I have written in previous reviews that I tend to prefer neutrality and accuracy over sound that is enhanced or “colored” in headphones/earphones. That being said, I do enjoy bass when it doesn’t interfere with or overpower the mids or highs, which can so often happen. Some brands accentuate bass to attract a younger crowd and it works. Their sales are good even if their quality isn’t. But there is a new company trying to enter the increasingly overcrowded earphone market with a new twist on earphone technology. And I have to say, they may be on to something here. TFT Accoustics makes an earphone – both in-ear and bud style – that incorporates thin film technology. This review deals with the TFTA-2100-2V1S and TFTA-2100-3V2B models.
What exactly is thin film technology? Basically, it’s the process of adding a thin film layer within a dynamic speaker earphone. Dynamic speaker earphones are all bud-style earphones as well as some popular budget brands of in-ear models, such as Skull Candy, Sony, Maxell. But this technology is also found in expensive earphones like Futuresonics, Monster and Sennheiser. TFT Accoustic falls somewhere in the middle. They are not cheap, but they are far from the more expensive choices out there.
TFT Accoustics claim that the thin-film gives the earphone a wider frequency range and deeper bass. I’m not sold on the wider frequency range when you consider that human hearing falls between 20hz-20khz. Anything outside that range is pretty much not heard. But bass, that’s another matter you can hear… and feel. Here is where the 2V1S shines. It has bass. Lots of bass. And this bass doesn’t drown out the mids and highs as it pulses into your brain. Even so, it doesn’t even compare to the bass in the 3V2B earphone. More on that later in the review.
But first, lets look at the construction of the earphone itself. Both the 2V1S and 3V2B are identical looking on the outside with a metal housing and flexible, reinforced cable. There is some weight to the earphone, but it’s pretty light overall. Compared to Monster Copper Pros, they’re practically weightless. Because they aren’t armature based, the sound hole is somewhat large in diameter. I personally prefer inserting earphones as far as I can into my ear, and often this has proven to be uncomfortable for me, but on these, that surprisingly wasn’t the case. And I wasn’t even able to get a decent seal until I used the largest tips supplied. Due to past experience, this should have been impossible as I have smaller ear canals, but the tips are so soft, it was comfortable. Mind you, the TFTs aren’t on the comfort level of Klipsch, but they are close. I could easily listen for hours. I do wish though, that TFT supplied a a more complete selection of tips.
Okay, the TFTs are well-built, comfortable for extended listening and the 2V1S have good bass. So what? A lot of earphones do that. Lets see what you get for the money.
First, you get warmth. While I wouldn’t call the 2V1S analytical, they are accurate. In just about every song I used for testing, the bass is what I noticed first. It was more from less bass in other earphones than too much in these. Believe it or not, “Love Is Blue” from Paul Mauriat and his Orchestra (one version of this way overdone late 60s instrumental) is about as bass heavy as you could want. But there are also some vibrant highs. And it’s all carried off without a wrong note. Not so with REO Speedwagon’s “Roll With the Changes” from the album, “You Can Tune a Piano, But You Can’t Tuna Fish.” The bass here just bogs the song down in aural mud. It could have been a bad mix or pressing, but it was absolutely tedious. It was a disappointment as I really like this song.
I had a similar problem with “Reap the Wild Wind” from Ultravox’s “Quartet.” However fiddling with the iTunes EQ a bit took care of that. So I decided to use that setting on the rest of the recordings.
An obscure, little song from Pink Floyd’s album, “Ummagumma” called “Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict” covers the frequency range with all kinds of natural and processed animal noises climaxing with an unintelligible tirade spoken in a heavy Scottish brogue. The TFTs handle the whole range quite easily.
I discovered that – as with many other earphones – both the 2V1S (and 3V2B) much prefer newer recordings and mixes. Cindi Lauper’s “She Bop” has an insistent back-beat that manages to pound its way to the front without overtaking Lauper’s hiccuping vocals. Once again, there is a warm glow to the whole song the 2V1S refuse to let anything get out of balance.
A fun test was “Six Marimbas” by avant-garde musician, Steve Reich, who adapted the song from his previous “Six Pianos.” This song is composed of musicians repeating the same riff on marimbas while very subtly, more players fade into these sequences as others fade out altogether. The result is a song that manages to remain unchanged, while slowly mutating all at the same time. This is a long way of saying that “Six Marimbas” is perfect for earphones like the 2V1S. The song is light on bass with an accent on highs and mids. On analytical earphones, this could become too bright or even brittle sounding. Not with the 2V1S.
Another example of the 2V1S preferring newer recordings is Patrick and Eugene’s “Don’t Stop” whose style is reminiscent of a 1920s flapper song. But it’s also full of modern synth and percussion touches that keep it from veering into parody. The bass attacks in this song are short and sharp. No sloppy bass fuzziness common with older recordings here. The 2V1S make this song a fun, quasi-nostalgic romp.
As bassy and warm as the TFTA-2100-2V1S are, TFT Acoustics realized that even that would not be enough for some people. So the came out with the TFTA-2100-3V2B. As I said earlier, while they are visually identical to the TFTA-2100-2V1S (they really need to shorten these model names), the 3V2B earphones are so bass heavy, you’ll hear bass that probably isn’t even there. Well, that’s not exactly true, but the bass is pushed right into your face. These are the heaviest sounding earphones I have ever heard. And while I truly do not like the sound of the 3V2B, my son LOVED them. So it could all come down to an age thing. If you are into gaming, hip-hop and techno, than the 3V2Bs might just be perfect for you. They will absolutely vibrate your brain cells and not apologize for it. They are that heavy.
Both the moderate bass TFTA-2100-2V1S and the killer bass TFTA-2100-3V2B earphones sell for the same price, so it comes down to what you prefer from your music… And how young you probably are. Either way, these are well-made, comfortable and fun earphones.
The earphones are on sale in the UK now but only sold through Amazon, the online store. The price is appx. $160.00 now but should very soon be about $120. Keep checking the web site for up-to-date information on pricing.www.crosswalk.com