The TRI I3 is a triple driver universal IEM consisting of one planar magnetic driver, an 8mm Composite Dynamic Driver, and a single BA driver. It is priced at $169.99
Disclaimer: The TRI I3 was sent to us as a sample in exchange for our honest opinion in this review. We thank HiFiGo for giving us this opportunity.
To learn more about HiFiGo products on Headfonics you can click here.
Note, this review follows our new scoring guidelines for 2020 which you can read up on here.
Someone at TRI thought to themselves at one point that each type of driver used on current IEMs and headphones have their strong point so why not combine them all and put them in one shell and take advantage of each of their best attributes. I think that was the idea behind the TRI I3.
The I3 is TRI’s latest offering and flagship IEM. The question right now is what are they? Are they a dynamic driver IEM or are they a Hybrid IEM? Are they a Planar Magnetic or are they IEMs with balanced armature drivers. The answer is yes.
The TRI I3 has every type of driver being used today in headphones, earphones, and IEMs except for two inside each IEM shell. The only two not being employed here are the electrostatic type and bone conductive type of drivers.
The TRI I3 is unique in that it has a unique driver configuration. There are a total of three types of drivers inside the shell of the TRI I3. Perhaps it is why the number three is referenced twice in the model number.
The first driver is an 8mm dynamic driver that takes care of the bottom part of the frequency spectrum.
The second driver is a Balanced Armature driver that is responsible for the upper region of the frequency spectrum.
The third and final driver is a 10mm Planar Magnetic driver which handles the entire middle section of the frequency spectrum. It might even be operating in full range mode but that is just my assumption. It certainly gives me that impression.
TRI does not mention anything about a crossover section in any of their literature. Their exploded view illustration does not show one either.
The shells and tops are made of a solid piece of aluminum alloy and CNC formed. The outer shell surface is polished to a mirror finish. It gives them a chrome appearance.
One peculiar aspect is that the shells are unbranded because nowhere on the shells is there writing or any type of logo indicating the company name or the model number. Not even left and right indicators. The only company that does this to my recollection is Status Audio.
These are quite heavy IEMs at about 45 grams each earbud and they are also pretty large. They feel like two metal ball bearings in your hands. Their construction is very robust.
The funny part is that their weight does not affect their comfort much. I usually try headphones and IEMs at first by just wearing them without sound playing through them. This test tells me of at least two distinct characteristics of any IEM or headphone.
Number one is comfort. If I could wear them for hours without discomfort or distraction then they get a high comfort rating. That simple. These are comfortable and I could wear them for many hours without any major discomfort despite their weight.
Second, the test tells me how much isolation there is. Just put them on with no sound and listen. If you cannot hear the outside world then the set is good at isolation. These isolate very well probably at the general average of 30 decibels or perhaps even higher.
The included 120cm wire is fitted with silver MMCX connectors made of metal with a mirror finish that matches the IEMs. On the other end is a 3.5mm male single-ended plug which is also made of metal.
Both ends have decent plugs but the braided wire from the 3.5mm to the Y junction is pretty janky. You could tell that it is not an even braid and the sequence is broken at many spots. It is also a very loose braid.
A bead is inserted for length adjustment at the Y junction. The wire has a TRI logo at the metal Y split. Those people with exotic taste in wires will invest in another wire probably and honestly, these deserve it.
Packaging and Accessories
I have seen three different versions of packing for the TRI I3. A square box. One that is rectangular and then the one I received. I received mine with two other items and I thought it was a gift or an accessory for one of the other products until I looked inside.
It all came in an unbranded zippered leatherette case that measures 3×4.5x 1.5 inches. There was no box. The box is probably reserved for retail environments and that is fine with me because this is better than a box and more useful.
Inside this zippered case, I found the two earbuds, the wire along with another pouch made of a suede-like material branded with the TRI logo.
Inside this pouch, there are three bags with tips. They include three sets of white rubber tips, three sets of silicone tips, and one pair of grey foam tips for a total of 7 pairs. I did not get any literature with these and they are almost unbranded except for the pouch and the wire.
TRI I3 Sound Impressions
The TRI I3 can be very forward sounding or a smooth IEM. Your choice. These are very hard to describe in words. I say this because they present different characteristics with different volume levels.
If you use them with a low powered amplifier they seem to have a smooth character. However, when paired with a more powerful amplifier or when used at higher volume levels they become beastly and intense. They can be smooth at times and then at times, they spank you because of the intensity and attack of the sound emitted. Bang Bang Maxwell silver Hammer.
Don’t get me wrong because I think this is a good trait because there are times when you want a relaxing music session but there are times when you want to party and these can give you both experiences. This is like getting two IEMs for the price of one.
They are pretty balanced in frequency response with just a slight elevation in the lower bass and a midrange peak at about 2kHz. The highs are just a touch recessed. I can tell TRI is aiming here for a frequency response close to the Harman Response curve and they are pretty close, to be honest.
There is an engineering dilemma here however and it is the fact that these use a very efficient Balanced Armature driver alongside a Planar Magnetic driver which tends to be inefficient or more so than other types of drivers.
Balanced armature drivers are susceptible to hiss and these do so at times with a high power amplifier. However, you need the extra power to wake up the Planar Magnetic driver, and here lies the dilemma.
None the less, TRI managed to balance this dilemma pretty well and the hiss is kept to a minimum when listening to them at low volume levels. When you play them loud it is never audible.
The 8mm dynamic driver has a very strong output with lots of kick and visceral force. The driver does well with dance music, Hip Hop, and modern pop. It takes very well to a slight bass boost which is desirable with that kind of music.
I tried this on Busta Rhymes “The Coming intro” and the massive bassline intro tickled my eardrums and I had to quickly pull back on the volume. Don’t try this at home and take care of your hearing. These are capable of being bass cannons is the point I am trying to make here.
The TRI I3 dig deep into the lower octaves and my tone generator test demonstrated a capacity of easily digging deeper than the rated 20Hz limit. The sub-bass is present and is not recessed in any way.
Bass notes are well defined with good speed. The bass is not the tightest it can be and does have a slight amount of overhang but there is plenty of definition and note distinction.
Midbass has plenty of kick and presence. Even though it has a strong presence it does not interfere with the midrange and there is no midbass bleed whatsoever.
The Tri I3 has a very pleasant midrange response that shows off the characteristics of a good Planar driver. The midrange is fast, detailed, smooth, and well defined. The midrange here has the typical characteristics of a good Planar Magnetic headphone.
Listening to the TRI I3 I pulled out the upbeat “Bad Blood” by Scott Bradley postmodern jukebox and it never sounded better and the midrange this IEM produces is responsible for that. You could hear Aubrey Logan breathing and the recording sounds great on the TRI I3.
At low volumes, the TRI I3 sounds balanced in the midrange section. Once you turn up that volume the midrange takes on a forward character. I think it comes from the 2kHz peak and the fact that the Planar Magnetic driver wakes up with higher volume levels.
One thing I notice is that there is plenty of detail retrieval in the midrange section. On a scale of low to extremely high detail retrieval, I would give these a solid very high. You could hear breathing, guitar string vibration, studio room reverb, and clear distinction of voices within a chorus.
The Balanced Armature driver produces some good highs that have shimmer, air, and never sound harsh or go into sibilance territory unless played extremely loud. The highs have good definition, directionality, speed, and sound clean in general.
The highs are a touch recessed perhaps by a few decibels giving you the impression of a warm sound signature and finishing off the TRI I3 overall sound signature.
Soundstage and Imaging
The TRI I3 is has a somewhat narrow soundstage. It does not have much width. What it does have is a very good frontal soundstage and depth production with good height. Left to right positioning is very precise and so is the frontal stage which I think is the most important part of the soundstage.
There is a slight amount of rear sound projection at times but the soundstage extends very little beyond the ears left and right. These tend to have a contained personal space where all the sound is being produced and it happens mostly in front of the listener.
The TRI I3 has a low impedance of 15 Ohms which makes them very efficient along with the sensitivity rating of 103db. The frequency response is given as 20Hz to 40kHz.
The sound characteristics of the TRI I3 are two-fold because of the high sensitivity of the Balanced Armature and the sometimes-inefficient characteristic of the Planar magnetic driver.
I powered these with my Android 9 phone which is a Motorola Moto G7 power. I also powered these with my PC using an iFi Zen DAC, and a Zorloo Ztella running off the Motorola, and Hifiman’s Supermini.
The TRI I3 seem to like most amps. Some IEMs like low but very clean power and some like to be pushed hard. These do not care and sound very good with all the amps I used. I used amps with as little as 22mw and one of up to 1 watt and some in between.
I would suggest a very clean amp instead of a high power amp to avoid hissing. They are efficient enough to run with as little as 22mw of power. Of course, their intensity level rises a few notches with more power. Detail and clarity stay the same, and what changes take place are mostly in their intensity level. Perhaps the midrange just becomes more forward and that is it.
The MMCX connectors seem to be the universal .75/.78mm connectors and any wire with that type of plug can be used. All of mine did. So aftermarket wires can be used or any available for that matter.
I also like the fact that these have a robust stem that is an integral part of the shell and most aftermarket tips fit well. The metal grills at the stems seem easy to keep clean.
I just reviewed these and since they both cost about the same at around $149 I thought it would be a good comparison. However, these are two different IEMs despite their almost equal cost.
The TRI I3 is unbranded and made of polished CNC formed aluminum while the DT200 is made with a skin-friendly resin that is 3D printed making them much lighter. The DT200 has that very good looking silver flat weave pattern with gold inlays of the company logo and model number. Both are comfortable but the DT200 wins by an edge in comfort. In appearance, they both look good to me. It comes down to your taste.
The DT200 has a dual Balanced armature configuration while the TRI I3 has 3 different drivers and can play at louder volume levels while the DT200 does not like loud.
The bottom line comparison here is that if you are looking for a more delicate, smoother experience, good imaging, and separation with a larger soundstage then go for the DT200. Just remember no parties, just serious listening.
The TRI I3 is definitely for those times when you just want to party hard and crank up the music. Of course, they do have a balanced and delicate aspect but less so than the dT200. The TRI I3 surely pound harder in the bass region versus the DT200.
They both have almost equal amounts of detail retrieval and if that is what you are looking for currently they will both work for that. But the TRI I3 is a more versatile IEM and I do like them more.
I was excited when these came in and the TRI I3 honestly did not disappoint. They seem to be more aggressive and exciting than what I was expecting but that was a good surprise for me because I like that. They might be a bit fatiguing for some but not for me.
I was expecting delicate little gems. Instead, I got an IEM that is built like a tank, can be gentle and delicate sound wise when needed but when the mood demands they can become party animals. None of my current IEMs in my present collection can claim that.
These are a very good buy for the tech they offer and their build quality and I could find very few flaws with the sound quality for their cost. The TRI I3 is a heavy hitter for the price and I mean that literally. These are keepers and they are going to stay in my collection for a long time to come.
TRI I3 Technical Specifications
- Connector: MMCX
- Lime Length: 120CM +/- 3CM
- Sensitivity: 103DB
- Color: Aluminum Alloy Mirror Silver
- Type: In-Ear
- Plug Type: 3.5mm
- Frequency: 20-40kHz
- Impedance: 15 Ohms
- Driver Unit: 10mm Planar Magnetic + Composite 6mm DD + Balanced Armature Driver