This UK based company is on the rise, I think that much is vividly clear. Amid the boom of fantastic portable headphones released over the past few years, it seems an ever changing market that repeatedly raises the bar for what constitutes a great price to performance ratio. Joe Watts, overall awesome head honcho over yonder at Rock Jaw, has sent his half dynamic/half balanced armature driver IEM to me. I must say, this one really intrigues me and made me ponder on what is really possible now in the $150 price tier.
What’s the Pitch?
Tonal selection and customization are the primary goals Joe had with the Resonate. This $150US or so IEM comes with a wide variety of ear tips and also three different tuning filters, each offering a different tonal presentation. Feel free to play with each tuning filter and combine them with any of the 6 included sets of ear tip types that range from memory foam to flanged. You are bound to find your golden tonal hue here and each combination sounds different.
Reference class. How the artist intended. A fun and exciting middle ground of all frequencies combined.
Treble. Offering a reduced bass sound signature with more detail on the upper mids and treble.
Bass. Whilst keeping plenty of detail in the music.
Excellent! Top tier build offering here, no doubt. The shells are hefty, but not overly weighted, which would have lead to the IEM falling out of your ears when used in a loop-behind-the-ear style. Thankfully, this isn’t an issue and I find them plenty comfortable, but more importantly, very stable and well-suited for walking.
Joe made sure to include a nifty MMXC detachable cable as well, yet also with a fabric lacing. No garbage and standard rubber, or thin casing here. This cable is ideal and probably my favorite type of non-custom design that a company can offer me. It is slick, beautiful and doesn’t have issues with microphonics at all. The cable is mic enabled and has a really cool looking spring loaded 3.5mm adapter head.
That is different, to say the very least! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a 3.5mm portable IEM cable use this type of an adapter design before, I love it! This is fantastic news for those like me who tote their portable rig inside of a pocket or bag. Now, I don’t really have to worry so much about the cable getting damaged or causing too much stress on my DAP, as that added sway and give on the springy area allows the cable end’s lead to move around more than usual.
In my opinion, this lessens the potential for that nasty clipping or catching of the cable on something else or getting yanked too hard at a 90-degree angle, which is something that happens to portable rigs often in my experience.
Author’s Note: Due to having more than three different tonal offerings, depending on how you fuse your tip choice with tuning filters, I could potentially be reviewing well over three different IEM’s at once here in this article. For sake of your sanity and mine, I’ll try to keep it as basic as possible.
If you are a basshead, stick with the Green tuning filter and the Flanged tips. This combination leads to a boosted low end, but without sacrificing too much of the mid to treble experience. True, I really dislike the flanged tips and much prefer the foamies, but there is no denying the flanged tips offer more of a vivid low end with more clarity as well. Not much, just a bit and just noticeably so. Heft is well beyond plentiful, which is a great thing for those who want that vivid thump and kick.
If you have heard the HD650 from Sennheiser and if you enjoy that headphones bass experience, you’ll feel right at home with the Green tuning filter installed on the Resonate. By that, I mean the bass is thicker than usual and certainly not for those who want a clinical tone or any resemblance of accuracy.
This the supa’fly experience for low-end needs, offering nice depth in literal quantity response and in a physical sense: It responds very nice to very deep reaching bass tracks. Yep, I think it is just a little muddy, but for this price I don’t have much of a complaint, most bass enthusiasts should find this appealing in both quality and quantity with a price tag like this.
Running the Green filter with a +10 (yes, a damn +10dB on bass boosting) via my Cowon Plenue M has resulted in a yummy experience overall and one that I never expected to respond to so well. The Resonate responds excellently to vivid bass boosting, without losing much quality and without sounding bad. Just a few IEM’s out there have achieved this that I’ve messed with. Again, with proper EQ and some time experimenting with combinations of Filter+tip selections, you can achieve wonderful things.
The Green filter is the least clean of the trio when it comes to low-end needs. If you want less quantity and more clarity, you should be opting for Mr. Blue or Mr. Yellow instead. I don’t really notice much of a bass quality or quantity difference when EQ’ed on my personal settings, even at +10dB (this sounds like a lot, but the Plenue M player isn’t really that potently responsive with EQ on the bass end) the Blue and Yellow filters sound pretty much the same in quantity. I’d give the bass clarity award to the Blue filter, seems the obvious choice to me as it is the one that offers reduced low end and with a focus on mid and treble response.
As I’d found with the low-end presentation on these filters, I’ve found the same to be true with regard to mid-range and vocal experiences. Both of these filters sound generally the same to me here, despite Blue’s specific aim being detail retention of upper mids and treble, and the Green being the Reference filter intended to hear the track as it was recorded. So long as the track isn’t treble or bass happy (something slow, nice, easy going and without much treble) I can’t really tell them apart.
Quality is good, but not up to snuff with the Flare R2A ($99) in raw clarity potential. Heft to the entire spectrum seems more vivid, thick and weighted here on the Resonate. In fact, these are the densest sounding IEM’s I had on hand to compare with and I feel like the Resonate outperformed the Flare Audio IEM’s in this area. Outside of those Flare R2Pro and the Audeze iSine10/20, I’ve not heard many IEM’s with nice tonal heft and weight carried in a standard IEM…
Due to the added bass of the Green filter, it got difficult to drop enough EQ off the bass end via my sources, if only to try to accurately obtain a sense of clarity of the mid-range without the low end sullying it just a bit. It isn’t at all a problem, again…bass filter = bass.
Naturally, the mids will be affected adversely, as it does in pretty much all headphones with a focus on bass. Separation is the main problem here and with the Green filter, but on a personal level, I could care less. This is for Bassheads, not mid-range/treble heads. So, I can’t really fairly judge negatively here when the intent was to add more of a vivid bass experience than usual.
Again, shadows cast over the mid-range by the added bass is not at all a problem for me, but that is subjective. Those who want both bass and pure mids will have to look elsewhere.
With regard to mid-range clarity while using the Green filter, I’ve found the experience to be the very definition of U-shaped and again, very difficult to accurately gauge max clarity potential. With a recessed headphone, the ear doesn’t pick up subtle details as well as a very forward set would in a pure vocal track. I can’t hear the slight intakes of breaths the artists take, or the lip smacking, nearly as well as I can on very forward headphones of a similar quality. Those sounds are distant feeling and due to the perceived space between you and the artist, those details are not nearly as apparent.
Is that a bad thing? Maybe, only if you are into the very forward mid-range presentation. If you like U-shape (slightly to moderately recessed mid-range) then you’ll enjoy this IEM a lot because it isn’t at all overly recessed. The company calls it a “Fun U-shape” and I think that is an accurate term. Overdoing it is easy…looking at you, Fostex.
Install the Blue filter if you enjoy a very musical, fun sound up top. Thankfully, nasalness is a non-issue in all three filters. Regarding the upper mid-range and lower treble areas (the nasal zone), I think Rock Jaw has done a fine job for the price.
With the Blue filter active, the top end opens up a bit and offers just a little more bite (in a good way) than usual. I call this moderately engaging, whereas the Green filter is more dimmed and something I’d consider lightly engaging up top.
The Yellow filter, the reference attempt, sounds similar again to me in comparison to the Blue. But, this wasn’t always the case. With harsh recordings, tracks I know to engage in hot treble, the Yellow filter feels oddly out of place with the softer mid-range and bass experience. I do not consider the Blue filter to have this issue. Again, that makes sense: Blue for fun, Yellow for reference…and reference generally can mean more brutal treble as per the recording.
This is a soft sounding IEM…most of the time. Outside of the Yellow filter’s treble response, everything else in any combination that I’d tested had always a tendency to sound quite elegant and easy to the ears. Harsh impact, physical slam, dynamics and so on were all light and easy going. This seems like the IEM you’d want to take with you on a long trip where you’d be listening for hours, or, if you were allowed, during extended work hours. Bite factor is low, you’ll not be shoulder shrugging and wincing unless you have the volume past normal dB levels, have boosted the treble via EQ and so on.
These sound larger than my Flare R2Pro, which I’d thought offered excellent staging properties. This Resonate will absolutely make imaging enthusiasts very happy, as only a handful of IEM’s in this price tier offer a nice, coherent stage of this size. Plentiful width and height, with good separation depending on your tip+filter choice. I’d found that the Blue (treble filter) is the most spacious and effortless feeling of the lot, which doesn’t surprise me. Usually, boosting treble a bit adds a sense of spaciousness to the presentation.
The depth of field factor and realism factor is good for this price tier, lacking only in comparison to the best imaging IEM titans out yonder. I do not consider it a weak point or link in the chain for this product. At $150 or so, this is a good performance and not nearly lacking enough to consider that it a negative point. Just know that depth of field factor isn’t on par with the best of the best, but height and width are well into the “very good” level, at least in my opinion.
If you are into the sound stage and looking for a mellow, hefty sound signature sub $200usd, I think this Resonate is one of very few IEM’s out there that will satisfy. This is a niche buyers type, though, which includes me and those like me. We like this sound signature, but those who like clinical accuracy likely will not.
If you are like me and enjoy the sound of the HD650 from Sennheiser, but also want a similar sound signature in your portable rig, then this Resonate is for you. It has a laid back presentation in the vocal experience but can also have more than plentiful, colored bass. It also responds nicely to EQ without churning into something unsightly, which impressed me at +5dB and up to an astounding +10dB via Foobar and my Cowon Plenue M maxed out with Bass Boosting and somehow still sounding good.
This is a very musical, fun sounding IEM that offers a variety of tonal presentation types. Hard pressed to say any other $150ish IEM’s offer similar. In fact, I know of none. The build quality is excellent, the cable is fantastic and the set is very laid back and easy on the ear, deep reaching in bass depending on what filter setup used and lastly responds nicely to EQ.
Headphones like this don’t really have any genre selection faults and can be enjoyed with pretty much all types of music. From Youtube cat video marathons to hardcore Rap. It won’t really matter unless you are hunting for an IEM that sounds forward and lively with vocal experiences: That is not found in this IEM. Instead, you get a nice U-shape, that isn’t overly recessed.
This is a hell of a start for a relatively new company. Keep an eye out for this company, I feel like they will become a mainstream name in the Audiophile community over the next few years. Can’t wait to hear their next model. Great job, Joe, and Rock Jaw! This is a very nice IEM and musical enthusiasts, those uninterested in accuracy or a clinical tonality, should enjoy it very much.