Rock Jaw Alfa Genus V2: A Worthy Competitor in the $60 IEM Arena
Rock Jaw is an audio hardware company based in Britain. Owing true to the legacy of their fore-bearers, Rock Jaw continues to engineer great audio hardware. The Alfa Genus V2 is no exception. You can find the official Rock Jaw store page here.
Disclaimer: This review is based upon a sample unit provided to me by a manufacturer in exchange for my honest opinion and un-edited words. I do not profit in any way from the writing of the review. I would like to thank Joe at Rock Jaw for providing me with a review unit of the Alfa Genus V2.
Preference and Bias: Before reading a review, it is worth mentioning that there is no way for a reviewer to objectively pass judgment on the enjoy-ability of a product: such a thing is inherently subjective. Therefore, I find it necessary for you to read and understand what I take a natural liking to and how that might affect my rating of a product.
My ideal sound signature would be an extended sub-bass with a leveled, but textured, bass. The mids should be slightly less pronounced than the treble, but still ahead of the bass. I prefer a more bright upper range.
Source: The Alfa Genus V2 was powered off of a Nexus 6P -> Creative Sound Blaster E3. All music was served as FLAC or as 320Kbps Mp3. I found the standard DAC/Amp inside my phone and PC to be inadequate to drive the Alfa Genus V2 at its peak levels of performance.
The Alfa Genus V2 utilizes tuning filters. There are three available:
Black: Treble boost
Silver: Bass boost
I’ll break down each part of the sound signature into three sub-categories: one for each filter.
Black filter: The treble is definitely the main focus here. The mids were pushed back, and the bass was dampened. The sub-bass was essentially cut in half. This made it so that high-hats, synths, and certain digital sound effects within songs took control of the song, something making it difficult to discern certain lyrics. However, in songs such as Muse’s Supermassive Black Hole, the boosted treble is a welcomed change. The vocals became in command of the song instead of equals to the dark synth.
Gold filter: I found the treble to be very appropriately placed. While I still hear a very slight “U” shape, I don’t think that the slight recession of the mids was harmful to the overall sound signature. The guitars in Arise were aggressive as ever, and the vocals did not suffer what so ever. Supermassive Black Hole got much of its mid-range punch back.
Silver filter: I found the silver filters, while not perfect, to be the most fun to listen to. They didn’t blow out the bass and mid-range over the treble, despite the slight recession. Put simply, the silver filter reduced the focus of the treble without compromising it as a whole.
Black filter: The black filters helped flesh out some of the higher mids that may have otherwise been blended into the background of the song. The Drift’s violins resonated within the song for longer, the piano became more focused and clear, and the trumpets in the back became more stoic. However, the trade off was less focus on the lower mids. Any treble-head won’t mind the sacrifice though.
Gold filter: I found the gold filters to provide very well toned mids. The violins of The Drift remained textured, and the drums pounded with a satisfying thud. The guitars of Jars were full of life, but lacked individual separation and detail. I find that a 2dB increase to the middle frequencies helped give the guitars back their edge. In Bloom remained clear and detailed. The strumming and plucking of the guitar strings were definitely audible, and helped provide cohesion and texture to the song as a whole. Overall, I wish that the gold filters placed more emphasis on the mids, as I still found the sound signature to be too V-shaped.
Silver filter: The silver filters provided much more impact to songs when I listened to them, and filled out otherwise thin-sounding bass lines and background effects. I really like the effect the silver filters had on the mids, as they complemented, rather than overwhelmed, many of the musical features I had wished the silver filters had paid more attention to. The guitars of Jars, which are on Drop-D tuning, felt more satisfying, and slightly more crisp.
Black filter: While dampened, I found the bass to not be rolled off too severely. All three of my bass-testing songs remained a pleasure to listen to, despite a change in their overall tone. I found that Bangarang lost some of it’s cohesion and texture to the aggressive bass-smoothing of the black filters.
Gold filter: Bass is well balanced. I find it to be satisfying, with the right amount of sub-bass, even if it’s not particularly tight. Bass is textured well, but could be a little warmer. The knee-slapping rhythm of 99 Problems is a joy to listen to, and is dynamic in its simplicity. Bangarang’s insane barrage of sub-bass is well defined, and, to a degree, shaped. Definition could be better, but is satisfactory for a $60 pair of earphones.
Silver filter: The silver filters provide my favorite rendition of bass for the Alfa Genus V2. The kick-drums thud, the sub-bass rumbles throughout Ellie Goulding’s Lights. The extra bass doesn’t overwhelm the vocals, but becomes fairly loose. I actually prefer the Rock Jaw implementation of the bass-boost to that of Accutone’s Gemini HD — a product double the price of the Alfa Genus V2.
Clarity is good in Map of The Problimatique and I’m Not Alright, but suffer in Throne (which is a notoriously difficult song for my earphones to reproduce clearly). I wouldn’t pass any judgment though, as even my ATH-M50x ($120) and Thinksound Rain2 ($90) struggle to maintain a clear sound in Throne.
I found the black filter to accentuate the upper extensions and higher mids of male voices. It did add a little bit of shrillness to the mix that I had not previously heard, but wasn’t bad enough to make me want to stop listening. Meanwhile, the gold filters returned the vocals to a neutral and reasonably full state. I had no complaints throughout the sonorous escapades of Ashes of Eden or the mournful reckoning of Sunday Bloody Sunday with either the gold or the silver filters.
While testing, I expected the black filter to create a veiled sound over female vocals, but I was pleasantly surprised. Not only did the vocals remain in the fore-front, I noticed a bit more detail in the upper-register of Sweet Escape and Need Your Hearts’ vocals. The gold filters produced a neutral sound, filling in the vocals appropriately, and without color. However, the silver filters tended to overbear, and soften up the lyrics of Stupid Girl and Sweet Escape.
Sound staging is decent, but not exceptional. I found there to be a fair amount of width, but almost no depth. Most instruments were dead-center. However, Postal Services’ Great Heights was nice to listen to, and had a couple of defined positions. The same goes for No One Knows by Queens of The Stone Age — I was mildly impressed with the 3D space the Alfa Genus was able to create.
Packaging and Unboxing
The packaging isn’t super premium feeling, but certainly isn’t cheap. I feel as if it reflected the price-range of the Alfa Genus V2 appropriately. I wasn’t able to picture the unboxing, but it is a rather simple package. I was slightly miffed at how difficult it was to get the filters out of their cushy slots in the foam backing.
The Alfa Genus V2 is constructed from a light metal. I found the cable to be very well insulated, and to have a good thickness to it. Unfortunately, microphonics are still an issue, but won’t ruin your day to day listening. I would not advise running with these headphones.
The Alfa Genus V2 is decently comfortable. I had no issues during my three hour listening session, and found the included Comply to be very comfortable. The casing is light, and doesn’t cause any noticeable downwards pull.
Sound isolation is on-par with many of the more expensive pairs of IEMs on the market today. The included Comply eartips definitely do help, and the light construction of the driver housing prevents the Comply from being unsealed from your inner-ear.
Inline Controls / Mic
The Alfa Genus V2 features universal mono-button inline-controls, and a mic. The inline controls are built from plastic, but don’t feel cheap. The matte finish helps grip, and I find it appropriately spaced along the cord. Recording quality of the mic is good, but not exceptional.
The Alfa Genus V2 comes well stocked with extra earbuds. Including the ones already on the drivers when you open the package, there are seven different ones to choose from, two of which are Comply. The lighting wasn’t in my favor during my photo-shoot, so it may be hard to tell: the right-most earbuds are bi-flange.
Rock Jaw also included a shirt clip and soft carrying pouch. I wish the pouch was slightly larger, but other than that, I find it to be perfectly fine for keeping dirt and other particulates away from the Alfa Genus V2.
The Alfa Genus V2 is a strong contender in the crowded $60 earphone market. It is durable, stylish, and versatile. Lacking any major flaws, it would be wise to consider it for your next pair of entry level IEMs.