Today we’re going to be checking out the R1 from Double Tap Audio. Randy May, the creator of Double Tap Audio, went at the R1 with the intention of mixing “a high-quality build and sound with highly durable materials to make a very rugged pair of headphones.”
Funded via a successful Kickstarter campaign, this earphone utilizes once-fired, solid brass, 40 caliber casings and anodized aluminum for the earpiece shells, along with a unique nylon cord and floating silicone cable design to handle the transmission of your high quality audio files to some authoritative 10mm dynamic drivers. The R1 is as tough as it looks, and it’s wonderfully built. However, none of that means anything if their sound quality fails to hold it own. You can have all the flash in the world, but if you’ve got nothing to back it up, why bother?
Does the R1 meet expectations? Let’s find out.
When I saw @bloodypenguin post some of his typically amazing images of the R1 and accessories on Twitter, Double Tap’s website found it’s way onto my browser. A quick inquiry later expressing my interest in reviewing the product on The Contraptionist and Head-fi, and a sample R1 showed up shortly thereafter. While this review is of a complimentary sample provided free of charge, the comments and opinions within are mine and mine alone. They do not represent Double Tap Audio or any other entity.
You can check out the R1 here on Double Tap Audio’s website were they retail for 64.99 USD and are available with a variety of cable colors, from basics like black and gun metal to more exotic options like pink camo or the desert camo of my review pair.
My Gear and I:
I’m a 30 year old professional working for what is currently the largest luxury hotel chain on the planet. I have a background in Psychology which probably explains my somewhat dry writing style. My entry into the world of portable audio was due primarily to a lack of space for a full-sized stereo system during my university years, and truly began with the venerable JVC HA-FXT90. After reading pretty much the entirety of IjokerI’s multi-earphone review thread, reviews from other established reviewers, and thus being greatly inspired, I took a chance and started writing my own.
Fast forward a couple years and I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to write about products for wonderful companies like RHA, Accutone, ADVANCED, NarMoo, Mixcder, Brainwavz, Meze and many more. I don’t do it for money or free stuff, but because this is my hobby and I enjoy it. If my reviews can help guide someone to a product that makes them happy, I’ll consider that a job well done and payment enough.
Gear used for testing was a Shanling M1, HTC One M1, Topping NX1 portable amplifier paired with an XDuoo X3 (Rockbox), and my aging Asus G73 gaming laptop paired with a Creative SoundBlaster Recon3D usb amp. I listen primarily to various EDM sub-genres (liquid drum and bass, breakbeat, drumstep, etc.), hip hop, and classic rock. While I enjoy a variety of signatures I generally lean towards slightly warm with elevated treble and sub-bass, an even mid-range response, and reduced mid-bass, though lately I’ve been enjoying more mellow and relaxed products with a bass tilt. My favorite in-ears, the Echobox Finder X1[i] with grey filters installed and the Fischer Audio Dubliz Enhanced are good examples of my preferred signatures.
Packaging and Accessories:
I won’t lie, I like a flashy, extravagant package that results in a potentially time consuming and/or interesting unboxing experience. Peeling back the layers of a well-designed and well-presented package can be intriguing as you near the prize within. On the other end of the spectrum, bare-bones packaging has it’s appeal too. Waste is minimal so it’s more environmentally friendly and you get to the real meat of your purchase without any unecessary distractions.
The R1’s package falls into the latter category consisting of a simple cardboard box, barely large enough to hold the R1’s durable little clam shell hard case. The front flap shows you Double Tap’s website URL and the social media platforms they’re on. The top has a basic wire frame image of the R1 along with the brand name. The rear shows off the specifications;
Inside the carrying case is your warranty card and instruction manual, along with a nice collection of eartips;
– triple flange in s/m/l
– single flange in s/m/l
The single flange tips are especially noteworthy for their similarity to Sony Hybrids. They are made of a slightly stiffer, more durable silicone than Sony’s tips, but are softer and more pliable than the version Brainwavz includes with their S5. They’re actually quite good and would be worth picking up separately if you could find them.
While the R1’s unboxing experience is about as basic as it gets, it’s backed by a solid accessory kit that includes a plethora of quality tips and a useful clam shell case.
Build, Comfort, and Isolation:
One of Double Tap’s goals with the R1 was to make a rugged, well-built earphone, and they certainly succeeded. Taking the outer brass shells of once-fired bullets and re-purposing them to make an earphone and it’s constituent parts, in this case the earpieces, y-split, and jack, is somewhat overkill. If you’ve read some of my other reviews, you’ll know I appreciate something that’s overbuilt because that mean it’s going to last. The earpieces aren’t all brass though, using a thick aluminum front plate to help keep weight at a manageable level.
Speaking of weight, the R1 is a chunky little beast. All this hefty metal combined with a thick nylon cord/sheath makes for a weighty earphone. That said, the weight never became an issue for me. The shape of the earpiece and the way it sits, along with the way the cable presses lightly against the exterior of your ear spreads the weight out really effectively. Wearing them cable over-ear, which I recommend for combating microphonics (cable noise), makes them even more comfortable.
The cable is another unique aspect of the R1, and one of the most important when it comes to the durability claims of the R1. The exterior uses 550 nylon paracord. ‘550’ is a key number referring to it’s 550 lb breaking strength. Combine that with the high-flex silicon copper wire within and you’ve got a cable that will, in theory, handle pretty much anything you toss at it. Again. Overkill. Me likely.
If strong isolation is your jam, the R1 succeeds here too. I wasn’t able to take advantage of the isolation triple flange tips should afford due to the early bend in my ear canals, but the medium single flange set worked beautifully. Tossing on some 400 Isolation Series Comply tips and the R1’s ability to remove me from my surroundings was damn impressive. Randy, if you’re reading this, you gotta consider including some foamies in the package.
Overall the R1 is entirely overbuilt. Double Tap could have cut some corners with the inclusion of plastic parts or a more traditional cable, but nope. You get some bullets, thick aluminum, solid brass, paracord, and silicone. Despite the weight, the R1 is ergonomically gifted and as a result is extremely comfortable easily rivaling significantly smaller, lighter, more petite earphones I’ve tried. Topping it off is some wicked isolation, improved further by foam tips if you’ve got a set kicking around.
Tips: I quite like the stock medium tips and spent a good part of the first week of listening with those. That said, you can improve the R1’s sound with a minor tip swap. Finding their mid-bass presence a little overwhelming? Toss on something with a wider bore; JVC tips for example. They also bring out the upper treble. Like the stock sound but want to reduce mid-bass a raise treble just a touch? KZ’s super cheap “Starline” tips (Head-fi community name) are worth picking up on AliExpress at under 2 USD for a set of s/m/l. Similar to the stock tips but with a longer core and slightly larger bore. Isolation over the stock tips is reduced somewhat. The KZ tips have ended up as my preferred set to pair with the R1.
Amping: While I found the R1 easy to drive and perfectly usable straight out of my HTC One M8, bringing the NX1 on high gain into the mix really wakes them up, even at the low volumes I tend to listen. The Shanling M1’s high gain setting didn’t seem to have the same affect, though it paired well enough with the R1 for me to prefer using the without the NX1 in the mix. Amping isn’t needed, but if you’ve got the option give it a go and see how the R1 reacts.
If the R1 sounded mediocre they would still be worth a look for their stellar build quality and unique, ammunition-focused aesthetic. Thankfully, you wouldn’t be saddled with those two qualities as the deciding factors of a purchase because they sound pretty nice.
I found the R1 exemplified by a warm, mid-bass driven signature with good extension into sub-bass regions. Treble is emphasized enough to add some airiness to an otherwise weighty, textured sound. It’s mid-range is more forward than I expected, rarely overshadowed
Throwing on Gramatik’s ‘Bluestep’ I was pleased to hear the skittering high hats that dominate most of the track clearly and sharply represented without any of the piercing qualities they tend to display with earphones that feature less forgiving treble. JVC’s FRD60 and 80 series earphones come to mind. The R1’s treble is crisp and tight without any hint of splashiness that hinders my enjoyment of earphones that are otherwise quite excellent, like KZ’s ED9, but they might benefit from a light boost to the presence regions to make them a bit more natural in the treble region.
The R1’s mid-range sits slightly back in the mix, but remains clearly heard regardless of the track. If you’re used to balanced armature earphones like the Brainwavz B100, the R1 might come across a bit veiled. I found there was a bit of bleed from the low end, but only on extremely mid-bass heavy tracks like Aesop Rock’s ‘Maintenance’. Outside of that, I found female and male vocals equally well-represented. This was nice to hear on tracks like Godsmack’s ‘Hollow’ which features angelic guest vocals from Lisa Guyer who compliments Sully Erna’s vocals wonderfully. The R1’s mid-range presentation makes them feel right at home on rock and hard rocks tracks, even more so on acoustic-only showings.
Bass on the R1 hits with authority and is capable of some seriously grungy texture that sounds awesome with bass guitars. Decay comes across just right. This presentation makes me think this earphone was designed with rock in mind. Sub-bass extension is also quite good, falling off short of the depths achievable by a heavy hitter like the Dubliz Enhanced from Fischer Audio. Still, it’s plenty awesome with EDM and hip hop, though I still think the R1 is best with rock.
Soundstage is iem-like in it’s presentation, coming across fairly intimate. The R1 doesn’t provide the soft of out-of-head effects of the Havi B3 Pro I or II, nor it is completely lacking like the MEMT X5. It finds a comfortable go-between that doesn’t draw attention. Imaging is solid if unremarkable, but layering and separation are quite solid.
Overall I found the R1 to be a solid all-around performer that really shines with rock. While their mid-bass hump could stand to be toned down a touch, it’s countered nicely by an authoritatively punchy presentation with decent balance top to bottom. It’s a fun listen that’s plenty capable enough of holding it’s own against the competition, though I don’t think they’ll please those looking for a stereo-typically “audiophile” sound. That’s still best addressed in this price range by the Havi B3 Pro I or II, or the Brainwavz B100.
After a couple weeks with the R1, I think Double Tap Audio has a pretty unique product on their hands. While the gung-ho bullet aesthetic won’t be for everyone, I personally find it pretty awesome and fun to show off. Add to that the crazy good build quality and materials (550 lb paracord!!), surprisingly comfortable ergonomics, and solid sound quality, and you’ve got yourself a winner. Also, how many earphones act as their own cable management system? Yeah, not many.
Thanks for reading!
***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Aesop Rock – Crows 1
Aesop Rock – Maintenance
BT – The Antikythera Mechanism
The Crystal Method – Grace (feat. LeAnn Rimes)
Daft Punk – Touch
Gramatik – Bluestep (Album Version)
Godsmack – Hollow
Godsmack – One Rainy Day
Incubus – 2nd/3rd/4th Movements of the Odyssey
Infected Mushroom – Deeply Disturbed
Infected Mushroom – The Legend of the Black Shawarma
Jessie J – Bang Bang
Kiesza – Hideaway
King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black
Pink Floyd – Money
Skindred – Death to all Spies
Supertramp – Rudy
The Prodigy – Get Your Fight On
Witcher 2 Official Soundtrack