Rock-It Sounds R-50 / R-50M Review


Rock-It Sounds R-50
Added Nov 2012

Details: Dual BA earphone from Rock-It Sounds
MSRP: $119.99 / manufacturer’s page; $125.99 for R-50M with mic and 1-button remote / manufacturer’s page
Current Price: $120 from for R-50; $126 from for R-50M
Specs: Driver: dual BA | Imp: 31Ω | Sens: 110 dB | Freq: 20-20k Hz | Cable: 4.2′ I-plug
Nozzle Size: 3mm | Preferred tips: Etymotic triple-flanges, Stock single-flanges; Klipsch bi-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-50 utilizes plastic housings with a soft rubber sheath on the outside. Two inches of memory wire and a twisted cable identical to those found on the Rock-It R-20 and R-30 complete the picture. The memory wire is quite inflexible and makes the housings feel more fragile than they really are. Care should be taken when handling the joint between the memory wire and housing
Isolation (3.5/5) – Isolation is good even though only single-flange tips are included. Aftermarket triple-flange tips and a deep insertion help further
Microphonics (5/5) – Cable noise is nonexistent with the excellent twisted cable
Comfort (4.5/5) – The housings are small and designed for an over-the-ear fit. The nozzles are long enough to achieve a comfortable seal and the overall design is lightweight and unobtrusive. The memory wire has more memory than most

Sound (9.1/10) – The Rock-It Sounds R-50 is based on the familiar Knowles TWFK dual armature driver, which puts in good company with the likes of the Ultimate Ears 700 and VSonic GR01. While not exactly unique in sound signature, the R-50 is one of the better-tuned TWFKs I’ve come across, and also one of the most reasonably-priced.

The sound signature of the R-50 is a balanced one. Starting with the low end the R-50 pursues accuracy. The bass is lean, punchy, linear, and extended, with much less mid-bass presence and than the lower-end R-30 model. The single-armature MEElec A161P has a similarly flat bass presentation but offers more punch and power than the R-50 at the expense of some of the refinement. The Audio-Technica CK10 and Etymotic ER4S are more similar to the R-50 with a hair less mid-bass providing them with even flatter bass presentations. On the whole, while those looking for rumbly sub-bass or thick, full-bodied impact won’t find it in the R-50, fans of clean and accurate bass will be pleased.

The midrange of the R-50 is near the top of the food chain when it comes to clarity and fine detailing, vastly improving on the lower-end R-30. It helps that the low end never intrudes and the note presentation is lean and crisp. The tone is quite neutral as well – the R-50 makes both the MEElec A161P and VSonic GR07 sound warm in comparison. Some may complain that it tends towards a thinner note presentation but it’s really no worse than the original Fischer Audio DBA-02 in that respect.

Moving on up, the R-50 continues to yield no real surprises. In typical TWFK fashion, the treble boasts plenty of energy. It is crisp and sparkly, but not particularly forgiving. Some treble peaks can be discerned but sound tamer with Etymotic triple-flange tips and a deeper seal, or an inline impedance adapter. With single-flange tips the R-50 can be a touch sibilant compared, for example, to the Etymotic ER4S, but not as offensive as the VSonic GR07 can be. Top-end extension is good and the presentation is quite airy. Soundstage size is impressive – the width and depth are above average and the imaging is not too far behind the venerable Audio-Technica CK10. Soundstage width is reminiscent of the VSonic GR07 but the R-50 boasts better depth. Instrument separation is excellent as well.

Select Comparisons:

Rock-It Sounds R-30 ($70)

The R-50 is not the only high bang-per-buck earphone in Rock-It Sounds’ lineup – the single-armature R-30 sounds good enough at $70 to compete with many pricier earphones. It falls far short of the flagship, however, with sound that is not nearly as clear or as refined as that of the R-50. The mid-bass of the single-armature is boosted, which results in a warmer, muddier sound less revealing of fine detail. The note presentation is fuller and softer compared to the R-50 but the overall balance is lacking. Treble energy suffers, as does top-end extension, and the presentation is more intimate and closed-in. Compared to the R-50, the single-armature model sounds congested, lacking both the excellent separation and 3-D imaging of the R-50.

Fischer Audio DBA-02 mkII ($198)

The second generation of Fischer’s bang-per-buck champion improved largely on the construction and aesthetics of the previous model, but also gained an interesting sound signature that contrasts well with the R-50. Keeping in mind that both earphones use Knowles TWFK dual armature drivers, it’s the little differences that differentiate the two. Compared to the Rock-It R-50, the DBA-02 mkII boasts a slightly bassier, warmer, and more colored sound signature that makes it better-suited for the average consumer. The R-50 sounds slightly thinner and flatter, has a larger and more spacious presentation, and beats the mkII in treble energy. It is a bit more transparent and revealing, but also less forgiving compared to the smoother Fischers.

HiFiMan RE272 ($250)

HiFiMan’s flagship is delivers well-balanced and highly refined sound courtesy of a single dynamic driver. Compared to the dual BA-powered R-50, the RE272 generally sounds slightly softer and fuller of note. Its bass, while not as crisp and punchy, decays more naturally and its treble is smoother and more forgiving. The R-50, on the other hand, is crisper and a hair more grainy. Its tone is brighter, with added treble energy which also makes the sound appear a touch clearer. The treble of the R-50 is less forgiving, however, and the earphones sometimes come across sounding hot and spitty compared to the R272.

Ultimate Ears 900 ($400)

Ultimate Ears’ new flagship is the latest and greatest in balanced armature technology, with four drivers per side providing exceptionally smooth sound. Compared to the UE900, the R-50 boasts a brighter tone with less bass emphasis and more treble energy. It has a thinner note presentation but provides better midrange clarity and more intelligible vocals. Unfortunately, the treble is also splashier and more prone to exaggerating sibilance. The UE900, on the other hand, is smoother and carries more lower midrange emphasis for fuller, throatier vocals. Its bass is deeper and significantly more powerful, though also a touch boomy in comparison. Both earphones have similarly spacious soundstages with good depth and width.

Value (9.5/10) – Rock-It Sounds’ flagship capitalizes on some of the best traits of a dual balanced armature setup – tiny size, high efficiency, good detail and clarity, and an extended, well-balanced response. It offers great comfort, low microphonics, and a clean, transparent sound that puts many pricier products to shame. Best of all, it’s just as good a value at $120 as Rock-It’s lower-end models are at their respective price points.

Pros: Tiny & comfortable form factor; excellent cable; great BA sound
Cons: Seems to perform best with aftermarket tips


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.


  1. Ljokerl sorry for the comments spam, not very familiar with the interface >< Please ignore my previous comments 🙂

    In today's scene, how do the Rock-it R50, TDK BA200 and ATH-IM02 compare for sound and build quality?

    I can get the R50 new and BA200 lightly used for 30% cheaper than IM02 lightly used. I have liked the Brainwavz B100, Mee Pinnacle PX/P1 and IM02 when testing, and have used the Aurvana In-Ear 3 but prefer less veiling and a touch more bass.

    Thank you!

  2. Lestat de Lioncourt on

    Hi! sorry to nekro but i’m on a verge between reshelling an IEM i have or not.
    I own the R-50m (m stands for in line mic but its sonically the same sound as a r-50, according a sound engineer of Rock-it which i read it from headfi) and the memory wire has started to spin around the housing. So, to avoid any further damage i found a place where i can reshell them into a CIEM.
    Do you recommend reshelling this IEM? It’s a little expensive for my budget so i need to be sure about it. before doing it and i can’t find any other monster of headphones as you are to ask for a piece of advise.

  3. Hey Joker,

    Do you think the Rockit R-50 is a worth the upgrade? I own a Sennheiser HD 600 and an Etymotic HF5. The Senn HD 600 is plenty great for extended listening sessions and the Etymotic is great when I’m on the go. I’m looking for something with piercing clarity and detail and for that price there seems to be nothing else but the Rock it R-50.


    • You already have two of my very favorite high-value headphones and your IEM is probably the closest thing to the R-50 currently on the market when it comes to clarity and detail. I would strongly recommend the R-50 in pretty much any other situation, but what you have is already quite well-rounded so.. I don’t know. If you’re dissatisfied with the HF5 or worried that the R-50 will no longer be on the market by the time your HF5 wears out, then get it. Otherwise, I’d just stick with what you have.

      • Thanks for replying!

        I got the R-50s two weeks ago. Very similar to the HF5 indeed, but I got them anyways. I mainly use the R-50s at home and they are a lot more comfortable to sleep with compared to the HF5.

        The clarity is a touch better than the HF5, but the highs can get out of hand if I do not get the right insertion depth paired with the wrong recordings. The sound stage appears to be much spacier and roomier than the HF5.

        • In regards to the highs, see if you can get your hands on an inexpensive impedance adapter, something like 60 – 100 ohms. Depending on source, it can help smooth out the treble a bit on the R-50. I also had good results with the Etymotic triple-flange tips inserted more deeply than the stock R-50 tips.

  4. So I got a confirmation from that they are back in stock

    I am debating if I should buy some. I currently own the MEE Audio M6, MEE Audio M6 Pro, Etymotic Research HF3, (2) TDK BA200, Westone Um2, Westone UM 56 custom tips, (2) Sennheiser HD25-1 II, and the Beyerdynamic DT-1350-80. I think I prefer the clear, smooth, and balanced sound of the TDK BA200s the most of what I own.

    Where would the R-50s fall sound wise and would it really be an upgrade from the HF3, BA200, and UM2s? I read that they have a balanced sound but they also seem to possibly give ear fatigue with the treble. Another thing that I like is that the R-50s should be able to use the Westone UM 56 custom tips like the TDK BA200s. One more question, does the cable suffer from the “stiffness” like the Shures do? I always found this cumbersome for people who wore glasses.

    Any help would be appreciated. Thank you so much.

    • Great news, good to know they’re available again!

      That said, R-50 is brighter than the BA200, so I’d probably skip it in this case. It’s barely an upgrade, and not really the right direction if you prefer the smoother BA200 to the HF3.

      The cable is not a problem, I think – it’s flexible and thin. There is a thicker “memory wire” section near the earpieces that holds its shape (MEE M6 PRO should have similar design). I find this to occasionally get in the way when worn with glasses, but not a problem if you I the IEMs on first and then the glasses.

      • Thank you for the advice. You definitely bring up some good points there.

        I think I prefer the smoother sound profile as my ears are sensitive to sibilance. For instance, I can hear some sibilance on the TDK BA200 when compared to the Westone UM2 with specific tracks. But the TDK BA200 has more upper clarity which is definitely appreciated.

        Is there another IEM that is impactful and has the clarity of the TDK BA200 without any sibilance? I do understand that this is a very specific criteria and may require trial and error with tips.

        Thank you again.

        • Yeah, that’s going to be a tough one – first, the BA200 performs at an extremely high level already, which narrows down the pool of potential alternatives because you wouldn’t want to downgrade. Second is the tradeoff you mention – smoother treble usually means less clarity, perhaps even to the point of the sound being more “dull”.

          The closest thing I can think of to what you want is the InEar StageDiver SD-2 (with the AudioFly AF180 as a possible alternative). However, both are a little smoother, a little bassier, and a little less clear than the BA200. Probably not to the level of the UM2, but still not the zero-tradeoff solution we’d both like.

          A slightly less conventional option would be the Aurisonics Rockets, but those are tuned a more like a mix between the BA200 and the HiFiMan RE-400 (if you’ve tried those). Never had a sibilance problem with them, though, and the bass is deeper and punchier compared to the HiFiMan.

  5. Since there doesn’t seem to be any true replacement for these coming out any time soon, I think I’m just going to have to buy something similar that is currently available.

    Can you compare the VSonic GR01, ER4S, ATH-IM02, and the q-JAYS (the new ones are described as having a slightly more tame treble and a touch more bass)? Which of these have the closest sound signature to the R-50s, and how do they differ?

    Thank you for all your help, by the way.

    • I can’t comment on the new q-JAYS as I haven’t tried those, but among the rest the ER4S would be the closest – it’s not as dark as the IM02 or as laid-back and smooth as the GR01. Rather, it is lean and crisp like the R-50 (which is pretty much its defining characteristics IMO). q-JAYS with more tame treble and more bass wouldn’t be closer to the R-50, either (old q-JAYS already have more tame treble and more bass than the R-50).

  6. How would you compare these to the rha ma750? I’m looking for great clarity as well as durability. Thank you.

  7. Hi Joker,

    As a big lover of the Fischer Audio DBA-02 Mk ii which has sadly died recently, I am torn between this R-50, GR07 or the MA750. I know that the R-50 is almost similar to the DBA-02 and as a person who likes a good amount of punch in bass and a great treble, should I try something different like the GR07 or the MA750? I would like to know your opinion comparing them. Thank you lots!

    • The MA750 is extremely different from the DBA-02 and moves quite far away from the “accurate” sound signature. GR07 is much closer and R-50, as you said, is quite close. If you want to try something different I would go GR07 as a nice compromise. You’re getting more bass punch and treble that’s not recessed without straying too far from “accurate” sound.

  8. Hi Joker,
    Have you heard the new q-Jays (2nd Gen) and what is your opinion between those and the Rock-it Sound R-50?

  9. I purchased the R-50’s about 2 years ago as my first set of IEMs and absolutely loved the sound. I had a couple of gripes with the earbud and replaced them with some better fitting etymotic flanges which made wearing the R-50’s extremely comfortable. Sadly about a year ago the left ear bud died and I’m guessing it maybe due to the wire being damaged at the junction between the ear piece and memory wire as it seems to be under quite a bit of torque.

    I’m not sure whether the price justifies the poor build quality as I was really hoping for these to last me more than just a year (A trend I hated with 20$ headphones) and I was especially careful in handling these IEMs as these were an investment for me.

    I am looking to find an upgrade to the r-50 or at least something similar to it without downgrading to a cheaper sounding IEM. From my research it seems like I’ve been spoiled with the amazing sound and price point of the R-50’s. Over the past year I purchased the Havi B3’s and while they are okay, they really haven’t got me hooked so I’ve been looking to find something better and if anyone has some suggestions I’d love to hear it.

    • Spoiled, yes – the R-50 tends to do that – just look through some of the comments on this page :). Purely for sound quality, it was a lot of earphone for the money.

      As I see it, your options are to either try and find something that is much closer to the R-50 performance than to the Havi B3 in the R-50-or-below price range (doable, for instance with the Final Audio Heaven II or Etymotic HF5), or to spend more to get R-50-like sound in a more durable form factor. The Audio-Technica IM02, which I just got my hands on this week, seems like an excellent candidate for this so far.

      There have also been rumors of a new R-50 and a new Fischer Audio DBA-02 coming out this year. Both are supposed to maintain R-50-like fidelity but offer better construction. You could wait around to see how those turn out.

      • Thanks |joker| for your insight, it was really helpful!
        I am really excited after researching the Audio-Technica IM02, and they look like they hit all my check boxes for the kind of IEMs I’m searching for. So many options! I think I’m also ready to spend a bit more to get something that would be an upgrade but am also tempted to wait for the new R-50s…we’ll see how long I can hold out for!

          • Just did! Hopefully I hear back, I would love to continue to support them, otherwise time to save up a little to get those ATH IM02s!

        • Hi just wanted to update, but I heard back from a representative and it turns out both USA and Asia warehouses are out of stock but they expect production of the R-50 by sometime in October. They mentioned that they are also are working “on the new version of the IEMs but we expect the new models to be available towards early 2016.”

          Also, if anyone is interested in the new models, they should register on their website to get the news because apparently they “will release a introduction-offer to all previous customer to pre-order in advance.”

          Hope this information is useful for other people considering to purchase the R-50!

          • Oh wow, that’s still a ways off. I first heard of the new model probably a full year ago. Hopefully this means extra development time going into the final product.

            Appreciate the post!

      • Hi |joker|,

        I think I am going to commit to the ATH IM02s, but was wondering what was your impression of them compared to the R-50s. Also, do you recommend any place where I can purchase them?

        • Not sure where to purchase them but I guess what you’re looking for is a Japan import. Here in the US there’s plenty of them on Amazon and Ebay.

          As for how it compares to the R-50, it’s actually pretty similar to the UE900 vs R-50 comparison in the review above. The ATH-IM02 is a little warmer, a little darker, has slightly deeper and more full-bodied bass, and sounds more forgiving overall. The R-50 is a touch clearer by virtue of its thinner tone and brighter sound, but it still has a more forward midrange and sounds a little flatter overall.

          • Thanks |joker| I really appreciate your reply!

            I guess my last question (and sorry to keep bothering you, your insight is so useful!) is if there is anything you would recommend over the ATH IM02 at around its price range (I listen to a wide range of music, rock/acoustic to Kpop). I feel like if I’m spending upwards to 260$, I might as well try to get the best value out of it and something more tailored to my preferences.

          • IM02 should only cost you about $160 but if you’re willing to spend $100 more there’s the Etymotic Research ER4S (or ER4PT). These are not as nice-looking and require a deep fit in the ear but they’re very hard to fault as far as balanced and accurate sound goes. That’s about all I can think of that would be at least as good as the IM02 but with a tuning a little closer to the R-50.

          • Many thanks |joker| for all the help!
            IM02 is 200-ish CAD unfortunately but I ended up placing my order anyways. Will hopefully have them in my hands soon~

          • Just wanted to chime and and say that after using the IM02 for over a week, I can say they are absolutely amazing to listen to. Thanks for the recommendation |joker| !

  10. Hey,
    I’m looking for earphones in the $80-$120 range that are good for rock. I love an intense guitar sound. Suggestions?

    • These will do it if you can find a pair – others have reported having trouble getting their hands on one. They won’t give you any enhanced bass but guitars come through very clear and strong, more so than pretty much anything else in the price range.

      A few other options that would be good: VSonic GR07 Classic, Philips Fidelio S2 (or S1 if you can’t find an S2 under budget), Etymotic Research HF5, and perhaps the Final Audio Heaven II. All of these have strong presence in the region responsible for guitar “bite” and generally have at most mild bass enhancement so that nothing gets in the way of the guitars.

      • Thank you Joker for the advice.

        I currently have Bose SoundTrue OnEar headphones. How would say the VSonic GR07’s sound compares to the SoundTrues?

        • Not a clue, sorry. For what it’s worth, I’ve never been truly impressed with the sound of a Bose headphone before, but I don’t have a SoundTrue On-Ear.

  11. Wesley Stuart on

    Hey, Joker. I’m looking for some fairly cheap (price wise) in-ears to use onstage. Would these work well for me? I am a guitar player.


    • They would, especially if you get some foam tips to boost the sound isolation. However, I’ve been hearing lately that Rock-It is working on a new version and not manufacturing these anymore. If you’re looking at the used market that shouldn’t be a problem, but if you’re looking to buy new they might be hard to get your hands on at the moment.

  12. Hi joker,

    What IEMs would you recommend to replace these? They seem to have been discontinued. As have the VC1000s and Brainwavz B2. I’m hooked on this sound signature. I’ve owned all three IEMs and the R-50 were my favorites. I’ve tried other IEMs, but did not like the V-shaped or the warm and smooth signatures at all. I’m not sure what I should do at this point. Help?

    • There was supposed to be a “next generation” of TWFK earphones but it never came. There’s a new q-JAYS in the works but it’s going to be extremely expensive, and a new Fischer Audio DBA as well.

      Until then, you have the secondhand market and slightly different takes on this sort of neutral-to-bright sound, like the Etymotic Research IEMs. They’ll sound familiar, but with a bit more mid/upper-mid focus than you’re used to with the TFWKs and a bit less in the way of deep bass and treble energy.

      • I found a post on Head-Fi from someone who had contacted them earlier in the year. According to him, he received an email saying that Rock-It Sounds had officially discontinued the R-50 and would be launching a new models in March. It’s now June of course, and I’m wondering whether they’re going to do anything.

        Your news that a new Fischer Audio DBA is in the works is really good though, I can at least count on that. I’m not sure why TWFK IEMs are disappearing though. They seem to be popular enough.

  13. Hello Joker,

    Thanks for reviewing the headphones,

    I’m looking for an IEM that offers me the ‘flattest’/accurate sound but since I’ve already spent a fortune on etymotic custom earplugs, I was looking at Rock-It Sounds R-50.

    I will be primarily be using for music production on the go where it’s a wee bit difficult to take out my main cans, so what do you think? Reading your above comments, I think you’re inclining towards V sonic 1000?

    • With my suggested modifications (small triple-flange eartips and impedance adapter) the R-50 can keep up with the VC1000 in sound quality. It just takes a little tweaking to get there. If you think the form factor of the R-50 will work better for you by all means go for it, just have $20-30 in your budget in case you decide to try some other eartips and a +impedance mod.

  14. musictomyears on

    “Nozzle Size: 3mm | Preferred tips: Etymotic triple-flanges, Stock single-flanges; Klipsch bi-flanges, Shure gray flex”

    I bought these recently after reading your information on this site and they sound great but I want to replace the stock ear tips to get better isolation plus they seem to pop out of my ear when I’m walking (I think it has something to do with the behind-the-ear design). I would like to order some Etymotic triple flange but there are a number of different models to chose from and I don’t know which ones fit on the R50s. I assume it is the ER38 but there are about 7 variations to pick from. Any help here? Thanks.

      • Hey joker,

        I got a new pair of R-50s. I used this link to buy these tips (solid gray ER38-18, 3-Flanged), but they are way too small for the nozzle to fit in the opening. Are these the right ones?

        • Since Etymotic tips are all sized for the same nozzle (Etymotic is pretty consistent with the nozzle size across all their earphones), they should all fit the R-50. It may not look like the opening is wide enough but it’s silicone and it does stretch – just takes a bit of careful effort to work the nozzle in.

    • I would go with the VC1000. If you wanted the flattest sound and were planning to modify your R-50 with an impedance adapter that might change but out of the box, with your genres, the VC1000 should be a better choice.

      • Thanks. I actually ordered these a week ago. One more thing, have you ordered from lendmeurears before? As of now I’m starting to wish I considered the reviews on hifi before I ordered from them.
        “The faster U.s shipping” got my attention.

  15. Flyinglotus1 on

    I’m stuck in between a rock and a hard place between these and the Vsonic1000.
    In your opinion which ones sound better with Hardcore Rock music, hip hop and jazz?

  16. Straight jack aside, this definitely got my attention.

    Joker, how does this compare to the hifiman re400? (especially in production of micro details, sound imaging, and spaciousness)

    • Pretty similar to how it compares to the RE272. The R-50 has a small advantage in detailing and soundstage width but at the expense of sounding brighter, thinner, and generally much less forgiving than the RE-400.

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