Tin HiFi T5 Review: Regression to the Mean

Introduction

If you've been around the budget IEM space over the past three years or so, Tin HiFi (or Tin Audio as they were known before) would be a familiar name. From the T2 that put them on the map, Tin HiFi has continued to release model after model, some better than others, until the T5 that we have here today. So what is the Tin T5? It's a single dynamic driver IEM that uses a 10 mm DOC driver. What DOC actually stands for, I don't know but the promotional pieces I've seen tries to relate it to diamond-like carbon DDs. Personally, I don't really care much for marketing materials and whether not the IEM is made of some exotic compound so if you're curious to know more about the T5 I'll defer to its product page. Speaking of product pages, you can get the Tin T5 over at Linsoul and Drop. At the time of writing, it's going for an early bird price of $110 though MSRP looks to be $130 once the promo ends. Alright, on to the review.

Disclaimer: I reviewed the Tin HiFi T5 from Linsoul in exchange for this honest review. I have not and will not be compensated in any other way.
 

 

What's in the Box? 

I made an unboxing video over on the Audio Discourse YouTube channel which I'll link here. To summarize: the T5 comes with a foamy, fake-leather case, a 2-pin recessed cable, spare nozzle filters, a nozzle replacement tool, and a cleaning brush. It also comes with 6 pairs of tips where half are your generic tips, the other half are ostensibly Spin-Fit knockoffs.  

 
The IEMs themselves have an ergonomic dark-gray metal shell. They fit quite comfortably in my ear and isolate decently. The cable is... serviceable. Not the best but nothing too wrong with it. It has a bit of cable memory thanks to its plasticky sheath. Cable noise is relatively low but still present. I wish they had kept with the Tin T2 Plus' cable instead. That was nice.

Sound

First impressions... were not good. And they didn't change over the past few days I've spent with the Tin T5. It's a V-shaped IEM with bass that bleeds into the mids with a lower treble spike. The Tin T5 is a $130 IEM that looks like $200 but sounds like a mediocre $50 IEM. That pretty much sums up my thoughts around the T5 in a couple of sentences. From here you can probably tell I won't be recommending this IEM, and even if I try to wax poetic about the different parts of its sound, it's a moot point. Still, for the sake of the review and for those still interested, keep reading. Actually, please keep reading so I don't feel like the 5 hours or so writing I spent this review isn't wasted.
 

Bass

The bass of the T5 is boosted but isn't particularly good. Quantity wise, I'd say it isn't quite to basshead levels but there's still plenty of bass here and it does extend and dig down when called for. Quality wise, it sounds a little soft and doesn't really slam. It's the boomy type of bass rather than punchy. Note definition is generally poor unless you put on a track with superb mixing/mastering. The bass also bleeds into the low mids quite a bit. I hesitate to call it muddy because it doesn't really sound like what I'd normally associate with mud, but definitely has some of that unpleasant bass intrusion and lack of clarity in that region. The only instrument that worked for me on the bass were low/floor toms.

Mids

Low mids bleh aside, the upper mids are actually fine for me. The pinna gain is pretty reasonable and centered around that 2.5-3 kHz mark so that's nice to see. This has an interesting effect on vocals. If a vocalist is solo and singing a strong, clear melody with an emphasis on the upper harmonics, the tone is actually pretty OK. The vocalists sounds front and center. But as soon as the song starts to get filled out with various instruments and complex passages, the T5 struggles. Vocals fade into the mix and loses prominence. I think its because as more of that low mids energy comes in, the vocals have a hard time separating from the other instruments in the track and sounds suffocated as a result. As for these other instruments, they're mostly a blur to me. Nothing particularly bad but nothing worth noting.

Treble

If you look at the graph, you can see a spike at the 5 kHz mark for the treble. Personally, my ears are pretty resistant to treble so the peak doesn't affect me that much. I also don't hear it to be overly sibilant though your mileage may vary. What this peak DOES do is make hats/cymbals sound splashy and gives them a decidedly unbalanced sort of sound, throwing off their timbre substantially. For some, the treble of the T5 will be fatiguing. I find that despite its negatives, the treble spike does give the T5 some energy to prevent it from being dead. But I don't find the T5 bright in the way the T2 Plus or Thieaudio Legacy 4 was with their constant crisp and shine. This is just splashy with the occasional burst of sharpness if the track hits that spike. 
 

Presentation

Bog standard from IEMs and nothing special. Average soundstage, maybe slightly below average imaging. Resolution isn't anything better than something like the T2 Plus. It has an overall undefined sort of sound. Instrument separation is a problem spot for the T5. Once you have a full band going the T5 just can't keep and instruments start to blend into each other's spaces. Of course, this isn't helped with its less than stellar staging.

Some Graph Comparisons

Despite the graph of the T5 not looking too hot at first glance, it does share a few elements with other more favorable IEMs.

Here it is against the Thieaudio Clairvoyance. Yes, obviously there's that bass bleed and 5 kHz spike. But if you look just the upper mids around 1-4 kHz region, it's not far out of the ordinary. Here is where that inconsistency with the vocals come in I think. On some tracks it sounds fine. In others, especially where the voice either touches the spike or utilizes the lower frequencies more, the T5 runs into trouble.

 
Here it is against the Tin T2 Plus. The bass curves almost identically. But I find the T2 Plus to have a much cleaner sounding bass response with more definition than the T5 does. The T5's bass is oddly murky when a full band is going. 
 
 
Make of this what you will. I just wanted to give a bit of context to the T5's graph and some of the odd thought I had while listening to it.


Should You Buy It?

No. While the Tin T5 is far from the worst thing I've ever heard, I cannot call it good. It's one of those things that if you had it as your only IEM and listen to it for long enough, your brain will get used to its sound and it'll be OK. But put it by any real measure of decent and the T5 is clearly second fiddle. I'm not sure what's going on at Tin HiFi but they seem to have lost their way when it comes to what made their tuning unique since the T4. 
 
Even if you prefer this sort of more bassy tuning compared to Tin's traditional lean and bright signatures, I think T2 Plus does everything the T5 does better at half the price. Better cable, better fit, lighter shell. Way better tonality and treble tuning. Better resolution and definition. While the bass tuning might look similar, the T2 Plus bass doesn't feel as intrusive into the low mids like the T5 does. So much for that fancy DOC driver. Where the T5 may be a $130 IEM that sounds like a mediocre $50 IEM, the T2 Plus is a $60 that sounds like a mediocre $200 IEM. I'm fairly happy listening to music with the T2 Plus. Listening to the T5 is a chore.

Anyway, I think I've made my point. The T5 is not an IEM I can recommend to... anyone really. Buy the T2 Plus or some of the other great IEMs in this hyper competitive price segment. The T5 is a regression to the mean but maybe that's exactly what Tin HiFi wants. Maybe they've done the math and are coasting on their brand awareness to sell mediocrity to more people rather than interesting products to a few. Who knows. What I do know is I don't like it and after the T5, my interest in the Tin HiFi brand has faded.
 

Written by Fc-Construct

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