Rosson Audio Design RAD-0 Measurements and Review (is RAD)

Discussion in 'Headphone Measurements' started by purr1n, Dec 2, 2019.

  1. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    Those of you who have been in the hobby a while will remember Alex Rosson as a fixture for Audeze at the various SoCal meets for years. He was CEO of Audeze, so it was a bit of shock to me and many others to find out that he was no longer with them. I know that he worked his ass off and tried to set up Audeze for success behind the scenes beyond just headphones. I'm also grateful that he hand delivered a set of Audeze headphones directly to my house!

    So it's no surprise that Alex started on his own path with Rosson Audio Design. The similarities in design to the Audeze headphones are likely not by accident. This will be tough review because it will be hard to not compare to Audeze headphones, because I strongly feel that the RAD-0 is more Alex's own. However, the references to Audeze just can't be avoided because of their similar sound and looks.

    The nutshell, the RAD-0 is pretty rad. Haha. The voicing is more along the lines of Audeze than say, brighter headphones like the HD800 or HD600. In this review, we are going to consider two variants of the RAD-0. The stock version, and a very slightly tweaked version. (Sorry Alex, we respect your tuning, but you should know that at SBAF, we are going to use whatever small tweaks we can to get something to sound exactly like what the reviewer likes).

    Before we start on the measurements, I'd like to point out a few things regarding ergonomics.
    IMG_20191201_170407.jpg

    The smooth sliding friction band is a HUGE improvement over the Audeze's "clunk clunk clunk" detented shafts. The swivel of the cups is limited, so that the cups never flop the wrong way, are at approximately 120 degrees apart at most for an easy slip on to the head. The padding on top of the band is sufficiently comfortable for those with Klingon ridges at the top of their head, so the lack of a suspension headband isn't a worry. The leather headband smells of high quality, unlike the metal piece of the Audeze's LCD-3 that seems chintzy and cheap for a high-end headphone. And the variety of cup designs are gorgeous. The RAD-0 isn't cheap, and I know this will be a complaint of many of the denizens here, but think of these like the LFF bespoke headphones.

    If there is one concern regarding ergonomics, it might be that the RAD-0 could be too small for people with bigger heads. I have the sliders at max extension, and I feel that the width of the cups could just a little bit wider. This was something @ChaChaRealSmooth mentioned. So folks with big or wide heads like @ChaChaRealSmooth or @fp627 should try to get a test fit before they commit. Overall the fit is fine, but I'd like to have a 100% fit if possible rather than 95% if you know what I mean.

    EDIT: I forgot to mention that Alex did away with those 3-pin mini-XLRs for the cable. They were good for their time, but are a pain in the ass today. I much prefer the mini-phono jack connectors for the cable.
     
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    Last edited: Dec 3, 2019
  2. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    On to the measurements.

    Rosson Audio Design RAD-0 Frequency Response
    SBAF compensation on miniDSP EARS
    upload_2019-12-2_19-32-14.png

    @ChaChaRealSmooth mentioned that he really liked the RAD-0. He owned an Audeze LCD-3 here that sort of liked in some ways, and did not in other ways. I believe that he compared his LCD-3 with @fp627's LCD-3, and that they sounded different. I thought that Audeze had fixed the unit to unit variability issue, one one LCD-3 sounded obviously worse than the other.

    Analyzing distortion, the RAD-0 seems to have overall lower levels of bass distortion compared to @ChaChaRealSmooth's LCD-3, with the third order particular lower from 50Hz to 180Hz. past 500Hz however, H2 gets progressively higher than the LCD-3. I am not sure if distortion explains everything here. More likely, we'd have to look at transient response. If I have time, I will make equivalent charts to compare. In the meantime, attempt to compare yourself, knowing that -50db is about 0.316%, -60db is 0.10%, and -70db is 0.032%

    Rosson Audio RAD-0
    Harmonic Distortions, Flat Plate Coupler
    upload_2019-12-2_19-40-56.png

    @ChaChaRealSmooth's old LCD-3 (for comparison)
    [​IMG]
     
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    Last edited: Dec 3, 2019
  3. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    Not seen the the FR plots above (but possibly in the distortion plots), @chacha mentioned to me that he felt there may have been a few minor hot spots in the highs. Nothing annoying, but just stuff that was there, especially with the crappy K-pop tunes in his music collection. I would have to concur... (My tweak was to fix this)

    I'd heard other sites mention that the RAD-0 is sort of like an LCD-4 and LCD-X combined. I kind of get this from a tonal point of view. I actually wasn't a fan of the LCD-X's presentation in the highs, henceforth my tweak was actually to get more of that classic Audeze sound. I could have seen the RAD-0 work fine in it stock form with more relaxed sounding amps; but i wanted to get something that worked well with my custom 45 amp so I could evaluate how well it scaled. On this topic, the RAD-0 is easily as resolving of low level information as the LCD-3. It isn't a headphone that hits you over the head with detail, but it's plenty resolving. Very very good microdetail, but without the oversharpened edges or macrodetail of certain headphones.

    There does appear to be a peak in the EARS FR measurements around 7kHz. Generally, this isn't a concern because the tip of the peak is below the lows and the lower mids. However, we are just curious. It's one of those things that isn't necessarily bothersome, but we do want to explore. Let's examine the flat plate coupler CSDs for more information to see if we can confirm:

    RAD-0 CSD
    Flat plate coupler
    FPC RAD-0 L.jpg

    On the flat plate coupler, we do see after the upper mid recession a peak and some ringing around 8.5kHz. Sometimes the peaks will shift a bit between the EARS and flat plate. We can't be certain this is the same one, but there is some evidence to support what @ChaChaRealSmooth and I heard.

    But before I go one, I want to show the same measurement after one very simple tweak to the RAD-0:

    RAD-0 CSD (post-tweak)
    Flat plate coupler
    FPC RAD-0 L mod.jpg

    OMG, they killed Kenny!

    Well the tip of the peak appears to be blunted a few db, and the ringing at that spot is pretty much gone. Like gone gone. In addition, we note that that region from the upper mids to the mid-treble is much smoother (no big narrow dip at 6kHz).
     
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  4. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    The last conversation I had with @ChaChaRealSmooth was in regards to the bass heft. We both agreed that in stock form, the bass seemed reticent compared to the heft of the Audezes. Well, the tweaked I mentioned also fixed this too. The bass is now back and as monstrous as we would expect. I think basically what I did was sort of tuned the RAD-0 from the LCD-X sound more into the classic LCD-2 or LCD-3 sound. Either way, I think customers will have their choice of what they like.

    And oh, what was the tweak? I was the same one that I applied to the Verum when I complained that the Verum was just a wee bit too bright. I moved a layer on the back, the black piece seen here.

    IMG_20191201_170544.jpg

    Again, this is counter intuitive, but removing damping material in the back of orthos (also a trick commonly used on HE-6 mods), shoves down the highs and bumps up the mids. Less damping also has the effect of, well, less damping. Snappier and sharper transients. I figure the new found explosiveness is the result of removing the black layer. It sort of reminds me of the last episode of the animated Justice League Unlimited where Superman while fighting Darkseid, decides to take his kid gloves off because all his life he's had to be careful among delicate humans, being careful not to accidentally crush them or walk through their cardboard houses. And then completely unleashed (of course making sure all civilians have been evacuated, because Zack Snyder sucks and doesn't get Superman or DC), proceeds to beat the living crap out of Darkseid.

    I will present before and after measurements in the next post.
     
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    Last edited: Dec 3, 2019
  5. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    Rosson Audio Design RAD-0 Frequency Response (STOCK)
    SBAF compensation on miniDSP EARS
    [​IMG]

    Rosson Audio Design RAD-0 Frequency Response (TWEAKED)
    SBAF compensation on miniDSP EARS
    upload_2019-12-2_20-26-27.png
     
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  6. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    So in conclusion, the RAD-0 achieves its own take on the Audeze headphones. Owners can easily tweak to their desire if the wanted more of that classic Audeze sound vs. the LCD-X sound. The ergonomics and materials quality is a step above, and the cup finish choices give the owner a sense that this is a bespoke product. The RAD-0 is resolving, slams with heft, scales very well with better gear, but isn't a headphone that hits you over the face with "detail", hence may not even be impressive upon casual listen. It's my understanding that @ChaChaRealSmooth really likes this and feels that this stomps all over his old Audeze. (I would agree). I imagine he might like if even more after the tweaks, which he was not heard yet.
     
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    Last edited: Dec 3, 2019
  7. Mithrandir41

    Mithrandir41 Friend

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    The frequency response looks surprisingly smooth from 3.5k upward: doesn't look like there's any deep valleys/big mountains.
     
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  8. ChaChaRealSmooth

    ChaChaRealSmooth SBAF Poopsmith

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    I'll withhold my final opinion until I get these back from Marv (since I do want to hear the tweaks), but I did like these very much. It was top-tier in resolution (maybe not quite Utopia/Verite level, but not far away), had good timbre, and the only nitpick I did have was the slight treble peaks, which the quick tweak looks to have taken care of. I certainly did NOT hear those little ridges in the CSDs.

    One thing I want to explicitly add that is implied in Marv's comment about running it off his 45; the RAD-0 is very efficient. As in, the kind of efficiency where you can happily run it off your tube amps for your dynamic drivers. I had no issues running the RAD-0 off of Starlett. The Starlett isn't what you'd call a powerful amp; it outputs 440mW RMS into 50 ohms.
     
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  9. Serious

    Serious Inquisitive Frequency Response Plot

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    Any subjective issues from the distortion? It looks pretty bad to me for a headphone, profile is overall similar to my OB speakers. Is it a single sided magnet construction? I'm not sure which headphone I remember that went into the single digits in the upper midrange. Did the mod noticeably change the distortion? Also does the bass get less controlled as we go down in frequency? 3rd order looks high to me.

    How's the staging? Same as Audeze? Is 3.5kHz really 15db or so down relative to 500Hz?
     
  10. penguins

    penguins Friend, formerly known as fp627

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    If this helps anyone, tried RAD0 at last meet. I have a bit of said Klingon ridge and padding on top was sufficient - this is something I notice very quickly. Headphone was also big enough - as a matter of fact, I don't think I even had the size on max - this is something I typically remember as I max most headphones by default and then walk it back in.

    For reference, HD6xx is my most comfortable headphones I've ever owned, more so than even say Mr Speakers or other brands generally praised for comfort - 6xx is way more than big enough both length and width wise, clamping force is spread out evenly over the entire clamping area, lightweight, big ear holes, small cutout for crown on head, no hot spots.
     
  11. Magnetostatic_Tubephile

    Magnetostatic_Tubephile Friend

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    I am quite puzzled nobody is mentioning that FR depression starting just before 2kHz.

    I could understand it being down by 3 or even 5 dB, or having a sharp trough around a narrow frequency range. But we are talking whooping 10dB across a wide frequency range!

    Given the above, my favourite head-fi quote about Rad-0: "I was told the RAD0 was design with studio monitoring in mind and I can see that." Well, I honestly cant.
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2019
  12. Lyander

    Lyander Too sensitive for SBAF

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    As mentioned before the person behind the RAD was formerly affiliated with Audeze, who've developed a target curve of their own— designs like the LCD-2 Classic conform pretty closely based on what I can tell from squiggles, and at least in my experience with "weird" FR (see headphones, haha), broad swaths in certain parts of the frequency range are alright because they don't mess up timbre as much as others, primarily affecting perception of space etc. As far as I'm concerned the classic Audeze curve does rob upper string harmonics for violin and take some needed edge off electric guitar, but it mostly served to skew the overall balance dark as my soul and gave some "distance" in headstage, though I can't recall whether it had that 3-blob tapestry thing going on. Probably did.

    Still largely a stranger to their modern offerings, but I did get to try an LCD-2 at length some time ago in a late night, moderately noisy restaurant setting (could have been @jacq's, or maybe hers were the Ethers— can't remember but she was definitely at that meet unless I'm slipping into senility already). My stance on out-of-home demos is pretty bleh, but it's good enough for evaluating shallow things like tonal balance and the like: instruments on the LCD2 sounded "normal" enough that it wasn't immediately off-putting, plus it put that awesome planar bass front and center. Chills.

    Of course this particular one could have been a massive outlier, with respect to Audeze's quality control ;)

    Also, re: that quote, some people seem to consider the HD800/S pretty "reference" sounding and it has a -10dB depression in roughly the same area (edit: relative to treble boost), less deep but also with more treble above it (haphazardly 'shopped using purr1n's EARS measurements, yes I made sure to scale em):

    [​IMG]

    EARS measurements are just weird IMO, no matter the effort put into compensations. Still serve as a good reference if you know the limitations and ignore anything that might be affected by the weird canal and pinna resonances.
     
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    Last edited: Dec 3, 2019
  13. Magnetostatic_Tubephile

    Magnetostatic_Tubephile Friend

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    Well, while I agree there are limitations to EARS measurements, 10dB within 2-6k range is too extreme to be just dissmissed as a 'measurement compensation error'. And while I dont necessarily identify myself fully with the SBAF compensation used for EARS (I dont use it for my measurements), it is IMHO good enough to spot clear design issues such as the one highlighted by me above. This is coming from someone also having experience with in-ear and flat coupler measurement rigs.

    Quoting the official website: “Who better to create a premium studio reference monitor headphone than someone who’s spent a lifetime working in recording and mastering studios?”

    Perhaps I am completely misunderstanding the target audience of this headphone? I am certainly confused to read quotes such as those mentioned by me above and, at the same time, see an extremely 'coloured' frequency response graph measured by SBAF. Rosson Audio should be a bit more clear about their goals with RAD-0, to be honest.

    LCD2 and LCD2C in stock form are nice headphones for enjoyment but dont have all that much in common with life-like sound reproduction based on my subjective experience. I was probably expecting something more from RAD-0, given the initial quotes on the internets. Perhaps something similar to PMx2s that have potential to please both 'reference' and 'fun' listeners, coloured somehow but not too much. RAD-0 seems to be fully for the latter.
     
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  14. songmic

    songmic Gear cycler East Asia edition

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    Tonality aside, in terms of performance and technicalities, would you put RAD-0 among top-tier phones such as Utopia, LCD-4, Abyss, Susvara, etc?
     
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  15. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    Yes.

    Given the history and design, the RAD-0's target audience is obviously people who like the Audeze sound. Quite a few people here do.

    Two things: don't take marketing too seriously, and it's matter of interpretation. It's like Ford saying "Quality is Job One" or BMW with "Ultimate Driving Machine". Self-righteousness and indignation is caused by yourself and you alone, not the marketing message.

    None of the reviewers here read marketing materials or even specs before diving in. I've been famously known to avoid all of that as to avoid influence of it. The measurements are there for everyone to see, to make a relative comparison. They are there to help people decide for themselves based on their preferences.

    And let's not have double standards, e.g. Sennheiser produced HD800 certified plots that appear to show perfection when in reality, it's a face tweeter. That was probably the most egregious marketing I've seen with the doctored plots, restricted x-axis, crushed y-axis, octave smoothed RTA, etc. I could have made a Grado measure almost perfectly flat using those Sennheiser marketing department techniques.

    Think of it as an LCD3+ or LCD-X+
     
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  16. zerodeefex

    zerodeefex SBAF's Imelda Marcos

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    @purr1n I'm not seeing the pics in the first couple posts. Are you trying to link right from your Google photos?
     
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  17. Lyander

    Lyander Too sensitive for SBAF

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    The images were visible earlier but now I'm getting the greyed-out stop sign as well. Would that be the result of GPhotos effery?
     
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  18. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    Yeah. Should be fixed now.
     
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  19. E_Schaaf

    E_Schaaf MOT: E.T.A Headphones

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    I help RAD with assembly and R&D, so it's exciting to see a pair I built get a write-up here. Thanks Marv! RAD is literally a 3-person operation - Alex, Taylor (who also works assembly, maintains the lab and inventory), and myself.

    Everything's built by hand by me and Taylor in Reseda, CA (parts come from overseas). It's a very labor intensive process - we even pour the rings and tension the diaphragms there. A far cry from the assembly-line mass production process of HFM / Audeze, etc.

    re: headband too small - we can build these larger on request - not extended sliders, but there's a nib that screws into the 'block' slider housing assembly that has two tiers of holes - one for the default setting (which is what you got) and one for the larger. The headband can also be bent to reduce clamping force.

    I pointedly asked them why they decided to put that rear damping there when I first started - I think it's mostly an aesthetic thing. I'll test out some other options with less acoustic impedance to see if we can at least reduce the ringing shown stock.

    I've also suggested velour/suede or partially perforated pads (and possibly less stiff materials), though the two-tier foam and large ear cavity of the current pads definitely help to give weight to the bottom end and improve stage depth.
     
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    Last edited: Dec 3, 2019
  20. jexby

    jexby Posole Prince

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    wow! with @E_Schaaf helping with potential tuning and tweaks, these cans are now officially on my radar in the future! no matter what Merv's fancy schmancy liney-plotty diaphragms show! ;)
     
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