The AkoustyX R-115 & R-220 are single and dual-driver proprietary tuned, balanced armature monitors with a stage referencing tuning. They are on sale currently for $119 and $199 respectively.
Disclaimer: The AkoustyX R-115 & R-220 sent to us are samples in exchange for our honest opinion. We thank the team at AkoustyX for giving us this opportunity.
To read more about our balanced armature IEM reviews on Headfonics click here.
Note, this review follows our new scoring guidelines for 2020 which you can read up on here.
AkoustyX is a brand that I’ve never had the pleasure of listening to before, so this review was a superb treat for me. I enjoy listening to new house sounds and getting a grasp on a new company that I’ve not had the chance to experience yet.
This is what the hobby is all about for me, gaining that experience, hearing new sounds and new products, getting excited over what the future holds for companies in general. It is very fun to me, so having two sets at the same time, the R-115 and the R-220, is going to be a supremely enjoyable venture for me.
Packaging & Build
Both sets come in the same style packaging, a box in a box, vivid colors used and very solid accessories, which include some arrays of ear tips and a small carrying pouch. They both offer detachable MMCX cables that feel very nice and are pleasing to my eye.
The cheaper $119.99 R-115 offers a single proprietary balanced armature and the more expensive R-220 at $199.99 offers dual proprietary driver armatures. The R-115 is made only of polycarbonate and the R-220 uses both polycarbonate and aluminum housing materials.
Overall, the experience is solid for the price. I enjoy the cute little neoprene case and the T-100 Comply included tips. I don’t have any fit issues, but I found the R-115 significantly more comfortable due to the classic over the ear style. Combined with the ear guides, the experience is noticeably more comfortable for me with the R-115 than the R-220, but the R-220 is still very light and comfy, so don’t take that as a negative point.
This model has a pension for warmth and fun factor, but you can drop the bass off if you require to get less if you require. I managed to add up to about +4dB before I felt any problems arise that were audible. The R-115 has thick bass and a soft impact, it lacks a harsh dynamic kick and slam effect.
As far as physical quantity goes when used on an absent EQ set, the R-115 is the bassier of the two and projects a thicker, weighted sensation. Dialing in some EQ and .DSP to see what it is capable of responding to, I achieved very nice extra quantity, but at the cost of an audible shake after +5dB, which is normal for IEM’s in general.
The responsiveness of this model is very nice for the price and you can boost or drop off and achieve very enjoyable results. Not quite bass head level, but certainly solid rumble factor potential. Fidelity factor is good, but not great for the price.
As with most musical sounding headphones, the gist of the story isn’t quality, but enjoyability. In that sense, the R-115 scores very high because I subjectively enjoy them a lot. I really like the warmth factor, which isn’t severe or overwhelming. It is subtle and elegant, lacking a sense of coldness and instead tilting toward the warmer hue.
I consider this headphone the more analytical of the two, the one more aimed for the critical listener. In that regard, the response to EQ is less so than the sibling model I am reviewing. In the way of the physical quantity, this model feels much more linear overall. The experience is less dynamically smooth and more vividly snappy feeling. It has more engaging quality in a physical sense of listening, physicality and strike factor are more prominent.
The bass tonality and substance factor of the R-220 is more linear, purer and much more likely to sound reference tier than the R-115’s more thickened and dense feeling low end. The fidelity factor is very good for the price and doesn’t seem to change much through tip rolling, which is a great quality to have in an IEM of this price.
If you enjoy the more clinical side of the listening experience, I would recommend this model instead. It is a much more pure feeling and less velvet-like.
There is no doubting that the R-115 is much more forward feeling in the midrange experience. Stage placement feels noticeably more intimate and upfront. As a byproduct of sounding both more lush and thick, as well as forward, the vocal experience in this model is more tuned for the musical enthusiast, at least, in my opinion.
Swapping between the two, the difference in the physical locale is always stark contrast. For reference, I used a track titled Moondance, from a very underrated guitarist and vocalist named Torsten Goods. At around 3:45 in the track, the pacing slows down and Torsten brings some vocals in, while at the same time, some trumpets are playing in stage right of the image.
The experience feels vividly dynamic and impressive when you try to focal on his voice, which is just offset from center and leaning left, and the trumpet pops somewhere clearly to stage right. The dynamism occurring in this model is more appealing in a musical sense of the world, as vocals play well with very dynamic sounding background instruments that, on this model, tend to not sound as physically relaxed in placement.
By that, I mean the experience feels a bit less deep sounding than the R-220, but also more engaging and weighted feeling. Tonality between the two models is, at least in my opinion, the biggest difference between them.
EQ’ing the R-115
EQ doesn’t seem to do much to improve or alter the sound signature of the midrange, but some DSP’s out there do. That is especially true as found in my Hiby R6 portable player’s operating system, the R-115 is the one I would personally use for kicking back and relaxing in the morning. Something I can play Tony Bennett and Sinatra on and feel something closer to velvet-like tonality being offered to me.
If you are not critically listening, you might want to pick this model up instead for the higher threshold of physicality and thickness, weighted vocals and an overall more vivid appeal than the more neutral feeling R-220.
As I just mentioned, the R-220 model is the more neutral of the two IEM’s in this review. It offers the critical listener a more relaxed and wide feel to the vocal experience, vs the more forward and vivid R-115.
Swapping between the two, the R-220 feels pushed back and more spacious from stage left to right. As a result, the entire physical placement of the midrange is one that feels more like a Sennheiser headphone, think HD800 vs LCD2 (R-115) with regard to relaxed feel to the entire spectrum.
The R-220 is clearly the critical IEM of the two, the one likely more intended to be more accurate feeling and clinical. Midrange presentations with Mr. Goods on that same track, Moondance, offers a completely different physicality experience than the R-115. In this R-220, the midrange is much more distant and less engaging. However, and again, the physical spaciousness feels more refined and less vividly engaging in a forward manner. The R-220 is thinner feeling in substance factor, which makes the R-115 feel very thick by comparison.
If you like neutrality and a relaxed presentation, the R-220 is the better option for you as a critical listener. It sounds more clinical and has a clearer tonality overall, but the experience is a thinner feeling and less prone to vividly exaggerated tonality. The physical substance factor is what one in the audiophile world would expect a neutral headphone to feel like.
The R-115 is the warmer and vividly engaging of the two. Pick your poison, both are nice and both cater to their own respective music presentation types. By that, I mean the R-220 is relaxed, so wide field and live recordings sound amazing because they were recorded in a relaxed manner. The R-115 is more forward, so intimately recorded vocalists sound lush and yummy.
As with most musical sounding headphones, as I’ve mentioned already, the tilt and likelihood for something tamed and toned down are more likely and so too, the R-115 offers a more subdued and physically relaxing experience on the top end. Physical strike and slam effect is rather low compared to the R-220 and that means you might actually want to try to boost the treble via EQ.
If you do, you can get a little extra, but I found the experience to stay generally the same until absurd levels of DSP was used, which I don’t recommend (but as a reviewer, I do that to see what the headphone is capable of responding to) and will never recommend in this regard.
The top end is gently bright and very musical, at least, to my ear. The treble experience is clean for the price, although, I can say that I have a few other models from yesteryear that outperform it in the $99 tier in regards to overall quality and fidelity. Thankfully, the experience as a whole is satisfying and well within pricing boundary for what I consider a good deal.
Easily the more clinical and prone to harshness, but that isn’t a bad thing. It is clinical, accurate and relays the track better than the R-115. If you like neutrality, grab this model instead. It offers much more engaging qualities in physicality and impact level, as well as brightness and response to EQ.
I can add more and drop off EQ a bit more than the R-115 and hear an audible difference from the stock and flat (disabled) EQ or DSP’s I use often. The fidelity factor is on the bright side, but also on the thin side as well. This isn’t a lush sounding top end if you want that, the R-115 would be more your style.
Undoubtedly, the R-220 feels much wider, more spacious from left to right and the R-115 feels more forward and closed in, but also more intimate and well suited for vocal tracks.
The wide field approach of the R-220 is lovely for live concert recordings and podcasts on YouTube, the R-115 better suited for single player YouTube video viewing where someone isn’t on a panel or seated next to multiple people and where you can tune in to just one or two voices at a time.
I find the R-220 wider and airier feeling, but also thinner overall. The depth of field factor of the R-220 is also noticeably better. But, where the R-220 lacks in physical intimacy, the R-115 picks up with abundance. The depth of field factor of the R-115 is just good, not great. But, there are times, whereas I’ve mentioned and in certain tracks, sometimes the vocals appearing on stage left can really feel separated from instruments on stage right.
This is an enjoyable combo considering the forwardness factor of the midrange of the R-115, you don’t see that often. What I mean is that even though the R-220 is wider feeling, the R-115 being more forward overall still feels plenty wide. That is a rare trait to offer in the sub-$200 IEM world.
As a musical enthusiast, you’ll enjoy the R-115 more than the R-220. It is a thicker feeling, more forward and gentle on impact. The R-220 is the more clinical of the two, it is better suited for the neutral enthusiast who wants to critical listen and not touch EQ or DSP’s to alter the sound. That model feels wider and more relaxed in physical locale overall, but also feels noticeably thinner in substance.
Both are super comfy, but the R-115 hits the spot for me due to the physical design of the housing. The R-220 is plenty comfortable, as mentioned, but I get a better fit with the R-115 styling of housings most of the time.
Both IEM’s are very good deals overall, for $199 and $119 respectively, you can’t really go wrong. One is just a bit warm and vivid, the other is clinical and neutral. I enjoyed both very much.
AkoustyX R-115 Specifications
- Acoustic Signature Stage Reference
- Main Body Clear Ice Color
- Silicon Accessories – Frost White, Comply Foam Black
- Driver Solitary Extension Balanced Armature
- Impedance 22 Ω @ 1KHz
- Sensitivity 114dB
- Freq. Response 15-22.000Hz
- Cable Length 1.2M (4.0 ft)
- Microphone 4mm Omni Directional
AkoustyX R-220 Specifications
- Acoustic Signature Reference Dual-Cross
- Main Body Stealth Black Color
- Silicon Accessories – Carbon Black, Comply Foam Black,
- Driver Dual Reference Balanced Armature
- Impedance 29 Ω @ 1KHz
- Sensitivity 109dB
- Freq. Response 15-22.000Hz
- Cable Length 1.2M (4.0 ft)
- Microphone 4mm Omni Directional