Tin Hifi P1 Planar IEM: Review




Update: Final Review is complete. Feel free to leave comments or message me for questions!



Planar Magnetic headphones have been around for decades at this point. My first taste of planar magnetic headphones was the Fostex RP series, which is popular in the modding community and as a budget headphone with very low distortion. More recently, a small handful of companies have attempted to micronized the planar driver into a smaller form-factor for in-ears including top names like Audeze and RHA with varying success.

In my personal experience, I have owned and tried out a few of these – namely the Audeze iSine 10, the RHA CL2, and a universal and custom version of the Unique Melody ME1. These three IEMs have unique sound signatures from one another, but all have some tuning flaws that really require equalization to perform well. The Audeze series even includes a hardware-based DSP in the Cipher cables for iOS devices, as well as the Reveal plugin for computers.

So when Tin Hifi, makers of the popular T2 and T3 in-ear monitors, announced they were releasing a 10mm planar driver at budget prices, I was not only surprised, but also excited to hear how it stacks up. The CL2 is the closest to the Tin P1, as they are both closed backs. Now, I just want to mention that there have been a recent wave of Chinese planar IEMs that have come out including the Toneking BL1, Senfer MT100 hybrid, Nicehck F3 hybrid, Sendy Aiya, a planar from AAW, and a new one in the works by Danico Labs. I have yet to try any of these new wave of IEMs, but the reviews for each one of them (sans the unreleased Danico Labs one) have been less than appealing, each with their own unique flaws – much like what the first wave of planar IEMs experienced.

First off, I like to thank Lillian from Linsoul for providing me not only this production pre-release unit for review, but also an earlier build which was re-tuned based on initial feedback from reviewers. It seems like they’ve taken this to heart, as the new tuning is a significant improvement upon the original. I will post some links at the end of this review for presale purchasing.


Build Quality, Accessories, and Fit


The Tin P1 comes in a very cute mirrored metal shell that is very small and thin, but has a long wide nozzle. Inside houses the 10mm planar driver, and the housing also uses mmcx connections. The build is very well made, and looks from afar like the head of a golf club.

Accessories are very standard here. It comes with 2 sizes of foam tips, and a selection of silicone tips in varying sizes and shapes. The package also comes with a faux-leather pop-up case that’s pretty nice to use, and reminiscent of a narrow watch box.

I found the shell design to be less than ideal for fit in my ears. The long nozzle does not make up for the shallow and small size of the design, and getting good tip seal was a challenge. I struggled trying to find the right tips that remained in my ear and provided ample seal. Not getting good seal with these really deteriorated the sound quality and it’s very, very noticeable when you get that right tip in place. I ended up using Final Audio E tips, something I commonly have been using with other IEMs.

Power & Sourcing


This is important. The P1 has 20 ohm impedance, but it’s sensitivity is 96dB/SPL and that means that it is a little less efficient and more power hungry than many other IEMs. They still are nowhere near as power sensitive as an over-ear planar, but the P1 does require a bit of juice to make it shine. I did a bunch of testing on various sources and can safely say that more amping power provides a much better experience in terms of dynamics and bass response.

First off, the Google Pixel USB-C audio adapter is very inadequate for the P1. At max volume on my Essential PH-1 phone running stock android, I was only able to get it to lower than average listening volume. Luckily, the Apple lightning adapter proved much better results using my iPad Mini 4 as a source.

I used the RME ADI-2 DAC and I felt it was a little weak and underpowered using it’s IEM output, but at the time, I wasn’t completely settled on tips yet, so that could have played a large role in what I was hearing. I did have very good luck using a desktop Pete Millett Starving Student Tube Hybrid amp, which was a DIY creation. This one provided plenty of power and really made the P1 show it’s true potential.

I finally received the Massdrop THX-789 amplifier, and my first trial was with the RME ADI-2 DAC paired with it using balanced connectors, and with the Tin P1 plugged into the balanced XLR jack (using a 2.5mm cable and adapter). I found that I was about 10-11 o'clock on the dial using Medium Gain (Setting II) on the amp, with the RME at -10dB volume. 

On the DAPs front, I own the Astell & Kern SR15 and Pioneer XDP-300R. Both were pushing higher volume requirements than most of my other IEMs, and even more than the Etymotics ER2XR that I purchased recently. The ME1, in comparison, is much less power hungry, in terms of pure volume loudness.

For bluetooth audio, I use the Radsone ES100, which features both single-ended 3.5mm and balanced 2.5mm outputs. Here's my findings:

ES100 with P1 - Source at 100% volume

3.5mm : I'm at a good low listening volume at -15dB (-60dB to +6dB scale) but can definitely get louder if i wanted to.

2.5mm : I'm good at about -15dB volume as well

in both cases -10dB would be my "fun" listening volume. 

so, yea this thing is pushing the ES100, but it can handle it.

 Sound Check


The P1 has neutral-leaning warm and laid-back tuning that will remind folks of a Diffuse Field/Planar bass and mid response up to 1K and then a more tone down upper mids and treble presentation that is reminiscent of the Campfire Andromeda tonality with less bass emphasis. The treble is definitely boosted above 10KHz and this is quite audible in my listening.




The bass response is slightly rolled off, and if you do not have a good source, I felt that it was a little weak and missing something. When amped correctly, the bass is much more present, and has decent sub-bass rumble and pop. This tuning is more punchy that I expected, but still is rather lean compared to most other IEMs in this price range, and should be rather familiar if you like the Tin Audio T2/T3 bass response.

In most songs, I found the bass presence to be apparent and available. It supplies clean bass notes and good decay speed, albeit a tad fast. This does help it stay taut and controlled. It doesn't have a lot of subbass boost, but it's present enough to provide a little rumble.

Closing the front driver vent, near the nozzle, helps flatten the sub-bass and improves it’s weight and performance. I do not know if this affects anything with ear pressure or any other long lasting effects.



The mids are generally coherent and good. They are forward, but sound slightly recessed in the background, if that makes any sense, especially when compared to Etymotics or the Moondrop Kanas Pro, partially due to not having as elevated upper mid-range and lower treble response, but they do not sound bad at all. I found some female vocals to sound nice and pleasant with no sibilance issues, with the P1 going through my normal gambit of Stevie Nicks in Fleetwood Mac, Norah Jones, Molly Rankin in Alvvways, Lauren Mayberry in Chvrches, and various country singers like Catherine McGrath and Allison Krauss. They are pushing the boundaries and you can tell, but it's controlled enough with that selection of music to not cause any major problems.

However, later on, I started listening to some recommendations from reviewer Crinacle, and found excessive sibilance artifacts when listening to Rhianna tracks and some other songs I found in the pop genres. This sibilance was something I had already noticed in other songs, but really became apparent on some of these EDM and electronic-mashed pop tracks.

Male vocals sounded a little bit off to me though, like they are slightly veiled and almost having the same effect I was experiencing with female vocals on the IO but not nearly as bad. For example, I found Chris Stapleton to lose a lot of bite and grit. That said, this isn't a deal killer, as it's not as noticeable unless I A-B with other IEMs, and perhaps I prefer a little bit more warmer lower mid-range.

Sibilance and treble shrills could be related to the treble boost in the upper region, which I thought I may be immune to with age and concert-going life in the past. When I first heard the original test model of the P1, I didn’t notice it at first, but I let another audio-nerd, with ears half my age, listen and he quickly mentioned how shrill and bright the treble effected the music he was listening to. Since the tuning of the P1 was so “wrong”, I didn’t quite pick up on it then as there were many other issues with the P1 at the time. Now that the biggest issues with the P1 have been resolved, the treble edginess stands out, and can quickly make this IEM fatiguing and sound a little grainy and strained.

I find it occurring in songs like “Get Out” by Chrvches, and “Juice” by Chromeo, amongst many others. It may lend itself to the electronic-pop and EDM type tunes more so than rock songs, but it’s still noticeable even on rock tracks. I found some Smashing Pumpkin tracks to be more bright than normal with Billy Corgan’s voice just a tad more “weird” than normal. The piano, guitars and falsetto-ish voice of Andrew Wood from Mother Love Bone on “Chloe Dancer” all have a lingering high pitch shrill to it that I can find a little annoying.

Hi-Hats and Cymbal crashes have that tizzing sound from this treble spike that can add to the aforementioned fatiguing issues. 

If you can get past that, the resolution is actually quite good, if not excellent, as I’d expect from the low distortion planar driver. (I did not measure distortion, but just going by generic planar experience)

The soundstage is about ear to ear (or about one MCM unit), which makes some busy tracks sound congested if there's a lot of instruments playing at once. This is partially due to really good detail retrieval and clarity at this price point, if not much higher price points. With all the little nuances of instruments present, and all of it coming at you at once, the width does make it a little over-bearing sometimes, like in "Contact" by Daft Punk. That could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on what you like. But again, the resolution is really fantastic at under $170 and I have nothing to complain about.

It’s been too long since I’ve owned the iSine 10 to really compare the two, but I feel like I am more impressed with the resolution of this one than I was with the iSine. There have been several moments in songs that I heard new things in more clarity that I have not heard before on most of my IEMs, and would only hear in my most resolute over-ears, so that is impressive. I don't remember feeling that impressed with the iSine 10 and it's definitely more resolving than the ME1 that I own. The CL2, with it's sharp 4-5K spike does resolve quite well as well, and these may be on that level of resolution, but without that harsh peak and the amount of treble veil.

Tuning 

So with the stock tuning out of the way, and now that I’ve mentioned the flaws with it, I will have to say that the P1 is the best planar stock tuning I’ve heard to date. It’s only a sample size of 4 IEMs from larger companies, but it’s something to point out. Tin is the closest one so far to hitting it right. It’s not perfect though, as mentioned already. And just like the other IEMs I’ve tried out, the use of equalizer can really help make these sound much better than the stock tuning. One thing I have noticed is that this IEM response to EQ worse than the other planars I've tried. You can't do a big boost to bass for example without it sounding very wrong.

Throwing a low-shelf filter at +3-4dB at 125Hz, and then boosting the 2-8KHz region a couple dB and reducing the 10KHz and above by (a lot) of dB can really make this IEM sound quite pleasant, at least to my ears. I also threw a slight dip between 500 and 1KHz to give it a very shallow U-shape curve, and it’s getting pretty close to my ideal target curve, and I find the P1 to be quite good, if not outstanding for $150-170, taking on the Audeze giants.

My current P1 Equalizer settings (Pioneer Music App on XDP-300R DAP)
RME ADI-2 DAC EQ Setting


General Overall Impressions


That was a lot of stuff, so quickly recapping my impressions thus far:

I found the build quality to be very good. The design made fitting and getting ample seal very challenging for me, but I was eventually able to find a good tip combination. They are comfortable, but not exceptionally good. I still like the comfort over T2/T3 though.

The P1 is very power hungry for an IEM, so some phones and especially the Google Pixel adapter may not cut it. I thought the lightning adapter for iOS was good though, and quite clean. A clean DAP source would be ideal, and it scaled even better with desktop amps.

Finally, the tuning has shortcomings that can be overcome with Equalization. Even without it, the P1 is the best out-of-the-box Planar IEM tuning I’ve heard yet, in my limited experience with planars (check introduction for the list). The subbass is rolled off, but can be patched with vent hole mod or eq. The mids are mostly good except male vocals sound recessed and tingy. The treble is consistent but then peaks up very bright in the upper registers which seems to affect how splashy some instruments sound, which can be very fatiguing.

Resolution, width, depth, and general technicalities is excellent for this price range, and is only improved with equalization.

So, there’s my short impressions of the Tin P1. I hope I gave you, the reader, a good overview of the pros and cons of it. There are definitely trade-offs here, and you’ll have to weigh your decisions accordingly.

For me, I have some mixed feelings about it. I would prefer to not have to EQ but I have the ability to. The stock tuning, even without it’s treble flaws, is still not my ideal sound, but it does follow the popular Andromeda mid-range and lower/mid-treble tuning with less bass weight, and that should make a lot of people happy. That’s not my ideal or preferred tuning though, as I mentioned in a previous Andromeda review posted last week. I like a little more presence region boost (2-5KHz) and the P1 doesn’t do that without EQ.


So, at the end of the day, I still give this IEM a cautious and mild recommendation. I would stay clear if you do like a little more bass emphasis or tend to listen to genres like EDM, modern pop, and hip hop and rap music. The leaner subbass and upper treble elevation may make those genres less enjoyable and in some cases sharp. I have been enjoying listening to it, despite its flaws. It's a very intriguing IEM at this budget price point and is really a sign of how things have changed in the headphone/IEM market in the past couple years. It's an exciting time right now and the P1 is an IEM that can rock the boat a bit, even with its flaws.

Purchasing Info


To purchase the Tin Audio P1, Linsoul is selling them on their Linsoul.com website, and they’ll also be released on Drop.com using the following links:



Comments

  1. Thanks for a different perspective! Z and BadGuy hyped it up a loooooot!

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    1. I still agree generally with BGGAR. They resolve very well. I just pointed out some flaws from my critical listening. No IEM is perfect. These are still a good deal at this price point.

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    2. Thanks for the review! Would you end up choosing it over the Moondrop Kanas Pro?

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    3. I’d take the Kanas Pro out of the box with no eq easily. It’s very good at what it is and it’s simple and sweet. The P1 with eq and some mods can probably be a good iem. I’m going to mess around with modding it some more this weekend.

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  2. Considering pricing isn't an issue, would you prefer this over CL2? How about other $500 or $1000 range? (specially IER-M9, SE846, Andromeda, W80, etc.).
    I'm asking because I've seen some posts claiming P1 to be true giant killers :)

    Love the post btw, very informative!

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    1. I take this over CL2. I prefer Andromeda over this and have no listened to the others. Were you the one who asked me on discord this morning? :D

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    2. I just need to say that it's damn hard not to tire of expressions used countless times by now in the audio commentary world that are in danger of playing themselves out and becoming hollow, a verbal uniform that can no longer really signify for the reader. The Worst one of course is "for the price" and its related formulations, which I find has about as much appeal as a woman experiences when told she looks 'great for her age'. NOT confidence-inspiring at all! I realize that overcoming this kind of inevitable 'stock tuning' or stagnancy of the lamguage is always gonna be difficult, but for anyone driven almost insane by the bewildering cascade of personal audio choices out there by now, striving forsome distinction in each review would seem to be of the essence.

      Okay.. So just how short of wonderful really are male vocals on these? I was two shakes of a lamb's tail away from pulling the trigger on these over TFZ #3s when I read the above....

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    3. I get what you're saying, and I know I'm guilty of using the same expressions/phrases in a lot of my reviews, but it's hard to convey things in a subjectively/objective way that doesn't sound too dramatic. My goal is to not to make things dramatically hyped up that doesn't deserve to be, as well as showing the pros and cons in a consistent manner.

      Now that said, I have not listened to the TFZ No3 yet so I can not provide any feedback. I believe Crinacle and HawaiiBadBoy have listened to both and prefer the No 3 over the P1, if that helps. The P1 does male vocals generally alright at the price point, and yes i use that term again, but MONEY does matter because not everyone has money to spend more on an IEM. If you want absolute terms, then you can definitely find better male vocals on something like the BGVP DM7, which I do really recommend. The P1, the more I listen to it, the more I start to dislike it as I pick up on more flaws while listening to more and more selections. It's still does a great deal of things well though. But it's not for me.

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    4. Thankyou very much for this response, which you should know I do appreciate no end. I guess the problem then with ever estimating ' how well' the reviewer means me to understand am IEM performs in such and such a regard, is one of 'relativity' or lack of sufficient context. 'Price point' just doesn't ground me in the kinda gristle that can only come from firmly recalled aural sex in other IEM dimensions! My only vaguely satisfactory experience with TIN product previously comes not from their T2 range but instead their earlier little T515, so when I saw they'd made the 'quantum leap' and strung together these planar wampum beads, my curiosity knew no bounds! Never having listened to a planar of any kind before, I fully anticipate being aurally transported in a way I have not been before... But perhaps in reality they perform fully lodged on a continuum with their dynamic and armatural brothers...

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    5. It never gets less than weirder all the time..the guy at audiophileon reviewed the TFZ #3 and firmly maintained its a "basshead iem", one that will make listening to anything other than EDM and hip-hop sound unnaturally focused on the bottom-end... He then went on to conclude that ordering up the #3 along with the TIN P1 would give you the more or less perfect world order (!) What I wish that analysts such as yourself could do though is give those of us whose aural transports thus far have reached no further than say a Vsonic Vsd5s (which I shoild perhaps mention in passing gives me more pleasure than does the GR07) a much better idea of just how much of a leap beyond what we are accustomed to we would be taking by the acquisition of such-and-such an earphone. You chaps who have listened to equipment that we neophytes can only dream of so far need a better idea of the 'next really graspable rung on the ladder'to genuinely new dimensions in sound reproduction, so to speak.. more than we do another tour of the now all too familiar' technical territory'

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    6. Hi Unknown,

      The more I listen to the P1, the less I tend to like it and I've already decided I am going to send it off to users to listen. It's going to tour Canada this summer with some folks I've chatted with online about headphones. The P1 is an interesting tech-buy, but it feels like an early adopter product. It has some really good things about it, but a few things that I do not like about it that make me not want to listen to it compared to other IEMs in the same price range. I would much rather pick up the Moondrop Kanas Pro, BGVP DMS, and BGVP DM7 in the same price range. It does something things better, like resolution and clarity, but the others are just better sounding and more fun to listen to, and that's important to me.

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  4. How is the bass response and depth bewteen the two?

    Your opinion is greatly appreciated.

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  5. Hi there,

    Have you compared TinHifi P1 to Toneking BL1? Does the 10mm and 14mm driver size respectively make the sounds quality better? Does the Toneking BL1 14mm driver superior?

    How is the bass response and depth between the two?

    Does the TinHifi P1 require burn-in time? I know the BL1 requires the 3 air-vents for burn-in...do the vents compliment the sound quality?

    Your opinion is greatly appreciated.

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  7. Hi, I'm thinking of buying P1 to reshell, do you think it's worth it? I read your review of me1 custom and I think it might be worth it. Thanks in advance .

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    1. It's relatively cheap. I had thought about taking apart one of the P1s I have and seeing if I can mod it but I havent had time to do that yet. If you want a planar, maybe take a look at the Obravo Cupid. I haven't tried it yet, but it looks like its tuned much better.

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