Rock-IT Sound R-Shield Review
Rock-IT Sounds are a company who first got noticed for there extremely cheap rendition of the Knowles TWFK that was well regarded and myself rated it highly when I reviewed it. There other IEMs that are down there line were also said to be quite good for the price however. What has never really been talked about is the headphone that they released, the R-Shield. It is a crazy looking thing and really sparked attention with me and grabbed my attention. What was also weird was an unprovoked comment about them that I received from Rock-IT them selves. “We would also like to point out that our R-Shield is not only for solo artist and jamming sessions. When we first designed this product, we put the focus on the military grade. You can check this product more after you receive it.” So the design of these seems to be a solid build quality equipped with being aimed at musicians. On this is for sure though, they are unlike anything else on the market. They are also fairly cheap and you can buy them for just £45, quite good hey.
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.
These look very different from the pictures and although the pictures show that these are rather big, these are in real life HUGE and when they are on you head you look very silly. If you want to look cool or care even slightly about the look of your headphones, look away now. If you are only going to be using these inside or as a musician or just do not care (or like to be unique) then let’s keep going.
So these were made to be military grade and these seem to be indestructible. To quote member H20Fidelity’s comment on my unboxing video on these, “They would be one of the only things to survive an atomic bomb!” and I totally agree!
To start of with the cable is on the thicker side and is strong and there are no worries to be had about it. The jack is actually quite understated for these headphones though and has a small plastic housing and is terminated with a gold plated jack. The housing goes into a strain relief that is rather short. The strain relief into the headphone though is huge and so flexible; they were not taking any chances with it.
The actual headphones themselves are the real tanks here though. The cups are a rock solid plastic and the incredible hulk (just watched the avengers, sorry) would have trouble breaking them. The chassis of the headphones and head band is all metal which is thin enough to not be to heavy and thick enough to not be weedy and it has very good strength, they got the compromise between the two factors just right. The cable on these only enters in the left channel and then goes all the way over the headband and into the right cup but this causes not extra problems.
You get a pair of headphones and a box, free of accessories.
The parts that are used on the headphones for comfort are quite nice actually although a bit different, although not unique just to them. The headband has a padding that is Velcro-ed on and can be removed at any time. However it is really soft and causes no problems. The ear cushions are like pillows of air and this can cause problems. The problems are mainly due to them being squashed quite easily and therefore not being soft on your ears, in a way it could be seen that they amplify the clamping force that is present and can get quite fatiguing. The one problem that I did think I would have well, was not a problem. That was because of the size I thought they would be heavy and although not light they are far from heavy.
Now I have come to find that one thing that super-aural or on ear headphones cannot pull of is a good isolation, they can sound amazing, but cannot isolate. Well these go and break the mold by destroying it. For the chainsaw my dad has, he as some ear protectors that supposedly block out all ambient sound. Now if your aware of the incredible amount that these sort of products block out then imagine putting a cable out of them and a transducer in each ear cup because that’s what we have here. Extreme isolation and I mean EXTREME.
Microphonics (Cable Noise):
The cable only really has a slight thud that is nothing to bad. You will not have nay problems from it and you could get a lot worse.
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 don’t make any irrational decisions after listening to them out the box.
The sound signature is actually rather neutral. It has a hint of brightness to it and the sound is overall quite compressed and closed. It also sounds rather thin. However the speed of everything is quite impressive for the price although layering and fast passages may get the better of it at times.
Soundstage and instrument separation:
The soundstage size is on the small side. In width and height and there is very little depth. Words compressed and tight come to mind and there is nothing that could be described as airy, 3-D or a surround sound.
Because the sound is so compressed there is not a lot of space for the instruments to bask in the space that they would like and everything is quite close together. This also has a negative effect on imagery as the guitar could be coming from the trumpet that is on top of the vocals.
The bass is very nice for this price as it is not over emphasized like most headphones that have flooded this price range due to being the cool thing to do. No these do not have the emphasis and also they do not have a lot of quantity in fact, if this was an IEM, imagine a single armatures sound or what people expect from one anyway. However what it is not like a single armatures bass is punchy or fast. It lacks speed and impact and you do not really get a lot of satisfaction from it as it is just a slow blur of little quantity, However it does sit nicely in line with the other frequencies which is the best place to be.
The extension into sub-bass regions is not very good and we do not really get much feeling of any sort of rumble or even the sound of any low groans as the bass does drop off quite early.
These although neutral, could be described as vocal centric. This is because the vocals are very present; especially next to the other instruments they really are center stage. This feeling is also boosted by the small soundstage and the poor dynamics on either end of the frequency response. The texture is also lacking and is really thin, like liquid but this is also in away that it is not transparent and details are not in to great quantities. It does have brightness it and maybe a hint of coldness but that is not too obvious. Timbre is really nice with guitars wailing very truly and accurately and would not make guitar players like many of my mates unhappy or even myself who used to play a little bit; but there is no denying that drums lack impact. What I have noticed is a peak in the high mids (probably reasoning behind the brightness) that makes everything feel a bit light and at times screechy.
The treble can be a bit harsh and patchy and it lacks smoothness. However it does have nice definition and detail and the extension is also quite good and the treble feels complete. We also have a strong shimmer of sparkles and the high frequencies in cymbal crashes have the presence that they need.
What we have here is something very different. The offering includes something that look very unique although could be seen as a bit bulky on the head. The comfort is average and you get no accessories, however you do get isolation that is just so amazing, unlike anything I have ever seen from a headphones, this could be labeled as the Etymotic headphone. The sound quality is also a strong offering in the price range and is a really pleasant neutral signature (what I wrote in the review about sound is just how I heard it, not price specific, would have put the same thing is they were £100000 or £1 so these did well for £45). So yeh, if you like look of these, want some monster isolation and build quality or just want a cheap headphone with a neutral sound signature, then give these a go.
Edited by Swimsonny - 9/2/12 at 2:50pm