Sunday, 7 April 2013

Rock It Sounds R-50 Review

Rock It Sounds R-50 Review

Thanks to Topdogheadphones for the sample.

First Impressions:  The box seems tad uninspiring.  Opening up and its again fairly uninteresting compaired with some offerings but who cares about a fancy box really.  The buds look rather nice, and I do like that braided cable on them.  It reminds me lots of the one on the DBA-02, braided and super flexible.  It’s nice to see a little case included too in the back.  From what I have read these should be good enough that you will really want to look after them.

Listening time and I made a point of going with the warm HM-601.  The driver inside is often a bit bright so I think it should suit.  Hmmm I like.  Its not quite as energetic as I expected but the clarity is pretty nice.  Not entirely GR01 unlike and that I really enjoyed how it sounded.  I think it may need fished out and compared.  Not an instant wow I’m getting but these are swiftly growing in me.  What is it they cost again?

Source:  5G iPod Video line out through a Practical Devices XM5 with LM6171 opp amps, Hisoundaudio Studio V 3rd Anv, FiiO E7/E9 and 1G Ipod Shuffle.

Lows:  So everyone knows there is a TWFK driver in them, and probably everyone reading this is at least passingly familiar with them.  Probably have heard one actually as they are in a heap of things.  Practically every dual driver BA set up has them inside.  They are not bass monsters and no amount of tweaking will alter that.  So these don’t try but they aren’t like the alder TWFK things.  They were rather slanted to the highs and the R-50 are much more like the GR01 in that the low end isn’t super-duper ultra-fast.  They have tuned it to slow a tad and fill out somewhat.  Of course it’s still a BA so is most certainly fast but it’s got a good bit of body to it.  Less in the way of punchy and more soft expansion.  I think of all the TWFK this has the biggest, most full bodied bass.  Its excellent and I really never felt the need for a bass boost.  It doesn’t however dig the deepest.  The trade is you get that expansiveness for agility and the R-50 as I found in my initial impressions isn’t as lively and attention grabbing as say the DBA-02.  They weren’t “rocking” me like the DBA-02 can but the bass here is of a vastly more liveable sort.  It’s much more versatile too in that can actually cope with slower, or more mellow stuff in a way TWFK things don’t always like to. 

Quantity wise it’s still a ton less than cheap dynamics will likely give you but I think we’re getting into the realm of even normal people being happy with it.  I never felt the need to hit the bass boost button.

Mids:  Very good.  That is a given though so how do they compare to others?  Well these again ore much more similar to the GR01 tonally than they are to the q-JAYS or DBA-02.  These have more of that smoother, natural, “organic” quality to them.  They don’t love doing the airiest of vocals but they kinda smash it for the money.  They also don’t quite seem to sound as full as the GR01 nor have the lovable whimsy of the q-JAYS.  I just can’t put my finger on it.  Where I felt these were at their best was with things a hint more languid.  Jason Mraz’s “Plane” sounded so perfectly paced and flowing.  On the others they have a tendency to want to go faster, no matter what and the R-50 didn’t make me feel that.  It has the most ever so faint reticence to it.  It seems ta always want to hold back just that slightest bit.  The big upside to that is I couldn’t make it even hint at sibilance even on the most sibilant tracks ever.  It seems funny describing a TWFK as a bit slow and as though its holding back.  Vocally I felt even had a slight veil and lacks the very explicit clarity of its kin.  It’s all relative so there was still plenty of detail to be found in there and something that you would not only enjoy hearing all day, it’s something your ears will happily listen to too.

Highs:  TWFK stuff is known for being bright and brittle in the highs if you ask me but the R-50 continues a theme.  It has that hint of softness, that reticence and the highs are the most muted of them.  That said it’s hardly what I’d call a treble muted IEM.  The overall balance is pretty natural sounding more that strictly “neutral” but no one’s going to mistake this for an IE7.  The treble is pretty present and clarity wise is still what you’d expect of a BA IEM.  Crisp and pin sharp.  It doesn’t have the brutality of some if its kin and it doesn’t consequently hurl detail at you.  The treble is more subtle and while some might like it to be more aggressive I very much liked it.  Even on treble heavy, loud splashy treble stuff they never went to that aggressive hurl it at you place.  The detail is all pretty much in there and arguably more realistic than almost all its relatives.  Most importantly it is very liveable with, again its closest to the GR01 in quantity and style.  It is what I’d say is for a TWFK fairly relaxed but compared to most things, particularly most dynamics it’s going to be brutally hard on bad recordings with scratchy highs.  You know the scratchy highs you get if you use a low bit rate for music.

Soundstage:  As you expect from this oh so familiar driver set up is not vast.  It’s not very big, bigger than most TWFK but no comparison for say a big dynamic.  It’s more closed in and intimate.  Instrument separation while very good isn’t as overly explicit as its kin tend to be.  At times I even thought things are became a little blended placement wise.

Fit:  At first I had issue with the ear guides.  Not sure still that I love them but they are their anyway.  I took a little wiggling to get them where I wanted and while reviewing you’re pulling them out your ears a lot so this got annoying.  I cured it by slapping on some complys.  Still I felt these wanted to sit shallower due to that ear guide.  Normally I like to shove BA stuff in deep and with the foamies on there that was easy to do.

Comfort:  Very good once I got them sat right.  Ear guides again for me wearer the impediment to this being effortless.  A shame they don’t seem removable but no one else seems to have had any issue with them.

Cable:  Very much like the cable, super-duper soft and flexible.  Seems fairly sturdy too.  Chin sliders a bit naff but tbh does anyone use them?  With this cable there is no need anyway.

Microphonics. None.

Amped/Unamped:  They ran just fine out of any source.  Some improvements from an amp but nothing dramatic.  What I did find nice was that you could use the ety 75 ohm adapter to a moderately positive effect.  Many multi driver things hate that but they cleaned up a touch.  Let me tell you on a noisy source like the 1G Ipod Shuffle all that rubbish vanished and I even think the highs cleaned up too.  Yey for additional impedance.  On the whole these ran just fine out of anything.  Of course they are easily good enough to justify an amp at some point but I’d go for an impedance adapter first.

Isolation:  Depending on how for you shove them in your ears this will vary.  The same for tip choice.  The fact is though they are BA things and if you want will isolate excellently.  I’d have no trouble flying with these in or a daily tube commute.  As always, use these and you’ll need to look where you are going because the first you’ll hear that bus is via bone conduction, through your skull as you bounce of it. 

Accessories:  3 pairs of tips, an aeroplane adapter and a little case.

Value:  I may have been a bit more wishy washy up till now. As TWFK IEM’s go these are not the best at anything bar one, that is their value.  These are for some reason a good deal cheaper than all the others.  They sound excellent for the money and have got to be just now one of the best value IEM’s out there.

Conclusion:  I think it’s apparent I’ve not been blown away by these.  Of all the TWFK drivered IEM’s out there these sit somewhere in the middle of them all.  They don’t have the hurl treble in your faceness of the DBA-02, the q-JAYS vivaciousness or the GR01’s more plentiful bass.  These remind me a bit of the Brainwavz B2 but I haven’t one here to compare.  So I find the R-50 is not exactly a master of any one aspect.  Of course it’s still sounds very good, all TWFK IEM’s do (well bar maybe the UE700) they all just do things differently rather than being better per say.  The same driver can’t be tuned to be all things to all men.  So this is tuned to be something in the middle.  It’s the most sedate of the TWFK IEM’s.

The thing about being in the middle is you don’t wow.  You don’t stand out.  Like the first time anyone hears a CK10 they think “Wow! That is some spectacular treble.” Same with the DBA-02, they make an amazing first impression.  The R-50 doesn’t do that.  It takes a little bit more time to sink in.  It’s more even handed and balanced and is something that is much more liveable with every day.  Its evenness meant it was pretty happy playing any style you wanted to, at any volume for any duration.  Not something I’ve found with all IEM’s.  You know those ones you hear and think WOW and love everything but an hour later your ears feel exhausted?  The little R-50 I found I could slap in and be happy to hear for hours.  That’s its real appeal out of all the other dual BA’s out there.  This is commensurately listenable.  It’s ironic it’s from a company called Rock-It as they don’t rock.

The other big strength of the R-50 is its price.  How and why it costs significantly less than the others I don’t know.  It’s not like any of them are really “better” than the others they just do different things differently and one will suit different people more or less than the others.  The R-50 is a bit in the middle so is more of an all-rounder than most of them too so a good one to go for if you’re just to have one.  That it’s just now coming in at just £80 means it’s pretty much hammering the competition.  It’s plain and simple one of the very best value propositions.  Sound wise it’s a TWFK and all that goes with it yet it is substantially cheaper than all its cousins.  Sure the build isn’t at CK10 levels but they sound practically flawless for a price that’s a bit crazy.  For the money these are getting into the realms of truly excellent sounding audio quality and if you want to get something noticeably better you’ll be required to spend at least two or three times as much.  This is world class sound quality for the cost of a night out.

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