CES 2014 Aurisonics Rocket IEM and Kickstarter Campaign

In just a few short years, Dale Lott has moved Aurisonics from a one-man basement operations to a hearty and healthy little business selling custom IEMs and hearing protection devices largely for stage and screen use. Headphone enthusiasts took notice of the small firm, and now Aurisonics number among the "players" in the business of high-fidelity custom in-ear monitors. But, it seems, that's not going to be enough for Dale.

Just before CES, Aurisonics launched a Kickstarter campaign for their newest creation, the Aurisonics Rocket. Less than two weeks later, the $20,000 project is well beyond completely funded at just over $74,000. Wow! Earlybird backer deals are done, but you can still pledge $149 for a pair of Rockets that will eventually go on the open market for an expected $249. It's a crap-shoot pledging money on a prototype—who knows what the product will sound like. I'm glad people take the risk to fund ventures like this, but still, you never know how well the end product will perform. Well, I spent about ten minutes listening to the Rockets and I can tell you they perked my ears right up. These little gems sound pretty darned good.

At first glance I assumed these were balanced armature IEMs due to the small diameter enclosure, but the engine at the heart of the Rockets is a 5.1mm micro-dynamic driver. Dale had a raw driver to show me...it was smaller than a Tic-Tac. Amazing how such a small driver could put out such a nice, smooth, full-bodied sound! Seems to me this type of driver has both the size advantages of a balanced armature driver, and the flatter frequency and impedance characteristics of a dynamic driver. I bet we'll see more and more of these drivers used in mid-price IEMs.

Another unusual feature of the Rockets is the included tri-tab silicone retention collars, which give these their rocket-like look. These collars slide of the body of the IEM and provide a way to mechanically lock them in place by straddling the ridge around the concha bowl of your ear. Unfortunately, the collars were also prototypes and substantially softer than the production units will be. Dale claimed, and I agree, they were not very effective as a result. We'll have to see how well the production version performs.

For more info check out the Kickstarter page and this Head-Fi thread.