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Rosson RAD-0 Review – The Specialist

Pros –

Custom designs and sound tunings at request, Masterful craftsmanship, Highly refined and extended treble, Holographic imaging, Awesome bass impact

Cons –

Headband comfort lacking without aftermarket mod, Lackluster stock cable, Separation leaves to be desired

Verdict –

The RAD-0 isn’t a headphone I can recommend for its versatility, but one that carves out a niche with a unique, highly technical sound that makes it unrivalled for select genres of music.


Introduction –

Rosson Audio is an American audio company founded by Alex Rosson. If that name sounds familiar it would be because he is the co-founder and former CEO of Audeze. With such experience, Rosson and their first headphone, the RAD-0, were warmly accepted by the audiophile community. This model wasn’t just a rehash of the products Alex made before, but a completely new design. It employs 66mm planar-magnetic drivers and can be fully customised in both design and sound according to buyer preference. Years later and it’s intriguing that this remains the company’s sole model. To me, this is a sign of confidence and refinement as Alex’s years of experience at Audeze have granted a strong understanding of the market’s wants and needs. As such, the RAD-0 remains an appealing and unique proposition in the modern-day.

The RAD-0 retails for $2600 USD. You can read all about it on Rosson Audio and view their collection of custom designs here. Please get in contact with the company here to request a custom design or sound tuning. These designs start at $2999 and vary depending on your choice of materials.

Disclaimer –

I would like to thank the team at Rosson Audio very much for their quick communication and for accommodating my preferred RAD-0 design for this review. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review. Despite receiving the headphones free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.

Contents –

Specifications –

  • Frequency Response: 20 Hz – Beyond Audible Range
  • Driver: 66mm Planar Magnetic
  • Impedance: 29 Ohms
  • Sensitivity: 98 dB
  • Weight: 550 – 616g (depending on finish and materials)

Unboxing –

The RAD-0 experience begins with its high-quality unboxing that sets the tone for the overall usability of this headphone. This starts with the Pelican style hard case that is similar to that seen on other high-end headphones. The case has a tough plastic construction and gaskets offer some level of water resistance too. The interior is padded with CNC milled foam that snugly holds the headphones and accessories. The RAD-0 comes with a 2m cable with a 1/4″ termination and other terminations such as 3.5mm single-ended and balanced XLR can be added at additional cost to the buyer.

Design –

When reviewing high-end headphones, it is an expectation that they are solidly constructed and make a visual statement. Rosson takes this to the next level by introducing fully custom, hand-crafted designs that radiate personality. Not only can the colour scheme be changed, but users can also request specific finishes and materials. While you can request a remake of a particular style you enjoy, this means no two RAD-0 are ever completely alike. The unit I have in for review has a gorgeous blue swirl contrasting to a sporty matte black grill and hanger finish. Though one of the less flashy designs, it demonstrates that Rosson can also achieve a clean and understated look if desired. The company has footage of their staff hand-crafting the resin cups and the result, no matter the colour choice is immaculately finished and a visual delight.

With that said, the headband design doesn’t quite do the cups justice with a far simpler design. While it is reasonably slim, I would have preferred a thicker strap or suspension design given the heavier design. Though the headband is slim, the overall construction feels solidly constructed and this impression is aided by tight tolerances and even tension across each point of articulation in addition to the smooth, weighted step-less sliders. The weight of the headphones gives them an overarching sense of density that contributes to this impression. One thing to note about the sliders is that they lock when pushed outwards and, therefore, are unable to be adjusted during wear. To me, this was a positive as I found the position was rock solid during daily use which isn’t the case for all step-less systems.

Onto the cable, they connect to the headphone via dual-mono 3.5mm connectors. The connectors are slightly recessed but most 3.5mm plugs will fit with no issue meaning aftermarket cable options are abundant. The included cables are some of the lightest I’ve seen on a high-end headphone and is almost as thin as many IEM cables. It’s soft with a soft fabric outer and doesn’t intrude in either weight or microphonic noise. That said, the stock cable feels paltry compared to many competitors and I would expect a better-quality unit to accompany a premium headphone. It does not please me to say this as I have great respect for the handiwork of the folks at Rosson Audio and the earcups are undoubtedly a work of art. But I do feel that the simplistic headband design and thin, generic cable somewhat let down an otherwise beautiful design.

Fit & Comfort –

Weight & Comfort

Though depending on material choice, the RAD-0 is never a light headphone at 550g minimum. The thin, minimally padded headband was the main source of my comfort issues with regards to weight and long-term comfort – the company did express that they are looking into a redesign, however, no firm date has been set at present. As is currently available, I found the RAD-0 to be one of the least comfortable high-end headphone designs for my head shape out of the box, which is a shame as I love the way they sound. To contextualise this comment, you may have much better luck, but this is my personal experience. I found that the padding on the very soft headband flattens immediately upon wear, leaving a small hotspot at the top of the head when combined with the weight of the earcups. I was feeling discomfort after just half an hour of listening and was unable to wear them for more than 1-2hrs at a time.

Headband Mod

There is still hope, however, as potential buyers who are concerned about wearing comfort and who can’t wait for the new headband design will find aftermarket workarounds that greatly enhance wearing comfort. The best solution I found was Casey’s headband mod – “rustyrat” on The Headphone Community and “puck” on Head-Fi. Casey is a mechanical engineer and has designed a suspension headband strap mod that upholds an OEM-like look whilst enhancing comfort. It’s essentially a wide leather strap that locks into the slider mechanism with Delrin clips – a low-friction, non-scratch plastic. They beautifully match the stock rails and the leather looks right at home on the RAD-0. One thing to note is that it does reduce the effective range of adjustment available. If you’re already maxing out the sliders without the band, the sliders may not extend far enough for you with the band installed. For me, I had just mm to spare at max setting. If this is a concern for you, I have heard that Rosson offer an extended slider rail that can be built into their custom headphone designs.

With this mod installed, I was able to wear the headphones for hours with far less discomfort, if still a little as can be expected due to the sheer weight of the headphones. I found the strap design conformed far better to my head shape than the stock cushion, it just makes a lot more sense. While I personally think the strap would benefit from even greater width, as is, the headband mod made a world of difference. These straps go for $50 shipped in the US which does add to the cost but feels like a fair trade for substantially improved wearing comfort. I paid full price for the strap and found Casey was a pleasure to deal with, I thank him for accommodating international shipping to Sydney too, definitely give this one a try. You can also see Derek’s full review on the Sound Apprentice.

Earpads

The quirks of the RAD-0 don’t stop at the headband but continue to its ultra-thick, plush pu leather earpads. These pads are huge, a whopping 4cm in depth which means even those with especially wide ears should experience no issue with them contacting the drivers. They have a fine grain and soft velour inner that makes them a little more breathable than most leather pads. Furthermore, they have super soft memory foam padding that immediately conforms to individual head shape. This is imperative since the RAD-0 has very high clamp force which is counterbalanced nicely by the pads.

It does mean that, over time, the pads may flatten down and affect the sound, but I didn’t experience issues with this during my testing. You can also bend the headband in the centre to reduce clamp pressure quite easily, the full instructions can be found on Rosson’s website here. I did put a slight bend in them to slightly reduce pressure but didn’t want a loose fit. I found this, combined with the headband strap mod provided very impressive wearing comfort. One thing to note is that the RAD-0 is slightly less open than most open-back designs. It’s not a con but a preference and the upside to this is that it also leaks less noise than most.  

Next Page: Sound Breakdown

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