A good in-ear headphone is like a truly good book – most of the time, you’re settling for “good enough,” and a true masterpiece only comes along once in a while. The new RHA T10i is that masterpiece when it comes to in-ear buds, with design that’s durable, eye-catching and comfortable, and sound quality that’s hard to match, and that can be tailored to your own tastes thanks to replaceable hardware tuning filters included with the set for sound modification without the attendant downsides of software-side equalization.
- Stainless steel
- Copper cable with gold connectors
- Replaceable tuning filters for more bass, neutral or more treble
- Built-in over-ear hooks
- MSRP: $200
- Product info page
- Great sound
- Plenty of fit and customization options
- Somewhat heavy
RHA has crafted a set of earbuds that are unique – so unique that at first I wasn’t sure what to make of them. The stainless steel buds have a design that manages to look more organic than industrial despite the material used in its construction, and the final effect is of something almost hand-made. Details like the cylindrical steel remote case and the knurled cable case protectors at the headphone split point and the 3.5mm connector are far more industrial in look, and therefore easier to mentally place when you’re taking in the RHA T10i at first glance, but the earbuds take a little more getting used to.[gallery ids="1087176,1087177,1087178,1087179,1087180"]
In the end, though, the T10i’s buds are designed to sit in the ear with maximum comfort, and their smooth-pebble look is ultimately a pleasant alternative to other earbud designs that strive for something harsher, and that feel worse when worn as a result. Other design elements, including the flexible metal clad “ear hooks” that make up the final portion of each cable nearest the ear buds, the remote, and the cable end nearest the 3.5mm jack seems designed to result in a final product that is best able to withstand tangles, unceremonious packing and repeated removal/insertion in iPhones and other devices without cable breakage and with a reduction of wear.
Attention to detail is obvious, too, in the case that comes with the RHA T10i, which includes a metal card that holds additional earbuds and the swappable tuning tips. You won’t have to go digging for these accessories when you need them, as RHA appears to have thought of everything.
When preparing this review, I had to go back and remind myself of the price when preparing the list of basic specs – and I honestly thought I’d made a mistake when the number I came up with was $200. The RHA T10i I’d be listening to could’ve easily cost $100 to $200 more than that, based on the kind of sound they deliver.
Out of the box, the RHA T10i have the neutral acoustic filters installed, which are screw-in components that go under the actual earbud tip and modulate the balance of the sound you’ll get from the devices. These basic, or reference ones, provided the perfect sound for me – rich, warm and inviting, but not overly heavy on the base, or too tinny in service of the kind of high-fidelity clarity only a purist can love.
The good news is that if you’re either a bass addict or a classical enthusiast, you can easily tag in the other two acoustic filters as needed, and essentially convert your earbuds into a completely different set, albeit with the same great construction and a high level of sound quality that persists despite the shifts in overall equalization. And because this is hardware level, not software-side equalization, you won’t notice any odd auditory effects from the change – and they’ll apply to all your music, unlike some of the app-based solutions provided by other companies.
RHA’s sound and comfort combo means that you can listen to these while also forgetting that you’re wearing earbuds for the most part, even while in motion and using them under toques or other hats, which is a rare achievement for this kind of audio hardware.
If you’re looking for a good pair of in-ear headphones, the RHA T10i are for you. They might be a bit outside the ideal target price range of most, since I often get asked what’s the best option at $100, but the extra $100 gets you a lot of additional benefit with the T10i over any comparable option. They’re better than in-ear headsets I’ve owned that have cost twice as much, in fact, and they seem designed to last. iPhone compatibility via the in-line remote is also great, and the sound quality on calls, even when used out on the street, is likewise top-notch.
I wouldn’t be surprised if these were regarded as a ‘classic’ in even five or ten years’ time, and one of the better bargains in mobile audio accessories. If you’ve been waiting for a good in-ear headset to come along, don’t hesitate on grabbing the T10i.