Rock IT R-50 Review
The Rock It R-50 first caught my attention when a fellow head-fier fell in love with it when the company was very young. He made some very bold statements about it and I was quite unsure at first when I saw the price of only £75 but the as more impressions appeared a grew very intrigued indeed. It also uses my favourite driver, the Knowles TWFK which has always sounded great to me and that of course is a good sign they are using it and I just hope they tuned it well. Now I have owned it for a while and have decided it is time for me to write a review.
The set-up I have used is the normal, as I have started using a new portable rig, which is the Hippo CriCri amplifier connected through a LOD to an iPod Nano 3G with Apple Lossless and MP3 on it.
I also used my old set-ups of my iPhone 4, Cowon J3 (with FLAC) and my iMac with my Objective 2 amplifier.
I like to use a pair of Sony Hybrid tips with these.
Because of the design from the housings and cable used, myself as well as other when we first saw it though that it may be a OEMed Fischer Audio DBA-02. But at closer inspection I realized it was not. The cable is the same one but Rock It has added memory wire at the top of the cables. The housing is also different shaped and has a little silicone jacket. The design is quite subtle being all black but is also quite unique with the grey silicone jacket which is something I have not been seen done before and think it is pretty cool.
Because I own the Fischer Audio DBA-02 (also uses the TWFK driver), which has the same cable, I know how bad it will turn which is quite sad really. Out of the box it is quite nice. The braid is strong and it is very relaxed and flexible. It has a straight jack who is terminated with gold plating and it has a fairly small housing and a little strain relief. The y-split is nice with three very flexible strain reliefs on it and there is also a little plastic cable cinch on the upper cable, which is great. However what will happen is very bad. The cable stiffens until it has no flexibility and then will start to crack. When it stiffens it makes it very hard to wear and use and the cracks will one day be the end of it which is quite doom and gloom but this does happen over a fair amount of time and my R-50s are still fine now a couple of months in.
The housings are very small and although only plastic seemed to be well protected by the jacket, which covers them completely which is quite nice.
Considering this is a fairly cheap package you do not do that bad but some people I guess could want more. You get pairs of tips, which are single flange silicone and have a fairly small bore, which is a shame because these sound better with a large bore tip.
You also get a small round clamshell case that is really protective, portable and also handily has to mesh pockets inside for additional accessories. It is a really nice case.
You also get an airplane adapter, which I found a bit odd but welcome.
The TWFK driver is really tiny and this means that the housings of these are of course, really tiny. I think that in most cases tiny means quite comfortable and these are in that racket. They are so small they sit in your ear not touching you concha uncomfortably or any other part of your ear, which is very nice. Because of their size they can get quite deep but do not feel intrusive. They are also very light and do not weight your ear down at all which is nice.
They are worn over your ear but the memory wire does not work to well but is not uncomfortable.
As I have said these go quite deep into your canal and therefore actually block out a lot of noise which is great for there small size. These would be great for those needing the up most isolation for planes and other transport for example. These succeeded with on blocking out the awful noise of my sit on lawn mower at work, which is not an easy feat.
Microphonics (Cable Noise):
As these are worn over the ear the microphonics are very, very slight but still a little bit present. There will be no problems though so little to worry about.
By what I am about to write I do not want to cause any upsets or arguments as this topic can be seen as a sour subject. These have had roughly 100 hours now of use and burn in combined. As burn in is not scientifically proven this all could be mental and happening in my head but in the case that it does happen I recommend burning them in as in my personal experience I have noted improvements which have a massive impact on my enjoyment factor, so dint make any irrational decisions after listening to them out the box.
The overall sound is neutral and analytical. Driver speed is good and the sound is tad thin and a little empty but overall has great detail.
Soundstage and instrument separation:
The soundstage is not the largest and really quite intimate. It is not subpar but far from being something to get excited about. The width and height is rather average and the depth is good so that the sound is three-dimensional. This is all good and for the price it is great that you’re getting a 3-D sound. Imagery is also quite nice and perhaps above average.
The instrument separation is really stellar. Everything is so exceptionally pulled apart and clearly and airily away from the other instruments.
The bass is quite hard to talk about. I think these would be have to classified as bass light but then they are not really lacking bass, it really would depend on were your coming from.
The mid-bass is very tight and punchy as well as having great speed. The body it hits with is on the smaller side and although the quality is great, bass heads will be underwhelmed by quantity while other will love the compromise of quantity for the great quality. I personally think that is enough and more than the DBA-02 for example and many other BAs. I think the texture of the bass could be seen to be a bit think and light but the timbre is quite nice with a nice little groan to it. The mid-bass also is a tad to fast which gets rid of a bit of the decay and leaves you felling like you would like it to linger around a bit more.
The sub-bass extension is obviously not going to be a forte of BA IEM and this is the case. You can hear so frequencies that are getting lower but there is no rumble to these, which is a bit of shame but not the end of the world.
The mids are all about the detail. It is airy and bright with subtle warmth but the main feature is its transparency. The details that ooze through are amazing and you can hear every detail in the mids superbly. The vocals have a slight bit of extra decay to them and they are a tad bright favoring female vocals but everything is quite natural sounding. Strings are quite nice and fast and drums are a bit weak and light.
The treble is great and very nicely tuned. It is bright and sparkly but not to an overwhelming point or fatiguing but still more than average. Lot of details shine through because of this and cybals are heard very clearly. Extension is very god and the treble is full and complete.
There are taints of sibilance.
Vs. Fischer Audio DBA-02 and Ultimate Ears 700:
Starting with the treble the UE700s are by far the most casual and laid back and also roll of a fair bit quicker but it does feel slightly thicker than the others. In comparison there is more presence to that of the R-50 and it also extends further with more sparkle. There is also more detail which is the result of a thinner less textured treble. Instantly with the DBA-02 your gather a lot more extension and a tonne more sparkle to the R-50s, which do not have a shabby amount. The texture also feels better and there is also more detail. The more forward treble though of the DBA-02 and R-50 results in a small peak, which of course leads to hints of sibilance in the R-50, and a fair bit with the DBA-02 while the UE700 have none.
Treble: DBA-02 > R-50 > UE700
The mids of the three are again quite a bit different but is the biggest similarity between the R-50 and DBA-02. The DBA-02 and R-50 bring a new meaning to transparent mids and reveal all the details their are to bring but being very clinical the DBA-02 have more detail. The R-50 feel more airy but are slightly less forward than the DBA-02. As for the tones of them the DBA-02 are completely bright and perhaps nearing cold were as the R-50 are less bright and nearer warm. They both pack a lot of energy. The UE700 are of course detailed and transparent but not to the level of the other two but they do have the most relaxed and airy of the three. Their tone is the warmest and also the driest and vocals are softer with less energy.
Mids: DBA-02 >= R-50 > UE700
Bass on the three is rather varied and is perhaps what separates them. The UE700 have the most bass but are equally the loosest and have the weakest punches but also hit slower and softer with the largest body of the three. In fact it works down in order like that with the quantity going UE700, R-50, DBA-02 and then Speed and tightness of punches going DBA-02, R-50 followed by the UE700s. But take that with a pinch of salt as they are all very fast and also very tight even the UE700 but while the bass on the UE700 is not a shabby amount the DBA-02 is and the R-50 sits in the middle nicely and while i can see the DBA-02 bass quantity not being enough the R-50 should be fine for almost all people.
Mid-Bass Quantity: UE700 > R-50 > DBA-02
Mid-Bass Quality: DBA-02 > R-50 > UE700
The sub-bass on all of them is almost non-existent but if i had to be honest out of all three the only one i have felt a slight rumble on is the UE700.
Sub-Bass: UE700 > DBA-02 = R-50
Sound signature wise the DBA-02 have a top end heavy analytical signature with the forward highs dominating everything to an extreme and everything else being all about the quality and detail. The R-50 and UE700 are both balanced with nothing being really 'forward'. The UE700 do have a warmer more laid back sound which is the smoothest of the three and definitely the least fatiguing while the R-50 has a lot more energy with all the details but less smooth and warm and brighter sound.
Whats best, to my preference it is a close call between all three but the DBA-02 comes out on top followed closely by the R-50. Whats the most consumer orientated? I would have to say the UE700 and could actually be liked by most people the most out of the three. What should you get? Well thats for you to decide.
Vs. Vsonic GR07:
They are both pretty neutral in signature but are clearly more plentiful in certain areas. One big difference is the speed of the two with the R-50 being much quicker meaning that the instrument separation is much superior and these withe the DBA-02 are as quick as it gets. Soundstage wise i will say that the GR07 gets wider and higher but it has no depth to it while the R-50 does so although it is a smaller soundstage it is fully three-dimensional and does layering and depth so real.
Bass of course is also fairly difference with one being a BA and one a dynamic and what you will prefer is quite down to preference. The R-50 is very tight, fast and controlled and fairly low in quantity and though its punch, although small in body, it hard. The GR07 is a lot slower but as i have said before really slams and is much bigger in quantity. Sub-bass disappointed me on the GR07 but the odd rumble is better than you will be getting with the R-50.
Mids are a whitewash victory for the R-50 in my opinion because they have more energy and are much more airy than the GR07 which to me lacked energy and made vocals boring. It does bring back in the higher mids but the transparency and revealing of detail is just so beautiful on the R-50. The mids are slightly more forward on the R-50 as well.
Treble is a close call and there is more sparkle on the R-50 but similar presence, more detail on the R-50 but a better texture to the GR07. They both can be sibilant so it is up to you.
Build quality the GR07 gets as it has a cable which is just great, in fact as good as they get were as the R-50 cable will die like it did on my DBA-02 and become solid and break revealing cable. Sound quality wise i think the R-50 does have the victory but as a package the GR07 is better with loads of tips and a better build and a more ergonomic and comfortable fit.
Taking all that into account as well as their price I think the R-50 deserves a better value rating than the GR07.
For their price quite simply these are amazing. Overall good package and for the price these could simply be as good as it gets for certain people. I think Rock-IT have done a great job tuning the TWFK and it rivals the other two I have heard.
This can be purchased from Top Dog Headphones in the UK.
Edited by Swimsonny - 9/16/12 at 8:02am