I am the type of guy who is quite easy to please. Fact is, every single time I get presented with a new gear my mood is easily lightened up. Doesn’t matter if it is cheap or expensive, loaner or a gift, I am just practically easily thrilled by the fact that I got something new to try.
Naturally, I felt the same way when I finally got a nod from Rock Jaw Audio for a demo unit of their flagship IEM, the Resonate. Yeah sure, my online shop carries it anyway and it is quite inevitable that I will get a demo unit anyway, but I still haven’t lost that sense of excitement when unboxing a new toy. With the Resonate, I felt that a bit more of thrill as this is a flagship IEM of a brand.
With a lot of IEMs that has gone past the Bus Ride Impression, lines may have been blurred over time but then again, Rock Jaw Audio seems to offer something a bit different from the usual IEMs proliferating in the market, sound-wise. With that, let us see how much muscle the Resonate can offer in the current market peppered with so many budget-practical options.
Let’s get it on then, shall we?
As with the previous reviews I did for Rock Jaw Audio IEMs (Clarito and Alfa Genus V2), Resonate did make a statement with the company mantra of designing toys with such excellent build. While Rock Jaw Audio seems to shy away from fancy designs that usually turns an IEM into a fashion accessory, it decided to go for something that some people seemingly forego: build quality. Yes, RJA did go for a bit in terms of aesthetics, but perhaps what stands out with their IEMs is how well built the products are. With the Resonate, you will definitely feel the premium of the IEM through it’s metal shell which seems to carry a bit of weight to tell that they used really tough material. The threading that holds the tuning filters are well done; I felt how smooth the tuning filters slide through the thread as I unravel it and replace it with another one. MMCX termination is obviously very well crafted, as it doesn’t feel it will loosen over time. The shell design is simple yet it gives that look that stands out and will make you see that it does justice to its price and then some.
RJA decided to go for a combination of a BA and 8mm dynamic driver perhaps to complement the two in terms of tuning the frequencies. This I will put into test shortly once we get to the sound test.
Cable is also well thought off, as RJA designed it with fabric shielding, which adds even more premium to the build of the Resonate. What is even better is that the way the cable is positioned when attached to the earpieces allows the IEM to be worn down or over the ear, of which may please people who has affinity to either. However, take note that due to the thickness of the cable, you may have to secure the cable properly behind your ear when worn over the ear. Also, RJA included a cable with mic and controls for those who wishes to use it with their phones, although for some enthusiasts, this may be a caveat due to the effects a mic can do to an IEM. In this case, it will depend entirely to the user whether this is a plus, but then again since Resonate sports a standard MMCX termination, one can always get an aftermarket option. Would have been better though if it also carry a non-mic cable to make it more convenient especially for the hobbyists.
Resonate also carries 3 pairs of tuning filters. Here’s how the RJA website describe each:
Upon trying it, I kind of preferred the Fusion filters as it gave me better balance on the overall tuning of the Resonate. It did not overwhelm me with the bass and still has ample sparkle on the high end with both not overwhelming the mid range. However, for some the Energy tuning filters may be appealing given the kick it carries especially with the sub bass. The Emotion tuning filters are fine, although when I go for my usual preference on bright IEMs, I think it can still up its ante a little bit. For the general masses though, I think the splashes on the Emotion tuning filters should do just right,
Overall, the build is indeed well done. My only issue which is quite common across all RJA IEMs is that they could have included a better storage case instead of their soft cloth pouch. The RJA IEMs are not as if they cost $1000, but a better storage should be nifty. It is nice to note too that Resonate carries a wide variety of ear tips so it should be easy to find the one that should suit you.
Perhaps the great thing about RJA IEMs is that it is quite easy to like. RJA made it a point that they finely tune it in such a way that it appeals to most of the masses especially the entry level market. While this may seem to have been tuned in such a great way, it still can offer some delight to the more experienced users, but of course it still is something that you can’t compare to really expensive ones flat out.
For the sound test, I will go for my recently modded iPod Video Gen 5.5 because hey, it has been a while since I used a Wolfson driven DAP. Will have to settle with 16bit resolution though, but I think this should do fine.
Disarm (Smashing Pumpkins, Rotten Apples)
With the Smashing Pumpkins track, I used the Energy tuning filters (green) and tried to see how well the sub-bass would perform and if it won’t compromise the mid-range. Fair enough, as much as the sub-bass rumbles prominently, it did not in any way sound like overbearing the mid range. The guitars sounded crisp and the cymbals did sound sparkly, although if we are to talk about my preference, I find the bass a bit too much for my taste. In my opinion though, it may suit a lot of consumers especially those who has affinity to bass heavy tracks.
D’yer Mak’Er (Sheryl Crow, Encomium: A Tribute To Led Zeppelin)
For D’yer Mak’Er, I decided to use the Emotion tuning filters (blue) and was pleased as to how well the Resonate produced such clarity especially on the high ends. It did not sound unnatural nor harsh, and actually has that bass the I really liked; short, tight yet satisfyingly punchy. Sheryl Crow’s voice is quite prominent with the Resonate plugged with the blue tuning filters, as you can hear that raspy voice clearly. Imaging is quite excellent, you can hear the distinction of the instruments quite well. Staging is surprisingly good for an IEM for Resonate.
All You Wanted (Michelle Branch, The Spirit Room)
For the third and last track that I will try, I used the remaining tuning filter, the Fusion (yellow) and I must say that this hit the spot for me. Perhaps the best one of the three, the Resonate was able to yield that pleasurable sense of layering for each frequencies in the track. Highs are smooth and definitely present but does not try to overdo it while bass kept to such level of control that allows you to hear the low ends smoothly humming while giving that ample punch that should not feel limited nor deprived. Of course, mid range sounded distinct. I liked how the guitars, drums, cymbals and Michelle Branch’s vocals mixed and complemented each other while allowing some space in between to avoid a wild mix that my sound a bit too confusing. With this, Resonate is something that you can somehow use when trying to be a bit analytical yet still remain musical enough to enjoy a casual listening.
At 124.95 British Pounds, the Resonate may seemingly look too simple or conservative compared to other IEMs nowadays (have you seen some of those outlandish designs on some IEMs lately?) but Rock Jaw Audio decided to use that time tested formula of keeping a more modest looks but dedicating more on the build quality/durability and sound quality. It may not stand out as the best IEM there is in the market, but the Resonate will definitely fit the bill for those who wishes to have something to keep for a long time without worrying about wear cutting the life short for their IEMs and yet is still very enjoyable. I would go straight and recommend this as one of the better choices for sub $200 IEMs, but I would rather that you give this a try and be the judge for yourself. Afterall, as much as I immensely enjoyed it, it will still be subjective on the user, although I can hazard a guess that most will definitely enjoy it.