I haven’t spent time with Roxanne since a few years ago, when I was just a wee lass starting out with MajorHifi. So, it’s been a real treat testing this out beauty again with more seasoned ears. Roxanne has again been released, this time as part of the Aion Series. Though the sound signature remains the same, a few tweaks and updates have been made to tailor this classic musician’s IEM to the audiophile. But for those unfamiliar with Roxanne’s sound signature, what can you expect? And how does the design differ from the original model? Let’s take a look in this Jerry Harvey Roxanne Aion Series Review.
IN the BOX
Anyone who’s tried on a classic JH Audio IEM may be familiar with the relatively long stem. Now, the stem on the Aion edition feels a little shorter in addition to the smaller shell size. Unfortunately, I’m in quarantine, and the original Roxanne is chillin’ at MajorHifi’s headquarters. So, I can’t back up this claim. And it might simply be that the eartip extends further down the stem than before. Either way, I have to admit, the sound isolation remains pretty damn good.
Although the sound signature remains the same, The Aion edition involves a few changes. Firstly, the chassis is different from the original, as is the faceplate. As mentioned above, the shell has been made smaller for a better universal fit. Roxanne’s 12 balanced armature driver setup also remains the same – 4-low, 4-mid and 4-high. But the cable has also been modified to a silver-plated litz. Still, the bass dial there. Roxanne now employs 7-pin connector, which, of course, is not the most widely available cable. But it’s clear by the build factor that this thing is made to last. And the solidity of the package seems to be highlighted by the machined aluminum flip carrying case.
With an impedance of 15 Ohms and a Sensitivity of 119dB, these IEMs are damn efficient. So, crank down your volume dials before you press play. For the purposes of this review, I hooked the Roxanne up to the Astell&Kern SA700.
Of course, Roxanne was originally designed for stage musicians. And it has now become one of the industry standards for superstars, like Lady Gaga and Keith Urban. But since it’s creation in 2013, Roxanne has also become a classic amongst audiophiles. And the refreshed Aion Series design is proof of that evolution.
Thick and dense with ample grip, the bass is the type you can sink your teeth into. And that may be an understatement. In fact, you’ll be hard pressed to find a low end with this much meat and gravitas that remains as detailed as Roxanne.
A little word about the bass dial. Personally, I think it sounds optimal at the factory setting. As you start to crank up the bass levels, that bass profile as well other elements of the mix can start to feel compromised. But it’s a nice feature to have depending on the application of your IEM. Still, even with the bass dial at its default setting, there’s enough sub-bass presence to do justice to genres like hip-hop as well. Indeed, Roxanne is one versatile IEM, as it presents classical and acoustic genres with the same skill that it does more modern genres. And if you listen to a Yo Yo Ma track that reaches into this range, for example, the level of naturalness in timbre and tonality is striking. So the takeaway in this range is that the bass only reveals itself when called upon, and it does so with incredible transparency.
The balance in this range is a musician’s dream. No grating upper mids, and ever present low mids creates a massive, warm and all-encompassing feel. There will be no FOMO here for those who appreciate hearing the entire mix of a track. Fair play is given to every instrument. No overly emphasized vocals, and no hollowness down south. This kind of balance is also obviously easy on the ears, and I can see myself wearing these on stage for hours without getting headache.
And again, that JH density, which almost feels rounded in it’s presentation, is ever present. This IEM isn’t for those who like things crisp and snappy. Rather, Roxanne is a brick house, and instruments like snares, have a heavy solidity that feel more of a knock out than a refreshing slap in the face. Subsequently, level separation and clean definition may not match that of a Noble Khan or Campfire Solaris, for example. But perhaps a little tweaking of that dial could improve things.
Again, I think Jerry Harvey partly designed these buds for a fatigue free listening experience. And as such, you won’t get those sparkly highs which have become so trendy in the audiophile world. Though you can’t call the high frequencies blunted, there is a slight roundedness and heaviness to the treble. So, those who like it light and bright may want to keep looking. But on the flip side, female vocals come through with tons of power, weight and velvety goodness.
Thanks in part to the lower sweeping lower frequencies, the soundstage is undeniably grand, especially when listening to anthem-like recordings. Roxanne is unapologetically big. And you’ll certainly get that arena feel. In terms of imaging, I had no complaints either. And though the feeling of depth and gradations within this axis may not be as striking as is on some other best-selling IEMs in this price range, there’s an utterly vast sense of width here.
PROS and CONS
Pros: Gorgeously balanced and sweet on the ears; uniquely solid/dense sound; incredibly transparent.
Cons: Separation is less impressive than other IEMs at this price point; not designed for audiophile looking for a sparkly and crisp sound signature.
There’s a reason why Roxanne has remained such a powerhouse throughout the recent IEM gold rush. Perfectly balanced, rich and extremely satiating to the ears, while still retaining fantastic transparency, this IEM is not only orgasmically enjoyable, but also highly skilled. If you’re an audiophile looking to add to your IEM arsenal, this undeniable classic should not be ignored.
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