T-Peos Altone200

REVIEW: T-Peos Altone200






Intro:

It hasn't been too long since the Korean T-Peos company has stepped into the audio gear market, and specifically into the in-ear monitor earphone world. Right from the start they already offered different models targeting a wide range of prices, from budget sub $30 with their single dynamic earphones, to the higher $150-200+ with 2 hybrids IEMs that became widely known. Since then, we've seen a large variety of new releases from T-Peos, being the 2-way and mainly 3-way hybrids the ones that got the most attention.
Recently they'd released the last Altone200 model, the most affordable 3-way hybrid nowadays, featuring the well known Knowles TWFK dual BA drivers and T-Peos own dynamic driver.


Specifications:

Driver Unit:  Dual Balanced Armature (Knowles TWFK) & 1x Dynamic 8mm Single Driver
Impedance: 22 ohm / 1kHz
Sensitivity: 105 dB / 1 kHz
Power: 100 mW (Max)
Frequency Response: 20 Hz ~ 20 kHz
Weight: 16 g

MSRP: U$D 185



Accessories:

3 pairs (S/M/L) of soft and thin single tips (red colored core)
3 pairs (S/M/L) of thicker single tips
1 pair of foam tips
1 carrying zippered case
1 shirt clip
1 pair of earguides
The accessories' pack may be limited compared to other T-Peos models (or of the competition), but for the high SQ at this price it can be easily overlooked and forgiven.
[On a side note regarding the eartips. Unfortunately, the included ones won't show the real sound of the Altone200, and probably will seriously decrease its quality. I think that tip rolling is a must for the Altone200.]


Build & Design:

In contrast to the accessories pack, the overall build quality is pretty good, featuring lightweight aluminum straight barrel housings with a fairly thick cable. The cable is kinda rubbery and average in microphonics, and lacks a chin slider and proper relief at the entry of the housings, but feels sturdy and resistant enough. It does lack the detachable feature both previous H200 and H300 pricier models had, but for the smaller and more compact design, and specially the more affordable price, there's no room to complain about.


Fit, Comfort, Isolation:

Fit is pretty obvious, as expected for the straight form factor, and comfort is decent thanks to the slim and light design; easy to wear both ways. Isolation is a bit above average and could be improved with aftermarket extra eartips. It's still noticeable lower than other 3-way hybrids I tried, such as the Dunu's options, but the Altone200 wins easily in comfort matters.
Driver flex was slightly noticed only with the red-cored tips.


Sound:

As the new and much affordable 3-way contender, I was very intrigued to hear T-Peos latest release, and even more knowing it implements the TWFK BA drivers which are among my favorites, and also get the chance to compare it with the DN-1000 and R-50M IEMs.


First impressions:

Usually, I don't get to mention my early or first impressions about an earphone, but this time I'd make an exception with the Altone200 as my impressions were quite disappointing and almost to the point to put a fairly low score review. Not sure how it happened, whether it was the tip-rolling or burn-in effect, but suddenly the magic occurred and I finally got to appreciate the true Altone200 hybrid sound.

So now to the actual review...

Like many other 3-way hybrid IEM models, the last T-Peos Altone200 implements the Knowles dual BA TWFK twin drivers together with T-Peos own dynamic driver. The combination is nothing new nowadays in the universal IEM market as we've already found it in the highly priced K3003 and the much more affordable own company first H200 model and later H300 hybrids, or both Dunu and Astrotec ones. But in spite the fact of sharing a very similar hardware configuration, they all differ in their final tuning and signature.

On its own, the Altone200 share a smaller dynamic 8mm driver (against the 10+ mm above mentioned ones). Thus, the low-end is less authoritative in the whole presentation. Not to let the rest of the freq. to win over the bass, but rather to keep a more balanced sound; it will come out when called for sure, instead of trying to take a principal role. Overall, the new T-Peos model has a fairly V-shaped sound signature. Bass is always present, very punchy, fairly tight and well controlled. Sub-bass extends far enough, but definitely not as deep as the Dunu DN-1000, for example. Mid-bass has a small lift for fun factor addition, but again, smaller in body and presence compared to the DN-1000, let alone the DN-2000. As a whole, it has the necessary amount to complete the mids and highs played by the BA counterpart. Speed is pretty good as it's needed to match these BA ultra high-speed.

As for the midrange, it's on the hands of the BA TWFK, and it's here where the tuning and overall sound differ from one hybrid to other. The Altone200's midrange seems to follow the V-shaped hybrid formula. The whole mids are a bit distant and not very inspiring; unlike the TWFK BA nature which usually put the mids at a neutral to slightly forward position. They do carry the obvious high clarity and micro-detail, but were tuned colder and drier, with a bit more artificial presentation compared to the 'pure' TWFK (R-50M/B2) or much warmer Dunu's hybrid options.
While vocals are very clear and well separated, they lack body and fullness, and can be edgy at times. Instruments are well separated, evenly weighted and placed due the addition of the dynamic driver. Some extra EQ could help to bring the midrange a step forward and balance the whole sound if needed.

The high-end is obviously very bright and well extended. On the one hand, it is flatter and not as 'hot' as other implementations of these BA drivers, with a smoother transition from upper-mids to lower-highs, despite the relatively more recessed midrange, and a tad more focused into the upper highs. On the other hand, it's probably the less forgiving TWFK tuning I've heard, being more peaky, less controlled and sibilance prone. The Altone200 is also more aggressive, similar to the DN-1000, but the Altone200's treble seems to be more picky in source and tip dependant.
While it doesn't really sound big (and loud), soundstage is quite wide with a surprising sense of space, and rarely will feel closed or congested. Neither dynamics nor imaging are best and actually might lose to similar or lower priced contenders. Even so, micro-details are very easy to pick without categorizing as an 'analytical' earphone.

All-in-all, the Altone200 could be described as a typical TWFK sound with real dynamic bass.


Altone200 Vs Dunu DN-1000:

While these two models could be rated at a similar SQ score, they'd differ primarily in their signature and presentation, the Altone200 with a more pronounced V-shaped sound and the DN-1000 being warmer and bassier. The Dunu the upper hand in soundstage, sounding much bigger and roomy, similar to a headphone-like presentation rather than a closed IEM, while the T-Peos sounds smaller and more limited despite its good separation. The bass on the DN-1000 is much more powerful, but not as tight or controlled as the Altone200, and a tad slower too. The T-Peos will definitely sound calmer and more shy in the bass dept. and also show a more coherent transition from lows to mids. Treble extension is very similar on both; hotter on the Dunu's and flatter on the T-Peos, yet the later feels a bit less refined. Both are still far from the Dunu DN-2000 smoothness, and probably a step down from the Rock-It R-50M too. Midrange is more engaging and sweeter on the DN-1000 and also less recessed, while the Altone200 might need some amplification or extra EQ to bring out more midrange presence.



Value:

At its pre-order price of ~$125 the T-Peos Altone200 made a very good option as an introductory IEM to the (3-way) hybrid world. Build quality is pretty decent, fit quite easy and a well achieved lively V-shaped signature and well detailed sound. In pure SQ, it may not scale as high as other 3-way hybrid competitors do, but manages to show the strong characteristics of both drivers' technologies in a single pack. With the current final price of $185 (since Oct. 1st, previously $145), it won't be as easy to recommend as a bang-for-buck or as an all-arounder set, and might need some improvement and refinement to justify the actual retail price, but still could be considered as good alternative nevertheless.