ROCK JAW ARCANA V2 Review
Thanks to ROCK JAW for the sample.
First Impressions: It’s a pretty little box. Has a very tactile natural card feel to it too. The buds once out the box are rather lovely. It’s curious that they have ROCKJAW carved or lasered into the side, the font looks more casual but the cleanliness of the lines on the Arcana V2 seems far more mature. The wood finish and the silvered metal offsets are very much more grown up. Cable feels nice too.
Right so in the ears and it’s a very crisp clean sound here. Bass is quite big yet it’s the treble that’s grabbing my attention. Gosh these are rather W shaped and attention grabbing. Very dynamic and forward in their presentation.
Source: FiiO E7/E9 combo, Hisoundaudio Studio V 3rd Anv., HiFiMAN HM-601, 1G Ipod Shuffle, Nexus 5.
Lows: Hard. The bass here is not only of a rather large size but for this money seems very hard too. Its potency is highly impressive but I have to confess it could have done with a bit of softenss. My god its potency is immense. It’s so wildly excitable that it loves to show off, it’s a like an energetic puppy that has grown, it’s still got the desire to hurl its self with abandon. It’s a most joyous style to behold before you. The bass has quite impeccably controlled notes, maybe little timbraly off but hey these cost £40. Side by side the star in this range, the GR06, I can say that the bass here is better. It’s got better control and simply can better keep control of an articulated note. It’s a most impressive technical achievement.
However, this super hard and rather large, party time all the time bass is tiring. It’s that same excitable puppy that you love so much at first but it wants to keep going and I found my ears wanted a little rest. It’s so hard, so potent, so bombastic, so all the time.
Mids: The mids are a touch behind that bass and the treble, just a touch as its very much W shaped. They are perfectly crystal clear too. Everything is very open and very explicit to the point of at time feeling hyper detailed. Everything, every nuance, every intonation are simply hurled at you with the all the passion and energy the Arcana’s can muster. Woooo hooooooo party time!!!!!!!! Anyone remember DJ Sammy’s “Boys of Summer” if you do that I think would be their theme song. It’s not that don’t do a very pleasant slower vocal too but, they always feel like the want to crank the volume and start belting things out. They just yearn to go faster in the most riotous and intensely captivating fashion. It feels desperate to show off and please you.
Tonally vocals can lack a bit of width, they are rather focused and forward. The detail levels are superb though and even best the GR06 in this regard. So it’s very impressive technically.
Highs: Dazzling. They have the same very detailed and very up front style as found elsewhere. They are scintillating and positively dazzling, dazzlingly bright and sparkly. My god it sparkles, sparkles to the point of literally dazzling your ears. There is such an abundance of energy from the Arcana’s. While I can in no way question its detail levels, it’s fantastic at this price. Just top notch and again I’d go so far as to say it beats the GR06. The down side though is that it’s so enthusiastic that it’s exhausting. Which a few hours in my ears and I find I’ve stopped caring at just how much detail these have to offer (and it’s a lot) that I have started track skipping until something desperately slow and genteel plays.
Don’t get me wrong, the treble quality here is a jaw dropper but oh my, a little valium wouldn’t hurt.
Soundstage: It’s alright, nothing special. The instrument separation is as you might expect with a W shaped sound, very good. Instruments are well separated and are easy to place out before and around you. The size of the stage is fine, vocals tend to be a bit in your face and the rest feel near but surrounding you. It’s a pretty enclosed dynamic.
Fit: Great. They are quite sealed for a dynamic but even with the silicone tips I just stuck in and that was it, tiny bit of air pressure but only just.
Comfort: Great. Again these were a really easy one. Slapped in ears, up or down and they seemed perfectly happy and were physically very comfortable to use for hours.
Microphonics: Worn up, nothing. Worn down, the lack of a neck synch gave me pause but the cable was super. Pretty much no microphonics. The braided the coved cable did its job well.
Phone use: These somewhat unusually had the mic on the left rather than the right. Not you cant swap the channels if you care. On giving my sister a ring to test the mic I was assured I could be heard just fine and naturaly I heard her fine too, this was wearing up so the mic was rather high. Nevertheless it would seem that they all worked as you would hope them to. The play/pause/skip button worked just fine too with my Nexus 5.
Amped/Unamped: These did improve notably with a big amp. They rather liked the greater control it afforded them but the bass also was more solid with the big amp. Not that it wasn’t plenty hard and punchy even out of a phone. On the whole, if I’m really honest, I think they are made with a phone in mind and the phones lesser driving abilities makes for a fractionally more tame beast. The bass is less potent, the treble slows a fraction and the mids lose a bit of exuberance. It’s still a very dynamic monster that will love to thrill you. I would bet that with a thick, slow phone would pair up excellently with the Arcana.
This trend continued if you add in additional impedance. I found that with an extra 75 ohms that they tamed and refined considerably. For me this was great but you’d lose the mic and button control. However if you are buying the Arcana, it is because you want its dynamism so why would you want to tame it.
Isolation: For a dynamic rather good. I’d be happy using as a normal commuter IEM. Probably not flight or Tube but still vastly sufficient to make you road kill if you don’t pay attention.
Build Quality: I really like it. It looks very well made and that braided covered cable feels nice too. You could easily pass these of as something you paid considerably more for.
Accessories: Well a little skimpy. You get 3 pairs of tips and little baggy. Granted you don’t actually need anything more but I’d be heading to fleabay for a little hard case I think.
Value: Sound per £ its awesome. The detail levels are I think the best I’ve met so far for this price. That it actually beats the GR06 is no casual thing. I don’t know if I would want to live with its excitably all the time, either way you get masses of audio quality for not a lot of money. Given Christmas is nearing id suggest order a pair sooner rather than later, I would not be surprised if these sell out at lightning speed.
Conclusion: I am a bit of an old fart when it comes to audio. I like more sedate and smooth as a rule. I like for things to a be a little nonchalant and relaxed, sure I’ll play that note but in my own time. I like it when a note lingers just a bit and decays a way. It makes for a nicely smooth and gentle on the ear presentation. The Arcana V2 however is pretty much the antithesis of that. It likes to take a note and hurl it about. Its constantly is pulling at the leash, yearning to go faster. It simply can’t stop itself from letting you know how eager and enthusiastic it is. We have an out and out party time machine. It is just that simple.
The down side to these acoustic choices is that it just isn’t one to sit still. Gentle and lingering songs just want to go faster. They just can’t convince me they truly want to labour over a gentle and languid note. Still the detail levels are exemplary and will help you pick out everything. In this regard it actually bests the longstanding GR06, which is a pretty serious achievement. Nevertheless these are just so thrilling that that after a while the more airy and gentility of the 6 is looking pretty appealing.
If you want the wild, scintillating and wondrous cacophony to be found here then congratulations. You will with the Arcana V2 an absolute gem of an IEM and for you once you get a little hard case you will have a fantastic little set up. Something for the gym, something to get the blood pumping and to pull you ever onwards, the Arcana V2 will do a magnificent job of it. It’s a little rambunctious wonder of a thing, spectacular and lively by the bucket load.