Tin HiFi T3 Plus Review: Back to Basics
Review written by @Fc-Construct
Review unit provided by Tin HiFi
Tin HiFi has had quite a busy year with the release of the Tin T5, Tin T2 Evo, and Tin P1 Plus. None were particularly exceptional, and it seemed that this once well known ChiFi brand had finally fallen out of favor. Well Tin HiFi’s not done yet. For their fourth release of the year, they’ve introduced the $80 single dynamic driver T3 Plus as the successor to the original Tin T3. While the T3 was actually rather decent, it didn’t seem to gain much traction and lived in the shadow of the T2. With the new T3 Plus, Tin HiFi has supposedly spent a year adjusting and optimizing its performance. Given how their recent offerings have turned out, I’m curious to see what, if any, changes in their approach Tin HiFi have taken this time around.
What’s in the Box?
Simple would be the best way to describe the package that the T3 Plus comes in. A plain cardboard box with 6 pairs of generic silicon tips and a set of the classic Tin HiFi blue foam tips. Along with the included 2-pin cable is a BLON-esque burlap carrying sack. The cable is identical to the one found in the Tin T5, a plasticky black 2-core braided cable with pre-molded earhooks. Its surprisingly light and has little cable noise. There is some cable memory and the cable is slightly prone to tangle.The shell of the T3 Plus is a definite departure for anything Tin HiFi has done in the past. They’ve forgone the solid metal shells they’ve come to be known for and instead have gone down the path of lightweight resin shells with a painted faceplate on them. Though the nozzle is fairly large at 6 mm in size, the T3 Plus fits me well enough. I do think Tin has some work to do here though. The shell seems needlessly large for its single driver and it isn’t the most ergonomic compared to many similarly built IEMs on the market today. Truth be told, I would have loved to see Tin reuse the T2 Plus’ shell as I felt that was the best design they had ever done. But alas, it was not to be.
My initial expectations for the T3 Plus were not very high based on their track record over the past year. So when I first heard the T3 Plus, I felt… nothing. It sounded reasonably well tuned with a technical performance befitting of its price tag. Not exactly something to write home about but implicitly a step up above recent offerings. Yet as I listened on, it became clear to me that the T3 Plus is a strong competitor in the budget class, perhaps capable of going up against a class-defining IEM like the MoonDrop Aria.
Frequency response of the Tin HiFi T3 Plus. Measurement taken with an IEC-711 clone microphone. Comparisons can only be made to other measurements taken by this specific microphone. A peak at about 8 – 10 kHz is likely an artifact of the microphone. It likely does not actually exist as depicted here.
To my ears, the T3 Plus isn’t as bassy as the graph might suggest here. Its subbass doesn’t rumble particularly hard and its midbass leans slightly towards being boomy rather than punchy. The attack is a tad blunt with a shortened decay that makes the bass notes feel light instead of weighty. There is also practically zero bass texture. This makes the T3 Plus’ bass feel clean and responsive, without a sense of bloat or mud despite what seems to be bass bleed in the graph. I do think that Tin HiFi has nailed it from a quantity standpoint. It’s not overbearing in any way and is blends in seamlessly within the mix of any track. As with any well-designed tuning, it complements the upper mids and lower treble effortlessly.
The overall tuning of the mids is well done and vocals sound natural. The interplay between the lower mids elevation and abundance of upper mids acts to balance each other out. The T3 Plus is thus neither shouty nor warm. Nor is it sterile nor harsh. Vocals have plenty of presence and clarity as expected from the T3 Plus’ upper mids focus while retaining the full depth of its body thanks to the lower mids. Yet it doesn’t monopolize the stage but mixes in well with the support cast of other instruments. Likewise, instrument timbre is excellent regardless of what I threw at it. Electric guitars are particularly enjoyable. I have no complaints with the mids of the T3 Plus. It’s just pleasant.
The treble of the T3 Plus once again shows off how nicely tuned the T3 Plus is. The lower treble is partially elevated before settling down into the mid treble and maintained through the upper. This lower treble gain following the upper mids adds a brilliance to vocals and strings, providing that subtle boost of clarity. Yet I don’t hear a hint of sibilance anywhere. Nor are there any hard peaks to be found. The treble is a relatively smooth, non-fatiguing experience. Hats and cymbals perform well here with a natural sounding attack and decay that’s unexaggerated or unbalanced, making full use of the T3 Plus’ commendable upper treble extension. Personally speaking, I would actually have liked to the T3 Plus’ treble be a little brighter for a sharper sound. While it plays its role very well in the T3 Plus as is, I feel that if properly done, just might give it that classic Tin HiFi brightness and zing to the experience.
The soundstage of the T3 Plus is fairly average, about on par with modern standards. Imaging is a little better than its soundstage with some nice dimensional nuance to the notes particularly in the treble. Like many IEMs of the same class, it does lack stage depth and layering as well as dynamics. As I listen to it and take note of its technical performance, I find that while it never struggles in any track I throw at it, it doesn’t rise above the occasion either. The major complaint I have against the T3 Plus is that it has a sort of soft sheen to its sound that ever-so-slightly blurs note definition. To use an analogy, its kind of like watching a 1080p vs. 1440p video on YouTube. The difference is minor but noticeable.
Comparison to the MoonDrop Aria
Naturally, any proper analysis of the T3 Plus includes a comparison to the MoonDrop Aria. To my ears, there are two key differences between the Aria and the T3 Plus. First, the Aria has a marginally warmer, meatier sound to it. Particularly, there’s more depth to its bass while the T3 Plus sounds slightly scooped in the mids in comparison. I prefer the Aria here. Second, the Aria has a noticeable upper treble spike and minor tizziness against the smoother, more even treble of the T3 Plus. This makes the Aria brighter when it comes to the attack of the hats and cymbals. In this case, I prefer the T3 Plus’ treble despite it being a little more subdued.On a technical level, I do think the Aria edges out the T3 Plus. Mostly by virtue of its bass response and dynamics being of higher quality than the plain, textureless sound of the T3 Plus. I also don’t get that “soft sheen” feeling from the Aria that I do with the T3 Plus when it comes to note definition. Soundstage is roughly the same though I think imaging is better on the T3 Plus. As a whole, MoonDrop Aria ekes out a small victory over the T3 Plus.
Should You Buy It?
Yes. For $80, the Tin HiFi T3 Plus is yet another budget class IEM that’s worth its salt. To be honest, I’d probably be more impressed with the T3 Plus if the MoonDrop Aria didn’t exist. As it stands, it’s a great IEM but isn’t class defining like the Aria was. So let me play devil’s advocate for why someone might choose to get the T3 Plus instead. The first is a rather superficial complaint. It’s the cable. I seriously dislike the Aria’s braided cable and would absolutely swap it out. The second is that there have been reports of the Aria’s paint bubbling on its shell over time. The resin shell of the T3 Plus likely won’t run into the same issue. Finally, the upper treble spike of the Aria may be a concern for some people compared to the relatively relaxed sound of the T3 Plus.
At the end of the day, the T3 Plus is less of a return to form than a back-to-basics strategy for Tin HiFi. As none of their recent products since the release of the T2 Plus has managed to re-establish Tin HiFi as a competitive name, it was clear something had to be done. With the T3 Plus, they opted to follow the industry trend. And credit where credit is due, Tin HiFi has managed to deliver satisfactorily. I can only hope that success here doesn’t spell the end of innovation for Tin HiFi.
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