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[Review] Encore Rockmaster IE (In-Ear) - well rounded $30 budget hybrid iem [crowdfunding is LIVE]

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  1. Armaegis
     
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    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!
    https://www.indiegogo.com/project/preview/e984f477#/story
     
    Specs:
    Features
    1. Balanced Armature and Dynamic Dual Driver earphones: BA driver Size: 7.9mm x 4.3mm x 2.97mm; Dynamic driver size: 9mm
    2. Balanced Armature Driver delivers the speed and high frequency extension; Dynamic Driver produces deep bass and full mid range sound
    3. Frequency range:  20~20KHZ
    4. Impedance: 12 Ohms
    5. SPL at 1KHZ: S103+-3db
    6. Microphone & mute button
    7. 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.
     
    tomscy2000, nick n and getclikinagas like this.
  2. Armaegis
    Once again I attempt to take some pictures with a camera that's potentially older than some of the kids on this forum.
     
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  3. Armaegis
    The indiegogo page is now open. Check it out you guys!
     
  4. Armaegis
    I'm not a huge iem guy and admittedly I don't have a huge scope of experience with many of the newer name brands, but I've got a different one in my hands for review this week which costs thrice as much and has earned generally high reviews here... and frankly it sucks compared to the RockMaster. Yeah the RockMaster was not without it's minor quibbles, but I overall enjoyed it. This other one that costs more was more of a chore, and many times as I was taking my notes I just didn't want to listen to them anymore because I couldn't enjoy the music.
     
    So +1 for the RockMaster IE. It's affordable and I like it, which is better than 90% of the iems I try these days.
     
  5. Armaegis
     
    So I've gotten a bit of flak for it, but the other iem I recently reviewed was the Alpha & Delta AD01. Actually I didn't even fully review it, I just posted some snippets online. "If you don't have anything nice to say..." and all that. For a fraction of the price, the Rockmaster IE slays it.
     
     
    And as a bonus, the crowdfunding campaign is now offering a FREE OEM NE-600X iem with each pledge (perk? purchase? I'm not quite sure what the proper term is). That's basically a bonus gift of $25, on top of the $30 discount for early pledges. This is a silly good deal folks! I've previously reviewed the lineup here:
    http://www.head-fi.org/t/623137/review-comparison-nuforce-iems-ne-600x-ne-700x-ne-770x
    I thought it was a decent performer, though I'd put the RockMaster IE squarely above it. But heck, it's a freebie so who cares! Actually, you can buy additional NE-600X's for $4 each. At that price I'd grab a couple just as spares and stocking stuffers. You can't even get Monoprice iems for that cheap.
     
    https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/encore-headphones-affordable-audiophile-quality#/story
     
  6. PeterDLai
    I think the title of the thread should mention that this model is a HYBRID IEM for $30. That's quite cheap for an IEM with both dynamic and balanced armature transducers.
     
    1. Balanced Armature and Dynamic Dual Driver earphones: BA driver Size: 7.9mm x 4.3mm x 2.97mm; Dynamic driver size: 9mm
    2. Balanced Armature Driver delivers the speed and high frequency extension; Dynamic Driver produces deep bass and full mid range sound

    I'm finding resistance futile...
     
  7. Armaegis

    Noted, and added [​IMG]
     
  8. Sathindra
    $32 for shipping. Is that a mistake or do I have to pay $62 in total for IE? Outside USA.
     
  9. nmatheis Contributor
    Howdy folks. I was lucky enough to receive an early pair of RockMaster IE. I've been listening to them off and on for awhile and will be making them my primary IEM for the next few days - putting them through their paces.

    What I will say is that for $30, these are a steal. I'd like to echo what Armaegis said above regarding their sound.

    Bass is slightly enhanced but isn't overly warm or full sounding, which is a big turn off for me. I hate that fat, bloated bass sound so prevalent in entry level IEM. Not found here, thank goodness!

    Mids aren't recessed, which is a wonder at the Indiegogo price. Vocals are clear and not recessed. Neither are they overly warm and intimate. I'd say they're quite neutral in presentation.

    The upper end is present and crisp but doesn't veer off into sibilant / piercing territory. Not overly energetic, which is good for listening for awhile.

    Soundstage is pretty good, too. I'm actually surprised by this because I can't find any vent holes on the RockMaster IE. Those vents usually help create a sense of space, but these are doing just fine without them.

    I typically listen to experimental electronic and metal and will be checking back in here over the next few days as I listen and drop some commentary.

    So far I've really enjoyed some Classic Rock with them - Eagles and Rush. Right now, I'm jamming on Ghost's new album Meliora with iPhone 5s -> Cozoy Aegis -> RockMaster IE.

     
  10. Armaegis
    Between the OE and IE, the OE is in my opinion the better deal (because that kind of build quality in a full sized headphone is very rare for the price), but the IE is better sounding.
     
  11. nmatheis Contributor

    I agree that OE has amazing build quality for the price. It's build quality destroys some HP I have that are many times the price.

    For sheer sound quality though, I'm enjoying the IE more. I think they go really well with rock and metal!
     
  12. nmatheis Contributor
    Jamming on Myrkur's latest album with RockMaster IE this morning [​IMG]
     

     
  13. slowpickr

    Mr. Nmatheis, how do these stack up against some of the other bang for buck offerings out there now (e.g. Titan, FXH30, KZ, etc.)?
     
  14. nmatheis Contributor

    I don't own any of the IEM you mentioned. A KZ ED9 is in the way, though.

    If you look at my profile, I've got a pretty up to date list and can compare an IEM or two for you. Just let me know.

    In the meantime...

    vs. VSD3S - VSD3S have more bass with quite a bit of mid-bass emphasis, mids are more forward, upper mids are splashier, highs have more sparkle, soundstage is more 3D. Choose VSD3S if you want a warmer, more energetic presentation. Choose RockMaster IE if you want a cleaner, crisper presentation.

    vs. MA750 - MA750 have more bass with a bit of mid-bass emphasis, mids are a bit warmer, upper mids aren't as prominent, highs are splashier, soundstage is comparable but has better placement / separation. Choose MA750 if you want a somewhat similar presentation but slightly warmer and with more bass. Again, choose RockMaster if you want a crisper, drier presentation.
     
  15. nmatheis Contributor
    iPhone -> Calyx PaT -> RockMaster IE

    image.jpg

    :)
     
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