Full disclosure: I received an IMR R1 Zenith in exchange for my fair and honest opinion, with no expectation of a favourable review. The views expressed are my own, based on my personal sound preferences and taste in music, which may well vary from your own.
I’d never heard of IMR Acoustics, or its founder and owner Bob James, prior to reading about the R1 Zenith while asking Google to find me wide-soundstage IEMs.
The Zenith is, in fact, a revised and refined version of IMR’s debut effort, the R1. It shares its predecessor’s ability to switch between closed and semi-open modes with a unique rotating backplate, and retains the R1’s swappable screw-in filters that can, quite significantly, change the sound of the IEM itself.
Again, from what I’ve read (I’ve never seen or heard the R1 myself), the original R1 was a rather rough-around-the-edges first attempt that, while impressing with a large and rather odd dynamic driver made of a combination of piezo-ceramic and beryllium, was far from refined.
So what is the Zenith, what does it do differently, and is it worth taking a chance on this intriguing IEM from the one-man show that is IMR Acoustics?
Packaging and first impressions
The R1 Zenith takes the original R1 driver, improves on it, and houses it in a far more polished, well-made aluminum alloy shell that, if nothing else, looks every bit like the ~$500 product that it is.
Shipped in an understated matte black box that doesn’t exactly scream “luxury”, the Zenith’s packaging is as utilitarian looking as the IEM itself. Inside the box you’ll find a full-length block of dense foam with two small cutouts holding the earpieces. Two more layers of smaller foam blocks hold the eartips (a decent selection of multi-sized silicone, double flange and foam tips are included as standard), and a third block holds the array of swappable metal filters and a 3.5mm to 6.3mm adapter plug.
You also get a small, square carry case inside of which you’ll find two cables, one terminated with a gold-plated 3.5mm single-ended L-shaped plug, the other a 2.5mm L-shaped balanced plug. At this price you should expect to get a balanced cable as part of the package, so it’s good to see one included.
The cables have a rubberised sheathing that feels smooth and not too springy, although they are quite thin compared to the typically braided, teflon-sheathed cables most IEMs ship with today. Both cables are a dark grey colour – which fits in with the overall Zenith aesthetic – and seem to be well made, even though I’m personally not a fan of the two-pin connector (I’ve always found MMCX connectors to be sturdier). At least the connector plugs on the earpieces are both notched and recessed, which should prevent any accidental bending of the pins, and the cable material resists twisting or knotting.
Last but not least, a small calling card explains the differences in sound between the various filters, which I’ll cover in more detail below, and a basic user manual warns you about hearing loss and proper use of IEMs – a nice touch that I don’t often see with other products.
Overall the package in on par for a mid-tier IEM, if somewhat basic and visually understated. The earpieces are well made and beautifully machined, and the mechanism that opens and closes the backplate is fluid and smooth. The filters also look to be made of the same high quality aluminium, and are precisely machined like the earpieces they connect to (if a little sharp to the touch).