Intro: Founded in 2012, Torque’s first product releases hit the market this year, releasing a variety of interesting premium customizable headphones. Their three new exciting modular products, the $179.95 t103z IEMs, the $329.95 t096z IEMs, and the $399.95 t402v full-sized headphones that can swap between on-ear and over-ear fits.
Disclaimer: I received a touring review unit from Torque. Details can be found HERE.
These are just my personal subjective opinions. Your experience may vary!
Tech: The Torque Audio t096z is a single dynamic driver IEM with adjustable tuning filters to alter the sound signature that will be released at MSRP of $329.95.
The TorqueValves (Passive Acoustic Valve Technology) are the screw-in filters with the earbud nozzle that can customize the sound signature of the IEMs. There will be 6 TorqueValves bundled with the t096z, named Red (reference), Yellow (deep), Black (clear), Green (balanced), Blue (smooth), and Purple (bliss). TorqueValves are sold separately for $20/pair.
Picture of the two TorqueValet metal filter holders with x6 sets of TorqueValves screwed on
Rated Impedance: 16 ohms
Sensitivity: 90 dB
Design & Build Quality: The Torque t096z feels premium and sturdy. It features a protective rubber insert to place into the screw-in section when no filters are attached. The cable is a premium-type 6 foot oxygen free copper cable with an one-button iOS remote. I tested the remote to work with the Samsung Galaxy S5 as well. The cable is non-detachable and terminates in a 3.5mm right-angle plug. The cable also features a neck cinch. Their cable design only realistically allows for straight-down cable wear-style rather than the upwards around-the-ear wear-style that some people prefer to help with cable microphonics. I did not find any excessive cable noise when using these IEMs in portable situations with that wear-style.
Picture of One-button Remote on Cable
Left: Neck Cinche; Right: 3.5mm R angled plug
The driver shell is made of brass for a weighty solid feel with a slightly reflective black and brass-colored styling. The screw-mechanism for filters is well-made and I never ran into any issues while swapping between filters. Weight is definitely on the heavier side for IEMs, clocking in at 26 grams. The t096z gives a very premium feel with its usage of sturdy metal parts.
Left: Reflective Backplate of the t096z; Right: Bottom of the t096z
Picture of Protective Cover over the Screw-in Design for Filters
Left: Red Filter just placed initially; Right: Red Filter screwed into place
Weight Comparisons of some IEMs:
12g: Flare Audio R2Pro
14g: Xiaomi Piston 3
15g: Hifiman RE-400
18g: Bose Soundtrue
26g: Torque t096z
30g: Final Audio Heaven VII
Personal thoughts about weight. For the 15g or less options, the IEMs disappear weight-wise into my ears and I do not notice their weight even over extremely long listening sessions. For the 25g+ options, their weight is very noticeable when worn and I personally need to take breaks if using them extensively. I do think that comfort of IEMs is greatly influenced by their weight. The Torque t096z is not uncomfortable, but their weight can detract from comfort over longer listening sessions. Whether this weight is comfortable/tolerable for individuals would be a personal call. Just an important factor to keep in mind.
Picture of the Red filter + t096z without filters attached
Comfort: With the wide variety of eartips provided, it should be relatively easy to find the right fit on these in-ear headphones. Using premium metal pairs and equipped with the swappable tuning filters, the t096z will be a bit on the heftier side for a pair of IEMs. Should not be uncomfortable for daily usage, but you will not forget that you are wearing these headphones due to its substantial weight. Not the most ideal option I would personally choose to work-out with or spend extremely long listening sessions with as I prefer options that I forget that I am wearing for those situations. No other major concerns with comfort beyond the weight, so for those used to a variety of heavier IEMs, these should work fine. I personally had the best luck with the included Medium silicone eartips. I also enjoyed using the t096z with my own Comply foam eartips, and Medium SpinFit eartips. Different eartips can alter the sound signature or sound quality dependant on how well they fit and seal for your individual ears.
Left: Size comparison of the filter by themselves; Right: Size comparison of the t096z with filter attached.
Accessories: Torque Audio generously bundles a multitude of accessories with the t096z. Outstanding array of extras that is very befitting for its price point. I greatly appreciate the wide range of eartips and the inclusion of a sturdy hard case and metal placeholders for the different tuning filters. The TorqueValet helps prevent misplacing the tiny TorqueValves.
- x1 Hard-case
- x3 sets of silicone olive eartips (S/M/L)
- x1 sets of silicone double-flange eartips
- x1 sets of silicone triple-flange eartips
- x1 silicone stabilizer ring
- x1 Comply S-200 foam eartips
- x6 different sets of TorqueValves
- x2 TorqueValet metal valve holders
Resource for audiophile terminology can be found HERE.
Resource for corresponding frequency response curves and audiophile terminology can be found HERE.
Torque Audio’s filter descriptions:
- Red (“reference”) = neutral sound signature
- Yellow (“deep”) = bass-focused sound signature
- Black (“clear”) = treble-focused sound signature
- Green (“balanced”) = v-shaped sound signature
- Blue (“smooth”) = linear bass-orientated tilt (warm)
- Purple (“bliss”) = mid-focused sound signature
I will not delve too deeply into the sound signature of the t096z here as the different filter options do dramatically alter the perceived frequency response. I will focus on some more interesting technical attributes of the various frequency regions.
Treble Tuning: The treble is where I see the Torque t096z shines the most. There is a great sense of treble detail on all models, picking up a lot of low-level breath and air sounds that I typically do not expect to hear from a pair of IEMs. Treble notes are sharply defined and extremely clear. The t096z does always seem to impart a bit of a high-energy crispness to its treble tuning with its sound often having an underlying hint of piercingness underlying the definition of its notes. The t906z features an extremely clear treble with a good hint of air. There is also an extra flourish to the treble tuning that many will find to give the sound a fun sparkling effect. Even with all the different filter changes (with the noticeable exception of the Purple filters), the t906z consistently features three noticeable peaks in their treble response which does result in this consistently crisp edge to the definition of its treble notes. The treble emphasis of the t906z is typically in 2kHz, 5kHz, and 10kHz regions though with different filters it does shift around a bit. The treble is quite clear and prominently emphasized to my ears for a very nice airy and bright presentation. I do feel that there is a hint of this phenonem even with the more bass-focused filters, though to a much lesser extent as the the strength of lower frequencies on the more bass-focused filters does make the treble does sound relatively less emphasized. Treble detail and clarity remains extremely competitive on all filter options.
Midrange Tuning: The midrange of the t096z is clean and well-done. It is the mostly consistent in performance though I did note that there appears to be a shift between an upper midrange focus on the brighter filters (red, purple, black) compared to a lower midrange focus on the darker filters (blue, yellow, and green). The purple filters do indeed have the most linear and well-done overall midrange tuning. The midrange is extremely detailed and capable of picking up textural shifts and micro-details. The midrange is consistently good, but will appear emphasized or decreased based on the different filters used.
Bass Tuning: The bass tuning of the Torque t096z is the most variable aspect that alters with the different filter tips. This frequency response region features the most dramatic and easily noticeable change when switching filters. Bass overall does have a strong sense of impact. Bass notes are relatively tight, though I have heard tighter performance. Sub-bass extension is acceptable, but typically more of a mid-bass focus on the t096z regardless of filter type. The peak of the bass response is usually centered somewhere between 50Hz to 100Hz. The notable exception is the purple filter that does not display any detectable emphasis in the bass region, but rather just a small tapering in the lowest sub-bass registers. So with the exception of the purple filters, there will always be a bit of varying degree of bass emphasis on all the other filters. The Blue, Red, and Black filters have a mid-bass focus, while the Green and Yellow filters have a more of a lower mid-bass focus. This contributes to the punchy and impactful overall sound of the t096z though the degree of warmth and fullness and the amount of lower midrange bleed is variable between filter options.
Other Sonic Attributes: While the t096z does have solid speed, soundstage, and imaging, its most standout trait is definitely its detail retrieval and overall clarity. It provides very clean resolution of low-level micro-details with great portrayal of textural detail. Soundstage is good for a pair of IEMs with relatively precise imaging, but I do feel that there are some other options in this price range that may have more impressive soundstage dimensions. Speed further improves with the addition of extra power and I do feel that these IEMs do shine their best with some additional amplification. Noise isolation of the t096z is extremely good, blocking out the majority of background noise. As with all nice passive noise isolating gear, I would advise taking care with using these during on-foot commutes as you may not always hear warning noises around you on busy streets.
Comparisons of the Different Filter Tips:
**Note: the name in quotes is simply Torque Audio's naming scheme. I actually personally disagree with some of those characterizations.
Red Filter: (“reference”) = neutral sound signature
The Reds displays a well-done but slightly unique tuning to my ears that I would personally hesitant to classify as purely neutral or reference. Its overall sound signature is relatively well-balanced and sounds mostly flat, but there are a few subtle nuances that make it sound less neutral than the Purple filters to my ears. In the bass region, the Red features a very small and subtle mid-bass focus from 50-100Hz with a slight sub-bass tapering. This is a very natural sounding bass response tuning and does not sound overtly colored. Its tuning from the sub-bass to the mids actually is remarkably similar to the Purple filters, though I did feel the Purple filters displayed a more linearity across that region as the Red filters have a subtle bit more bass and slightly less upper mids for a thicker sensation. There is a bit more of a mid emphasis on both the Purple and Red filters compared to their bass response which also is what I would expect from a natural sounding tuning. The primarily difference is that the Red filters have a bit of an noticeable upper mid and lower treble emphasis at approximately 2kHz-3kHz and 5kHz which gives it a crispier and edgier treble presentation and contributes to a sharper overall sound. The Red filters are basically a brighter and more high-energy version of the Purple filters. Considering how much I enjoy the Purple filters, I think that it is a perfectly acceptable tuning choice and should be greatly appealing to those who enjoy that crisp sparkle to their treble notes. The Red filters are solid all-around filters that work well with any genre. A slightly leaner bass response may cause one of the bassier filter options to be preferable for bass-lovers who crave a strong bass boost, but the Red filters definitely provide plenty of treble sharpness and detail to satisfy treble-heads. The Red filters offer a subtle sense of fullness for an organic sensation to its bass and lower mids coupled with a brighter more analytical treble tuning.
Yellow Filter: (“deep”) = bass-focused sound signature
The Yellow filters feature a strongly bass emphasized sound signature. I would estimate approximately a 10-15dB bass boost over the reds. Very prominent sub-bass emphasis and a strong emphasis to the lower mids. Its bass signature features the lowest subbass most prominently for that vibrational rumbling type of presentation. A bit excessively weighty in its bass response for my personal tastes and I felt that it did sound a bit slower and fuller than the other options with a bit of noticeable bleed into the lower midrange. When looking for that hard-hitting thump and boomy sound of a strong bass boost, this tuning filter will deliver a strong sense of slam and warmth to the body of notes. Very strong sense of reverb to its lower frequencies for that rumbling seismic sensation. The Yellow filters display a noticeable lower treble emphasis centered at approximately 2kHz for a bit of an extra edginess to its sound and tapers off a bit earlier for a relatively less airy sound. Electronica and hip hop fans should greatly enjoy this tuning. Works relatively well for pop as well.
Black Filter: (“clear”) = treble-focused sound signature
The Black filters features an extremely bright and high-energy sound signature. I would estimate ~10 dB treble boost over the bass response and lower midrange. The upper mids are also ~5dB emphasized over the lower mids. Extremely crispy and bright sound signature with a highly emphasized sense of air. The emphasis of the treble region was centered ~3-5kHz from my testing tests with giving off a very clear sense of upper treble extension and air. A bit of sharp energetic edginess to its sound signature that should be well-suited for upbeat rock and metal tracks.
Despite having an overall sharper and brighter sound signature, I did not feel that the bass presence and lower frequency response of the black filter was lacking. Relatively in-line with the lower midrange with the most easily appreciable taper occurring right before 60Hz for a bit more of a midbass and upper bass emphasis over the subbass. This gives the bass response of the black filters a very nice tight punchy sensation, though they will not appear as weighty in sound with the other tuning filter options. The upper midrange of the black filters was quite strongly emphasized as well with a bit of an upward hill after 500Hz which culminates at a ~8-9kHz peak. Its upper midrange focus along with its accentuated treble provide an extremely energetic and vivid sound that trebleheads will greatly enjoy.
Overall, the black filters were a bit too bright in presentation for my personal tastes and I personally did not enjoy this filter for classical music as the string instruments could appear a bit too piercing and strident at times, though that is reflective of real life. I see this filter working best for rock, metal, and other genres featuring heavy usage of electric guitars and vibrant distortion effects. Cymbal clashes are slice extremely clearly into the forefront with this tuning.
Green Filter: (“balanced”) = v-shaped sound signature
The Green filters features v-shaped sound signature with a strongly emphasized overall bass response centered with a prominent mid-bass focus and a mildly emphasized overall treble response that centers with a lower treble focus. Its midrange recession dips down the greatest at the upper mids around 900Hz to 2kHz. Lower mids are much more in focus with its tuning, giving this v-shaped option a weightier, fuller sound. Its treble response seems on par in emphasis with the Red filters, but the greater emphasis of its bass response does contribute to an underlying sense of darkness and warmth with the Green filters. Overall, I view this to be a darker v-shaped tuning.
This is likely the most genre-dependent tuning filter. Works exceptionally well for EDM, Hip Hop, and Pop, but the scooped out recession to its mid-range limits its versatility. Overall, a very well-done v-shaped sound signature and engaging, high-impact bass response along with its vivid high-energy treble tuning should be greatly appreciated for those looking for a dash of extra excitement to their music.
Blue Filter: (“smooth”) = linear bass-orientated tilt (warm)
The Blue filters are very well-done for my tastes, sounding to be a bit of a hybrid filter sitting in-between the all the other filter options. Its overall sound can be most easily described as adding a hint of relative warmth to the Red filters. In relative comparison to the V-shaped Green filters, bass-focused Yellow filter, and treble-focused Black filter, the Blue filters straddles the delicate line of offering a satisfying bass boost and enough treble brightness without going too overboard in either direction. Its bass boost is a modest ~5dB boost from Red filters and a 5dB drop from the Green/Yellow filters with its lower frequency presentation centered at the approximately 70-80Hz for a punchy tight mid-bass-focused warmth underlying its notes. It has a good sense of fullness without bleeding into the midrange, though its upper midrange does sound relatively recessed compared to the subtle additional focus on the lower mids. The Blue filter is able to maintain a remarkably similar treble tuning akin to the Red filter. The transition from midrange to treble is more pronounced as the Blue filter offers a bit less upper midrange emphasis compared to the Red filters and the Blue filters does still display that 2kHz-3kHz emphasis in its treble region. However, to my ears, the Blue filters did sound relatively less edgy due to the underlying warmth from its lower frequencies that nicely complimented the crispness of the treble response. The decreased upper midrange does give the Blue filters a more distant wider presentation with a perceivable larger sense of space rather than a more intimate or in-your-face-type presentation. I do greatly enjoy Blue filter’s particular tuning, offering a great balance between a punchy impactful and tight bass and crisp clean sense of treble detail with a very large sense of space and a bit extra fullness and richness to its undertones.
In terms of sound signatures comparisons, the Blue filter offers less bass emphasis compared to the Yellow (bass) and Green (v-shaped) filters but relatively more bass than the Red (reference), Black (treble), and Purple (mid) filters. Its treble is also more prominent compared to the Yellow filters, but less emphasized compared to the Black and Green filters. Its lower and upper frequency emphasis is not as extremely as the Green filters. Does not sound has sharp and biting as the Red filters with its underlying warm tonality.
Purple Filter: (“bliss”) = mid-focused sound signature
I personally view the Purple filter to actually be the closest representation of a neutral orientated linear sound signature and I see the purple tuning to be the reference filter. Easily the most balanced and linear sound signature from frequency response sweeps with the least amount of peakiness or recessions. No particular frequency response stood out prominently to me though there was a subtle small roll-off in both bass and treble extension which I think is why they labeled the Purple to be mid-focused. The transitions between frequency regions sounds quite natural without any strong dips or hills.
The midrange is exceptionally smooth with just a hint of upper mid focus over the lower mid to give it a very fast, clean, and clear sound rather than that thick and full sound of more lower-mid-focused headphones. This gives its midrange just a hint of ‘analytical-ness’ for very highly resolving, micro-detailed-orientated presentation. I greatly enjoy this type of tuning choice. The treble of the Purple filters were exceptionally well-done in my estimation with minimal peakiness for a very smooth and well-refined sound. It blends a fast clinically-detailed upper-mid-focused midrange with a smooth and organic treble for well-balanced but unique sonic presentation for stellar results! My FR measurements also demonstrated that the Purple is closest to my own ideal sound signature for a neutral-orientated IEM.
The Purple filters are extremely well-suited for vocals ranging from pop to indie or rock to pure acoustic music to folk and bluegrass to even melodic trance featuring female singers. It is also a very nice tuning for classical music. An amazingly versatile option in my opinion that will work work very well as an all-arounder.
Personal Picks of the Different Filters
My favorite filters are the Blue, Purple and Red. I felt like those three tuning choices were the most versatile for my varied music tastes.
I personally felt that the Blue tuning is the my personal favorite tuning out of their line-up with a hint of underlying warmth and great weighty sub-bass presence that did not bleed into the midrange. Perfect choice for EDM and still well-balanced enough to work with all other genres. The Blue filter would be what I consider to be a “fun” and “organic” tuning.
The Purple filter excelled at everything I threw at it, and I would would actually consider it to be the most reference neutral tuning. Least amount of bass quantity out of all the filters, but I felt like it provided the best linearity to its sound signature balance. It sounded exceptionally linear to my ears from the mid-bass through the treble and I would estimate that there is just a bit of additional prominence to the upper midrange. There is a subtle roll-off at both the top and bottom ends of the frequency response, but an extremely well-done subtle taper. Treble of the Purple was also not as heavily emphasized as with the Red (flat) or Black (treble-boosted) which I thought to be a bit too much for my personal tastes, but did give an airier sensation over the Blue (warm) and Yellow (bass-boosted).
The Red was just a barely edging into a brighter sound signature than what I am typically used to, but was not excessively bright for my tastes. While relatively linear tuning, the Reds does appear to have have a bit of a lower treble emphasis centered at 2kHz, which can sometimes be a love-it-or-hate-it type tuning. Solid brighter-sounding option as long as using tracks that are well-mastered as I found they could sometimes be a bit fatiguing for me after long listening sessions. Good choice for high-energy music and very vivid display of detail for a clean and sharp presentation. I would consider the Red filters to be the crispy analytical option when looking to really focus in on the treble detail and wanting an extra sense of edginess for very sharp well-defined note spacing.
This is how I would personally characterize the different filters:
- Red (“analytical” or “sharp”) = analytical crispy sound signature; low treble focus
- Yellow (“deep”) = dark low sub-bass-focused sound signature; rumbling bass impact
- Black (“vivid”) = strongly treble-emphasized sound signature; very high energy; very bright
- Green (“excite” or “fun”) = v-shaped sound signature; a bit more emphasis in bass over treble; strong mid recession
- Blue (“organic” or “warm” or “rich”) = mid-bass focused warmth with crispy treble; subtle upper mid recession
- Purple (“reference”) = neutral orientated tuning with an upper mid focus, very subtle roll-off in the most extreme registers of treble and bass
Do note that there is an inherent time-delay when comparing the different filters as it takes a few seconds to unscrew and swap out the filters. I did do some testing with two different filters in place on different sides to more accurate discern the nuances between the filters. The different filter options do provide a relatively large sonic difference that I view to be significantly noticeable.
Against the Xiami Piston III (single dynamic driver on sale for <$20)
The Xiami Piston is an amazing budget IEM that delivers a punchy and warm bass-focused sound signature. Exceptional sonic performance at its extremely affordable price point, the Piston 3 definitely outperforms its price point, but it is easy to find other options that provide some technical performance improvements. The t096z does offer wider note spacing, larger soundstage, more precise imaging, better clarity, and improved detail retrieval.
Closest to the t096z blue tuning filter with the Piston III sounding overall bassier to my ears. Overall sound signature is actually quite comparable with slightly more lower treble presence and more treble sparkle on the t096z blue filters while the Piston III has a much heavier emphasized mid-bass peak that contributes to a slower and relatively more bloated/fuller sensation. I personally do prefer the t096z blue filter for this type of warmer sound as it provides noticeable improvements in note spacing & speed with tighter bass notes, a deeper more precise soundstage localization, and better sense of clarity & low-level details.
Against the Bose SoundTrue In-Ear Headphones (earbud design currently on sale at $79.99)
The SoundTrue is a consumer-orientated warm sound signature with a bit of treble roll-off for a non-fatiguing sound signature. Its technical performance is noticeably lacking in direct comparisons against many more audiophile-geared products, but it offers an unique fit that can be very nice for users who have comfort issues with traditional in-the-ear-canal insertions. Its earbud-style fit contributes to very low noise isolation. Not going to have as clear overall sound or technical performance compared to something like the t096z.
The Bose SoundTrue sound signature does not really match up will with any other audiophile IEM in terms of overall tuning. There is significant loss of treble response and a very warm mid-bass boost for a very warmly colored and dulled-off treble sound for a non-fatiguing consumer-orientated sound.
Against the Hifiman RE-400 (single dynamic driver currently on sale for $79)
I consider the RE-400 to be a price point standard for a well-balanced neutral orientated pair of budget in-ears. It offers a relatively linear sound signature that I would say is just a touch warmer than ‘neutral’ with an excellent sense of treble extension and detail.
The RE-400 would be characterized as an interesting mix of Torque filters. I would characterize the RE-400 as most similar to the Purple Filter with a bit less overall treble emphasis and better bass extension. It has the sub-bass extension of the Yellow filters without such a heavy bass boost while being tonally reminiscent of the Blue filters with that subtle degree of underlying warmth over the treble response. The Blue filters feature a stronger mid-bass emphasis and more overall warmth to its sound while the RE-400 offers a more linear sounding bass to midrange response that digs a bit deeper in the subbass. The Red filters offer much greater lower treble emphasis over the RE-400 while the RE-400 has a bit more upper treble emphasis. Overall, the RE-400 is not as bright as the Torque Purple and Red filters and treble falls just a bit short in performance when compared to the t096z’s exceptionally detailed treble presentation. I do think the RE-400 has stronger, tighter, and more linear bass performance with better bass extension compared to the darker filter options provided by Torque in their Blue, Yellow, and Green filters.
Against the Flare Audio R2Pro (single dynamic driver at ~$270 USD or £175)
The Flare Audio R2Pro is an interesting headphone with a relatively neutral-orientated sound signature, but a lot less treble emphasis compared to the Torque headphones. The R2Pro’s greatest strength is its bass speed and tightness while maintaining a clean and airy treble.
The R2Pro does seem bassier than the Torque options with the sense of overall impact and weight and sub-bass rumbling presence. That makes it most comparable to the weighty sensation offered by Yellow Filters in my mind, but the R2Pro does not have as strong of a bass boost as the Yellow filters and the R2Pro does sound more linear with much more treble presence. The R2Pro sound very different than the Torque options and there is not really a filter that matches up well with the R2Pro’s sound. It is bassier than the Red filters but offers more treble than the Blue filters. Perhaps it can be characterized as a bassier version of the Purple filters with less roll-off on both ends of the frequency response for more bass and treble extension. However, the Purple does have a hint of upper midrange focus while the R2Pro is really more lower mid-orientated. I do really enjoy the R2Pro’s sound and performance, but they are very different sounding for the Torque options. The R2Pro is interesting as it has a very hard-hitting and strong bass response that is more focused in the sub-bass region, but it is still sounds extremely clean and tight. Typically, that type of tuning would be quite bloated and bleed heavily into the midrange, but the R2Pro does manage to keep a very good balance of reverb and speed in its signature. Overall, I would say that the R2Pro seems to have a darker overall tonality compared to the Torque Audio options though it does not sound to be overtly bass-boosted. The speed of the R2Pro’s bass response is its defining strength over the Torque t096z, but the Torque t096z does offer a bit extra treble detail and clarity that is difficult to match.
Summary of Comparison Thoughts:
The Torque t096z tends to be a tad bit brighter and more highly resolving in the treble region than all the other in-ear headphones in my collection. Other strengths and weaknesses quite variable.
Measurements: I do typically like to include measurements in my reviews as another objective set of data for those interested, but I had great difficulty getting FR measurements that correlated well to my own critical listening impressions and frequency response sweeps. I tried using the Veritas Vibro with my Steinburg UR22 Audio interface and the recommended Startech USB audio adapter, but was unable to get an accurate FR measurement that I felt was reflective of the sound signature. So here, I will defer here to more professional hobbyists and I would recommend checking out Tyll Hertsens’ in-depth measurements of these IEMs. Content can be found HERE in this update post as well as HERE in his headphone database. Credit @Tyll Hertsens and innerfidelity.com.
I will note that there are a few aspects of those graphs that I disagree with from my personal listening impressions. The most glaring thing that I would note is that I felt that the “flat” (Red Filters) were much brighter than both the “bass boost” (Yellow Filters) and “warm” (Blue Filters), but I do think it is important to have some set of objective data to help with the relatability of sharing different impressions and understanding different perspectives. It is always interesting to see where listening impressions differ from measurements as well as we all know how variable our opinions can be over the same pair of headphones.
Amplification: The t096z is officially quoted to have a rated impedance of 16 ohms and a sensitivity of 90 dB/mW. Its sensitivity is relatively low compared to many other audiophile geared IEMs which typically have an sensitivity in the high 90s or 100+ region. This means that the volume control may needs to be stepped up a bit more on the t096z to achieve the same listening volumes. It is still a very easy to drive pair of IEMs that work well out of portable devices without an amplifier for normal listening.
- Requires 3mW of power reach 95dB (typical upper range of normal listening volumes and the volume level where long-term exposure will result in gradual hearing loss)
- Requires 316 mW to reach 115dB (volume of a loud concert)
I do actually think that the t096z benefits from additional power and scales up well with nicer gear. I would recommend strongly considering using a portable amplifier with this pair of IEMs. I found that I personally detected noticeable improvements in speed and note spacing when running it through gear like the Aune B1 or Oppo HA-2. It also does slightly widens the perceived soundstage to my ears.
Value Judgement: While the $300+ price point is a bit on the pricier side of the IEM market, the t096z is basically 6 different headphones in one package, which makes it a phenomenal value if you will be utilizing all the different filters.
The first important consideration to note is how many of those filters will you realistically be using. For me, I think I would only use three or four of those filters (purple, blue, red, and yellow) initially and over time probably end up sticking to one or two (likely just purple and blue). I am the type of person who likes to experiment a lot in the beginning, but do end up settling for an overall favorite.
Another key thing to note is that many of the filters do share similarities in overall “house sound signature” with great similarity in the placement of different peaks and dips throughout the frequency response. To me, the Purple filters offered the most dramatically different overall tuning with a much better overall sense of linearity whereas the other filters do sound like adding bass and treble boosts/cuts to different areas of the overall same tuning. This is not unexpected as the driver remains constant through the filter swapping process. It may be worthwhile considering multiple separate IEMs to achieve a larger variety in overall sound signature for complementary usage.
For those who are interested in experimenting and tinkering, I do think that the t096z offers quite an amazing experience just trying and comparing all the different filter options to get a better sense of your sonic analytical abilities and personal preferences.
Rating: (the green bar ratings on the side seem to be an average of all review scores, this is my actual scoring)
***PLEASE NOTE SCORING SUBJECT TO CHANGE!!!***
Audio Quality: 9/10
Overall Rating: 8/10
The Torque Audio t096z offers an unique approach to the current market of IEMs, giving users a wide array option sound signature options with their headphones for maximum flexibility. I know there are many audiophiles do appreciate analog or material tuning options over digital EQ, so this approach is a great thing to see in this hobby where many modders and tweakers try to find options for sonic tweaks.
The greatest overall pro for the t096z is its versatility and customizability. Not only offering a wide selection of eartips, the different filter options should be able to cover a range of preferences in sound signature. In terms of sonic performance, I personally feel that the detail retrieval and treble clarity of the t096z with any filter performs at a very high level. Speed is also well-done and relatively competitive for its price range.
Important considerations include its weight, non-replaceable cable, and only straight-down cable wear-style. Swapping out filters or playing with different sound signature may not be something that interests every audiophile. Weight and comfort would be my personal biggest concern with these IEMs as some people do not tolerate heavier IEMs very well. The t096z does use plenty of metal for its swappable filters and earphones for a premium-feeling and sturdy design which contributes to its heft over other non-customizable, non-metal IEMs.
For my two favorite filters, I find that the purple filter offers me a tuning that I would be happy to use as a reference neutral for critical listening while the blue filter offers a fun and enjoyable sense of warmth that I greatly appreciate for just rocking out. The other filter choices were quite interesting to experiment with and I am sure many people who find different favorites than me. It is always great to see the diversity of opinions and preferences in this hobby, and I feel like Torque does a very good job catering to this with their new customizable products.
For those who are looking to experiment with a few different sound signatures and see how dramatic of a difference filter options makes for IEMs, these versatile IEMs offer an eye-opening and fun experience for newcomers still trying to figure out their sound signature preferences to long-time members chasing small tweaks in their quest for their ideal sound.
Official Product Link: http://torque.audio/product/t096z/