Rock Jaw Alfa Genus V2 review: A new standard in earphone value

I was contacted by Rock Jaw Audio about an opportunity to review its flagship earphone, the Alfa Genus V2. I hadn’t heard of the company before, attributed to the fact that it is an underdog British audio manufacturer. But the rave reviews I was seeing really caught my eye. What could this company be doing to get such good word?

Upon opening the packaging, I could see a couple differentiating factors for earphones in this price bracket (£44 retail, or about $65). Namely, a metal build and frequency tuning filters – features you’ll only really find on high-end earphones. Let’s check out if the Alfa Genus V2 can hit all the right notes.

Design

From afar, the Alfa Genus V2 look unassuming. The earpiece design is cylindrical, with a slight taper. But up close, you’ll notice some nice design cues.

The lightweight Aluminum casing is surrounded by a glossy finish with the slightest ridged texture (you’ll only see it up close). There are accents of the true metal color at the front portion of the chassis, the cable stem, and rear cap.

A subtle but interesting aspect is that the back end concaves and there’s a tiny opening at the center. I think that this is a bass port, like on the Sennheiser IE 800, to improve the sub-bass response. When I cover the holes with my fingers, I notice that the sub-bass is dampened. You don’t really find this extent of audio detail on earphones at this price range, resulting in a deep and well-defined low-end. But we’ll talk about the audio quality a little further in the review.

The cable is fairly basic, but is done well. It’s made of a firm, rubbery wrapping, and close to 4 ft. in length. It’s a little on the thick-side, but the benefit is resistance to tangles. Shortly down the left earpiece wire is a simple one-button remote. There’s a mic for picking up calls, but the button can also switch tracks with multiple presses.

Usability

Rock Jaw is very considerate with the V2’s packaging. You’ll get four sets of silicone eartips (small, large, and 2x medium), a double flange pair, and two sizes of foam tips. There’s also a small drawstring pouch to carry it all.

I found the fit to be fantastic out of the box (medium silicone tips are pre-installed). It easily seals and stays in place. Isolation for silicone tips is decent too, but it’s great that Rock Jaw includes foam tips to improve it further.

The cable is also decently resistant against microphonics (noise from cord rubbing). Although, unlike most manufacturers, Rock Jaw didn’t put a chin slider above the y-splitter. I don’t know why it wouldn’t; it’s not like there’s much to it (just a small attachment that keeps the cords tidy.

I really praise Rock Jaw for incorporating an interchangeable filter system into the Alfa Genus V2. This isn’t a feature I’d expect on sub-$100 earphones; I’ve only seen it on high-end models. It works like most do, where you get three different ways to tune the sound signature: neutral (balanced), bass, or treble emphasis.

Changing the filters simply involves unscrewing the nozzles and screwing in one of the three included pairs. Super easy. The V2 comes with the bass filters pre-installed. It’s a little baffling why they don’t come with the neutral setting, for those who don’t care about messing with the true sound.

Sound

*I’ll be primarily be commenting about the neutral sound filter.

I’ll cut to the chase and say that I was very impressed with the sound quality of the Alfa Genus V2. When you’ve heard as many headphones as I have, you come into an expectation at a price bracket. Frankly, the V2 blew away my expectation for a sub-$100 earphone. This is the type of earphone that makes you regret spending so much on your daily driver investment.

Let’s talk about what that means. First, the V2’s articulation is notably clean. Cheaper headphones typically suffer from muddiness more or less throughout the spectrum, and while the V2 isn’t completely absent from it, it is surprisingly crisp for the price-point. Not only that, but the sounds have encompassing depth, and do a great job filling out the perceived 3D space around you (aka soundstage).

Earlier, I also suggested an excellent bass response. Particularly, the deep sub-bass is like what you’d find on much pricier earphones (assumingly due to the port on the back of the earpiece). However, it leads to a hard-hitting, punchy mid-bass, which may not be for everyone (and this is with the neutral filter). This is my biggest complaint about the sound signature, as the bass tends to overshadow. You must be a huge basshead to prefer the bass filter, as things become severely bloated at that point.

I loved the mid-range of the V2. Even with the prominent bass, it’s forward enough to still be appreciated. Things like vocals and guitar strums have a lushness and airy-ness, after the likes of Shure’s reproduction. The treble is also not just pushed to the background. It can crank out some decent detail, although, I could use more upper-end sparkle.

Final Thoughts

I am super impressed with the Alfa Genus V2. Not to sound like a snob, but I don’t expect much from sub-$100 headphones. Rock Jaw has shown me that gems are out there. No, it’s not perfect, and no, I won’t tell you there isn’t value in high-end earphones. But these challenge the price gap very well, and they’re my new go-to when recommending the best bang for your buck earphone.

The Alfa Genus V2 is sold through Rock Jaw’s UK site, but I was told that they’ll be on Amazon.com next week!

Alfa Genus V2 product page

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Design
Usability
Sound
Value
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Josh Noriega likes tech so much that he writes about it. Follow him on Twitter (@joshnor713) or Google+ (+JoshNoriega).