Among those who know the name, Hidition is a Korean brand and highly respected in the high-end in-ear monitor (IEM) space. Creators of the venerated Hidition Viento, Violet, and NT6, Hidition also has a presence in the Korean stage musician world where their custom IEMs can often be found in the ears of K-pop stars such as Psy (yes, the Gangnam style guy), EXO, and Mamamoo members. Though they’ve been rather quiet for the past five years, Hidition has suddenly reappeared in the IEM scene with a “gaming IEM” of all things. Enter the Hidition T-1.
Unlike their other products, the Hidition T-1 was announced as a Kickstarter project in 2019 and started shipping as a finished product in May 2022. If that’s not unusual enough, it’s listed under the Hidition Gaming brand with a company based in Seattle, rather than Seoul. In fact, though the T-1 itself isn’t listed on Hidition website; there’s just a link to the Hidition Gaming page. But this mystery goes even deeper. My Hidition T-1 wasn’t bought through Kickstarter. No, my good friend Antdroid over at Audio Discourse found a listing on Amazon for $50 (since taken down) and neither of us could resist reviewing it.
Specs wise, the T-1 is a classical single balanced armature (BA) IEM with a boom mic on its cable. This boom mic is what makes it and similar products a “gaming IEM”. Note that it has a frequency response of 20 - 17 kHz given the limitations of a single BA setup. Realistically speaking, you’re not really missing anything with those last few kHz, assuming you even hear up to that point still. Interestingly, they made it a point to display “Game-References” as part of its feature set, with FPS, TPS, and Stealth called out as its specialities. Let’s see if Hidition has managed to bring their high-end audio prowess down into the T-1.
What we like
- Neutral bright tuning
- Outstanding imaging
- Cable with boom mic
What we don’t like
- Notable balanced armature timbre
- Compressed dynamics
- Lacking bass for games
- Cheap-feeling build quality
What’s In the Box
- A generic set of white S/M/L silicon tips.
- A black MMCX cable with a boom mic. Unfortunately, it’s not a great cable. It feels cheap and rubbery with lots of cable memory but it does get the job done. There is a hardware mute switch at the Y-split and the mic is reasonably clear for calls. You have to fiddle quite a bit with positioning of the mic to get it right as it loops around the back of your ear. Also, it makes you look like a call-center agent. At least they didn’t skimp on the MMCX connectors. Those are solid.
- The Hidition T-1 shells. They’re about as generic as it gets. Plain black with the Hidition logo stamped on the back as a faceplate of sorts. It’s reasonably ergonomic and made entirely out of plastic. These shells are noisy - scrape it a little and you’ll easily hear the vibrations. Once again, it feels a little cheap.
- A Y-adapter that splits audio output and mic input for PC.
- A rubber cable tie.
The T-1 is a comfortable enough IEM. It seals tight and there is a bit of ear pressure as the shells are fully sealed but there aren’t any offending edges to be uncomfortable. The nozzles are long enough that the shell isn’t pressing up against my ear. I had it in my ears for a few hours at a time while listening to music. The real tricky part is using the T-1 is the positioning of the boom mic as it’s a little unwieldy at first.
Source(s): Apple USB-C dongle
Sound and Frequency Response
My first listen with the Hidition T-1 wasn’t particularly exciting. It’s a classically neutral-bright IEM with a strong hint of BA timbre. For the first couple of songs, it can come off as strident until your brain adjusts. Surprisingly, it has a decent soundstage that’s more open than the narrow nature of the Etymotic ER4 but is otherwise reminiscent of that landmark IEM’s design. I think of it as a single BA version of the Tin HiFi C2 with more linear bass and lesser dynamics.
Frequency response of the Hidition T-1. Measurement taken with an IEC-711 clone microphone. Comparisons can only be made relative to other measurements taken by this specific microphone. A peak at about 8 – 10 kHz is likely an artifact of the measurement rig and may not exist as depicted here. Measurements above 8 kHz are not accurate. If possible, reference multiple measurements.
First off, ignore that massive 8 kHz peak. It’s definitely an artifact as it’s nowhere as severe in my ear. My measurement mic has a tendency to exaggerate resonance peaks.
Looking past the peak, we can see the T-1’s frequency response follows a standard neutral-bright tuning as per my first impressions. There’s a wide 2 - 3 dB hump in the mid-bass/lower mids but I would instead interpret that more as having a small dip at around 800 kHz. Tonally, it reduces some of the stridency of the T-1 upper mids. For the high frequencies, we see the lower and mid-treble being well sustained until the 8 kHz mark before rolling off quickly. It’s not totally dead in the upper treble, as we see a small peak of sorts beyond 15 kHz, but beyond that it falls off completely as expected.
This means that the T-1 is a very forward, midrange-focused IEM. It’s even in the mids with little coloration. Vocals are by far the T-1’s strong suit. They’re transparently rendered and vocal harmonies are unmistakable. Unfortunately, sibilance is present. While the T-1 makes no attempt to hide it, it doesn’t exaggerate sharp “Sss” sounds. As such, I don’t have too much of an issue with the sharpness of the T-1. The treble is clean - hats and cymbals are crisp without much of an overemphasis in the attack unlike many other bright IEMs. Despite the upper treble roll-off, I didn’t note a lack of airiness. If anything, I’m surprised at how much extension it manages to have in the mid-treble. This extension helps to offset the roll-off by elevating the upper harmonic brilliance of notes. Finally, the T-1 is a bass-light IEM. It’s tight and punchy. Not many single-BA IEMs manage to have this much subbass extension, especially using standard silicon tips. Though subtle, I can make out an underlying rumble in bassy tracks though there is a lack of weight and oomph. Bass guitars emphasize note articulation rather than a filled low-end presence.
Clarity. That is the word I would use to describe the T-1. Its sound is clean, clinical, and sterile. Individual notes are well defined, and it has a respectable level of resolution, but there is a sense of limitation. The T-1 highlights little notes in a passage but doesn’t pick up on the subtler instruments in the background. In busy passages, the T-1 can feel overwhelmed as there is little depth and instruments are flattened onto the same musical plane. It’s like having too much text on the same page and temporarily losing the central narrative.
The soundstage is appreciably spacious for a fully-closed single BA. The horizontal stage makes a real attempt to push past the stereotypically enclosed nature of IEMs. It gives a semblance of breathing space between instruments. Importantly, the T-1’s imaging is shockingly good. It’s nuanced and precise despite the confines of its soundstage. Even with its limited depth, the T-1 ekes out spacial distinctions for imaging cues. The T-1’s imaging prowess isn’t immediately apparent at first listen but after five or six songs in, I started noticing how well- separated and effortlessly-placed instruments were. It’s probably the best imaging budget IEM I’ve heard, competing with IEMs far outside its price range.
As a sanity check, I even asked Antdroid if he had a similar sentiment and he agreed. It’s not like a night-and-day difference in imaging performance but it's these subtle improvements over conventional IEMs really do elevate the listening experience. I wonder how much of this imaging performance was intentionally fine-tuned by the creators of the T-1 or if it just happened to be a very happy coincidence. I’m leaning towards the latter but who knows, maybe Hidition truly has some special in-house engineering sauce?
Believe it or not, the concept of “gaming IEMs” is relatively novel. In essence, a gaming IEM is nothing more than a regular IEM with a boom mic attached. Yet, the reason I bought the Hidition T-1 for review was because I haven’t seen an IEM with a boom mic cable in my 5+ years in the hobby. Interestingly, a whole slew of similar gaming gear closely followed the T-1’s release. Products like the Antlion Kimura Solo and Duo gaming IEMs and the Kinera Gramr and Celest Ruyi mic cables all came within a year of the T-1. Let’s take a look at these alternatives to the Hidition T-1 as a gaming IEM.
Looking at costs for the mic cables alone we get:
- Antlion Kimura - $84
- Kinera Gramr - $50
- Celeste Ruyi - $29
That’s a pretty big price range! I’ll be looking to follow-up this review with a video comparing the design and effectiveness of these gaming mics to see which is best, but suffice it to say, even the most expensive option is almost a whole $100 cheaper than the Hidition T-1’s MSRP. There are a lot of excellent IEMs under $100 of your choice that could be paired with any of these cables. For the cheapest option, I would recommend the Celeste Ruyi with something like the Tin HiFi C2 for a total cost of about $60. The mic quality will take a bit of a hit but you’ll get a much more robust build all around. The C2’s tuning is similar to the Hidition T-1 in the upper mids and lower treble structure but comes with an enjoyable bass boost - for both gaming and music.
Should You Buy It?
Not really. The Hidition T-1’s fatal flaw is that it’s simply too expensive. If it was priced at the $50 Antdroid and I spent, it’s a steal. You get a great sounding little single BA IEM with a neat boom mic for better calls. But at $180, it’s a hard pill to swallow. Other than the T-1’s outstanding imaging, its sound quality just does not compete in that range. Its cheap feeling build quality is also a bit of a turn-off. A rubbery cable, awkward mic positioning, and plasticky shells is far from what the standards are today in the hypercompetitive IEM landscape. And the final nail in the coffin is the fact that there’s just cheaper and arguably better options. If the T-1 was priced closer to the $80 mark, it would be much more compelling.