Clarity Has A Price
- Explicit, clear, bright and transparent sound.
- Open, wide and broad scene, offering a gaseous, ethereal and slightly three-dimensional sensation.
- Remarkable separation of the elements.
- Good level of construction.
- Remarkable cylindrical design, mixed with a spiral shape that is more attractive than the straight lines of its predecessor.
- Some inequality between channels.
- Coloured, shallow bass.
- Difficulty in generating layers of sound.
- High details obscure midrange or mid-distance nuances.
- Return to MMCX connection interface.
Link to the Store
Tiantian Dongting TinHiFi was launched in 2017. TinHiFi gets its name from the homophone of «Listen» and «Hi-Fi». On the other hand, the brand advertises that one of its best assets is that it tries to listen to the world and, with that, to the users who buy its products. They claim that, although the T2 model has already been iterated several times, it still has room for improvement. This time, thanks to users, they have opted for clearer and more transparent high frequencies, as well as cleaner, more controlled, more precise and tighter low frequencies. The profile is now more neutral. The MMCX interface has also been reintroduced and the design has changed slightly, using a spiral shape. Internally, a dual coaxial transducer design with composite diaphragm has been used. The 10mm driver executes the low frequencies and the 6mm driver handles the midrange and high frequencies. Finally, the capsules are made of lightweight aluminium for high strength and durability. Let’s see what more surprises this new TinHiFi model called, of course, T2 MKII has in store.
- Driver Type: 2 dynamic drivers, 10mm woofer + 6mm midrange & tweeter.
- Frequency Response: 20Hz-20kHz.
- Sensitivity: 103±3dB @ 1kHz 0.126V
- Maximum distortion: 3% Max at 1kHz, 1mW.
- Power rating: 3mW.
- Maximum power: 5mW.
- Cable: 8-core 5N silver plated cable.
- Capsule Connection Type: MMCX.
- Jack Connector: SE 3.5mm.
- Material: Plastic Aluminium.
The packaging of the T2 MKII follows in the tradition of the T2 and features an elongated landscape box. On this occasion, the chosen colour is grey. Its size is 143x76x43mm. The presentation remains sober: there is only T2 MKII written in the centre in white letters and the brand logo in the lower left corner. On the back there are a few QR codes and the logos of the certifications the product complies with. Removing the cardboard reveals a box that looks like a landscape book, with a lightly padded, leather-textured surface. In the centre is the brand logo in gold ink. The inside is white, a box containing a thick foam mould, which holds the capsules with the particular spiral shape. Once the first layer is removed, there are the rest of the accessories, in transparent plastic bags. The complete contents are as follows:
- The two T2 MKII capsules.
- 6 pairs of silicone tips, sizes SxMxL. One medium pair comes with the capsules.
- Two blue foam tips, large size.
- One silver-plated 8-core 5N cable with 3.5mm SE plug and MMCX connections.
The packaging is reminiscent of previous models and does not come with a case or bag. It has two sets of tips which are now different. The lighter ones have a wider core and the darker ones a narrower one. It is a detail the inclusion of foam tips, but again I would like to point out that it does not include anything to store or protect the IEMS.
It is available in two colours: Silver and Gun.
Construction and Design
On this occasion, the cylindrical design is coupled with a spiral shape on its outer face. From the outside, it has a certain snail-like appearance, although the circular face in the centre is not lost. It is a double concentric circle. While the outer ring is flat and thin, the inner face is conical until it reaches the central circle, which rises subtly up the hillside. There are three holes in this dividing ring. The spirally rising area embraces the cylinder and contains the MMCX connection interface. Each channel can be distinguished by the plastic ring around the MMCX interface: red for the right, blue for the left. The inner face follows the familiar ballistic pattern: a slight step giving way to a much more pronounced one. A new light rim and the mouthpiece with two diameters, the central one of 5.4mm and the crown of 6mm. The length of the mouthpiece is approximately 3mm. Its orifice is protected by a perforated metal grid. There is a hole in the slope leading to the nozzle.
The cable hardly changes, it is traditional in its connections and sleeving. The plug is 3.5mm SE, gold-plated. The sleeve is a classic cylinder with texture for better grip, in two parts, one larger and one narrower. The splitter piece is a cylinder with two rings near the edges. The pin is a metal ring through which the cables pass. The sleeve of the 2Pin connectors are also cylindrical, with a small bevel near the cable and two rings. The same design of plastic discs is repeated, except that one is red, the other transparent. The wire is made of 8 cores of 5N silver-plated strands.
The capsule is slightly different, with that spiral addition. The surface is more textured and the design of the outer face is different, instead of being flat, it is conical in shape and has 3 holes. The cylinder itself is still the classic one. The construction is simply good, although there are some burrs between the assembly of the spiral piece and the cylinder.
Adjustment and Ergonomics
The T2 MKII combines ballistic ergonomics with an elongated body. The 90 degree spiral cross piece adds to the possibility of having a cable that is far from the centre and rigid in the vertical position. The diameter is adequate and if it had been larger, the ergonomics would have suffered. Due to the inclination of the ear canal, the insertion cannot be perpendicular and this causes the cable connectors to be close to the pinna. Depending on the inclination of the ear canal and the insertion depth, this can be more problematic. In my case, with a shallow insertion, there is no such danger. On this occasion, I had to resort to narrow-core, spherical-shaped tips without padding. The set is relatively comfortable. The passage of the cable over the ear is not the most correct. On this occasion, I feel that these guides are not at all pleasant and after a while it starts to bother me. The isolation depends on the insertion and the tips. In this case, with the tips used, the isolation is medium. It is possible to rotate the capsule inside the canal, so it is not a unique fit, but it is durable. In addition to the discomfort of the wire over the ear, there is another rather negative point: there seems to be something in the material of the capsule that irritates the skin on my ears. Soon after I put them on, it itches. It’s not going to be a very pleasant review because of this aspect.
The profile is slightly closer to the Rtings from 1khz to 8khz. But the T2 MKIIs have less sub-bass, more mid-bass and a distinctly more emphasised second half of the treble. What you get is a bright midcentric profile with a rather limited and bland low end. It’s certainly quite a drastic change from the DLC 2022 model. I liked that model very much and its profile was slightly reworked in several of TinHiFi’s own models of that generation. It’s true that it was a bit of a roundabout way around that target until it was squeezed out. But the change the brand has made in this T2 MKI model has been somewhat radical. They say that they have listened to the voices of the users and have turned the profile around, looking for bass below neutrality, with a coloured and less realistic sonority, as well as focusing the energy on the high notes, achieving a more polarising effect.
If my experience after more than 200 reviews, the vast majority from IEMS, shows me anything, it is that a bass tuning with reduced low end sounds unnatural. The frequency response of the T2 MKIIs below 200Hz is quite anaemic, with that being their highest point. The result is very little noticeable sub-bass, something that is clearly distinguishable in the very low frequency pure tone test. When reproducing a 20Hz tone, the result is a sound that is more audible than sensory, a coloured hum that lacks power, awareness, depth and realism. Behaviour does not improve until after 40 or 50Hz. However, at that point, the sound is still not completely natural and you still perceive that coloured, or in other words, a sonority that belongs to a higher and more audible frequency range. Thus, the bass drums sound sharper, with little volume, density or sense of depth. I wouldn’t call it a neutral bass, because for that it has to sound at least natural. There are many IEMS whose bass presence is not noticeable, but whose behaviour is. In this case, neither the sonority nor the behaviour is the most appropriate. This can be demonstrated by equalising the bass, if the sub-bass is raised, the sonority still does not improve below 40Hz. In fact, the rough, vibrant and sonorous behaviour is maintained, with a low sensory and physical capacity, which makes it more audible than natural. The result, transferred to the music, is negatively obvious. Again, going back to the drums, they sound like simple drum hits, with very little range and depth. On the other hand, the result is more elastic than it should be. How can it be that the bass lacks power and on top of that is not completely compact or contained? The result is an unrealistic rubbery feeling, which doesn’t provide an adequate or natural texture either. Having a low power I expected a drier, more contained and tighter bass. But these characteristics don’t reach the remarkable, they stay in an acceptable range.
On the other hand, in my other test of dirty, unfiltered, multi-layered, low-definition bass reproduction, the result was better than expected. The T2 MKII was able to follow the bass lines without getting lost, although it reproduces them in its own way. It still tries to separate them with some grace and maintain an order in their representation. It is true that the sonority is not adequate and it will be better or worse depending on the quality of the source (I have used my reference source for this case, the one that achieves the most compact, fast, natural and realistic bass: it is the combo formed by the Aune X8 XVIII Magic DAC and the EarMen ST-Amp amplifier). But, at least, it has kept its type quite gracefully, and this gives it a technical performance that does reach a remarkable mark, being precise, skilful and resolute. It’s a pity that the sound behaviour doesn’t match it. And what strikes me most is that TinHiFi has dedicated a single 10mm driver for the lower range. We know it can do better.
Looking at the graph I thought the T2 MKIIs would be eminently mic-centric. The result is brighter than midrange-centric. And that’s because the first half lacks enough body to have a fuller presence. In that respect, the male vocals feel somewhat disconnected, with a light base and a midrange and less close presence than expected. To be honest, I thought the vocals would be much more prominent than I found them to be. I also expected them to be warmer, but in that respect I must have misinterpreted the chart. As I say, the sonority of the voices is not bad. On this occasion, I find their execution more natural. I feel them somewhat disconnected and sunken, in a less protagonist plane that makes me raise the potentiometer to make them more present, achieving a more negative than appropriate effect. In this sense, all the instrumentation is above the male voices. The female vocals improve in presence and move closer to the foreground, but they still blend in with the instrumentation. And also with the details and nuances. There are elements that should be in the background that are placed on the same level as the vocals or the main instruments. The result generates a certain disorder inside my head, as I feel that the elements should not have such an equal distribution and their distribution in the different sound planes should be in a different order. Fortunately, the dynamic driver is not very explicit or thin and there is a certain softness in drawing the edges, something that allows the sounds to be more pleasant, less sharp and relatively rounded. Such a tuning from an overly thin BA driver would have been much less tolerable, in my view. However, there is another positive point about this aspect and that is that the elements are sufficiently separated and distant so as not to saturate the mix. Even though the midrange and treble are in the foreground, the T2 MKII’s horizontal distribution of the midrange and treble is remarkably well resolved, resulting in a very open sound in this frequency range, full of clarity and transparency. I have noticed that the tips contribute a lot in this aspect, in this case I recommend tips with a wide core to maximise these aspects related to light, transparency and scene magnification. Still, I miss some flesh and physicality in the female voices, but they are certainly more prominent in the central range. They feel delicate, very well outlined, loaded with detail, but maintaining a certain softness at their edges that allows them to deal with sibilance and without losing the battle against overexposure of detail and nuance.
It is obvious that the second half of the midrange is more explicit. But, at this point, I am once again grateful that it is a dynamic driver that takes care of it. The 6mm driver dedicated to the midrange and treble is suitably light, but without going over the sharp edge. It’s thin enough to be precise, concise and decisive, but not so thin as to be penetrating or hurtful. And yet the treble energy level is quite high. The result is a sound that is explicit, exposed, relatively splashy, transparent, clear, detached, technically adept, but quite natural in terms of sonic behaviour. Who would have thought I would say this about the midrange-highs coming from a bass like the ones described above.
The high end is quite explicit. Although it starts with a slight control zone that tries to soften and naturalise the result, the second half of the treble is quite exposed. There is some control around 7kHz which is able to limit the sibilance or at least make it not completely evident or penetrating. But, it is true that the second half of the treble splashes the sound with a relatively energetic and shimmering radiance. In this sense, its prominence and foreground presence is capable of obscuring details of other lower frequencies and more distant planes. The treble body is larger than desired. This generates a more opaque, dense, energetic, full and extended brilliance. The result is a shimmering brilliance, which is difficult to dilute and whose dissipation is noticeable over time. At least this behaviour and the development of the treble is certainly realistic and I still prefer it to come from a dynamic driver. Despite its high energy level, there are certain parameters whose behaviour I perceive as natural, even if the mix in the music is disproportionate and oriented towards the high notes.
The result is an extensive range, containing a high power and presence, capable of eclipsing other sonic elements. However, despite the long, sparkling flash of their brilliance, they still retain a certain sweetness that allows them to retain a subtle, dazzling realism… if you can stand it, that is.
The T2 MKIIs have a relatively shallow depth. Despite this, the sound does not feel flat or compact. There is a noticeable sense of air, separation, vaporousness, even a certain three-dimensional ambience that helps a lot. The sound is broad, horizontally speaking. It benefits from a great level of openness, separation, clarity and transparency. As I say, especially on the horizontal axis, even vertically. But it suffers from distance on the frontal axis. It is also not very skilful at creating many layers. It tends to distribute the sound in a very open and separate way, but when the elements are superimposed, it tends to be more explicit in the high notes, reaching a higher prominence and relegating the rest of the nuances to a less perceptible background. This is how the energy of the treble gives it an opaque body that hides important details in the mix. In this way, a certain level of resolution is lost and a level of detail is reached that is only visible in the foreground, engulfing the micro detail of the midranges and secondary planes.
On the other hand, the level of separation is high and the distance between elements generates a rather dark background for its price level, something that amplifies that sense of neatness in its sound. In this way, a more elevated, ethereal, even gaseous ambience surrounds the head slightly, subtly piercing the frontal sensation of the scene.
The technical skill of the T2 MKII is sufficient to distribute the image quite well. It has good precision for this, but it still fails in the depth positioning of the elements. Instead, on many occasions, it is able to position them in a closer plane, managing to place them in a horizontal part of the wide space it generates. In this way, the sound never feels clumpy, congested or compact. True, there’s not a lot of layering or depth, but there’s no denying that the T2 MKIIs are capable of filling the scene in a truly expansive way. That doesn’t detract from the fact that elements, details and nuances are lost along the way.
Finally, I would like to make a small comment about the way in which the T2 MKIIs gain clarity, transparency and separation. Normally, raising the energy in the midrange and treble creates a certain, relatively false sense of forced clarity. I can’t help but think that, in this model, these characteristics have been obviously forced. However, the clarity and spaciousness of sound that is achieved is obvious, well resolved, relatively realistic and natural. There is a clear excess of energy in the treble. But the sound, with the right tips and source, is really clear and spacious. And that’s the best thing about the sound.
One model with a particular tuning, even similar to these new TinHiFi T2 MKII are the Ikko OH2. With a higher price tag of $79 compared to the T2 MKII’s $59, the Ikko OH2 has a more luxurious and complete presentation, with 6 pairs of specially designed silicone tips of different sizes, plus 3 pairs of Ikko i-Planet foam tips. It also comes with a light brown leather pouch. As you can see, there is a bit more variety in the Ikko tips, while the T2 MKII does not come with a pouch to store the IEMS.
The design of the OH2 is quite particular, it is a very flat capsule with three different parts, one of which is transparent, the other two are white and metallic (in my case). The mouthpiece has an abrupt growth and is not very long and what stands out the most is that it is oval. On the T2 MKII the construction is all-aluminium and mixes a ballistic-cylindrical design with a spiral-shaped part. It’s true that it’s a good design, but the ergonomics are a bit worse. The OH2s are very flat and if you are lucky enough to find the right tips, the integration into the pavilion is almost excellent. Moreover, they barely protrude from the ears and are one of the most discreet shapes I have ever tested. As for the cable, both models use the MMCX interface, something I don’t like. While I like the cable better in the T2 MKII because the strands are thinner, more manageable and less prone to get shaped. The Ikko cable consists of two strands coated with a PVC that tends to stiffen.
One could say that the T2 MKIIs are the high-pitched version of the OH2s, they are also lighter in bass. The distance in the upper range is the biggest difference. While the OH2s are smooth, the T2 MKIIs have a noticeable amount of energy in the treble area. In terms of performance, the OH2s are easier to move.
Turning to the lower range, I am not a fan of neutral or lower bass at this level. The T2 MKIIs are in that weak and light range, offering a subdued, low energy, smooth textured and coloured sound. The OH2s are better in that respect and their colour is somewhat darker, deeper, more natural, with a little more power and roughness, less coloured in appearance and technically superior. The lower end is more noticeable in the Ikko’s and their performance is more realistic and sensory, although they are not a prodigy in the bass range either, but they clearly win the battle against the T2 MKII.
In the midrange the OH2s are grateful for a fuller lower range. In this way, the first half of the midrange is richer, with more body and physicality. The base of the male voices is denser, their timbre warmer, something that gives them a more natural, realistic, even more exciting sound. On the T2 MKIIs, the first half of the midrange is thinner, with less base and a little further away. That makes it feel comparatively hollow in this phase, something that also affects the instrumentation. OH2 are more balanced in the transition to the midrange and present a more homogeneous sound. In this second half, the female vocals are also more grounded and their representation is stellar, closer, very realistic and fuller. In the T2 MKIIs there is still a brighter, leaner, leaner approach, which brings out the details and nuances, rather than the fundamental element. Thus, the richness of the midranges and their level of lushness is more expansive in the OH2s, as opposed to the greater dryness and base sterility of the T2 MKIIs.
The treble sounds distinctly different in the two models. While the OH2s are more analogue, dry, soft, but with a certain projection, the T2 MKIIs have a higher level of energy and brightness. They also have more extension, no control zone, but are more excited, more penetrating and crisp. In my opinion, I would go for a half-way point between the two. But the bright tuning of the T2 MKIIs doesn’t do the rest of the frequencies any favours either and that’s something that makes my preference clearly towards the OH2s.
The sound is deeper in the Ikko, although it is also more up front. There is a noticeable sense of detail in the midrange, which is an improvement on the T2 MKIIs. The TinHiFi’s are much more lavish in the higher details and these overlap with those in the midrange. They are not very good at layering, but they are good at distancing and separating the sound. In this way, they are wider, higher, have a sense of greater separation, a more transparent, open, ethereal and vaporous sound. OH2s have good clarity and transparency, but it is a more physical, realistic, more natural sound, with a more tangible and somewhat more intimate feel. However, it is worth mentioning that they have a very good level of definition and precision in their sound, something that, together with their more balanced, homogeneous and smooth tuning, gives them a higher euphonic, musical and enjoyable level than the T2 MKII, always, speaking from my personal point of view.
The TinHiFi T2 MKII are the flip side of the T2 DLC 2022. While the former were based on a fuller profile, with more powerful bass, smoother treble and more homogeneous transitions, the MKIIs have clearly changed the balance by smoothing the bass and reducing it below neutrality, but stretching the treble, both in energetic projection and in extension. The difference is a preponderance of sound in the second half of the sound spectrum, giving much more importance to the midrange and treble, generating a sterile, coloured bass, a thin, lean and relatively distant first half of the midrange. By contrast, the sound is very clear, transparent, luminous, sparkling, crisp, detached, open, gaseous, ethereal and broad. But it is also flat, with a predominance of high detail that obscures the micro detail of the lower ranges. It is a specialised sound, dedicated to treble lovers, moving away from the musical warmth of its predecessor to differentiate itself in an obvious way and embrace a new audience, perhaps not as large as that of its predecessor. But TinHiFi seems to take the risk and that is something worth praising, that it tries to find another sound and to please fans with different tastes.
Sources Used During the Analysis
- MUSE HiFi M3 II
- Tempotec V3
- Hidizs S9 Pro Plus.
- Burson Audio Playmate II.
- Aune X8 XVIII Magic DAC + EarMen ST-Amp.