Disclaimer: B9Scrambler kindly loaned me a few in ears that I hadn’t had the pleasure of auditioning. I’d like to take a moment to thank him and to acknowledge how generous the audio community in general has been in welcoming me to the fold. If you haven’t already checked out B9Scrambler’s blog, please do. Its a good read.
Unboxing / Packaging:
We can dispense with this section as I received them as just the earpieces and cable in a pelican style hard case.
Welcome to the completely unexpected TFZ. For those familiar with the rest of the TFZ line, the Tequila looks entirely different and for good reason. It sports an 8.9mm dynamic driver instead of the hybrid or BAs of the rest of the product line. Some might even suspect it was named for what they were drinking when they came up with it. The Tequila is barrel shaped with an open faceplate with several choices of styles. My sample looks a bit like an evergreen tree while another option is the radioactive symbol. All the Faceplates share a characteristic of being roughly 50% open space with screen behind it to allow venting. A gold band wraps around the center of the drum and is just slightly raised. The bi-pin connectors sit at the top of the shell aiming forward and lend themselves to tip-up wear only as does the provided cable. The 3 port nozzle exits the lead edge of the drum just slightly below the mid-point with a forward rake of about 40º. The nozzle features a prominent lip and a relatively short length so tip selection is important in isolation. A single small vent exits immediately behind the nozzles.
The 8.9mm graphene double dynamic driver is a departure from what we have seen in other TFZ products. TFZ designed the driver using better quality materials so magnetic flux is higher and the driver more sensitive than most of the rest of the line. This sensitivity (105 dB/mW) combined with a listed impedance of 20Ω make the Tequila easy enough to drive from a cell phone but still allows it to scale well with additional power from a dedicated DAP or amp.
I am torn as I write about the cable on the Tequila. On one hand the multi-stranded copper and stainless accents looks great and seems very well made. On the other hand the added weight of using stainless steel for the chin slider and splitter makes the cable somewhat ungainly. On the positive side the braid is tight up to the splitter and the twisted pair equally well done above that point. The jack is a standard straight jack with a heavy stainless casing and a good strain relief. the splitter is conical stainless with a stainless disk for a chin slider immediately above it that all but disappears into the splitter when not in use. The upper end of the cable comes with pre-formed earhooks and terminates is translucent plastic bi-pin connectors. The Connectors are labeled R and L on the inner surfaces and once connected the design enforces correct ear choice.
The drum is large enough that some with small ears may find them hard to fit. For me immediate fit was not an issue but due to the weight of the cable some fatigue was experienced during extended wear. As previously mentioned with the open back and shallow fit, isolation is only average at best and can be improved with comply tips as I found a good bit of sound leakage when using silicone tips that wasn’t through the body of the iem but instead around the outer portion of the tip due to shallow fit.
All of my listening notes are done with Auvio wide bore tips installed.
The Tequila has good bass extension and can deliver good sub-bass slam but often that is hidden behind a very forward mid-bass. I found that if I pulled back the 150hZ – 250hZ by 6dB it came closer to balanced and let the sub-bass show through a bit more. The nice thing about the bass presentation is the driver has better speed than most so notes are very crisp and distinct. Mid-bass while accented considerably is not muddy, nor does it bleed into the mids more than slightly. This gives the Tequila an overall warm if mildly dark presentation.
Mids are definitely recessed behind both sides of the V but still provide good detail and their is slight emphasis of the upper mids when compared to the lower that pushes vocals forward and gives them good weight. Acoustic guitar is well suited to this boost in the upper mids as well and is well rendered with good attack and decay which is sometimes hard to reproduce well. The Tequila is a good study in the idea that behind (recessed) doesn’t necessarily correspond to bad or lack of detail.
The lower treble continues the rise of the upper mids with a particular emphasis at about the 8kHz range. This brings female vocals closer to the listener and makes the Tequila particularly well suited to this style of music. The upper treble has tamed the spikes typical of some of the rest of the TFZ line and while it has enough upper treble to give the tequila some air it stops short of getting harsh or sibilant. Attack speed is again very good which keeps cymbals from sounding too dull even with slightly less upper treble than they really need to be rendered perfectly.
Soundstage / Imaging:
The open-back design of the Tequila gives it a larger stage than most of the TFZ line but not as big as some other open back designs in the same price range (DT-8). The big V along with the slightly pushed upper-mids gives the Tequila a fairly intimate signature despite its large stage. Instrument separation is very good and layering benefits from the speed of the driver and is overall above average.
Thoughts / Conclusion:
Those familiar with the TFZ line will find the Tequila quite a departure from their other offerings. Gone is the treble harshness of the King, replaced with a much more polite treble while maintaining good extension. Bass extension is as good as anything TFZ has released while not getting muddy and detail is on par with the best TFZ has released. Those who like a bass forward signature will really appreciate what the Tequila brings to the table as it is borderline basshead material out of the box and with a few EQ tweaks can be pushed even further that direction without ruining the rest of the signature. Personal preference would be to move the mid-bass back a bit into more of a balance with the rest of the signature. The cable is problematic due to weight and the fact that the jacks are pointed forward rather than angled upward which limits options for replacement. Overall, the Tequila is a fine effort with lots of good things going for it, worth a look.