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article imageReview: Rock Jaw Audio Alfa Genus V2: High-quality budget earphones

By James Walker     Jun 5, 2016 in Technology
Rock Jaw Audio is a British audio company specialising in high-quality headphones. Its Alfa Genus V2 in-ear set is the follow-up to one of the most highly-rated budget headphones, delivering customisable sound and a comfy design at a respectable price.
Introducing Rock Jaw Audio
Chances are you probably haven't heard of Rock Jaw Audio unless you're involved with the audio industry or have previously bought one of their products. They're a relatively small company focused on sound quality and customer experience.
Their attention to detail is evident from the off: the Rock Jaw website proudly advertises the company's free next day shipping to all UK residents. International customers get a similar treatment with free worldwide delivery. Clearly, the firm wants purchasing its products to be painless.
My review sample was delivered overnight as promised. The Alfa Genus V2 comes packaged smartly in a small sleeved box. The earphones themselves peek out from their foam surround through a window in the middle. Round the back, you get a brief description of the product and a look at the three sets of tuning filters bundled with the Alfa Genus — more on them later.
Rock Jaw Audio Alfa Genus V2
Rock Jaw Audio Alfa Genus V2
Rock Jaw Audio
Inside the box, you'll find everything packaged securely. A door in the foam insert reveals the brief instruction manual, a soft padded carry pouch, a clothing clip and a set of earbuds. The earphones themselves are wrapped around the foam and can be removed by simply unravelling the cable.
The same can't be said for the tuning filters which are frustratingly difficult to get out of the box. Unless you pull them out of the foam with immediate success, they're likely to slip deep inside it, at which point they're impossible to remove without cutting it open. I ultimately resorted to the latter approach, an annoyance for someone not keen to destroy smart packaging.
Design
The headphones are crafted from aluminium, lending the wearer the impression of a high-quality product. Rock Jaw bundles a sizeable number of different earbud tips, letting you choose between a variety of materials and sizes. You should be able to find something to suit your ears amongst the options supplied.
The cable is made of a thick rubbery material, terminating with an L-shaped 3.5mm connector. Along its length, you'll find an inline microphone for voice calls and a single multifunction button for controlling audio, both welcome if infrequently used features.
Rock Jaw Audio Alfa Genus V2
Rock Jaw Audio Alfa Genus V2
Rock Jaw Audio
However, while thick cables help to protect the wire from damage, in this case it detracts from the quality feel. My only criticism of the design of the Alfa Genus V2 is the cable, what may appear a minor detail until the product is worn.
It's too heavy, possessing a noticeable weight when wearing the earphones. Additionally, it isn't very flexible and tends to remain taut in one shape, leaving it difficult to position against the body. The L-shaped connector may also make it difficult to use some mobile devices with the Alfa Genus attached. The cable is an unfortunate frustration that makes the Alfa Genus less comfortable to wear than it could be.
Sound quality
The Alfa Genus' rated frequency response is a typical 20-20,000Hz with 16-ohm impedance. 8mm drivers form the core of the earphones' output. Out of the box, the headset sounded good without appearing exceptional. Bass was overly dramatic for my tastes, resulting in a muddied mid-range and suppressed treble. It is possible to customise the sound output of the Alfa Genus V2 though, using the tuning filters I've avoided mentioning so far.
Rock Jaw supplies three colour-coded sets of tuning filters: black, silver and gold. The blacks are designed to emphasise the treble component of music, making them suited to classical and vocal pieces. By default, you'll find the silver filters fitted, targeting the bass range to create punchier low notes for more dramatic scores.
The final set of filters, the gold, aims to deliver a natural and neutral output. It's a safe middle ground between bass and treble, designed for general use. I quickly switched to the gold filters after receiving the Alfa Genus V2, unscrewing the tip of each earphone to complete installation, and was pleased to notice a dramatic improvement in sound quality.
Rock Jaw Audio Alfa Genus V2
Rock Jaw Audio Alfa Genus V2
Rock Jaw Audio
With the natural filters fitted, the Alfa Genus V2 can deliver some excellent mobile sound experiences. Bass notes boom out but the treble is still defined and measured. There is no noticeable clipping and the earphones handle low and high volumes equally well.
Considering sound quality alone, these are the best earphones I've reviewed recently. On the natural filters, they offer balanced and measured audio across the entire frequency range with remarkable consistency. Unlike other budget earphones, the bass is not obscured beneath higher notes. The treble doesn't suffer as a consequence either, leaving you with a nicely rounded output that makes for enjoyable listening for the majority of people.
If you're less impressed with the gold filters than me, you can always fit the silver or black ones to better tailor the Alfa Genus' audio to your liking. Initially, I was sceptical of the tuning filters, assuming they'd be little more than an interesting gimmick. In practice, they can drastically change the texture of the sound emitted by the Alfa Genus though.
Rock Jaw Audio Alfa Genus V2
Rock Jaw Audio Alfa Genus V2
Rock Jaw Audio
While I have no reason to ever stray away from the natural set, it's easy to see people who listen to a variety of musical genres enjoying the prospect of being able to change their audio on the fly, particularly if no software equaliser is available.
Unfortunately, the cable once again compromises what could be an exceptional product. There is some noticeable cable noise and hissing present at all times, obscuring quieter sections with a constant layer of white noise. It's not a deal breaker but it is something to be aware of.
Another thing to be aware of is the 20-hour run-in time Rock Jaw advises. These headphones won't be sounding their best until you've been using them for a few days so keep that in mind when wearing them for the first time.
Conclusion
The Alfa Genus V2 retails for £44.95 in the UK or the equivalent in regional markets. The earphones can be purchased from Amazon or from Rock Jaw's website with free international delivery and free next-day delivery in the UK.
For this price, the Alfa Genus generally excels, producing clear and sophisticated audio that can be tailored to suit your taste and preferred musical style. It isn't without its issues though, including a frustrating cable and a persistent background hiss.
If you can overlook these faults, you should be impressed by the Alfa Genus V2. The tuning filters are a unique and impressive element and as a package Rock Jaw have delivered something clearly worth its price. With the few comparatively minor flaws fixed, a hypothetical "Alfa Genus V3" could be exemplary.
Verdict
Rock Jaw Audio's Alfa Genus V2 is a premium set of earphones offered at a price to be noticed at. With customisable sound quality, a modern and attractive design and a large selection of earbud tips, the Alfa Genus V2 is let down only by its overly rigid cable and the constant layer of white noise in its output.
Pros
- Very well designed with a comprehensive accessory set
- Exceptional sound quality on natural filters and tuning filters have a noticeable effect on audio
- Respectable price and free international delivery
Cons
- Packaging could be better designed
- The cable is too thick and an awkward hindrance to comfortable listening
- Some constant cable noise and hissing present at all times when connected
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