Over the past few years I have had the opportunity to review some incredible earphones but never before have I experienced anything like the Torque Audio t096z. This one pair of earphones is actually six different pair, thanks to the innovative use of 6 different TorqueValves. Each offers a different sound in order to meet different musical styles and tastes.
The fact that you can change the sound coming from the earphones simply by changing the TorqueValves is rather cool. It does take some time to fully understand the concept-it is rather unique after all-and it does take some effort, but for those willing to endure the learning curve and take the time to swap out TorqueValves it is more than worth the effort.
The company describes the Torque Audio t096z Premium customizable in-ear headphones this way:
“t096z uses advanced materials, technology, and craftsmanship. from the proprietary 9mm bio-cell membrane diaphragm transducers for superior acoustics to the machined brass housing to minimize resonance, we brought luxury down to an affordable level. uncompromised immersive sound with the oxygen free copper conductors with the flexibility of 6 TorqueValves. customize your audio experience like never before.”
Judie reviewed Torque’s on-ear model a number of months ago. (Read her review!) Those headphones require you to rotate the ear cup in order to change the sound.
In this case you need to remove the eartip, unscrew the TorqueValve, safely put it back into the TorqueValet (a fancy strip of metal designed to hold TorqueValves when not in use), secure the new TorqueValves and replace the ear tips. If that sounds like quite a few steps…yeah it is. For those who love their music however, the sonic rewards are truly worth it!
The earbuds have proprietary 9mm bio-cell membrane diaphragm transducers and a full brass housing. Connecting the earbuds to your audio source is a 1.4M reinforced mylar shielded cable. It is nice, thick, has a classy sheen to it and, best of all doesn’t tangle. It has an adjustment at the “Y” junction that allows you to adjust where the single cable splits into two cables that go to each of the earbuds.
It ends in an “oxygen free copper conductor for improved signal conductivity” and, as one might expect from an earphone at this level, a right angle 3.5mm stereo input that reduces the strain on the audio source’s input. (Of course, for iPhone users this might become a mute point this fall if the 3.5mm audio jack on the iPhone really does disappear.)
A nice feature that is not found on some earbuds at this price is the one-button in-line iOS compatible remote to control your music. It has a microphone that is handy for phone and voice commands and is as solid as the rest of the Torque Audio t096z. Yes, the build quality on these earbuds is fantastic.
In the box you get:
- 6 TorqueValves: (a reference valve, a clear valve, a deep valve, a balanced valve, a smooth valve and a bliss valve)
- A TorqueValet with built-in wrench
- 5 sizes of ergonomic passive noise reduction silicone ear tips
- 1 pair of comply S-200 high performance memory foam ear tips
- 1 pair of soft silicone stabilizer ring for maximum in-ear support
- A lightweight, protective travel case
- A 2 year warranty (when purchased from authorized dealer)
With the exception of the TorqueValves, the earbuds and inclusions are pretty typical of a pair of high-end earbuds. Thing is, these earbuds are all about the TorqueValves. So let’s talk about them a bit.
Each of the six included pair of TorqueValves is designed for a certain type of musical style and listening taste. Of course, this is entirely subjective and…that’s the point. Ideally, someone buying these earbuds will set aside the time it takes to try each pair of TorqueValves with an assortment of different types of music. It is possible someone might find a set of TorqueValves that, for them, work well with all sorts of music but, for others certain TorqueValves may be preferable for different types of music or different listening sessions. That’s what I mean about the learning curve.
The good news is that all TorqueValves are color coded with specific, easy to understand icons. So long as you have memorized the key or have one accessible, you will be able to best understand what each pair of TorqueValves are designed for. At first I worried that this might cause me, someone who has a serious degree of color deficiency, some difficulties. Fortunately, the colors are bright enough that, so long as I have a guide in front of me, I can determine which TorqueValves is which.
Here’s a grid to show you what I mean.
The original version of these earphones shipped with three TorqueValves – red, black, and yellow.
The red TorqueValves are considered the “Reference Valve” version. These have a flat EQ response.
The black TorqueValves are considered the “Clear Valve” version. These offer a slightly elevated high-end response.
The third of the originals are the yellow TorqueValves. These are the “Deep Valve” version. They boost the bass and Pull back a bit on the treble.
We then come to the three new TorqueValves that ship with this model.
The green TorqueValve is the “Balanced Valve.” They boost the bass and treble a bit and back off slightly on the mids. It is subtle but if you listen closely to those compared to the red TorqueValves you can hear a slight difference.
The blue TorqueValve is the “Smooth Valve.” It boosts the bass boost but has a smoother response than the yellow, the original that is similar to this one.
The TorqueValves that offered the most interest to me was the purple TorqueValves. This is considered the “Bliss Valve” and is tuned to offer the best sound for trance and Electronica. I spend a lot of listening time in this style of music so having TorqueValves designed for this type of music made me rather happy. From a tuning perspective this TorqueValves boosts mids and leaves the bass and treble flat.
Overall the difference from one TorqueValve to another is rather subtle. If the headphones came with only one you would either like or dislike the sound. Because you get all of the TorqueValves however, you can do a compare and contrast. When you do, you can hear the difference. The challenge here, of course, is that, by having each Valve tuned in a specific manner there really isn’t one that serves as a jack-of-all ears. You WILL want to swap between Valves and that can become a pain. That noted, by providing interchangeable TorqueValves, the Torque t103z let you determine the sound you want coming from your earphones. That is an amazing concept!
Yes, the earphones are a bit on the pricey side. And yes, the earphones take some time to master the learning curve. and yes, the earphones can take more maintenance than a pair that simply requires you to plug in and listen. But these are among the coolest earbuds I have ever tried and, best of all, they sound fantastic! Once you determine which TorqueValve to use, of course.
Source: Manufacturer supplied review sample
What I Like: Built well; In line remote and microphone; Interchangeable TorqueValves let you adjust the sound of the earphones; Excellent sound!
What Needs Improvement: Pricey; Learning curve; Takes time to swap TorqueValves.