Pros: Nice overall sound. crisp and clear highs, great sub-bass, great sound stage/airy sound for an IEM
Cons: Mid-bass needs to be tuned down
This is a review of the TFT Acoustics - TFTA 1XB. These are TFTA’s flagship IEMs, costing ~AUD$150. This puts them at somewhat upper mid-level IEMs. The 1XB and the 1VS are TFTA’s two high end models where the 1XB is tuned to produce more sub-bass.
Out of the box, they sounded pretty open, probably due to the small vent but the bass dominated the spectrum. I allowed them to burn-in for about 50 hours before I started properly reviewing them.
Packaging & Accessories
The packaging is VERY simple, just a small cardboard box with an insert holding the IEMs which had the medium size silicon tips on them plus a little bag with the small and large tips. I understand TFTA are changing the packaging shortly. This is a good thing because at this price point and in fact, at even $100, some manufacturers (e.g. DUNU) pack the box full of accessories, tips, pouches etc. I would have expected, at the bare minimum, a carry case. I mean, most people who spend $150 on IEMs will want to take care of them, which usually involves carrying them in a case.
Just like with the TFTA earbuds, I would like to see is branding on the actual product, not just the packaging. I am surprised that none of the TFTA products have any product markings on the earphone, on the Y-splitter or the jack strain relief. It makes them seem like unfinished prototypes. I hope the actual product will get branded when the packaging changes.
One other thing is the L and R markings are difficult to read as they are very small but none the less, they are there.
Comfort & Isolation
I am normally averse to the wide nozzle IEMs as they don’t suit my ears very well. These IEMs are wide nozzle but are surprisingly very comfortable. They sit nicely and are quite secure and even though they are metal and feel slightly heavy in the hand, they don’t feel like they are going to fall out of the ears.
Tips about Tips:
I tried a variety of tips on these, here is what I found. The stock tips are made of soft silicon, which makes them quite comfortable however, I don’t feel they provide the best SQ or the most secure fit.
The wide nozzle meant that I couldn’t try my thin nozzle foam tips however, I was able to try: Klipsch eargels, JAYS clear silicon tips, UE silicon tops, Meelec, Sony and Sennheiser silicon tips. The Klipsch eargels are the most comfortable silicon tips I have ever used however, due to the bigger body of the TFTA, they were not secure and felt like they would pop out any second, even though they didn’t. The sound quality was good, as expected. The Klipsch eargels tend not to change the SQ very much and I regard them as fairly “neutral” tips.
The Sennheiser tips fit well and were similar to the stock tips, nothing special there. The Meelec and Sony tips (not hybrids) were also pretty similar. The UE tips fit well and were also good for the SQ, being quite neutral. They were also very comfortable.
The pick of the bunch for me are the JAYS clear silicon tips. They provided a very comfortable fit which also felt very secure in the ears. They were great for the SQ as the highs came out more and sounded sharper/crisper than any other tip.
Build & Cable
The build quality seems excellent. They are made out of metal and seem very rugged and durable. No way for me to tell without using them over time and see how they stand up. Initial impression is of a strong build quality. The cables are kind of rubbery but not too much. They seem durable which is a good sign. The cables are kind of tangle prone and are not very easy to untangle once they have tangled.
- Out-of-the-Box: Straight out of the box, the IEMs sounded very bassy…so much so that the mids and highs were veiled. I put them on the burn in process for 50hrs.
- Treble: To start with, the highs didn’t present much sparkle but as time went on, the sparkle came out more and more. I really enjoy the smooth yet crisp treble on the 1XB. The high end tends to carry a lot of energy with each note and I really enjoy this aspect. It’s also quite airy as they have a small vent in the back.
- Midrange: Mids are very well presented. Vocals sound great, although not as forward as something like Shure or TF10’s, they are very clear and definitely sound great. As burn-in continues, the mids open up and vocals, guitars, drums and upper-mids like piano also improve. Very smooth and very well presented.
- Bass: At first, the bass is a little bit too much and does bleed into the mid range. As burn-in continues, it settles down but not to the point I would like it to be. It extends pretty low in the sub-bass so it definitely meets the “1XB” requirements however the mid-bass is still quite powerful and it would be better overall of this was tuned down in the manufacturing process however, some simple EQ at my end solved this. I really like the texture of the lower bass and the sub-bass. The texture is not as good as the Atrio’s but better than most in this regard.
- Soundstage and separation: The 1XB have a small vent in the back which allows for a more airy sound. It’s actually very nice, I really enjoy this. Sound stage is improved and quite wide. Instrument separation is very, very good. The high end separation is very enjoyable and I particularly enjoyed flamenco music due to this characteristic. Separation in the lower end is also very good, e.g. bass drum and bass guitar.
The TFTA 1XB, at ~$150, are a decent purchase. There is a lot of competition at this price range and I think TFTA would have a real winner if the mid-bass was tuned down (even though a simple EQ will solve this) and they added more accessories in the retail pack. The 1XB will give great mids and highs along with great lower bass and sub-bass. Separation is very good and sound stage is quite wide, leading to an enjoyable listening experience.