Scotland-based audio company RHA is primarily known for delivering audiophile-grade sound in affordable earphones with great build quality. With the T20i, which were sent to us by RHA for review, that’s not exactly how they played it.
In fact, this set of headphones is not anywhere near cheap enough to be classified as an affordable pair. Even though the headphones will set you back $329.95 (CAD) I still feel that in terms of design, audio and versatility, they comfortably give you your money’s worth.
In terms of design, RHA has gone all-out with the T20i to make a headphone that both looks and feels like a high-end product. The 3.5mm headphone jack is encased in a durable stainless steel casing, while a tightly coiled spring protects the cable from breaking near the end.
Further up, the volume controller and microphone are also incased in stainless steel bringing a sense of high-end design, however it also adds a bit of weight which may be a bother to some. If we keep traveling up, RHA has included another well-made stainless steel cylinder that protects the area where the cable splits in two to form the individual earbuds. But, the earphones themselves take design and build quality to a whole new level.
The drivers are built in to a metal injection-moulded stainless steel casing, and they look absolutely stunning. The surface is smooth and round, there are no rough edges or corners, and they are very strong and durable. They’re also really ergonomic, and sit almost flush with your ears. They’re not the lightest earphones around, but they’re not uncomfortable to wear.
Great effort and attention has gone in to how they feel when you wear them. There are ten pairs of ear tips with various designs, in different sizes and made from different materials to suit you. Personally, I prefer the memory form ear tips, but there are regular dual-material silicon ones in various sizes as well as a couple of double flange models. All these ear tips are stowed inside the included folding case, held securely in a credit card-sized piece of metal with cut-outs designed to hold the tips in place.
The ear-hooks that loop out and over your ears are made from a material which is both pliable and strong, to ensure that when you mould it to fit around your ears, they stay in that shape. However, they are not only used to make sure the earphones stay in place. They also ensure that the earphones’ nice cancellation properties are optimized, helping to block out any background / ambient noise.
Sound quality is a very subjective topic, with some people enjoying a heavy bass, others liking a more neutral and balanced sound, and some preferring high-frequency tones. Regardless of what describes you best, the T20i has you covered.
What’s different about RHA’s T20 family is the unique driver and magnet arrangement on the inside of each earphone. Instead of the usual solid disc, RHA uses a ring magnet and puts two voice coils around it, hence the DualCoil branding, with the inner one handling the lower range of frequencies and the outer addressing the higher end. The audio signal is split when it arrives at the earphone, with bass and lower mid-tones going to one coil and treble and upper mid-tones going to the other.
RHA has designed a Tuning Filter System, whereby the user can unscrew the very tips of the earphone and replace it with a pair designed to boost bass, or boost treble manually. Depending on the type of music you are listening to, the filter system allows you to change the tips to get the best possible sound quality. While I liked the treble and bass filters for certain types of music, I found that the reference / neutral filters sounded the best in most cases.
Regardless of whether I tried the bass, neutral or treble tuning filters, one thing remained the same. The clarity of the song was always top-notch, providing a precise reproduction of the original sound. I could hear details in many songs that you wouldn’t be able to hear using any regular pair of headphones. Sounds were balanced, and bass notes didn’t muddy over the rest of the frequencies, even with the bass filters installed. That’s thanks mostly to RHA’s DualCoil Dynamic Driver which is engineered to deliver a neutral tone.
“The T20’s revolutionary DualCoil dynamic driver is engineered to deliver refined, high resolution audio with a neutral tonal balance. The T20’s DualCoil dynamic driver features an additional voice coil situated within an annular magnet; each coil operates independently to produce part of the frequency range. This unique configuration ensures ultra-efficient performance and true-to-life sound reproduction across all genres of music.”
If you have Hi-Res Audio equipment, you’ll be pleased to know that the T20i is also Hi-Res Audio certified, meaning that you can listen to your favourite tunes without losing any quality. If there is one issue with the T20i, it’s that the in-line microphone does not sound that great if you are the one receiving the phone call. When testing it out in various phone calls, I was told that the audio quality from my microphone was muffled and quite low compared to other headphones with in-line microphones. However, the volume control on the microphone works really well and comes in handy when you want to quickly change the volume or answer a phone call.
Overall, it is really tough to find anything wrong with RHA’s premium T20i headphones. At $329.95 they are far from the cheapest headphones around, but even at that price I would still say they are worth it. Build quality is impeccable, sound quality superb and they’re incredibly attractive. The very fact you can manually change the audio profile to suit your taste using the tuning filters just makes them so much better. If you’re looking for a great pair of earphones with incredible sound quality, you should definitely add these to your wish-list.