Tin T3 Buds Review
Review unit provided by Tin HiFi
Tin HiFi is no stranger to the IEM market. They made their name with the Tin T2 and ever since tried to recapture its popularity to varying levels of success. The subject of today’s review is a new true wireless (TWS) IEM, the $90 Tin T3 Buds. This is not their first foray into the TWS realm – they previously had the Tin T2000 which had a few innovative features such as UV disinfecting LEDs on the carrying case and the ability to switch between wired and unwired. This time, the Tin T3 Buds opts for the traditional TWS approach that has come to be standard within the industry. Unfortunately, said industry has grown significantly when it comes to TWS products over the last few years so I will be very curious as to what Tin HiFi is going to bring to the table. At the very least, it’ll need to beat out its direct competitor: the MoonDrop Sparks which I reviewed a while back.
- Product Summary
- Frequency Response and Tuning
- Wireless Performance
- Reasons to buy
- Vocal-dominant tuning
- Solid bluetooth connectivity
- Long battery life
- Reasons not to buy
- Instruments are secondary to vocals
- Middling technical performance
- High noise floor leads to background static
Inside the box is a cute little circular metal case that houses the T3 Buds. This case measures in at 3.5 cm (1.4 in) tall and 5.5 cm (2.2 in) in diameter. I would have liked to see a more rectangular, flatter case. While this case is cute, it isn’t easily pocketable. The case opens with a slick magnetic swivel top, has a USB-C port in the back for charging, and four tiny LEDs in the front to indicate charging status. I wished the magnet was stronger; at the moment, it slides open a little too easily. The English voiceover is surprisingly natural. It doesn’t sound like a non-native English speaker doing their best Siri impression like we see from other Chinese TWS products. The T3 Buds is otherwise sparse in accessories. You get a short USB-C charging cable and 3 sets of silicon tips and that’s it.
As for the Tin T3 Buds themselves, the shells are made of resin and ergonomically shaped. I find them reasonably comfortable, but I needed to do a change the tips as I found those didn’t fit me very well. It has a touch sensitive faceplate for your standard set of TWS commands.
First impressions of the T3 Buds is that it’s not too bad. The midrange is dominant. Specifically, vocals is pretty much all you hear. Bass and treble are treated as secondary to the upper mids, with a softened blur to them. There is an elevation in the bass, but notes could benefit from better definition. The subbass has a notable roll-off to it and the T3 Buds is primarily midbass focused. Similarly, treble notes are one-noted with out much distinction. There is the occasional bright touch or sparkle to it. You know how some IEMs nowadays really blur the line in price points? The T3 Buds is not one of those. It sounds decidedly like a $50 ChiFi IEM. Overall, it’s an OK first impression. I’ve certainly heard worse. Frequency response of the Tin HiFi T3 Buds. 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.
I’ll be honest, I was NOT expecting the Tin T3 Buds to graph like this. This is a pretty awful graph no matter how you look at it. Perhaps I’m going deaf, but I’ll stick to what I’m hearing vs. the actual graph and say that the T3 Buds sounds a lot better than it graphs. It does explain why vocals dominate the sound and all other instruments take a backseat, especially when I set the volume for the T3 Buds to where vocals are comfortable to me. The bass and lower mids elevation do an immense amount of work to offset the excess upper mids/lower treble while the relative valley around the 1 kHz helps reduce vocal shout as I mostly hear the upper edge of the vocal range. Of course, this means that there is a “hole” in the vocals leading to hollowness in their tone. And there are definitely have been a couple of songs where vocals can be wincingly harsh.
Bass is decently elevated. It’s mostly midbass and subbass rumble is lacking. Transient attack and decay is about standard for dynamic drivers with nothing unusual going on. It does sound rather soft and drum notes aren’t particularly well defined. In the same vein, stringed instruments lack character and energy, perhaps with the exception of the electric guitars. Finally is the treble. Surprisingly, despite the T3 Buds having the occasional bright sparkle, I don’t find it very treble intensive. For the hats/cymbals, the initial attack isn’t super crisp and decay is a little short. This de-emphasizes the spotlight on these instruments and once again, makes the top end of the T3 Buds feel soft. I believe the TWS nature of the T3 Buds is coming into play here as well; upper treble tends to get fuzzy with these wireless codecs.
The soundstage is standard for IEMs. Music is presented on a flat plane with little height or depth. Stage width is firmly between the ears. While imaging isn’t constrained purely to left, middle, right, any attempts to place instruments outside of those general areas are confused and vague.
Resolution, instrument separation, and note definition are decidedly middling. The T3 Buds is not a strong technical performer. The abundance of upper mids does give it a good sense of vocal clarity but that is at the expense of all the other instruments as noted above.
I think the best way to describe my overall sentiment of the T3 Buds is that you can hear that the sound is a guitar or some other instrument but it’s not interesting or enjoyable to listen to. Or to put it another way, with the exception of the vocals, it isn’t very confident with the other instruments. That said, I don’t think the T3 Buds is a bad IEM. In fact, I would be totally fine with taking it as a beater and the midrange focused tuning does work for my daily commute.
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Of course, being a TWS IEM, the wireless performance of the T3 Buds is imperative to its success. Below is a list of core TWS functions and how they perform on the T3 Buds.
- Connectivity. The T3 Buds is equipped with Bluetooth 5.2, and it seems to use it effectively. The Bluetooth connection was painless, and I found that there is little connectivity issues beyond a couple sporadic hiccups. Connectivity distance was good enough to cross a large room without trouble but will struggle across floors.
- Noise floor. It’s not good. The noise floor is quite noticeable on the T3 Buds when active, and I can hear it when listening at reasonable volumes. High octane rock tracks manage to hide it, but any sort of slow-paced acoustic set stands no chance. It’s better on transit with the noise of the bus but if you’re listening at a desk, it’s apparent. This is one the major strikes against the T3 Buds in my eyes. Noise floor was a problem with TWS buds 4 years ago when they were first coming out on the market. This should not be an issue with any half-decent modern TWS.
- Latency. As with the noise floor, latency on TWS IEMs have been a massive pain point in the past. But on the T3 Buds, it’s excellent. The tap and playback delay is practically negligible.
- Battery life. Tin HiFi claims the T3 Buds allows up to 6.5 hours of playback, a 1 hour charging time, and up to 5 charges from the case. I would say those numbers are a little bit on the optimistic side but manages to get in the ballpark. I didn’t have any battery concerns with the T3 Buds, though I don’t use IEMs for 8 hours a day at work like some people do.
- Microphone. It’s serviceable. Not good and only something you’d want to use in a pinch. In other words, the same as most other TWS products.
- Artifacts. A lot of ChiFi TWS IEMs I’ve reviewed tend to have some strange artifacts while in use. For example, the MoonDrop Sparks had the occasional distorted note while the Tin T2000 would oddly pitch-bend music to compensate signal drops. Others will slow down then speed up the music in a sort of rubber banding effect. I didn’t notice any of that with the T3 Buds. Well done.
- Touch buttons. The touch buttons on the faceplate are awkward to use and not very responsive.
Note that there is no ANC as is expected of a ChiFi IEM of this class. It would be rare that a small audio company has the R&D budget to implement ANC into their IEMs. That’s only really feasible for the likes of Samsung and AKG.
Not unless there's a nice sale. Not only is Tin HiFi late to the TWS game, they sent out a mediocre player. Despite the T3 Buds measuring so poorly, I think its sound is quite competitive with your average ChiFi IEM. But that’s only decent at best. While the sound quality of TWS IEMs shouldn’t be held up to the same standard as regular wired IEMs, the T3 Buds fails to impress. On top of this is its wireless performance. The weak link in the chain here is the noise floor. Though the rest of the T3 Buds’ wireless performance is up to par, the high noise floor holds it back.
If I were to be completely honest, the T3 Buds is better served as an ad for the MoonDrop Sparks. I didn’t bother to do a head-to-head comparison of the T3 Buds to MoonDrop Sparks because, as you can read in my review here, the Sparks flat out does almost everything the T3 Buds can but better. All at the exact same price with a more ergonomic carrying case. It’s hard to justify the existence of the T3 Buds when the Sparks exists. And when we look beyond our niche little hobby to the wider world of TWS products where tech giants are all clawing for market share, the Tin T3 Buds is too little, too late.
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