T10 Bespoke, by EAR Micro, featuring Klipsch Audio pt2: Published before Pt. 1…
Sound is extremely good for a single BA, including bass
Functionality well beyond a wireless headphone
Future expansion of options
Learning curve of some functions
Not for everyone, it IS a Bespoke product
Klipsch T10 Bespoke, pt2: Published before Pt. 1…
Those initial three-and-a-half hours of listening set the tone for what was to follow. Playing with all of the settings I could, Bears T10 performed without issue in that initial listen. This was the rudimentary app version, while the one on mine is fully updated and is actually a new app. Since Bear’s were burned in with well over 400 hours, I can state the following with good authority: The T10 is one of the best TWS/IEM’s I have heard. Period. Get tip selection right (they help with that), and bass is deep & luxurious. Vocals come across with sublime pleasure, complimented by a treble note, that reaches high, but not like some with a grating texture to it. None of that was heard here. The T10 fit my listening style almost precisely as I would like. If this was after only 3.5hrs, what would six months bring?
When one takes a chance on producing something different, there is a decent probability it will fail. Or be scoffed at, and chastised. Or both. One need only look at the internal combustion engine or possibly some other technological advancement of that stature. But given time, and the proper caressing, that product can succeed and be fruitful. It might even be different enough to turn heads. Those heads who might have given a sneer in the beginning. I would put the T10 in that same category. Melding sound and wireless (TWS) technology is one thing, but going WAY beyond that with what Ear Micro & Co have done is a big chance to take. And one I think is worth it, based upon me living with the T10 for the past six months.
It also takes a community, a village (vendors who produce other parts of the T10) to properly pull something off, and over my many visits to the Ear Micro “factory” in Westport, I found the level of detail and standards are high. Very high. If one component (of that village) falls short or is not of the quality needed, then the whole process slows. I have talked to Bear (and Troy, CTO) extensively about their trials and tribulations, and wranglings needed to successfully pull this one-of-a-kind (so far) product off. An affable gent until things go wrong, the passion with which the company wants to succeed is very obvious by the travel to shows and venues entertaining their wares to customers. Some at CanJam NY this year were “intrigued” by the T10, and wish they had more time with it. Well…you should seriously find time to spend more time with the product, the praise is warranted.
The ability to change pretty much any of the components within is not only a genuine positive, but environmentally aware as well. Instead of pitching your TWS buds once the battery wears out (it does happen) or breaking of a part (God forbid…), you can send them back to the shop for upgrades or replacement. You decide you want more internal memory? That can be done. You want to change the colors? You can, for a cost of course. But the point is that all of these parts work together to form what could be the next direction in “Ear Computers,” much the way Google Glasses are becoming an all-inclusive option. The T10 goes beyond that with not only touch sensitivity, but gesture movement AND the ability to utilize mouth movement or “ticks” for specific purposes. Constant upgrades can make this technology real, and accessible. Yes, if you are willing to pay, but consider this like adding a EC mod to your Toyota Tacoma or Subaru WRX. You want more? You can do that.
And so it is, that I came to be the lucky one to spend time with the T10, including many upgrades to the App (some due to other issues, beyond Ear Micros control, some normal upgrades), and the inclusion of a parametric EQ for Android use (75% of the world is Android). Customizable EQ’s on both iOS and Android make it so that you can set the EQ INDIVIDUALLY per each song. So, when you go back to play that song again, the EQ automatically returns to your song’s settings. The Android version comes with a Parametric EQ, which works quite well.
The model I have specs out at roughly $3750, and the brethren to mine are posted on the T10 site (along with all iterations).
From the site:
Stream music in full 96/24 high-resolution (no separate hi-res player required)
• Connect to and control nearly any other connected device (full IFTTT integration on board)
• Open platform: Runs the Bragi OS for hearables with Nano a.i. on board
• Capable of downloading and running hearables apps that extend and enhance functionality
• Built in 9-axis gyroscope for positional and momentum feeds movement data to connected apps
• Fully programmable Voice/Touch/Non-verbal Mouth/Head-motion control interfaces (patented)
• Twin Cadence Hi-Fi DSP’s for incredible personalized audio tuning and enhancement capabilities
• Stunningly clear telephony, plus ability to run apps that enable secure voice-activated walkie-talky communication to selected individuals or groups without the need to dial or conference
• Bionic ears are badass. Forward-thinking companies around the world are busy dreaming up
exciting and incredible new use cases for ear computers. With T-10’s you can tap directly into the early stages of Singularity–the frontier where man and machine converge to become one
*From Part One:
“Since the unit will only be used with the customers Smartphone (at this time), Bluetooth technology is paramount. Going straight to the top, ear micro invested in Sony’s LDAC codec as their main source, going up to 24bit/96kHz (24bit/192kHz on the upcoming T20). As part of this, Sony caught wind and wanted to know more about the unit. Collaboration between the two was the outcome, lending a nice backdrop to the product. With 64mb of available RAM, the processing speed of the ARM M4 is about as fast as you can get. Additional external memory will also be available on the T20, which is limited only by the micro-SD card used by the customer.”
A single balanced armature based off of the cult-classic Klipsch X10 is highly modified. Using a single BA allows for the diminutive size of the ear bud, helping to make it the smallest out (less than 1 cubic centimeter!!), that has similar features. Sometimes, when using a single dynamic driver, you give up clarity and details for increased bass presence. Sometimes, when using a single balanced armature, you give up bass to the benefit of clarity and detail retrieval. The T10 throws all of that out the window, with intricate computer designed sound tubes (Klipsch), enhancing the sound qualities to how Ear Micro envisions a TOTL should sound. The design of sound tubes is as much a part of the ear bud design as proper placement of your speakers in a dedicated listening room. It is of paramount importance and I am glad more manufacturers are taking this seriously. The T10 got it right with the design, implementation of the sound tubes and the tuning of the BA.
There is no denying that the T10 is small. Diminutive. Miniscule. This is the smallest ear bud I have tried, short of the bullet shaped Lypertek Bevi, and even those are larger than the X10, which the T10 is “based” upon. Once acclimated to the small size, and placement of touch sensitive areas, ease of use was straightforward. I am not the most accurate gent, tactility-wise so I still suffered a bit, but those with better dexterity will have no problems.
Connecting the T10 to the app, I clicked on ANC, and was met with a black background, which had some residual hiss. Once the music started, the hiss was gone. Ear Micro posits this as the best ANC out, and can go as high as a -38dB reduction of outside noise. Based upon my Jeep ride, and subsequent listening, I can confirm this is right at the top regarding ANC treatment and listening. There was no degradation of sound quality either once ANC was turned on. I found this to be a pleasant surprise based upon listening to other manufacturers TWS buds.
The proper tip is a must, more so than many I have tried, but it is worth the effort. First trying the size 4’s, which is normally the size I take, I found the bass lacking, and isolation was average. Bear & Troy suggested going down a size to the 3’s, and that sealed the deal, literally. Bass hit hard, with good authority and thump. Not boomy or bloated at all, but fairly fast and very accurate. The combination of “just right” speed and deeper reach makes this an excellent bud for those who like the lower sound spectrum. Bass on jazz tunes, which rely upon the upright bass to flow work especially well. There is good authoritative thump coming from “Sandu,” by the Ramsey Lewis Trio, which sounds superb. The xylophone plays its part moving into the mids section with aplomb. No bleed from low to mids was to be had. I really appreciated that the sound emanating from the song was not bloated, or overly preponderant like can happen with the upright bass.
The mids simply shine, with excellent detail retrieval and a clarity right up there with the best TWS OR IEM’s I have heard. Having Sony’s LDAC on tap certainly helps, and the vocals of Freddy Mercury on “Don’t Stop Me Know,” are sublime. He has such a range in his voice (3 octaves, rumors of four!), that lesser headphones and speakers can leave the user wanting more. Not here. The T10 presents vocals in a smooth manner, but without that boring slant often heard with a smoothness inside the song. Vocals on Qobuz’ version of Jamiroquai’s “Virtual Insanity” come across with a sublime taste to them that exudes a smooth character, while matching the songs coolness factor.
Treble hits fairly high and tight, without becoming grating or piercing as mentioned, two things which really bother me up top. Using the EQ, you can extend that range nicely, especially on Android with the parametric equalizer (jealous iOS user, here…). I find that treble note reaches my peak performance of not too high, and not too polite (thin). On songs which contain female vocals of reach, the sound is moving, with excellent transients incorporated, which does not overwhelm the voice; such as Kimiko Kasai’s “Bye Bye Blackbird.” Sometimes those quick hits of cymbal or snare drums can overpower the intended focus, in this case female vocals. Not so on the T10 as the sound comes across as clean with excellent detail retrieval.
Soundstage is spacious with excellent weight to the notes as well. Pat Benatar’s lustful voice on “We Belong” ties together that wonderful treble note of which I spoke last paragraph along with soundstage. Excellent weight of note allows a full space, but without becoming encumbered in too much density. Her voice is of such character that with a lighter treatment to the spatial awareness, she could become piercing. The T10 carries the vocal weight extremely well in space allowing the song to envelop you with a completeness I very much appreciate.
The level of clarity and detail pulled out from any song is quite astounding, especially knowing this is a dedicated BT bud. Klipsch’s own engineers found that there was little difference between the T10 and a comparative wired headphone. That says something right there. There is also sufficient space for the music to breathe, but not become thin. The layered textures come across with aplomb and little fuss. One could easily see that spaciousness met with a thin sound, but the T10 comes across with good depth and a thickness to the notes, which not only bely their size; but also, the fact this is a BT bud.
While getting a peer fit for some custom UE IEM’s and their facility in Irvine, CA before T.H.E. Show this year, Tiago who was also present at the show last year tried the T10. He point blank said the T10 was very, very good. Coming from one who listening to the best UE products regularly says quite a bit about the effort Ear Micro and Klipsch have gone to, making the T10 an audiophile-worthy product.
For typical phone use, the T10 works extremely well, isolating out noise allowing the user to focus on the incoming voice. I lit up our Ninja blender on a phone conversation with our son for giggles one time, and he said that while he definitely heard the Ninja, it did not come at the cost of hearing my voice. Not perfect, but it goes to show that Ear Micro has taken the completeness of experience seriously.
Head gestures worked well, after sorting some software updates. The complexity of the technology in totality here was bound to be not only complicated, but getting all the parts to work together smoothy was a tedious task, I am sure. The outcome is a functioning unit, which allows you to function almost autonomously with the device. Voice tasks were handled without difficulty. Customizing these to your own voice took some effort, but with each update to the Bragi OS allowed more accuracy and isolating for my voice. At the current time, the preface “Hey Ear Micro” must be used, but that will be dealt with in a future update I am told. While somewhat rudimentary, the ability to update or upGRADE shows that Ear Micro & Klipsch takes the overall functionality and experience seriously. Let’s put it this way: if you have used a wireless headphone or TWS application, you have used Bragi OS, so the familiarity with the system is appreciated.
Add in that you can upgrade memory along with some future features (as mentioned above), and you really do have the future of BT ear buds in your ears. Using the term ear computer is not without purpose, and my time has shown that to be true, mostly. I say mostly because the tie together of a whole host of different companies and technologies makes the overall project not only ambitious, but akin to building a house using materials and vendors spread completely across the country. Yes, it can and is done; but not without some hiccups or missteps; minor that they be.
Head movement worked as well, functioning as expected. I did get some funny looks in the airport as I used my movements to fast forward to the next song, or the beginning of the existing song. It was worth the quizzical looks. While it was in Vegas, I almost gave a maniacal laugh as well, but thought better since I wanted to get home.
Instead of listing the models compared up top like I normally do, I will address these one at a time.
The closest BT earbud I have regarding fit would be the MUCH less costly UE Drop Custom. Coming in at roughly 12% ($400) the price, you get the custom model, without dedicated ANC. UE determined that since it is a custom you do not need it. While that is mostly correct, my flights to and from LA for T.H.E. Show proved otherwise. I purposely chose to bring those two sets only. The Drop was decent, but did not provide me nearly enough “ANC” to make listening enjoyable on the plane.
The T10 worked superbly as I expected with the -38dB of noise cancellation tech. Those gnomes and elves I noticed in the shop had done their magic, and I was able to enjoy everything from soft jazz to hard hitting Jeff Beck solos on the plane. I will openly admit to laughing at the other’s flying who wore their bulky BT headphones. Call it vanity on my part, but the T10 was well ahead of the BT headphone I wore as well, the Sony WH-1000XM5, who’s ANC is widely regarded as the best around. It was close, and the closed nature of the Sony’s helped, but the T10 bested even that.
As for sound quality using the ANC, Bear mentioned that most ANC technologies work by adding emphasis and extra “help” down low, which raises the bass quantity at the cost of overall sound quality, isolating out the lower sounds or rumbling. Only the Sony comes close to minimizing that aspect. The T10 works on the outside both actively and passively, instead of adding emphasis in any one set of frequencies. Thus, the T10’s ANC does not influence the sound coming out while ANC is engaged. It works. Going back to my flight, I purposely switched between Transparency & ANC mode to gauge the difference in audio quality. While it was hard under the circumstances, ANC on did not hinder the audio quality. I replicated these functions while typing out a report for one of the rooms from T.H.E. Show while waiting for my plane to KC in a noisy Las Vegas airport area, which had seven gates. I smiled knowing the sound was almost beyond my level of comprehension to tell the difference between ANC on and off.
Comparing the T10 to something equivalent price-wise is almost a moot point, since my go to Empire Ears Legend X is the closest, I have, with the Eletech Socrates cable. The sound is very different and of course the Legend X is my go-to for IEM’s since it fits my listening preferences perfectly. Moving to my go-to headphone, the Audeze LCD-3 with WyWires Red balanced cable, is also a bit pointless, except for the sound qualities. I know the LCD-3 is an older model, but it is still the standard bearer for me and my favored sound signature. While the LCD-3 provides a fuller signature, and a more spacious sound due to the open back, it is again a very different comparison. To me, this just goes to show how much effort has been put in to making the T10 not only functional but also sound like an audiophile piece of kit as well.
I mentioned that the T10 is a very upgradable unit as well. If you want more memory, it can be done. When the battery wears out (which should be a long, long time from now) you can have it replaced. If one of the shell pieces fails (not bloody likely) or you simply want to change, it can be done. The T10 is to me the first BT earbud with replaceable parts, and parts, which can be repaired/upgraded as well. Knowing that, the environmental impact of the unit drops since you would simply not throw it away like cheaper BT ear buds once the battery wears out or case battery wears out.
There is no getting around the price of admission here, but when you total up our audiophile items of purchase, it becomes more feasible. To me, the charger needs the ability to work better as a portable charger. Not wanting to take to large box with me, nor the rubberized insert from inside the box, I was left with the actual charging port (gorgeous as well) and a very nice Klipsch cable. It was kind of a bother making sure the case was set properly while charging at night. With effort, I managed to make sure the case charged.
Battery life. I mention this only because I was able to get close to the 8.75-hour mark. I never went over. I was able to maintain a complete charge from the case for a total of over 25 hours, which for an audiophile piece such as this is good. Compared to BT headphones, which can regularly go over 75 hours now, there is still a big difference. But compared to similar BT TWS buds, and that difference shrinks.
Size. The unit is small, which works very well for having it in ear, and for activity. Bear implored me to wear it while I was mowing as well. Not wanting to lose the better part of two grand while on my riding mower with a bumpy yard, I thought better of that. That diminutive size means there is an adjustment period for contacting the different parts of the shell for functionality. While the touch connectivity worked very, very well; I found myself hitting the wrong parts or doing the wrong sequence often. This is on me, but something to consider nonetheless. That said, the increasing functionality of voice commands and ability to communicate those desires without touch more than makes up for my lack of dexterity. Since learning the limitations of voice commands, I have yet to have a falter.
So where are we after living with the T10 for six months? I feel like I have been on a trial living arrangement learning the intricacies of my mate to ensure we are lifetime compatible. I am happy to say, that after close communication with Ear Micro of updates and developments, I am. To think that this one device has made me re-evaluate my listening purpose and choices over the last six months is almost inconceivable. Over the course of that time, I have gone through upgrades to the unit, adjustments and similar tasks in order to make the unit complete. And since the latest software update, the unit has functioned perfectly. Whenever I go anywhere, and only one unit can go with me, it is the T10. I do worry about the cost, but knowing that those who really will purchase this unit do not worry about that, I quit worrying.
This is an expensive unit. And one, which many will scoff at and make fun of. So be it, but the market for this product is most likely not for them. It is a bespoke item, much like a custom carved knife is. Or a pistol, which was handmade for the customer. This is not an everyday purchase for those of us in the audiophile world, and Ear Micro & Klipsch know this. One look at the Fleur de Glace Violette (https://t10bespoke.com/products/fleur-de-glace-violette) and its near-$40k price and you realize that this is for the owner of that yacht who frequents Monte Carlo for the Monaco GP. I will admit that it was kind of a rush holding the Fleur in my hand knowing the cost. But I also know that someone will eagerly purchase that unit knowing it is a one-of-a-kind unit. There isn’t another one close to that on the planet. Nor the custom Superman one (great story behind it). My “pedestrian” model does carry with it other carbon patterns “similar” to the ones on the T10 site, so even it is unique on the planet. And to me, that is the real beauty besides the stellar audio quality: you will have a unique product from a company that cares about the individual customer as well as taking care of that customer long-term. Bear told me he has answered his phone at 0300, for customers in Saudi Arabia who have had questions. That is customer service.
If I had to “settle” for a single unit overall, and all of my other headphones and BT buds, and IEM’s go away (just go with it), the T10 would be my easy choice. I care about the audio quality and the functionalities built in, and updateable aspect of the T10, and see the vision of where they hope to proceed. To have an item, which easily competes with the Google Glasses, but with audio attached makes this an easy choice. Expensive, but worth a definite listen. OK, I would also keep my LCD-3’s as well…
Look for Bear and the T10 at Can Jam June 24/25 in Chicago. It will be worth a listen; I do not doubt that.
I close this review listening to The Mavericks and “Recuerdos.” Such a sensuous song, and the volume naturally goes up using the voice commands seamlessly. This is a truly stunning looking and sounding unit.