Pros: Excellent sound quality, very comfortable, and admireable build quality at a price that will not break the bank.
Cons: Lower treble emphasis may not be ideal for some...
T-PEOS is at it again… this time with the intention of pleasing the consumer market by offering an excellent sounding earphone without breaking the bank. The Altone 200 is the latest 3-way Hybrid Design adopted from their flagship IEM, the H-300. To achieve their goal, the main components such as the dynamic and balanced armature drivers are kept intact but extra features such as removable cables and premium accessories were excluded. Fortunately, the build quality of the IEM casing is excellent! Made from aluminium and steel with a superb smooth finish. The best part is how small and light these IEMs are… they can be easily inserted and stay comfortably in your ears. As for the most important question: how is the sound quality? Well let’s find out! T-PEOS was kind enough to send me a review unit and so here I am to share my first hand experience with the Altone 200.
NOTE: I did not receive the final retail packaging, so a few photos were taken from other sources.
SETUP: Colorfly C3 > JDS Labs C5D
iMac 2011 > JDS Labs C5D
Using Comply TS200 foam tips.
Dr. Chesky’s Ultimate Headphone Demonstration Disc
Dream Theater - Greatest Hit (…and 21 Other Pretty Cool Songs)
Pantera - Cowboys From Hell
Tool - Lateralus
Daft Punk - Random Access Memories
Avicii - True
Adele - 21
Tina Turner - Greatest Hits
Jewel - Greatest Hits
Janet Jackson - Greatest Hits
Nirvana - In Utero
Bryan Adams - So Far So Good
Michael Jackson - Bad (Remastered)
This could possibly be the final retail packaging. Photo courtesy of H20fidelity.
BASS: I’m a self-confessed fan of T-PEOS bass and the Altone 200 is no different. The bass performance was a big step-up on the H-300 and I’m glad that the quality is just as good with this new hybrid. The only minor differences are the decay, which is a bit quicker and the air is a bit lesser with the Altone 200. I reckon the smaller casing is a factor for these differences and whether anyone would prefer one over the other is a matter of preference. If the H-300 is Batman, the Altone 200 is Robin (Dick Grayson)… not as brawny as Batman yet more agile and charismatic. I say “charisma" because the bass quantity is perfect for almost all kinds of genre. Extends deep, with appropriate sub-bass rumble and a natural timbre to match. Its impact and slam are forces to be reckoned with, so visceral that they'll keep you entertained especially with heavy metal and electronic music. I am confident in claiming that its bass is one of, if not the best in detail I’ve heard from an IEM. Listening to Daft Punk’s Giorgio by Moroder (05:24 - 08:44) exhibits Altone 200’s bass prowess, a feat one could not simply ignore.
MIDS: What’s remarkable about the midrange is its totally free of bass bleed despite the boosted bass. The transition between mid-bass and the lower midrange is seamless enough that I don’t get distracted by coherence issues. Vocals may sound a bit far back in the background when listening at low volume. Increase the volume and the Altone 200 will surprise you with detail and clarity. The key is to find the volume sweet spot; only then the smooth, clear, and detailed midrange is realised. In my experience, the Altone 200 sounds at its best around 50%-55% volume on iPod Touch 5th Gen or 25-30 volume on the Colorfly C3. Male vocals are rendered smoothly while female vocals are a bit lifted. Guitars sound really good with accurate thickness and a little bit of edginess for that added crunch… perfect for heavy metal, rock, jazz, and acoustic. Clarity is among the best I’ve heard while timbre is just slightly on the thin side and really only noticeable during a volume matched A/B comparison with the Noble 4. The Altone 200 is far from a mid-centric sound signature yet it’s not far behind in overall midrange performance. The balance between bass and midrange is impressive and the fact that it’s being compared to the Noble 4 is already quite an accomplishment.
HIGHS: T-PEOS is known for emphasised lower treble and its definitely one of the distinct characteristics in the T-PEOS house sound. The Altone 200 stays true to its origin and I’m happy to report that the lower treble emphasis is more controlled and refined than any of the previous models. Cymbals sound quite natural but can sometimes be brighter than normal depending on the recording. Sibilance is only an issue if it already exists in the mixing/mastering of the track. Honestly, I did not encounter any issues with high quality recordings even if the genre calls for a brighter than normal sound signature. Resolution is probably the best in this price range where micro-detail is easily heard and better than most mid-tier IEMs. Overall, I’m quite happy with the treble this time around… a lot better than any of the previous models. If I were to nit pick, a little more emphasis on the upper treble will be perfect. There’s a bit of a roll-off but fortunately, micro-detail and airiness are still there. Not vividly perfect but certainly good enough and nothing a simple EQ can't solve. PLEASE NOTE: I used Comply TS200 for this review and results may slightly differ with various types of tips.
The RED strain relief is a nice touch to distinguish between right and left earpieces.
IMAGING AND SOUNDSTAGE: Soundstage is wider than average and can easily be improved with a slight EQ bump in the upper treble. What I like about the soundstage is that the width varies accordingly to the track being played. If the track calls for it, the Altone 200 will certainly deliver. Not as expansive as the Dunu DN-1000 but certainly not far behind either. Imaging remains exemplary comparable to previous flagship models like the H-300. Instruments are well placed with near accurate distances within the soundstage that is quite immersive. Impressive I must say considering that this is almost a budget IEM.
CONCLUSION: I’ve been looking forward to the day when T-PEOS finally releases a product that’ll satisfy my sound preference. I was spoilt by the H-200, thrilled by the H-300, and now satisfied with the Altone 200. I cannot stress enough how happy I am with the direction T-PEOS is heading. The Altone 200 is proof that these guys take customer feedback seriously and then strive to exceed expectations. Good on you T-PEOS!
Special thanks to Sunggoo Kwon of T-PEOS for the review unit and @H20Fidelity for his contributions in the development of Altone 200.