Monday, 4 March 2013

Telefunken TH-140 Review

Telefunken TH-140 Review

Thanks to Topdogheadphones for the sample.

First Impressions:  The box seems ordinary enough at first until you go to open it.  It slides out of the bottom and then what’s inside is visually unique.  There is a triangular case imbedded in a triangular slot, flanked by 6 sets of ear tips.  It’s not important but it’s cool looking!  Less cool is the colour of the case, it’s some brown with a slight sheen, still its triangular so at least you’ll be able to easily identify them at a distance.  I for one rather this as it’s a total pain finding things in the big IEM tub.  Visually the buds are unusual too.  The front of the box describes them as being “resin” and while I’ll give that they look different to most things to me they don’t feel special.  I not complaining, there is nothing wrong with it but I’m not sure I see how it’s better than “plastic.”  It does look different from plain old black though.  Cable seems nice.

Acoustically, I’m thinking these are going to be a bit of a party.  They are a bit W shaped which lends to a fairly exciting and drama filled sound.  Not hugely subtle in the highs but I’m hoping clocking a hundred hours will smooth that out.  Mids are really poppy and lively though and that I’m finding rather fun.  I suspect much Rilo Kiley shall be played.  Burn in time.

N.B.  Oh my, just looked at the price and these are going for £35!  Oh this could be quite positive as I didn’t expect that price.  The GR06 I think has got itself a challenger for my default recommendation around this price.

Source:  1G Ipod Shuffle with and without a 75 Ohm adapter and a Practical Devices XM5 with LM6171 opp amps and Hisoundaudio Rocoo BA.

Lows:  Party party!  Right off the bat there is no mistaking this for anything other than a party IEM.  The bass is big, powerful and pretty punchy.  Other considerations take a bit of a backseat such as evenness.  There is quite a bit of a midbass hump and when you start going deeper it can’t keep up the same quantity.  I don’t think you’d really want it to anyway as then there would be just an oppressive amount, the midbass hump is a great way of dishing out a boosted bass response and being able to pair quantity and keeping some tone and punch about it.  On “Your Father and I” the bass does become rather monotone, droning and if im honest, a bit oppressive.  This song clearly isn’t the 140’s forte so what then is?  Go to the top 40 and take your pick, odds are you’ll find something that works big time.  Something with a quick beat, punchy and lively is what these do best with.  These are stupendously lively and bouncy.  They love to pound out a thumping bass line in a song that has no subtle nuances anyway.   This is what they have been made for. 

Now I can’t say I’m massively a fan of this sound but hey, the top 40 is what popular with the “consumer” and this is bang on the mark for that music.  Thumping, lively, bouncy power that is rhythmic and rather entertaining.  Where is shines a bit though is the price.  Pairing quantity and quality together usually means the price goes up but these are only £35 and that’s got to be worrying to the folks over at Sony and Sennheiser.

Mids:  These may not have the most refined mids I’ve heard but they do a really fine job.  The overall sound is pretty W shaped meaning the mids really hold their own against that rather bombastic bass and the highs which I’ll get to in a minute.  Tonally these are a little on the dry side of things.  This just lends itself to them being so very clear sounding.  They have a really good level of space about them and the clarity with which they stand their ground against the bass and treble is great. The clarity is very nice and while not fabulously nuanced I can’t fault the detail level.  This really, really works for pop stuff.  “Somebody I Used To Know” sound fab on them and it’s  a song I normally feel is far too mid recessed but here they are so clear and well defined it works.  Mids are fun and full of energy.

The mids here are about having a good time much more so than they are about being perfectly accurate.  These aren’t what I’d want for neither monitoring nor something relaxing.  For smooth and liquid vocalists they sill sound very nice but they feel a little quick.  They want to pull a head and I think it’s down to their slight dryness.  Nevertheless you’d be surprised how well they can turn their hand to Nora, I know I was give their preference for more the likes of Katie Perry.  Lush and liquid isn’t their thing but air and forward they do with aplomb.

Highs:  This is the bit were I moan about them being a bit bright for me and a bit gritty.  Both those things are true and if you use the thin, light tips they get even more crispy sounding.  You can be assured I pretty much just stuck to the thicker, hybrid like ones.  They muted the highs edge a touch and solidified the bass helping the balance to match what my ears can deal with.  That said they still have a W shaped sound and the highs are pretty crisp.  A little lacking in range and subtlety but then I remember what they cost and it’s hard to really complain too much.  The crispness mostly serves to make them pop and feel super exuberant, seriously high energy levels going on here.  It’s not like most pop music is in anyway refined or nuanced in the high end anyway.  It gives a good sense of clarity and detail to things.

Quantity wise it’s a bit overenthusiastic at times but pretty in line with the bass and the mids when they all get going.  That’s not to say if you play wildly treble heavy stuff it won’t feel rather forward because it will. 

Soundstage:  They don’t seem to want to do any great semblance of distance but they do sound rather big.  Particularly big for a closed dynamic.  Instrument separation is also notably good from the W shaped sound signature with the mids particularly really feeling as though they have some separation from everything going on.

Fit:  Pretty good, with closed dynamic I always worry a touch.  For some reason I did get a touch of driver flex with the right driver, and it was the driver as it stayed when I swapped sides.  Otherwise they were pretty much stick in and done.

Comfort:  Just fine for me

Cable:  It’s a braided cable with a sheath over it.  I’m somewhat of a sucker for that type as rightly or not it gives me the impression of super study.  The Y splitter too looks very solid along with the jack.  Even if they are the most visually alluring.  On the flip side, its not the most flexible cable that ever there was.

Microphonics:  Worn up they are fine, worn down and you do get a bit.  Also there is no chin slider to help out.  As always, just wear them up.

Accessories:  You get 6 pairs of tips, there are two different types each with a small, medium and large.  One is a fairly thin rubber and the other is a “hybrid” like thicker one.  The thin made the sound brighter and bass lighter and the thicker did the opposite.  I’m thinking the thicker ones are the ones that will be most popular unless you have really rolled off hearing.  It nice you get the option between them and I must confess I liked the way they were stored in the box.  You also get a little case and right off you’ll notice its triangular.  First I saw it I thought woo hoo, a case I can tell apart from others at a glance, trust me from me it’s a problem.  The trouble is it makes the space inside a little small.  Not small enough to be a problem but you’ll have to wrap them reasonably tightly round your fingers to make them fit in there.

Amped/Unamped:  Amping yeah it made a difference, not big enough a difference for me to hugely care.  Tbh if you’re buying these you’re not likely to be buying amps too.  What I did feel added to them was adding impedance.  These have pretty crispy highs for my ears and it refined them a bit, softening that hard edge.  It did also make a them a touch less lively though but given their massive enthusiasm I didn’t see that as a problem.  Still if you have an impedance adapter laying around I’d suggest you give it a try.

Isolation:  Quite clearly on the good side for a dynamic.  It’s not perfect but easily fine for normal out and about stuff.  I’d be happy to use on a bus but not really one for a long flight.  I’m sure though they are easily enough to get yourself run over by not hearing traffic behind you if you aren’t looking.

Value:  The GR06 and GR04Pro have a challenger.  These are radically different a proposition though.  The 6 is smooth, rich and warm.  The 4 is a wonderfully balanced stunner with it current price and is of the three the best, no question.  The 140 is totally different from them in sound signature with its W shaped party party time attitude.  Otherwise its very nice value, it’s not too often I have to check prices of things because I think I must have confused it with something else.  So yeah value wise I really cannot say its anything other than a tremendously great buy.

Conclusion:  PARTY!!!  That’s what the Telefunken 140’s want to do.  Its not to say they can’t do other things too, right now Beverly Craven’s “Love Scenes” is playing and it sounds great.  Great but the timing just feels like its yeaning to pull ahead.  These don’t seem to want to labour anything and linger, savour a note to its fullest.  None of these things are bad things, they are acoustic choices and it’s nice to see such a different sounding IEM come forward and yet be so good too.  We have had the aforementioned IEM’s the GR04 and the GR06 which to me are both simply amazing for the money, the 4 being pretty much the perfectly balanced and the 6 being the smooth and warm but both I feel are coming from the same place.  They are coming from the audiophile quality then adding a flavour to increase their general appeal.  The Telefunken 140 I feel has come from the opposite side.  It seems to me like they have chosen the party party sound signature and then added clarity and detail. 

In terms of clarity these are pretty much bang on the GR06 if not a touch better.  These have rather more air and a crisper high end to air in feeling very open and breathy for something that’s closed.  Argh, these two are both so very good that I really can’t give one as being better than the other, still that’s huge praise for the Telefunken as the GR06 was on release king of its price range.  The 140 is really every bit as “good” it’s just that its different.  It’s gone for a more drama enthused sound that’s rather more alive and vibrant.  There really isn’t anyway to say ones better for you, just one is likely to be more suited to you or your DAP.  For example if I was using a bright, maybe a bit harsh DAP I’d probably want to softer highs of the 6 whereas if I had something warm like a Sony DAP then the Telefunken may work best.

It’s my first go with a Telefunken and I’m rather impressed with it.  It’s not a name I’ve seen a ton of but it’s one that seems to be aiming for a Consumer / Quality balance that’s dragging quality sound into the consumer realm.  That it’s doing so at the price it is, its quite marvellous as a couple years ago this would have been two or three times its price.  Telefunken I think are on to a really winner here, it may take some work to get this out there but it’s really an impressive, bouncy, IEM.  It’s just so much fun.

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