Head-Fi.org › Head Gear › Headphones › In-Ear › ROCK JAW ALFA GENUS

ROCK JAW ALFA GENUS

Posted

Pros: Clarity, build, light weight, value, sound signature, filter tuning system

Cons: No middle ground between bassy and audiophile filters, no carry pouch, L/R markings hard to read

PREAMBLE

 

INTRODUCING ROCK JAW’S ALFA GENUS SINGLE DYNAMIC DRIVER IEM

 

The Alfa Genus From Rock Jaw Alfa Genus Paired With Fiio X5

 

RockJaw UK is a relatively new headphone/earphone manufacturer to the Head-Fi scene, so it was with particular interest that I noticed their early posts on the forums, and when they asked for potential reviewers to test their audio product range, but more importantly wanted active feedback to shape their tuning toward the final product configuration – I immediately jumped at the chance.

 

I received the courier pack just under two weeks ago – and after quickly trying the other products sent (most of which needed quite a few changes in various forms), I’ve mainly used the Alfa Genus IEMs – which is what I’m reviewing today.  I’d estimate that so far I’ve logged around 50-60 hours with the Alfa Genus.  I intend to log many more.  Read on – and find out why!

 

I’ve listed price at  USD $84 (current Amazon UK price is 49 GBP at time of writing) – however this is not what I paid for them (they are a review sample).

 

DISCLAIMER

 

I was provided the Alfa Genus as a review sample.  I am in no way affiliated with RockJaw - and this review is my honest opinion of the Alfa Genus.  I would like to thank Bob at RockJaw for making this opportunity available.

 

PREAMBLE - 'ABOUT ME'.   (or a base-line for interpreting my thoughts and bias)

 

I'm a 47 year old music lover.  I don't say audiophile – I just love my music.  Over the last couple of years, I have slowly changed from cheaper listening set-ups to my current set-up.  I vary my listening from portable (HSA Studio V3, Fiio X5, and iPhone4) to my desk-top's set-up (PC > coax > NFB-12 > LD MKIV > HP).  My main full sized headphones at the time of writing are the Senn HD700 and HD600, Beyer T1 and DT880.  Most of my portable listening is done with IEMs - and up till now it has mainly been with the Dunu DN-1000 or the HSA BA100 IEMs. A full list of the gear I have owned (past and present is listed in my Head-fi profile).

 

I have very eclectic music tastes listening to a variety from classical/opera and jazz, to grunge and general rock.   I listen to a lot of blues, jazz, folk music, classic rock, indie and alternative rock.  I am particularly fond of female vocals.  I tend toward cans that are relatively neutral/balanced.  I am neither a bass nor treble head (you could argue that I do like clarity though).  I am not treble sensitive (at all), and in the past have really enjoyed headphones like the K701, SR325i, and of course the DT880.

 

For the purposes of this review - I used the Alfa Genus straight from the headphone-out socket of my Fiio X5, iPhone 4 and Studio V3.  I did not bother with amping them, as IMO they do not benefit from additional amplification.  In the time I have spent with the Alfa Genus, I have noticed no change to the overall sonic presentation (I do not believe in 'night and day' burn-in).  I will allow that the more time I've have spent with these IEM's, the better they continue to sound to me.  Personally I think this is brain burn in - but I will respect others choice if they interpret this as physical burn-in.

 

This is a purely subjective review - my gear, my ears, and my experience.  Please take it all with a grain of salt - especially if it does not match your own experience.

 

THE REVIEW

 

PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES

 

The Alfa Genus arrived in a smart but simple (no frills) retail box – with an inner container housing the IEMs and accessories.  Rock Jaw have already stated that they are reviewing current packaging – and this is likely to change in the future.

 

Retail Box Front Retail Box Rear

 

The packaging I have is ideal for a retail presentation - an easy to display rectangular retail box - with an 'average' footprint. The retail box is easy to read, and contains the normal marketing type hook/message on the front “interchangeable sound tuning filters – your sound, your way”.  On the rear of the box is a lot of information including easy to read specifications.

 

Inner Storage Case Opened Sleeve Showing Accessories

 

The inner container is interesting – it’s plastic, but slides open to reveal the IEMs, tips and filters.  While I can’t really see people using this case for transportation –I think it would be ideal for longer term storage. There is no smaller carrying case for day to day storage or transport – but we understand from contact with Bob that they are looking to add this to their IEM range in the near future.

 

Accessory Package Alfa Genus - Profile Accessory Package Alfa Genus - Overhead

 

The accessory package is relatively small – 3 silicone tips (S, M, L), a shirt clip, and two sets of tuning filters.

 

Paper Manual Warning On Excessive Volume

 

In addition there is a comprehensive double A4 sized printed sheet with full instructions on use, maintenance, fit, and warning on excessive volume (a nice touch IMO).  The one thing I would change here is to maybe consider reducing the size of the guide to booklet size – and really think about whether to include the section on “running in process”.  Science tells us that there are little to no audible changes “burning-in” headphones – and the suggested 100 hours is IMO a little ridiculous.  I would personally like to see this left up to the user – and not suggested by the manufacturer – unless they have measurements that clearly show an audible change over time.

 

Filters For The Alfa Genus Alfa Genus With No Filter Attached


The two included filters are silver (enhanced bass), and ebony (‘audiophile’).  The difference with the filters is that the ebony ones have a very small vent between the two rings in the centre.  More on this later when I discuss the sound signature each conveys.

 

The shirt clip is a nice touch for those who need it – but personally I found it difficult to remove from the cable (very tight fit) – and would prefer it come as an included accessory rather than an attached one.

 

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

 

(From RockJaw)

Driver

8mm dynamic

Filters

Silver – enhanced bass, ebony balanced or ‘audiophile’ – detachable screw in

Impedance

16 ohm ± 15%

Frequency

20Hz – 20KHz

Sensitivity

108dB ± 3dB

Cable Length

1.2m

Plug

3.5mm gold plated

 

FREQUENCY GRAPHS

 

Silver Filter - Click For Larger Image Ebony Filter - Click For Larger Image


Just a quick note here – I asked for these from Bob, and duly received them – and Rock Jaw were quite happy for me to include these in my review.  It is refreshing to see a company willing to disclose (within reason) information that helps their potential customers in their decision making.  The graphs are raw data – but should convey a general idea of the tuning of the drivers with the two filters.

 

BUILD QUALITY

 

In communicating with Bob, it is clear that Rock Jaw’s underlying philosophy is to maximise (as much as possible) build quality, practicality, versatility and sonic ability – and to minimise anything which adds cost without benefit.  This shows clearly in the overall package.

 

The Alfa Genus appears solidly built using quality materials, and is very light weight (my digital scales show just 14-15g with fitted filter and large tips).  Comparatively, the BA100 is a similar weight, with the DN1000 coming in at almost double the weight at 26g.

 

The body of the Alfa Genus is made up of an ebony tone-wood shell, with an aluminium front face (which actually holds the driver).  The front face has a recessed thread to allow the filters to be attached.

 

Alfa Genus Ebony Wood And Aluminium Build Quality  Photo Courtesy Of Rock Jaw - Early Testing And Fitting Driver Units

 

The strain relief from the IEM housing is aluminium (rigid) with an added flexible rubber sheath.  This is really well thought out as it assists in both adjustment while wearing, and removal, without putting undue stress on the wires.  One criticism here is that the L/R indicators are printed white on a silver surface, and are extremely difficult to see – especially in low light.  I would prefer these to be much more visible.

 

Rear Of Alfa Genus - Note L/R Markings Splitter, Jack and Cable

 

The wire is a twisted pair (OFC) coated in a shiny PVC type sheath.  Although the wires are relatively thin, the twist and sheath add strength, and far for me (I wear over-ear), have very low microphonics.  I’ve been walking/jogging with these – and although I get the usual annoying foot-impact sound (bone induction) – actual cable microphonics are minimal.  The splitter is generic, rubber, small but functional.  There is no adjustable chin slider / cinch – which is a shame, as for some this will be even more important than a shirt clip.  This can be easily rectified with a little bit of DIY heatshrink – (the plug is small enough to slip this over).

 

The plug is a 90deg plug that is very petite – but does aid some DAPs which may not have a lot of room with their 3.5mm sockets – especially with covers attached.  The cable stress relief at plug and splitter is again generic – but adequate for normal wear and tear.  I genuinely like the cable – and only additional comment would be that I’d like to see some sort of attached cable tie – similar to the DN-1000.

 

FIT / COMFORT / ISOLATION

 

I have one ear canal slightly different to the other one (my right is very slightly smaller) - so I tend to find that usually single silicon flanges don't fit overly well.  The silicone tips included look similar to the Sony hybrid tips (no foam filling though) and fit the Alfa Genus extremely well.  I did have issues getting a full seal with them, but found over time that by utilising reasonably shallow insertion, the seal was actually better than a deeper insertion.  The tips are very comfortable for me, and because the Alfa Genus is so light, after a while I hardly know I’m wearing it.

 

With the stocks tips, isolation was OK – but not stellar.  With no music playing, I could hear people around me – but with music at a moderate level – they isolate reasonably well.

 

Test With Monster Super Tips Stock Tips

 

I tried some foam complies and also some Monster Super Tips to see if I could get a better seal.  I definitely achieved a better seal – but – the tips would not stay on the Alfa Genus when removing them from my ear.  There is not enough nozzle length, or maybe the nozzle itself is not wide enough, to successfully keep foam type tips intact on the IEM when a deep insertion is achieved.  The only way to achieve this in the current configuration is to push the tips all the way to the base of the nozzle.  Unfortunately (for the ebony filter), this blocks the filter port, and turns them into bass cannons.  A fix would be either using dampers rather than ports for tuning the filters, or positioning the port at the base of the filter.  Bob is already working on future fixes.

 

Even with a relatively shallow insertion, the Alfa Genus do not extend past my outer ear, and are so comfortable that I could sleep with these intact.

 

So what do these sound like ……… ?

 

SOUND QUALITY

 

The following is what I hear from the Alfa Genus.  YMMV – and probably will – as my tastes are likely different to yours (read the preamble I gave earlier for a baseline).

 

Tracks used were across a variety of genres – and can be viewed in this list http://www.head-fi.org/a/brookos-test-tracks.
 

Silver Filter – General

 

The silver filters – as long as you get a reasonable seal – are very warm and bass focused. For people that prefer a very bassy sound they may be ideal – but I found the bass overpowering.

 

With straight rock songs (3 Doors Down “Away From the Sun” / Alter Bridge “Broken Wings”) I just found that there was a lot of bass bleed into the lower mids, and the whole presentation became a little congested. 

 

Even on the Studio V (bright DAP) with Beth Hart’s “Lift’s You Up” (bright recording), the resulting presentation was quite warm and bass emphasised.  I have to admit though – this particular track wasn’t too bad – and there was a phenomenal bass slam with it.

 

Switching to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” was an eye opener with the silver filters.  There was enough sparkle and the vocals were actually quite clear – but the bass! – visceral is the only way to describe it.  I’d actually imagine that some rap, hip-hop, EDM, lovers who are true bassheads will really enjoy these.

 

In order to cover all genres, I also tried the silvers with some indie acoustic (Angus & Julia Stone and Yesper), some classical, opera, and some jazz (Portico Quartet and Miles Davis).  Again – a very warm presentation each time, with the mid-range (especially lower mids) politely subdued, and unfortunately a lot of the detail which I love these recordings for, somewhat pushed to the background.  There is enough sparkle to retain some interest – but these filters are just a little too much for me personally.  I have no doubt though that some people will love this sound.

 

For the rest of this review, I gratefully returned to using the ebony filters.  And what a transition!

 

Ebony Filter - General

 

I’ll make this a short summary before I go into more detail and specific genres.  The ebony filters give the Alfa Genus a far more balanced frequency response with a brighter than strictly neutral tonality.  Bass is definitely there, but now it is fast, and detailed, and clean – reminds me very much of the bass on a well amped K701 (quality rather than quantity).  The mid-range is very clean, and very clear, with slightly more emphasis on the upper mids, and a very clear and reasonably extended treble.

 

Note : At this point all further testing was done with the ebony filters fitted

 

Overall Detail / Clarity

 

For this I used both Steely Dan’s “Gaucho” and Dire Strait’s “Sultans of Swing” as there is a lot of micro detail in both tracks, and the recording quality for both is excellent.

The Alfa Genus displayed reasonable detail retrieval with a crisp and bright sound, and I was actually very much reminded of Grado or AKG type mids – which just have the ability to captivate and hold my attention.  The more I listened to these tracks, I realised that the emphasis is probably more on the upper mid-range than the actual treble itself.  Cymbals and high-hats are definitely presented, but not where most of the focus lies.

 

Sound-stage & Imaging

 

For this I used Amber Rubarth’s binaural recording “Tundra”.  I used this because it’s a pretty simple way to get comparative data on sound-stage.

 

It’s usually difficult to get a reasonable stage size from an inner ear monitor.  The stage is often quite small / close – with an average impression of space.  The Alfa Genus for me is a typical IEM in this regard.  The sound – while crystal clear (the drums are fantastic in this piece BTW), is still very much ‘in your head’ – but still very enjoyable.  Directional queues are good – so for a value priced IEM its imaging is actually pretty good, and with the ebony filters it’s an enjoyable journey.

 

I also played Loreena McKennitt’s “Dante’s Prayer” and the Alfas were once again extremely clear – but where full sized open headphones (HD600 / DT880) give this track a wonderful sense of space, the Alfas were far more intimate.  I also like this track for its ability to portray a sense of realism.  The applause at the end of the track is so well presented that with some headphones (HD600) I can actually close my eyes and imagine myself in the crowd.  While the Alfa didn’t get me quite there – it definitely gave an inkling of space with this section – so that is an achievement in itself.

 

Genre Specific Notes

 

Again for tracks, albums, artists – please refer to this list:  http://www.head-fi.org/a/brookos-test-tracks

 

RockIMO the Alfa Genus loves this genre with the ebony filters.  Guitars are crisp, clear, captivating.  Bass is present – but doesn’t overpower other frequencies, and the driver itself is fast and keeps up with more complex passages quite well.  Both male and female vocals are presented incredibly clearly – and always seem to be brought to the foreground.

 

Alt RockAgain a winner with the ebony filters.  Pink Floyd’s “Money” is a complex track that can trip a headphone up with its many contrasts – the Alfa Genus just took it in its stride – with perhaps my only complaint being that the very forward mid-range did portray just a touch of stridency during the sax and guitar solos.  With Porcupine Tree’s “Trains” however, there was no issues at all – the tonality was almost perfect for me – with the only thing I would have really liked being just a touch more mid-bass for impact.

 

Jazz / Blues / Bluegrassclean, clear, crisp – great transparency and cohesion.  Focus definitely on the full mid-range with Miles Davis’ “So What” being rendered with a  great deal of focus.

 

Rap / EDM / PopProbably lacking a little impact with Eminem’s “Lose Yourself”, and it does detract a little from presentation of this genre.  Lorde’s “Royals” on the other hand has copious amounts of bass – so this driver (in this configuration) has no issues with sub-bass.  Again with EDM tracks like Lindsay Stirling’s “Electric Daisy Violin” I was left just wishing for a little more impact – it doesn’t need a lot, but just a touch more bass would help impact and immersion.  With most of these genres I’m finding really clear (still forward though) vocal presentation which you just don’t expect at this price point.

 

Classical / OperaThe Alfas handle this genre very well.  Ideally I’d like a greater sense of space, but it’s very easy with the right music to get lost and lose track of time, and that is a pretty good indicator in my book.  I started listening to Zoe Keating’s “Escape Artist” (modern classical cello) and before I knew it, I’d gone through 3 tracks and almost 20 minutes had elapsed.  Wilhelm Kempff’s rendition of Moonlight Sonata was equally compelling.  But again – I did get the feeling that with Moonlight Sonata that the mids just might be a touch more forward and energetic than ideal.

 

AMPLIFICATION REQUIREMENTS

 

The Alfa Genus is easily powered straight out of virtually any portable device, and I didn’t experience any issues with thin-ness or hiss from the 3 DAPs I tested (iPhone 4, Studio V3, or Fiio X5).  Of the three – my personal preference with the ebony filters would go to the X5 – as it seems to add just a smidge of bottom end which is missing.

 

 

RESPONSE TO EQ?

 

IMO - the Alfa Genus don't need a lot of tweaking.  But it's always nice to see what they are capable of if you do decide to apply EQ.  So I switched back to the iPhone with the Equaliser app, and gave them a little increase in the mid-bass – and they responded extremely well.  The addition of a little more mid-bass impact worked well for me.

 

COMPARISON OTHER IEMs – DN-1000 & BA100

 

DN-1000, Alfa Genus and BA100 Test Rig - Simple But Excellent Sonically

 

Track – a favourite – Pearl Jam’s “Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town”

 

Vs HiSound Audio's BA-100

Both are very, very clear – with a lovely balanced presentation.  The major difference I think is in timbre and body – with the Alfa’s having a slightly fuller overall presentation, and the BA100s having a little more treble emphasis, and a little less mid-range.  I like both – and could easily live with either.

 

Vs Dunu DN-1000

Again, both very clear headphones, but the balance with the Dunus, the additional bass impact, and the added sense of space is simply superior.  But let’s remember the DN1000 is a triple driver hybrid at almost 2.5 times the price of the Alfa Genus.  The Alfa Genus does have a feeling of extra clarity over the Dunus – and if there was a little additional bass impact, my personal preferences might place these two IEMs a lot closer.  And that really says volumes about the $84 Alfa Genus – it really is tuned well IMO.

 

QUICK NOTES ON MY EXPERIENCE WITH ROCK JAW

 

Although I’ve only been conversing with Bob from Rock Jaw for a couple of months, I can already see that this is a company to watch for the future.  They aren’t simply rebranding/repackaging a generic driver with a few tweaks.  They are instead developing and tuning their own drivers, and they are genuinely interested in working with the community to improve their products.  They’ve listened to all of our suggestions, and actively introducing changes for their current models.  One of these changes will be the addition of another filter for the Alfa Genus – which should sit sonically between the silver and ebony filter- giving a little more bass impact, but retaining the clarity and overall balance which is very much the trademark signature of the Alfa Genus.  Other changes will include carry pouches, and possibly more variety in tips.

 

Rock Jaw have also been very open regarding information they’ve provided to date – and have dealt with all of the early testers in a very open and encouraging manner.

 

Because of my location, I have offered to pay for freight, and have also offered to return all of the samples following the reviews.  Rockjaw has politely but firmly declined these offers – telling me instead that the feedback we are giving will be invaluable for their future development.

 

ALFA GENUS - SUMMARY

 

Firstly my apologies.  Those who’ve seen my reviews before will know that I tend to write reasonably long rambling ones.  So if you’re still with me to the end – thanks.

 

The Alfa Genus is a light weight, well built, tuneable IEM (via filters) which has no real business being priced at its current price point – to me it represents incredible value.  The sound signature (ebony filters) is very much mid-range focused, but with a bright clear presentation.  It is an energetic IEM with an intimate presentation that in some ways reminds me of my HD700 (without the similar bass impact).

 

The litmus question for me would be “would I buy these for myself”, and “would I recommend them to my family”.  The answer to this question is a resounding YES – and in fact I have already asked Bob if he would accept payment for this pair.  I really do like them that much.  Of course Rockjaw has declined – but that’s a debate I will have with him again at another time.

 

The only caution I would suggest with these is that if you are treble sensitive, it may pay to consider something a little darker in nature.  Grado, Beyer or AKG lovers may find them ideal though.

 

Congrats Bob and Rock Jaw - these are a winner in my book.

 

RECOMMENDATIONS TO ROCK JAW

 

Here is a very short list of what I’d change if I could.  Some of this has been discussed with Rock Jaw already, and is already down for future alteration.

 

  • Change paperwork to remove “burn-in” information
  • Add carry pouch if it fits price profile
  • Add 3rd filter to bridge gap between “extreme bass” and “audiophile”
  • Change filters to use dampers – or port filter tuning ports at base – so foam tips can be used
  • Add chin slider to cable
  • Make L/R marking on Alfa Genus easier to read

 

Posted

Pros: Light-Weight; Changeable Filters; Great Frequency Response; Sturdy Cable; Tuneable (see text)

Cons: Filters Loosen Easily; Slightly Microphonic Cable; Bloated Bass or No Bass; Needs One More Set O' Filters And More Tips

“First in last out!”

While the above makes for an excellent military motto, it really sucks for an audio component reviewer.  I must sincerely apologize to Rock Jaw, Rockbob, and the folks waiting on reviews for my tardiness.  Unfortunately, while being one of the first of the review teams to receive the Alfa Genus IEMs; work, health, and family issues prevented me from setting aside adequate time to sit down and record my thoughts for the forums.

 

While I didn't have much chance to sit and type, I tried to listen to the Alfas at every opportunity, making observations and suggestions to Rockbob.  The good news for readers is all my observations or suggestions were also being made by other forum members and is being/will be addressed by Rock Jaw.  I deliberately did not read any other Alfa Genus reviews so I would not be biased in any way.  The views and opinion expressed here are strictly my own, so if I sound like a broken record compared to the other reviewers, it's all on me.:wink_face:

 

When I received the Alfa Genus IEMs (AGs), they were in their prototype packaging which, it has been announced on the forum, is being changed so the pictures you see below will not match the “Retail” packaging.

The IEMs, tips, cable, and info came in a box made up partially of a slide out tray with foam cutouts for the earphones, two extra filters and a plastic tray for the extra ear tips.

There was also a cable clip included but no ¼” adapter cable.  One item of note was the lack of a carrying case for the AGs.  It would be very difficult to put them back in this kind of packaging.  I’m not sure about the final packaging, but I believe Rock Jaw intends to address a carrying case or bag of some sort.

 

Pulling them out of the box, I found the AGs a little more delicate feeling than I anticipated.  For I good while I wondered if I wasn’t going to break the things since they felt so light in my hand.  The wood and lightweight metal make them seem like there’s no weight at all compared to some all-metal IEMs I have that feel like boat anchors (I swear they are made of iron or steel).  My biggest concerns were the metal cable strain reliefs and if they were going to come loose from the housings.  So far I have not had any issues with them and I have not been overly gentle, using them to twist and adjust the housings in my ears.  One problem I did have was telling which side was left and which was right.  The lettering needs much better contrast or color for low-light conditions (or folks like me with poor eye sight).

 

I really like the sleeved, braided cable.  While slightly microphonic, I really didn’t find it much of a distraction.  The one thing missing was a sliding adjuster at the splitter.  That would probably reduce the microphonics.

 

The Alfa Genus comes with two sets of “filters” which are really the heart and soul of its sound.  This can be both a blessing and a curse and can lead to some interesting discoveries in how you can affect the sound by something as simple as your fingertips…or silly putty...

 

But first I must digress…When Rockbob (RB) first announced the opportunity to review Rock Jaw products, the only real experience I had with IEMs were two sets of hybrids with a dynamic driver and two balance armatures.  Mentioning this to RB, I figured I’d get a chance to try out their hybrid and compare it to the ones I already have.  But RB had a rock-solid idea (sorry, Bob:p)…he felt the best way to evaluate a product was to try it on a person who didn’t have a lot of experience to get a fresh perspective, so imagine my surprise when I got the Alfa Genus with a dynamic driver and sound filters! (Digression over)

 

Being new to sound filters, I never realized how drastically you can change the sound of a driver just by changing a stem on an IEM.  The stems are threaded and screw on but can loosen easily (a little rubber o-ring might provide just enough resistance to prevent the stems from loosening).  So be careful when removing the AGs from your ears to ensure the filters don’t come loose and fall off.

 

For the filters themselves; there are two colors, each representing different sound preferences.  My personal labels for them are thus:

 

Silver: BASS!!!

Black: NOT BASS!!!

 

A bit extreme?  Actually yes, but not an entirely inaccurate description.  Let’s break it down:

 

The silver filters offer a bass that is prominent to the point of being a bit bloated and overwhelming.  Sit in the trunk of your buddy’s 1994 Ford Mustang while he's got his 500-watt sub-woofer going at “11” and you’ll know what I mean.  While never owning a pair, I imagine this is what you would hear if you owned “Beats” headphones, so if you like that sound (and there are many that do), you’ll enjoy the silver filters.  Even with the overwhelming bass, I could hear beautiful mids and smooth treble struggling to break free (which I will address in a following section).

 

You know, I almost named the black filters “Grado”.  If the “NOT BASS!!! issue hadn’t gotten in the way, they would have been my favorite filters.  They have smooth, forward mids and solid treble that reminded me of the several Grado cans that I owned over the years.  I didn’t notice any sibilance even though I was half-expecting it.  What I did notice was the smooth extension in the upper range and going down to the lower-mids and almost to the upper bass but stopping there.  I kept hoping the next notes would go lower in the spectrum but it just never happened.  This is a great filter for listening to acoustic stringed instruments but even guitars hit some lower harmonic frequencies that the black filters can’t support.  Put a little bass extension on the black filters while keeping everything else intact and these would be some beautiful sounding filters!

 

So, you’re saying you didn’t care for them…?  Actually, no.  Surprisingly, I came to enjoy one of them due to the oddest circumstance…ill-fitting ear tips.

 

I tried almost 30 sets of ear tips on each filter of the AGs.  It wasn’t so much for the fit but to see if I could alter the sound with a tip in a way so I could live with the filters.  I used different tip sizes and lengths and different opening sizes but nothing seems to tailor the sound in a way that I liked. 

 

One night, I had the silver filters installed and a particularly difficult set of ear tips that just didn’t want to seat themselves in my ears.  I just wanted to see what they sounded like so I pushed the AGs in to seat the tips and…WHOA!!...what just happened…??  Why is the bass tight and punchy?  Why are the mids and treble prominent?  Why does the music sound so balanced?  I pulled the AGs out and looked at them, checked the tips, tried it again without pushing in the earpieces too far…bloated bass…pushing the earpieces in with my fingertips...tight bass.  Is it the ear tips?  Then I noticed the sound ports on the back of the earpieces.  I put on a set of tips that I knew would seal, covered the ports, and proceeded to enjoy an overall balanced sound with tight punchy bass that wasn’t overwhelming, smooth mids, and nice treble.  This was a sound I could listen to anytime…but my fingers were getting tired.  Fortunately, the children had Silly Putty lying around so I made use of a little of it to cover the ports and experiment with the sound some more.  I found the stock tips worked best (although some additional tip options would be nice).  The putty mod did not work with the black filters because it reduced the level of what little low frequency presence was already there.

 

The infamous "Silly Putty mod"...

 

I figured people probably wouldn't want putty stuck to back of their IEMs so I PM’d Rockbob telling him of my results and suggesting a third filter be made for the AGs (and it looks as if that’s going to happen) so I guess my work here is done!

 

As you may have noticed, there is (more than) a little tongue in cheek in the review above.  All of the impressions and observations are sincere but the review is maybe not as "analytical" as it would have been if I'd have had a chance to write it earlier (on the other hand, it may have turned out just as cheeky:wink_face:).  For those looking for an overall assessment, let me say the following in all seriousness.  My primary headphones are Audeze LCD-3s that until recently, were driven by some good Schiit components, so I do appreciate a balance sound with good bass, mids, and treble.  Of late, I have been delving into portable high-fi with two DAPs (iBasso DX90 and FiiO X5), a FiiO E12 DIY OpAmp Rollable Amp, and Two Hybrid IEMs from a Chinese company called Dunu (DN-1000 and DN-2000).  With all of that, you would think I would be quite satisfied with the sound I have.  However, I find the IEMs I reach for the most to listen to all those excellent portable components are...

 

Rock Jaw Alfa Genus IEMs with silver filters and a spot of silly putty on the ends.  That's where I get the most musical enjoyment from. 'Nuff said.

 

 

I must say it is amazing to watch a company that is so responsive to their customer’s suggestions and recommendations.  If Rock Jaw continues on this course, I see them being highly regarded in the Head-Fi and Audio community.  I truly believe they are headed in the right direction!

 

 

My sincere appreciation to Rockbob and Rock Jaw for giving me the opportunity to review the Alfa Genus and offer my impressions and recommendations.  Again, I must apologize for the delay in releasing this review while continuing to maintain my faint glimmer of hope that we can all just get along…

Posted

Pros: Build Quality, Tunable Filters, Comfortable

Cons: Can be very bright and sibilant for those who are treble sensitive, there is a third filter in the works to resolve this.

RockJaw ALFA GENUS IEM

Review by TrollDragon

 

 

Way back in April a new Sponsor on Head-Fi called RockJaw created a post looking for members to test and review a new product line consisting of multiple IEM’s and headphones. I applied at once and was accepted by RockJaw’s representative Rockbob.  This is going to be a great experience for myself as well as quite a few others, since we get to evaluate the new products and our opinions will be factored into the final retail products.

 

With all the formalities and details looked after, a large box of RockJaw products appeared on my doorstep, multiple IEM’s and a pair of headphones. I have spent several weeks with the ALFA GENUS IEM’s out of various sources and will now present my review.


Packaging

I usually do an overview but the product we have is with beta packaging. The complete product line will have a totally revamped, nicer looking packaging in the near future.

 
Contents

 

The slide out storage case is a great way to store your IEM’s or pack them for travel. Too thick to be used as a daily carry case, i believe RockJaw are going to provide a soft pouch with future versions.

 

 

 

Accessories consist of nice silicone tips in S/M/L and two pairs of tuning filters in Silver (Enhanced Bass) and Black (Monitor Class). I understand that with the final product there will be a third filter tuned between the Silver and Black. These filters and IEM body are nicely threaded allowing an easy way to switch filters without fumbling to get the thread started. I can see that once you have found your desired sound signature by experimenting with the filters at the beginning, most people will stick with the one they like best and store the other two sets back in the case.

 

 

The build quality of the ALFA GENUS is exceptional and looks very solid with it’s aluminum strain reliefs and ebony wood body. I feel these will hold up to a fair bit of rough usage, the cable is a flexible shiny black PTFE material I do believe. There is a little bit of mechanical noise in the cable which can be alleviated by using the provided shirt clip or by wearing them up.

 
Fit & Sound

 

The ALFA GENUS are one of the easiest IEM’s to get a good fit on that I have used so far and the large tips provide an excellent seal.
I have run these out of a Colorfly C3 amplified with a Miu Audio MRA DIY amplifier and a FiiO X3 on low gain, switching between the two for my review. In my opinion the ALFA GENUS are very source dependent and will not have a great synergy with all devices.


Silver Filters

I started with the silver filters installed and found the sound to have an amount of bass that was just about unlistenable to my ears. The bass is overwhelming and very boomy, it bleeds up into the lower midrange and will muffle voices quite easily. I tried the silver filters with a 3rd generation iPod nano and they seem to be a little more tolerable from that device. I do like a nice solid punchy bass that digs deep where you can feel the impact on EDM tracks, but  somehow I doubt that bass heads would even like the silver filters. I never even bothered with testing the treble on the silver filters since the bass was so overwhelming.


Black Filters

Now the black filters are at the other end of the spectrum, some will find them a little too far at the end. The bass on the black filters is acceptable to my ears, not boomy and doesn’t bleed into the mids. Some might find it a little anemic, which is why RockJaw has created a filter in between the two provided. This new filter should fill the gap perfectly regarding bass. The treble on the black filters can be a little sharp to my ears depending on the source and the genre of music played. I found Paul Simon’s Graceland 25th Anniversary Edition very sibilant at points and actually starting to get annoying, with the FiiO X3 I was able to bring the treble setting down to -5 and take some of the edge off. This could not be done on the Colorfly C3 since it’s EQ was programmed by simians and is basically unusable.

 

Now Jazz at the Pawnshop was a little sharp in spots but not unlistenable by any means. Some of the users in the RockJaw test group do not find these sharp or sibilant except with overly bright tracks. It is highly possible that I just may be a little too treble sensitive.


Conclusion

I am personally looking forward to the new filters for the ALFA GENUS with high anticipation. If they will increase the bass presence by a small amount while taking some off of the brightness, then these IEM’s will be a serious contender in the sub $100 bracket that will please the vast majority of listeners with a sound that can be custom tailored to your liking.

 

I would like to thank RockJaw and Rockbob for the samples used in this review, RockJaw is a definitely a company to you should keep in your radar when considering your next IEM purchase.

 

Posted

Pros: Price vs Performace, High quality build, Sound Signature I absolutely enjoy

Cons: Currently using a tupperware container for a pouch

Price – Approx $73 Canadian

 

Preface : I am just a typical guy / father of three young children who loves music and has been a member of the head-fi for approximately 4 years. I have no background in music and work in IT for my career.

 

I have been fortunate enough to own some TOTL headphones / IEMS over the years (HD800, LCD2.2, T1, Heir Audio 8A Customs, etc…) and the words I type are my own personal opinion of a product that was given to me for the intent of evaluation.

 

Rock Jaw has sent me two set of head/ear phones to evaluate: The Alfa Genus and the Acero.

 

This review will only reflect my honest thoughts on the Alfa Genus since they are the only pair I have concentrated on to this point in time. I have used the Alfa Genus for one week on a daily basis in my office with no prior burn-in for 3-5 hours per day.

 

Let’s begin….

 

The thing I thought immediately from the moment I opened the cardboard box and viewed the Alfa Genus was simplicity. I am not saying that simplicity is a bad thing at all, just the opposite actually. I literally had these earphones stuck in my head one minute after I had the shipping box opened. 

 

-The cable is not removable, but in this price range I certainly wouldn’t expect it to be. The actual cable is thin, but a coating on the cable gives it a solid feeling and makes me feel that it will withstand some abuse if that’s how you tend to treat your equipment. I am happy that the cable is terminated with a 90 degree jack, but I guess that comes down to personal preference.

 

-The Alfa Genus came with two sets of filters which can be used to customize the sound to your own personal preference (pretty cool feature IMO). I tried both initially and knew right away that the ebony filters were NOT for me. This entire review will be based on my using the silver metal filters.

 

-The casing on the earphones seems extremely well put together and solid. They are quite light however and they seem to disappear in my ears in a very short period of time. One thing I would prefer is that the L and R were printed in black opposed to white on the metal since it takes me a little bit of effort to differentiate between the two.

 

-I can honestly say that I tend to stay away from IEMs due to what I thought was a personal problem of having monster large ear canals which has caused me grief for years on getting a good / solid seal with earphones. As we all know, no seal…. No bass. When I received the Alfa Genus, I immediately pulled of the medium tips provided and replaced with the large tips (3 pairs of tips come with the AG - sm, med, lg) I was happy to see that seal was not going to be a problem with these earphones. The tips that come with the earphones (although not a wide selection) are what I consider to be high quality.

 

Sound evaluation:

 

I have used the following setup to evaluate the sound of the Alfa Genus over the past week.

 

Samsung Note III  > OTG cable > Dragonfly 1.2 > Alfa Genus

 

I have used USB audio player for the first half of my evaluation week playing a selection of lossless flac playing directly from my phone. For the second half of the week I used Spotify (extreme quality streaming) and also used Gizmo which has the ability to access my home library and transcodes to 320kbps over an LTE connection.

 

I only evaluated with music that I actually like and listen to a daily basis. Typical music includes Anne Akiko Meyers, Christina Perri, Bob Marley, Michael Jackson, Foo Fighters, Of Monsters And Men, Brandi Carlile, Jack Johnson, The Civil Wars, Mumford & Sons.

 

I have no desire or interest to describe the minutest details for a list of songs which I probably couldn’t do accurately anyways. I don’t believe I have the golden ear skill and accurately give a detailed written representation of what I am actually listening to.

 

If I had to sum this sound evaluation up in three words: Detail, Bass, and Fun.

 

I am still surprised when I put these little bullets in my head, how good they sound to me. I have spent double / triple the price on earphones in the past and have not had that enjoyment feeling that I am getting from the Alfa Genus IEMS. I am listening to Guns & Roses - “Patience” as I type and there is a feeling of soundstage that I get that is wider than I am used to for IEMs.  Instrument separation is impressive to me and everything just sounds right to my mind.

 

Sound is very detailed to me without sounding shrill or sharp, I have noticed zero sibilance during my time with these.

 

Bass, man the bass is wonderful in my opinion….. It seems to hit low without being sloppy or over-exaggerated. It also does not seem to kill any of the yummy detail these earphones can produce.

 

Would I actually buy these for MSRP ?

 

I would buy these without a doubt. These are absolutely impressive to me for less than $100. I will say that I am now a fan of at least one rock jaw product and would recommend the Alfa Genus to anyone looking for top notch sound quality at a totally reasonable investment. I literally can’t wait to try some of the additional products (Kontrol in particular) in the Rock Jaw IEM lineup.

 

Thanks for the opportunity and sincerely,

Darren Crane

dgcrane

Posted

Pros: Multiple filters to change the sound, wood body, great price to perfomance ratio

Cons: Case is a bit bulky, changes between current filters may be to drastic (3rd filter in the works may resolve this issue)

I am going to just stick with a written review for this little gem as others have already done an admirable job of photographing this IEM and all of it's accessories in all their glory.

 

When my reviewer package arrived I liked how they had made it appear crooked in the box and was even fooled initially thinking it had slipped in transit :biggrin:. Upon opening the box I was treated to a snappy but over engineered case that kind of reminded me of the IE8 case from Sennheiser. While I find this type of case to big for practical daily use I do have to admit it really works well for holding everything securely from a packaging perspective.

 

Upon inspection of the IEM I liked the quality of the cable and the strain reliefs and like the fact it is an L jack. I missed it not having a neck cinch but this is only a minor miss in my opinion. Rockjaw has downplayed the fact that these are wooden but I personally am glad to be hearing a wooden IEM. My only area of concern is the filters do come loose easily necessitating the need to tighten them occasionally.

 

Upon initial listen I will be honest and say I more than a bit dismayed. The bass was over cooked and so was the treble which came across as hot and flashy. But I thought I could hear potential in this little IEM so I through them on the burning station and left them for a week. During that time I would occasionally have a peak listen and could hear that these were changing for the better. But the bass was still a bit over cooked while the treble was settling down. It was at this point I started to read more about the filters (I was still using just the silver ones that came pre-installed). So I let the IEM continue to cook until I started to write up the review today.

 

So what's in a filter?

 

A lot apparently! :eek: The best way to describe the silver filter is the word DIVA! Shouty, loud, and wayyyyyyy to confident for it's own good :wink:. The black filter on the other hand is a bit of a stuffed shirt, so concerned about form that it forgets to let the music breath. So before you decide to write off this IEM because of these to statements please realize that both of these filters are great when used in the right circumstance because let's face it we have all heard some damn fine Divas in our day and I don't know about anyone else but I also can appreciate a singer who eschews control over just letting it all hang out. Which brings up the fact that Rockjaw is working on a 3rd filter that will land somewhere in the middle. This will allow people to have a nice well seasoned meal and then occasionally enjoy a spicy dish or a savoury dish for a change of pace.

 

OK, so when do I like the silver filter?

 

I have found this filter works great for albums like 2 Cello's, and live performances like Neil Diamond Hot August Night. The filter allows the raw nature of a cello to come though with excellent timber and vibrancy giving the music an extra level of aliveness. Likewise it makes Hot August Night sound fuller and more spacious. It also makes Celtic music like Loreena McKennit sound larger and more immersive.

 

Where this filter does not work is songs with lots of complexity and songs with lots of cymbals and delicacy as the bass and treble simply become to loose and splashy overwhelming the music turning it into a noisy mess.

 

When do I like the Black Filter?

 

The black filter reigns in the bass and treble allowing the mids to be more present especially the upper mids. So for some they will appreciate Loreena McKennit more with the black filters even though they stifle the sound stage and immersion a bit, personally I like both presentations. Harder Rock like ACDC, Led Zeppelin, and Heart all work better with this filter as it allows their complexity to come through, it also works better for Jazz from artists like Patricia Barber and classical music that is complex.

 

The black filter does expose music to sibilance though so artists like Patricia Barber who enunciate their S's strongly might be a bit harsh for some. It also may be to tightly controlled for some listeners. But out of the 2 filters I found it suited more music.

 

So where do I stand on this IEM?

 

I find this to be an excellent mid-entry level IEM that allows you to change up the sound signature through filters in a unique way. I am waiting to update my review after the 3rd filter is released. If Rockjaw manages to create a filter that marries the two existing filters signatures landing somewhere in the middle the IEM will be an excellent option for anyone wanting to be able to change up their listening experience in an easy fashion. While some like to do this with software EQ this is a good option for those that hate that option or own a device that has only fixed presets that don't match their listening preferences.

Posted

Pros: Filters, Overall Sound, Build

Cons: No Cable Cinch

First I’d like to thank Rock Jaw for sending me the Alfa Genus for review. If you haven’t heard of Rock Jaw before, I don’t blame you. They are a rather new company that recently came out with a wide range of IEMs and headphones. The Alfa Genus is one of their mid-range IEMs, which is priced at £50, which is quite budget minded for people who don’t wish to spend so much on audio.

 

 

 

Those who know me will know that I have always loved IEMs, especially IEMs that punch above their price point and IMO the Alfa Genus is definitely one of them. Obviously, the sub $100 IEM market is filled with some excellent offerings from many companies and making an IEM that really shines in that price bracket is really quite hard but Rock Jaw have done it1 Let’s get on with the rest of the review.

 

**Disclaimer** These were given to me by Rock Jaw in return for an unbiased, fair review.

 

 

Design
The Alfa Genus is definitely quite different from other IEMs that I have seen. It is actually made mostly out of wood, rather than plastic or metal. I am not really sure what effect this has on the sound quality, but it does look very interesting and quite nice. The cable feels like it can withstand some mistreatment, but it is a little rigid. The plug is right angled, which is a plus for me and there is sufficient strain relief on both the IEM housing and the plug. The shape of the IEM makes it quite hard for me to get a seal and I found that the Sony Hybrid tips were the best for me. I usually use a medium, but on the Alfa Genus I preferred the large ones. I do wish that there was a cable cinch to make over the ear wear a little easier though. Oh, and of course there are interchangeable filters, which changes the sound signature. The isolation is about average.

 

On to build quality. As a whole package, the Alfa Genus is quite premium feeling, mostly due to the wood housing, and the interchangeable filter which I don’t think are available in anything that is under $100. The packaging and accessories that I received are not going to be the production ones, so I’m not going to talk about them. I do hope that Rock Jaw include some more tips though.

 

 

 

Testing Gear
Usually IEMs of this price range don’t scale up much when used with different sources, and the Alfa Genus doesn’t change dramatically, but I feel like it did change a bit, but obviously not enough to spend $250 on a DAP just for it. I actually really like the Sansa Clip+ and Clip Zip with the Alfa Genus, they match really well. With the DX50 and 90 they further improved, but not by much. I highly doubt people will be using the Alfa Genus with a $450 source though. Adding an amp did produce some good results, which means that it reacts positively to amping, which is always a good sign. Personally I would recommend a Sansa Clip to pair with the Alfa Genus, they really do sound very good together.

 

 

 

Sound Quality
With the RE-400 dominating the sub $100 market, it is very hard for companies to make an IEM and price it around it. I will go out and say it now – the Alfa Genus sound very good, and with two separate filters and costing $20 or so less, mat be a very good choice for some people. Most my impressions are made with the “normal” filter, which is a lot less bassy than the bass heavy filter. Below, you will find comparisons between the silver and black filters.

 

 

 

Bass
When I first heard the Alfa Genus out of the box I was really quite shocked. It was bass heavy – very bass heavy. Luckily, the filter on the Alfa Genus was the bass heavy one and the black filters were not nearly as bass heavy. What I am hearing from the black filters is very clean, fast bass. It is definitely not for the bassheads (that would be the bass filter), I think it is actually slightly on the bass light side. I found myself just wanting some extra punch in the mid-bass at times. The bass is quite detailed, which is impressive at this price range. What I love most about the Alfa Genus’ bass with the black filter is the fact that bass lines never get muddy at all and are up there with some of the cleanest sounding IEMs I have ever heard regardless of price. Now we should probably talk more about the silver bass filters. Man, these guys punch hard! The bass is a slower that I would have liked, but it will appeal to a lot of bassheads out there for sure. The bass does bleed a tiny bit into the midrange and because of this, I prefer the black filters personally.

 

 

Midrange
Here, the Alfa Genus is very crisp sounding and has great clarity that far exceeded my expectations. Vocals sound excellent and very clear. One little “issue” that I found with these is that the upper midrange could sound a little bit on the colder side at times, but that can be both a good and bad thing depending on your preference. The midrange reminded me somewhat of the TWFK drivers which also have great clarity and have a similar tone. The decay of instruments is a little on the fast side and sounds quite realistic, which is quite a feat at this price range. I would say that the midrange is not recessed nor forward, it is rather neutral. Luckily, there was not really any vocal sibilance here even at higher volumes. The silver filters did change the midrange a bit, making it sound warmer and a more like a RE-400. The clarity is not quite as good as the black filters, but that was expected but it is still quite impressive in that department. Overall the midrange performance of the Alfa Genus is one of the best, if not the best that I have heard in this price bracket.

 

 

Treble
Too many times have I heard a great sounding IEM only to be let down by its treble. One example of this is the Brainwavz B2, its treble was far too bright. The Alfa Genus is not one of them. The treble is quite well extended and a little on the bright side, but not exceedingly so. There was a little bit of sibilance creeping in at higher volumes, but it was definitely not getting in the way of the music and this was only on certain tracks where the treble was a bit hot to begin with. Details in the treble were quite good, but cymbals were a little bit too emphasized and as a result, some of the treble details were masked by the cymbals, but it wasn’t too bad. I might be a little less sensitive to treble compared to some people because others report a much more emphasized treble to what I am hearing. The silver filters were much more forgiving in the treble region, being less bright but still equally detailed. To my ears, the silver filter are much better here.

 

 

 

Soundstage & Imaging
No budget IEM I have heard has really impressed me with their soundstage and the Alfa Genus is no different. Now that I have heard more full sized headphones, I’ve come to the conclusion that all IEMs I’ve heard just do not do soundstage and imaging quite right. For an IEM, the Alfa Genus is not bad, but not really special either. The RE-400 and AX35 do a bit better in this regard. The stage is quite limited and is quite in your head, but at this price range I don’t expect any IEM to have a good soundstage.

 

Imaging is actually quite accurate and it fares very well for its price point. On sightly congested tracks it doesn’t do too badly, but on passages with a lot going on, the Alfa Genus does struggle a bit. This section may have come off a little bit harsh because I’ve been listening to a full on HD800 setup a lot lately and it excels in this area. The Alfa Genus really isn’t bad for its price in this regard, but it is not the best I have heard. 

 

 

 

Details & Clarity
The Alfa Genus with the black filters was tuned to have great clarity and detail and it does. The entire spectrum is almost as detailed as the RE-400 and up there with the AX35, which are my favourite sub $100 IEMs. As Brooko mentioned in his review, these sound a little like Grado or AKG cans and I feel the same. Their brightness makes them overall sound seem clear and whether this is a positive or negative ting depends very much on what your preference is.

 

 

Rock Jaw
I don’t usually do a section like this in my reviews, but I feel compelled to do one over here. Rock Jaw’s customer service is simply incredible and every time someone posts on the Rock Jaw thread, Rockbob responds in a few hours or even just a few minutes. They are the first company I have come across that treat customers like this and I really wish that more companies would learn from them and pay more attention to what people want and answering people’s question on forums as well as via email. Rock Jaw also listens to what people say and they have made some changes to their models from our feedback already. Well done, Rock Jaw, keep it up!

 

 

Conclusion
 

 

The Alfa Genus is a great product, but it does has its flaws. With the 3rd filter that they are planning to add, the Alfa Genus could really turn out to be a true winner and a new baseline of what a budget IEM should sound like. If I’m not wrong the Alfa Genus is still in beta testing stages so I would expect Rock Jaw to make some minor tweaks to the sound and the Alfa Genus will be a great IEM. 

Posted

Pros: Changeable filter, woods, pretty comfortable, price ratio to performance

Cons: Overwhelming bass on silver filter, Edgy highs on black filter

A very big thank you to Bob at RockJaw for sending in theAlfa Genus for review! It is also worth mentioning that, what I am getting may be different from what you are getting. Here’s a little background information about RockJaw. It is a brand new company straight from the UK whose goal is to design something that almost everyone can afford, and something that punches well beyond its own price bracket. While they have partially achieved the goal, I personally like how they are accepting the suggestions of others whilst applying it. In all honesty, I do think that RockJaw will see a bright future ahead if they carry on what they are doing, that is, improving.

At £49.99, there are literally no plastics in Alfa Genus’s housing. There is only aluminum and woodies. We all love woodies, don’t we? RockJaw uses some high quality ebony wood as well-though from which region was not specified. I did some research on the ebony wood and was pleasantly surprised! According to the source, ebony wood is among the most expensive wood in the world. It is finely-textured and has a very smooth finish when polished, making it valuable as an ornamental wood. TheRockJaw Acero also uses the same wood as the Alfa Genus, but RockJaw should be more than proud of their beautiful wood and shouldn’t be covered with black paint which sort of spoils the design. It is nice, but I would still prefer to just leave it as it is.

The cable is on the thinner side, and feels pretty light unlike the JAYS A-Jays Five’s which’s cable feels as if it is weighting the earphone down. The low profile 90 degree 3.5mm headphone jack makes it fit into almost every smartphone case, including the thick ones. Microphonic wise, it is not the quietest but it definitely isn’t the worst either. It’s not loud enough to ruin your music but it is loud enough to be heard. RockJaw has been said to include foam eartips in the near future as part of the accessories of the Alfa Genus as well as every other IEM of RockJaw. There are only three eartips included in the box butthe M-size fits my ears extremely well. As far as quality goes, these are of really good quality. The only thing lacking in Alfa Genus’s accessories is a carrying pouch which RockJaw will be including as well in the future.

The RockJaw sits in my ears, no doubt perfectly. It has a very comfy IEM and does not fall off easily and even has a tight seal as well. It is one of the few earphones that I can stand wearing for over an hour without adjusting it in between.

The RockJaw Alfa Genus features changeable filters which make it very flexible to suit a variety of people by switching between the black filter and silver filter. The “changeable filters” are not just for show, both really do sound like day and night, especially in the bass department-though I personally like the black filter best. Some have suggested that it would have been better if RockJaw designed another filter which would suit the best of both worlds. Gladly, according to Bob, they are already working on it.

The RockJaw Alfa Genus, as suggested, has been given roughly a hundred hours or more of burn-in time. Using the black filter, there is an obvious major bass roll off and things seem to leans on the dry side. Some may hate this filter with nearly no bass presence and the more mid-centric sound signature. It is however, very clean sounding, very detailed and the bass is small enough to not overlap the mids and the highs. The slightly edgy highs and upper-midrange can be a tad piercing with certain female vocals and inappropriate for bad recordings and that is where I find myself crafting for the silver filter. Other than that, it’s cleaner, slightly more spacious sound and brighter sound signature.

Switching to the silver filter, everything just feels slightly congested and the bass thought goes way deeper in with far better body. It does bleed into the midrange and put the midrange behind a little bit. The upper frequency spikes have disappeared though the bass can be slightly “boomy” at times. Vocals can sound a little chesty as well. Detail retrieval is similar to the black filter. The soundstage depth andwides are certainly lacking. I happen to enjoy the silver filter with James Blake’s Overgrown.

 

For £49.99, with a changeable being hard to find, it is certainly worth a try if you are unsure on what sound signature suits you the best. To sum it up, the silver filter offers some very over powerful bass and the black filter has brighter highs. If RockJaw were to develop their 3rd filter for the Alfa Genus, I would prefer it to be slightly punchy at the bass region, with deep but not overpowering, less edgy highs and a smooth midrange. Otherwise, they should redesign the silver housing for a better bass response. 

 

Pictoria! (Click to show)

IMG_3849

IMG_3852

IMG_3843IMG_3845IMG_3857

 

IMG_3844

 

Posted

Pros: Woody sound signature; smooth, rich with great clarity and balance. Novel tunable filter design for enhanced bass or flat response. Fantastic value.

Cons: Cable is not significantly robust. Little extras.

Rock Jaw Alfa Genus IEMs

 

Rock Jaw offers a variety of IEMs and headphones, aiming to provide great value, reliable and robust devices, with self proclaimed minimal packaging overhead to help minimise cost.

The Alfa Genus IEMs from Rock Jaw are novel user tunable single dynamic driver IEMs with ebony wooden and aluminium housing.

I have so far racked up well over 100 hours of use with the Alfa Genus IEMs from various sources; Rockbox’d Clip+, FiiO X3 and ODAC.

 

I have attempted to be as objective as possible, however as we all know perceived audio has a significant subjective variable and comments are often relative to the price range.

 

 

Specification

 

Drivers: 8mm dynamic

Impedance: 16Ω

Sensitivity: 108+/-3db

Frequency response: 20 – 20000Hz

Cord Length: 1.2M

Jack type: Gold plated 3.5mm

 

Packaging, Accessories and Build Quality

 

 

 

 

Rock Jaw managed to provide an excellent value for money, with little extras including no travel case, although I really do like the inner packaging that houses the IEMs and filters. I would more than happily use that as a mini travel case if I could fit a Clip+ in there too.

 

 

The Alfa Genus IEMs are lightweight and comfortable, with a twisted non-tangle resistant wire. The cable is strong, but it is not anywhere near as robust as the Rock Jaw Arcana cable.

I discovered the clear plastic tubing support at the IEM housing popped off, much to my surprise as I use a hard carry case and take extreme care of IEMs when listening. I have been in contact with Rock Jaw and they are aware of the tubing and will most likely take action as required, since they are actively listening to constructive feedback, which is a sign of a great company with fantastic devices to come. Another sign of Rock Jaw listening to the customer is the IEM tips have been upgraded to significantly better silicon tips from previous revisions - as noted in my Arcana review.  The interchangeable filters are small and can be easily lost, I carry mine around in a mini see through plastic bag tucked inside my IEM case.

 

 

Sound Quality

 

To me the Alfa Genus provides a warm and smooth sound signature, with intense lush and richness. The bass enhanced filters provide deep bass, without the boomy rumbling effect caused by lower level bass roll-off, while the interchangeable flat filter provides a much more flatter bass response to obtain a more neutral and a relatively even sound. I found the mids to be very clear with excellent detail, while highs appeared to be brightly detailed and extended. In particular I found the smoothness to be impressive at this price range.

I really enjoyed my use of the Alfa Genus for various types of music ranging from Reggae to Rock and in particular I found female vocals to really shine.


To recap:

Advantages:

Woody signature.

Very smooth and rich sound.

Great clarity and balance.

Novel interchangeable filters for enhanced bass and more neutral responses.

Fantastic value.

 

Disadvantages:

Cable doesn’t appear to be significantly robust.

Clear plastic tube support at IEM casing pop off - Rock Jaw are currently working on this.

Little extras.

 

Verdict

 

Rock Jaw Alfa Genus provides a fantastic wooden single dynamic driver IEM with a novel interchangeable filter to provide user configurable tuning for bass enhanced or more flat sound signatures at an extremely competitive price range. I have said it before and I will say it again; Rock Jaw has my attention. Rock Jaw is an impressive company, not just with their products, but how they actively listen to the community and add their feedback to the development cycle.

Posted

Pros: Customizable sound, great bass timbre with the bassy filter, great value

Cons: Treble-heavy filter can be a bit too bright

RockJaw is an up and coming headphone company from Great Britain starting strong with a huge lineup. The Alfa Genus is one of their midrange offerings and offers a certain special something that is rarely seen in the IEM world other than a few OEM’s. …yeah so this is really late. Sorry to RockJaw for the delays! I’ve been busy with work and other projects (like a collab for a wooden T50RP mod [not ZMF] and trying to make a measurement system) and have another five or so reviews to write up which hasn’t given me much free time for these things.

 

Anyway, the Alfa Genus came in this really nice packaging, but I’m not sure whether or not it will be part of the retail packaging so I’ll just include a pretty picture of it rather than describe it much.

The IEM’s themselves are quite dashing with their ebony housing, flexible twisted cable coated with rubber, and silver accents. I do have a couple niggles with its build though. The main issue is that the filters tend to come slightly unscrewed after a few insertions since I tend to lightly twist the earpieces to get a good seal. A minor concern is that RockJaw didn’t really do much in terms of differentiating between left and right. There’s a light silkscreening on each side, but it’s basically the same color as the metal strain relief it’s printed on, so it’s almost impossible to read in direct sunlight. Something as simple as a dot on the left side would suffice though! Oh, I’m not the biggest fan of the tips. They take a little bit of effort to actually seal in my ears.

 

Their most interesting feature is their sound filters, which produce radically different sound signatures. Basically, the silver filter tunes the sound in a downward slope, with pretty big bass and rolled off treble. The black filter, however, does mostly the opposite. (Side note, the configuration definitely should have been switched; the black filter would totally make sense being the “darker” sound and the silver filter would make sense with the “brighter” tuning, but I digress)

 

But I guess that doesn’t really tell all too much, so I’ll go in a bit more detail.

 

The Alfa Genus was shipped to me with the silver filters installed. Since I’m lazy, I plugged them into my Audio-GD SA-31, which was   most definitely overkill. They don’t have any discernable hiss (though I’ve yet to try a dynamic that did). To be frank, I was pretty disappointed. They were dark, kind of muffled, and the mids were just pretty unimpressive. Granted, I was using my AD2000 right before plugging them in, but it was more of a difference than expected. Per RockJaw’s suggestion, I let them run in and gave my ears time to readjust to a different sound signature. The second time around, they were definitely less unappealing, but there was a certain attribute to the midrange that was still a little off to me—the AD2000 was still probably the culprit; the thing has such a strange midrange that once you get used to it, everything else sounds weird. So after leaving them alone for a week to burn in and not using the AD2000 to skew my ears, they actually sound relatively “normal.” Of course, such a bassy sound signature (And trust me, they slam. I have no idea how the heck RockJaw did this as unlike the other cheaper tunable options, these don’t have a simple low pass filter to create more bass. Looking at both filters now, they seem to have similarly wide openings, so I have no idea how they sound so different) will never have glorious mids at this price range. However one thing this tuning does insanely well for its price range is its bass drum decay. It has fantastic texture and air. I honestly am really disappointed the bass is too much for my tastes because the magic is gone with the black filters. Seriously, it has better decay than my daily use IEM, the Hifiman RE600. It’s a shame it’s rather underwhelming with vocals, because this tuning is great fun with pop music (Skylar Grey’s Don’t Look Down is a great album to show what I mean). The treble is a bit subdued, but there are a few odd peaks that keep them from being a snoozefest in case the bass wasn’t enough to keep you up.

 

Now, time to move on to the black filters, which most of the other reviewers in the RockJaw testing program seemed to prefer to the silver ones. Oddly enough, I didn’t really like it. It sounded a bit too frigid for me, about as bright as the very trebly Sony SA5000 is from memory. There really is a lot of treble, and it colors the midrange to the point where they sound nasal. The bass naturally is significantly decreased compared to the silver filters, but as I said in the previous paragraph, it loses its character. The once great decay is gone, exchanged for upper end and the detail low level information that comes with increased treble. I was tempted to put a little bit of felt in front of the driver to act as a low pass filter, but since RockJaw is working on a third filter, I’ll just wait for them to finish that.

 

With both tunings, they sounded rather wide, but they both had a bit of a cupped sound that always made them sound an IEM.

Overall, for a new company, RockJaw is pretty dang impressive, coming out with an IEM hoping to disrupt the $50 market with an IEM that essentially gives the user two IEM’s for the price of one. While neither of them are perfect (Please, RockJaw, for your third filter, try to keep that bass decay; it’s actually what keeps me drawn to them and using them occasionally over not only my other IEM’s, but the beautiful Audio Technica W10VTG and Allnic HPA-3000 combo sitting on my desk) the combination of all its merits make them a very interesting product indeed. And there’s much more where this came from.

ROCK JAW ALFA GENUS
Description:

ROCK JAW ALFA GENUS features a hybrid construction of Aluminium and Ebony. Applying centuries old techniques to offer a perfectly balanced sound signature. The ALFA GENUS also features interchangeable tuning filters, allowing you to change between enhanced bass and monitor class sound.

Details:
DetailValue
Models:
Model Name/TypeMPNEAN/UPC
Head-Fi.org › Head Gear › Headphones › In-Ear › ROCK JAW ALFA GENUS