The Alfa Genus headphones are Rock Jaw’s attempt to bring audio versatility to budget in-ear headphones. They come with three discrete screw-in tuning filters, each carrying their own distinct sound.
Moreover, you’re looking at a very competitive £50 price point. This isn’t a deal to be scoffed at; you’re effectively getting three pairs of headphones in one. What’s more, the audio quality is top notch and the design is impressive for the price.
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Rock Jaw did a great job with the design of the Alfa Genus’ buds; they’re conical, and built from ebony wood with an aluminium trim. Very swish.
Just underneath each of the buds sits more aluminium casing, this time wrapped around the cable to prevent wear and tear. They have "L" and "R" markers carved into them, but those are a bit hard to read in dim light due to the metallic finish.
The cables are 1.2m long and come coated in a textured, spiralling rubber, which we found helps keep tangles and kinks at bay. It’s not the most refined material, but it beats spending an age pulling apart wires every time you want to listen to music.
There’s a built-in control unit halfway down the left cable, which is iOS, Android, and Windows compatible. It’s got a single button for stop/start and call answering, but it flexes upwards and downwards for controlling volume, too. There’s also a wire clip for fastening the cables to a shirt or blouse.
A bunch of goodies come bundled with the Alfa Genus – a string-pull carry case, four pairs of silicone tips in varying sizes, and three sets of tuning filters. That’s a fair haul from a £50 set of buds.
Where the design falls down for the Alfa Genus is the in-ear fit; the varying bud sizes only go so far. The lack of angled buds and over-ear loops means they can be a bit of a pain to keep in.
You’ll be fine sitting on the tube, but you’ll have to prod them back in regularly if you use them while working out. This also means there is an issue with poor sound isolation due to the loose fit. An example of better-fitting headphones for a similar price point would be Audio Technica’s CKX9is Sonic Fuel, although these cost £20 more.
Regardless, the Alfa Genus headphones are very comfortable to wear, and the straight-laced design means there aren’t any pointy bits to dig into your ear.
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Where the Alfa Genus stands out above the competition is with the bundled filters, each with their own distinct sound-space.
They’re simple screw-in, screw-out filters, and we managed to get switching them out down to under 30 seconds while sitting at a table. They’re a bit fiddly, however, so don’t try to do this on the move or you’ll likely lose them. Filter storage is a big oversight here.
The first filter we tried out were the Chrome inserts, which Rock Jaw describes as providing "enhanced bass". That’s no understatement; the filters provide a deep, rumbling bass that impresses, even more so when you consider that the Alfa Genus headphones come with average-sized 8mm audio drivers.
Fans of thick, heavy bass will love the chrome filters, and they work brilliantly with dance music, hip-hop, and drum and bass.
The downside to the Chrome buds is that the mid-range gets lost beneath the bass somewhat, and the trebles lack the extreme clarity experienced with the Black filters.
The Champagne filters are described as "neutral", and we’d agree – they offered a smooth, balanced sound. Vocals became significantly more detailed and bass less overwhelming compared to the Chrome filters, while trebles felt less sharp compared to the black filters.
If you’re looking to listen to a wide-range of genres, but don’t want the fuss of constantly switching out filters, then the Champagne inserts will suit you just fine.
The Black filters are by far the best for top-end, offering up immense treble clarity – significantly more so than both the Chrome and Champagne filters.
Despite the impressive top-end, however, the Black filters were our least favourite. Firstly, the lack of bass lets this filter down, and can leave the audio sounding tinny.
There’s also arguably too much of a focus on the upper frequencies, creating a sharpness that made for uncomfortable listening. These filters stand up best with classical pieces, but avoid if you’re into hip-hop and other bass-heavy music.
What’s most exciting about the filter system is how noticeably distinct the different styles of sound are between each individual set. You can immediately hear obvious tonal changes when you switch from Black to Chrome, which will please everyone from casual listeners to audio fanatics.
The Alfa Genus are impressively loud, and we found no distortion whatsoever, even at maximum volume.
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There is very little to complain about with the Alfa Genus, and that’s thanks to Rock Jaw’s catch-all approach with the filters. They’re not built for a secure fit, so runners should avoid, but they’re lightweight, stylish, and offer impressively detailed sound reproduction for their size and price.
There are plenty of headphones that will trump the Rock Jaw Alfa Genus once you head north of £100, but at £50, this classy, triple-filter approach to in-ears is one not to be missed.
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The Rock Jaw Alfa Genus is perfect for those who want more bang for their buck from in-ear headphones, but don’t want to break the bank with more premium cans. The design is classy, the sound is on point, and the filters – however fiddly – make them a formidable pair of sub-£100 in-ear headphones.