THHIFI Character ($144)
Before I get into the review, I’d like to thank Pickup Audio for supplying the Thhifi Character to mobileaudiophile.com. This goes without saying but I’ll say it anyway. I will always describe exactly what I see and hear, nothing more and nothing less. Nothing will pull me away from an objective review. The suppliers understand this and so kudos to them for letting the product speak for itself.
Thhifi is a brand-new company out of China with a fresh take on the creation of iems. I believe the whole idea behind their very first line of in-ears is to artistically create a housing loosely depicting certain Characters in the culture. This was a bold way to begin in the Audio hobby and truthfully, I think it works. The style of these well-built iems is unique, and building something unique in this hobby is very few and very far in-between.
I created a 1st impression post recently. I was very happy with what I heard right away. This full review is to see how the Character replays after burn-in and prolonged usage.
For simply being a first effort within the Iem ‘verse, I couldn’t help but be impressed with the product as well as this company. I see so many audio products pass in front of my eyes, and many have their own flare and differentiating quality. However what Thhifi created has to be born from a vision and purpose. You have to get behind something like that.
No longer is this a 1st impression but now I have many hours with this set glued to my ears and the gauntlet of my library to test them with. Let’s see how the Character can really do with different genres and my objective judgment.
-Build Quality / Design
-Smooth, Lush, Dynamic
-Nice Bass delivery
-Lacks that last bit of shimmer
-Lacking Midrange vibrancy (average)
-Not enough Bass for Bass-heads
-Not for Treble-heads either
Packaging / Unboxing
Thhifi knows how to launch a new product. A square box wrapped in a decorative sleeve is what first arrived at my door. By the way, the sleeve is so tight… why do they do this to us? Pull that sucker straight off with two hands and a little shimmy shake. The only clean way to do it.
A lightly colored wooden box, possibly Bamboo, is the first thing I saw while removing the sleeve. Fitting very snuggly the box has a coped-out lid which sits perfect on top. Within the wooden box you’ll find the usual boring paperwork, get those out of the way. Next is the beautiful Character iems in all their splendor sitting in the usual cut-out foam. Maybe splendor is a bit embellished. They look nice though.
Under that you’ll see a blue leather case with just enough room for the earphones and cable. It’s good quality and looks nice. Wrapped up nicely inside the leather case is a white mmcx cable. A blue leather cable tie holds the cable tight with copper-colored buttons. You get a cleaning brush. Also you will get four small packages of varying ear tips ranging from smaller bore to wider. Those are all decent quality. However, I think the best tips for the Character (for me personally) are without a doubt the KBear 07 tips. I used them for the entire review after going back and forth with every tip at my disposal.
Thhifi offers quite a lot and all of it is obviously good quality and packaged with class and care.
Look / Build / Fit
Looking at these shells they honestly are… well…art. What a beautiful design, a purposeful design. The Character has exactly that…character. This look may or may not be for you. However, I’d like to think we can all at least agree that the Character has a very premium and modern design. I love the stenciled look of what I’m assuming is Chinese writing (which I don’t understand). A bright red plating rests underneath the 5 axis CNC machined faceplates which really does Pop against the silver polished aluminum.
Lightweight and striking is the Aluminum which adorns the entire shells. The promotional states that a process of polishing, oxidation and coloring went into the final product which is in my hand as I write this. The workmanship is evident. Thhifi added grooves along the sides all the way around the Character as well. Very nice touch, sophisticated but artsy and really helps to make the faceplates Pop. The look and feel are one which takes a lot of thought and skill.
These feel premium on top of looking premium. The shells are extremely sturdy and structurally sound without any loose or fragile feeling parts and peices. Mmcx connectors protrude out about ⅛” and are tight and rigid. I also see one small vent at the rear of the Character by the mmcx connector. No other vents are anywhere else that I see. I haven’t had any issues with driver flex as the pressure relief seems to be enough to ward that off.
The cable is made of High-Purity, Oxygen Free Copper (OFC) wires as well as Oxygen Free Copper Wires plated in silver. Fifteen OFC cores as well as twenty-four silver plated copper cores equals 156 in total. Again, it is an mmcx cable and terminates in a straight 3.5 jack. It is white in color and gives the impression of durability and quality. The cable is just as nice as any upgrade cable one would buy to enhance their earphones. Functionally it is perfect and doesn’t hurt the sound at all. Really a very nice cable addition. I used the included cable for much of the review unless I went to a balanced source. Obviously, I did switch things up for that purpose with a white Kbear 24 core SPC balanced cable.
The Character’s shell houses one 9.2mm dynamic driver with a resin film diaphragm and a dual magnet structure as well as an in-house custom tuned balanced armature driver. A process of 3D printing was used to construct the internal acoustic cavity which houses both drivers. Thhifi added two independent sound tubes for each driver as well.
This will be short. The Character are pretty easy to drive. I imagine that most sources would be able to appropriately drive this set. Lower powered sources should be fine as well. Listed at 10.5 ohms and 106 dBs sensitivity, the Character has no real issue with lower powered sources. I think a decent dongle dac would be perfectly fine.
Starting off I used the Fiio Ka3 and that pairing was very nice using the 3.5 single ended jack. I also used my favorite little bluetooth device the Ifi Go Blu and I had fantastic synergy with that set-up, using it with single ended as well as balanced. I did perceive a slight elevation with the added power in separation of Instruments within the stage while going balanced as opposed to single ended. Next, I listened on the Ibasso DX240 with amp8 Mk2. I noticed a slight degree of better sound from this set-up. Which is as it should be, a better source normally equates to better sound. This normally occurs with the DX240.
I realize that I didn’t put much effort into this section but, it’s pretty simple, use what you got, and you’ll be fine. I’m sure you will love this set with any decent dongle-dac and I imagine simply driving the Character from a mobile phone would suffice. I do think that the Character has the ability to scale well with power, however. I don’t think you need some grandiose desktop set-up but something like a good dongle dac or dap will really help this set to shine.
After about 50 hours of burn-in I did notice the tonality ever-so-slightly shift from warmer and smoother to an almost neutral tonality. Still smooth sounding and still warm down low yet cooler as you head up the frequency. I hear almost a V-shaped to Harmon tuning with the Character. I hear a very safe tuning with the Character as well. Nothing grating or boosted too much above any other areas of the mix. There also aren’t any huge dips in the spectrum either. The overall tonality did shift through burn-in or usage, I am certain of that.
I hear a fatigue free sound (for the most part) with ample low end to accommodate most any genre. A slightly recessed lower mid region gains added girth from the carryover of the bass. Accentuated and elevated is the upper midrange to a nice degree. They tie in nicely with the treble areas. For the most part the Character has a more natural playback with some coloration in the lows and upper mids. All in all, this is a well-tuned iem.
Starting off with the lowest areas of the mix… the sub-bass. I hear a very low and deep buzz with good vibration as the Character can dig pretty deep. The sub-bass gives off that sonorous resonance of a good and somewhat tighter playback. It is satisfying and controlled enough to handle many genres.
Good texture can be imagined while listening to the Character. For instance, bass guitars have a good and guttural growl which I can feel, and basslines have that deep buzz that we all love so much. “John Wayne” by Whiskey Myers is freaking awesome as it begins with that haptic energy filled grunt of the bass guitar. The Character handles it like a champ. An almost tactile feel outlines sub-bass notes with pretty good texture.
Mid-bass has a very good impact. “Good” to me is a hard-hitting sound with slightly colored elevation in the area. I like a drumming punch delivered with pushing weight. I like texture and realism. The Character can quench that ideal to an extent. The mid-bass maintains control without sounding flabby or bloated. In the bass region I hear a hair more of a mid-bass focused sound, but the difference is very minimal.
For the most part both regions of the lows have great presence and play nice together. Bass drops have a bouncy and swift attack, but the decay is a bit slower. I wouldn’t call it slow per-say but I also wouldn’t call it a quick bass. In fact, it is just enough for me. Bass drops carry authority and have a very nice presence which to me is satisfying. I like that the bass hangs around just a slight bit longer to give my music that atmosphere that I enjoy.
The Character has a nice attack but slightly softer outro to bass drops. There is weight to this area, yet it isn’t so over-pronounced. I don’t hear gritty hard edges all the time. Bass notes are rounded and clean but not as stone solid as some other sets. Some iems specialize in this area and have it down to a science. The bass of the Character on the other hand presents its bass as a part of a whole, appropriate to the overall sound, which I’m assuming this is what THHIFI was going for. I gotta say, it checks out good to me.
I can’t find any real negative except maybe there is a softer note edge at times in the mid-bass. This is partially helped by the grittier sub-bass. It is a smoother bass with ample weight and is turned well in the face of the rest of the mix.
The midrange will always be one of the most important areas for me, where the bulk of the vocals reside, both male and female. Perhaps the lower midrange may be a titch more recessed than I’d like. I would like to have a hair more energy or dynamic flare. Still not bad by any means. I hope to make that clear. Resolution is nice in this area and notes are well defined.
Male vocals on the Character take the slight spill over from the mid-bass and are presented warmer and full. I hear a decently thick and well-defined note weight. Check out “Blue Wall” by Noah Guthrie. A simple acoustic guitar and his awesome voice. I hear dense clarity. Just a pinch further back than I like but not at all a negative. More of a personal preference. There are iems in the price point which replay this area better to me, yet I have nothing at all to complain about.
Instruments sound natural to me. Of course, this means something different to everyone. What is natural to my ears may not be the same to you. Listening on medium gain on the Ibasso Dx240 Instruments sound well separated and distinct for the most part. Remember that source plays a part in all of this also. So many variables in the audio game to take into account. Especially when listening to or reading reviews.
Females are not as recessed and have a good emotional tilt to them. “Take Me Away” by Morgan Wade is a great example. She has a raspy voice in her southern twang that cuts through with firmness but also with finesse. The inflection of her voice is very authentic to a real-world voice which should be the barometer by which we judge what is and what is not natural I suppose.
The midrange is quite nice as a whole. I’d like maybe a touch more energy here but in truth Thhifi did a great job. Resolution is great, pace and timing seem nice, and all instruments & vocals have a pleasant and realistic timbre.
The upper end of the spectrum is a bit cooler in tonality and does add some levity to the overall sound of the Character. That said, there is a quicker roll-off with the dive starting around the presence region. Don’t fret because that dive is a nice steady roll-off which still presents info to the air region. I hear a good and non-fatiguing replay which doesn’t strain the ear in hopes to illuminate details to the surface. This is a smoother treble without any sharp peaks.
The treble region mostly stays under the shimmer point yet executes instruments in this area well enough with a good body and a resolute sound. I don’t hear that glistening treble that sparkles inside my head space. However, I do hear a well composed region that doesn’t splash the trailing sheen of a cymbal. There is an edge to the sound if that makes any sense. The Character could use a bit more extension here but truthfully it sounds respectable.
I hear good details here with pretty good clarity. The treble isn’t its strong suit, but I wouldn’t call it a negative either. Also, depending on your preference this may actually be a huge bonus. Like it or not the treble is snappy and refined enough. The highs have sufficient airiness without anything harsh to my ears. Treble also has just enough luster to offset the warmth of the lows and truthfully brings it all together between the two drivers. The details that I mentioned won’t amaze and they certainly won’t be noted amongst the greats in the price point, but they also aren’t veiled and masked over.
Soundstage / Separation / Imaging / Details
The soundstage is presented very well. I hear a good-sized stage in terms of width, height and depth. I wouldn’t characterize the Character as 3D really, though that three-dimensional, photo-realistic imagery can at times be heard. Of course, there are larger stages out there in iem-land but the Character sets things up nicely. Above average in width, about average height and a sense of depth is easy to discern. Nothing crazy like a colosseum of grand size, instead the picture the Character paints is a well perceived and befitting stage which is suitable in all directions.
Honestly, I don’t get all worried about stage size people. I never have. Be it big or be it small, so long as it all comes together unified and consistent and makes sense to the replay then I am a happy guy. To put it simply, the Character makes sense. I still would classify this as above average as a whole.
Imaging and separation go hand in hand and the Character achieves both very well. What we have is quality drivers which were tuned with quality in mind. I don’t hear anything out of place with this set. My usual songs for staging all check out. For instance, “Secrets” by Billy Strings is great. His ability to play those strings is so very fast and precise and the Character misses nothing. Also, Billy’s vocals, two banjo’s (I think) and bass guitar all sound partitioned off from each other. So, I hear good enough control. I would say the Bass guitar is a bit pushed to the rear but still very audible.
Also “Misery Business” by Paramore is very dynamic and big. One could call it a congested track at times. The Character handles every instrument great. Spacing and pacing is great. I’d say the only hiccup comes at the chorus where a tiny bit of blending happens. Still the Character does fantastic.
Details are well drawn out amongst even some more complicated tracks. I’m not saying they are masterful, but I also don’t think this set was tuned to be. This is a musical set with quality sounding components and a tilt toward the natural side of tonality and timbre. Details and miniscule little pieces of a song can certainly be heard. That said, there is also added color here and there, which can overshadow the smallest finite sounds at times in busier sections. Resolution is good throughout, but I wouldn’t present this as a detail king. What I hear is a very good showing. I personally enjoy the balance that Thhifi tuned this set to. Fun and dynamic but also controlled and well mannered.
To finish up this review of the Thhifi Character, I want to thank Pickup Audio again for providing mobileaudiophile.com with this set. I had a great time with the Character, and I do think it makes a case for being one of the better hybrid driver iems in its price point. Of course, a statement like that has a few caveats attached. One being that you do have to prefer this type of tuning. Obviously, preference is the final word for anyone looking to purchase an audio device. The second condition, this statement can only be determined by what I have actually heard with my own ears so… take that with a grain of salt.
This is a very cohesive sound as well as a fun sound with a technically adept playback. The Character is built beautifully and like a tank with its very well constructed aluminum shells and artistic design. I am enthusiastic about the beginnings of this young company. I hear well done and deep basses with a melodic midrange and a treble region which has just enough air to balance everything out. This is an altogether easy set to listen to for long periods of time without wanting to rip them out of your ears.
I want to thank anyone who has chosen to read my thoughts on this iem. I’m simply a fan of music and the devices which replay my music. I do not consider myself a professional, whatever that means. I encourage every one of you to seek out other reviews about the Character to gain other perspectives besides mine. We all hear differently; we have different gear, and we have different preferences and each of these variables can be added up many different ways. Basically, do your homework and hopefully I have helped at least a little bit in your purchasing decision. Again, thank you, please stay safe and take good care.