One of the things I love most about the modern tech industry is that so many lesser-known companies are building great gear for a fraction of the cost of the big-name brands. One such example is British company, Rock Jaw Audio. Its flagship product, the Alfa Genus V2, is an incredibly versatile and well-made set of earphones that’ll set you back less than $50.
Design and Build Quality
When it comes to design and build quality, it’s very much a tale of two cities with the second version of Rock Jaw’s Alfa Genus heaphones. The earphones, along with drivers/speakers, are encased in a small aluminum capsule. They’re glossy, and incredibly solid feeling while still remaining very light. What’s more, the dark granite and light metallic shades really work well together. Combine that with the bright red base of the silicone tips (seen through a smokey translucent flexible earbud), and you have an all-round modern and stylish earphone.
With so much attention and craftsmanship put in to the actual earphones, you’d expect the same from the rest of it. Not so much.
Sadly, the cabling attaching the earphones to the gold-plated 3.5mm audio jack is about as run-of-the-mill as you can get. It’s bog-standard plastic insulation, and cheap-looking casing all around. Likewise, the packaging and presentation is really not spectacular, but then again, costs had to be cut somewhere, and I’m glad Rock Jaw concentrated on the element which matters most.
Wearing the earphones is about as comfortable as you can get from a free-dangling pair of earphones. There are no ear hooks to fit them over the tops of your ears, although they do ship with a plastic clip to attach them to your collar. What’s more, they ship with small, medium and large silicon tips as well as a couple of memory foam and double flange tips. So whatever size ears you have, you should find a combination that works well for you, and enables you to listen to music for hours without getting tired or uncomfortable.
As comfortable as they were to wear, I wouldn’t advise using them for listening to music while exercising. Any excessive movement causes them to slip out, mostly because there’s nothing to really hold them in.
Alfa Genus V2 audio quality
Of course, with so many good earphones on the market these days, the most important aspect is audio. And to get the criticisms out the way first, there is a little hissing in the background almost constantly. Regardless of how loud (or quiet) the music was that I was listening too, it was there, just fuzzing away at a constant level. Once the music got going though, it was easy enough to ignore. Mostly, just because the sound was so good.
What’s really impressive about the V2 is that it ships with three pairs of interchangeable tuners. These essentially change the physical characteristics of the music you’re listening to. One pair (which comes pre-applied) adds more emphasis to the bass frequencies, another is ‘neutral’, while the third highlights the high-end, treble tones. I’m a bit of a bass freak myself, so I stuck with the default tuners, and I wasn’t let down.
What you normally find with small in-ear headphones is that bass levels are typically weak. Because of its physical properties, it typically needs a large speaker cone, or driver to make it clear. It’s why your phone’s loudspeaker is generally terrible at bass. But with these stuck in my ears, the bass was surprisingly prominent, and didn’t muddy over the rest of the music too much.
Listening to tracks like ‘Take the power back’ by Rage Against the Machine, where the intro kicks off with heavy drum beating and bass guitar, almost felt as if my ear was right next to the skin of Brad Wilk’s bass-drum. At the same time, highs and mids were still clear.
For the spec-fiends among you, each earphone is equipped with an 8mm dynamic driver, with 108+/-3db sensitivity and a frequency response of 20 – 20000Hz. In short, they can cope with all genres of music, and with all volume levels without sounding terrible.
Wrap-up and where to buy
In a lot of ways, the Alfa Genus V2 reminds me a lot of the RHA T20 earphones I tried early this year. They’re slightly less premium, but offer great sound and versatility, and won’t cost you the earth. You can pick the Rockjaw earphones up for £44.95 from Rockjaw direct in the UK. Use code ROCKJAW25 at checkout and get 10% off and free next-day delivery in Britain. In the States, you can snag them for just $45 USD from Amazon. In my mind, they should cost more.
If you’re looking for something a little smaller that’s presented with more style, there’s the RHA S500i. You’ll sacrifice a little sound quality, save $5, but get a more premium-looking earphone with a more treble-heavy profile.