Sound Analysis – R3
Note – Fusion and R3’s sound signature changes slightly with different ear tips and fit. It shines exceptionally with some. So, I suggest you tip roll and experiment as the sound can vary between bright to balanced to slightly warm depending on your choice of ear tips. I’ve used wide bore softer silicone ear tips for the sound analysis.
R3 is ItsFit’s take on reference monitors, something that Ultimate Ears did very successfully with their UERM and UERR. I being a music industry professional was highly intrigued to check it out as I’m drawn to the word ‘reference’ by habit of trade. Haha. It is also what makes me extra critical when it comes to the word ‘reference’.
R3 in fact reminded me of UE’s UERM a bit in the first listen. Now it has been a while since I last heard the UERM, so I sadly can’t compare them back to back. R3 is tuned to sound very linear throughout the spectrum. In reality, it sounds more linear around bass and lower mids with some small peaks defining the character in the upper mids and treble. Ideally, since the whole signature is quite neutral, it gives R3 the ability to play songs without hyper addition of its own color.
Also, I think it is important to state that reference style IEMs are not for everyone as a lot of people like nice boosted bass presence, some like that extra upper mids and treble presence for those hyper-details and some like nice v-shaped signatures. Well, in theory reference IEMs were ideally intended for monitoring purposes and that requires an IEM to not add a lot of its own color. So if reference is not your game, maybe a balanced set is, and R3 and reference IEMs in general are very much that in foundation. Well with that said, read on if you’d like to know how R3 performs as a reference set. 🙂
Bass – As a result of its reference style tuning, it portrays songs for how they are mixed and that helps the bass perform close to how it is in the track. Though R3 does have a sub-bass roll-off at around 40-50Hz with a 3dB-ish slope, like studio monitors do (that’s why studios add a subwoofer), but bass in most songs is portrayed very cleanly and neutrally. Sub-bass is surely audible but don’t expect it to have a lot of rumble. For that you need a tuning which has a slight boost in the sub-bass (like R3’s older brother Fusion). Mid-bass is portrayed with good neutrality and again portrays the songs for exactly how the bass was mixed in the track. Bass overall has good attack and speed. Impact and punch completely depends on the song’s demand. Whatever said and done, R3 is tuned reference style and you should expect exactly that here. Yet, in songs like Our Lady Peace’s ‘Innocent’ and Coldplay’s Orphans, the bass is quite a lot of fun to listen to.
Mids – Again, R3 has very linear and neutral lower mids with a nice natural character. Upper mids have very slightly more presence than lower mids with peaks around 2kHz and 4-5kHz. As a result, vocals and guitars are prominent and snares have good stick attack. Also, the 4.5kHz peak plays an important role in defining how guitars and orchestral instruments sound as they are very dependent on upper mids character. They actually sound pretty natural and with a very life-like character. In some songs, R3 doesn’t pull off perfect reference character in this region but I can understand how difficult it is to tune something to be true ‘reference’ using BAs and crossovers as compared to just using a parametric or graphic equalizer. Haha. For that I appreciate what R3 accomplishes because it quite authentically recreates the upper mids without adding too much of its own color.
Treble – When it comes to treble, R3 has a few low peaks in the 7-9kHz region and even though it doesn’t sound absolutely true reference to me here, it still has good treble sheen and sparkle on top to be close enough and sound good nonetheless. In fact, what is peculiar is that most of the other IEMs marketed as ‘Reference IEMs’ had much more prominent peaks in these regions; Empire Ears ESR has a big one around 8kHz and UERM had one around 9-10kHz. I don’t know why that was done because it actually made treble quite peaky at times, even sibilant. Relatively R3’s treble is much more reference style in comparison. R3’s treble’s crispiness and sparkle helps instruments like acoustic guitars played with enthusiasm have that snap to have good presence in the mix. Sibilance isn’t really an issue unless the track has it as R3 isn’t shy from revealing mixing mistakes or poorly de-essed vocals. That is technically what reference IEMs are supposed to do as they’re technically intended for producers, audio engineers and musicians to use for monitoring. R3’s treble is a bit more prominent as compared to relatively flatter bass and lower mids, so I’ll place R3’s treble in the slightly north of neutral category. But please don’t confuse brightness with harshness. R3 is NOT harsh at all! It is just slightly on the brighter side of neutrality. Also, as I stated previously, R3’s treble character changes a bit with different ear tips and I highly suggest tip rolling for best results.
Soundstage, Imaging and Separation.
R3 has a wider than average soundstage, just a bit smaller than Fusion, mostly owing to the difference in fullness of mids. Imaging is good, probably the best for the price. Separation between instruments overall is equally good too.