RHA T20i – an Apple moment and a huge disappointment

I previously documented my odyssey to find the “best” earphones for me. For the past 18 months or so I’ve been using RHA T20i monitors with over-ear hooks and here’s my verdict.

RHA T20i earphones

By the way, the reason I eventually replaced my beloved Klipsch earphones that I had been using for years before was the rustling cable noise. Klipsch just never managed to “fix” this or even improve newer models – quite the opposite instead. So, when I evaluated the RHA T20i I did so because it has over-ear cabling that is supposed to effectively eliminate cable noise. Both the review at whathifi.com and the customer reviews at Amazon were, and still are, convincing.

It all started with the unboxing. First there’s this nice box, everything neatly organized and ten(!) types of tips. The inner box even has an orange fabric strap attached to it so you can easily pull it out of its enclosure. The box cover contains two small but invisible magnets that allows it to stay put when it’s closed and thus covers the window.

Unboxing the RHA T20i
Unboxing the RHA T20i

Then there’s the filters. As you can’t expect everyone to have the same sort of listening experience RHA provides a reference set of tuning filters, while also delivering a pair made more for treble and another pair designed to enhance the bass. I plucked the plate with the filters out of the foam pad that holds it in place and…woah!…there was this Apple moment as I call it.

RHA T20i filters
RHA T20i filters screwed into solid plate

The plate is small but because it’s made of solid steel(?) its 18g weigh heavy in you hand. And the filters have real screw threads.

I immediately connected to the designers of this piece because I sensed the pride they must take in producing something solid and beautifully reduced to simplicity. I often feel like that when I use Apple products. Hence, that was an Apple moment.

So, the T20i and I seemed to become friends real quick. The first sound check didn’t spoil the party either. AND the rustling cable noise was more or less gone. All was well.

Up until I started exchanging tips to improve noise isolation. While most tips are comfortable to wear the level of noise isolation they provide rate from terrible to not-so-good – with my ears at least. I remember that one of the customers on Amazon had complained about this and was slapped with a reply along the lines of “What, are you saying none of the ten(!) different tips fit and provide good noise isolation? What’s wrong with you!” For the first few weeks I continued to experiment with the different tips hoping that at least one of those would improve the level of isolation by better adjusting to my ears over time. Eventually I gave up and very often just turned up the volume 🙁

RHA T20i with broken rubber cover
The rubber cover became all wrinkly and broke

The second disappointment is that after a few months the rubber cover of the over-ear hooks started to become wrinkly. Over time it got worse and I knew it’d break eventually. It seemed inevitable.

What now?

I’m looking into replacing the RHA T20i with Shure SE425 as a maybe temporary solution. Why temporary? Well, in a few months I hope to be listing to music like never before because I backed the Nura project on Kickstarter!

Update 2017-06-21

RHA sent me a replacement from the UK with no questions asked – pointing them at this post was enough. Great customer service. Also, AFAICT the material of the rubber cover is slightly different on the new(?) revision. This lets me suspect I wasn’t the only customer experiencing wrinkly and broken rubber covers.

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