How do they sound?
Due to the size of the housing, the R3 is a shallow insertion IEM. It’s a bit of a double edged sword. Those using tips other than the double flanged tip or the Complys will find that these don’t isolate all that well. But on the flip side, the shallow insertion allows for the soundstage to be bigger than most IEMs. The wide soundstage was only augmented by the double flange tips, which are the tips I used for the bulk of this review.
The bass is a bit complicated with these IEMs. The dual driver configuration seems to allow for one driver to be a dedicated bass driver. While this allows for the tuning of the other driver to have as nice of a midrange/treble as possible, there seems to be a bit of a disjoint in the transition between low midrange and high bass. It isn’t very noticeable unless I really look for issues and put on bass-driven music, but it makes the R3 a little less easy to recommend for those who listen to exclusively electronic music. But the bass that isn’t flawed is actually fantastic for its price range. It’s somewhere in between neutral and bassy with nice punch though it could stand a little tightening. It also struggles significantly with the lowest of octaves (For example, James Blake’s Limit to Your Love showed the R3 did worse on sub bass than even my Sony SA5000). Bass timbre was usually quite good. Upright bass sounded convincingly woody, but lacked a little in absolute detail.
The midrange was much better than expected. While there seems to be a dip in the upper midrange that makes some vocals sound a tad lifeless, etch some key timbre areas, and sound obviously headphone-y (there should be a term for this), the smoothness was on a level that even the Monster Turbine Pro Copper couldn’t match. These actually remind me of the Audio Technica ESW9 and ZMF-modded T50RP with which I’ve decided to end my closed headphone search. While the R3 isn’t nearly as detailed as the ZMF or ESW9, the smoothness is unmistakably meant to be an integral part of the sound signature. I just wish there was more midrange with the double flange tips because the lack of upper midrange makes them sound a bit foggy. But even with the slight fog, its signature is so relaxing that I’ve been able to fall asleep using the R3.
The treble is rather conflicting. There are some odd spikes in the mid-treble that makes some harmonics sound almost grating, but the transition between upper midrange and lower treble is surprisingly clean (perhaps because of the dip in the upper midrange). The detail in the treble is better than midrange detail due to the slight accentuation, which is very much welcome for classical music. I’d struggle to call them bright, but they aren’t exactly always laid back.
The soundstage is unnaturally large for an IEM, especially when used with the double flange tips which allows for a greater distance between the IEM and the eardrum. It’s not exactly open headphone-wide, but it gives the ESW9 a run for the money in producing a realistic soundscape.
The R3 scaled quite well with amping. Its midrange only improved with more power being pumped into the drivers, as did the bass’ control. They sound passable unamped from my phone. but they really should be done justice with at least a CMoy.
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