Akoustyx R-110 - Akoustyxial Awesomesauce!
Updated: Aug 12, 2021
Every now and then in the audio universe, a musical, reference IEM that does it right comes along. Is the Akoustyx R-110 such an IEM?
A few musical, reference IEM in the small budget universe have come across my desk (small budget to me is less then $100 current price); Tin Hifi T2, Etymotic ER2SE, Tin Hifi T3 and Moondrop SSR. I have also had a few higher budget musical, reference IEM; Moondrop Blessing 2, Audiofly AF1120 mkII, ADV M5-12D and Empire Ears ESR. Is the Akoustyx R-110 another to add to the smaller budget realm?
What do I consider to be "reference"? I believe that a reference IEM should be one that is about as flat, neutral as possible without losing detail and extension. A reference IEM should not add in flavoring or coloring to the sound that isn't natural or realistic.
What do I consider to be "musical"? A musical IEM to me is one that sounds natural and realistic without being bloated or excessive in any of the frequencies. A musical IEM should be an accurate portrayal of the music in the real world that is enjoyable and detailed.
Disclaimer: Akoustyx provided the R-110 for review and only asked for an honest review. I wasn't influenced, directed to say or paid for this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Driver: Micro Reference Balanced Armature
Impedance: 50 Ω
Freq. Response: 15-22.000Hz
Unboxing: Akoustyx provides a simple unboxing experience. A colorful outer box with pictures and just the right amount of information that protects an inner dark blue box.
The inner box is sturdy and has the Akoustyx logo on top. Slipping off the cover, inside you will find the R-110 nestled inside a foam protection.
Lifting up the foam, you find a half box cover that protects the accessories, neoprene carry pouch, silicone tips and wings, Comply foam tips, cable and paperwork.
Design/Build/Fit/Comfort:: The Akoustyx R-110 have a design and build that I really enjoy. Very reminiscent of Shure SE215 and Audiofly AF1120 mkII. A resin shell that is mega small with a skinny, long nozzle. Everything about them says durable and reliable. They don't scream look at me; I am gorgeous and expect you to pay attention to me. Instead, they are purpose built for an 8hr day that says; let's get to work. The MMCX connector is the only minor complaint I have as I would rather see a 2 pin connection.
The cable is a light, thinly braided monocrystaline oxygen-free copper that is well behaved. There is a 3 button inline mic that works with IOS devices. I really enjoy this cable and have no issues with it at all.
Okay now for the weirdness, wings and tips. Akoustyx has included the Freebit ear interface "wings", an optional silicone slip-on shell cover and wing. They slip over the shell and add a silicone tip/wing that fits around the pinna. I haven't always enjoyed this style of fit but with the R-110 I had no issues. I used the smallest Freebit interface along with the Comply T-100 foam tips and the dual flange silicone tips. Included in the box are small, medium and large winged and one non-winged ear interface. You can also use the R-110 without a silicone interface but I found it was slippery and didn't stay put so I also used the non-winged interface option.
When it comes to the tips, Akoustyx provides an adequate amount of choices. You get 3 olive shape silcone, 1 silicone dual flange and 1 Comply T100. I actually like all of them but the dual flange and T100 are my preferences. Normally I am not a fan of Comply tips as I find that they muddy up the bass more often then not but that isn't the case with the Akoustyx R-110. I had a very hard time not liking the Comply tips with the R-110, a very pleasurable experience. The only difference is that the silicone tips lose a tad of warmth and bass impact but it is very minimal and doesn't effect technical abilities. The dual flange are more analytical and the T100 adds a touch of musicality. I did find that the T100 did bring on some discomfort after a couple of hours, whereas with the dual flange I could wear them with no discomfort at all during an 8 hr. listening session.
Fit and comfort are exceptional to my ears. I have no discomfort whatsoever with the R-110. I can wear them hours on end and in fact I have; one listening session lasting 8 hours. I wasn't able to wear them for sleeping as the stem of the MMCX cable and shell connection protrude just a bit out and up and can jam into the top of the ear when sleeping on your side. I find that the most comfortable setup for me is the small Freebit ear interface and dual flange tips.
Sound: (All sound impressions are with the silicone dual flange tips)
Bass: In my opinion Akoustyx got the bass right with the R-110. There is a lot to like about the bass. The R-110 present a very analytical bass with a kiss of musicality. For a single BA the R-110 packs a lot of power and slam that stays under control at all times. The R-110 has incredible speed that is quick and nimble at the right times and then can slow down and thicken up when those moments arise. The attack and decay of the R-110 bass always seems to do it accurately. There is just enough impact and the right amount of detail retrieval with the right amount of precise resolution to sound natural and accurate. I have no complaints about the bass of the R-110.
Mids: Akoustyx did a fantastic job with the mids of the R-110. There is a cohesive, balanced naturalism that sounds pleasing and realistic. Instruments and vocals have realistic isolation and separation, not too much and not lacking, just right spacing and layering. Everything plays cohesively and balanced, R-110 sounds naturally correct to my ears. I used the R-110 for several monitoring situations. I found it very hard to differentiate between the live sound and the R-110. The R-110 sounded very realistic, just the way I like it when monitoring. Details are plentiful and tone and timbre are accurate, making it very easy to determine instruments and follow them in the mix.
Treble: Akoustyx paid attention to the treble and their efforts have paid off as the R-110 treble is pleasing to this treble lover. There is a lot going on in the uppers of the R-110 and it is forward and bold but not domineering. You get a lot of controlled energy and natural crispness but no harshness. Again, Akoustyx hit the nail on the head with the instrument and vocal isolation and separation. Details are aboundantly portrayed but not excessively boosted to an unnatural amount and they have a natural resolution with accurate harshness and crispness. Treble extension is tricky for manufacturers to pin down, very few do it correctly, but Akoustyx has done it without boosting to unrealistic levels. The R-110 treble is one that I love and believe will please those who love a controlled and natural treble.
Soundstage/Imaging: Are you looking for an accurate soundstage, look no further. The R-110 has one of the most natural and realistic soundstages I have heard in an IEM. Layering is crazy good, isolation and separation is top notch and the width and depth is realistic. The R-110 is a great option for those of us who love to diagnose a stage while enjoying our favorite tunes.
Details/Resolution: I've been told many a time that single BA can't compete when it comes to detail retrieval and resolution; clearly those who said that haven't heard the Akoustyx R-110. Wow, these are capable of presenting all the details you need and then some. But it doesn't stop with the retrieval as the resolution is insane; the details retrieved are presented in an accurate and realistic way, with sharpness, crispness, sparkles, crinkles and the such, when and where they should be. The R-110 is a very revealing beast of an IEM.
Tone/Timbre: BA drivers aren't capable of sounding realistic and natural is another statement that has been said to me on numerous occasions; again I say they clearly haven't heard the R-110. Akoustyx has done an amazing job with the BA driver of the R-110 as there isn't a hint of that metallic timbre that BA drivers can have. Tonality is incredibly natural and the timbre is phenomenal; I am so impressed with this aspect of the R-110.
Isolation: Okay, now for the isolation of outside noises. I don't normally go into much detail but I feel it is more important with the R-110 as I think that this is an aspect that is very important when monitoring on stage or at the sound booth.. Tip selection makes a huge difference in isolation of the R-110. I find that if you want the best isolation of outside noises then use the Comply T100 tips, When using the olive tips they provided the least amount of isolation. The dual flange tips for me were in between the olive and Comply tips. Using the Comply tips removed nearly all outside noise while I was walking and cars, trucks and busses were passing on the street. With the dual flange tips the occasional loud truck or bus could be noticed. The only IEM's I have heard that have better isolation of outside noises are from Etymotic.
Veclan Odyssee HD: A solid dongle pairing but not for everyone. I am impressed with this pairing as it provided a clean and analytical presentation, bringing out the technical abilities of the R-110.
xDuoo Link: Not my favorite dongle pairing but not terrible. I found myself skipping a lot of songs with this pairing. Some songs just sounded bleh and then others were good but I was never wowed. This is an adequate pairing but there are better available.
NextDrive Spectra X: This was my favorite dongle pairing. The Spectra X provided that musical, reference sound that brought out the best abilities of the R-110. I highly recommend this pairing.
Sony NW-A105: The NW-A105 pairs exceptionally well with the R-110. I love this pairing for it's natural and realistic presentation. NW-A105 has fantastic synergy with the R-110. If you have the NW-A105, why not give your ears a gift and get the Akoustyx R-110?
Sony NW-WM1a: Best pairing with a DAP, no doubt about it but the price difference is craziness but so is the audio quality. The WM1a brings out the best of the R-110 to the fullest extent and adds a tad more. Cohesive, balanced, energetic and natural are how I describe this pairing; I love it! Can't recommend this pairing enough.
Mytek Liberty DAC: I love this pairing a lot. I realize that the price difference between the Liberty DAC and the R-110 is massive but the crazy sound provided is massive quality. This is a very natural sounding pairing that I truly enjoy and recommend.
Etymotic ER2XR: How does the R-110 compare to one of my current reference IEM? These two are similar but there are a few noticeable differences. Bass has a little more impact on the ER2XR. The ER2XR is slightly thinner when it comes to note density, most noticeable in the mids and treble. Soundstage is wider on the R-110 with more depth and layering. Detail retrieval and resolution are near identical. ER2XR is a little more fun and the R-110 is a little more analytical.
Etymotic ER2SE: Another favorite reference IEM of mine. The ER2SE is thinner in note density and isn't as full bodied. The ER2SE lacks the bass impact. Soundstage is wider on the ER2SE but the R-110 has more depth and layering. Detail retrieval and resolution are near identical. The ER2SE is a tad more analytical and the R-110 has a touch more musicality.
Tin Hifi T2: This is a comparison that took me by surprise. The T2 sounds very similar to the R-110, in fact it could be a mini version. Take everything said about the R-110 above and take just a little bit off and you have the T2. The T2 is slightly behind in technicalities but it's by a small amount. The T2 is a little thinner and has a tad more brightness. Two of the best tone and timbre budget IEM available.
Tin Hifi T5: Looking for more fun then analytical? The T5 has more bass impact with a touch more body. Mids are more forward and present on the T5. Treble is slightly lessened and rolled off up top on the T5. Soundstage width is wider on the R-110 and depth and layering are fairly similar. Detail retrieval and resolution are close but the edge goes to the R-110. The R-110 has a small advantage with tone and timbre. The R-110 is more analytical and realistic sounding and the T5 is more fun and engaging.
SeeAudio Yume: There are a lot of similarities between these two. Tone and timbre are very similar and both are well balanced and cohesive in presentation. The Yume has a slight increase in note weight and density. Bass has more impact on the Yume. Mids are very close with the Yume having the fuller sound and the R-110 having slightly better separation. Treble is more controlled on the R-110. Detail retrieval and resolution are better on the R-110. Soundstage is wider on the R-110 but imaging, depth and layering are very similar. The Yume is a touch more musical and the R-110 is a little more analytical.
Akoustyx hit a homerun with the R-110 by creating an IEM that is both analytical and musical. In my humble opinion, the Akoustyx R-110 is a true monitor through and through. The R-110 gives you an accurate, natural, realistic presentation of the live production you are monitoring. The R-110 gives you everything you need to track and hear the happenings on stage. But that isn't all the R-110 offers as it can be used for your listening pleasure; where it shows off it's musical prowess along with the analytical capabilities. I truly enjoy the Akoustyx R-110 and highly recommend them. I will be using the R-110 as a reference going forward, you can be sure of that.
YouTube reviews: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgMj7xJ1SDxGqqxZ5l3g_jg
Twitter: https://twitter.com/TalkDbs @TalkDbs
DBS Tech Talk research and review process: https://youtu.be/UkSnoZZNyYc
Audio Terms and Definitions: https://www.stereophile.com/reference/50/index.html
Meze Empyrean: https://mezeaudio.com/products/meze-empyrean
Hifiman Ananda: https://hifiman.com/products/detail/290
Sennheiser HD660s: https://en-us.sennheiser.com/hd-660-s
MrSpeakers Ether C (non flow version) https://danclarkaudio.com/
Meze Rai Penta: https://mezeaudio.com/collections/all/products/rai-penta
Meze Rai Solo: https://mezeaudio.com/products/rai-solo
Moondrop SSR: https://www.moondroplab.com/ssr
Monoprice Monolith THX AAA 788: https://www.monoprice.com/product?p_id=24459
Mytek Liberty: https://mytekdigital.com/hifi/products/liberty-dac/
Soekris DAC1421: https://soekris.modhouseaudio.com/soekris-audiophile-line/dac-1421
Tor Audio Roger: https://toraudio.com/main.html#
Massdrop THX AAA 789:
Grace Design SDAC-B: https://drop.com/buy/drop-grace-design-standard-dac-balanced?utm_source=linkshare&referer=FTSS2S
Geshelli Labs Enog 2 Pro: https://geshelli.com/shop/ols/products/enog2-pro-dac-metal-case
Geshelli Labs J2: https://geshelli.com/jnog
Geshelli Labs Erish: https://geshelli.com/shop/ols/products/erish-balanced
https://tidal.com/browse/playlist/5bbf80ce-33f3-4222-a1fc-6539a95415d6 (in order of playlist)
Tingvall Trio “Beat” - piano tonality
Sinne Eeg “We’ve Just Begun” - multiple layer soundstage
Molly Johnson “What a Little Moonlight Can Do” - female vocal tone
Leslie Odom Jr. “Under Pressure” - male vocal tone
Eric Clapton “Change the World” - soundstage, layering and placement
Yo Yo Ma “Ecstasy of Gold” - acoustic instrument timbre
Adam Baldych “Spem in Alium” - acoustic instrument timbre
Pain of Salvation “Stress” - percussion balance
Michael Buble “When I Fall in Love” - orchestral dynamics
Patricia Barber “Code Cool” - sibilance check
Christian Scott “New New Orleans” - shouty upper mids
Tool “Chocolate Chip Trip” - imaging
Hans Zimmer “Why So Serious” - sub bass extension
Marcus Miller “No Limit” - bass control
Dave Holland Quartet “Conference Of The Birds”- bass check
Ilhan Eshkeri “47 Ronin”- orchestra and bass dynamics
Hans Zimmer :2049” - sub bass extension
Cher: Believe - sibilance
Stanley Clarke - Passenger 57 main title - percussion, bass, separation and placement
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra - The Pine of the Appian Way - soundstage, imaging and separation
Houston Person - You are my Sunshine - tone and timbre
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