Brief: Latest flagship IEM from UK-based IEM experts RHA
MSRP: $239.95 (manufacturer’s page) ; $249.95 for T20i w/mic & 1-button remote for iOS (manufacturer’s page)
Current Price: $240 from Amazon.com for T20; $250 from Amazon.com for T20i
Specs: Driver: Dynamic | Imp: 16Ω | Sens: 90 dB | Freq: 16-40k Hz | Cable: 4.4′ I-plug (w/3-button iOS mic/remote for T20i)
Nozzle Size: 5mm | Preferred tips: Comply T200, Stock double-flanges
Wear Style: Over-the-ear
Accessories (5/5) – Single-flange (6 pairs in 3 sizes), double-flange (2 sizes), and foam (2 pairs) eartips with stainless steel caddy, shirt clip, threaded nozzle tuning filters (3 pairs), and zippered leather carrying case
Build Quality (5/5) – The T20 is yet another in a long line of RHA IEMs with impeccable construction. It utilizes injection-molded stainless-steel housings and features three pairs of interchangeable sound-tuning nozzle filters, which are color-coded and stored threaded through a metal plate. Cables are of above-average thickness, tangle-resistant, and feature a rather beefy “memory wire” section in place of the flexible earhook found on RHA’s MA750 model. The cable terminates with RHA’s signature metal I-plug and the earphones are covered by a 3-year warranty
Isolation (3.5/5) – Isolation is quite good, on-par with the MA750 model
Microphonics (4.5/5) – The cable carries some noise but microphonics are generally not a problem due to mandatory over-the-ear fitment and the fact that the cord is thick and heavy, and doesn’t move around much
Comfort (3.5/5) – The ergonomic shape of the T20 makes it unique among the metal IEMs I’ve tried and is similar to what we typically see from Shure, Westone, and EarSonics stage monitors. However, the stainless steel shells of the T20 are also quite heavy in comparison, and a little less comfortable as a result. The memory wire helps, but during more active use it needs the cable cinch to stay in place securely
Sound (9.1/10) – The T20 is the third new flagship we’ve seen from RHA in about two years. The title originally belonged to the MA750, which impressed me enough to land a spot on my Earphone Buyer’s Guide upon its debut. The MA750’s combination of superb design and build quality with warm and pleasant acoustics remains difficult to beat – in fact, the T10 model that superseded it missed the mark for me thanks to its overly bass-heavy sound.
The T20 is very similar in design and construction to the T10, down to the three pairs of included tuning filters. However, while the T10 was very bass-heavy and ultimately not as natural-sounding as the MA750, the T20 reverts to a more balanced presentation.
The changes in sound brought about by its tuning filters are quite subtle, but a small amount of customization is better than none. The default “Reference” filter puts forward a mildly v-shaped sound not unlike that of the MA750, but with tighter lows providing a less warm and bass-biased sound and making the v-shape more audible.
The tuning of the T20 shares similarities with earphones such as the less expensive Alpha & Delta AD01 and the pricier, triple-driver Fidue A83, though both of these have slightly more pronounced “v-shaped” sound signatures. The AD01 is warmer and more bass-heavy than the T20 while the A83 has less bass with a slightly brighter and splashier top end.
The T20’s “Bass” filter cuts treble energy down slightly, biasing the sound of the T20 even more towards the low end. Though I consider bass impact and depth to already be plentiful with the “Reference” filter, I do like the smoother sound this filter provides. However, the T20 is not too heavy on midrange presence and detail in the first place, and using this filter dulls the sound further. In the interest of not losing even more fine detail, I ended up using the “Reference” filter instead.
The “Treble” filter of the T20 is actually the most mid-recessed of the three. It maintains the plentiful bass impact of the “Reference” filter but seems to re-balance the midrange and treble a little, with more bias towards the high end. Because the difference is again fairly mild, this filter is definitely usable and the resulting sound is still not as bright as, say, a DUNU Titan 1. However, the less mid-recessed “Reference” filter was again more to my liking.
The presentation of the T20, which is fairly consistent between all three filters, is about mid-pack for a $200+ earphone. It’s not overly wide and out-of-the-head, instead offering a moderately forward sound. Earphones such as the VSonic GR07 and DUNU Titan 1 appear more airy and spacious in comparison, but also lack the dynamics and immediacy of the T20’s presentation.
One last thing worth noting is that the T20 is quite sensitive to source noise – surprisingly so for a dynamic-driver earphone, especially one with such low rated sensitivity (per the manufacturer specs). In practical terms, this means the T20 will produce audible hiss and/or electrical noise with sources that don’t have an extremely low noise floor, and selecting the T20 as a “safe” choice for use with an imperfect source based on the rated sensitivity and dynamic driver may not have the desired results.
Below are several head-to-head comparisons between the RHA T20 and earphones that either perform on a similar level or have somewhat analogous sound tuning (or both). These comparisons may play a direct role in someone’s purchasing decision, but more importantly they help contextualize the earphone’s performance based on the other options currently on the market. The T20 tuning filter used for the comparison is noted as well
RHA’s mid-tier MA750 model has been one of my favorite earphones in its class for a long time, and the T20 is arguably the closest thing I’ve heard to an MA750 upgrade. The biggest improvements are in clarity and soundstaging – the newer model sounds less veiled and has a more precise and well-defined soundstage. In addition, although the tuning of the T20 follows a more conventional v-shape, it has less overall bass bias than the MA750 and is arguably more balanced on the whole.
The bass of the MA750 is more intrusive and less controlled despite being no more powerful than that of the T20 in its “Reference” configuration. As a result, the MA750 sounds a touch less balanced and detailed than the newer earphone. The T20, on the other hand, is more crisp and resolving, and carries a bit more treble sparkle. Both earphones have similar emphasis in the upper midrange, which is not entirely natural and can make them sound a bit “tizzy” at times, but on the whole the T20 is the one that presents a more dynamic and enjoyable listening experience.
The VSonic GR07 is one of the most popular reference-class dynamic-driver earphones of the past decade. It’s interesting that both the T20 and the GR07 display some treble unevenness, but in different areas. As a result, both can be harsh in different ways – the GR07 tends to be more sibilant and the T20 – more “tizzy”.
The differences don’t stop there, however – the T20 boasts more powerful and impactful bass and follows a more v-shaped sound signature. Clarity is on-par but the VSonics tend to sound flatter and more accurate on the whole while the T20 is more mid-recessed. The presentation of the GR07 is wider and more laid-back while the T20 tends to sound more forward, but also has better depth and dynamics.
RHA T20 (Reference) vs Aurisonics Rockets ($250)
While the RHA T20 and Aurisonics Rockets differ tremendously in sound tuning and form factor, they’re priced similarly and both offer tough-as-nails build quality backed by lengthy warranties. The sound of the Rockets is much more midrange-focused, in stark contrast to the somewhat v-shaped T20. The Rockets’ bass quantity and impact are significantly lower but the bass is tighter and more controlled. The top end of the Rockets is much smoother while the T20 has more prominent – but also harsher – treble.
Clarity is about even between the two, and neither reaches the clarity and resolution of an ultra-flat earphone such as an Etymotic ER4 – the Rockets are slightly limited by their more laid-back treble and mid-focused sound and the T20 – by its heavier, less controlled bass and more recessed midrange.
Even with the “Treble” tuning filters in place, the T20 has a bit less energy at the top end compared to DUNU’s hybrid DN-2000 model. The greater treble presence of the DN-2000 gives it a brighter tone and a crisper sound while its bass has a more linear character that leaves the sub-bass more audible. The T20 has more mid-bass impact but isn’t as tight and controlled as the DN-2000.
The T20’s more recessed midrange and darker overall tone limit its clarity and detail resolution a bit compared to the DN-2000. Together with the more powerful bass, this results in sound that is a bit more veiled and muddy. The T20 is smoother, however, while the DN-2000 is more revealing and at times harsher, though it also boasts a more spacious and airy soundstage.
Value (8.5/10) – While the RHA T10 was something of a departure from the superb MA750 model that preceded it, the new T20 takes a step back and delivers more of what made the MA750 great. It tackles the difficult task of improving on the MA750’s strongest points – its build and sound quality – and succeeds by combining a seemingly tough-as-nails construction with a slightly more exaggerated version of the MA750’s impactful, mildly v-shaped sound signature. It can be a little heavy-handed in the upper midrange and doesn’t have the most delicate, refined, or detailed sound, but rewards listeners with excellent dynamics and good clarity on top of impactful bass.
With its ergonomic shape, ultra heavy-duty stainless steel construction, and dynamic driver, the T20 is one of the more unique high-end earphones on the market right now, and while it may not quite deliver the killer value for money of the more inexpensive MA750, I’m glad to see RHA continuing to both innovate and improve on previous designs.
Pros: Extremely solid build quality; 3 year warranty; very capable sound with three tuning variations
Cons: Heavy housings; source-sensitive