very good stereographic representation. The details are splashy, but respectful of the general timbre of each instrument and voices, without them predominating over the fundamentals. The mix is in tune, achieving a remarkable blend of naturalness, warmth and neutrality. The sound offers remarkable dynamics and feels separate, remarkably so for its price range. There is no congestion, a good level of transparency, cleanliness and clarity, but none of these are overly predominant. In fact, I don’t really miss anything, technically speaking, and the overall package is very much in keeping with its value, if not better.
The sound is not analytical, but neither does it fall short in the execution of detail or nuance. It doesn’t reach a micro level, but it achieves a range that doesn’t lack more insightful expressiveness. In this way, the macro and midrange detail, the separation and the cleanness of the sound, manages to amplify the perception of the tiniest nuances above its price. Very good.
QKZ x HBB Khan
The QKZ Khan’s are $10 cheaper, have a 3D printed capsule, slightly more compromised ergonomics than the excellent C3’s and eloquent tuning. Without a doubt, my advice would be to invest that $10 in the C3. It is clear that they don’t have a box, but the cable, after all, a fundamental part of the set, is far superior.
It is clear that I have not been able to fit the sound of the Khan and I prefer the more traditional Harman curve of the C3. But they also do it better in many ways. Balance, midrange, treble, clarity and technical aspects are superior in the C3s. The sound is different in the Khan’s and perhaps that may be their advantage. But when it comes to music enjoyment, the C3s are much more all-rounders than the QKZs.
On a quick change, with the QKZs in my ears, I miss the fuller sound of the C3s, as well as their balance, greater coherence and presence in the midrange. I also miss their technical level, detail, greater separation and presence in the upper treble. I should clarify that the QKZs require more power to sound at the same volume. The only quarrel the QKZs might present is in the low end. They have more texture, but at the cost of a more unreal LFO sonority. In complex situations, the C3 is more resolute, recreating a more complex low end, with better resolution and better resolved than the QKZ, which in difficult passages, can be more overwhelming and tends to simplify both the bass lines and compact the layers.
In my opinion, the mid-range of the QKZ is more unbalanced. I think that the remoteness of the first half creates a sense of hollowness that gives an incomplete feeling of the music in this range. Even though there is also a distance in the first half of the C3 midrange, it is not comparable and the result is much more harmonious and realistic than in the QKZ. The midrange is fuller, more detailed, transparent and cleaner in the C3s.
Over time, the QKZs’ treble has opened up and the sound no longer seems as shaded as it did in the beginning. Now, it feels that higher punch in the mid-treble. But I still prefer the studied coherence of the C3s. To describe the result I again appeal to realism and naturalness, that’s enough.
The scene was simply adequate for the QKZs, in the C3s it is more remarkable, more air, more separation, better detail, better dynamics, better positioning, more transparency, they manage to widen the scene and present it in a concave and wider way.
I think I’m repeating myself, but I think TinHiFi is still going round in circles about the right tuning. Maybe I am as redundant as the brand, but the result is not to be criticised. On the contrary. On their own, the C3s seem to me to be a remarkable product, which I recommend if you are looking for a Harman target.
The capsules are very comfortable and the cable is remarkable for the price. The sound is good across the whole range. It has an emphasized sub-bass, it is capable and very solvent in the lower range. The second half of the midrange is very pleasant, closer, clear, crisp and transparent, achieving very attractive female voices. The relative distance of the first half of the midrange leaves me wanting more, due to its good work and performance, which could have been taken advantage of by bringing it closer and adding more body to this part. The treble repeats the successful formula of TinHiFi’s latest top models, even adapting it more appropriately. Without presenting an analytical sound, the C3s enjoy a very good level of detail, resolution, definition and dynamics. Without being excellent, there is little or nothing more I can ask for at this price. So I can say that this is a very high grade.
Sources Used During the Analysis
- Aune X8 XVIII Magic DAC + EarMen ST-Amp.
- TempoTec Serenade X + iFi Zen Can.
- Earmen Angel.
- TempoTec Variations V6.
- ACMEE MF02s.
- xDuoo XD05 BAL.
- Hidizs AP80 PRO-X Red Copper Limited Edition.
- Aune Flamingo.