Pros: Build Quality, 3 Tunable Filters, Comfortable
Cons: Very minor picky things that will be addressed in the future.
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.
*Champagne Filter Update September 10 2014*
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.
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.
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.
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.
Well, well, well let me tell you that when the package arrived from the RockJaw in the UK with two little champagne coloured filters in it I was ecstatic! I was off work that day and talking to a friend in the post office parking lot who inquired about said package, "any new toys?" he asked, so I showed him... Sorry dude but I have to get home NOW and hear these.
I installed them into the ALFA GENUS and prepared a set albums to check out, favorites that were either way too sharp with the Black filters or totally unlistenable to me with the Silver filters.
The first album is one of my absolute favorite Hard Bop standards by Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. The track Moanin' has some of Lee Morgans great trumpet work which can get really piercing on bright headphones and IEM's. I prepared a wince for the first blast at 1:00 minute in and it was not required, the Champagne filters presented Morgan's improvisation with that perfection I am used to. So I ended up actually listening to Moanin' twice, I was really that impressed.
Up next was another standard by Charles Mingus called Tijuana Moods, the track Ysabel's Table Dance is an amazing track for the mixture of instruments from Ysabel Morel's vocals and castanets, Hadi's saxophone work and of course Mingus's bass. Again the Champane Filters presented this track with no congestion whatsoever.
Switching away from Jazz, not that I wanted to but I have a lot of Jazz... I fired up the Dropkick Murphys album Signed and Sealed in Blood. The track Rose Tattoo is a classic Celtic Punk ballad with great vocals from Ken Casey and traditional instruments picking up a great driving pace at the 3:20 minute mark. This is really not the greatest test track for the AG's even though they did a good job, it is a song that needs to be played on speakers, LOUD!
Switching again, this time to Metallica and the album ...And Justice For All, we find out how the AG's do with the track One. Which starts out slow and clean building in speed and intensity as the song progresses to the dual guitar solo at near the end. This track is a great test for the AG's to see how well their bass responds when Ulrich's double bass kit kicks in. The AG's have the speed to keep up it is just the Champagne filters are not as bassy enough for this track as I would like, but that is where the Silver filters might come in for some.
Finally we move into something a little more recent and that would be Avenged Sevenfold's Hail to the King and the title track Hail to the King, A7X has hit the motherlode with some classic riff based heavy metal. The guitars of Syn and Vengeance provide a great driving sound that works perfectly with M. Shadows vocals on this track. The Champagne filters are not sharp or too bright like they were with the Black filters, Shadows sounds amazing again instead of painful to my ears.
I would like to give some very high praise to Rockbob and his team for all the hard work they have put into modifying the ALFA GENUS filters that those of us in the test group have suggested, a job well done on the Champagne Filters! I would like to personally thank him for creating this filter so that picky/treble sensitive people like me can now use with the AG's and get great enjoyment.
These IEM’s are a serious contender in the sub $100 bracket that will please the vast majority of listeners with a sound that can be custom tailored exactly to your liking now.
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.