If you're a big music listener, you've probably fantasized over an expensive or good-looking pair of headphones in the past. I've been there, and while I have the luxury of listening to full-size headphones while typing away all day, many simply can't take their full-size headphones with them on the commute to work or don't want to carry the extra bulk when travelling. So, how do you get good quality sound while on the move? In-ear headphones that cost hundreds of dollars have been around for years now, but they often carry the same brand names - Sennheiser, Shure, Ultimate Ears, Audio Technica - and often ship with inflated price tags. RHA is a British company that's trying to do something different; offer excellent sound quality, excellent build and even a good deal of flexibility in an affordable package. The RHA T10 High-Fidelity in-ear headphones that I'm reviewing here cost $189.95 in the US and £139.99 in the UK, both very good prices for high-end in-ear headphones with lofty promises. Read on to see if the T10's live up to RHA's bold aspirations.
In The Box
For an in-ear headphone, you might be wondering why you'd care about what's in the box, but at this sort of price, a certain level of "extras" are expected. Thankfully, RHA have accommodated with a bundle of extra goodness. First of all, there's a faux-leather zip-up pouch that lets you keep everything safe together. This is well-built and looks the part, and while it is a little on the tall side, it easily fits in a jacket pocket. Elsewhere, there are 10 different pair of ear-tips included to suit the vast majority of ear canals. There are 2 pairs of 'universal fit' foam tips, 3 pairs of dual-density ear-tips in small, medium and large as well as 2 double-flange tips in small and medium. This is a good helping of tips and they're all mounted on a card of sheet metal that fits neatly and securely in the carrying case.
Then there's a curious little package of tuning filters (more on these later) attached to a thick piece of sheet metal. These can be screwed in to the ear buds themselves to change the sound signature of the T10. They come in three 'flavors'; reference, bass and treble. Out of the box, the reference filters are installed, but you can easily change these and there's a netted pouch in the case to keep them safe, too. These are a great value add-in and I'll cover them further into the remove.
Design and Fit
The T10 are designed to be compatible with everything as such, there's no microphone and there's no in-line control box. Neither of which I felt were neccessary in a pair of in-ears designed for listening to music, still, this should be noted.The T10's are a good-looking pair of in-ear headphones, they look fairly 'industrial', for the lack of a better word, and they're very modern in their appeal. Starting at the 3.5mm connector, there's a decent-sized plug to it that has knurled ends to it that's cold steel and there's a spring covering the first inch or so of cable. I'm assuming this is protect the actual connection while moving around, but it's a nice attention to detail. The cable is a 1.35m OFC multicore cable and it's wrapped in an ever-so-slightly tacky cable that's really quite thick. This then splits into a Y shape with a similar splitter as the plug which keeps a uniform look to the set.
Close to the ear is where things get interesting. The driver housings, which keep the 770.1 dynamic driver safe, are made using a metal injection moulding process and are built from stainless steel. No doubt about it, these are heavy. Or at least, they feel as much in your hand, rather than when in your ears. Each ear is labelled with a colored tab so you know which is left or right, and there's a stiffer piece of covered cable coming out from each ear. These feel stiff and somewhat wiry, and make it easy to bend them around the back of your lobes to keep them secure.
For me, I needed to use the smallest 'dual-density' ear tips, which are fairly generic, but they worked great for me. It took a little getting used to at first, but after a while I was able to wear them for hours with no discomfort whatsoever. In fact, I spent a goof five hours or so with them in listening to music at my desk a handful of times over the past few weeks and they were very comfortable. On the move, it's a similar story, they're very snug, but not painful and there's no cable noise to ruin things for you. Wind noise is minimal while walking or jogging and while the cable is perhaps a tad long for me when out and about I was glad of the extra length on more than one occasion. These are some of the more comfortable pair of in-ear headphones I've worn over the years, but I do wish there were more tips included. This seems like a big ask as there are already 10 included, but a large double-flange pair and a small pair of foam tips would be excellent. Still, the generic smallest tip seems to be my best fit, so I can't complain too much.
Here it is, this is what it's all about; how that 770.1 dynamic driver sounds and how the overall package performs. Right off the bat, I'll tell you about the technical details, this is a 16ohm driver, there's a frequency response of 16 - 22,000 Hz and a 100dB sensitivity. I took a good deal of notes while listening to all sorts of different music here (all lossless files streamed from Tidal for those interested) and there's one common theme I kept seeing looking over my notes; bass.
No matter which set of tuning filters you choose, you're guaranteed some serious bass action here, and for a lot of people that's going to be a great result. For me though, I would have liked this hump in the lower frequencies reigned in a little bit. I spent the majority of my time listening to these with the reference tips installed, and while I could definitely hear the mid-range and high-end of the spectrum with little to no color in the sound, these still kicked with some potent bass. This gives them a very warm, yet detailed sound. The T10s are very clear, in that I could everything I should hear in some of my favorite tracks; the taking of a breath in Jeff Buckley's 'Hallelujah', chord changes in numerous rock songs and the usual sounds that are often lost when listening with lower-end in-ears. These are an exceptionally detailed pair of in-ear headphones, and everything I threw at it was taken care of well.
Let's talk about those changeable filters a little. The reference, bass and treble filters are apparently supposed to alter how much of a certain frequency range is passed through. Sadly, I didn't find that this system worked all that well. This isn't to say it didn't work; because it did, but you shouldn't expect to hear a new set of in-ear headphones each time you swap them around. With the refeference tips installed, the mid-range and high-end were fairly well behaved and they did sound like a refererence headphone, albeit a pair with a massive subwoofer installed. This bass was nice to have, absolutely, it's something very much lacking in other in-ears at this price range, but I did find it a little overpowering at times.
Swapping to the treble filters and I got some of their brightness back, and the high notes started to 'sing' a little more, but they never sounded harsh or piercing. And yes, the bass was still here, and this time, I was very pleased with the combination. I got all the bass I wanted (perhaps a tad more in some tracks) as well as nice, mellow bright sound toward the high end. The RHA T10s with the treble filters installed just sound fantastic to my ears, it's an excellent combination.
The bass tips were, well, they weren't for me. The T10s already have enough bass to them that changing to this set of filters really was just too much, it was pretty fatiguing for me in all honesty. It was just too much, it was like I had subs attached to my ear. Of course, those looking for a pair of in-ears to do their bass-heavy hip-hop and dubstep justice will love this combo, and the fact that RHA have included this sort of flexibility at this price point is commendable.
For this sort of price, the RHA T10s are an excellent pair of in-ear headphones, in fact they're an excellent pair of headphones, period. There's a lot included in the box - including a whopping three-year warranty - and the changeable filters give these pair of in-ears some real flexibility. I may have stressed the bass point a little too much, but these are a very bass-heavy pair of in-ears, which is something that many other models simply can't contend with. Especially so at this sort of price. So, are these worth picking up? If you're the type of person that prefers in-ear headphones, then these should definitely be on your radar, even more so if you're the type of person that spends a long time on public transport or traveling. These cut out a lot of background noise and deliver a clear, well-rounded sound signature that's fairly warm and rich at the same time.
Good value, good-looking, well made and a great performer, the T10s are an excellent pair of in-ear headphones. They might not compete with a $300 pair of Bose or Sennheisers, but if you're looking for a pair of bass-forward in-ear headphones that haven't come from the usual suspects, then you shouldn't look too much further than these.