It’s no secret that smartphone manufacturers are relinquishing consumer choice, or at least limiting it as seen with the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 launch. RHA takes the opposite approach by affording users the choice between wired and wireless listening. The RHA T20 Wireless includes detachable earbuds which can be installed on either a 3.5mm cable or Bluetooth neckband. Let’s see how this two-for-one headset performs.
Who is the RHA T20 Wireless for?
- Anyone who hates buyer’s remorse will appreciate the functional versatility afforded by the T20 Wireless. The ability to pop the housings off of the neckband and onto the 3.5mm cable is a life-saver, mainly for when the battery dies.
- Budget shoppers. If you’re thinking, “Budget? Honey, these are $200,” you’re right. These are expensive. Again, though, not only can these earbuds quickly convert from wired to wireless, they can also change sound signatures depending on what filters you have installed.
- People who struggle with finding comfortable earbuds will love that RHA provides 11 pairs of ear tips, all of which vary in size and material. This way, you don’t have to shop around for third-party ear tips and worry about poor isolation. RHA also includes a nice carrying pouch to store the ear tip hanger when you don’t need it.
What’s it like to use the RHA T20 Wireless?
At first, using the RHA T20 Wireless is a little overwhelming because of the numerous accessories that come along with it. Once I decided to use the wireless neckband, installation was easy. If you’ve used Shure earbuds, MMCX audio connections are familiar: just push the earbuds onto the male prongs until the pieces snap together. Removal requires enough force that the earbuds won’t randomly pop off but isn’t a struggle by any means.
Despite how large the stainless steel housings appear, they're fairly light and very comfortable.
The neckband follows the same design language as other RHA wireless products. Its rubberized material creates the perfect amount of friction to keep it in place without discomfort. The USB-C input and power button are on the inner-right side, the same side which houses an integrated mic and three-button remote. I enjoy RHA’s remote because it maintains a minimalistic form while remaining functional. You can control playback, adjust the volume, take calls, and access your virtual assistant all from the cylindrical stick.
The 3.5mm cable is just that: a cable. If you opt for wired audio and a call comes in, you’ll have to speak into your phone’s microphone. I frequently forgot the cable lacked playback controls and would blindly grasp for a remote to no avail. Pulling out your phone isn’t a chore, but it is inconvenient.
Enough about cables: let’s talk earbuds. These magnetic housings contain RHA’s DualCoil drivers, which delegate frequency reproduction to different components. This allows for greater audio clarity and accuracy. The injection-molded, stainless steel housings are heavier than typical earbuds but rest comfortably when worn. Intelligent weight distribution coupled with the gently angled nozzles makes it easy to listen for hours on end. While all of this is fantastic, the most striking feature of the RHA T20 Wireless is the interchangeable filter system.
The sound filters really work
While in the past some models of in-ears with sound filters have been gimmicky, these are anything but. When you purchase the T20 Wireless, you’re afforded a pair of bass, reference, and treble filters. Initially, I was dubious of their effectiveness, but the charts don’t lie: each filter performs as described.
Not only is it like buying two pairs of earbuds for the price of one, but you also get to choose between three distinct sound signatures.
The actual swapping procedure is a bit cumbersome, but I’m not sure there’s a more efficient way to change them out. All you need to do is unscrew the default reference filters in exchange for the bass ones, likewise if you prefer an emphasized treble response. The extra minute it takes to change them is worth it if you want a bit more oomph to your music.
How long does the RHA T20 Wireless’s battery last?
The wireless neckband powered the headphones for 9.08 hours before depletion. This falls short of RHA’s posited 12-hour battery life. However, we test at a constant 75dB output, which is louder than you’re likely to listen to for extended periods of time. If you listen to lower volumes, you should be able to come closer to the 12-hour mark. Plus, the great thing about the T20 Wireless is that if the neckband does unexpectedly run out of battery: you can just use the headphone jack instead.
How do you connect the RHA T20 Wireless to your phone?
You have two options for connecting to your phone: you can go the analog 3.5mm plug route or connect via Bluetooth. Wired audio gives you the best sound quality at the expense of convenience.
When you go wireless, you still get high-quality audio thanks to aptX support. If you have an iPhone, you’re knocked down to SBC streaming. Although it’s not ideal, SBC has made plenty of improvements over the years. Oftentimes, it’s difficult to discern between Bluetooth codec quality anyway. Regardless of which phone you use, the wireless neckband operates on Bluetooth 4.1 firmware and allows the RHA T20 Wireless a 10-meter wireless range.
What do the RHA T20 Wireless sound like?
Whichever filters you install will change the sound of the earbuds, but not so dramatically that they become unrecognizable. Attenuation or emphasis between the filters occurs at equal steps, 5-7dB of difference between each filter. I preferred using the reference filters at home but was drawn to the bass filters when working from coffee shops or perusing grocery aisles.
The bass and midrange responses are nearly ideal, meaning your music will sound very, very close to how the audio engineer intended it to. The bump from 2.5-7kHz looks peculiar, but RHA likely did this to make it easier for listeners to perceive detail from harmonic resonances, like the reverberations of a cymbal hit, clap, or guitar lick.
Isolation is great for a pair of non-noise cancelling earbuds. I was unable to detect my apartment’s washing machine with these in. If you find you’re struggling to get a good seal, you’re in luck as RHA provides an array of ear tips. You get seven pairs of dual-density silicone (small, medium, and large), two pairs of double flange ear silicone ear tips (small and large), and two pairs of Comply Foam ear tips. There should be something in there to suit your needs.
Lows, mids, and highs
In Hippo Campus’ song Close to Gold, the song opens with Jake Lupen backed by single strums from an electric guitar. The intro sounds fantastic. Even though both Lupen’s vocals and the guitar are technically midrange frequencies, it’s easy to distinguish them from one another. Plus, there’s virtually no auditory masking occurring as the subsequent frequencies ring out from the electric guitar’s C and F chords.
Instrumental separation and overall clarity are excellent.
Whistler Allen enters on the drums enter at 0:32. I’ve listened to this sound countless times and usually register a drop in clarity during the interlude, but that’s not the case with the RHA T20 Wireless. If anything, the drums sound attenuated as I’m so accustomed to earbuds which emphasize bass notes.
Is the microphone of the RHA T20 Wireless any good?
No, it’s pretty abysmal. I wouldn’t use these for casual calls, let alone conference calls. I tested the microphone multiple times and created multiple recordings, all of which yielded disappointing results. No matter where your vocal range falls, you’re not going to sound good with this microphone. That said, it does work, so if you’re really in a pinch, the person calling will be able to hear you, you just won’t sound good.
RHA T20 Wireless microphone demo:
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Should you buy the RHA T20 Wireless?
Yes, the RHA T20 Wireless is an excellent pair of earbuds. Sure, switching out the filters is a bit clunky and the microphone leaves a lot to be desired, but sound quality, comfort, and versatility makeup for its deficiencies.
These earbuds don’t come cheap as they’re anywhere from $200-plus; however, you’re really getting two pairs of earbuds when you invest in the T20 Wireless. If a cable frays beyond the three-year warranty, you can have the parts replaced rather than buying a whole new headset. The initial purchase will take a significantly greater toll than a pair of gas station ‘buds, but sometimes expensive things are worth it.