Reid Heath Acoustics (RHA) has not been around for all that long, but in the three or so years that it has been, the Glasgow-based audio firm has done a whole lot to up its profile in the competitive and increasingly crowded earphone space. New companies constantly come and go, and while there have been a number that have caught the eye of both the serious enthusiast and mainstream aficionado, only RHA has held true to a commitment of reinvestment into heavy duty research & development.
Late last year, RHA released the T10i, which we reviewed (see review), a product that featured a ton of earphone for its asking price of $199 USD. The stainless steel over-ear housings, cast from a complicated metal injection molding (MIM) process, is matched only by high-end Japanese firm Final Audio Design in its precision — good company to be in when it comes to earphone craftsmanship. The memory wire ear guides, RHA’s own concoction, were patented. To top it off, the T10i came with exchangeable nozzle filters for tuning the audio signature to taste, a feature usually reserved only for the upper crust of earphones from the likes of AKG and Shure. (Yes, budget-minded companies like RockJaw and Hippo Audio also have this feature, but they don’t exude nearly the same quality.)
While the T10i didn’t mesh completely with our tastes in the sound department — it was tuned largely for those craving a thicker audio palate — we were nevertheless highly impressed with the overall package delivered by RHA in the T10i. We even did a giveaway (thanks goes out to everyone who participated and gave feedback!), as we sincerely believed in the package as a whole being great for everyone out there craving a pair of good earphones. Nearly everyone loved the look and feel of the T10, but the serious audio lovers craved tighter, more measured levels of bass, and even better levels of resolution and imaging.
Cue the drums six months later, and the Scots are back with yet more technology to (perhaps) address feedback from myriad audiophiles intent on hearing something better. Enter the T20.
Here at CYMBACAVUM, we’ve seen coaxial dynamic drivers (like the RedGiant A03, Radius models, TDK IE800, etc.) and even tandem dual dynamic drivers (like the JVC FXT series), but RHA cooked up something new. Similar to a coaxial design, RHA‘s DualCoil™ driver sits coaxially, but it also sits on the same plane, such that the voice coils attach to the same diaphragm, just at separate concentric apical processes.
It’s all very fascinating engineering that has its in-built benefits. The acoustic engineers at RHA get not only independent control over the inner and outer facets of the diaphragm, but also get a compact package that can probably drop into an existing form factor without too much trouble. That’s perhaps why the rest of the T20 has stayed largely the same with its awesome shells and cables.
According to RHA‘s own marketing materials, the DualCoil™ driver is “engineered to deliver refined, high resolution audio with a neutral tonal balance“; if so, the T20 could possibly be substantially different in the sound department than is the T10. One part of enabling listeners to hear higher levels of resolution and clarity in music is a more neutral tonal balance, along with better high frequency extension — the T20 seems to have achieved the Japan-spearheaded “Hi-Res Audio” certification. Another clue to suggest that the T20 is intended for the niche audio crowd is that it is being introduced without an Android/MFI-compatible remote cable first — usually a sign they want audiophiles to take the product seriously, by making their earphone compatible off the bat with all off-board amplifiers and DACs.
So how will the sound signature of the T20 mesh with the taste buds of the CYMBACAVUM crowd?
Well, only time will tell when the T20 becomes available later this summer. After all, experience has shown that different companies all have different interpretations of the “neutral” moniker. We have faith, though, that given RHA‘s rapid rise in the earphone market, the T20 will be credibly improved over its older brethren.
To get some elaboration, we did manage to chat with RHA‘s Iain Smith to learn a bit more about the particulars of the T20:
How does the sound differ from that of the T10i?
“The T20 is all about the driver technology – the DualCoil™ driver at the heart of the headphone is the most capable of any IEM we’ve made, and we’ve worked hard throughout the prototyping phase (during which we were able to gather feedback from a wide range of audiophiles and enthusiasts) to get the very best out of it. Against the T10i, the T20 offers a more refined, balanced sound and a higher level of resolution throughout the frequency range.”
As a (slightly) higher-end product with respect to price, does the T20 target a different crowd of individuals?
“I wouldn’t say the price is the main differentiator between the T20 and T10i; to a degree, they’re designed to be companion products, but the technology in the T20 sets them apart. The T20 might appeal to a slightly different audience, perhaps those who will appreciate the innovation of the driver technology and those looking for a little more balanced sound signature.”
Are the tuning filters largely the same as those of the T10i, or have they been tweaked?
“The tuning filters work in exactly the same way. When developing the system for the T10i, it was intended as a way to subtly tweak the sound signature for different styles of music and our team felt it was effective in achieving its purpose.”
The memory wire appears differently colored. Is it functionally different, or merely aesthetically different (to differentiate between the T10i and T20)?
“The T10 and T10i were widely praised for their comfort, aesthetics and build quality; it was a logical choice to take these elements over to the T20. We had to make some adjustments to the internals of the housing (which aren’t visible externally) to ensure optimal airflow and space for the new driver, and we decided to make the entire cable and ear hooks black to differentiate against the T10.”
Let’s look forward to the release of the RHA T20 this summer. For more information on the T20, please visit: http://www.rha-audio.com/intl/headphones/t20.html