Rosson RAD-0 Headphones Review – Liquid, Musical, Smooth, Grain-Free
Rosson RAD-0 is a headphone that’s slightly less known right now, but I really hope that after this in-depth review will become better known, for its really good build quality, and amazingly well tuned sound. They are a flagship, and are priced at about 2600 USD, so they have to be compared with other flagships, such as HIFIMAN Arya, Kennerton Thror and Crosszone CZ-1. There is also a bonus comparison with Audeze LCD-MX4 included in this review, as Mr. Alexander Rosson has been part of Audeze in the past. I will also explore pairing with a few flagships, including pairing with iBasso DX220 (AMP 9), Mytek Brooklyn DAC+, and M2Tech Young MK III + Wells Milo.
Rosson is basically the dream of the audio engineer Alexander Rosson. He has a rich history working on headphones, previously with Audeze, and he has an extremely good knowledge of headphones, and as we will explore in this review, on sound. The more you get to know his work, the more curious you become about what a headphone, made based on his tastes, sounds like. RAD-0 is a handmade headphone, so you know you’re in for a lot of fun, from a carefully designed, and caressed product. There aren’t supposed to be any issues with RAD-0, since they are very thoroughly tested before they leave the hands of Mr. Alexander Rosson, but if you were to encounter any issue, he is a very reliable source, and will surely help you sort that out, making the investment worth your while.
It should be noted that I have absolutely no affiliation with Rosson, I am not receiving any incentive for this review or to sweeten things out. I’d like to thank Rosson for providing the sample for this review. Every opinion expressed is mine and I stand by it, the purpose of this review is to help those interested in Rosson RAD-0 find their next music companion.
First things first, let’s get the packaging out of the way:
I wished more companies would bundle their headphones in a package as trusty as Rosson does, as with this one, you receive the headphone packaged inside a full sized peli case. In fact, since I went out to take the photos for it, some people were looking a bit odd, since the case is very serious and looks like you mean business, so most people are surprised when the product I take out of such a case is, in fact, a headphone.
Nowadays Rosson also has a balanced cable in store, so you can use their headphones with a balanced source as well, but RAD-0, at least in the version that I am reviewing, comes with a Single Ended cable. Besides the headphones, you can also find the cable and the paperwork. Thinking that the package is part of, well, the package, that is actually really good, because it has enough space for you to carry the headphones, along with a DAP or another source, so you won’t have to worry about scratching or damaging RAD-0 during transport.
Overall, for a 2600 USD Flagship, you may be expecting a spare pad set, or a different cable, but I think that the package, as it is, is pretty darn good. I tend to go for the default single ended cable most of the time, and since you can purchase a balanced cable made especially for this headphone, I think it is better it comes with a Single Ended cable by default. Furthermore, the pad locking mechanism looks like it may require you to contact the company to replace the earpads, but that won’t be needed for a long time, and you should have no issues with RAD-0, plus with their amazing support, you won’t have to worry about the earpads for a long time to come.
What to look in when purchasing a Flagship Headphone
EARPADS – HEADBAND : SUSTAINABLE
CABLE : CONNECTORS – 3.5MM : LENGTH – 2 METERS
TRANSDUCER TYPE : PLANAR MAGNETIC
TRANSDUCER SIZE : 66 MM
FREQUENCY RESPONSE : 20HZ – BEYOND AUDIBLE RANGE
THD : <0 .1=”” font=”” nbsp=””>
IMPEDANCE : 29 OHMS
You can notice the fact that RAD-0 is hand made from the first moment you hold it in your hands. The earcups are made from what I would call a special resin, with a wide selection of models and colors available. I think that if you’re one to like your headphones looking a bit more artsy, and having a bit more personality, you will surely find the store offer comfortable.
Right now, there even is a sale going on, trying to help limit the spread of Corona, named a Special Social Distancing Sale, and all models included sell for 2100 USD rather than 2600 USD.
So, we settled on the fact that the ear cups are really nice, but what I love about Rosson RAD-0 is that they also mind the weight relative to the build quality. The headband is really soft and also is pretty light, leading to what I would call a very comfortable fit. In fact, Rosson flaunts their RAD-0 as the most comfortable planar magnetic headphone ever created, and well, they are probably just that, I can’t say they are far from it. Especially if you enjoy a thicker earpad, especially a leather one, they are really really comfy. There are lighter planars out there, like Arya from HIFIMAN, but RAD-0 has the magical seal touch, as they create the kind of seal you would expect from an Audeze Headphone, all while being lighter than most Audeze Models.
I also love the fact that Rosson states the Frequency Range as 20 Hz up to Beyond Audible Range, because they are absolutely correct, I am sure that on a pure tone sweep, the RAD-0 is capable of reproducing more treble and goes beyond what my ears can detect. This doesn’t say much about the actual sound quality and the signature, but it makes reading through the description and the technical data more fun.
RAD-0 comes with burn-in done, and they have been burned in for 15 days, at 120 dB, so there is very very little chance to burn them unless you listen to volumes that are way too loud to be comfortable for any period of time. Without requiring burn-in, you are able to enjoy RAD-0 right out of the package, and this is actually quite amazing, and a proper thing to do for a flagship, and I wish more headphone producers would do this with their cans. I can confirm that I detected minimal changes in sound, and they actually do sound proper right from the first listen.
Passive Noise Isolation is also pretty good, and although RAD-0 is a fully open-back mode, they isolate you a bit from the outside noise, and I could wear them in public, and use them as portable headphones, without having to bump the volume to ear bleeding levels, and without having to worry about hearing every single rustle of the leaves. The impedance is really low, at just 29 OHMs and they are really easy to drive, and can already sound at their best from a really low-power source, like a typical smartphone, such as my Xiaomi Mi Max 3 smartphone, so you can arguably enjoy them portably quite a lot. I also noticed that the earpads do not get very hot, despite the rich, thick padding on both the headband and the earpads, so you can enjoy RAD-0 during mid summer, even wearing them outside.
The cable they come with is pretty basic actually, but it works fairly well, doesn’t conduct much microphonic noise, and works well with all my portables, so I didn’t feel the need to upgrade the cable right away. They have a 3.5mm cable, and they come with a 3.5mm socket at the earcup level, so all current HIFIMAN Cables, like the ones for Sundara, Arya and HE6SE, and some Meze Cables will work just fine, in case you had any of those models around, and wanted to swap some cables. The cables of Brainwavz Alara should work just fine as well.
There are no creaks and no odd noises when adjusting the headphones, like what you can get from other flagships, like HIFIMAN Jade II, which had some creaking noises when adjusting it, so the entire mechanism of RAD-0 feels really high-end and their build matches the price tag.
All in all, RAD-0 is one well built headphone, it feels very well put together, is very comfortable, and Rosson delivers on their promise to make one of the most comfortable planar magnetic headphones out there, the headband is reliable but not very heavy, the earcups also are large, and beautiful, but not too flashy, and they aren’t too heavy either, and the entire headphone is simply outstanding from a build and comfort point of view.
Here’s where the things start to get even more fun, and I can see how Audeze split in a different direction than Rosson, and how Mr. Alexander Rosson’s influence on Audeze was a very positive one. In fact, after having reviewed both LCD-2C and LCD-MX4, I can say that RAD-0 feels like it has some of that Audeze DNA, but in a much better, more refined way that what I would have expected before hearing them for the first time.
If there is one word to describe the entire sound, that is liquid. Everything is made to work together, to combine, to blend, and to be smooth when doing so. There is a sense that the headphone is doing everything with ease, that nothing is forced and that everything is just at the right spot, so much, that this headphone became my number one headphone for rock, metal and guitar music in general. Solos simply flow from RAD-0 even better than from the most expensive guitar cabinets, and I can say without a doubt that if you love rock, or guitar in general, you will love RAD-0. The whole headphone is thick, warm, voluptuous, well bodied, well extended both ways, musical, detailed, clear, and crisp.
Now, there are a lot of words there, and you may notice that at least half of them point to the bass, which is, hands down, probably the best bass I heard in a headphone to date. I don’t mean just from a certain price range, but in general, this has to be one of the best bass I have heard. It simply flows in a rich, well controlled fashion, reaches the lowest depths, but doesn’t shy from exploding and hitting when it is called for. There is a sense of texture in the bass, but which is liquid, and smooth, simply put, it sounds natural. For electronic music, the experience is simply sublime, and so is for hip-hop, downtempo, and basically for all electronic bass types. Even for Rock and Metal, you hear the bass guitar ringing as if you were right there, as if it was interpreted by the most skilled master of all time.
The midrange then blends beautifully with the smooth, yet detailed bass. You see, the midrange is not the most detailed out there, but the musicality and overall smoothness of the music, the way every sound flows into each other, and the sweetness of the guitars makes me listen to RAD-0 more than my analytic headphones. I always thought I enjoy a colder, brighter sound more, but RAD-0 made me open my eyes a bit more to what a truly well mastered planar magnetic headphone could sound like. Indeed, RAD-0 is considerably more musical and smoother than LCD-2C for example, because Audeze always felt dry to me, as if the speed, although good, makes music feel a bit congested, and RAD-0 is just the other way around, hence the name of this review, liquid. Everything simply flows freely, effortlessly, music is simply the focus point of RAD-0, and for 2600 USD, they have enough detail, they just reveal new guitar sounds, rather than revealing new mastering artifacts or new random noises I couldn’t really understand, as most analytic headphones do. For example, even with death metal, with technical metal, with black metal, I am able to enjoy the guitars, it doesn’t even matter if it is the solo guitar or the rhythm, everything just sounds sweet, and it brings me a special euphoria every time I listen to RAD-0. It may have a lot to do with me really loving metal and music in general, but I cross tested RAD-0 with classical, and with large orchestras, and I found out the same thing, all I can hear is music. The staging is fair, average sized, so you don’t get the most atmospheric presentation, neither a very wide one, but the imaging is spot-on and the instrument separation is also pretty good. If you go to any respectable shop and take a listen to a good number of headphones, then come to RAD-0, you get the feeling that RAD-0 really is grain-free, it is almost like all grain was removed from your music.
The treble is not a focal point for RAD-0, and you can totally tell they were made to bring you into an euphoric state, and never take you out, because they are exactly what you’d expect to compliment the signature best, they are zero percent fatiguing. There is not much excitement up top, and by that I don’t mean it is inexistent, but it is a smooth, relaxing place, where you get all the detail of a proper treble, but with zero harshness, zero sibilance, and zero fatigue. I usually would try to EQ such a headphone to be brighter and more sparkly, but with RAD-0, I didn’t really feel the need to. They sounded just right from the first second, and I didn’t want to change that, I enjoy them the way they are.
Now, the last part, the dynamics, are in one word, amazing. To get a complete painting of their signature, you need to understand that they are not perfect, but they are extremely musical, liquid, effortless, but also medium sized in soundstage, and the treble is not exactly the most sparkly out there. RAD-0 can make you enjoy anything if you’re looking for a musical signature, but they are rather warm, they have quite a bit of bass, and they also have a pretty dynamic sound, so they will be engaging. There is some resemblance of Audeze’s house sound, and as far as I understand, Mr. Alexander Rosson was a sound technician working with Audeze in the past, and I feel that his new direction is one that true music lovers will enjoy greatly.
Portable / Desktop Usage
You may be wondering whether RAD-0 is a portable or a desktop headphone, but this question has a mixed answer. The simple answer is that you can use RAD-0 however you want, it is a very easy to drive headphone, and I have been using them portably for a good while, so nothing will stop you from enjoying them on-the-go.
The longer answer is that they are still a planar magnetic headphone, and they are still too heavy to be practical portably. I mean, I am the guy who uses Audeze LCD-MX4 portably as well, so I know I have a hinge off, but if I were to be completely honest, RAD-0 looks great, but is also a bit large and heavy to be worn portably. Wearing them around the neck, like, for example, when doing some groceries, and you want to be aware of your surroundings, really makes you consider whether you want them portably or not.
Now I am not very well built, and I could say that I didn’t have issues taking RAD-0 on a 4-hour trip, and never taking them off, but again, I’m not sure I’m quite normal either, and I enjoy large headphones, and open-back headphones on-the-go. Speaking of which, RAD-0 leaks quite a bit of noise, and you won’t be able to crank them loud in a library, since they are an open-back design, but they are not the most open out there, and they isolate enough for me to consider them adequate for more noisy locations.
The drive factor makes them so easy to drive that I could enjoy them from really light sources, like FiiO M6, Shanling M2X, and Pro-Ject S2 Digital. When stepping up to midrange sources, like iFi xDSD, FiiO M11, and iBasso DX150, I could say that they almost reach their entire potential. This is one place people can misinterpret and misunderstand, but RAD-0 is easy to drive, you can get them to ear bleeding levels even with a fairly weak portable source, but to get the best sound, the most liquid presentation, most detailed, most dynamics, and best overall soundstage, you need a source that doesn’t have just the power, but also the quality and control. I try to make a big case out of this because even if a source can have enough power for planars, like xDuoo TA-10, it can still sound far from your liking, and not have as clean, wide or punchy of a sound as a weaker source, that is in fact designed better. This is why products like Feliks Echo, or Hagerman Tuba exist and are priced higher than some entry-level products that have lots of power.
All in all, you are free to enjoy RAD-0 however you like, and if you want to take them portably, that should be fairly easy to do, but they are mainly designed to be a desktop headphone, and despite the fact they don’t require a lot of power, they aren’t the easiest to take outside, gien their size and weight.
The main contenders in this price range are HIFIMAN Arya, Kennerton Thror, and Crosszone CZ-1. All of those are proper flagships, and after a careful consideration, I decided to also add a bonus comparison with Audeze LCD-MX4, as the comparison may be very relevant to those who were wondering what direction Audeze took, and what direction Rosson has.
Rosson RAD-0 vs HIFIMAN Arya – Arya is one of those flagships that are barebone, and you receive just the headphone, and its cable, but it sounds so good, fits so well, and has such a nice stage that you really want to explore more of HIFIMAN’s lineup. The package is clearly better, and more fancy for RAD-0. The comfort is better for Arya though, they are lighter, and do not cause any kind of strain. This being said, Arya is much harder to drive, and could never be used portably. Arya is also much more open, its passive noise isolation is lower than RAD-0, and you’re going to hear more of what is going on around you, and people are going to hear more of what you’re listening to. The sound of Arya is also quite different. Both Arya and RAD-0 are warm and have a sweet midrange, but RAD-0 has a much more rich sound, deeper bass, more impact, more punch, and more thickness to the sound. Arya has a much wider soundstage, is much more holographic, more atmospheric, and also has considerably more excitement up top, the treble is nowhere near as smooth as RAD-0, but if there’s anything they both have in common, they both have a sweet, musical sound that captivated me, but for very different reasons. RAD-0 really made me love rock, metal, aggressive music, electronic, and everything that has depth, where Arya has shown me that music which is atmospheric has beauty, that even country can be enjoyable, that I love having a wide soundstage.
Rosson RAD-0 vs Kennerton Thror Palisander – Kennerton Thror comes in a much more genuine-feeling case, compared to RAD-0, since Thror comes all dressed in wood. The ear cups also have wood, where RAD-0 has its own unique, magical beauty for the earcups. The comfort is better on RAD-0 thanks to thicker earpads, thicker headband padding, and better weight distribution, where Thror tends to have a more rigid feeling, Thror feels like a tank, where RAD-0 feels like a smooth tank, something that’s both well made but also comfy. They are similarly hard to drive, but RAD-0 is easier to power from portable sources compared to Thror which still requires some power to reach its potential. In terms of sonics, they have almost nothing in common, with Thror being more neutral, more bright, also having a lower amount of bass. RAD-0 is much more romantic, has a smoother, warmer, thicker, more punchy sound. Both have similar amounts of dynamics, and both have similar soundstage width, depth and height. Thror comes through as more analytic and feels like it has more overall detail, but if you’re likely to be captivated by musicality, RAD-0 is more musical, has a more liquid midrange, a smoother treble. Thror has better treble, more sparkle, more air in the highs. Both are great headphones, each for different reasons. I would use Thror for music mastering, but RAD-0 makes a much more easy listen, a headphone to enjoy for hours and to put you in a very euphoric state.
Rosson RAD-0 vs Audeze LCD-MX4 – Audeze LCD-MX4 is interesting to compare to RAD-0, because somehow, you can feel the Audeze DNA in RAD-0, but after you sit down for a couple minutes, and think about it, you can feel what went in a different direction with LCD-MX4. When studying the history of the products that Mr. Alexander Rosson worked on Audeze, I quickly understood it, he worked on most models I really liked from Audeze, models that I once or twice heard way before I got serious about music listening, so it was all clear to me. But let’s not get too much ahead of ourselves. Audeze and Rosson have a similar package and presentation. In terms of comfort, though, RAD-0 manages to be more comfortable, because the headband has thicker padding, although LCD-MX4 is almost 100 grams lighter. In terms of drive factor, LCD-MX4 is harder to drive, considerably so. Only two or three portables can drive LCD-MX4, where RAD-0 can be driven by almost anything although, by some twisted play of fate, I ended up driving both portably, and ended up using both portably. When it comes to sonics, both are thicker, warmer headphones with a smoother top end. But RAD-0 has a very balanced overall midrange, with good upper midrange presence, clean vocals, and a focus on musicality, smoothness, liquidness of the sound, everything has a certain flow to it, there’s nothing that sounds aggressive or grainy on RAD-0. By comparison, LCD-MX4, is much more dry, has grain, or rather, reveals it a lot, if it was present in your music. LCD-MX4 is marketed as a mastering headphone, and there are actual professional audio masters in Romania using it, it is great for that, it has a very forward and aggressive midrange that helps reveal every single detail there is to hear. The soundstage is actually slightly wider and deeper on LCD-MX4, and the dynamics are slightly better, but the upper midrange presence, smoother sound, grain-free sound, and more musical presentation, with a more balanced midrange, all make RAD-0 an easier choice for pure music enjoyment.
Rosson RAD-0 vs Crosszone CZ-1 – This is a little bonus comparison, as CZ-1 deserves way more recognition than it currently has. You see, the package of CZ-1 is not as impressive as the one of RAD-0, and neither is the design, which is interesting, but a bit odd. But in terms of comfort, CZ-1 is probably one of the most comfortable headphones out there. If all of the other headphones in this comparison have been planar magnetic headphones, the same as RAD-0, CZ-1 is a triple driver, dynamic headphone, with three dynamic drivers for each ear. The number of driver and choice of technology has been made, not to make them more bassy, but to make the soundstage wider, and more natural. To their gain, they really managed to make the CZ-1 sound more like an ear speaker, a headphone that really creates the feeling you are in a large, open space, rather than listening through headphones. CZ-1 is also comfortable, and hard to drive though, they are large, and to not have a tight fit, so they are not portable at all. Compared to RAD-0, RAD-0 has a much deeper bass, a thicker, warmer sound, it is more musical, and has a more musical presentation. This being said, both headphones have a really grain-free presentation, but CZ-1 feels much more suited for classical, and music where you can live with a brighter, more neutral presentation, where RAD-0 works much better for Metal, Rock, Electronic and Pop as well.
The main pairings I am going to recommend are those with Wells Milo, when paired with a Young MK III DAC from M2Tech, with Mytek Brooklyn DAC+, and with iBasso DX229 (or as I call it, DX220 with AMP 9).
Rosson RAD-0 + iBasso DX220 (AMP 9) – DX220 with AMP 9 has been a source I recommended for a lot of portables, and even for some desktop headphones, it simply works that well, so well, that it is hard to find a replacement. If anything comes around, that will beat it in any way, that will be a true party to behold, but until then, it will stay as one of the easiest to recommend DAPs for me, it doesn’t cost that much compared to a flagship smartphone, but the sound of DX220, and the overall hardware makes it just that easy to recommend. With DX160 also around, a DAP that has a similar quality, but is priced considerably lower, I think that iBasso is on a roll with their DAPs and that you have quite a good current selection to pick from, regardless whether you’re looking for a flagship, or a more modest priced source. Now, in terms of sonics, the pairing has no hiss or other issues, but you will hear the muscality of RAD-0 coming through, even without cranking the volume of DX220 at max. In fact, the best part of this setup is the grain-free midrange, which has a sweet presentation, but also good upper midrange and treble presence, along with a nice treble extension, since RAD-0 needs a more sparkly source, for its smoother and more relaxed treble, to become just a bit more engaging.
Rosson RAD-0 + M2 Tech Young MK III + Wells Milo Headphone Amplifier – I know there’s two components in this setup, but Young MK III brings in the soundstage, as it is one of the widest, most holographic sounding DACs out there, with a really neutral presentation, while Wells Milo brings in its own unique magic touch, with a smooth, and also musical overall presentation. The whole setup manages to make the soundstage of RAD-0 a bit larger, wider, and more holographic. But the setup also manages to keep the thick, smooth presentation of RAD-0 and give them an edge in terms of punchyness and dynamics. Of course, there’s also the fact that you barely need a few clicks of Milo’s power to power RAD-0, which is really easy to power, but that’s for the best I think, as you’d have an amplifier and a setup that could drive other headphones as well. Just make sure to not place Milo near a router, as it can interfere with its sound.
Rosson RAD-0 + Mytek Brooklyn DAC+ – Mytek Brooklyn DAC+ is still one of my favorite DAC and headphone amplifiers, and for a good reason, it manages to have a really wide soundstage, and a very dynamic sound, without needing anything else, like an external amplifier. In fact, the power and quality of the DAC+ alone makes me choose it so often that I consider it an essential part of my listening, while I’m at my workstation. The pairing with RAD-0 is also pretty much the one I referenced the most throughout this review, since I consider DAC+ the most reference source I have for a desktop setup at the moment of writing this review. You get a really crisp, clear and clean presentation, but you also get that musical, grain-free, smooth and deep sound RAD-0 has.
Value and Conclusion
The price of RAD-0 is actually pretty high, and it clearly is not an affordable headphone, or a headphone you can just get and forget, but rather, it is an investment to look forward to. If it fits your tastes, it could be your end-game, and despite it not costing more than 2600 USD, or 2100 USD, if you get it while on the Corona Social Distancing Sale, you can enjoy it for years to come. Now, I’m not saying this as someone who just finished a review, I’m saying this as someone who is really enthusiastic about something, if you ever did something, you know you can’t fake enthusiasm.
Shop Page: https://www.rossonaudiodesign.com/shop
The build quality is nothing to laugh about, and RAD-0 is one of the most serious headphones out there, with actual metal in their build, and luckily, they also look fashionable, and not all tanky, like other options that have a good build quality. The weight is not the lightest out there, at about 650 grams, but the design makes the weight distribute well enough so that you don’t feel it. There are heavier and lighter planar magnetic headphones out there, all that matters is that the weight distribution system works, and with RAD-0, it really works well. Being assembled with care, they come with burn-in done, and they also have the support of Rosson behind, making RAD-0 a good choice.
In terms of sound, if you enjoy a smooth and effortless sound, RAD-0 will make your music sound like music. You can forget about the analytic side, lean back, and enjoy a more musical presentation for a little while, and if you feel a romantic attachment to this new presentation, it may stick with you. This really worked well for me, and regardless whether it was electronic, metal, rock or pop music, I couldn’t stop listening to RAD-0 whenever I wanted to simply enjoy the music without being bothered by anything.
Before the end of this review, I want to add RAD-0 to Audiophile-Heaven’s Hall Of Fame for their sound, build quality, comfort and overall design, as they are one of the best headphones out there, in line with other flagships.
At the end of this review, if you’re looking for a really musical, comfy, easy to drive, and effortless headphone, that has a punchy sound with excellent, deep, bass, Rosson RAD-0 may be winking at you, and if you fall in love at first listen, it may end up being your headphone for a while to come.
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Full Playlist used for this review
We listened to more songs than those named in this playlist, but those are excellent for identifying a sonic signature. PRaT, Texturization, Detail, Resolution, Dynamics, Impact, and overall tonality are all revealed by those songs. We recommend trying most of the songs from this playlist, especially if you’re searching for new music!
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[…] Kennerton Thror (3000 USD), Crosszone CZ-8a (1700 USD), Spirit Torino Super Leggera (2000 USD), and Rosson RAD-0 (2600 USD). I will also be exploring pairings things time around, and mainly with HIFIMAN EF400 […]
[…] and will be compared to the best flagships from across the world. The comparison list includes Rosson RAD-0, HIFIMAN He6SE, Kennerton Thror, and even HIFIMAN Arya. The pairing list will include iBasso DX300, […]
[…] HE1000 V2 is so good that they’re in line with what Audeze offers with their LCD-2, and what Rosson RAD-0 offers as well. The only slight downside might be the default cable selection, which although rich, […]
Very nice article, exactly what I was looking for.