The Resonate earphones are the third pair I’ve reviewed from the UK based Rock Jaw audio company. For the last few years, Rock Jaw has made quite good, yet inexpensive earphones almost anyone can afford. The Genus and Clarito earphones have veered towards a warmer, more forgiving sound anyone but extreme bass heads could really like. Since Rock Jaw hasn’t yet released what could be termed a bass head earphone, you might think that their newest model would be geared for that market, but you would be wrong—completely wrong.
I can’t think of Rock Jaw without thinking of another Brit earphones maker—RHA. The reason is that both make very affordable and well-made earphones. Lately, however, RHA has begun to move up the price and quality ladder into a less affordable, but much better sounding area with their T10 and T20 models. These dual coil speaker earphones are about as good as it gets but you pay a price for that luxury. Now Rock Jaw seems to be following suit with their take on a dual-speaker hybrid earphone, the Resonate.
The Resonate hybrid earphone is not as expensive as RHA’s T-Series, but Rock Jaw has managed to make a genuine hybrid earphone selling for less than many available today. And that ain’t no small thing.
First, let me explain what a hybrid earphone is. Most earphones fall into two camps: dynamic drivers or armature. Dynamic earphones look like tiny versions of regular cone speakers that you might have in your living room. Dynamic speaker sound quality can range anywhere from okay to quite nice. They are known to generally have more bass, resulting in a warmer sound. They are also (but not always) cheaper to produce.
Armature earphones get their tech from the hearing aid market. Armature speakers use magnetic vibrations to produce sound (this is very simplified) and are quite small taking up much less room inside an earphone. They are also (again, usually) more expensive to produce. Armatures are usually more accurate sounding than dynamic speakers. However, the downside of armatures is the perception of less bass.
A hybrid is—you guessed it—a combination of a dynamic speaker paired with an armature speaker. The goal is to reap the benefits of both technologies and their sound qualities. The reality is that this approach issometimese more successful on paper than in the real world. Rock Jaw’s Resonate earphone is a fairly successful hybrid design. However, those who like their sound with a bit more bass heavy will be disappointed—but that would be their loss.
The Resonate’s shell is all aluminum, which gives the earphone a solid and well-made feel, as well as being light in weight. At the mini plug end, there’s a tension coil that wraps around the cable, giving it an added layer f protection from bending during use. Too few earphones come with this valuable feature. There are seven pairs of tips including flanged and foam for more secure fits. The largest round tips fit my ears the best, but it’s not perfect. I have weird ears, I guess. The earphones are designed to be worn over and behind the ear. I prefer this method mainly because it prevents microphonics—that rustling or thumping sound when earphones cables rub on clothing or bump on something. There are people who do not like cables behind the ear, so the Resonate can also be worn cable down. I like this choice.
The Resonate earphones are not just a hybrid design, they also have a couple of other tricks. First is a removable cable. Rock Jaw has used a standard micro-miniature coaxial connector (MMCX) which means if something happens to one of the cables, replacements will be easier to get. Smart move. These cables just snap into place and snap apart quite securely. The cables are cloth covered, but tangle easily. It can be frustrating untangling them, but the cables don’t develop bending memory, so that’s a plus.
Secondly, Rock jaw has incorporated their filter system into the Resonate earphones. Filters are no longer unique—many other companies offer them. Filters allow the listener to customize the earphone to have more treble (Emotion—blue filter) which adds detail to music, more bass (Energy—green) for a more rounded, friendly sound and neutral (Fusion—gold) which allows the music to be heard as the artist intended. You might think that everyone would want to hear an album as the artist intended, but no, most people prefer bass above all else. FYI, Rock Jaw also make filters for their Genus earphones, but the color scheme for the Genus does not match the color scheme of the Resonate earphones. This mismatched coloring scheme is as weird as the non-descriptive names they gave the filters.
The Resonate’s three filters work as advertised, but the differences between them is subtle at best. The Genus earphone filter’s differences are greater. This is not surprising, because Rock Jaw’s Resonate earphone is designed for a more sophisticated, audiophile crowd on a budget and audiophiles can supposedly detect audio subtleties—or so they say. My preferred filter surprised me. I usually go for a more balanced, un-colored sound which should be the Fusion (gold) filter. But I much prefer the Energy (green) or bass filter. It’s probably because of the filter’s differences being so subtle, the green filter had just the right amount of bass for my tastes. Again, bass heads will be disappointed, mainly because each filter seems to have an emphasis on treble. It’s not harsh, but it’s most definitely there.
Who won’t be disappointed are people who prefer accuracy over artificial or colored audio. The added bass of the green filter is perfect for higher resolutions recordings and more modern rock, giving it just the kick it needs. I have some hi-res AC/DC recordings with plenty of detail that holds up in the mix. What doesn’t fare so well is classic rock. Classic rock is usually weaker on bass than modern rock so you want that added “oomph”. Sadly, the Resonate earphones fall short here. It’s as if the armatures are given more emphasis than the dynamic speakers.
And there’s the rub. If you have an aversion to treble and like you music to be a kick in the gut, look elsewhere. However, if you prefer accuracy above all else, don’t assume that the Rock Jaw Resonate will disappoint because of their low price. You might get the sound signature you prefer and manage to save a bit in the process.
Source: The sample for this review was provided by Rock Jaw. The Resonate sells for $155.73 US. Please visit www.rockjawaudio.com for more info.