Here is my review on the audio quality of the Rockit Sounds R-50.
Besides the headphones/IEMs, from my experience audio quality is also affected by the following conditions, which I list in order of impact:
1) Equalization. This is a must for me with enough equalizer bands to be able to tailor the sound to what my ears desire. 31 bands or more is the ideal. So, PMPs with 5 or 7 EQ bands do not qualify for me.
2) Quality of recording. This is also a must, in order to have a good audio quality. Nowadays there should be no CDs with low audio quality, but they still exist and there is not much that I can do about this.
3) Amplification. Not for louder sound, but for richer sound. Sound is richer with an amplifier not only with headphones, but also with IEMs.
4) 24 bit depth. Even though this is the last on the list concerning its direct impact on sound quality, this feature has an important effect on equalization. Having a 24 bit depth instead of a 16 bit depth, increases equalization potential by a large margin. At 24 bits there is much less distortion in the sound as the bass frequencies are raised with the equalizer.
My audio setup consists of the following:
1) My desktop PC using foobar2000. This program has an 18 band equalizer and an added 31 band equalizer plugin that has exactly the same frequencies that are included in analog equalizers used for live sound. This renders a total of 49 bands. If I only count once the bands that are present (repeated) in both EQs, there is a total of 45 bands available to tailor the sound, ranging from 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz. (20 kHz).
2) 24 bit /96 kHz tracks.
3) E-MU 0202 USB audio interface (24-bit/192 kHz DAC) with Kernel Streaming drivers.
4) Indeed G3 Hybrid amplifier with a (NOS) GE 5814 WA tube.
I like a lot of bass with more deep bass than mid bass. I thirst (or hunger?) for bass rumble (subwoofer type) and bass punch. At the same time, bass spilling over the middle and high frequencies (muddy sound) making them muffled or veiled is unacceptable, even in small amounts. Mids that are neither forward, nor recessed are the best for me. Boxy (cave like, coming from a bottle) sounding mids, are unacceptable. There is a minimum of mids sharpness (like in a TV screen sharpness) or detail that my ears ask for. After that level, more detail is good but it does not add much value to the sound experience. A good treble decay is appreciated by my ears. The bigger the soundstage, the better the sound.
SOUND OF THE R-50.
I equalize my R-50 with what looks like a cup cake equalization. The mid frequencies are flat (from 200 Hz to 3.15 kHz). The bass frequencies are raised with a constant upward slope (upward straight line) starting at 160 Hz down to 20 Hz. The high frequencies are also raised with a constant upward slope (upward straight line) starting at 3.5 kHz up to 20 kHz. How does this sound to my ears?
The good: Even though they are not overabundant, there is a good amount of both deep bass and mid bass and their quality is excellent. The bass that is there is just exquisite. The bass placement is excellent with a perfect balance between deep bass and mid bass.
The not so good: No subwoofer bass here. Bass going deeper in the frequency spectrum would be an improvement. Extending the bass (not moving it, but expanding it) a little to the left (deeper bass) in the frequency spectrum and making the mid bass a little more responsive when asked for by the equalizer, would be a nice improvemet.
Bass enjoyment rating: 8.1 out of 10.
The good: Mids placement is perfect. They are neither forward, nor recessed. The tonality is also perfect. They sound airy and natural. Mids sharpness (like in a TV picture sharpness) or detail, is excellent.
The not so good: Nothing!
Mids enjoyment rating: 10 out of 10.
The good: There is a large amount of treble. This is especially important with tracks that do not have a good amount of treble from their recording. Treble is perfectly placed, is fluid and sounds natural. The treble frequencies that cause fatigue and make the treble sound piercing (<6 kHz) when there is an abundance of them, are restrained to just the right amount as compared to those frequencies (around 10 kHz) that make the treble sweet.
The not so good: If treble decay (ssssshhhh) were a little longer, the treble could be perfect.
Treble enjoyment rating: 9.5 out of 10.
4) IMAGING, SEPARATION AND SOUNDSTAGE
The good: Imaging is very good and coherent. Nothing sounds out of place, like too forward or too recessed, or too far to the right or the left. Separation is also very good with no part of the sound rubbing against any other part of the sound. Soundstage is good with an appreciable sense of width, height and depth.
The not so good: My ears ask if there could be a greater sense of spaciousness from the R-50. They do not let me tell them that these are IEMs and not headphones, and that is too much to ask from IEMs.
Imaging, separation and soundstage enjoyment rating: 9.4 out of 10.
5) OVERALL ENJOYMENT: Let’s add all the ratings so far and divide by the number of them to get the overall enjoyment. That would be (8.1+10+9.5+9.4)/4 = 9.25
6) COMPLEMENTARY REMARKS: The large amount of good quality treble and the easily attainable good sound quality on the R-50 (with just a cup cake equalization), allow for these IEMs to sound acceptable with recordings that have sound quality flaws in the treble and mid range frequencies. This should also make them work well with sources that have a limited amount of equalization capacity, such as PMPs or cell phones.
My R-50 sound quality is noticeably improved with amplification. Still, amplification has a greater impact on sound quality with other more bass capable headphones/IEMs.
Music with electronic drum machines (EDM), such as trance and the like, doesn't give me a satisfactory bass impact through the R-50. Their bass impact is far below from what I want when listening to EDM music. For everything else, the R-50 are top performers!
When you come from IEMs that have a fuller sound or a bigger sound room than the R-50, you feel like the sound of the R-50 is underdeveloped. It is like driving a four wheel drive vehicle with a 4.0 liter engine and switching to a smaller car with a 1.6 liter engine. At first, there is the feeling that the smaller car has a weak engine. After some time driving it, then the driver gets used to the smaller engine power and realizes that it is more than enough to make the smaller car accelerate quickly and develop good speed. That happens to me all the time when using a bass heavy IEM that has a bigger sound room and switching to the R-50. The sound is really disappointing right after switching IEMs. It stays like that for about one hour. After then, my ears get used to it and the high quality of the R-50's sound is felt and greatly enjoyed.
If someone is wondering if my sound setup could make any headphones/IEMs sound good to me, other headphones overall ratings would make things clear on that matter. Here they are:
GRADO SR80: 7.5; Technics RP-DH1200: 7.3; Philips SHE9500: 7.3.
Over the ear IEMs will never be as comfortable as straight down style IEMs. Fortunately, the R-50 can be worn in a straight down position. To do so effectively and comfortably, I wear the right earphone on my left ear and the left earphone on my right ear. This way, the earphone-ear ergonomics work as intended by the designer(s).
UPDATE (December 1, 2012): Beware of the fact that the R-50 do not have enough bass, for bass lovers. I am one of them, and the R-50 are like dessert to me. I can only eat so much of it, but I want some of it.
Edited by Alberto01 - 3/23/13 at 9:22pm