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Rosson Audio Design: RAD-0 Headphones Review

A Headphone That’s Deeply Personal

Rosson RAD-0 headphone selection


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The new RAD-0 headphones by Rosson Audio Design is considered one of the best audiophile high-end headphones on the market. It’s an immaculately crafted work of art, and yes, it sounds as good as it looks. Sonically, the new RAD-0 headphone is outstanding. Visually, the aesthetics are breathtaking. At every angle, Alex Rosson’s totally new design is stunning, and it completely surpasses all of our expectations. These are nothing short of endgame cans.



Drew’s Impression: “I HAD TO HAVE IT.”

When Moon-Audio founder and inventor of Dragon custom audio cables, Drew Baird P.E., went to Singapore to attend the annual CanJam Audio Show in 2019, he immediately recognized Rosson Audio’s new headphone creation was special. The beautiful aesthetics make each headphone a truly unique and personal choice for the individual. Because of Rosson Audio’s gorgeous and almost entrancing craftsmanship, no two are exactly alike. Impressed, Drew knew what he had to do: hear them!

“To my ears, the RAD-0 sounds like a cross between the Audeze LCD-4 and LCD-X headphones. Rosson Audio’s aesthetics and sound are simply stunning. Hearing it for the first time, it literally took my breath away. I had to have it.”

Drew Baird, P.E., Founder & President of Moon-Audio

Who is Alex Rosson?

Alex Rosson

Rosson Audio Design is the new brain-child of Alex Rosson who co-founded Audeze in 2008 with the brand’s current CEO, Sankar Thiagasamudram. Similar to Apple’s startup story, the duo started Audeze together, assembling headphones in a garage, and working late into the night and even weekends. From these humble beginnings, Audeze grew into a leader in planar magnetic technology, eventually becoming one of the most influential headphone brands in the industry. With Alex at the company’s helm, Audeze headphones even went on to win prestigious awards, including Stereophile Magazine’s 2014 Product of the Year and CES’s Digital Trend’s Top Tech in 2015. Speaking of Apple, Alex Rosson was instrumental in inking the deal between Audeze and the giant smart device maker as a major retailer for the company he helped co-found. It was after this feat that Alex says he felt ready to focus on something new.

Rosson Audio Design RAD-0

Now that co-founding an innovative brand like Audeze is under Alex Rosson’s belt, his latest headphone creation, the RAD-0, seems poised for similar greatness. But, besides co-founding a high-end headphone brand, who is Alex Rosson, really? Growing up around music in the Los Angeles area, Alex spent a majority of his career in the audio business as a musician and record label owner, and even as a mastering engineer. Before venturing into entrepreneurship with his Audeze co-founder Sankar, Alex worked as one of Technicolor’s top mastering engineers for nearly a decade. To say Alex Rosson knows a lot about music and high-end audio recordings is an understatement. The man knows his stuff.

If Alex Rosson’s resumé sounds interesting, then you might find his personal feelings about music and audio especially fascinating. Turns out, Alex’s passion for headphones runs a lot deeper than most CEO’s. Alex thinks of headphones as “personal therapeutic devices.” Life comes with all kinds of challenges, and it’s not always pleasurable. Similar to our tastes in music, headphones are deeply personal too. So, if escaping into our own little worlds through a headphone can be a healthy practice, then that’s something Alex says he can feel really positive about.

Similarly, Steve Jobs has been quoted on numerous occasions for his acknowledgments of the personal computer as a device that would connect more people to something greater. For Alex Rosson, however, the headphone as a personal therapeutic device is born out of his compassion and empathy for the human condition.

As a musician, coming from the studio world, Alex’s love for musical gear is what originally got him out of bed in the morning. But it was an experience he recalls from his days at Audeze that reshaped his perspective and fuels the passion he has today to re-envision the headphone as a truly personal audio device.

He fondly looks back on an experience where he and his team at Audeze received a video from a family in Romania, sobbing as they listened to a pair of headphones while thanking him and his co-workers. Having that kind of impact on people and their families is a huge part of what drives Rosson Audio Design to produce something that hopefully helps more people find some happiness.

Rosson Audio’s mission statement notes the ability of music to transform the ordinary into something meaningful through headphones. The music picks us up when we are down, and it sets the mood for that special occasion. Music inspires the soundtrack of our daily lives, and according to Rosson Audio’s mission statement:

Rosson Audio Design RAD-0

“Whether you’re in need of a more therapeutic way to enjoy music or you’re an audio professional who requires the best in performance and quality, we’ve created a listening experience that lives up to our expectations of what a transcendent sound experience should be.”


Rosson headphone earcup on workbench

A New Creative Outlet



Alex says his team at Rosson Audio Design has been with him since his days at Audeze. He says the team is very small and consists of his closest friends who share his same enthusiasm about building amazing headphones. With an artisan approach to every aspect of his business, the team developed the RAD-0’s driver completely from scratch. The entire operation at Alex Rosson Design is privately funded by Alex, himself. There are no investors. Every aspect of the business is all out of Alex’s pocket, so everything’s on the line. For Alex Rosson, building the most beautiful personal headphones the world has ever heard is all about the passion to push his own creative boundaries.


Rosson RAD-0 headphones

Materials, Quality, & Comfort

Do not get the RAD-0 confused with an Audeze headphone. Whereas the ear cup design looks slightly familiar and the overall weight is comparable, that’s where the similarities stop. Consistent with the LCD series from Audeze, the RAD-0 is a heavy headphone as well. The main weight lies in the ear cups, and the headband does well to distribute the heft, but I still found myself feeling the weight after a few hours. I really like the padding on the ear cups. It's more than sufficient, and the added soft fabric on the parts that make contact with your head is a nice touch that creates a comfortable seal. I feel like all-leather cups help trap in moisture and sweat, even in open back headphones if you wear them long enough (depending on your environment), but I did not have discomfort in this regard with the RAD-0 headphones.

The frame of the headphone is a dense metal, and extremely strong. I’d have no fear about overextending this headphone and fear of breaking. It is a contributor to the overall weight, but again, I tend to lean more on the “I’ll gladly take more weight if it means the product is made with quality materials” philosophy. The weight of the RAD-0 is consistent with some of the more middle-weighted Audeze LCD line (LCD-X), rather than some of the heavier headphones. Alex likes his headphones heavy, and the reason for that is the large magnet structures in the planar magnetic drivers. That’s what provides for the meaty, full, and big bottom-weight to the sound.


RAD-0 ear cup housings

Features

Let’s talk about the ear cup housing. The designers at Rosson Audio have always loved materials such as micarta and stabilized wood, and they believe they have the vision and skill to incorporate these materials into the company's designs. Straying from the beaten path, Rosson's designers collect burl, maple, teak, rocks, gems, and any other beautiful item the team can fit into a casting mold. Through determination and finesse, Rosson's team of engineers turn these raw materials into headphone cups , and then it sands and polishes them before drilling entry holes for the yokes and input port.

Each cast is completely unique. The variations of colors and grains make each and every headphone Rosson makes a true one-of-a-kind headphone. They also have silver, gold, and black variations on the outside grill. Combined with the various color schemes, these headphones are quite eye-catching and deserving of the name “artisan.”

RAD-0 images of different color options

Sound Quality

“To my ears, the RAD-0 sounds like a cross between the Audeze LCD-4 and LCD-X headphones. Rosson Audio’s aesthetics and sound are simply stunning. Hearing it for the first time, it literally took my breath away. I had to have it.”

Drew Baird, P.E., Founder & President of Moon-Audio

For testing purposes, I was using the RAD-0 with a Silver Dragon cable and the Matrix Audio Element X Streamer. The headphone sounds phenomenal and Drew’s assessment is spot on. The RAD-0 is quite resolute, offering minute detailing in your music, but providing enough warmth and depth that any genre shines through these cans. Pushing enough power through your planar magnetic drivers really improves the performance and presentation of the music, and such is the case with my testing set up.

The RAD-0 phones lean towards being a great reference sound but maintain a warm and smooth low-mid and mid-section. The low-end isn’t boomy, but there is some nice tight bass which extends to lower frequencies. An artist I like to use when testing the frequency spread of a headphone is Woodkid’s album “The Golden Age.” French music video director Yoann Lemoine’s debut album as Woodkid is one of the most unique genre-mashing experiences I’ve heard. It’s a mix between epic film score, percussion samples, and contemporary pop. The song “Iron” has some amazing percussive elements combined with sweeping orchestral moments. It’s a nice track to see how far the lows and highs go. The bass is punchy and present, even when the brass sections are screaming. The top end rolls off nicely, so the really piercing sounds of the high brass don’t sting, but sparkle in a rather impactful way. Lemoine’s vocals are far from perfect, but its those imperfections that are warm and smooth in the mid frequencies that lends an honest performance from the artist. This maximalist approach really shows off the soundstage of the RAD-0. It’s like a machine that can efficiently sort hundreds of coins in under a minute. Each instrument of the orchestra can be placed with pinpoint accuracy in the spread, with the drum samples forming the foundation for the entire sonic “house.” I consider the RAD-0 an impressive headphone for the sole fact that it can “handle” such a turbulent and dramatic record with ease.

A song like R.E.M.’s “The Great Beyond” really shows off this warmth well. The rhythmic synths and bass in the verses really capture the slogging daydream-esque quality of the mid-to-low frequencies. There’s a surprising amount of low end to this song that really comes out in the RAD-0. The bass and kick drum are punchy on the refrains and retains a lot of energy from the song. The vocals really shine due to the mid-frequencies of this headphone. Even in more rock-oriented songs the vocals shine through and take that center stage without competing, or rather having to compete, with the other instruments. The song “Man on the Moon” (R.E.M.) illustrates how great the imaging of the RAD-0 is. The tom hits on the verse are incredibly resolute and easy to place in the soundstage. The same can be said for the acoustic guitar: about 3 feet away from my 2 o’clock. It sounds like it’s right there. I attribute this to the great openness and design of the ear cup, and of course the phenomenal planar magnetic driver.

I haven’t had this much fun with a headphone in quite some time.


Comparisons



Since the RAD-0 falls sonically between the Audeze LCD-4 and Audeze LCD-X, we’ll compare the three.

The LCD-4’s low end is responsive and the presence in the bass is dynamic, really extending itself when needed with precision and weight. It has added resolution in the top end as well. Some might find the mids to be more recessed than other headphones, but it’s a great headphone for all genres, especially bass-eccentric genres. The LCD-4 is still revered as one of the best reference headphones on the market today. We usually match it with either our Black Dragon or Silver Dragon cables for added detail and a wider soundstage, and it’s a hard match to beat.

The RAD-0 is a touch warmer than the LCD-4, which I would argue is your more reference-style sound signature. Mids are more pronounced than the LCD-4, but still allow for a rather detailed music listening experience. The LCD-X on the other hand is more forward sounding with some top-end sizzle. A great option for detail fanatics, the LCD-X is going to lack on the low end especially when A/B tested against the Rosson Audio cans. With these three headphones the Rosson Audio Design RAD-0 really has that Goldilocks complex in that its not too forward or warm, it’s not quite the LCD-4 or the LCD-X, but a nice blend of a reference styled sound with beefier mids. It has the “body” of sound from the LCD-4 with the forward clarity of the LCD-X.


The Dragon Cable Experience

At Moon-Audio, we’re so excited about the new RAD-0, we designed a special Dragon Premium cable for it. For serious audiophiles wanting to squeeze out every last drop of performance from these planar magnetic cans, we highly recommend either the Silver Dragon Premium Cable, or Black Dragon Premium Cable for the new RAD-0. The Premium versions are designed to optimize every point of signal saturation in only the most high-end headphones. Naturally, when trying to squeeze out every last percentage point of performance from a high-end headphone like the RAD-0, choosing the Premium versions just makes sense.

Similar to the standard Black Dragon headphone cable, the Premium version is extremely smooth sounding and reveals remarkable low-end with wonderful voicing. The Black Dragon sound signature is the best match for smoothing out the top-end sizzle in Rosson Audio Design’s analytical, detailed and resolute premium planar magnetic headphone.

Likewise, the standard Silver Dragon headphone cable is an excellent sound signature choice for detail junkies. The Silver Dragon sound signature is the best match for serious critical listening. For a more in-depth analysis of the differences between sound signatures of Dragon Cables, read our Sound Signature Guide.

These are nothing short of endgame cans (period). We couldn't be more proud to usher it in as a new brand for our portfolio of high-end headphones. In fact, we love it so much (and everything that Alex Rosson and his new company stand for), we couldn't wait to bring the Dragon Premium cable experience to the RAD-0. We've been waiting patiently, but now we can finally say, it's here.


Collage of various RAD-0 designs

The Verdict

The Rosson Audio Design RAD-0 is a statement headphone in every sense of the phrase. It looks amazing and it sounds amazing. The overall build quality of the headphone is impressive, and although it is heavy, Rosson has plenty of padding and comfort to make the experience enjoyable. The ear cups are truly one-of-a-kind pieces of art.

If you’re a fan of the LCD-4 reference style but want a little more warmth, then the RAD-0 headphones from Rosson might be the perfect fit for you. It’s certainly one of the most unique headphones we have here at Moon Audio and coupled with a Silver or Black Dragon cable you have a pairing that’s...pretty rad if you ask us… Sorry. You knew it had to come sometime.


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What's in the Box

You’ll find the following items included:

  • RAD-0 Headphones
  • Pelican Carrying Case
  • 2m Headphone cable with 3.5mm connection


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