For a while, Scotland-based audio company RHA was known primarily for delivering audiophile-grade sound in affordable earphones. With the T20, that’s not exactly how they played it. In fact, this set of headphones is not anywhere near cheap enough to be classed as an affordable pair, but I still feel that in terms of design, audio and versatility, they comfortably give you your money’s worth. That’s despite the fact they’d set you back $240/£180 if you decided to splurge on them…
On the design front, RHA has gone all-out with the T20 to make a headphone that both looks and feels like a high-end product. The 3.5mm jack is encased in a durable stainless steel casing, while a tightly coiled spring protects the cable from fraying or breaking near the end. Further up the cable, another well-made stainless steel cylinder protects the area where the cable splits in two to form the individual earbuds. But the earphones themselves take it to a whole new level.
The drivers are built in to metal injection-moulded stainless steel casing. Which is to say: They look stunning. The surface is so smooth and round, there are no rough edges or corners, and they’re very strong. 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 like the memory foam ear tips, but there are regular dual-material silicone ones in small, medium and large sizes as well as a couple of double flange models in two different size. All these ear tips are stowed inside the included folding case, held securely in a credit card-sized piece of metal with bespoke cut-outs designed to hold the tips in place.
Even the ear-hooks that loop out and over your ears are well-conceived. They’re 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. And they’re not there to just hold the earphones in, when well-fitted, they also ensure the earphones’ noise cancellation properties are optimized, helping you block out ambient/exterior noise. Which leads us conveniently on to sound performance.
As with most features of any product, sound quality is very much a subjective thing. Some people like bass, a lot. Others like a more neutral and balanced sound, while others prefer to hear the high-frequency tones and couldn’t care less about bass. Regardless of which describes you best, the T20 has you covered.
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. Personally, I quite like it when bass kicks me in the chest and fills out the background of the music, so I immediately swapped out the neutral filters for the bass ones. I was really impressed by the difference they made. Where I found the ‘reference’ filters to be a little too sterile, the bass tuning filters brought me close to my perfect sound profile. The rest could be achieved by adjusting the EQ on my device.
Regardless of whether I tried the bass, neutral or treble tuning filters, one thing remained the same: Clarity. I could hear details in many songs I can’t remember hearing before. Not just hearing the bass drum, or snare being hit, but actually being able to pick out the sound of the bass drum pedal or stick strike against the drum’s skin.
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. RHA describes it like this:
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.
For those of you with Hi-Res Audio equipment, you’ll be pleased to know the T20 is also Hi-Res Audio certified, meaning you can listen to your favorite tunes without losing any quality.
If there’s one issue with the RHA T20 earphones, it’s that there is no in-line microphone or music controls, so if you want to turn the volume up or down on your smartphone, or make/receive a phone call, you’ll need to pick up your phone. Thankfully there is another option: Buy the T20i instead. It’s the same set of earphones, except it has an inline mic/control set. It costs $10/£10 more, but is well worth the extra if you need that extra control.
The next step for me would be for RHA to make a set of wireless T20s. As much as I appreciate the incredible sound and build quality, I’m not a big fan of having wires hanging out all over the place. But that’s a personal thing. Cables can be a good thing. Even with some of the best wireless tech around, nothing quite matches a physical cable for quality and latency.
Overall, it’s tough to fault RHA’s premium earphones. At $240/£180, they’re far from the cheapest earphones around, but even at that price, they still look and sound like they could cost more. 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 just makes them so much better. If you’re looking in to a great pair of in-ear phones to invest in, you should definitely add these to your wish-list.
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