ROCK JAW Hydra V2 Review
Thanks to ROCK JAW for the sample.
First Impressions: These have the same box as did the Arcana V2 so make more or less the exact same impression. Though the Hydra, while a cooler name just do not look anything like as pretty as the Arcana V2’s do. Those things are lush, these are a not ugly or anything but provoke nothing more than a meh. Still after how impressive the Arcana was I’m excited to see what there can too. Given they sit at exactly the same price I’m unsure how they will be differentiated.
In the ears and I’ve worked out how they are differentiated. These are WAAAAAAAAAY more bassy. A considerably more bass centric sound at work here. Though I am wondering if it’s the same driver employed, the detail levels seem equally as good. Burn in time.
Source: FiiO E7/E9 combo, Hisoundaudio Studio V 3rd Anv., HiFiMAN HM-601, 1G Ipod Shuffle, Nexus 5.
Lows: They are big. By big I don’t quite mean the crazy level as was the Adagio III but well, there is a bloody lot of it. Thankfully for havening cranked up the quantity it is somewhat softened from the aggressiveness and eagerness of the Arcana. It’s still got plenty of bounce and for its size, pretty good agility. Its depth could do with reaching a bit lower but for this price I feel I’m really asking for too much. This much, this controlled, more depth would just be asking for it to flab all over the place. With that said, what I find here isn’t the most tuneful bass. It is more than a dash monotone like some relentless low end sub that lives in a resonant point in a room. Yes its got great solidity but it’s just that same note over and over again regardless of the song at play. It’s quite annoying.
Still, I’m no basshead and the Hydra isn’t made with me in mind. Going for this monotone, resonant monster presentation makes what is a rather cheap IEM, give you some right ball kicking bass. Throwing audiophile speak out of the way the bass as presented here, its explosively powerful and teens across the world will likely behold it in awe of its aggression.
Mids: On paper the mids are pretty good. Rather like their siblings, the Arcana V2 but here the main difference is that the bass here is so dialled up. The mids then are pushed relatively into the background and for me that sucks. Otherwise they are a fraction on the thick but reasonably cleanly delivered beside that bass. They have a good creaminess to them, nice to see after so much of late has felt aiming for a more dry to play up their “clarity” when this is more human. However in absolute detail terms they are reasonable.
The big issue though is they are so behind that massive bass. Sure bassheads will be happy but I’d be lying if I said I was.
Highs: Like the mids the highs here are simply there to accompany the bass. Detail retrieval, like the mids again is fair. Still these seem to roll off and lack any semblance of bighty aggressiveness. I don’t normally want those aspects but at this point I think I’m just looking for something to pay attention to other than the bass. On the plus side, if you’re really treble sensitive this is highly inoffensive. I will grant, Owl City’s “Cave In” did sound great on them and it does go to show that despite not being obvious about it, there is a pretty fair level of detail and quality to the highs.
Soundstage: They don’t have the stellar instrument separation that the Arcana’s have but here is still rather good. The sound staging too is rather broad in its presentation. Not so much in height but width and depth were both rather pleasing to the ear. Just don’t get too caught up in wanting to place each and everything at work. It’s there in a nicely size environment.
Fit: Excellent. Worn up or down these were highly unfussed about how to get them seated. I got no driver flex or any air pressure issues either, so an all-round thumbs up.
Comfort: Likewise with the fit there were effortless. Silicon or foam tips it was a shove in and done. Well aside from bass mountain kicking me in the head anyway.
Microphonics: Even worn down there was hardly any microphonics. I’d still suggest wearing up and there is no chin slider but for these opposed to wearing things up, you’ll get along just fine with these.
Phone use: I gave my sister a ring and she seemed to indicate she could hear me fine. I’m not sure how well as she did have to ask me to repeat myself once or twice. Still, I am sure that they would do the job and of course, I could hear her perfectly. Naturally the play/pause/skip button worked fine too on my Nexus 5.
Amped/Unamped: Well, I actually liked how these sounded out of the phone more than out of more beefy sources. The bass took a valium, stopped its relentless pounding and seemed that bit more tuneful, its gently calmed nature got more pleasing. Given that they come with a microphone they clearly have phone use in mind. These VERY much suited running out of my humble Nexus 5. Pairing up to a more powerful amps just made them so over powered, like putting an F1 car engine in a Fiat Punto. It just can’t properly handle it and so going lurching from extreme to extreme. If you buy a pair I’d strongly suggest not bothering to try and amp these, it does them zero favours.
Isolation: Really not bad at all for a dynamic. They are pretty sealed, yet gave none of the corresponding driver flex/ air pressure issues and managed to isolate very well. Sure it’s not up to BA standards but its damn close. I’d be fine using these on a bus or out and about in traffic. I’d even be okay with the odd Tube trip or short flight too. Please remember, with them in look where the hall you’re going if you would like to remain in one piece.
Build Quality: Like their siblings, I quite like them. I like braided then wrapped cables and the little buds seem nicely constructed too. I’d still want them to live in a real case rather than the baggy they come with mind.
Accessories: Meh. You get 3 pair of tips and a little baggy. The tips I don’t mend only 3 as I’ve never had something with only 3 and had much problem but little baggies always seem stingy. They are a nice pair of earphones, they deserve a real little hard case.
Value: Great and not so great. If you’re a total basshead then great, otherwise for the same money you can get the Arcanna V2 so frankly why would you buy these?
Conclusion: So you have probably picked up that I don’t really have much love for the Hydra V2. It’s not that it’s a bad product, but…….well I just do not get along with its tuning. I’m not faulting the driver or their build; there is nothing fundamentally bad about them. The issue is, unless you want gobs of bass their siblings just do things better. The bass here is dialled up so and it is so aggressively punchy that I found myself track skipping the instant anything bouncy came on. Even using them out of fractionally mellowing Nexus 5 these were still a rip roaring set of bass cannons. That really sums the Hydra V2 up nicely I think. It is an unadulterated bass cannon and if that’s what you’re after then I send you my heartiest congratulations. I’m sure that the two of you will be very happy together.
So while I cannot see the Hydra V2 as being the best way to introduce the audio community to Rockjaw’s offerings I can see them sitting in John Lewis or an Apple shop. Sitting there and appealing visually, appealing to the mainstream crowd that most certainly do want what this has to offer. They will absolutely adore its vigorousness. They will marvel at its viciously punchy and aggressive bass. To that crowd I can see the Hydra V2 being a big hit.