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 both foam ear tips as well as 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’.
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 are ideally intended for monitoring purposes and that requires an IEM to not add a lot of its own colour. So if reference is not your game, maybe a balanced set is and reference IEMs in general are very much that in foundation.
R3 kind of reminded me of UE’s UERM a bit in the first listen. Now it’s been a while since I last heard the UERM, so I sadly can’t compare them back to back. R3 in reality sounds decently linear throughout and no particular frequency band sounds boosted or hyped but if I have to nitpick, it can surely do with slightly better sub-bass extension, cleaner precision in the lower mids and a bit more definition and punch in the upper registers for it to become absolutely true ‘reference’. Well, this is probably me being wishful and wishful thinking is sometimes far from making it happen in reality. So with that said, read on if you’d like to know how R3 performs as a reference set. 🙂
Bass – R3 has slight 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 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 neutrality but sounds fuller. Bass overall has decent attack & speed, and impact & punch completely depends on the song’s demand owing to R3’s linear reference approach. 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 linear lower mids with a warmer natural character but can use cleaner precision in this area for better resolution to discern the body and layers of instruments better. Upper mids are more present than lower mids with minor peaks around 2kHz and 4-5kHz. As a result, vocals and guitars have nice natural tonality but don’t expect them to be forward sounding like Harman-neutral IEMs, which is a different school of neutral altogether. But even for reference tuning, in some songs R3 doesn’t pull off perfect reference character in the upper mids region and lacks the required definition and punch. A slight push in the upper mids using an EQ makes R3 immediately sound more accurate to me.
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, with the right tips, it has adequate treble extension to 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 makes treble quite peaky at times, even sibilant. Relatively R3’s treble is much easier in comparison, especially with foam ear tips. R3’s treble helps instruments like acoustic guitars have good presence in the mix while keeping them sounding natural. 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 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 but is still on the smoother side relatively. 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. My personal favourite are foam tips for R3.
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.