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Rock-It Sounds R-50

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 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.

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

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ABOUT AUTHOR

ljokerl

ljokerl

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.

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68 Responses

  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. 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. 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. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

    Thanks!

  7. 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.

  8. 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?

  9. The Alclair is a little more v-shaped – compared to the BA200 it has slightly more distant mids and slightly more forward (and at times harsher) low treble.

  10. Hey ljokerl,

    I am kind of curious how the custom Alclair Reference would compare to the TDK BA200 as they both have that balanced sound from what I have read. Thanks!

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. So I got a confirmation from rockitsounds.com that they are back in stock http://rockitsounds.com/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=55

    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.

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