In May of 2017 I had the chance to check out a very cool earphone from a very unique brand. The R1 from Double Tap Audio was crafted from expended .40 calibre casings, fitted with 10mm dynamic drivers, magnets where the primers were, with fed music to you through 550 nylon paracord coated cables. In addition to simply looking awesome, they were hella durable and sounded pretty nice too.
The R2 that we’re checking out today is the long awaited follow up to the R1. While very similar in overall construction, the R2 makes one sweeping change that sets the two apart; removable MMCX cables. Removable cables make the R2 much more flexible since you can personalize them further with a third party cable, attach a Bluetooth module, wear them cable up or down with equal comfort, store them easier, etc. It’s a fantastic change that makes an already nice earphone even better.
Let’s take closer look, shall we?
Thanks to Randy from Double Tap Audio for reaching out to see if I would be interested in checking out the R2. The R1 was enjoyable and the updates to the R2 were appealing, so of course I said yes. The units shown here were provided complimentary for the purposes of review. The thoughts within this review are my own based on time spent listening to the R2. They do not represent Double Tap Audio or any other entity.
Pricing depends on coloring and package. Bass and Nickel models start at 34.99 USD for the earphone only, while the Patina commands a small premium at 36.99 USD. Adding in cables can vary the price from 62.99 USD up to 99.99 USD with both wired and wireless options. You can check out all available packages on their page here; https://doubletapaudio.com/collections/double-tap-r2-headphones
For wired use the R2 was paired with my Shanling M0, sometimes with the Periodic Audio Ni amp chained in. When at my desk it was paired up with my TEAC HA-501 desktop amp, a ZiShan DSD acting as the primary source. For wireless use, the R2 was paired with the Shanling M0 or my LG G6 ThinQ. While easy to drive, I find the R2 sounds punchier and more authoritative when run through a nice amp like the Ni or HA-501 versus being run straight out of the M0 or other similar devices.
I listen primarily to various EDM sub-genres (liquid drum and bass, breakbeat, drumstep, etc.), hip hop, and classic rock. My preferences for earphone tuning are quite relaxed and as such their is no one signature I look for. The HiFiMAN RE800, Brainwavz B400, and Massdrop x MeeAudio Planamic are examples of earphones with wildly varied signatures that are enjoyable for different reasons. I generally listen at very low volumes, so keep this in mind when perusing my thoughts on how an earphone sounds.
- Weight – 0.7oz
- Range – 30ft
- Playback Time – 8-11 hours
- Standby Time – 100 hours
- Battery Capacity – 130mAh
- Charge Time – 2 hours
- Total Length – 2.5ft
- Connector Type – MMCX
- Weight – 0.4oz
- Total Length – 4ft
- Connector Type – MMCX
- Plug Type – 3.5mm 4 pole
- Weight(Pair) – 0.4oz
- Driver Type – Dynamic
- Driver Size – 10mm
- Impedance – 16 ohm
- Sensitivity – 120dB
- Frequency Response – 10Hz-21khz
- Connector Type – MMCX
- Finish – Patina Brass, Brass, Nickel
Packaging and Accessories:
Like the R1 before it, the R2 doesn’t wow with a super high quality, overly flashy package. No, Double Tap went the environmentally friendly route with a simple, branded cardboard box just large enough to hold the included carrying case with all the accessories tucked inside. Since the sample provided included both cable options, the box provides the standard earphone specs as well as specifications for the Bluetooth cable. I’m not sure if they tailored the packaging to the accessory kit you get with the R2, but I suspect they wouldn’t. Seems like a waste of money to do so. Inside you get a pretty solid list of accessories:
- R2 earphones
- Carrying case
- microUSB cable
- MMCX mobile cable
- MMCX Bluetooth cable
- Sony-style silicone tips (s/m/l) in a plastic case
The tips are the same as those included with the R1 and some other earphones I’ve reviewed in the past, like the Brainwavz S5. They follow the shape and color scheme set by the Sony hybrids they were inspired by, but are made from a stiffer, more durable silicone that doesn’t seal quite as well, but also doesn’t risk tearing on removal. I remiss the omission of the multi-flange tips that came with the R1 since they added some additional versatility and gave buyers other options in case the single flange set didn’t provide an adequate seal. The rest of the kit is fine and I quite like the spacious case, though I’m not sold on the material quality of the cables. I’ll go into that in more detail in the next section.
Build, Comfort, and Isolation:
The ear pieces of the R2 are made from expended .40 calibre bass bullet casings with an aluminum face serving as the nozzle. To prevent them being tarnished, the shells have been lacquered for further protection. As you can imagine, these earphones are tough as nails. Also, it seems people have been worried about primers being left in place. Know they they’ve been replaced with powerful magnets that allow the earpieces to stick to each other. This is useful during storage since it keeps the earphones from moving around and tangling the cable. You can also drape them around your neck when not in use without worry they’ll drop. They can also act as their own cable hanger if you stick them to a metal surface since the magnets are very strong. Overall fit and finish is decent with the component parts fitting together tightly, though the MMCX ports are a little off kilter from unit to unit. They’re hand built in the US so I expect a level of boutique quirkiness. It all feels very tough and well constructed so I’m not concerned at all.
Given Double Tap already makes some awesome paracord wrapped cables, it was disappointing to see the included mobile 3.5mm cable was not one of these. It’s not a terrible cable, but not particularly nice either. The gold-plated MMCX connectors are made with durable rubber casings and lead into preformed ear guides. The guides are formed with a tight curve and do a good job of keeping the cable secured behind the ear. The inline mic I’ve seen once before on a JVC HA-FXT90 inspired earphone from Tingo. The plastics are durable enough, the buttons depress with solid feedback, and call quality is good but not exceptional. Strain relief in and out is present and works. The y-split is a tiny piece of steel or aluminum wrapped around a plastic insert and is completely lacking strain relief. The straight plug has a decent strain relief in place to protect it and is extremely compact. It won’t interfere with cellphone or DAP cases. Unfortunately, the cable feels quite cheap overall. The wire is quite thin and coated in a somewhat stiff fabric. I found it quite tangle prone and that bends and kinks tend to stick around.
The Bluetooth cable features the same MMCX plugs, preformed ear guides, and cloth sheathed wiring. The slender wire feels more at home in this application. This cable splits the electronics into two separate casings which I appreciate since it doesn’t throw the cable out of balance, as is usually the case when everything is crammed into one case. The left casing is featureless save for ‘Double Tap R2’ printed on the side, and I assume contains the battery and possibly some other tech. The right casing contains the inline mic and control unit, as well as the USB port for charging. The plastics feel similar to those used on the mobile cable and are durable enough. The buttons also have a little more travel and release an even more audible and satisfying click when depressed. Construction wise it’s a nice module. The only thing missing is a cinch on the back to take up slack and prevent the cable from bouncing around should you want to go for a jog.
The R2’s shape and overall design is pretty much the same as the original R1, but now you don’t have to worry about a thick, weighty, paracord coated cable getting in the way. As a result, the R2 is very comfortable. While hefty, the bullet-shaped R2 never feels heavy in the ear thanks to the smooth aluminum face dispersing the weight evenly against the outer ear. The cable-up design helps too, though they’re still very comfy with a third party cable worn down.
Bluetooth and Battery Performance:
The optional Bluetooth module for the R2 is a nice addition that is worth picking up if interested in going wireless.
On the back of the module below the pin hole for the microphone is another small hole in which there is a notification LED. During pairing it flashes red and blue. There are also audio queues advising you when the device is powered on, in pairing mode, and when powering off. Turning it on is as simple as holding down the centre button for a couple seconds. Continue holding it for a few seconds more to entering pairing mode. Turning it off follows the same process of holding down the centre button for a few moments. Turning the device on and off is quick, as is pairing.
Latency is exceptionally low making the R2 a nice pick for videos. Pairing a Bluetooth device up with my ASUS FX53V usually leads to a disappointing video experience. The majority of earphones I own and have tested end up with enough lag to make watching videos unpleasant. The R2’s module is one of a select few that syncs voices up near perfectly. If you look really close you’ll see a fraction of a second delay, but it’s not something you’re going to notice during regular use. No one I’ve let try them together noticed any form of lag, for example. Mild background noise/hiss is present, but only with no music playing or during especially quite moments.
The R2’s Bluetooth module does a good job of maintaining the R2’s signature qualities. It cools it down slightly and there is a very mild metallic edge added to the treble, but overall it’s in line with what I expect from something at this price. Bass doesn’t roll off earlier, clarity and detail is retained, and the sound stage is still larger than average. The mid-range also remains coherent and clear but lacks the body heard during wired use.
The battery is rated for 8 to 11 hours of use. Given I listen at low volumes and usually have the source nearby, I tend to easily reach and occasionally exceed the rated battery life of most devices. The R2 held up well giving me around 9.5 to 10 hours most of the time. Charging takes around 2 hours which is pretty standard.
Connection quality has been rock solid. Completely encasing both electronics modules in my hands and walking away from the device, the connection remained strong up to nearly 10 feet. Many devices start to drop and skip as soon as you cover them, and disconnect completely after moving a few feet away. Leaving the rear of my apartment is a great spot to test interference for whatever reason, maybe it’s all the wireless security cameras, and even strolling through there doesn’t cause the R2 to break connection, though sometimes it does skip a beat.
Overall I’m satisfied with the performance of Double Tap’s Bluetooth module and feel it is well matched to the R2. The battery life holds up, the connection is stable with low latency, and the sound quality is good, but with some room for improvement.
The original R1 was a good sounding earphone with a lightly v-shaped signature. The R2 doesn’t stray far, refining the sound with a smoother, more detailed flair.
Treble is rolled off at the top with an even emphasis in brilliance and presence regions. Notes are nicely weighted with a level of density that retains some air and sparkle without rolling over into harshness and making sounds too sharp, as noticed running the R2 through Warlock’s “Triumph and Agony”. Cymbals, chimes, etc. are well-defined and clear but lack aggression without coming across soft or underrepresented. The treble balance here is really quite nice.
The midrange is full and lush with outstanding timbre and accuracy. I love the way both male and female vocals are presented. Like the original R1, the R2 kills it with all forms of rock thanks to its clarity, detail, and realistic presentation. Despite being on the warmer side, it doesn’t come across as overly colored. Overall a very musical mid-range that can easily reproduce the emotional undertones of Paul Williams’ vocals on Daft Punk’s “Touch”, and the unique vocal presentations of Nicki Minaj, Ariana Grande, and Jessie J on “Bang Bang”.
The R2’s low end is strong providing listeners with a thumpy, bouncy, well controlled experience. It digs deep enough to provide a solidly visceral experience with a reasonably quick decay. Mid-bass is slightly elevated which works exceptionally well with the physicality of the presentation. Sub-bass could see a touch more emphasis, but it certainly isn’t lacking. The R2 dutifully reproduces the low tones in the opening of Kavinski’s “Solli”.
The R2’s sound stage is about average in size, offering up a nicely rounded presentation. In the opening of Supertramp’s “Rudy”, the R2 does a good job of setting you in the train station with the clattering of tracks skirting around you. Imaging is precise and playing in the same ball park with some of the better single dynamics I’ve got under 150 USD. Imaging and layering are clear and well-stepped, but behind the best in class.
TFZ Exclusive 5 (99.00 USD): The R2 and Excl. 5 offer up similar experiences in tuning and tone. The TFZ has a slightly more prominent low end. Beats hit with with greater texture and authority out of the TFZ, but with around the same level of control. The R2’s mid-range is similarly emphasized but a touch warmer giving it a more natural presentation and timbre to my ears, though the TFZ is again ahead in terms of clarity and detail. Treble is where the two differ most with the R2’s emphasis residing at slightly higher registers. This gives it a bit more sparkle where the TFZ is more dry. It’s presentation is also a bit more weighty. Notes hit with a similar level of control with the R2 having a very slight edge. Sound stage is great on both but the TFZ does a better job of encapsulating a broad sense of space. Imaging and separation are pretty much the same whereas the TFZ’s presentation is slightly more layered. The Excl. 5 is one of my favorite TFZs, but the R2 has a slightly smoother and more refined presentation. It shows you can get a similar level of performance at a fraction of the cost.
In terms of build, both are tanks. The TFZ’s stainless steel shells have better fit and finish and are more stylish, but they are mass produced, not hand made from recycled bullets. It’s kind of expected. The R2’s MMCX connectors are much more confidence inspiring than the TFZ’s 2-pin setup, however, which provides zero protection from bends. The R2’s MMCX connectors are infinitely more durable. Fit and comfort are pretty even, though I’m partial to the low profile design of the Excl. 5. Fit could go either way to be honest. Just depends on your preferences. Isolation is excellent on both.
Simgot EN700 Pro (149.00 USD): The EN700 Pro has a bigger, bassier, more bouncy presentation than the R2 which comes across more balanced. The EN700’s bass digs as deep but has more mid-bass presence and impact. It’s low end comes across slightly slower and less nimble than the R2’s. The EN700 Pro’s mid-range is more forward, a touch leaner, and more clear, with a similarly excellent timbre and tone. Treble on the EN700 Pro is more even from presence to brilliance regions. Control and clarity is also in the Simgot’s camp. Sound stage on the EN700 Pro is truly massive for an iem. The R2 is above average for sure, but the Simgot tosses sounds further and with greater depth. I prefer the R2’s imaging though. Channel to channel transitions are slightly more precise even though the lack of depth puts it behind the EN700 Pro when it comes to layering and separation. Overall, the EN700 Pro is the better performer. It sounds larger and more dynamic with a level of refinement that it a step up from the R2. That said, I was still truly surprised at how well the R2 kept up. At 35 USD (earphones only option) the R2 is a no brainer for a high performance, low cost option.
In terms of build, there isn’t much of a comparison. The EN700 Pro is a flawlessly designed and constructed 150 USD iem that wouldn’t be out of place costing a lot more. Again, not to be unexpected. These are two very different products from very different locations targeting very different clientele. They just happened to sound similar, hence their inclusion in this section. In the R2’s favour, it is much smaller and the traditional barrel shape means it’s going to be significantly more compatible with a wide range of ear shapes. The EN700 Pro is quite large and the oblong egg shape simply won’t work with some ears. The R2 also isolates quite a bit better. Plus, the patina version of the R2 looks pretty amazing, and each one is unique, something you can’t say about the EN700 Pro.
The R2 is a thoroughly impressive addition to Double Tap’s lineup. The macho aesthetic afforded by the use of actual shell casings is pretty awesome, but they aren’t reliant on that alone. The R2 is actually a very competent earphone too. It has a signature that straddles a fine line between a consumer and audiophile focus in that it is detailed without being analytic, bass liberal without being bass-head. It’s mids are set back, but not overshadowed. It simply makes for a great listen and so far has been one of the most surprisingly enjoyable products I’ve come across this year. Add to that the addition of MMCX which makes the R2 much more flexible than it’s R1 stablemate.
Some discussion has to be made when it comes to packaging options. The R2 by itself at 34.99 USD for the Brass or Nickel models (36.99 USD for patina brass) is a no brainer. Buy an inexpensive third party MMCX cable or toss on a spare you have kicking around and you’ve got yourself a top tier sub-50 USD earphone. At 59.99 USD (62.99 USD for patina) for the wired package, pass. The quality of the 3.5mm cable does not warrant the price, which means I’d also pass on the 99.99 USD wired and wireless cable package. Note that the patina colouring is the same price for this package, and as such the best deal of the three colour options if you don’t want to mess around with hunting down better cables on third party sites. The wireless package with the R2 and Bluetooth module at 84.99 USD (86.99 USD for patina) is worth it since the Bluetooth module works well and is paired suitably to the R2. I would like to see Double Tap replace the 3.5mm cable with something of higher quality, such as an MMCX version of the paracord covered cables they already offer, without increasing the price.
Overall I’m quite pleased with the R2. I like the design and color options, fit and comfort are good, the ear pieces are nicely constructed, and I appreciate that it is offered in a number of different packages. This allows customers to buy only what they want/need, and not spend on items they have no interest in. Awesome stuff from Double Tap Audio.
Thanks for reading!
***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Some Test Tunes:
Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid (Album)
Hail Mary Mallon – Are You Going to Eat That? (Album)
King Crimson – Lark’s Tongues in Aspic (Album)
King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black (Track)
Supertramp – Crime of the Century (Album)
Infected Mushroom – Legend of the Black Shawarma (Album)
Gorillaz – Plastic Beach (Album)
Massive Attack – Mezzanine (Album)
Fleetwood Mac – Rumors (Album)
Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels (Album)
The Prodigy – The Day is My Enemy (Album)
Tobacco – F****d Up Friends (Album)
Felt – Felt 2 (A Tribute to Lisa Bonet) (Album)
Michael Jackson – Thriller (Album)
The Crystal Method – Grace (feat. LeAnn Rimes) (Track)
Jidenna – Long Live the Chief (Track)
Skrillex – Ragga Bomb (Track)
Big Grams – Run for Your Life (Track)
Funkadelic – Maggot Brain (Track)
Aesop Rock – Fishtales (Track)