Disclaimers: Alclair supplied the RSM for the purposes of this review. I paid shipping, custom tariffs, and all transportation costs, but not for the earphones themselves. The Alclair RSM carries four drivers per side and goes for 649$ USD.
After reviewing the Vision Ears VE6, the Noble Audio K10, the Lear BDM4,2, even the FitEar MH335, reviewing the RSM has been somewhat of a holiday. A simpler Nathan might say that it’s a more basic earphone. It is not. He might also say that because Alclair aren’t as attention grabbing, reviewing the RSM amid a lower tide, is easier. He would be wrong.
Yes, the RSM’s guts are simpler than the K10, and certainly than the BDM4,2. And yes, it is a less flashy earphone. It comes in a black Penguin box and is tethered to a Westone-style grey coaxial cable. But precisely for those reasons is the RSM a welcome relief. It’s a known element.
Not only do I understand how its cable responds to heavy use, to sweat, to body oils, but I know how fast I’ll have to drive the Suzuki Alto in order to break the Penguin box head on. Finally, a three-way, four driver earphone is, at least for me, the sweet spot.
While rocking a 2008 aesthetic like it was 1999, Alclair’s website is easy to navigate. The photographs it displays are realistic, illustrational examples of what comes in their boxes. It details products from custom musicians earplugs, to universal earphones, custom earphones, not to mention apparel. I get the feeling that Alclair are working very hard on expanding an interesting line of earphones for pretty much anyone out there.
Here’s a bit I’m giddy about: contrary to the sort of careless snapshots with which many manufacturers make do, Alclair’s advertising photos (not mine) aren’t bad. Honestly, they’re okay. The professional in me is glad.
What I like even better is Alclair’s simple trade marque. It makes use of light-hearted typography, and throws in amount the right amount bit of blue. And it’s got no unintelligible portions. It part-HAL9000-part-70’s-nightclub-part-Austin-Powers is refreshingly playful, not to mention thoughtful.
You’ve both seen and heard it before. I’m pretty sure Westone used it on the ES line till about 2011. Its grey, robust, thick-footed, and eminently replaceable length is a modern classic. The earphone’s flush coaxial jacks mean that yes, the pins can get stressed out, but the earphone body will not. If worse met worst, at least it won’t cost an arm, or a leg to replace. Not that I expect it to. I’ve owned dozens of these things. And back when Sleek Audio’s rotatable coaxial cable sucked me in, I even chastised it. I was wrong to despair. This type of cable, which a lot of manufacturers smartly make use of, is great. And this iteration of it is my favorite.
What is not is its nasty short memory wire, which is far less nimble other cables. Those other cables are both more comfortable for glasses wearers and for those blessed with good eyes. Less comfy still is the thing seen on the Nuforce Primo 8.
Alclair got two things very right with the RSM. First, their sound tubes are wide and easy to clean. The second is that, while not FitEar clean, the shells themselves stand in good company: slightly above Lear, and a good step below standards set by Noble and Vision Ears. For their asking price, they hold up well.
The RSM’s guts sit glued to the hollow acrylic shells, and each driver comes wrapped in a synthetic shroud. The sound tubes bore straight through the acrylic, and are turtle-necked in individual silicon tubes. The high-frequency tube terminates like a freshly-cut leek about 1mm from the bore. The bass/mid tube goes almost all the way out, to the edge of the acrylic shell. Finish quality is a hodgepodge. No fingerprints, and very little dust. But the ear canal portions are finished asymmetrically. They’re not at all sloppy, but you can definitely see the hand of a person, not a machine, in their construction. I hope they can clean up the canal portion a bit more.
And what do you think about that Japanese mural? I live in Tokyo. While I can’t see the sea, nor can I surf, the thought counts for something. On one side, there’s this scintillating moon thing going on; on the other, the ohm image logo. How clever is that?
Print quality rates ‘meh’ high, putting it above Lear’s hack job, and far above FitEar’s dearth of customization. From a distance, it is contrasty enough, impacting upon the eye. However, they are far from stunning. The blue looks like a pretty decent color photocopy from the first office that supplied your first paycheck.
You could do a lot worse, but if high-quality printing is absolutely necessary to your designs, you may need to find a park, with a curb, for your enthusiasm.
The RSM’s footprint isn’t big. But measured from the concha, it juts out of the ear farther than does the FitEar MH335, or the Noble K10. The Vision Ears VE6, which fits wide, feels larger than it is. And the same thing is true here. Gotta wear a toque in the winter? The RSM does better with woolen driver’s caps. It is best used in summer, or in summery areas like Tokyo, which never really drop below 3 degrees centigrade. In Canada, I’d have to choose: freeze the ears, or miss Broken Social Scene whilst ignoring the alone-dancer on between Queen and King on the Yonge line. Motorcycle riders likely won’t find room under their helmets for the RSM.
Apart from that, all else is par for the course: great isolation, fit, and a high-degree of comfort. The RSM rids you of the most annoying bits of your environment and leaves you with your music.
Sound impressions after the jump: