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  1. Cinder
    A Universal Approach to Custom Fits
    Written by Cinder
    Published Dec 8, 2018
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Excellent detail capture, bass and treble extension, great accessory package, top-notch comfort, isolation, and ergonomics, MMCX detachable cables, great carrying case, neutral tonality, stage-monitor-like presentation
    Cons - Case lacks crush protection
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    Akoustyx is a brand-new brand, hailing from San-Jose, California. Their focus is bringing affordable stage-monitor-styled earphones to the masses. Bands, performers, and audiophiles alike may find something to appreciate within their product lineup. Today, we are taking a look at Akoustyx’s entry-level IEM: the R-110.

    You can find the R-110 available on the Akoustyx official website for $99 (on sale!), here.

    About My Preferences: Heads up, I’m a person! As such, these words are my opinion, and they are tinged by my personal preferences. While I try to mitigate this as much as possible during my review process, I’d be lying if I said my biases are completely erased. So for you, my readers, keep this in mind:

    • My ideal sound signature would be an extended sub-bass with a leveled, but textured, mid-bass.
    • I have a mild treble sensitivity.
    Source: The R-110 was powered like so:

    HTC U11 -> USB-C adapter -> earphones

    or

    Hidizs AP100 3.5mm out -> FiiO A5 3.5mm out -> earphones

    or

    HiFiMAN SuperMini -> earphones

    or

    PC optical out -> HiFiMe SPDIF 9018 Sabre DAC 3.5mm out -> earphones

    All music was served as MP3 @320Kbps or as FLAC.

    Tech Specs
    • Driver: Micro Reference Balanced Armature
    • Impedance: 50 Ω @ 1KHz
    • Sensitivity: 108dB
    • Frequency Response: 15–22.000Hz
    • Cable Length: 1.2M (4.0 ft)
    • Microphone: 4mm Omni Directional
    Sound Signature
    Sonic Overview:
    The R-110 is a mildly V-shaped IEM with a brighter midrange, extended treble, and tight bass. It has a quick and precise attack and decay — perfect for eeking out as much detail and texture from a track as possible.

    Sonic Breakdown:
    Treble: Songs used: In One Ear, Midnight City, Outlands, Satisfy, Little One, Show Me How To Live (Live at the Quart Festival)

    I’ve tested many, many IEMs at this point, no small part of which have laid claim to their own special “proprietary” driver technology. This is, mostly, just marketing jargon designed to whip up attention and excitement — that is to say, the end product usually isn’t that special. So when I heard that Akoustyx had their own proprietary tech inside their drivers, I was initially unimpressed. However, after spending as much time as I have with the R-110, its become clear that whatever treatment the BA drivers inside it have gotten, the drivers now have more than an off-the-shelf sound signature. The treble is one of the more obvious examples of this. A single BA in the R-110 brings forwards enough upper-register details to put some other multi-BA IEMs to shame. During In One Ear, a song which has quite a bit of treble-bound activity in the background, I was able to distinguish and focus in on the individual cymbals and high-hats that are oh-so-prevalent. Further, I could easily and clearly make out the singer’s breathing as well as the talking and murmuring in the intro of the song, two key benchmarking points for treble quality for me.

    The R-110 is free from sibilance. Across all the songs I tested, it never got too harsh and never lost control of itself during poorly-mastered songs.

    Midrange: Songs used: Flagpole Sitta, Jacked Up, I Am The Highway, Dreams, Too Close, Little Black Submarines

    The R-110’s midrange is, acoustically, pretty neutral and un-colored. I found myself enjoying it quite a bit on everything from electric guitars in Rock, to synths in electronic music, to acoustic guitars in Indy. The R-110’s versatile nature makes it a joy to use across a genre-diverse music collection. As far as detail goes, the story is much the same as with the treble: there’s tons of it. While I can’t quite call it a giant-killer, I am tempted.

    When it comes to vocals, the R-110 has no particular preference for male or female vocals. While my preferences dictate that male vocals need more heft to them, listeners who lean towards balance and neutrality will likely be satisfied with the way the R-110 presents itself by default.

    Bass: Songs used: Moth, Gold Dust, In For The Kill (Skream Remix), War Pigs (Celldweller Remix)

    The R-110 is not designed to be a bass-heavy IEM. That said, it is not completely vacant of bass in ways such as the Earnine EN-100 or the Simgot EN700. I could easily and clearly make out the bass guitars of Moth, and they felt bodied and well-extended. For purposes such as this, the R-110’s bass is certainly sufficient. For electronic music, it's more of a mixed bag. Depending on the mastering style of the individual track you are listening to, you can end up with a bass that is just right or one that is lacking a little something. For example, I found Gold Dust to sound fine, as its drops had body, impact, and a fair amount of rumble. But for War Pigs I often found myself wishing for a meatier mid-bass.

    Packaging / Unboxing

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    The R-110’s packaging is compact and effective. The outer-sleeve-inner-box tactic that the R-110 employs gives it a premium-unboxing experience. Additionally, the inner box's texturing is nice to the touch and adds a little more fit-and-finish.

    Build
    Construction Quality

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    The R-110’s shells are built ergonomics-first. This means that heavy materials, sharp materials, and oddly-finished materials simply couldn’t make the cut. Akoustyx settled on using a high-quality plastic with a smooth black-transparent finish.


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    As far as nozzle’s go, the R-110’s are pretty slim. As they are low in diameter, they will only be compatible with eartips that have low core sizes. The nozzles have a well-defined lip that really helps keep eartips secure and immobile.


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    You can find the MMCX ports of the R-110 on the top of its shell. They are housed inside a plastic cylinder that looks to be merely appended to the body of the shell. Initial looks aside, it is firmly a part of the shell. It isn’t secured by glue and is actually molded as a part of the shell. Indeed, its purpose is not just aesthetic. In fact, it thwarted the branding-plans of Akoustyx. This cylinder, I am told, was an ergonomic requirement. Without it, there was no reliable way to ensure comfort. It’s refreshing to find a company that will go so far out of its way to design a great product that it forsakes its ability to push its logo and branding!


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    For the longest time, I’ve been wondering, quietly and to myself, “why are there no cables with exposed copper that feature in-line controls”? Well, the answer still isn’t clear to me, but Akoustyx’s cable for the R-110 has shown me that at least it isn’t impossible. Sitting on their four-core cable is a tri-button control/mic combo unit. On Android, I’ve confirmed that pause, play, fast-forward, rewind, and mic functionality are all present. You can even trigger Google Assistant! I’ve not been able to confirm any functionality on iOS devices since I don’t own any.

    The R-110’s cable is a thing of beauty. It is, as I previously mentioned, made out of four twisted cores. Underneath the clear plastic sheathing lies the high-purity copper that conducts the music to your ears. The cable’s MMCX connectors, Y-splitter, chin slider, and 3.5mm jack, are each housed in a frosted white plastic. You can see some of the wirings underneath each surface. This blend of utilitarianism and traditional aesthetics is refreshingly novel, at least in a form where it is being done correctly. Being given visual access to the wiring of the R-110’s cable, it's clear to see that it is done well, and with care. I have no longevity concerns for the R-110’s cable, and even if I did, it would matter little — after all, the R-110 features detachable cables. An aftermarket one wouldn’t be too hard to find.

    Comfort
    As the R-110 is chasing the status of “stage-monitor”, being ergonomic is a key factor. Some might say ergonomics are the most key factor. Akoustyx is well aware of this and, in large part, designed the R-110 around the principals of comfort. The R-110 is incredibly comfortable to use, even for very extended periods of time. I was able to get a comfortable seal with excellent isolation with ease. The R-110’s lightweight build and small nozzle size make it an excellent choice for those with smaller or irritable ears too.

    To test the fabled ear-retention mechanism (ear hooks) that Akoustyx touts so much, I took the R-110 in a variety of high-stress active situations. I have spent a cumulative four hours rock climbing/bouldering with the R-110, five hours bike-riding, and three hours running. In each of these activities, I’ve had no issues with the R-110 becoming loose, bar one or two times while landing from a seven-foot drop while bouldering, and rarely, if ever, felt discomfort. I’d say that the R-110, and by extension the rest of the R1-series from Akoustyx, has some of the most competent ear-retention of any IEM I’ve tested.

    Accessories
    Inside the box, you’ll find:


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    • 1x soft carrying case
    • 4x sets of ear-hooks
    • 4x sets of silicone eartips
    • 1x set of foam eartips
    The R-110’s accessory package is reasonable. I never found myself missing any critical accessory, nor did I find it difficult to use the enclosed accessories to find a completely comfortable configuration of eartip and ear hook. The Comply foam eartips are a really nice touch. And, if you don’t like the eartips but do like the isolation you get from the inner rubber sleeve, there is a rubber sleeve without an earhook included.

    Akoustyx takes great pride in the R1-series’ earhooks. According to their website, the R-1 series earhooks are licensed from a Norwegian company called Freebit. This “ear-interface” technology is well-proven and is used by tons of different companies. These ear-hooks play a key role in keeping the R-110 stable in the ear and make it a viable budget alternative to custom-molded IEMs for listeners who need a high level of security.

    The soft carrying case that the R-110 comes with is highly functional. It is large enough to store the R-110 coiled in any way you’d like, so there’s no need to learn a new technique just to use it to keep your IEMs safe. The case features a little zipper compartment for storing some small objects. I use it to keep all my extra eartips and earhooks in one place. Further, it has padded edges and is made out of a shock-absorbent material that dissipates force from drops exceedingly well. So while you could probably toss your R-110 out the second story window in this and have it come out unscathed, I would be weary leaving it in a backpack containing multiple hard, heavy objects. This case’s specialty is not protecting from crushes, but drops.

    Comparisons
    1: Massdrop x Nuforce EDC3 ($99)

    The EDC3 is a pretty “flat” IEM with some very subtle bumps in the treble and a roll-off into the bass. By comparison, the R-110 is a“V-shaped” IEM with a more emphasized upper midrange, more energetic treble, and slightly more emphasized bass. Let me stress that this is all in relative terms, as the R-110 isn’t exactly what you’d call an actual V-shaped IEM. At least not compared to the likes of the LZ A5 and DK-3001. In reality, the R-110’s bass is pretty linear with its lower-midrange.

    2: Periodic Audio Mg ($99)

    The Periodic Audio Mg is a warmer IEM than the R-110. It has a more “friendly and fun” take on music than the R-110, likely owing to its dynamic driver (a stark contrast to the R-110’s single balanced-armature driver). The Mg is more V-shaped than the R-110, recessing its midrange more and elevating its bass and upper-treble beyond that of the R-110. The Mg is less detail-oriented than the R-110, however. That is to be expected though, coming down mostly due to the differences between their two driver technologies and target sound signatures. The R-110 suites listeners who prefer analytic sound signatures, while the Mg will suit those who love warm and engaging sound signatures.

    Summary
    The R-110 is an excellent buy for those looking for entry into stage-monitor-styled earphones. It provides ergonomic stability and comfort along-side even and detailed music reproduction. Combine that with its reasonable pricing, good accessory package, and excellent isolation capabilities and you have a recipe for an excellent purchase value. So if you are an aspiring musician who wants a monitor for live performances, an audiophile who appreciates even and accurate sonic reproduction, or just a fan of IEMs that won’t ever fall out of your ears, the R-110 is worth your attention.

    As always, happy listening!
      B9Scrambler, Grimbles and hqssui like this.