Alclair RSM – Mild For The Wild

The Sound

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.

The Meh

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.

The Conclusion

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.

Alclair RSM – Mild For The Wild
4 (80%) 9 vote[s]

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Back before he became the main photographer for bunches of audio magazines and stuff, Nathan was fiddling with pretty cool audio gear all day long at TouchMyApps. He loves Depeche Mode, trance, colonial hip-hop, and raisins. Sometimes, he gets to listening. Sometimes, he gets to shooting. Usually he's got a smile on his face. Always, he's got a whisky in his prehensile grip.

21 Comments

  • Reply January 10, 2015

    Luke

    The sound signature seems to describe my preferences pretty well. I’m piqued.

    Do you suppose my budget is better spent on the RSM and a decent portable hi-fi player? Or on something like the Noble K10 with my smartphone as the source?

    • Reply January 10, 2015

      ohm image

      If you like the sound signature that I appear to have written about, I’d not suggest going with the K10. They are completely different. 100% turnabout. The K10 is all about a wide midrange, and is almost superintendently smooth. If smooth and micro contrast within the mids is your thing, K10. If not, look elsewhere.

      My thing with the hifi portable is this: get the best that you can afford, but don’t fall for the marketing or the audiophile talk. The AP100 is an amazing player and rings in at 300$. But even a modern iPod nano is incredibly good. The differences between it, and another, higher fier player for earphones is probably nil.

      I am 100% certain that you can get 95% of the performance of an AK240 from an iPod shuffle if you are using RSM or K10. The last 5% of performance? I doubt anyone in the world could tell that difference. Most of the difference lies in sound character, which I can’t comment on as it is very personal.

      Be smart with your money. An earphone will last much longer and provide much, much, much more bang for the buck.

      An AK240 is great. But no gapless, bad battery, etc. A simple but good player provides freaking more than you’ll know. Only years later, after being tricked time and time again will you look back and say: now I get it.

      Personally, I’m a converted nano guy.

  • Reply January 10, 2015

    Ford

    Do you think the RSM is on the same level as other TOTL CIEMs?

    Speaking of 3D presentation, which CIEM do you think is the best?

    • Reply January 10, 2015

      ohm image

      3D is a hard one to nab, but I think the Noble K10 is the most 3D I’ve heard- but mostly within the mid range. For width, the VE6 is king.

      The RSM is a perfect translation of the GRADO GR10 to a multi-driver setup. If you like that sound (and I love it), there is no better rendition among customs. At least, of the ones I’ve heard (which admittedly, is a lot).

      If that is the criterion, then yes, it stands very well. It is very well priced. I’d not say it is any better or worse than other TOTL customs, but if a certain sound is your thing, then it is the ONLY one I would suggest.

      If you want sweeter midrange, K10. If you want super duper wide and contrasty, VE6. If you want speed and relative contrast, MH335. If you love the GR10 but want a custom and don’t want to break the bank, RSM is freaking killer.

      I love it.

  • Reply January 12, 2015

    Vincent dM

    I am in search of CIEMs and let myself believe for a while that either the Alclair reference or the RSM would suit my taste. But unfortunately when reading your review, and considering my preference for detailed and complex sound, I am not so sure about the Alclairs anymore.
    What do you think?

    Thanks!

    • Reply January 15, 2015

      ohm image

      The RSM is a detail-sounding earphone, but not overly so in the midrange. If you want itty bitty midrange details, there are other, better-suited options. This one is all about coherent, smooth, effortless transitions from lows to mids and mids to highs. There is no transitional slide or mud anywhere. Bass is strong, highs are balanced with bass, and mids, while slightly flatter than either, are well-defined. Again: like a bass-stronger GR10.

      I have no idea at all what you mean by ‘detailed and complex’ but the RSM is up to anything I throw at it, though isn’t as good for trance as some other earphones. It is atmosphere-rich and lovely.

      • Reply January 15, 2015

        vincentdmg

        I meant that I like to hear very tiny variations in sound as well as complex compositions, in which I would like to be able to tell different sounds and sources apart (Burial, Phutureprimitive or Infected Mushroom are good examples).

        Of those you’ve tested or heard of, which stick the most to the definition of detailed, reference IEMs?

        • Reply January 15, 2015

          dalethorn

          Most good IEMs have the detail to resolve IM’s music/sonic details, but the more warmth/bass you demand, the more the details fade into the background.

        • Reply January 16, 2015

          CIEMfan

          I have never heard of Burial, Phutureprimitive or Infected Mushroom before. The music sounds righteous out of the RSMs for me. I love these IEMs. Thank you for offering up the new listening material.

  • Reply January 20, 2015

    CIEMfan

    It’s hard not to consider what 2x, or even 3x, the price of the RSM will get you. I have had other customs but not from Noble or from manufacturers outside North America. My roaming mind has led me to a question for you Nathan. You are on an island with a fully-load AK240, what custom in-ear do you hope you have on you?

    • Reply January 22, 2015

      ohm image

      On an island with a fully-loaded AK240. Wouldn’t matter: I’d be dead within four days to a week, and if I had an AK240, my battery would last about 10 hours tops. At that point, I’d even prefer a Cowon D2 or AMP3 Pro 2 or something with great battery life but poorer quality sound.

      But back to your most serious question: I’d want something light that wouldn’t snaggle me. I’d want a Grado GR10.

      • Reply January 22, 2015

        CIEMfan

        Haha, I forgot to mention wireless charging on the “magical” island.

        I need to give the GR10 a listen sometime. Thank you for your reply!

  • Reply April 11, 2015

    Rain

    RSM vs JH5 vs 1964 Qi?

  • Reply April 19, 2015

    jinj

    Hi Nathan, do you mean that the size of the RSM is fairly big compared to other ciem? I thought the k10 is already big. Any size comparisons or in ear photos? Thankyou!

    • Reply May 8, 2015

      ohm image

      Hello, sorry for being late. The RSM really, really is a coherent mid-wide, foot-tapping earphone the likes of which isn’t really heard outside of the GR10. It’s a custom GR10. That is awesome.

      AS you know, the FI-BASS isn’t a custom. And I’ve not heard one in a very long time.

      • Reply May 13, 2015

        jinj

        Thx man! Appreciate it.

  • Reply June 28, 2015

    Andy

    Hi Nathan, how does RSM compare to similar-priced CIEM (1964-V6, AUD-5X, SE 3-Ref)? Also, is iPhone 6 good enough / need external amp? Thanks!

    • Reply August 26, 2015

      ohm image

      I’m sorry, but I own none of those earphones. The iPhone 6 isn’t perfect, but is pretty good for these earphones. I’m sorry this reply is late.

  • Reply June 3, 2016

    Alden Zuck

    What color are those exactly? saphire or blue?

  • Reply June 10, 2017

    R.H.

    How good is the soundstage and imaging? I never had multi driver iems and I’m hoping to find iems without a flat 2-D stage like my hifiman re-400s have. Someone told me I won’t get much stage or 3-D effect unless I buy iems in the higher prices such as UM Miracles, Campfire Andromedas etc.

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