Summary – Roland is targeted towards an audience that likes a darker and smoother presentation with good bass and midrange tuning and tonality. If I had to summarize the Roland in short, according to how I like things, I’d say that it is an IEM that could’ve been great, dare I say exceptional at its price, but is marred by its EST driver tuning that rolls off the treble a little early and holds back what could’ve been great. Roland does everything very well till around 5-6khz but sadly goes a bit downhill from there. Now with a simple high-shelf boost, you can make Roland sound really good but I think that in an ideal world, an IEM costing $1000 shouldn’t need any EQ to make stuff better. But then again, my good friend and colleague Vishnu reminded me that even the Audeze LCD-i4 needs the accompanying EQ correction software to sound that good and it isn’t cheap by any means at $2495. Well, the amount of treble quantity is subject to one’s liking and preferences. Nevertheless, Roland takes EQ very well and if I enable a high-shelf boost of 6-8dBs around 5kHz (that’s around where the treble roll-off starts), it immediately starts showing Roland’s strengths. It highlights Roland’s very nice natural mids tonality, sublime bass and a sound signature that is highly engaging. Without the high shelf boost, Roland sounds a bit dark but in turn does make for an easy listen at loud levels, unlike IEMs with infamous peaky Chi-fi upper-mids.
I’m going to keep the frequency breakdown short and sweet and also include how it sounds with the high-shelf boost.
Bass – Bass is pretty linear and in fact with the high shelf boost I mentioned above, brings even more light on how well the dynamic driver is tuned. It has nice sub-bass rumble in songs like Porcupine Tree’s ‘.3’ and Muse’s ‘Panic Station’ with a very linear mid-bass and high-bass character. It has good speed for a dynamic driver too. Without the high-shelf boost however its spark does not come across as nicely because of a darker signature but its character is still present. If you don’t mind using an EQ, please try the high-shelf boost.
Mids – Lower mids are very linear and upper mids have peaks in the right spots and that enables Roland to have accurate instrument tonality, which is Roland’s strong point but it majorly comes out shining with the high shelf boost. I can’t emphasize enough how great the Roland would have sounded if Fearless had tuned the EST driver with a bit more enthusiasm and not so much reservation. Upper mid have presence in the 2.5-4.5kHz region which helps vocals, guitars and drums have good presence and character without them sounding too forward like in Harman IEMs.
Treble – This is where the EST driver tuning lets the Roland down. The treble rolls off a little too early with a sudden drop post 5-6kHz. With a high-shelf boost that I’ve been mentioning, you can see that the EST driver actually sounds pretty good, just that it is lacking in amplitude and needs at least upwards of a 5-6dB boost to balance out the bass and midrange (amount of dB boost depends on liking and preference). With the high-shelf boost, everything comes to life, especially drums and vocals and I in fact enjoy Roland quite a lot with that.
Soundstage, Imaging and Separation.
Soundstage is decently wide and increases with high-shelf EQing and depth is deeper than the width. Even for a darker signature, imaging is quite precise and separation between instruments is good. With the high-shelf, everything becomes livelier and better.
ItsFit Fusion – They are polar opposites in a way. Roland is a darker IEM whereas Fusion is energetic and lively. Fusion has more sub-bass as well as overall bass presence. Roland is quite reference like from bass to starting of upper mids. Post that, both have good upper mids presence but Fusion has more resolution in the mids as well as overall because of its livelier signature. Fusion’s treble is way better extended and open whereas Roland has a sudden treble roll-off post 5kHz. Fusion has a livelier open soundstage whereas Roland has a decently wide soundstage but because of it being dark, the feeling of openness is subdued.
Moondrop S8 – S8 is tuned to Moondrop’s take on the Harman Target curve called the VDSF (Virtual Diffusion Sound Field). S8 has good impactful and fun bass whereas Roland has it more linear, tight and neutral. S8 has the trademark Harman scooped lower mids and defined upper midrange which highlights instruments, bringing guitars and vocals upfront whereas Roland has a more linear lower midrange and a well-defined upper midrange too, just not as forward as the S8. Treble is where S8 has a natural treble character which supports the upper mids quite well whereas Roland is darker. S8 has more precise imaging and separation between instruments owing to treble clarity that helps the same. Soundstage wise, both are almost similar but S8 has more layered depth compared to Roland.
BGVP EST8 – Roland is a bit more expensive than EST8. Sound wise, Roland has a darker presentation in comparison to EST8. EST8 has more sub-bass and mid-bass presence, a peak in the 1-2kHz range and another one around 5kHz. Roland on the other hand has very nice neutral-ish bass and lower mids, an upper mids peak around 2.5kHz and another one around 4kHz. EST8 has more and better treble presence whereas Roland maintains a more coherent darker presentation.
In the end, Fearless Roland has very good build quality, an attractive stock shell design and a very comfortable semi-custom fit which remains comfortable for long periods. It comes stock with a nice carry case too. Sound wise, it is targeted towards an audience that prefers a darker sound signature with good natural bass and midrange tuning. If you fall under this category, be sure to check out the Fearless Roland.
As a friendly request to Fearless Audio, I’d love to see Roland Version 2 where the EST driver is tuned with more enthusiasm for it to come out shining, while keeping the bass and midrange similar. That will make for a great IEM and I’ll surely be very excited and eager to check it out. 🙂
Gear used for testing and review.
- DAPs- Hiby R6 Pro & iBasso DX160
- Oneplus 7 Pro
Reference Songs list.
- Normandie – White Flag album
- Dave Matthews – Shake Me Like a Monkey
- Foo Fighters- The Pretender, Best of you & Everlong
- Coldplay- Paradise, Up in flames & Everglow + Everyday Life Album
- Ed Sheeran- Thinking out loud, Bloodstream & Galway Girl
- Chainsmokers – Somebody, Sickboy, This Feeling & Closer
- John Mayer- Slow dancing in a burning room, Stop this Train & Say
- Gavin James- Always & Hearts on fire
- Switchfoot- Meant to live & Dare you to move
- Porcupine Tree – Sound of Muzak, Blackest Eyes & .3
- Our Lady Peace – Do You Like It & Innocent
- Linkin Park- Papercut, Somewhere I belong & Talking to myself
- Maroon 5- She will be loved, Payphone & Lost stars
- Lifehouse- All in all & Come back down
- Breaking Benjamin – Diary of Jane
- Karnivool- Simple boy & Goliath
- Dead Letter Circus- Real you
- I Am Giant- Purple heart, City limits & Transmission
- Muse – Panic station
- James Bay – Hold back the river