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 rockitsounds.com for R-50; $126 from rockitsounds.com 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.
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.
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’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’ 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