Rhapsodio RTI1 – Turn The Lights Off

Disclaimer: Rhapsodio supplied the Reference Titanium One (RTI1) for the purposes of this review. The RTI1 goes for 1.000$ bones.

The Rhapsodio RTI1 shines. So does its boom-proof box. And though I’ve not taken an exacto knife to its case, I assume that the titanium driver does just the same. The RTI1 sports a single, dynamic driver. It measures 8mm across and is made from titanium.

If you’re a tech geek, stop reading now. This review doesn’t need you. I want to talk to the person that loves their music, and doesn’t care if an earphone has one, or many, drivers. In fact, my favorite universal earphone is the single-driver Grado GR10.

More does not always mean better. You know what does mean better? Better.

And I think that Rhapsodio have that nailed.

The Marque

Rhapsodio have their toes dipped in a few pools: amps, DACs, cables, earphones, and a web aesthetic that hearkens back to 2006. Their trademark is a cross between a jawbone microphone, a printed circuit board, and a twisted game of Carcassone.

The RTI1 comes in a polished metal box. It is held together by chromed knuckles and latches. Its logo is blasted on top and inside, the earphones sit pretty between layers of velvet gauze. If you keep your RTI1s in their box, they will last a lifetime.

Everything else feels a bit off-the-shelf, but is of good quality.

Actually, I think I’ll blab a little here. 1000$ is a lot of money to throw down on a pair of earphones. And while the RTI1 sounds great, it can’t shake its DIY-aesthetic. I could be very wrong, but I don’t expect it to retain its value on the used market.

The Cable

At distances greater than two meters, you’d be forgiven for mistaking it for a Bose In-Ear. I’m not necessarily against the cable’s barber-pole dizzy looks. But it doesn’t really fit a 1000$ earphone. If I were you, I’d spring for the upgrade cable, or attach any compatible cable in its stead.

Anyway, the barber pole is sheathed in a thin layer of clear plastic which bifurcates at the y-split. After that it is divided into two thinner arms, both sheathed in the same plastic. This sheath does a great job of protecting the cable against frays and kinks. Sprigging from the y-split, flexible plastic shunts skirt the first few millimeters of the cable, protecting it from the most egregious bends.

At the earphone, the cable is protected by around ten centimeters of heat shrink. That heat shrink is comfortable, and much less fiddly than memory wire. Which goads me into asking: why is it that memory wire even exists? It’s a bugger with glasses, a bugger to fix into a case; it may even get you stopped at the airport. I’m glad Rhapsodio went with heat shrink.

Protection sort of drops a grade at the coaxial connector. The rubbery grommet whose job it is to stave off the injunction of the metal coaxial, fails by coming unhooked too easily. This bares the cable to the metallic bite of the coaxial sheath. The good news is that the cable terminal is recessed. It is damped by a plastic well. Successive cable swapping isn’t going to hurt the RTI1, but the cable’s protective elements probably will fall apart.

At the 3,5mm plug, the cable lacks any sort of sheath at all. Instead, it disappears straight into a smooth-edged washer. Since the plug is straight, it requires care, especially when used in a pocket and connected with a large player like the iRiver AK240, the excellent (and huge) Calyx M, or Hidizs’s budget champ, the AP100.

The Chassis

The RTI1’s metal exterior is handsome if understated. It’s glintier than it is blingy. Its matte surface staves off all but the most greasy of finger prints. It is both light, and sound. As you can imagine, it is cool to the touch. Count it a blessing in the summer. In the winter, well, let’s just say this: as long as you’re not in Canada or Russia, you should be fine.

It’s also pock-marked: small blemishes and imperfections in its metallic surface bely its asking price. If evenly spread, they would have triggered the part of me that wants to say ‘quaint’. Overall, the chassis says DIY-gone-professional more than any earphone I’ve held for years.

As for its shape, the RTI1’s got a beer-loving-35-year-old-starting-to-go-to-fat thing going on: gentle double chins here, curvy lines there, and a preference to opulence. In Comply terms, it’s a T200. As always, I prefer to use ortofon’s comfy L-tips (which come with the amazing ortofon e-Q8). When I’m feeling experimental, I wiggle on FitEar’s universal series transparent tips.

Speaking of FitEar, the RTI1 fits very similarly to the FitEar ToGo!334. It is large, and doesn’t lie flush to, or in, the ear. Because it doesn’t try to fill up the concha, it can be used comfortably by most any sized ear. It wiggles in the canal, but is easy to put in and take out again.

Finally, when inserting it into the ear, it makes a crinkling sound as its driver flexes with the sudden influx of air pressure.

Sound impressions after the jump:

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Back before he became the main photographer for bunches of audio magazines and stuff, Nathan was fiddling with pretty cool audio gear all day long at TouchMyApps. He loves Depeche Mode, trance, colonial hip-hop, and raisins. Sometimes, he gets to listening. Sometimes, he gets to shooting. Usually he's got a smile on his face. Always, he's got a whisky in his prehensile grip.

33 Comments

  • Reply December 27, 2014

    George Lai

    A thousand dollars for one driver? One day they’ll launch a 6-driver for $6000. It’ll be interesting to compare some of the top drawer single driver IEMs eg the Grado you mentioned, Fitear F111, Dita, etc.

    • Reply December 27, 2014

      ohm image

      Great idea. Consider it done. It’s obvious that Rhapsodio aren’t selling to gearheads, or to tech heads. A single driver will never wow that crowd. But this single driver sounds amazing. The earphone DOES look and feel like a DIY thing. It IS very nice for what it is.

      Honestly, my favourite still is the Grado GR10. And likely that won’t change.

      • Reply December 27, 2014

        George Lai

        Although I agree that the tuning etc of an IEM is more important than just the number of drivers, one can’t help but feel short-changed. It’s human nature I guess. Yes that latest 3-cylinder electric turbocharged BMW is great but for that price, I’d like a V8 please 😉

        • Reply December 27, 2014

          ohm image

          I see that we are at odds regarding ‘worth’ but not regarding brands. I think that if Rhapsodio were challenging the upscale market, they would need to change things heaps. If not, you must hear the RTI1. It is clear, contrasty, and second to none in musical playback. Again, if contrast is your thing…

          • Reply December 28, 2014

            soundblast

            How does it stack next to Dita and how is it with Depeche?
            I ordered them by the way☺

            • Reply December 28, 2014

              ohm image

              It’s great with Depeche, but maybe a little too contrasty unless you are listening with gear that has a low pass filter installed. I’d prefer the Dita with Depeche to be sure. But that is personal. The Dita is a bit more neutral, top to bottom. This one’s bass hits in from lower frequencies though.

              • Reply December 28, 2014

                soundblast

                Would you prefer Dita in general still?

                • Reply December 28, 2014

                  ohm image

                  The Dita is overall more balanced, and far more attention is paid to making it a nice earphone to use and keep. And, in a few years, I think it will be recognised as a classic.

                  • Reply December 28, 2014

                    soundblast

                    So the Rhapsody is a step down and not worth the investment?

                    • December 28, 2014

                      ohm image

                      The Dita is made very well and the company seem to be standing VERY strongly behind their products. The Rhapsodio sounds just as good, but it is more contrasty, which I feel is a bit too uppety for DM. That said, I’d love the sound from the RTI1 in a Dita.

                      Personally, I prefer to invest in a certain type of product. I’m not a sound-only type of guy. If I was, I’d have a hard time choosing between the top Dita and the Rhapsodio except based on what I was listening that day. They are different sounding earphones.

                    • December 28, 2014

                      soundblast

                      Did you try with the silver/gold? i just upgraded.Sammy is a great guy to deal with and sound should be significantly better.I like Dita a lot but i move to quickly at the mo:)
                      The next one is Adel A12

                    • December 28, 2014

                      soundblast

                      He just mentioned nylon occ..hmm not sure which one to get now

                    • December 29, 2014

                      ohm image

                      I’ve only tried the stock cable. I’m sorry. But I look forward to your updates.

    • Reply December 27, 2014

      dalethorn

      I only had the sense of being immersed in great sound with the Sennheiser ie800, although the sound seemed a little ‘dirty’ at times. But maybe that was due to earwax in the eartips. A long, long time ago Henry Kloss wrote a booklet explaining in detail the design of his Advent Loudspeaker, and why it was the best ever, yet for a reasonable price. Stereophile gave it a spectacular review, and it was really good. So while it’s unlikely I’ll ever read anything like that again for a transducer, I’ll have to be content with esoteric articles about reducing jitter below 13.5 picoseconds in a DAC you can wear on your ring finger etc. But yeah, a direct comparison of 5 or 6 of these wunder-IEMs could be a great thing.

      • Reply December 27, 2014

        ohm image

        I almost didn’t follow that, but I will take it as a second.

        • Reply December 27, 2014

          George Lai

          A “pico” second :-). By the way, Nathan, you mentioned clear Fitear tips. Do you mean the bi-flange because the single ones are black.

          • Reply December 28, 2014

            ohm image

            I need to update that. Yes, the bi-flange ones.

        • Reply December 27, 2014

          dalethorn

          Instead of the marketing dept stroking us with their BS, I’d prefer the engineer(s) telling me exactly why their design is better. And if their story isn’t convincing – nothing lost.

          • Reply December 28, 2014

            ohm image

            Every owned a Fujifilm camera? Their engineers explain why X-Trans is better. They are idiots.

            I don’t trust any company telling me why a design is better. That is left to third-party engineers.

            • Reply December 28, 2014

              dalethorn

              Henry Kloss wrote the technical sales pitch for the Advent speaker, saying it had the same bandwith (deep bass flat to 30 hz etc.) as the next-best speaker that cost 3 times as much. Kloss delivered the goods, and earned a rave review in Stereophile. There are occasional breakthroughs today that merit a strong pitch by skilled developers. The guy who developed the DAC for the USB Dragonfly is one who talked. The people who developed the HD800, the Stax SR009, and the LCD2/3/X planars should be heard, but I don’t recall hearing from them, probably because they’re being hidden by their front office people. I’d like to get an interview with the Fuji tech people, unfiltered, because their retro compacts (X100 etc.) are a big-time success. Leica would love to sell as many X Varios or ‘T’s as those Fujis, but even comparing sales dollars, Leica can’t compete since their new cameras just don’t “have it”.

              • Reply December 28, 2014

                ohm image

                I guess we are totally off-topic, but since we’ve hit on my line of work, I’m glad to derail. Companies that compete on innards alone, and side-step branding, and target everyone, rather than a specific niche, are the ones that fail when another company with the same modus operandi come along.

                Fujifilm developed the X series to LOOK like old cameras. They didn’t follow through and we have:

                1. lenses with and without aperture rings
                2. lenses with and without aperture rings that twirl endlessly
                3. lenses with and without full stop focus
                4. lenses with distance scales
                5. lenses with focus clutches
                6. a different interface for every single camera despite single vintage production
                7. X-trans, a system of obfuscation that solves a problem inherent in designs from 2009 and which has gotten in the way since 2012.

                Engineers designed and built their cameras, but not for a specific user. They designed and built them to become popular, with the goal of becoming the number 2 camera maker behind Canon and Nikon.

                So who are they designing for? Who is their market? Not even they know. And they design with no purpose other than skin-deep choices. Their lenses lack helicoids, or coupled apertures. They cannot be used free-lens, or on non-electronic tubes. They cannot even be focused without power from the camera.

                They are designed to _look_ like something special, and not to _be_ something special.

                Leica never, ever, competed on technology. And today they don’t have to. They build to a specific audience and build the best cameras that audience ever has had. Everyone else chased the mass market. And everyone else died because they competed solely on:

                1. offering the most technology for the money
                2. selling the most cameras on the slimmest of profits

                I get that it’s nice to have more for your money. But if that sacrifices utility, ergonomics, and/or the ability of that machine to perform a _specific_ duty, it is a soulless move.

                I don’t agree that Leica wished they sold as many X Varios or Ts as Fujifilm Xs. They want their gear to be purchased by a certain person that understands their brand. If they didn’t they, too, would sell only to the mass market, and charge prices congruent to that market.

                Leica has NO competition. Everyone else traded in metal work for plastic, hinges for tiny electric motors, helicoids for plastic spark plugs.

                You can pick up a Leica from today and one from 60 years ago and use it almost exactly the same way. They refine, improve, and perfect. Everyone else chases technology, and compete against the wind.

                Back to Rhapsodio: The RTI1 has a single driver. I don’t for a moment think they are in any way an analogue of Leica. They obviously care about the materials, but not the workmanship, nor the brand anywhere near as much.

                Their single driver sounds good. Like every good single driver out there, it creates a wide sound field, but misses the small details that multiple drivers in excellent arrays do. If Rhapsodio want to charge 1000$ it’s up to them. As an above-DIY-workmanship company, they have a niche. If they try to sell as a premium brand, they will fail. And they should.

                I believe that they neither have the workmanship nor the vision for it. Dita nearly nailed that one. The Truth and Answer versions are amazing, but their workmanship could be a bit better. I hope they keep their vision and don’t sell out to the crowd that wants more drivers.

                Uniqueness is worth a lot. For the person that wants, and feels the market needs, more for less, there are millions of choices out there.

                • Reply December 28, 2014

                  dalethorn

                  I think you missed the major points. Whether you disagree with Fuji’s designs or not they (the X100s) are successful. The other point, that Leica wants the customer they wanted several years ago — no. They’ve grown big and opened their own stores in a *lot* of cities, which BTW they’d never done before. It’s a new world.

                  My original point, before you brought up Fuji, was that I’d like to read the type of informative and inspiring writing that Henry Kloss practiced, and the thing that’s standing in the way isn’t incompetent engineers, it’s a lack of expectation and belief on the part of consumers.

                  As to single drivers, the July 2011 edition of Stereophile has an article on the Audience 2+2 speaker that every audiophile should seek out and read. The things they heard and didn’t hear (crossover distortions, phase issues, etc.) are instructive for inquiring minds.

                  • Reply December 28, 2014

                    ohm image

                    The Fujifilm thing was a mistake. I’m sorry. But Leica have it right. Just not in the minds of the mass market, to which you, and I, belong. They are a better company.

                    Stereophile have wonderful articles. I’ve found them a benchmark for much of my purchase habits. Thank you for the hint.

                    • December 28, 2014

                      dalethorn

                      I’m not wealthy, just an ordinary paid senior software engineer. But I’ve owned a dozen Leicas, including the $19000 Monochrom and Noctilux f0.95. Leica, being the world leader in several camera classes at various times, is not well understood, but they explain themselves pretty well in their video releases. The perfect example is 2009 when they released the ‘S’, the X1, and the M9 all at once, with their informational videos. They have a visionary at the helm at this time, much like Steve Jobs at Apple. The visionary is the key, like my example of Kloss at Advent long before.

  • Reply December 27, 2014

    Fabio_Rocks

    Is it possibile to clean behind the metal grill in the nozzle? I mean, it’s a matter of time before it will become full of earwax, the effect will be a $1000 earphone muffled sounding. If that is not possible it’s a bad design issue.

    • Reply December 28, 2014

      ohm image

      No, that is a problem. You cannot remove the grill. That is part of the DIY slant which doesn’t belong.

  • Reply December 28, 2014

    Steven

    How does this compare to SE846 or Dita. Thanks

    • Reply December 29, 2014

      ohm image

      If you are just in for sound, then the RTI1 is more contrasty than either. The Shure SE846 is the mildest of the bunch, but can be tweaked to sound different. Bite and bump and amazing stereo detail are the RTI1’s forte. The Dita is more laid back, and offers more coherent trips into the midrange from both extremes. The Shure SE846, being balanced armature, moves air very differently.

      The closest of the two is the Dita. Fit-wise, both the Dita and the Shure are way better. But contrast-wise, the RTI1 has few competitors. Amazing.

  • Reply January 2, 2015

    Miguel Garcia-Guzman

    Hi Nathan. I am intrigued about your love for the GR10 as the best universal IEM you have tested so far. I have the AKG K3003i (still possible return window) and I love it, most with the High Boost Filter. I love the clarity and the fabulous high frequency. Do you think that the Grado GR10 is even better than the K3003i?

    The only limitation I have with the K3003 is that the fit is very hard for me, still exploring options with alternative tips. The GR10 looks smaller so maybe the fit is easier.

    I have also a Grado PS500e, that I adore, the best most fan HiFi headphone I ever tested, and it has a tonality that I love, so that’s why I am intrigued about the GR10 and wonder if you think it is a superior IEM to the K3003.

    Thank you for your feedback.

    • Reply January 5, 2015

      ohm image

      Hello Miguel,

      I don’t have the K3003, but am in process of purchasing it. I may be able to discuss this more later on. Thank you. The GR10 is, by far, the best-fitting universal earphone I’ve used, ever.

      • Reply January 13, 2015

        Miguel Garcia-Guzman

        Nathan, I bet you will love the K3003. It is a superb headphone, not a superb IEM, a superb headphone in general. If you get one, try various tips as they affect the sound quality a lot. For me the tips supplied with the K3003 are the worst, poor fit and harsh sound with using the reference and treble boost filters. But if you try comply or triple flange tips (the ones from MeeElectronics fit) with the Treble Filter the sound is simply superb. This tips keep the clarity and dynamics while enhancing the soundstage and making the K3003 smooth but with great extension in the highs. I look forward to your comparison with the GR10.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.