And that music comes through wonderfully. In fact, this custom is what could be called the closest spiritual analogue to my personal favorite universal, the Grado GR10. Where differences exist, they are both pointed, and necessary.
Firstly, the RSM seals properly. This helps provide ample bass. Bass isn’t elevated above the midrange, nor is it too thick. And, it doesn’t drive music the way it does in the VE6. It is firm and suffused across the tight sound stage. It is linear, sinewy, and well-detailed, rendering details way down into sub bass territory. It loves percussion of any sort, stringed bass, and kick drums. It never flattens out, nor dirties up. It renders the fibre of harder-hitting electronic bass elements, right down to the least vibratory sound. It never really disappears. But somewhere, midrange begins, and I’ll be damned if I know where.
It’s almost as if the transition between frequencies doesn’t exist.
As is expected, the entire sound field slightly favors the mid range in both focus and width. Most stereo detail exists in the mid to upper midrange. Just as they did in the lows, high percussion detail and voicing are impeccable. And yet, there’s enough upper midrange dirt thrown in to get the head nodding, especially to live music. It’s so perfectly a live earphone, that I picture everything from the first spilled pint, to the last broken high-heel, not to mention Leslie Feist’s maritime strumming.
I have this theory: that the RSM allows its mid drivers to wiggle here and there. That’s where that small amount of dirt comes from. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong. I’m happy to be. But whatever the recipe is, I want more of it. The slightly uppity midrange is fast, if not perfectly clean. It is wide enough to express presence, and well-detailed. It keeps pace with trance and progressive, but mates better with metal and alternative. For whiskey drinkers, it is a very good companion to a second dose of three fingers and your favorite wag-the-toes late night music. Depending on the day and the music to which I am listening, I can prefer this signature to that of the GR10.
Highs don’t bite. They go pretty far up, and then very gently roll off. They roll off far after a very good emphasis in the upper midrange has diverted attention to it. And like the move from bass to mids, the transition is perfectly invisible. I’ve not heard a more fit melding of energy with music-friendliness in a custom, ever.
While there are no downsides to the RSM’s sound, fans of crazy-wide stages and deep 3D presentations will miss something. Instrument separation takes a back seat to instrument positioning within a band. It’s a holistic zeitgeist the RSM gives off, again, which mates perfectly to the wild, the spiritual, the live. And in a pinch, it does okay with trance. It is about atmosphere, linearity, and fun, not brute detail and image.
If vocals, guitars, and experimental instruments are your thing, the RSM probably is your earphone. Remember, if the GR10 rocked your boat, the RSM has a lot to offer, some a clear upgrade, some a side grade.
It drives easily, getting enough volume from a variety of sources. And it doesn’t reveal too much hiss, though it is sensitive. I tend to keep my RWAK100 at 26 or below with modern music. You’ll find that the RSM puts a somewhat difficult-to-drive load on certain amps, causing a bit too much smear in the upper frequencies. If you want to really enjoy it, I suggest a decent player, or a good amp.
I guess the only thing I can complain about is the artwork and the asymmetrical portions. But then again, this thing goes for what amounts to a bargain. It nails the sound signature Alclair aimed for. In most of the areas that count, it sounds very like a custom Grado GR10. And that is pretty much perfect.
It’s not as smooth as the Lear BD4,2, nor as wide as the Vision Ears VE6. It doesn’t love the gentle midrange detail like the K10, but it sure as hell loves the bits those earphones don’t quite ‘get’. It’s flat, but here and there, a bit wild. And god damn, that side is a thing of beauty.