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The Rosson RAD-0: the best Audeze?

Hi all and welcome back to The Neighborhood. We’re looking that the RAD-0 from Rosson Audio today thanks to the Honest Audiophile who sent his personal set into the channel for review. I quite like the looks of these, but do they sound as good as they look? Let’s get inToit!

So, this may be a bit of a spoiler, but the Rosson Audio RAD-0 has been on of my favorites in the marketplace since it came on the scene and I got to hear it at Canjam in, I think, 2019. I was lucky enough to hear a set there, and I thought that these were poised to take the market by storm, and they surely have. But this is not a perfect headphone, and also has its critics for a number of reasons that we’ll need to talk about.

Let’s start with the build. Overall, I’d categorize the build as hefty, unique, and rather rugged. The headband appears to be made of a piece of spring steel wrapped in their leather-free material with a soft cushion on the bottom. The yolks are made of thick pieces of metal that adjust by sliding up and down in and out of dense plastic housings that are affixed to the ends of the headband. The angled pads are soft and plush with a large circular opening. The inside and the outside of the pad are comprised of their leather-free material again, but the portion that touches the face feels like a suede material although their promotional information describes it as a soft fabric, inner face. In any case, aided by yolk swivel, I think they’ll fit most people’s ears and be genuinely comfortable for all.

But the cups of the RAD-0 are the star of the show- each composed of a unique resin swirl, resulting in each set being a one-of-a-kind, which is likely why they all are assigned a number upon completion of production. The colorway of the model I have here is black and blue metallic composition with a boy-racer kind of vibe to it. Topping off the face of each cup is black metal grill styled with the Rosson Audio signature pattern. If you want to customize your RAD-0 further, you can purchase additional colored grills for a cool $300 dollars off the Rosson Audio website. Inside each open-back cup is a large 66mm planar magnetic transducer.

To provide power to each of these transducers, the base of each cup has a hole for the 3.5mm connectors of the stock cable, and according to the Honest Audiophile standard 3.5mm headphone cables won’t work properly with the RAD-0 as it is wired in peculiar, non-standard manner. The stock cable terminates in a quarter-inch, gold-plated connection, and the cable itself reminds me of the cable that came with the HIFIMAN Arya Stealth, but this one is appropriate in its length and much easier to work with in the long-term. Dave also sent over a balanced cable produced to spec for the RAD-0 by Corpse Audio, which I also utilized in the course of this review. But honestly, I didn’t think the RAD-0 really benefited from a balanced connection off my amplification in particular, but your millage may vary. I mostly tested the RAD-0 primarily utilizing the Gold Note DS-10 Plus, FiiO R7, Bravo Audio Ocean, the THX AAA 789, and the new reference amplifier to the test bench- the Tron Antares. Out of these amplifiers, I preferred the sound of the RAD-0 powered off the Antares or the Bravo Audio Ocean, and found that it a more well-round tone when ran single-ended with the stock cable. Specifically with the Gold Note it was a little bit too much of a good thing, and the presentation was little bit too soft and too warm. THX amplification was also good, but was a bit too thin and, or sterile at times. The Tron just sounded like music personified. Its high current class A design was simply an excellent match for the RAD-0. But the surprise of pack was how good it sounded off the Ocean. The little bit of tube magic from the Raytheon 12AU7 I had installed gave these life, lift, and energy; which improved enjoyability.

To say a few more important words about the fit and the build, while I initially find this headphone comfortable to wear for some time, it is a heavy beast weighing in at 653 grams- a bit more than the 615 grams maximum reported on the website. The way the pad under the headband fits my noggin also creates a hotspot after some time, and furthermore, the pads do get hot on my face with extended wear as well. I know others owners of the RAD-0 have found these fit issues to be problems for them too. At the very least, I think that I’d have to exercise my neck frequently if this were to become my daily driver, and, honestly, its weight may be a deal breaker for some. Its as heavy as some of the older Audeze cans, and this makes sense as Alex Rosson co-founded that company and served as its CEO for some time when their heavier headphones were in production. I’ll also note that, from a casual look at the RAD-0, I’m sure many might see other design similarities between it and earlier Audeze cans. When I first listened to the RAD-0 back in 2019, my first take was that these were perhaps the best “Audeze” at the time, although the LCDX has always had (and continues to have) a certain place in my heart, as I’ve always had a love affair with that headphone. Perhaps one can be sent into the channel for review one day?

But let’s get back into the RAD-0 and talk about its sound. The RAD-0 offers a non-offensive sound with detail and resolution that is at least suggestive of its price point. With that said, each note that the RAD-0 produces is somewhat rounded and smoothed over to a certain extent. Timbre is warm and it is defined by a slightly mellow character. I hesitate to call it dark, but it’s definitely leaning in that direction. Each note observed is lush, thick, and can be more diffuse than pin-point at times.

Regarding the sound profile of the Rosson, it begins with its bass that is somewhat limited in its dynamics, and focuses more on its subbass to drive its sound forward than anything else. The bass was best on higher current amplification, but the word “fluffy” comes to mind when trying to come up with a good description of the RAD-0’s bass. It does bleed into the mids to a certain extent, but does not go overboard- creating warmth and body rather than bloat.

The midrange reminds me of a warm electric piano, you know… like the ones that jam bands use. There’s a certain euphonic quality to it, but the RAD-0 still has enough definition to cut or push through the mix on most occasions. Its dense, rich, and full-bodied, yet clear and direct in its delivery.

The treble feels rolled, in order to please the ear. Anyone with a treble sensitivity would likely be very pleased with the RAD-0. Both air and treble extension are limited. It’s a smooth operator; detailed enough, but not forceful in its presentation to the ear. No information appears to be missing, but it possesses a certain soft character in its delivery. Harshness, sibilance, or an overly forward sound is devoid from and portion of the RAD-0’s frequency response.

The soundstage isn’t huge, but its decently above average, and when powered-off more sophisticated amplification, like the Tron Antares, note depth and image depth was really good. Notes were more defined and had greater separation with scale. Despite its warm timbre and somewhat brick-walled presentation, instrument distinctiveness was easy to discern. Vocals aren’t super forward, but generally lay just atop the rest of the mix. But female vocalists could be more forward sounding compared to their male counterparts on certain tracks.

The best open back headphones that I have to compare to the RAD-0 in house, are likely the Meze Empyrean and the Arya Stealth. The presentation of the Arya Stealth is a bit more intimate, and less forceful sounding compared to the Rosson. The RAD-0 is a warmer can, and the Arya comes across as more neutral to the ear. The RAD-0 emphasizes its low-end more, while the Arya Stealth feels more balanced, and has a better extended top-end in comparison. Still, the note depth of the Rosson is better, and bests the Arya Stealth in that regard. The Rosson is more like an American muscle car, while the Arya stealth performs like a Porsche.

When powered properly, the Empyrean edges the RAD-0 with regard to resolve and clarity, and also sounds a bit more balanced overall- less warmed over by its low-end compared to the Rosson. Still, portions of the later mid-range of the RAD-0 are better represented, and, as a result, the Empyrean sounds a bit scooped out in its upper mid-range in comparison. Even so, the later treble seems to persist longer in the frequency response of the Empyrean, so the Empyrean appears to have more global range to my ear. Again, it also feels less forced. In general, I prefer the ceiling performance of the Empyrean when its source chain is well matched for it, but the RAD-0 is less source picky compared to the Empyrean, and as a result may exhibit more consistent performance across devices.

In summary, the RAD-0 are big, thick, and heavy boys with a big thick and heavy sound. I would suggest not leaning into this type of sound signature too much in the system that is running them, but I did enjoy them thoroughly with genres of music that benefited from this, such as heavy metal. For example, I’ve been enjoying Metallica’s new album, and I’ve also been taking a walk down memory lane with this band as well by going through all their classics albums too. The RAD-0 has been awesome for this! Overall, it’s a capable headphone with a unique build and a special sound. If a colorway ever speaks to my heart and, or soul, I might be tempted to pick one up, but at $2600 it has the be the right one.

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*thanks to The Honest Audiophile for sending in the RAD-0 for review-

The Honest Audiophile's review of the RAD-0:

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