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