A Lovely Ride on the Aurisonics Rocket
Aurisonics' new in-ears are a bit of a departure from the company's previous releases and were created with the help of a successful Kickstarter campaign that ended in early 2014.
Kickstarter is a popular crowdfunding platform that allows its users to financially "back" the development of various products and projects in exchange for discounts and other perks. Portable audio products have been popular on Kickstarter since the launch of the platformtheir ubiquity in our daily lives, relatively low barrier to entry for manufacture, and wide amount of differentiation makes them a tempting target for Kickstarter's unique brand of innovation. At any given time there are several headphone projects seeking funding on the platform.
Several years on, I think it's fair to say that Kickstarterand crowdfunding in generalhave left a mark on the headphone industry. While not all portable audio campaigns have been successful, Kickstarter has helped launch some extremely ambitious projects. Perhaps the most well-known is the Bragi Dash, an advanced wireless earphone that set funding records in 2014.
It's not just quirky, high-tech products that have been brought to life, howeverKickstarter has also allowed more established manufacturers to step out of their comfort zone with a bit less risk while also providing their product ideas with a great amount of exposure. It's definitely possible that the Aurisonics Rockets would still have been developed without Kickstarter, but the crowdfunding campaign helped mold the finished product we see today. And what a product it is.
Aurisonics is a Nashville, TN-based in-ear headphone manufacturer. Though initially focused on custom in-ear monitors, Aurisonics branched out into universal-fit sets several years ago with the ASG-1, a rather bass-heavy earphone that didn't blow me away with its audio performance but has since undergone several revisions and spawned several follow-ups. All of these have been massive custom-come-universal designs with 3D-printed plastic housings and around-the-ear fit.
The Rockets don't have much in common with Aurisonics' previous releases in design or purposethey are small metal in-ear earphones positioned a consumer/lifestyle product rather than a musician's monitora radical departure that was perhaps made easier by the existence of crowdfunding.
The Rockets utilize compact bullet-type housings with the cable entry at the rear. The last earphone of this type I tried was the Ortofon e-Q5 from Japan, and I've always wondered why more manufacturers don't adopt rear cable entrywith a sufficiently supple cable it can be rather functional, and can help keep the design of the earphones very clean. The Rockets can be worn cable-up or cable-down, though there is some cable noise (microphonics) when moving about in the cable-down configuration.
The earphones are well-designed and exceptionally well-made. The machined titanium housings have a very solid feel but aren't heavy thanks to their small size. Cable quality is excellent and the angled 3.5mm plug is extremely beefy, but also "stepped" at the front to ensure compatibility with thick smartphone cases. The subtly color-coded cable jackets, with a red pattern on the right side and blue on the left, are another nice touch. The earphones also feature IP65 water resistance, which means they can be used at the gym or in adverse weather without worrying about moisture-related damage.
The Rockets are packaged in a small metal tin and come with a few unique accessories. There is an excellent zippered soft carrying pouch, which is easy to pocket and has a separate compartment for small accessories. The metal tin that the earphones ship in can also be used as a storage case if neededit's still more compact than most hard-shell IEM cases.
Four sizes of "SureSeal" single-flange eartips are includedsmall, medium, large, and what Aurisonics calls "medium plus"a sort of inflected-shape medium eartip that does work better than the "regular" medium size for me. The "SureSeal" part refers to the material the tips are made ofa sticker type of silicone that provides a more secure seal in the ear.
The earphones also include a pair of ear fins ("Antiloops" in Aurisonics-speak), which can be used to brace the housings against the concha bowl of the ear, and a pair of "tri-tab" stabilizersflared silicone sleeves that fit over the outside of the housings and anchor the earphones against slipping out of the ear.
For me personally the extra bits aren't needed when wearing the Rockets thanks to the earphones' light weight and the secure seal provided by the sticky eartips. First-time IEM users may struggle initially, but those who have some IEM experience and can "feel" a good seal won't have any trouble keeping them in place. On the whole, the Rockets are easily among the most comfortable in-ears I've used. They should also fit well even in very small earswithout the extra bits installed the housings are very slim.
The passive noise isolation of the Rockets is also quite high, easily superior to the Audiofly stage monitors from my previous InnerFidelity review. This is great for commuting but maybe not ideal for uses such as jogging and bicycling due to the sheer amount of ambient isolation. Exercising caution when wearing them out and about is definitely recommended.
(Ed Note: The very small size of the Rockets make them perfect for motorcycle riding as they fit well under the helmet. Warnings apply.)
There is one more ace up Aurisonics' sleeve with these earphonesa 5-year warranty and lifetime half-price replacements for registered owners. Both are impressive ways to back up the extensive durability claims and cultivate lifetime fans. The next page explores whether the Rockets sound good enough to be worth using for 5+ years.