Details: Dynamic-driver IEM from car audio firm Rockford Fosgate
Current Price: N/A (discontinued) (MSRP: $99.99); $129.99 for PP15mmi with microphone
Specs: Driver: Dynamic | Imp: 24 Ω | Sens: 105 dB | Freq: 10-18k Hz | Cable: 4′ I-plug
Nozzle Size: 5.5mm | Preferred tips: Stock single-flanges
Wear Style: Straight down
Accessories (3.5/5) – Single flange (3 sizes) and bi-flange (2 sizes) silicone tips, hard clamshell carrying case
Build Quality (3.5/5) – The large, ergonomically-designed housings are made out of plastic with the exception of the Rockford Fosgate badges and the metal-mesh filters in the nozzle. While not exactly high-rent, the housings do feel solid enough for everyday use. The flat cable is soft, flexible, and feels rather sturdy. However, the cord lacks strain relief on housing entry as well as at the Y-split
Isolation (2.5/5) – Reasonable but far from class-leading due to the vented design. The vents also make the Punch Plugs susceptible to wind noise in breezy conditions
Microphonics (4.5/5) – The rubberized flat cable found on the Punch Plugs is not very energetic and generally carries almost no noise
Comfort (3.5/5) – The body of the Punch Plugs is designed around the sizable bulge that contains the gargantuan 15mm drivers. Ideally, the bulge itself rests inside the wearer’s ear and the long plastic nozzle is inserted into the ear canal. The ergonomics suit me well but make no mistake – the housings of the Punch Plugs are huge and could easily swallow a few of the smaller in-ears whole. Those with small ears or narrow ear canals will likely want to give the Punch Plugs a pass if long-term comfort is a priority. Additionally, the Punch Plugs cannot be worn with the cord looped over the ear unless the Left/Right earpieces are reversed. The flat cable is rather prohibitive of such use as well
Sound (6.8/10) – The advertising materials for the Punch Plugs claim that the earphones transport the “Power, Clarity, and Ground Shaking Bass” of Rockford Fosgate subwoofers directly into the listener’s ear. The bass produced by the Punch Plugs is indeed very powerful and yet surprisingly accurate and controlled. They aren’t the most bass-heavy earphones out there but they are very hard-hitting, especially at higher volumes. The low end of the Punch Plugs carries quite a lot of information and always sounds well-integrated into the music. Predictably, though, the sub-bass does roll off and midrange bleed occurs in small quantities. The midrange of the Punch Plugs is slightly veiled but still quite dynamic and involving. Though the earphones tend to gloss over fine detail, they impart a unique grungy texture on the midrange, making it sound raw and slightly rough. This tendency is related to the fact that the gigantic drivers of the Punch Plugs have a rather small dynamic range and don’t relay subtlety very well.
Despite the raw-sounding midrange, the treble produced by the Punch Plugs is never harsh. Upper-end presentation is slightly recessed but crisp and accurate, rolling off gradually but a bit too early for my liking. Because of the recessed treble and aggressive bass, the Punch Plugs take on a very dark tone. In fact, the tone of the Punch Plugs contends with the FutureSonics Atrio M8 for the title of the darkest earphone I own. Can the dark tone be a negative? Certainly, but it depends on personal preference more than anything else. For listeners who favor bright and sparkly sound, the Punch Plugs require some heavy equalization in the mids and treble, to which they respond fairly well.
In terms of presentation, the Punch Plugs boast decent soundstage width and depth. The sonic image is slightly blurred resulting in a less separated and more blended sound and contributing to the ‘garage band’ feel of the earphones. The Punch Plugs also need a good amount of volume to bring out detail – those who like to keep the volume minimal will likely find them a touch boring. All in all the signature of the Punch Plugs is very unique and, while not technically perfect, is sure to find its fans.
Value (7.5/10) – The Punch Plugs compete well with other earphones in their price bracket, providing that the listener enjoys the particular flavor they bestow on music. Their sound signature lacks compromise – it is dark, raw, and powerful. Low notes hit hard, the midrange is grungy and thick, and the treble is crisp but recessed. The construction utilizes no exotic materials or flashy design elements but the aesthetics are far from forgettable – while I was initially disappointed with the sheer quantity of plastic that went into the Punch Plugs, the design grew on me just as the sound signature did. The Punch Plugs are neither audiophile earphones nor studio monitors – they are tuned purely for rocking out, and on that count they do deliver.
Pros: Nearly no microphonics, ergonomic design, unique and coherent presentation
Cons: Lack of strain relief on cable entry, fit is problematic for those with small ears, slightly prone to wind noise, love-it-or-hate-it sound signature