REVIEW: Rock It Sounds R-50M - Well Done!
Driver Unit: Dual Micro Balanced Armature
Impedance: 31 ohm at 1000Hz
Sensitivity: 110 dB
Frequency Response: 20-20,000 Hz
MSRP: U$D 125.99 from rockitsounds.com
3 pairs of eartips in S, M, L sizes and 1 hard clamshell carrying case.
For the asking retail price, the eartips both quantity and quality are somehow lacking, but at least the sound, fit and comfort make up for everything, and more. It's worth investing in some aftermarket eartips to achieve best fit and sound results.
Build & Design:
The overall build quality looks better than average with a pretty plain and discreet design. The tiny housings are well protected inside their silicone covers, which also make them look fatter than they actually are. The strain relief at the entry of the housings is rather long, as it covers the whole memory wire. Not the most flexible at first, but gets to soften after some time. The twisted cable itself is very soft, very low in microphonics (as expected for an 'over-the-ear' design) and quite easy to handle. It's easy to store as it shows practically very little memory effect, but also tends to tangle with ease. It could also be twisted tighter. The single-button microphone is placed on the left side, weights nothing and doesn't get much in the way. The Y-split is very soft as well, and the implemented chin slider is limited by the microphone. Finally, the straight-end plug is pretty average.
Fit, Comfort, Isolation:
With a 'over-the-ear' design, the R-50M have a very low-profile and ergonomic form factor. Thanks to the memory cable and strain relief the fit may be either a blessing or a curse. In my case, well, they were both. At first, it was quite a pain to get the right fit from the R-50M, and especially with the stock tips position on the nozzle. After some tries, bending the memory wire and changing the tips position, the 'correct' was achieved and they became one of the most comfortable in-ear model I've tried.
Isolation is a bit eartips dependant. With the stock tips, it's quite good for the daily commute, even slightly better than the RE-400 with hybrid tips, and improves even more with some aftermarket tips, such as double or triple flange silicone ones. It is enough to keep you isolated from the outside world, so be aware.
This is my favorite part about this Rock-It in-ear model. The R-50M features one of the well known and well regarded Knowles TWFK Dual BA drivers, which are among the best in the universal fit earphones, and also one of my favorites drivers, when well tuned.
For those already familiar with these BA drivers, the R-50M sound characteristics may not be a huge surprise. It's more about their tuning, which personally I find to be very well achieved; but to get its best performance a best seal and fit is a must.
As usual, like other TWFK based ones, the R-50M boost an unbeatable top-tier clarity along with a very precise sound and unmatchable speed, and despite their analytical aspects, the R-50M were tuned to carry a delicate sense of warmth with a hair of extra fullness overall.
Expectedly, when it comes to quantity the low end won't offer the (arguable) 'necessary' or enough amounts and rumble that many dynamic based drivers and even some BA units (single or multiple) are capable of. Many users will probably find the R-50M to be lacking/missing the lows fun-factor. But on the other hand, the R-50M will beat everything else out there in 'pure' quality matters. The bass is incredible tight and fast, and due to the TWFK more aggressive nature, it's surprisingly punchy in the mid-bass region, giving the feeling of having 'more' quantity than one would expect.
While the sub-bass is not really 'felt' it's still present and very detailed. It may roll-off sooner and not show serious rumble, but do shows good depth and very fast attack. Decay seems also quicker compared to the more natural dynamics' decay.
The midrange is fantastically clear and too effortless. The detail retrieval level is among the best analytical sets, but without having that too cold and flat tonality. As on their own, the R-50M carry a fair sense of richness but will still feel thinner compared to more mid-centered earphones, let alone warmer ones. They also manage to show a nice smoothness on vocals with a delicate and silky texture; and while they won't beat something like the RE-400 in sweetness and forwardness, they do make the RE-400 sound more dull and congested in comparison. When compared to their hybrid cousins, like the DN-1000, they're very similar in presentation, but thanks to their strong dynamic 3rd driver, the Dunu's have a warmer and fuller sound, but can also be more recessed and a bit more V-shaped overall, while the Rock-It give higher priority to the whole mid frequencies.
As for the treble part, here's where the TWFK drivers always tend to stand out for their total brightness, endless extension, and 'hot' upper mids and lower highs. With a right tuning and the needed eartips they can be the most exciting and enjoyable earphones; or the almost unbearable, otherwise. The R-50M are no exception to the rule. There's no doubt Rock-It Sounds did a great job tuning this flagship model. The R-50M are sure aggressive and energetic, full of sparkle and always cripsy. Quite revealing and unforgiving on certain records and not free from some peaks with specific brighter tracks and vocals. Fortunately, they don't get to the point of being harsh and piercing, but those who are less tolerant should think twice before considering the R-50M. Better/deeper sealing tips or foam tips can definitely help in this regard, and will also add some extra sense of warmth to the overall presentation.
Soundstage is actually rather wide and fairly deep, with excellent sense of space and separation. Imaging is truly impressive and together with their light speed, the R-50M are suitable many genres, from classical to rock to more modern music, including EDM and other electronic derivates. Complexity is handled with such an ease and openness that the R-50M are hard to beat even at higher price brackets, let alone at their current sub $150 range. Unless going into CIEMs, a serious improvement won't be found (and even that is arguable).
FireAudio Fireye HDB: (taken from the FSA HDB review)
When fed through the warm and smooth HDB, the results are quite nice. It tends to control the extra harshness these TWFK can have and add it a beautiful bass response. While it won't transform it in a bassy phone by any means, the R-50M does sound more dynamic and richer through the midrange with a fuller overall tone.
The new HM700 is a great performer for the asking price. The Hifiman slightly warm house's sound shows great synergy results with the R-50. Better balance and more natural presentation along with nicer extension and dynamics are easy to notice in this combo. Furthermore, the excellent HM700 custom EQ may add the 'necessary' (and even more) bass quantity, tame down some of the extra highs' brightness, or give some fullness to the midrange and vocals.
R-50M Vs DN-1000:
Using the same Dual BA drivers, both of these IEMs share many similarities. Of course, being a hybrid model, and a Dunu's third dynamic driver, the low end is obviously the main and biggest difference between them. On the one hand, the 'pure' BA bass of the Rock It is the tightest, fastest and extremely accurate, but on the other hand, is shorter in decay and thinner in body. While highs are almost (if not totally) the same, the midrange show some differences, being the R-50M's slightly more forward and a touch cleaner, while the Dunu's is fuller and warmer thanks to its dynamic driver strength. Soundstage dimensions are also close, but the DN-1000 sounds simply bigger and more 'out if the head'. Sound wise, both are great performers, and in the end it comes to personal tastes as usual. Even though, the fit and comfort that the R-50M provides puts the heavy and large DN-1000 to shame.
R-50M Vs RE-400 (Single ended):
While both earphones fall into the neutral and balanced category, and both carry some nice sense of warmth, they do differ in presentation. The Hifiman RE-400's sound is more mid-centered with a slightly warmer and more rumbling sub-bass presence, and overall much more laid back with a smoother and forgiving upper end compared to the lively and aggressive Rock It R-50M Balanced Armature sound, which is also much less forgiving and more sibilance prone. Soundstage is larger on the R-50M too, while the RE-400 feels more intimate.
At the end of the day, both are among my favorites and daily use earphones, which is not an easy task.
All-in-all, the R-50M is one of the best buys. Not only the sound quality is among the best in its category, putting on shame almost everything else in detail retrieval, resolution and imaging, with an added 'musicality' factor, but also as a whole pack when considering the comfortable over-ear fit and level of isolation. Build quality may not match their competition, and the cable could be improved a bit, but for the price they're pretty much unmatchable. The R-50M is simply a great all-arounder earphone, and now one of my favorite sets. Well Done Rock-It Sounds!