The Rs. 10,000-15,000 range for earphones is considered the territory where you jump up from the mainstream tuned products into the proper audiophile territory. So today, we compare a couple of earphones in this price range, both of which we consider ideal entry points into the upper tiers of High-Fidelity Audio.
On one hand, we have the RHA T20, the flagship from RHA, Designed in Scotland, with a custom Dual Coil Dynamic driver. On the other hand, we have the 1MORE Quad Driver, designed in California, with 4 drivers and hence the name Quad Driver. It is the World's First THX Certified Earphones. Both companies pride themselves on their consistent attention to build quality across all their products and providing the final consumer with products that aren't only designed and built well, but also sound great. So it will be interesting to see who wins this battle.
"Both these earphones make for an excellent option, it's purely down to what you prefer."
The RHA T20 is almost identical to the previously released RHA T10, so if you have had any experience with the T10, all you need to know is that the “i” version (in-line remote and mic) of the T20 is available in Black. Other than the new colour option, everything else is the same.
Those who haven’t tried the T10, you can keep reading cause these are built really well and are pretty comfortable too. The RHA T20 is shaped like a traditional Universal In-Ear Monitor, like those by Shure or Westone. I personally find this design to be the best approach to making any universal earphones as it’s by far one of the most comfortable designs. The housings are shaped like a kidney bean and the wire loops over the ear, which allows it to stay in place without it feeling obtrusive in any manner. I know there are some people who might not find it comfortable as everyone’s ears aren’t shaped the same, though for the most part, it will be fine. You can also fine tune the comfort and fit using the myriad of tips that come in the box, a good fit and seal is essential for sound quality and isolation.
Just like all the other RHA products, the T20 are built like a tank. The housings are made using injection moulded stainless steel, which makes it feel indestructible (not literally) and instils within me a sense of confidence that most other IEMs don’t. The cables are rather thick and rubberized, so they don’t feel flimsy at all and the part that loops over the ear is made using memory wire, which allows it to stay in shape around your ears, keeping it in place. The Y-split and the jack are also made using solid stainless steel with a steel spring strain relief at the jack, which is pretty effective at preventing any damage to the cable. I feel the RHA T20 is one of the best built IEMs you can get at this price point, if not overall and is comfortable enough for extended periods of use. So it can be an ideal IEM for someone looking for something portable to use for long periods.
THE T20 GOES FOR A PROPER IEM DESIGN, WHEREAS THE QUAD DRIVER GOES FOR A REGULAR IN-EAR APPROACH.
1MORE has been dedicated to making products that not only sound good but are also designed and built well. Even their cheapest product, the Piston Fit has an aluminium housing. So it would be no surprise if the flagship product, the Quad Driver, has the finest build of the lot.
The Quad Driver comes in a box that looks like a fancy, hardback novel. The earphones, along with a wide array of accessories are set in the cardboard insert. It comes with 8 pairs of tips in addition to the ones that are on, as well as a nice leather case which opens like a pack of cigarettes and a couple adapters, one for aeroplanes and one for ¼” (6.3mm) jacks.
The earphones themselves are made of aluminium and look like jet engines of commercial airliners, I kid you not. They have a gunmetal finish and “textured tungsten” accents, the cables are Oxygen Free Copper cables coated in Kevlar. They have an in-line microphone on the right side, which is also made out of aluminium and so is the Y-split and the headphone jack. The headphone jack is right-angled, which I know a lot of people appreciate when using these earphones with their smartphones.
Overall, the earphones are built really well, though I do feel a few aspects of the design could have been done better. The first being, they don’t loop over the ears, they can just be used like regular earphones. Now it doesn’t make it bad, though the around the ear loop does allow for better stability and more comfort, so it’s expected at the price of these earphones. The other issue being, there is no Right and Left indicator, which can be confusing for first time users. If you do have some experience, you will know that the the eartips are supposed to point forward, which is one way to figure it out, or if you read the instructions, you will find out that the In-Line remote is supposed to be on the right side. Other than these minor issues, I do actually really like the design and build of the Quad Driver.
The great design and build won’t matter if the earphones don’t sound good, as eventually they are audio products and their main purpose is the playback of music. This was an issue with the T10. Even though it had a great build and was comfortable, it had major flaws with its sound. The bass was really sloppy and overpowered the mids quite a bit. The T20 however, does not have any such issues. As a matter of fact, it sounds pretty great! Unlike the T10 which uses a dynamic driver, the T20 uses a DualCoil driver, which is essentially a coaxial driver, just super small, meaning it’s 2 concentric drivers, with a tweeter in the middle and then the rest of the driver handles the remaining frequency range.
As I mentioned above, the T10’s bass was quite sloppy, even though it had some decent depth and great slam and pace, but it was heavily lacking in clarity and texture, which made the bass feel rather wonky. The T20 does away with all of that, it has more energy and speed with a huge improvement in texture and clarity. With the improved accuracy and detail, it is far more enjoyable and engaging and it isn’t even exaggerated like that of the T10. Going into the mids, there is a very very minor dip in the lower mids, but otherwise they are super clean and accurate. The vocals sound forward and airy, making them sound quite realistic. Even though the mid frequencies are slightly uneven, they shine through when it matters, which mostly make up for the flaws. Moving on, the treble frequencies are a lot more even and extend pretty well. There aren’t any sharp peaks, which make it sound sharp enough but not too sharp to the point where it would cause listening fatigue. It has just the right amount of sparkle.
You can also tune the sound to your preference as the T20 comes with 3 pairs of tuning filters (Bass, Reference and Treble), with the Reference being pre-installed. The above impressions are based on the use of the Reference filter. The Bass filter does what it says, makes the bass a bit more emphasized and giving the T20 a more V-Shaped sound signature. The Treble filter just tames the low end frequencies a bit further making the sound signature a bit more flat.
The T20 manages to be a fun and engaging earphone while maintaining some finesse to a degree. It is clearly a step up from the T10 in terms of performance and can be enjoyed by casual listeners as well as audiophiles.
NEITHER IS OBJECTIVELY BETTER THAN THE OTHER. THE T20 DOES HAVE THE ADVANTAGE OF CUSTOM TUNING.
The 1MORE Quad Driver uses a Quad driver design, hence the name. It’s a hybrid design with 3 Balanced Armature drivers and a Dynamic Driver. You will not find such a configuration of drivers from other brands at this price, which really goes to show how serious 1MORE are with delivering customers the best value for their money.
Starting off with the low end, the 1MORE Quad Driver extends really low into the lower frequencies. It has some great texture and detail and at no point do you feel it being stodgy or muddy. It is well detailed and even has good speed, however, there is one issue with the low end performance of the Quad Driver, there’s just not enough of it. There is always a battle between Quality and Quantity, in which Quantity mostly wins in the mainstream market. A rather small percentage of the products strike the right balance between Quantity and Quality, the 1MORE Quad Driver however is not one of them. The Quality of the low end on these earphones far exceeds the Quantity, which is not a very common problem. You can still fix the issue with EQ, as these respond well to equalization without any degradation in quality.
Going into the mids, the transition from the bass to the lower mids is seamless, owing to the amazing quality of the low end and it not being exaggerated. There are no peaks or troughs at all in the middle range of the audio spectrum, which makes it marvelously smooth and an extremely pleasurable listening experience. This quality continues into the treble frequencies as well. Just the right amount of sparkle, not too much, not too less. It is really airy, making the vocals and strings sound super realistic with some great width of presentation for an In-Ear. The depth of presentation is also really good, with some amazing imaging. The quality of the soundstage and the image really caught me by surprise, I wasn’t expecting it from a earphone in this price range.
The 1MORE Quad Driver really engages the listener and is a top quality earphone. If you don’t mind the lacking bass or the basic fit, I can easily recommend these earphones to you.
At the end of the day, there is no objectively better option. Both have their unique sonic abilities and additional features. The T20 offers a richer bass and custom tuning abilities while the Quad Driver offers great detail and presentation.
It's really down to what you prefer and we hope the above comparison allows you to make an informed purchasing decision.