You can assume that the Roland has plenty of treble with a sharp response considering its EST drivers, but surprisingly that is not the case here.
The treble section is very smooth and forgiving with nice extension. There’s good richness and articulation as well, but highs are not that apparent, especially considering my own expectations . There’s good size in the treble, but once again there’s not enough air and shimmer here. Cymbals sound a little thick and they somewhat lack some definition.
Micro details are very good and you actually get good resolution in this area. The treble is also nicely separated from the rest of the spectrum and it has very good positioning, although they’re at the back of the stage. So overall there are some good things and bad things, and to me the IEM feels like it desperately needs a little bit more air and crispness in this section.
Just like the mid part, the sound is very controlled and smooth here. Also the positioning of the treble helps to have a nice sound-stage overall. The Roland left me with mixed treble impressions as a whole. It’s a very good performer don’t get me wrong, but I expected a little more in treble I guess.
The strongest part of the Fearless Roland is its tonality. I’m really impressed with the tonality because of its realism and naturalness. You have good dynamics, texture and body in the mid area so tonality is certainly a great feature with the Roland.
The sound-stage is not very big, it instead is a little bit close to you but it has just enough width to me. The depth is ideal as well, a touch better than the width to my ears.
The separation performance is very good but as I remarked, the IEM needs a little more air in the mid and treble sections in my opinion. You have fairly good spaciousness in the whole sound and all the elements have enough room, but it could’ve been even better with a higher level of tuning I suppose. You can always use your EQ or PMEQ that some advanced DAPs utilize, but in my case I’m not a guy who’s into those kinds of adjustments.
Overall resolution is very good with good transparency and detail. So overall, technicalities-wise you have a lot of positives like tonality, realism, separation and texture. But there are some things to consider here; such as crispness, clarity and spaciousness. These are not at the utmost level with the Roland, but if you’re OK with its dark and warm sounding tuning, then I don’t think you will criticize it too much.
Here are some selected comparisons before the conclusion:
The Purple is one of my favorite IEMs in the market, and when compared with the Roland, it gives a better and quicker bass response, clearer treble with more sparkle and extension. The Roland has a better mid-range to me with more organic and lively sound, but the Purple has better resolution and detail retrieval.
Roland has a slight advantage in terms of sound-stage width and overall control with its forgiving and coherent nature. Overall it’s a win for the Purple in my opinion, but the Roland might be your choice since it’s cheaper and it has a warmer sound if that’s your cup of tea.
In terms of build quality the Roland is much better though, and its fit is almost custom-like. So those topics also influence a decision.
vs. Fearless S12
Roland simply triumphs in bass and mids, the S12 on the other hand puts up a fight in treble so they’re pretty close there. But the Roland is much better especially in mids, giving a more natural tonality. Resolution and transparency is higher with the S12 and it sounds cleaner and crisper overall.
Roland though wins the fight balance-wise with much better cohesiveness. It is more of an all-rounder versus the specific S12, so unless you listen to vocal-heavy music, I would recommend the Roland overall.
The TE5B is a good example in the world of tri-hybrid monitors but its treble driver is not EST, it instead uses a piezoelectric driver just like the one inside of the Noble Khan. Hyla gives a much bigger bass impact which can be too much for some people. In mids the Roland proves itself again, giving amazingly organic tones with great emotion.
However there’s no contest here in terms of treble, as the Hyla creates much more space and clarity for its treble to shine. It also has a more 3-dimensional stage with a bigger magnitude. It gives an incredibly good separation as well.
Balance and coherency are the two topics that the Roland shines in, and it also has better tonality in instruments and vocals. So if you’re looking for a warm sound with great balance, tonality and cohesiveness, the answer is the Roland. But if you like to put more weight in technicalities, the TE5B is hard to overlook.
This is only my 2nd experience with the Fearless brand, but I’m once again impressed with their packaging, build quality and design. As most of you already know, Fearless is a Chinese company. But when you start to experience their products, it doesn’t feel like the other Chi-Fi IEMs. They have that certain quality and premium mindset which separates them from those Chi-Fi counterparts.
The Roland is indeed a very good IEM and it certainly comes from a different perspective. Nowadays we’re so used to seeing IEMs that are solely aimed to sound crisp, bright and detailed. But the Roland reminds me of the good old days when the Sennheiser HD650 and the Noble Kaiser 10 were the norm.
Roland is definitely capable of providing great listening sessions with its relaxed and organic tuning. The only thing to consider here is that the presentation is quite warm and dark. You can open it up a little bit with a silver cable and some advanced DSP settings or PMEQ, so that you will have a bit more crispness and spaciousness.
There’s always more to come from Fearless and the rest of the Paladin series most probably will be on Headfonia as well, so keep an eye out for those articles…