- Oct 18, 2009
This here is another budget conscious IEM coming from the crowdfunding angle (MSRP $59, crowdfunding price $30). It's an interesting approach to bring out new limited release products that I think we will be seeing more of in the near future. The problem with designing any new product and trying to insert it into the market is the large initial investment/purchasing cost and marketing expenses. This makes it difficult for any new player to enter the game, even if they have good ideas. So this is where crowdfunding comes into play, and it has seen a surge in recent years (Kickstarter and Indiegogo perhaps being the most prominent examples of that). It offers an ability to gauge and generate public interest, as well as the initial investment required to make a product. If the required threshold is reached, then production moves forward. If it doesn't, then it doesn't go forward, but at least then the losses are minimized as opposed to someone who'd already sunk a huge investment into something that will no longer redeem itself.
So here we are with the Encore Rockmaster IE (In-Ear).
edit: Indiegogo is now live!
- Balanced Armature and Dynamic Dual Driver earphones: BA driver Size: 7.9mm x 4.3mm x 2.97mm; Dynamic driver size: 9mm
- Balanced Armature Driver delivers the speed and high frequency extension; Dynamic Driver produces deep bass and full mid range sound
- Frequency range: 20~20KHZ
- Impedance: 12 Ohms
- SPL at 1KHZ: S103+-3db
- Microphone & mute button
- an assortment of rubber and foam ear inserts to provide a perfect, comfortable, custom fit
Most of the time when I review something, I find a million things to pick at. It's just in my writing style and personality type. I recently reviewed the upcoming RockMaster OE, and at first I picked at every little thing, then scaled myself back and said “hey c'mon, this is a $30 headphone, don't expect the moon!” But here I am with the RockMaster IE, and I didn't pick at it at all. I plopped them in my ears and went about my day and didn't really think about it.
Have I heard better? Sure I have, but they cost much more. Have I heard more detailed? Yep, but I always found something that bothered me. In particularly for me with IEMs, I tend to hear things in layers which gives an odd sense of separation. I didn't get that here.
Cohesive. That is the one word that I would use to describe the RockMaster IE. It is far far more than the sum of its parts. Each section on its own I could maybe find things to nag on, but taken as a whole all of that just disappears. The sound just comes at me and fills the space in my head without me finding things to fault. It's a rare occurrence for me with iems... maybe a first. Nothing feels glaring, nothing feels indistinct. Just simple sound and I'm not distracted by any others foibles.
Upon first listen, I can immediately tell this is a dark sound. There is elevated bass which provides lots of energy, but then it slopes downwards in a remarkably smooth manner. Seriously, very very smooth. Bumps in the frequency response are a prime factor in making sounds feel disjointed to me, but the RockMaster IE is so level handed that... as I said, it feels cohesive. Other iems may be technically more proficient, but feel disjointed to me. This one holds it together.
The midrange feels nice and clean. Vocals and instrumentation are clear and reasonably articulated. I can distinguish individual strings and drums, and they don't bleed into one another. I wouldn't say it sounds overly crisp, just capable. The bass tilt tends to favour larger/deeper instruments and make them more prominent, but the rest isn't lacking in any way.
Now, due to the way the frequency response slopes down into the treble (meaning the amount of treble is lower than the amount of bass), I do feel the sound becomes a bit rounded and a bit soft in definition. There is good body and girth, but not so much on the snap and impact. But I really only get this sense when I'm flipping back and forth with other gear. With other headphones and iems that are lacking in the top end, I feel like something is missing... but I don't feel that here. That smoothness simply blends it in. As I said: cohesive.
I suppose one could even characterize the sound as “polite”. I can listen to these for a while and not feel any significant ear fatigue. Often I start to feel like there's too much pressure in the midrange or treble, or things becomes “pushy”, but the RockMaster IE is very relaxed in its tone, hence the politeness.
A weakness of the RockMaster IE would be in its staging. To me it felt like the sound forms in a bubble around my head. Most iems to my ears sound like they're coming from inside my head, so this is just different, no better nor worse.
Overall I preferred the sound at low volume levels. If I pushed higher, I felt as though I was losing some of that cohesiveness. Thankfully, the isolation on these is quite good, so I never had to turn it very high.
A note on tips: All of my above impressions were with the (small) silicon tips. I've always had difficulty getting a proper seal with foam tips and the comfort bothers me, so was not able to do any long listening evaluation with the foams. From my short times with the foams however, I did notice the sound gained more energy, with stronger kick in the bass, a bit brighter up top and took on a better sense of air. The tradeoff was just a teesy bit of a boxed feeling. The soundstage in this case now felt more like a typical IEM to me, with the sound within my head rather than the bubble I mentioned before.
I measured a resistance of 69 ohms with my multimeter and they seem fairly sensitive. The power from my Sansa Clip+ brings it to painfully loud levels which is more than enough for me. I found negligible difference from amping, so feel free to enjoy these straight from your phone or mp3 player.
Construction and build quality is excellent. The earpieces are simple molded plastic that feel nice and solid and look sharp. The flat cable is likewise sturdy and flexible and feels nice in the hand, with minimal microphonics (the vibrational noise that travels along the cable and is heard at the ear). There is no strain relief on the cable, but IEMs rarely need that. There are three sizes of silicon tips and one foam included.
Coming in at a crowdfunding price of $30, I feel the RockMaster IE are a terrific bargain. They're well made and have an easy going sound signature that should appeal to just about everyone.