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ROCK JAW ALFA GENUS

Rating:
4.26923/5,
  1. Talai
    Versatile and Effective - The Rock Jaw Alfa Genus
    Written by Talai
    Published Mar 18, 2015
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Quite versatile because of the filter system, very cost effective
    Cons - No cable cinch, L/R markings are hard to read
    Hello Head-Fi!
     
    ROCK JAW audio was kind enough to ask me to review their Alfa Genus IEM, so here is my honest opinion of the product that they provided. I'll be touching on several different aspects of the IEMs, including the build quality, packaging, included accessories, and last but not least, the sound quality of the earphones.
     

    Video Review

    This video sums up my review pretty well. If you'd prefer a written review, well, read on!
    [​IMG]

    Preface

    I've been using the Alfa Genus for several weeks now, and have accumulated around 80 hours of listening and burn-in time. I don't feel that burn-in is necessary in most cases, but I figured it couldn't hurt to add on a few hours when I wasn't actively listening. All songs that I've based this review off of are 320Kbps Spotify streamed, sometimes though an ALO Rx Mk.3 B+ amp. I didn't use the amp at all times, because it's my opinion that a pair of mid-fi earphones should perform well out of anything... especially considering that a large number of users will be running straight out of their phones. Honestly these are ~$50 earphones, and you really shouldn't need an amp for them.
     
    Basically, if you couldn't tell from the above paragraph, I'm not an audiophile. I just like my music, and it's as simple as that.
     
    If you'd like to see the playlist that I used for the most part, click here to check it out. I keep it updated with all of the tracks that I use for critical listening.
     
    With all of that out of the way, let's jump into my review of the ROCK JAW Alfa Genus.
     
     

    Packaging, Accessories, Build Quality, and Other Stuff

    Packaging
    The Alfa Genus is packaged well. When it comes down to it, a product's packaging is simply designed to transport and display it well. If it ticks off just those two marks, it works. A practical example of this would be Mr. Speakers' Mad Dogs, which sacrificed fancy packaging in order to provide stronger sound.
     
    That being said, premium packaging certainly won't hurt a product’s chances, and it seems that RockJaw took that to mind.
     
    [​IMG]
    The package holds the filters securely and in a premium way
     
    The soft foam held within a hard cardboard outer shell is a great combination, and it works well to store everything safely. In fact, I have very little to complain about when it comes to the way that the Alfa Genus is packaged. The only issue that I had is that the filters can be difficult to remove from the foam if they get pushed in too deep.
     
    Accessories
    The first included item is the "case" for the earphones, which is simply a fabric pouch emblazoned with the RockJaw logo. The drawstrings on the top serve well in holding the IEMs within the pouch, and while it's not the most glamorous solution, it gets the job done. I do wish that it was just a bit more premium feeling though... there's nothing wrong with the pouch, it's just nothing special.
     
    The only other included accessories (not counting the filters, which I'll talk about in the Sound section) are 4 different sets of tips and a small shirt clip.
     
    xhc8KsN.jpg
               All of the included accessories, not counting the filters
     
    Accessories are one of the areas in which the Alfa Genus could use some work. The included ones are fine, but they could be better. However, when you bring the price point back into consideration (hovering around $50 USD on Amazon right now), I feel that it's fair to cut RockJaw some slack.
     
    Build Quality
    As it says right on RockJaw's website: these bad boys are made from a combination of Ebony and Aluminum. Yeah, they're $50. I'm actually impressed by how nice the Alfa Genus really feels. My pair has different designs and wood grains on each side, which is a really nice touch.
     
    i9gzoaI.jpg
                         The wood grain on my pair of Alfa Genus
     
    The cable is thicker than a typical one, and adds a level of confidence that I like. There is a short(er than I'd like) section of flexible plastic right where the cable meets the driver housing that feels like it'll do a decent job of protecting against any strain. The cable terminates into a 90° jack that seems to be engineered to fit into any phone case - it's thin and light, but also has a decent amount of strain relief. The Y-connector is simple, but light.
     
    I have exactly two complaints about the build quality of the Alfa Genus: the left/right markings are nigh impossible to find, and there is no cable cinch to be seen. The lack of a cable cinch means that when you're sitting down (or in some other situation where the cable wouldn't be taut) the cables have a tendency to move outwards - a minor inconvenience. As the built in microphone will always be on the left side, the simple solution that I used to solve the L/R problem is just to use the mic to find the left side.
     
    For the price, these earphones look awesome, and have a build quality to match.
     
     
    Other Stuff
     
    Microphonics aren't great. Sounds are pretty easy to get if you disturb any part of the cable above the Y-connector, and it can get annoying. It helps to wear them over the ear, but with this type of earphone that's not much of a solution.
     
    The other side of that negative is that the earphones are compact and lightweight. Their design makes them really comfortable to wear once you find the right tips, and it's simply pleasant to use them.
     
    On the note of tips, the included ones aren't very sound isolating... at all. They are constructed well, but they simply let in some sound. If music is playing it isn't too bad, but don't expect CIEM levels of isolation.
     
    The microphone could be better, and the inline controls don't work on any of my android devices.
     

    Sound Quality and Filters


    Filter Impressions
    Allow me to preface this section by confessing that I have no idea how RockJaw got the filters to change the sound so much. As I compared the build of the black (reference) and silver (enhanced bass?) filters I was unable to find a single difference physically between the two - they looked fully identical except for the colors. With that in mind, when I tried both sets, they were very different. I... don't know how. The black filters made the bass back away and give the stage to the mids and highs, while the silver filters presented an enjoyable (more bassy) performance. I'm baffled.
     
    I tested myself by using one black and one silver at the same time - there is a very audible difference. That's pretty cool to me. I can understand how the gold (neutral) filter changes the sound, as when you look through it you can see a foam of some sort. The black and the silver? Not so much. Magic!
     
    Anyways, my preferred filter overall was the silver one, so I used it for most of my listening. I know that RockJaw released the gold filters in response to the reviews that they got over the years, but I found that the silver filter created the blend of sound that I enjoyed the most. My impressions veer away from what the box would have you believe, as my thoughts were that the gold (neutral) filters had more bass than the silver (enhanced bass) filters. I think that's why I like the silver filters so much - it's a good blend between the two others.
     
    On a less positive note, this impression has me questioning the quality control in place to ensure that all of the filters produce the same sound. Other (more notable) reviews have concluded that the gold filter is the middle ground, while I found that it was on the end of the spectrum in my case. By far. The gold filter also reduces the sound level, probably because of the foam inside of it.
     
    In any case, the two most noteworthy filters in my book are the silver and black. I'll now go a bit more in-depth into these two options.
     
    Silver Filter
    RockJaw promotes the silver filter as having enhanced bass, which it most definitely does if you compare it to the black filter. I love this filter, and it turns the Alfa Genus into an awesome IEM for the price; one that I'd be willing to pay a lot more than $50 for. This filter is roughly V-shaped, and has more emphasis on the treble and bass than the mids. However, this isn't to say that the mids are drowned out, as the deep bass compliments the mids more than overpower them. I seriously I love this filter. The bass in the opening of "Windows" by AWOLNATION with this filter was so enjoyable that I decided I needed to make a note of it.
     
    That being said, if you want the best clarity you can get from this IEM then the silver filter isn't for you. To be honest though, it wasn't designed to be the most clear. The silver filter presents an enjoyable sound that is reasonably clear, and the thumpy bass makes up for the drop in clarity (at least in my book).
     
    Black Filter
    The black filter would be my second choice if I could only choose one pair of filters. The beauty of the Alfa Genus is that you don't need to choose, but still. The black filter severely gimps the bass, but the rest of the spectrum is nicely clear and bright. So bright in fact that it can get fatiguing if you listen to the wrong (right?) genres of music for too long.
     
    This filter is clarity, and it's awesome for some genres.
     
    Other Sound and Filter Notes
    One thing that I really like about the Alfa Genus is just how big the difference is between filters. Another IEM that I reviewed also had a filtering system, but I realize now just how little the effect was compared to RockJaw's offering. Instead of slight changes that you actually have to listen for, the Alfa Genus is almost three IEMs in one, and honestly I'd be surprised if it didn't make somebody happy.
     

    Final Thoughts

    RockJaw has done something special with the Alfa Genus. It's extremely impressive for the price, and the filtering system is so effective that it's one of the most versatile IEMs that I've used to date. In normal folk terms, it's awesome. I've loved my time with the Alfa Genus, and it gets my full recommendation.
     
    Oh, and I can't forget to praise the company itelf. Free next-day shipping in the U.K. and free shipping to the rest of the world is pretty unique. My experience talking to Joe from RockJaw was very pleasant. Seriously, no complaints. I'm always happy to recommend a company who actually cares about their customers, and my experience has been that RockJaw genuinely does.
     
    I can see the Alfa Genus going a long way from here, and it has been my genuine pleasure to work with both it and RockJaw.

     
     
    Thanks for reading the review guys, hope you enjoyed! To see some more shots of the Alfa Genus be sure to check out the video review above, and thanks for being so awesome! [​IMG] 
  2. Brooko
    Rock Jaw Alfa Genus – Sub $100 Stunner
    Written by Brooko
    Published Jul 5, 2014
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Clarity, build, light weight, value, sound signature, filter tuning system
    Cons - L/R markings hard to read
    PREAMBLE

    INTRODUCING ROCK JAW’S ALFA GENUS SINGLE DYNAMIC DRIVER IEM (Updated 8th Sept)

    Special Note - I've updated the review 8th Sept 2014 - amendments are marked in red for easy identification.

    14AG.jpg
    17AG.jpg

    The Alfa Genus From Rock Jaw

    Alfa Genus Paired With Fiio X5


    RockJaw UK is a relatively new headphone/earphone manufacturer to the Head-Fi scene, so it was with particular interest that I noticed their early posts on the forums, and when they asked for potential reviewers to test their audio product range, but more importantly wanted active feedback to shape their tuning toward the final product configuration – I immediately jumped at the chance.

    I received the courier pack just under two weeks ago – and after quickly trying the other products sent (most of which needed quite a few changes in various forms), I’ve mainly used the Alfa Genus IEMs – which is what I’m reviewing today. I’d estimate that so far I’ve logged around 50-60 hours with the Alfa Genus. I intend to log many more. Read on – and find out why!

    I’ve listed price at USD $84 (current Amazon UK price is 49 GBP at time of writing) – however this is not what I paid for them (they are a review sample).

    DISCLAIMER

    I was provided the Alfa Genus as a review sample. I am in no way affiliated with RockJaw - and this review is my subjective opinion of the Alfa Genus. I would like to thank Bob at RockJaw for making this opportunity available.

    PREAMBLE - 'ABOUT ME'. (or a base-line for interpreting my thoughts and bias)

    I'm a 47 year old music lover. I don't say audiophile – I just love my music. Over the last couple of years, I have slowly changed from cheaper listening set-ups to my current set-up. I vary my listening from portable (HSA Studio V3, Fiio X5, and iPhone4) to my desk-top's set-up (PC > coax > NFB-12 > LD MKIV > HP). My main full sized headphones at the original time of writing were the Senn HD700 and HD600, Beyer T1 and DT880. Most of my portable listening is done with IEMs - and up till now it has mainly been with the Dunu DN-1000 or the HSA BA100 IEMs (since then I've also acquired a pair of Sony XBA4, Altone200 and Fidue A83). A full list of the gear I have owned (past and present is listed in my Head-fi profile).

    I have very eclectic music tastes listening to a variety from classical/opera and jazz, to grunge and general rock. I listen to a lot of blues, jazz, folk music, classic rock, indie and alternative rock. I am particularly fond of female vocals. I tend toward cans that are relatively neutral/balanced. I am neither a bass nor treble head (you could argue that I do like clarity though). I am not treble sensitive (at all), and in the past have really enjoyed headphones like the K701, SR325i, and of course the DT880.

    For the purposes of this review - I used the Alfa Genus straight from the headphone-out socket of my Fiio X5, iPhone 4 and Studio V3 (Studio V3 has since been sold - so not tested with new filter). I did not bother with amping them, as IMO they do not benefit from additional amplification. In the time I have spent with the Alfa Genus, I have noticed no change to the overall sonic presentation (I do not believe in 'night and day' burn-in). I will allow that the more time I've have spent with these IEM's, the better they continue to sound to me. Personally I think this is brain burn in - but I will respect others choice if they interpret this as physical burn-in.

    This is a purely subjective review - my gear, my ears, and my experience. Please take it all with a grain of salt - especially if it does not match your own experience.

    THE REVIEW

    PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES

    The Alfa Genus arrived in a smart but simple (no frills) retail box – with an inner container housing the IEMs and accessories. Rock Jaw have already stated that they are reviewing current packaging – and this is likely to change in the future.

    01AG.jpg 02AG.jpg

    Retail Box Front

    Retail Box Rear


    The packaging I have is ideal for a retail presentation - an easy to display rectangular retail box - with an 'average' footprint. The retail box is easy to read, and contains the normal marketing type hook/message on the front “interchangeable sound tuning filters – your sound, your way”. On the rear of the box is a lot of information including easy to read specifications.

    05AG.jpg 06AG.jpg

    Inner Storage Case

    Opened Sleeve Showing Accessories


    The inner container is interesting – it’s plastic, but slides open to reveal the IEMs, tips and filters. While I can’t really see people using this case for transportation –I think it would be ideal for longer term storage. There is no smaller carrying case for day to day storage or transport – but we understand from contact with Bob that they are looking to add this to their IEM range in the near future.

    EDIT 8th Sept - Rockjaw has announced new packaging for the Alfa Genus, and I have shown below Bob's photos. Final-final packaging will be black instead of grey.

    27AG.jpg 29AG.jpg

    New case design

    New internal case and carry pouch


    09AG.jpg 08AG.jpg

    Accessory Package Alfa Genus - Profile

    Accessory Package Alfa Genus - Overhead


    The accessory package is relatively small – 3 silicone tips (S, M, L), a shirt clip, and two sets of tuning filters.

    03AG.jpg 04AG.jpg

    Paper Manual

    Warning On Excessive Volume


    In addition there is a comprehensive double A4 sized printed sheet with full instructions on use, maintenance, fit, and warning on excessive volume (a nice touch IMO). The one thing I would change here is to maybe consider reducing the size of the guide to booklet size – and really think about whether to include the section on “running in process”. Science tells us that there are little to no audible changes “burning-in” headphones – and the suggested 100 hours is IMO a little ridiculous. I would personally like to see this left up to the user – and not suggested by the manufacturer – unless they have measurements that clearly show an audible change over time.

    10AG.jpg 11AG.jpg

    Filters For The Alfa Genus

    Alfa Genus With No Filter Attached


    The two included filters are silver (enhanced bass), and ebony (‘audiophile’). The difference with the filters is that the ebony ones have a very small vent between the two rings in the centre. More on this later when I discuss the sound signature each conveys.

    The Alfa Genus now comes with three sets of filters - bassy (silver), bright/detailed (ebony), balanced (champagne). More info on these later in the review.

    30AG.jpg 32AG.jpg

    Third set of filters - champagne (center)

    Original filters had no damping - new filter is both vented and damped


    The shirt clip is a nice touch for those who need it – but personally I found it difficult to remove from the cable (very tight fit) – and would prefer it come as an included accessory rather than an attached one.

    TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

    (From RockJaw)
    Driver
    8mm dynamic
    Filters
    Silver – enhanced bass, ebony balanced or ‘audiophile’ – detachable screw in
    Impedance
    16 ohm ± 15%
    Frequency
    20Hz – 20KHz
    Sensitivity
    108dB ± 3dB
    Cable Length
    1.2m
    Plug
    3.5mm gold plated


    FREQUENCY GRAPHS

    agsilverfiltergraph.jpg agblackfiltergraph.jpg

    Silver Filter - Click For Larger Image

    Ebony Filter - Click For Larger Image


    Just a quick note here – I asked for these from Bob, and duly received them – and Rock Jaw were quite happy for me to include these in my review. It is refreshing to see a company willing to disclose (within reason) information that helps their potential customers in their decision making. The graphs are raw data – but should convey a general idea of the tuning of the drivers with the two filters. At time of editing I don't have info for the third filter's frequency response - but common sense would indicate it sits somewhere between the two original graphs.

    BUILD QUALITY

    In communicating with Bob, it is clear that Rock Jaw’s underlying philosophy is to maximise (as much as possible) build quality, practicality, versatility and sonic ability – and to minimise anything which adds cost without benefit. This shows clearly in the overall package.

    The Alfa Genus appears solidly built using quality materials, and is very light weight (my digital scales show just 14-15g with fitted filter and large tips). Comparatively, the BA100 is a similar weight, with the DN1000 coming in at almost double the weight at 26g.

    The body of the Alfa Genus is made up of an ebony tone-wood shell, with an aluminium front face (which actually holds the driver). The front face has a recessed thread to allow the filters to be attached.

    13AG.jpg 26AG.jpg

    Alfa Genus Ebony Wood And Aluminium Build Quality

    Photo Courtesy Of Rock Jaw - Early Testing And Fitting Driver Units


    The strain relief from the IEM housing is aluminium (rigid) with an added flexible rubber sheath. This is really well thought out as it assists in both adjustment while wearing, and removal, without putting undue stress on the wires. One criticism here is that the L/R indicators are printed white on a silver surface, and are extremely difficult to see – especially in low light. I would prefer these to be much more visible.

    15AG.jpg 16AG.jpg

    Rear Of Alfa Genus - Note L/R Markings

    Splitter, Jack and Cable


    The wire is a twisted pair (OFC) coated in a shiny PVC type sheath. Although the wires are relatively thin, the twist and sheath add strength, and far for me (I wear over-ear), have very low microphonics. I’ve been walking/jogging with these – and although I get the usual annoying foot-impact sound (bone induction) – actual cable microphonics are minimal. The splitter is generic, rubber, small but functional. There is no adjustable chin slider / cinch – which is a shame, as for some this will be even more important than a shirt clip. This can be easily rectified with a little bit of DIY heatshrink – (the plug is small enough to slip this over).

    The plug is a 90deg plug that is very petite – but does aid some DAPs which may not have a lot of room with their 3.5mm sockets – especially with covers attached. The cable stress relief at plug and splitter is again generic – but adequate for normal wear and tear. I genuinely like the cable – and only additional comment would be that I’d like to see some sort of attached cable tie – similar to the DN-1000.

    FIT / COMFORT / ISOLATION

    I have one ear canal slightly different to the other one (my right is very slightly smaller) - so I tend to find that usually single silicon flanges don't fit overly well. The silicone tips included look similar to the Sony hybrid tips (no foam filling though) and fit the Alfa Genus extremely well. I did have issues getting a full seal with them, but found over time that by utilising reasonably shallow insertion, the seal was actually better than a deeper insertion. The tips are very comfortable for me, and because the Alfa Genus is so light, after a while I hardly know I’m wearing it.

    With the stocks tips, isolation was OK – but not stellar. With no music playing, I could hear people around me – but with music at a moderate level – they isolate reasonably well.

    20AG.jpg 25AG.jpg

    Test With Monster Super Tips

    Stock Tips


    I tried some foam complies and also some Monster Super Tips to see if I could get a better seal. I definitely achieved a better seal – but – the tips would not stay on the Alfa Genus when removing them from my ear. There is not enough nozzle length, or maybe the nozzle itself is not wide enough, to successfully keep foam type tips intact on the IEM when a deep insertion is achieved. The only way to achieve this in the current configuration is to push the tips all the way to the base of the nozzle. Unfortunately (for the ebony filter), this blocks the filter port, and turns them into bass cannons. A fix would be either using dampers rather than ports for tuning the filters, or positioning the port at the base of the filter. Bob is already working on future fixes.

    With a little more experimentation I have been able to get foam filters that successfully fit the Alfa-genus without blocking the ports. The foam tips that came with my Altone200 worked quite nicely. I understand the sizing might be similar to Comply T500 tips - but might need someone else to corroborate this. In any case, I actually now prefer the stock silicone tips with the Alfa Genus - although YMMV.

    Even with a relatively shallow insertion, the Alfa Genus do not extend past my outer ear, and are so comfortable that I could sleep with these intact.

    So what do these sound like ……… ?

    SOUND QUALITY

    The following is what I hear from the Alfa Genus. YMMV – and probably will – as my tastes are likely different to yours (read the preamble I gave earlier for a baseline).

    Tracks used were across a variety of genres – and can be viewed in this list http://www.head-fi.org/a/brookos-test-tracks.

    Silver Filter – General

    The silver filters – as long as you get a reasonable seal – are very warm and bass focused. For people that prefer a very bassy sound they may be ideal – but I found the bass overpowering.

    With straight rock songs (3 Doors Down “Away From the Sun” / Alter Bridge “Broken Wings”) I just found that there was a lot of bass bleed into the lower mids, and the whole presentation became a little congested.

    Even on the Studio V (bright DAP) with Beth Hart’s “Lift’s You Up” (bright recording), the resulting presentation was quite warm and bass emphasised. I have to admit though – this particular track wasn’t too bad – and there was a phenomenal bass slam with it.

    Switching to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” was an eye opener with the silver filters. There was enough sparkle and the vocals were actually quite clear – but the bass! – visceral is the only way to describe it. I’d actually imagine that some rap, hip-hop, EDM, lovers who are true bassheads will really enjoy these.

    In order to cover all genres, I also tried the silvers with some indie acoustic (Angus & Julia Stone and Yesper), some classical, opera, and some jazz (Portico Quartet and Miles Davis). Again – a very warm presentation each time, with the mid-range (especially lower mids) politely subdued, and unfortunately a lot of the detail which I love these recordings for, somewhat pushed to the background. There is enough sparkle to retain some interest – but these filters are just a little too much for me personally. I have no doubt though that some people will love this sound.

    For the rest of this review, I gratefully returned to using the ebony filters. And what a transition!

    Champagne Filter (NEW) - General

    33AG.jpg 34AG.jpg

    New champagne filter fitted


    New champagne filter fitted


    The new 3rd filter to be included now with the Alfa Genus is champagne coloured, and represents a mid-point between the bassy (silver) and detailed/audiophile (ebony) filters. The other noticeable difference (physically) with this filter is the addition of acoustic dampening material inside the filter. So how does this new filter sound, and does it bridge the gap?

    Again with straight Rock songs (3 Doors Down / Alter Bridge) first - and I can see already that a lot of people will enjoy this presentation. Bass is full and well presented without the bloat, and vocals retain their clarity. The most impressive thing is the amount of detail hasn't suffered - but the treble comes across very smooth. It really is quite a lush and full listening experience. Very non-fatiguing.

    Trying a couple of brighter recorded albums I have in my library (Beth Hart's "Live at Paradiso" and Genesis' greatest hits album "Turn It On Again"), and for my personal tastes, these are getting close to perfect. With these albums when using some of my brighter IEMs things can get a little peaky - but the Alfa Genus gives a beautifully balanced and vivid presentation - but none of the glare.

    Testing on bassier mainstream music - Eminem's "Lose Yourself" and Lorde's "Royals" and once again great mix of bass impact, and vocal clarity. The Eminem track in particular is very good (and I'm not really a hip-hop fan). The only issue I have (and this is my own personal preference coming to the fore) is with tracks like "Royals" where the vocals are recorded on the warmish side anyway - I personally would prefer a little more brightness int he upper mids and lower treble. But that''s the beauty of this filter system. I simply need to change them - and I essentially have a different IEM!

    Moving to Indie - Yesper's "Cannibal King" - and the champagne filter again just gives a lush and smooth (but clear) presentation, and this feeling is repeated as I've tried other genres. Portico Quartet's "Ruins" is brilliant (although again I prefer just a little more brightness) - but it's a very good filter for jazz - really smooth. Norah Jones really does shine, and even more so Gabriella Cilmi. Classical is good - but I've been conditioned to my T1's and brighter IEMs for a while now - and I can't help wanting just that little more treble extension.

    Finally onto my litmus test - Pearl Jam (male vocals). Ahhhhh. Yep - this is the one. Does Vedder's voice justice - more so than any of the other filters.

    Although for my own personal preferences, I think I'll still probably use the ebony filters for most of my listening with the Alfas, if it involves extended listening of my Pearl Jam collection (I own almost all of their albums) - it will definitely be with the new champagne filter.



    Ebony Filter - General

    I’ll make this a short summary before I go into more detail and specific genres. The ebony filters give the Alfa Genus a more balanced frequency response but with a brighter than strictly neutral tonality. Bass is definitely there, but now it is fast, and detailed, and clean – reminds me very much of the bass on a well amped K701 (quality rather than quantity). The mid-range is very clean, and very clear, with slightly more emphasis on the upper mids, and a very clear and reasonably extended treble.

    Note : At this point all further testing was done with the ebony filters fitted

    Overall Detail / Clarity

    For this I used both Steely Dan’s “Gaucho” and Dire Strait’s “Sultans of Swing” as there is a lot of micro detail in both tracks, and the recording quality for both is excellent.
    The Alfa Genus displayed reasonable detail retrieval with a crisp and bright sound, and I was actually very much reminded of Grado or AKG type mids – which just have the ability to captivate and hold my attention. The more I listened to these tracks, I realised that the emphasis is probably more on the upper mid-range than the actual treble itself. Cymbals and high-hats are definitely presented, but not where most of the focus lies.

    Sound-stage & Imaging

    For this I used Amber Rubarth’s binaural recording “Tundra”. I used this because it’s a pretty simple way to get comparative data on sound-stage.

    It’s usually difficult to get a reasonable stage size from an inner ear monitor. The stage is often quite small / close – with an average impression of space. The Alfa Genus for me is a typical IEM in this regard. The sound – while crystal clear (the drums are fantastic in this piece BTW), is still very much ‘in your head’ – but still very enjoyable. Directional cues are good – so for a value priced IEM its imaging is actually pretty good, and with the ebony filters it’s an enjoyable journey.

    I also played Loreena McKennitt’s “Dante’s Prayer” and the Alfas were once again extremely clear – but where full sized open headphones (HD600 / DT880) give this track a wonderful sense of space, the Alfas were far more intimate. I also like this track for its ability to portray a sense of realism. The applause at the end of the track is so well presented that with some headphones (HD600) I can actually close my eyes and imagine myself in the crowd. While the Alfa didn’t get me quite there – it definitely gave an inkling of space with this section – so that is an achievement in itself.

    Genre Specific Notes

    Again for tracks, albums, artists – please refer to this list: http://www.head-fi.org/a/brookos-test-tracks

    RockIMO the Alfa Genus loves this genre with the ebony filters. Guitars are crisp, clear, captivating. Bass is present – but doesn’t overpower other frequencies, and the driver itself is fast and keeps up with more complex passages quite well. Both male and female vocals are presented incredibly clearly – and always seem to be brought to the foreground.

    Alt RockAgain a winner with the ebony filters. Pink Floyd’s “Money” is a complex track that can trip a headphone up with its many contrasts – the Alfa Genus just took it in its stride – with perhaps my only complaint being that the very forward mid-range did portray just a touch of stridency during the sax and guitar solos. With Porcupine Tree’s “Trains” however, there was no issues at all – the tonality was almost perfect for me – with the only thing I would have really liked being just a touch more mid-bass for impact. This again is one area where the new champagne filter really shone - and the ability to switch between the two (champagne or ebony) depending on mood was very much appreciated.

    Jazz / Blues / Bluegrassclean, clear, crisp – great transparency and cohesion. Focus definitely on the full mid-range with Miles Davis’ “So What” being rendered with a great deal of focus.

    Rap / EDM / PopProbably lacking a little impact with Eminem’s “Lose Yourself”, and it does detract a little from presentation of this genre. Lorde’s “Royals” on the other hand has copious amounts of bass – so this driver (in this configuration) has no issues with sub-bass. Again with EDM tracks like Lindsay Stirling’s “Electric Daisy Violin” I was left just wishing for a little more impact – it doesn’t need a lot, but just a touch more bass would help impact and immersion. With most of these genres I’m finding really clear (still forward though) vocal presentation which you just don’t expect at this price point. With these genres in particular, I do think a lot of people will love the new champagne filter, as it does solve the issues I had with wanting a little more lower mid and mid-bass.

    Classical / OperaThe Alfas handle this genre very well. Ideally I’d like a greater sense of space, but it’s very easy with the right music to get lost and lose track of time, and that is a pretty good indicator in my book. I started listening to Zoe Keating’s “Escape Artist” (modern classical cello) and before I knew it, I’d gone through 3 tracks and almost 20 minutes had elapsed. Wilhelm Kempff’s rendition of Moonlight Sonata was equally compelling. But again – I did get the feeling that with Moonlight Sonata that the mids just might be a touch more forward and energetic than ideal.

    AMPLIFICATION REQUIREMENTS

    The Alfa Genus is easily powered straight out of virtually any portable device, and I didn’t experience any issues with thin-ness or hiss from the 3 DAPs I tested (iPhone 4, Studio V3, or Fiio X5). Of the three – my personal preference with the ebony filters would go to the X5 – as it seems to add just a smidge of bottom end which is missing.


    RESPONSE TO EQ?

    IMO - the Alfa Genus don't need a lot of tweaking. But it's always nice to see what they are capable of if you do decide to apply EQ. So I switched back to the iPhone with the Equaliser app, and gave them a little increase in the mid-bass – and they responded extremely well. The addition of a little more mid-bass impact worked well for me.

    COMPARISON OTHER IEMs – DN-1000 & BA100

    22AG.jpg 18AG.jpg

    DN-1000, Alfa Genus and BA100

    Test Rig - Simple But Excellent Sonically


    Track – a favourite – Pearl Jam’s “Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town”

    Vs HiSound Audio's BA-100
    Both are very, very clear – with a lovely balanced presentation. The major difference I think is in timbre and body – with the Alfa’s having a slightly fuller overall presentation, and the BA100s having a little more treble emphasis, and a little less mid-range. I like both – and could easily live with either.

    Vs Dunu DN-1000
    Again, both very clear headphones, but the balance with the Dunus, the additional bass impact, and the added sense of space is simply superior. But let’s remember the DN1000 is a triple driver hybrid at almost 2.5 times the price of the Alfa Genus. The Alfa Genus does have a feeling of extra clarity over the Dunus – and if there was a little additional bass impact, my personal preferences might place these two IEMs a lot closer. And that really says volumes about the $84 Alfa Genus – it really is tuned well IMO.

    QUICK NOTES ON MY EXPERIENCE WITH ROCK JAW

    Although I’ve only been conversing with Bob from Rock Jaw for a couple of months, I can already see that this is a company to watch for the future. They aren’t simply rebranding/repackaging a generic driver with a few tweaks. They are instead developing and tuning their own drivers, and they are genuinely interested in working with the community to improve their products. They’ve listened to all of our suggestions, and actively introducing changes for their current models. One of these changes will be the addition of another filter for the Alfa Genus – which should sit sonically between the silver and ebony filter- giving a little more bass impact, but retaining the clarity and overall balance which is very much the trademark signature of the Alfa Genus. Other changes will include carry pouches, and possibly more variety in tips.

    Rock Jaw have also been very open regarding information they’ve provided to date – and have dealt with all of the early testers in a very open and encouraging manner.

    Because of my location, I have offered to pay for freight, and have also offered to return all of the samples following the reviews. Rockjaw has politely but firmly declined these offers – telling me instead that the feedback we are giving will be invaluable for their future development.

    One of the things I've really enjoyed in dealing with Rockjaw is their patience (they didn't rush the latest changes until they felt they were right), and also their willingness to engage and listen to their customer base. I feel really privileged to have been involved with the development of the Alf Genus, and to watch as it has developed into its mature form.

    ALFA GENUS - SUMMARY

    Firstly my apologies. Those who’ve seen my reviews before will know that I tend to write reasonably long rambling ones. So if you’re still with me to the end – thanks.

    The Alfa Genus is a light weight, well built, tuneable IEM (via filters) which has no real business being priced at its current price point – to me it represents incredible value. The sound signature (ebony filters) is very much mid-range focused, but with a bright clear presentation. It is an energetic IEM with an intimate presentation that in some ways reminds me of my HD700 (without the similar bass impact).

    The litmus question for me would be “would I buy these for myself”, and “would I recommend them to my family”. The answer to this question is a resounding YES – and in fact I have already asked Bob if he would accept payment for this pair. I really do like them that much. Of course Rockjaw has declined – but that’s a debate I will have with him again at another time.

    The only caution I would suggest with these is that if you are treble sensitive, it may pay to consider something a little darker in nature. Grado, Beyer or AKG lovers may find them ideal though.

    The addition of the new champagne filters has really made these into an IEM for everyone, and I simply cannot think of another IEM at this point that offers even close to a similar amount of tunability and versatility. I would definitely recommend these to anyone - they are quite simply a steal at this price point, and should make any reviewers 'wall of fame'.

    Congrats Bob and Rock Jaw - these are a winner in my book.

    RECOMMENDATIONS TO ROCK JAW

    Here is a very short list of what I’d change if I could. Some of this has been discussed with Rock Jaw already, and is already down for future alteration.


    1. Change paperwork to remove “burn-in” information
    2. Add carry pouch if it fits price profile (done with the latest offering)
    3. Add 3rd filter to bridge gap between “extreme bass” and “audiophile” (achieved with new filter - and very successfully)
    4. Change filters to use dampers – or port filter tuning ports at base – so foam tips can be used (correctly sized foam tips do work - just needs some playing around)
    5. Add chin slider to cable
    6. Make L/R marking on Alfa Genus easier to read


    23AG.jpg
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Brooko
      Will be even better if they add the third filter which will bridge the gap between the current two.  I understand that they're developing it now.  If you need more info try asking Bob in this thread.  He might be able to give you an update on if/when they intend to introduce it.
      http://www.head-fi.org/t/716429/rock-jaw-testers
      Brooko, Jul 8, 2014
    3. xedjflowx
      How would you rate the performance:price ratio? Any comparisons? Whose the ideal audience for this IEM? Any similar sounding IEMs?
      xedjflowx, Oct 11, 2014
    4. Brooko
      Hard to give you a comparison with a single IEM as each filter gives you a different sound - bassy, balanced, and bright.  The ideal audience is anyone who loves music - and needs an IEM at an affordable price point.  Personally I think they are phenomenal value for money - which is why I rated them so highly.
      Brooko, Oct 12, 2014
  3. H20Fidelity
    Very Impressive Performance & Price Ratio.
    Written by H20Fidelity
    Published Oct 5, 2014
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Natural timbre, Detail, 3 Adjustable tuning filters, Cable, Packaging
    Cons - L/R Markings far too small, no cable cinch, Treble filters too bright.


    Firstly, I'd like to thank Rock Jaw for the Alfa Genus sample.


    Only a few weeks ago I hadn't heard of the company Rock Jaw, however through a friend was offered to sample one of their new products. Being more than interested in the filter adjustment tuning feature and neodymium drivers I happily took on a review sample. Let me say it's been more than interesting and delightful, especially tinkering around with the 3 different tuning filters. It's almost like having 3 earphones in one, if the intended sound of Alfa Genus sits well with you that's a very welcome feature.  


    Alfareviewopeningpic.jpg



    Specifications:

     
    Driver
    8mm dynamic
    Filters
    Silver – enhanced bass, Black - enhanced treble, Champagne - balanced or ‘audiophile’ – detachable screw in
    Impedance
    16 ohm ± 15%
    Frequency
    20Hz – 20KHz
    Sensitivity
    108dB ± 3dB
    Cable Length
    1.2m
    Plug
    3.5mm gold plated

     
     
     



    Packaging:

    As you can see below it appears Rock jaw care about their packaging just as much as their product, the heavily fabricated cardboard box Alfa Genus comes in certainly gives you a feeling of satisfaction on opening your new earphones, it's very firm, solid and even contains a compartment for keeping your accessories in (this I think is a wonderful feature) It's not the kind of carton you will just throw away after wards. Well, I know I'm certainly going to keep it around for keeping my filters and tips safe.


    Alfapackaging1.jpg


    AlfaPackaging2.jpg
     
     
     
    Design / Build:


    Alfa Genus is constructed of a hybrid design, this means two different materials for the earphones housing, those being aluminum and ebony (wood / metal). I think the approach was to make the housing robust as possible while trying to inherit some of that "woody" sound often found in some wooden IEM designs. I can safely say Rock Jaw have accomplished that task. It does give the earphones a great appearance all over and a certain natural timbre to their sound signature.

    You can even see some careful thought has been placed into the strain relief design. Below the metal support coming off the IEM there's lengthy plastic strain reliefs which can flex easily no matter which way the earphone may get pulled. Longer the better here (within reason) as it gives leeway for any strain or tugging the housings may go through over their long life span. It seems Rock Jaw has indeed done their home work.

    If there's one thing that lets me down here Its the L/R markings on the silver poles, they're far too small, I don't know about people wearing microscope glasses but this problem surfaces with many IEM I see, I understand there's not much room to stamp a marking but often I use IEM in the dark, how am I supposed to know which is left or right? It's not only that, even in the day you must bring the housing very close up to your eyes, twist them on an angle just to make out the lettering

    Often some companies will place a small braille dot on one side which you can feel with your thumb, this basically takes away all need to look for the markings and easily felt in the dark. I know of other companies like T-Peos who have opted for red / blue strain reliefs which worked wonderfully though it must also sit in with the design. So not overly impressed with the small markings. Hopefully, something can be done with future Rock Jaw products.


    | Alfahousings.jpg



    Moving to the jack / plug we have a right angle connection but it's more than that, you can see some thought went into this design as I've had no problems connecting the plug to all phones I've tried with cases, the reach given on the end and actual design is cleverly thought out, more than one would think just by looking at it. So many earphones I see these days have overly cumbersome jacks too thick or too fat to fit insides phones wearing protective cases, a simply over looked design flaw. You shouldn't have any of those problems here.



    AlfaJack.jpg



    The cable design, although I hear it receives mixed results I quite like the cable, it gives the earphones some confidence they're going to last a long time. While it can hold some memory and a little spring it's pretty well behaved for me. I presume in combination with those strain reliefs we were  looking at earlier the cable should stand the test of time. It feels strong sturdy and robust. There is off course a little microphonics  but most of that is handled well back up at the earpieces due to those rubber strain reliefs canceling it out.



    Alfacable.jpg


    Lastly the Y-Spilt, nothing overly built here though more than strong enough to get the job done. It's actually a good thing the Y-Spilt is made in a sensible fashion as some can tend to weigh down the earpieces also having a tendency to swing side to side while walking which also contributes to microphonics.

    Keeping it small, simple and effective is the key. Another point to Rock Jaw!

    ALfayspilt.jpg
     




    Accessories: 

    Included in the packaging is:


    .4 sets of ear tips (S/M/L and an extra pair of M)
    .1 set of Bass filters  (Silver)
    .1 set of Treble filters (Black)
    .1 set of Balanced filters (Champagne)
    .1 Draw String Carry / storage case




    alfagenusfilters.jpg


    As you can see below there's one thing I am not fond of here. It's the velour material storage case, even keeping the case safe inside another storage box soon as it sees the light of day little hairs from all sorts of places begin breading on it. It can be cleaned quickly using the back of some masking tape (sticky side up) and patting it over but it's just an ongoing problem with this material I've seen too many times to count. Not really a fault of Rock Jaws though something to think about.

    It kind of takes away the "hey look at my new earphones" when you whip out a case in front of your friend covered in foreign hairs!

    alfacase2.jpg
     




    Sound:

    During my time with Alfa Genus, I used an assortment of sources some shown below.

    All file formats were 16/44 FLAC.

    Alfagenussound.jpg


    Overall Timbre:

    Because this review is a little different from others mainly due to the tuning filters I'm going to give my thoughts on the overall timbre and naturalness of Alfa Genus. In a whole the timbre combined with the ebony housings we looked at earlier gives the sound a rather organic timbre and presentation especially in conjunction with the dynamic driver. When you add all those together this earphone does sound quite natural, organic, and smooth around the mid-range. Acoustic guitars and drums sound quite real and convincing.



    Overall Detail:

    For it's excellent price point the Alfa Genus has a good dose of detail, it's especially notable in the mid-range, you'll hear good extension right through the bass / mids / highs, I especially like them with ambient or country music, again due to the natural timbre and amount of detail present,  vocals are also rather impressive. Let me say the Alfa is certainly no slouch when it comes to detail extension and throwing it out at you. Very high considering its price to performance ratio punching well above the price point. 



    Filters:



    Bass Filters (Silver)

    Using the bass filters seems to be quite divided in opinions, I think many of the reviewers found it too much at times. Myself am in a different party. I find the bass very welcome in quantity and quality. I think due to my normal preference of analytical its a welcome change, especially with ambient tracks that require some atmosphere and impact during sections of some tracks. Texture and detail is also impressive in the low end. While it can be a little boomy at times I really don't see the issue here. 

    The downside to the bass filters is however it causes some bleed into the lower mids which can cloud them up a little taking away some of their glory, it hinders the driver slightly from full potential. But never fear Rock Jaw have the perfect solution for that! I mean sure, the bass is definitely forward though I was expecting much more reading the previous reviews. I quite enjoy the nice thump with EDM music and industrial tracks, really gets the song moving. Treble seems quite relaxed here also, nothing offensive.

    I imagine it wasn't terribly easy to tune the filters for everyone liking as bass quantity is a tricky subject, you will never please everyone.




    Balanced Filters (Champagne) 

    Arrh, if there was too much bass before you can certainly see Rock Jaw provided a new entry to please everyone, now the bass is much more balanced with mids and highs, the cloud that came over the mid-range has been lifted and I hear them being able to shine.  Separation seems to have improved as has imaging, which I think was always there though clouded over by the emphasized bass filters. It's a real welcome change, I can see people switching out filters for different genres, not because it absolutely needs them but more so just to tweak for a country genre or folk that otherwise doesn't require as much bass.

    In a nut shell the champagne filters do indeed bring the bass / mids / highs well balanced with each other, just the right amount in all areas. like a happy medium of the other two filters. There might be just a little too much mid-bass still at times though we're treading a fine line here between too much and not enough. The overall outcome adding an additional filter certainly fills any void which may have been present previously. 




    Treble Filters (Black)

    My least favorite unfortunately, while they do make the bass very mellow they also change Alfa Genus into something quite bright and a little fatiguing, treble really comes out to play and they sound much tilted towards overly analytical, which is fine to a degree though the treble filters are a little too overwhelming for me. While the mids remain very clear and tilted slightly bright in tonality upstairs the treble just comes a little too splashy and strident, ok for a few tracks though becomes tiring after an hour or two. While I can see the appeal especially for treble heads it's not my preferred filter, though some may find it right up their alley.

    Of course, it sounds the cleanest of all filters and very crisp but it's just a little too bright for long term listening.




    Filter Conclusion:

    So which filter do I like best? Well, if I was to toss up between the bass and balanced filters I would probably take the balanced for most of my genres, while I really enjoy the ambiance and atmosphere the bass filters contribute to some genres it isn't the most versatile, that's exactly where the balanced filters come in. I think the addition of this filter was exactly what Alfa Genus needed, it separates  itself from the other two showing full potential of this earphone. Of course, I will still use the bass filters from time to time and they will do every genre without too much trouble, though the beauty of this entire design is accommodating the sound for your music.


    rockjawlogo.jpg
     


    Final conclusion.

    Putting together the entire concept, packaging and filter tuning system with this product I can certainly see the appeal at its price point. They've taken on something not seen so widely these days offering something, interesting, attractive and rather unique for today's standards. It gives the user much freedom to alter the sound of Alfa Genus to their liking, and seeing the add on of the new balanced filters is exactly what this product needed, it kind of felt incomplete until the third filter was introduced.

    The build and packaging is great, a feeling of purchasing something new is really there with this Rock Jaw product. I would like to see a new storage case, something a little more flashy and those L/R markings really need some attention, no cable cinch is also a negative point I didn't want to delve into too much. Pushing that aside the sound of Alfa Genus is certainly punching above its weight, I would like to see more of this from other companies.


    Thanks to Rock Jaw for the sample!


    ~H20
      Brooko, nick n, TrollDragon and 3 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. H20Fidelity
      Hey mate, thanks! They're great value for money! 
      H20Fidelity, Oct 7, 2014
    3. djvkool
      Top class mate
      djvkool, Oct 7, 2014
    4. glassmonkey
      Out of curiousity, did you burn in all the different incarnations? I've found that burn-in can help with over-bright highs and tightens bass up a bit.
      glassmonkey, Oct 10, 2014