These days, there's so much choice out there when it comes to headphones that it's difficult to know where to go. Even more so if you've tried, or heard bad things from friends and family, the likes of the industry favorites and didn't find anything you like. For something different, we're taking a look at the Kommand IEM from Rock Jaw Audio, a small British brand that aims to deliver great sound quality without the price tag. To put things into perspective, these are a set of in-ear monitors that feature ebony finishing, three different filters to change the sound and more all for just $69.95 or £119.99. So, for this sort of price tag, and a promise of high-end sound, let's see what you get, shall we?
- 8mm hybrid drivers with balanced armatures.
- Frequency response of 20 - 20,000 Hz
- 1.2M OFC cable.
- Right-angled 3.5mm gold-plated jack connector.
- In-line microphone with play, pause/answer button.
- Three sets of silicon ear tips - S/M/L
- Three interchangeable sound filters - 'Reference', 'Neutral' and 'Bass'
Design and Comfort
The design of the Kommands is, right away, a love it or hate it affair. The hooks and arms that protrude from the fairly large earbuds won't be to everyone's liking. Still, they are machined aluminum and they feel sturdy and well-built. The earbuds are finished in genuine ebony, and even though this doesn't stand out it gives the whole set an extra bit of class to them. The cable is braided and then covered in a black sort of shrink-wrap, I'm not a big fan of the glossy look, something matte would have been nice, but it feels sturdy enough, and has a decent thickness to it. The in-line mic is worked in nicely on the left channel, and the button has a couple of notches on it to find it in the dark or whatever.
As for comfort, things here were a little mixed. The hook and arm design of the Kommands are a little bizarre to get used to. Everything moves here as well, which at first is confusing, but once you spin and tighten things to how you like them, you can end up with a very comfy pair of earphones. I found a snug and comfortable fit after a day or so of trial and error, and since then I never had any discomfort at all, and they rest in your ear nicely, a sort of in-between in-ear and simple earphone. My only complaints here are that I wish there was a size smaller of ear tip (but this is mostly personal preference) and the cable entry into the earbuds is quite lengthy and harsh. It's this I had to move out of the way in order to get a comfortable fit as the metal seemed to rub my ear in an uncomfortable manner. Once I had moved it however, no problems for me in terms of comfort, although not everyone will take to this style of earphone.
Here is where the Kommands really punch above their weight. Thanks to their balanced armature design and larger-than-usual housing, there is tons of detail presented in whatever you listen. There are three filters included here (but sadly no dedicated housing a la Trinity Audio or RHA's implementation) which can add more bass, deliver a 'Reference' sound and also a 'Neutral' sound. I played around with all of these filters, and found the silver filter, which adds a little more bass to be my favorite. These are not a bass-heavy set of IEMs as it is, so this filter added just a little extra warmth while keeping the textured highs and mids. Speaking of mids, at times vocals could get lost in amongst everything else, but this was rare and considering everything else is presented with such clarity and texture this isn't a bad complaint to make.
There's a wide and open sound stage to these, certainly more than you'd expect from an IEM at either this price range or for any IEM. Bass is warm and punchy, but not quite as tight as others out there. Instead, not one of the filters - including the silver bass one - lets the bass run wild. I discovered notes in songs I just couldn't hear with other IEMs, and even when there's so much going on (like on CHVRCHES' 'Leave a Trace' or Royal Blood's 'Ten Tonne Skeleton') each instrument has its own place and nothing distorts into a horrible mess. Separation is good, and overall these are a pleasantly detailed pair of IEMs that those looking a bass presence, but not an overwhelming mess will come to love. They're textured, detailed as well as exciting, and this sort of price it would be hard to find something to beat them in overall sound quality.
If I had to make a complaint, it would be that the neutral filter really isn't for me. That's just my ear though, as I found it to be too dry and airy, but the fact that you even get the choice of different sound profiles is nice.
- Nice packaging and presentation.
- Sturdy fit and finish that looks set to last a few years.
- Excellent detail with a textured sound that displays everything in the track.
- Quality bass, without ruining the rest of the music.
- Three interchangeable filters give a little variety out of the box.
- Excellent value for money.
- No hard carrying case or method to keep filters safe in transit.
- Ear hook design might be off-putting for some.
- Extra small set of ear tips would be helpful for some listeners.
For $70 or so, these are an absolute steal. They have bags of texture and detail with some good bass representation that doesn't distract from everything else, but it is still thoroughly satisfying. Wearing these is like filling your head with every single note found in a track, and if you stream good quality stuff or have a decent device, then these are a real treat. Are there better IEMs out there? Probably, but it'll be hard to find them at this sort of price range. Corners were cut however, and there's no included hard case or a way to keep filters safe which is a shame. They have it where it counts however; in the sound and it's nice as a Brit to see a British brand like these in among the Beats and Sennheisers all over the place.