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Alclair RSM Informal Thoughts/Ramblings -- True Contender in the +$1,000 for $650

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

This review has been in the making for quite some time.  I held off due to my pair of RSMs being equipped with a prototype high-frequency balanced armature and I wanted to wait until the CIEM was ready for prime time before typing up my fondness for it.  Well, last week I spoke with Marc, Alclair’s IEM guru, about the RSM’s latest development.  He told me it was ready and in an improved form from what I have been using.   If I understood his technical speak correctly, he improved the crossover and the high frequency armature to have flatter phase (nearly zero offset) between the mid and high frequency drivers.  Like Mr. Harvey’s stuff, phase aligned type business.  The RSM is now shipping with Alclair’s latest revisions (http://alclair.com/product/rsm/).


Prior to getting the RSM, my setup consisted of the JH3A and freqphase version of the JH16.  I was in custom in-ear heaven.  Then jealousy crept in reading review after review of new products.  All the while I was confined to a one box, no wavering solution.  After learning that Alclair was local to me in MN I had to quickly find out what they were all about.  This is when I met Marc.  He and I traded questions and after all of that I decided to give the RSM a try.  He wanted to have something to offer the music listeners and I told him I would report back with my honest opinion against a true contender.


I decided to share my review of the RSM on Head-Fi for two reasons: it sounds awesome and where it falls in the price vs. performance category.  I will tell you right here that the RSM has made it to the top of my custom in-ear mountain.  I am coming from JH Audio’s flagships as well as spending time at this year’s Ear Gear Expo at AXPONA comparing against the current formidable heavyweights.


I am not going to claim to be a golden ear because I know I am not.  I am never confident in my opinion regarding what sounds more ‘natural’, ‘warmer’, or even more ‘tonally’ correct.  I can’t do that like many on here can.  Instead, to gauge my fondness for a device take mental notes about how a particular song emotes a feeling or response from me.  This method helps me remember ‘into a song’ for what caused the response or reaction.


For this review I used three songs that I feel have the capability to emote a response from any listener if the playback system was right for them.  The three songs are are Eric Clapton’s “Old Love” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5q8Awz5DeeQ), “A Trace of Grace” by various artists (http://www.positive-feedback.com/Issue64/hfs1.htm), and a song called “Hawk Circle” composed by William Ackerman and Michael Hedges.  Each song facilitates a different emotional response for me which is why I paired the three together.


If you ever wondered what makes Eric Clapton so world renowned as a musician, “Old Love” is my best example of that.  He uses his guitar to lay out a piece of music landscape that weaves in and out of a groove.  It’s like he is trying to say something with the guitar as his voice.  The first time I listened to this song with the RSM I got to Clapton’s conclusion, I call that the 12:30 mark, and stood right of my chair dragging my amplifier with me.  The Stratocaster’s inflections had more depth than ever before with a pitch on the string bends my ears like.  I end up listening to this song at ear-piercing levels now because it never feels like the climax will be loud enough.  The RSM makes this song sing like I have never heard before.


I really like “A Trace of Grace” because it offers someone like me, without real musical talent, insight into the beauty of musicianship.  I find the recording impeccable with a real sense of environment or space.  Want to know what an orbo should sound like?  How about a serpent?  How about what an orbo or serpent should sound like in ancient European architecture?  I feel like the team who recorded this piece wanted to capture both the instrument(s) and the space equally.  Neither more important than the other.  The antithesis of a studio recording and I love it.  I have encountered a couple of home stereo systems that portray the space and what I think the instrument should sound like.  For me, the RSM gets closer to the real sound than the JH16 could.  The RSM is able to teleport me to an abandoned Greek temple much like a high-end stereo system could.  I am seated front and center conducting the musicians as they play.  Give it a try.  I’d love to know I am not the only looney one on here.   The RSM adds more features to the recorded space; more complexity to the architecture.  There is a slight amount of additional texture to the instrument’s sound.  I guess I would say the RSM adds more views into the music like being able to rotate an image; seeing it from all sides.


The third song I used to measure my fondness for customs is “Hawk Circle”.  I know this song/recording has the ability to engage emotion because my girlfriend asks me to turn it off when I play it in the car. However, on the home stereo system she forgets her indignation for it by commenting on how nice it sounds.  That’s a lot of musical expression from her.  The meld of the piano and the acoustic guitar is quite incredible to me.  The better the song is played back, the more entranced I get into the sound of the piano and how truly awe-inspiring Michael Hedges was as a musician.  What really sold me on the RSM is how different a piano sounds using it.  I remember the first time listening to this song with the RSM and following William Ackerman’s fingers on the keys.  There was bite to the piano I had not heard before.  There was more weight to the low keys.  I always find a piano recording hard to listen to because it just never seems right.  I think the RSM gets real close to extracting the sound that was recorded.


In the next post I will attempt to convey my thoughts on how the RSM compares to the universal version of the Roxanne and Kaiser 10 I was able to hear at AXPONA.

post #2 of 6
Thread Starter 

I attended this year's AXPONA show in Chicago.  I made sure to save time to spend at Ear Gear Expo to demo Noble Audio's Kaiser 10 and JH Audio's Roxanne.  


I stopped by the Noble Audio booth first.  Their setup for these shows is clean and professional.  I was impressed by Noble Audio before I ever sat down.  Each of their four listening stations had a Chord Hugo as the DAC.  Three of the stations had a AK240 as the source into the DAC.  The second music started playing I was astounded by what I was hearing.  The bass was unlike any I have encountered from a headphone in my life.  The entire musical presentation was so smooth.  I started thinking that there really is something big happening in the custom IEM world.  The multi-BA IEMs are more than a step or two above what was available just two years ago.  I was afraid to plus the RSM in to hear how much I would have to spend to obtain the "new" reference sound.  I did it anyway and I am glad I did.  (Note: the RSM cable's plug would not seat into the recessed headphone output of the Hugo so I went straight out of the AK240)  The bass from the RSM was the first thing I noticed like with the K10.  The romantic presentation was there in spades.  The RSM gave up nothing to the K10.  The two IEMs were different but neither one superior to the other.  I don't know what it was what made me enjoy listening to a headphone more than I have ever had on this day.  It could have been the AK240.  I fell in love with that device and maybe it is every IEM nut's dream.  


I left the Ear Gear Expo to return later to audition the Roxanne when the booth was empty.  On my return I was lucky to find no one at the JH Audio booth.  I can't remember but I think they had the AK120 to use with their universals.  Even so, the Roxanne produced the same incredible sound as the K10 did on that day.  Again, the IEMs sounded different but not far apart.  There have been a couple of folks on here with experience using the K10 and Roxanne.  Their summations of the difference align with mine and that is the K10 is slightly more colored (musical) where the Roxanne is actually more neutral (flat).  I know Jerry says he doesn't create monitors with flat frequency response but I think that's what the Roxanne sounds like.  Maybe the K10 is flat and the Roxanne is supposed to have more presence in the midrange.  What do I know.  Now, to me, the RSM falls more towards the side of the Roxanne.  I consider the RSM to be every bit as good as the Roxanne.  


I thought more drivers had to mean a bit of "this and that" when it came to what music would sound like from an custom monitor.  The four drivers inside the RSM produce an incredible musical experience for $650 which makes it a true contender with the best IEMs on the market.  I'll admit, I have a lot more to hear but right now the RSM is the IEM to have in my opinion.  Give Alclair a call at any time during the week.  They'd be happy to answer your questions.  Their customer care is what we all wish every manufacture had.  I have inquired about getting 3D artwork on my monitors.  I will report back with my thoughts if and when it happens.


I hope someone here stayed for the length of these first two posts and enjoyed what they read.  Please share your RSM thoughts here if you decide to give them a try.

Edited by tf1216 - 5/6/14 at 2:27pm
post #3 of 6
Thread Starter 

Any other RSM users out there?

post #4 of 6

Not a RSM owner - yet, but I can attest to Aclair's fine products like the Reference that I use to own and the stellar customer service from Amy and Marc.  Glad to hear the RSM can hold its own against products 2-3 times its price and 2-3 times the driver count.  I think average_joe may be one of the few that also owns the RSM, but I'm not sure.

post #5 of 6

Interesting thoughts. . . . I used to be an audio fanatic, and I too am a little surprised that the high-end custom IEMs have turned into a "driver race."  When I was buying speakers I would never have went past 3 way.  Two way or even full range electrostatics were my favorites.  

post #6 of 6
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by joncirca57 View Post

Interesting thoughts. . . . I used to be an audio fanatic, and I too am a little surprised that the high-end custom IEMs have turned into a "driver race."  When I was buying speakers I would never have went past 3 way.  Two way or even full range electrostatics were my favorites.  

I live in the same camp as you. I was starting to believe that more drivers allowed the designer the capability to extract better sound. Once I asked all my burning questions I learned that's just not the case. Utilizing ears and measurements coupled with a "secret sauce" can one fantastic in-ear.
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