Rikubuds Alter Rider 3


New Head-Fier
An Earbud That Actually Sounds Decent
Pros: Great bass response for an earbud
Great Comfort
Excellent Build Quality
Natural Timbre
Cons: Slightly Edgy Treble
Weird Midrange
Slightly Congested Vocals
Below average separation
earbud overview

Today we're going to be taking a brief look at the Rikubud Alter Rider 3 and which cost 100 euros and were bought by myself, I don't have much to say about it but I'll make my points clear.

bud shell


For the build we have a photopolymer resin body, that feels pretty solid like it could survive some abuse, we also have a plastic cap that covers the driver and the foam covers, for the review I'll be using tuning intended by the Riku which are the foams that come pre-fitted to the earbud which are the white ones though you do get lower density black ones and medium density blue foams. These fit very snuggly and comfortably and would be suited to hours of pain free use,

3.5mm connector

The standard cable is rough and plasticity feeling though of good quality and nice braid, it is terminated in a very compact 3.5mm connector though you can order it in 4.4mm which costs 25 euro extra.

Sound Quality

For sound quality, these buds offer a warmish though slightly congested sound signature, the mids sound a little too thick in a sense which smears the clarity of instruments, the upper mids feel slightly recessed though smooth and lush with a rich timbre, the bass is textured and rich with pretty decent extension for an earbud.

Treble is smooth though slightly on the exited side, some songs may be a little intense at times but it's never harsh.

In this track the bass and kick affinity is excellent, the bass has presence and amazingly rich timbre and the kick just pops out from under it which really drives the song forward like well-oiled clockwork, though slight problem is the vocals sound too warm and recessed.

These have good dynamics and an okay sound stage that projects a near sense of vocals to about the bridge of your nose and a decently wide width, not much depth here but the imaging is pretty decent. Detail retrieval is average, partially soiled by the slightly boxy nature of the mids and instrument layering and separation aren't much of a strong point here though it's not in a way that completely ruins the listening experience.

To be clear, these are excellent if you need something for a fun and semi-natural sound, comfortable listening session but they are not for analytical listening.
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Headphoneus Supremus
Rikubuds Alter Rider 3
Pros: Generous accessories
Well-designed ergonomics and comfort
Solid build
Organic timbre
Neutral tonality, well balanced
Matches most music genres well
Top-notch technical chops
Fast and clean bass with superb texturing
Cons: Fixed cable
Not for bassheads
Note weight on the thinner side

I would like to thank Rikubuds for providing this unit. The Alter Rider 3 is a DIY bud from famed maker @RikudouGoku . It can be obtained here:

Alter Rider 2.jpg

  • Driver configuration: 15.4 mm titanium diaphragm dynamic driver
  • Impedance: 32 Ohms
  • Tested at 100 Euros



Other than the earbuds, these are provided:
1) Semi-rigid case
2) White high-density foams
3) Red medium-density foams
4) Black low-density foams

The accessories are pretty generous, everything that a earbud aficionado would require is included. The white denser foam adds warmth/bass, whereas the thinner black ones would make the sonics brighter and thinner. One can even combine 2 sets of foams (double foam) to add girth and increase warmth if you would like, so do foam roll and see what suits your preferences.

Alter Rider 5.jpg

The added round semi-rigid case has Rikubud's logo on it, and the inner aspect has webbing to store accessories.


While this earbud's cables are not detachable, when placing an order, you can opt for various colours and terminations (4.4 mm or 3.5 mm). Although the stock cable is on the thinner side, it is supple and well-braided, with zero microphonics (this is much appreciated)! The right cable has a red band to mark that it is the right side, as per usual convention.

The Alter Rider 3 even comes with Rikubud's own specially commissioned waifu, for those that are interested:

The rest of this review was done with the stock white (high density) foams. No aftermarket accessories were used, so as not to add any confounders to the sound.


Alter Rider.jpg

The Alter Rider 3 utilizes a RG39 earbud shell, and the resin housings are solid yet light. Ergonomics are excellent, with these buds nicely nesting within the intertragal notch of the ear via a thin stem, with good pivoting and balancing of its centre of gravity. I had no discomfort whatsoever in the 3 weeks that I've been testing it.



This earbud utilizes a 15.4 mm titanium diaphragm dynamic driver.

Alter Rider 2.jpg

The Alter Rider 3 uses Rikubud's innovative Soundsphere technology. Essentially, there are pyramid shaped protrusions within the housing, which reduces unwanted resonances via interaction and re-direction of acoustic waves. This creative design is supposed to improve imaging, soundstage and clarity.

This may be the first time that this creative concept is applied in earbuds - it is used in a very high-end headphone in the Focal Stellia - so kudos to such a brave - but as we will read below, successful - implementation of something considered uncharted waters for earbud DIYers.



I tested the Alter Rider 3 with the following sources:
- Apple dongle
- Cayin RU7
- Colorfly CDA M1 DAC/AMP dongle
- Creative Sound Blaster X5
- E1DA DAC/AMP dongle
- Hiby R3 Pro Saber 2022 DAP
- Khadas Tone Board -> Schiit Asgard 3 amp
- Khadas Tone Board -> Topping L30 amp
- Questyle M15 DAC/AMP dongle
- Sony Walkman NW A-55 DAP (Walkman One WM1Z Plus v2 Mod)
- Sony Walkman NW A-55 DAP (Walkman One Neutral Mod)
- Sony Walkman NW WM1A DAP (Walkman One WM1Z Plus v2 Mod)
- Smartphone

The Alter Rider 3 is not the easiest flathead to drive, and like most single DD transducers, amplification may scale the sonics in terms of bass tightness, soundstage and dynamics.

As the Alter Rider 3 is neutral with a slightly thinner note weight, this earbud may synergize better with warmer sources or something more analoguish.



The Alter Rider 3 is quite neutral in tonality. This makes it a suitable pairing for most music genres, perhaps other than for bass forward genres like EDM and hip-hop.


Like most traditional earbuds, the bass seems focused in the mid-bass, with some sub-bass roll-off. The quantity of bass is neutral, but this earbud eschews outright quantity for excellent quality. A very textured bass is heard, with zero mid-bass bleed and lightning fast speed. On my go-to test track for bass quality - Sting's Englishman in New York - the Alter Rider 3 aces the complex bass solo in the middle of this song, something that cannot be said for some competitor earbuds.

The midrange is the star of the show. The lower mids are transparent, with no bass bleed to impinge here. The Alter Rider 3 provides a dark palette for instruments to be layered and showcased nicely. The upper mids are boosted and vocals are forwards without veering to shouty territory. Vocal and midrange lovers will have a field day, and there's something really magical about this bud's synergy with acoustic tunes.

The treble carries on from the upper mids boost, with decent air and sparkle. The treble is well-dosed, there is minimal sibilance or splashiness of cymbals and high-hats, and these higher frequency percussive instruments have a very natural shimmer. In essence, the Alter Rider 3 should be safe for treble sensitive folk. I really like that this set does not have the fake resolution/clarity that a lot of CHIFI use to trick the ears (via overly boosting the treble for phoney details). Details and nuances can still be heard on this earbud, and the tuning is kind of monitor-like in that way.

Technicalities are superb and easily match other TOTL buds. Soundstage is quite expansive in all 3 dimensions, and instrument separation and imaging are commendable. Even with very complex riffs in music with competing instrumentation, the Alter Rider 3 handles these with ease.

The Alter Rider 3 has a very natural timbre for acoustic instruments. Strings are very life-like, brasses have a correct metallic overtone and woodwinds have a realistic airy tail. It does have a bit of a thinner note weight, but this allows the earbud to have rapid transients without any bloat.


Alter Rider 3.jpg

Yincrow RW-2000

The RW-2000 is a warmish U-shaped set.

Timbre is natural, but it has a weaker soundstage compared to the Alter Rider 3. The RW-2000 also has slightly poorer imaging and instrument separation, though it has a thicker note weight and about equivalent micro-detailing.

The RW-2000 has a detachable cable though, and can be worn over ears or cable down. The RW-2000 is slightly easier to drive.

Yinman 600 ohm

The Yinman 600 ohm earbud is an L-shaped pair which requires a nuclear reactor to drive, clocking in at a mind-boggling 600 ohm impedance and 87 dB/mW sensitivity. As such, the Yinmans require a more robust source to drive - we are looking generally at a desktop setup - which does limits its portability or utility.

The Yinman 600 ohm is much thicker in note weight with a huge bass. The Yinman's bass descends deeper, though it isn't as tight or textured, with mid-bass bleed. The Yinman 600 ohm is less extended in the treble, with a less zealous upper midrange.

The Yinman 600 ohm loses in technical chops, with inferior clarity, micro-detailing, imaging, instrument separation and soundstage. It also has a non-detachable cable.


The Alter Rider 3 is a TOTL-class earbud, which does most areas well. Tangibles like ergonomics, build and accessories are stellar; intangibles like tonality, timbre and technicalities are likewise outstanding.

Packing a neutral tonality, this earbud is very "reference" sounding, and presents the music as it is, without colouration. Timbral accuracy is organic, and technicalities are first-class. The midrange is quite addictive for acoustic instruments and vocals, and the well-extended yet fatigue-free treble harnesses fine resolution without needing to overly boost this region to cheat. Bass is literally fast and clean.

Alter Rider 4.jpg

There are just a few minor nitpicks. Bassheads will find the Alter Rider 3 to be not their cup of tea, and the non-detachable cable may be a bone of contention for folks who might want to pair aftermarket cables or worry about future-proofing. The note weight is on the slightly thinner side, but perhaps pairing the Alter Rider 3 with a warmer source might offset this.

Nevertheless, for most other earbud enthusiasts, you will not be disappointed by the sonics of this special DIY bud. The Alter Rider 3 surely belongs in the conversation when it comes to choosing a TOTL flathead.
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