A few years ago a filter system implemented into an earphone that let you change the sound in some way may have seemed novel, now days it in pretty much thrown into every new earphone in some way or another. From cheap (RockJaw Alfa Genus) to expensive (AKG K3003) you can find a tuning system in action. So when Torque show up with a filter system being their driving force in all products it doesn’t have the impact it may have had some years ago as now pretty much every other IEM brand is doing this. The brand seems all about how any one earphone may not suit a single persons desires so their goal is to be able to make a product that will impress everyone in one way or another, that however seems like a fair goal and I have to admit that some brands filters barely change the sound at all, hopefully their Passive Acoustic Valve Technology (fancy way of saying screwable filters) does a better job than some others.
Now Torque have had a few models and the T096z that I am reviewing is actually their second in ear offering. They also have a tuneable headphone in the T402v. Now when I first stumbled across the brand the first thing that actually grabbed my attention was the driver technology they had chosen. It is a 9mm dynamic driver but one of a very special kind. It is what is known as a bio cellulose and basically consists loads of very thin biological material fused together. It is normally much more expensive and has only been used in a few earphones/headphones. The legendary Sony R10 used them as did Fostex’s very popular TH900, Audioquest’s Nighthawk, the Creative Aurvana Live and the only other earphone I can think of is Vsonics’ GR07. The common denominator of all these is how great they are to my ears, minus the R10 which I still dream of hearing one day. The price is not near the high end nowadays but is still far from a cheap offering at $329.95 (circa £230).
Taking the Mic
Opening the package was an enjoyable experience, being immediately show the earphones and filter racks.
Not only was the accessory offering very good but all parts of it were presented very nicely. The included case is a rather simple clamshell proudly wearing the company badge. The tips are done even better though! They come mounted on a little holder that presents the options nicely and gives ease in access, compared to them little plastic baggies you normally have to fiddle with. Only RHA out do Torque in this regard as their tip holder is metal not plastic. As well as specially designed silicone tips, you also get dual and triple bore tips and a pair of Comply! You also get some silicone stabilisers to fit round the earphone to help the heavier earphones stay put in your ear.
Now while RHA also have similarly cool racks for filters where they screw into place, I love how Torque go about giving you the filters. Every other company I have come across gives you their idea of a default setting, be it a position an on a bass adjuster or what they think the ideal filter is. Torque decide against this and start with all filters on the racks. You can make up your own mind what you like! Ok but then won’t the drivers be exposed to the elements and have gathered dust? Nope, with another great touch these come with little dust caps for when you don’t have a filter attached to the earphone. Nice one!
While it is known to add a bit of weight I do love the use of metal in housings and Torque once again deliver here. Other than the addition of plastic for the strain relief, the all metal housings cool touch feels very premium and the gold accents look it too! Now sadly I do have to drop off onto a negative point now and that is the cable not being removable.
At this price point I have come to expect removable cables now but I can give the benefit of the doubt when cables are as sturdy as they are with the T096z. The cable has a really cool aesthetic and is strong and flexible as well. But I just cannot accept that they are only available with a microphone cable. Either go for removable cables and include mic and audio only cables or give buyers the option. While I fully agree that some purchasers will plan on using these with their phone and that is fine by me, a lot will also plan on using these with a dedicated music player such as the HiSoundAudio S6 as an example or even with a portable amp. But it is not simply the annoyance having a microphone that I can’t use, it is the fact that some music players which cannot be controlled by a remote will basically render the audio useless unless the button is pressed down. So I have been left using a $330 earphone with sellotape wrapped around the microphone, that is not a great look. The cable is also very microphonic. I know I have had a big rant and while in future I hope they opt for removable cables, even the release of a non mic version which should be easy will really help the situation!
The metal housings did make themselves known when it come to comfort but not in a huge way. They have quite a shallow insertion unless using one of the flanged tips so isolation can be a bit weak. They are not as ergonomic and comfy as some of the custom styled earphones but pretty standard, especially with the added stability of the little wings you can attach!
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Go To Page 3 for Measurements