Radius HP-TWF11R earphone in review – pleasure pleasure, little treasure!

If someone told me that a dual-driver earphone would catch my ear, I’d have yawned a juicy mess of contempt into their face. If, however, that person first mentioned that the dual-driver wasn’t just another ba-ba balanced armature earphone, I’d have kept my spit and contempt to myself. Sonority may be have been damned in naming Radius’ new HP-TWF11R dual-dynamic driver earphone, but the Japanese company surely show that they’ve what it takes to make an earphone sound great. Feel free to discuss the Radius HP-TWF11R in our forums.

Speaker: Dynamic
Driver Unit: Dual Driver/CCAW 15mm and 7mm
Sensitivity: 105 dB/mw
Frequency Response: 10Hz-18000Hz
Maximum Input: 20mW
Impedance: 24Ω
Weight w/o cable: 5,5g
Cable material: nylon
Plug: 3,5 mm stereo mini plug, Gold-plated
Cable length: 120cm

Package and Fit
What a fabulously unmediated jumble of careless esoterica the HP-TWF11R is: there is so much to like and so much to deride in this unique earphone. Firstly, the accessory package is balanced on one hand by a ‘meh’ array of 6 silicon single flange tips, and on the other by one of the best carrying cases I’ve seen. Cable mashers and meticulously-minded winders each will find use for it. The latter should enjoy the removable rubber cable-winder which does the job oh-so-well, embarrassing the over-engineered Sennheiser IE8 pod; and because the rubber insert can be removed, is leagues better than Sherwood’s SE777 cable management system.

It is the progeny of a pleather and micro fibre. Inside a strap secures the cleaning cloth and the case zips closed into a compact clamshell. The entire thing can be comfortably pocketed in most fashionable jeans, but hip-hugging hipsters may have to pop the package in the back pocket.

The silicon single flange ear tips are soft and sport a secure-fitting squarish design. Radius even included a polishing cloth, though I don’t really ‘get’ the need to polish cheap plastic and rubber. Anyway, Radius, good on ya!

But as always – or so it would seem – good things always go pear-shaped. The nearly illegible HP-TWF11R is just as nearly impossible to get securely into the ear. Evidently, Radius designed the cable to hang down, but its large body gets in the way; and when worn over the ear, the cables don’t stay – not even with the neck cinch slid tight. The body either sticks out too much, or at its intended angle, won’t fit in the ear’s concha. They jiggle back and forth, lose seal, and fidget like a bored toddler. Of course your mileage may vary, but even Final Audio’s 1601 is well-fitting in comparison.

Left: ouch - Right: Timber!

Strange look, barely stable, but best fit... welcome to Radius!

Build and Cable
I tend to think of Japanese products as reasonably well-made. Sometimes, ergonomics ride the fender in favour of design, but at least Japanese-designed stuff tends to stay together. That said, the HP-TWF11R, a made-in-China hunk of plastic and rubber, hardly cements my prejudices.

Firstly, their unwieldy earphone is tethered by none other than a nylon cable. As you can guess, the bloody thing picks up every minute movement, every whispher, and every gyration of your hips. Dull ‘thwacks’ will echo in your ears at times louder, and in more cohesive rhythm than your music. There is no escaping the fact that nylon cables are the most microphonic choice for portable earphones. The plastic and rubber body doesn’t help either; touch noises are amplified, and the shiny surface picks up scratches easily. No amount of polishing will fix that.

Apart from that major oversight, however, Radius have made a good earphone. The neck cinch does a great job of grabbing the cable (though it doesn’t help ergonomics) and the stress reliefs along the cable amply protect their noisy cargo. A cursory look at the y-split and headphone jack reminds one of the Mingo WM2. Fortunately, however, the strain relief is better engineered. The jack, however, isn’t. Like Mingo’s earphone, it is terminated in a straight angle and thus, more susceptible to snagging.

The 15mm woofer can move a lot of air. The second driver, a 7mm midrange tweeter of sorts, handles the upper stuff, and it does a damn fine job. I’ve mentioned in previous reviews that with current technology, small drivers just don’t pick out enough details: they don’t retrieve enough information down deep, and end up sacrificing dynamics and details as a result. With the HP-TWF11R, however, Radius illustrated that by mashing the two together, you can get really close to perfection.

Believe it or not, this earphone is very well-behaved. It isn’t a boomy monster; no, it simply rocks. Its bass is lovingly detailed, smooth and fast. Then there is texture and kick. I was expecting something along the lines of the sometimes-oppressive Mingo WM2, or the off-kilter Sennheiser IE8, but what I got was at-ear balance, control, extension, and speed.

Extremely low bass evident in songs such as Chican’s Daylight and Marus Schulz’ Mainstage, which is nearly inaudible with most earphones, is peart and lively. It’s like holding a golf-ball after slumming it with table tennis balls for years: the new sensation of pimples and divots is overwhelming. This machined bass is excellent electronic music. There is speed, space, and texture; and thankfully, no hint of boominess taints bass-driven music.  That said, I want to iterate explicitly that the TWF11R isn’t a dead-flat earphone, it simply isn’t a boomy mess. At the ear, it performs pretty well in line with the ear’s attenuation of low and high notes.

While computer instruments are good, real bass, the stuff from bass guitars and kick drums is, dare I say it, unmatched in focus and liveliness. Actually, this is THE earphone for bass guitar. No, no, let me rephrase that: it is THE earphone for guitar, full stop. You can feel the distortion and the trace touch of a finger across the steel/nylon strings. Beautiful.

Between the mids and highs there is an interesting dip, but before that is detail and space. Guitars, male vocals, piano – they all make it in and each is sweet, spacious, and mesmerising.

How can I describe it? Ever played deadman’s finger? You and a friend place your index fingers together and stroke the pair: one half responds to the touch while the other is ‘dead’. It is eerie and exciting. That is what music through the HP-TWF11R is like. You have the dead weight of volume and impact in the low and mid frequencies, but on the opposite side is feeling, attack, and sensation. Simply put, I’ve not experienced such full, lush, and exciting sound in an earphone before.

It is sweetly smooth like the Monster Turbine Pro, textured like the Victor FX500, and emotional like the Mingo WM2. But, unlike the others, it doesn’t have any real weaknesses. Its bass is powerful, but just right; its midrange, velvety smooth, and its highs are extended in a pretty straight line to past 17Khz, but can start to ‘sizzle’ past that. Stragely, however, despite excellently sharp piano resonance and great extension, female vocals lose a little poise in comparison.

One thing which surprises me more than anything else is how well Radius captured texture, depth, and fluidity despite throwing two drivers into such a tight body. My experience with deep, bass hound earphones has largely been negative: they emanate forceful, dark and boomy while darkening the sound. I’m not sure what magic substance Radius have laced the HP-TWF11R with, but maybe it doesn’t matter: this earphone is the antithesis of what I expected and unstoppable in a number of categories.

If you happen to have an older iPod or own a Cowon or Zune, you will be happy to know that this Radius responds well to amping, but paired with a clever DAP, an amp isn’t needed for anything but cleanup. This earphone has a lot of class and doesn’t bloom or leak, so tightening up the bottom end will only help the most helpless of DAP’s achieve a tight frequency response and a little more clarity between instruments. I’d not worry about that fraction of a performance difference, however, if you have an iPod touch or iPhone.

Finally, at 105dB of sensitivity, the HP-TWF11R doesn’t hiss too much, but noisy sources will let through the snake in the grass. With the iPod touch 2G and its analogues in the non-iPod realm, hiss is minimal. What it won’t do is block external noise very well. This earphone isn’t a fully open design, but it lets a lot of noise into your music.

Out and about
I’ll sum it up like this: stay indoors with The HP-TWF11R. It just doesn’t do movement. There is too much touch noise in the cable, and the barely-secure earphones might blow away as a car hurriedly passes. But even if your ears are moulded to these awkward earphones, wind noises hammer the drivers to crinkle obnoxiously. This earphone just ain’t made for the commute.

For the price, there may not be a better sounding earphone on the market. Add a hundred or more dollars and the same probably still holds true. Radius have soundly done their homework. Balance, speed, space, and atmosphere: near-perfection abounds in the cramped housing of the HP-TWF11R. Unfortunately, aside from a nice case and strain reliefs, there is little to praise about Radius’ design. The cable is simply horrible, fit follows suit, and the earphone’s isolation is laughable. This Radius earphone looks portable and sounds glorious, but no matter how much I want to enjoy it whilst out and about, I can’t.

If Radius can fix the fit and replace the ridiculous cable, they will have THE portable earphone. Until then, however, the HP-TWF11R is an esoteric introduction to prodigious sound at the expense of: fit, comfort, and isolation.

Radius  HP-TWF11R earphone summary
Title: Radius HP-TWF11R Developer: Radius
Reviewed Ver: N/A Driver Type: Dynamic, Dual
Price: $140-190 Cable: Nylon
  • Best in price sound
  • Ear-balanced distribution of bass, mids and treble
  • Spacious, detailed, textured, beautiful
  • Great case
  • Comfortable-fitting earpieces
  • Freaking crazy technology!
  • Ergonomics, in car terms, are Yugo
  • Precarious fit
  • Cable microphonics are horrible
  • Nearly useless outdoors
Get the Radius HP-TWF11R from ALO Audio (USA)

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