disclaimer: I was provided the Tinhifi P1 by Linsoul Audio in exchange for reviewing it. I have no financial interest in Tinhifi or Linsoul and have received no incentives or direction from either in the production of this review.
Unboxing / Packaging:
The P1 comes in a lift-top style presentation case in understated black and silver. Inside the box, the earpieces rest in the foam tray with the case in a recess below. The cable and tips are hidden inside the case or under the tray which gives the kit a nice clean look. The Case is leather wrapped on the exterior and suede on the interior with a magnetic closure and fits the P1 well but leaves little room for additional tips or other items. A wide variety of tips are included in the box as well with two sizes of foams, 3 sizes of single flange narrow bore silicones, and 3 sizes of wide bore silicone tips. This has become the norm of late and gives the user the option of enhancing bass with the tips (wide bore) or going for a more reference sound (narrow).
The shells are stainless steel 2 part design with the nozzle being integral to the inner half of the shell. The seam is visible at the mid-line of the shell, but fit is good with no gaps or glue visible and very little space around the mmcx connector where it mates to the shell. The Exterior is almost oval shaped with a wider rear than front. the triangle shaped decoration misleads the eye as the shape from the underside is obviously rounded with no corners to be found. Nozzles exit near the center of the earpiece with a steep forward rake and a fairly short nozzle that limits insertion depth and by extension isolation. Grills are recessed in the nozzles by about 1 mm and a ring around the outside provides for tip retention.
The P1 uses a 10mm planar-magnetic driver. Planar technology can be thought of as a dynamic driver that combines the voice-coil and diaphragm of a dynamic driver into a single unit which allows the diaphragm to move as a single unit, so air moves more evenly and transients are faster than a dynamic driver. The downside to planar drivers is typically they require more power compared to their dynamic counterparts as the magnets are now the size of the diaphragm rather than being a smaller unit behind it. The P1 has a nominal impedance of 20Ω and a sensitivity of 96 dB/mW but does require considerable power to drive. I found the P1 to be a limited pairing for phones and tablets as most required that volume be turned up considerably above the norm to adequately drive the P1. If you are planning on pairing the P1 to a tablet or phone directly, I highly recommend you audition them before purchase to make certain the device has adequate power to handle them well. I found the xDSD, XD-05, and Walnut V2 all were able to drive the T1 markedly better than attempting to use a phone alone. I think the P1 sits right on that border of needs an amp, so if in doubt, audition first or plan on using an amp.
The cable provided with the P1 is a 4 wire braid made of 5N oxygen-free copper from the straight 3.5mm jack up to the splitter and then exits as two pairs of twisted wires. The north end terminates in loose earhooks and mmcx connectors. Housings are chrome plated with the jack having an extra carbon fiber inlay. A clear bead slider rounds out the furniture. Other than my obvious preference for 90º jacks for durability reasons, I really like the cable as it is extremely flexible and very quiet without any issues with tangles. A velcro tie helps with that, but some others I have still require that you either baby them or untangle them every time out of the case. Overall, well done.
The P1 has a stereotypical (pun intended) planar sound. Bass is fast, clean, deep, impactful, and exacting. Sub-bass isn’t elevated, but is very present even at lower volume levels and can be an almost visceral punch with volume at the upper end of safe listening range. Mid-bass follows linearly from the sub-bass and shares the same proportionality and tight control of the lowest notes. Lows just seem to flow from the P1 effortlessly. Speed contributes greatly to the bass as attack is instantaneous and decay nearly as quick. No bleed or bloom, and no obvious transition points from one thing into the next. Almost in spite of itself, the P1 manages to deliver enough warmth to keep it from seeing overly dry although it does certainly lean that direction.
Lower mids transition flawlessly from the mid-bass with no bloom, bleed, or even anything worth noting. It can be hard to identify the transition point as it really is quite seamless. Again the planar speed keeps everything tight with great control and above average detail in the mids. The one caveat is for those used to an upper-mid bump to bring the vocals forward into the mix, the P1 may well seem odd at first. It has no such lift and thus it takes a bit more effort to pick out certain details in the music. That isn’t saying those details are not present, just that they are not forced forward into the mix where they are easily seen. The upside of this linearity is that everything fits well together and I feel no need to speak to female vocals being ahead or male vocals being thinner. Guitar growl is quite good, but here again doesn’t linger long. Strings are rendered extremely well and the P1 may be best in class for those listening to a lot of string quartet or violin concerto.
Alright all this perfection has to stop right? A $169 in-ear cannot be perfect, can it? Well, no, and the treble is where the planar driver usually struggles and so does the P1, a little. The transition point from upper mids to lower treble is slightly more visible than the lower transitions but still fairly clean by comparison to others in its class. Treble stays fairly linear with the rest of the signature up through about 5kHz where it falls fairly sharply. A bump at roughly 10kHz adds back some top end sparkle and air. The P1 comes off as slightly dark due to the fact that we have grown accustomed to lower treble being pushed forward. The P1 is actually fairly close to neutral with the exception of the dip between 5kHz and 10kHz.
Soundstage / Imaging:
Soundstage on the P1 is a mix of its component parts. Planars are known for having good stage size and control, while closed back nearly sealed designs are generally regarded as the worst possible design for sound stage reproduction. There is one small vent behind the nozzle that keeps the P1 from being completely sealed, but it still acts very much as a closed model. To my ear, stage is fairly well shaped without being lopsided in any given direction but is fairly small in all dimensions. Think of it as similar to a good sized listening room rather than a concert hall and you have a pretty good understanding of what you’ll get. Imaging is spot on with movements and spatial cues being superbly done. Layering follows suit as the speed of the driver keeps things from getting thick even when complexity increases. The other thing I noticed while listening for stage is that the P1 has a larger than average stereo separation and that spread can be mistaken for stage at times.
Thoughts / Conclusion:
The P1 is probably the best reference in ear below $200. It is as linear as any I have heard in the class and might give the Empire ESR a run for its money at times (although I think the detail level of the ESR is considerably better than the P1). Having said that, it isn’t the boring reference we sometimes hear. The P1 manages to walk the line between neutral and lifeless quite well and never strays away from neutral or into lifeless territory. Will you like it? Hard to say. At times the reference signature lets every nuance and detail be heard and makes for a very interesting listen, at other times, that lack of anything splashy or any spill over from mid-bass into mids will make the P1 seem a bit thin even if it is technically correct. I think for those who like a darker, thinner signature with less treble lift than average, the P1 will fit very well. If you have a portable amp you love but hisses, the P1 also might be a good bet. I found that my Burson Fun tends to hiss with very sensitive IEMs (not what it was designed for, I know) but was nearly dead silent with the P1 so its lower sensitivity might help tame that for you too. As always, with so many good choices, audition as many as you can before purchase, but be sure the P1 is on your list.
- Bass - 8/108/10
- Mids - 8/108/10
- Treble - 7.5/107.5/10
- Soundstage - 7/107/10
- Imaging - 7/107/10
Pros: Very linear signature with great tonality, very comfortable for long wear, doesn’t elevate sub-bass or vocals
Cons: vocals not pushed forward, requires a powerful source