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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

Picture of 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. Asking the tough questions!

    Not having tried the q-JAYS, I’d pick the GR01 as my second choice. Or go off the reservation and get a UE900 :p

  2. Okay, thanks joker. I will give them a try.

    I’m curious though, what would be your second choice?

  3. 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).

  4. 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.

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

  6. Yeah, they won’t be more than +/- 0.1 from the R-50. I don’t find them to be that different in terms of technical ability.

  7. Awesome, very glad you’re enjoying them! Appreciate the feedback on this as I’m just starting the IM02 write-up 🙂

  8. 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| !

  9. 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.

  10. 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!

  11. Right, keep forgetting that CAD isn’t doing so well against the USD these days.

    Hope you enjoy the IM02!

  12. 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~

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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?

  17. 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?

  18. 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!

  19. 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!

  20. 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!

  21. Might want to shoot Rock-It an email and see if you can sneak a release estimate ahead of the rest of us 😉

  22. 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!

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

  26. 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?

  27. 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.

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

  29. 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.

  30. 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.

    Thanks

  31. Good info. I guess we can add a third to our list of next-generation TWFK earphones that are coming… someday.

  32. 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.

  33. 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.

  34. 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?

  35. 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.

  36. 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?

  37. “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.

  38. 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.

  39. 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.

  40. 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?

  41. 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.

  42. 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)

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