Tenore VS MH1... FIGHT!!!
Let's get some of the technicalities out of the way. The contenders are: a recabled ZMF MH1 with large stock tips and a stock Zero Audio Tenore with large Sennheiser biflange tips. I have a made a pinhole bass vent in the top of the MH1 to alleviate over-pressurization risks.
ZMF MH1: $120
These are the prices I paid.
Zach does a great recable. I chose black BTG Audio cable with an Oyaide Rhodium straight plug, and I much prefer it to my previous right angle plug ZMF MH1. The Oyaide plug is small and just exudes sexiness. The cable itself is quite solid and tightly braided. Microphonics are present but much mitigated with an easy over-the-ear fit. In comparison, the Tenore cable is softer and more supple, bending quite easily but never retaining it's shape. Microphonics are a bit better, and an over-the-ear fit isn't as necessary as with the ZMF MH1.
Both iems are about the same size, although the smaller stress relief and buttery cable on the Tenore allows for a slightly more pleasant experience overall imo. It's just rare that a cable is so light and pliable, and it makes an over-the-ear fit extremely comfortable.
This is hard. Here are the three biggest differences to my ears, starting with bass:
- The Tenore has tighter bass with less decay and more definition.
- The MH1's mids are more forward.
- The Tenore's treble is less emphasized.
So let's get more detailed. The flabby bass of the MH1 has always been its most obvious weakness, and the bass of the Tenore hits with more clarity period. The edges of bass lines have more definition, making it easier to tell when they end and begin. Mid-bass isn't an issue here with either phone, as it keeps well away from the mids on both.
How bout them mids? The Tenore sounds a couple dB behind the MH1 with vocals, and with a more overall downward tilting FR, the Tenore imbues voices with a bit more warmth overall to my ears. Hitting the right tonality in the mids is a delicate balancing act, and I'm really not sure if I could choose the Tenore over the MH1 here. With vocals, the MH1 is no doubt closer in tonality to the ER4S to my ears. The mids on those iems are the stars of the show. The Tenore in comparison trades its mids emphasis for a wider field of sound, and coupled with what must be insanely low distortion, the immersion factor on the Tenore surpasses both the MH1 and ER4S imo. The presentation is wider and more 3D, with sound cues coming equally from all directions. The mids are more a part of this presentation than their own focus.
The Tenore's treble timbre and tonality are among the best I've heard. While treble isn't as emphasized as the MH1 or ER4S, it is clearly present with smooth and natural attack and decay. Cymbals hit with authority and ride out with extremely clear definition, while simultaneously NOT causing fatigue over long sessions due to over-emphasis. Very very few iems pull this off. Too little emphasis and cymbals become buried, too much and they cause fatigue, and much of this depends on the recording. The MH1 is smooth, but has a little more ting to its sound than the Tenore. They are close, however, and listener preference will obviously affect this greatly. I appreciate both styles very much.
Previously I've stated the the MH1 is one of the most hi-fi iems ever made. I compared it at length the K3003 and found that I'd probably prefer the MH1 if not for its thumpier bass. Now comes the Tenore offering similar top tier quality with tighter bass, and an even more immersive sonic experience. Can I choose one over the other? Likely not. But at this price point I really don't have to. I might find myself reaching for the Tenore more often, even though I slightly prefer the more forward mids of the MH1. The gains in bass performance, and the smooth treble resolution on the Tenore will likely be enough to sway me most of the time.