Rock-It Sounds R-20 / R-20M Review

5


Added Sep 2012

Details: One of the most reasonably-priced BA-based IEMs on the market
MSRP: $39.99 (manufacturer’s page); $49.99 for R-20M with mic & 1-button remote (manufacturer’s page)
Current Price: $39.99 from rockitsounds.com for R-20; $49.99 for R-20M
Specs: Driver: BA | Imp: 31Ω @ 500 Hz | Sens: 109 dB | Freq: 20-18k Hz | Cable: 4.2′ I-plug
Nozzle Size: 3mm | Preferred tips: Stock single-flanges; Shure gray flex
Wear Style: Over-the-ear

Accessories (3.5/5) – Single-flange silicone tips (3 sizes), airline adapter, and clamshell carrying case
Build Quality (4/5) – The R-20 utilizes plastic housings with filterless nozzles. The strain reliefs are a bit too hard for my liking but the twisted cable is excellent, identical to those found on the R-11, R-30, and R-50, as well as the MEElectronics A151. The molded L/R markings can be hard to discern but luckily the earpieces are asymmetric and easy to tell apart
Isolation (3.5/5) – Isolation is good even though only single-flange tips are included
Microphonics (5/5) – Cable noise is nonexistent with the excellent twisted cable
Comfort (4.5/5) – The R-20 is clearly designed for over-the-ear wear but the nozzles are angled opposite of the convention used by nearly all other earphone manufactures, which makes cable-down wear impractical. The only sets with the same design are old UEs such as the TF10. In addition, the cord of the R-20 is advertised as a regular cable with memory wire but actually uses a twisted cable with no memory wire. The cable is soft and flexible, however, and the lack of memory wire causes no issues

Sound (7.4/10) – The sound of the Rock-It Sounds R-20 is highly reminiscent of other IEMs utilizing the Knowles SR driver. The bass is tight and clean, a huge improvement over Rock-It’s lower-end dynamic models. There’s slightly less bass depth, impact, and fullness compared to the MEElec A151 but the R-20 is still on the warm and punchy side for an armature-based earphone. There is no bleed into the midrange, which is clean and a touch forward.

Looking at the market as a whole, the differences between the R-20 and A151 are small and the two earphones are far more similar than they are different. However, whereas the A151 has a darker, smoother sound with more laid-back upper mids resulting in a duller vocal presentation, the R-20 is thinner-sounding and emphasizes the upper midrange more. As a result it is brighter and more energetic. It is also a bit less forgiving of sibilance than the A151, but still more so than the higher-end R-30 model. The treble of the R-20 is laid-back on the whole and top-end extension isn’t great. Neither the R-20 nor the A151 has the crispness of higher-end BA earphones, and both lack the perception of added clarity that comes with emphasized treble.

Soundstage size is not too impressive either – the space is average and there’s not a whole lot of air compared to the higher-end R-30 and competing dynamic-driver sets such as the Soundmagic E30. However, as with the MEElec A151, the presentation is well-rounded, with some depth and height in addition to the width, good separation, and the ability to portray intimacy as well as distance.

Value (10/10) – Although the R-20 is among the cheapest BA-based IEMs on the market, Rock-It Sounds has taken no shortcuts when it comes to design or construction. The cable is excellent and the over-the-ear fit is secure and comfortable over long listening sessions. The sound, too, is competitive with other entry-level single armature earphones and makes the R-20 a great introduction to the world of balanced armatures at a rock-bottom price.

Pros: Comfortable; excellent cable; no cable noise, good clarity and detail
Cons: Unusual nozzle angle forbids cable-down wear; strain reliefs could be more flexible


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About Author

Living in the fast-paced city of Los Angeles, ljokerl has been using portable audio gear to deal with lengthy commutes for the better part of a decade. He spends much of his time listening to music and occasionally writes portable audio reviews across several enthusiast sites, focusing mostly on in-ear earphones.

5 Comments

  1. Sempre on

    Nice review Joker 🙂 Do you know how these compare to the MH1C in terms of midrange? My primary usage will be listening to podcasts, hence the midrange emphasis, and music second. I was set on getting the MH1C if not for it’s cable and bulky controls.. Or should I just shell out extra and get the VC02.

    • ljokerl on

      The MH1C has very nice mids – the problem is that it has quite a lot of bass, so the nice mids are never at the forefront of the sound. The R-20 definitely has better overall balance and does more justice to the midrange. It may not quite have the refinement of the MH1C but the signature with no midrange recession whatsoever will work better for podcasts if you don’t mind a smoother, darker type of sound. The VC02 will give you a brighter and clearer sound presentation, but it’s also a little less forgiving of sibilance and such, so for podcasts I would probably shy away from it and towards the smoother, more mid-centric R-20 (or maybe a meelec A151 or something – there’s several of these SR-based earphones that sound very similar).

      • Sempre on

        “but the signature with midrange recession whatsoever will work better for podcasts if you don’t mind a smoother, darker type of sound”

        Sorry if i misread this, but if were you talking here about the R-20, how is it midrange recessed while giving more justice to the midrange than the MH1C?

        • ljokerl on

          You’re right to be confused because what I meant to say was “the signature with NO midrange recession whatsoever will work better for podcasts”. Sometimes my speech-to-text misses words and then I miss them again when I go back to fix it. I’ll edit it back in now.

          • Sempre on

            Oh ok then its clear now. Anyway I appreciate your response. I couldn’t ask for better advice. I’ve went ahead and ordered the R-20M.

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