Rikubuds – Alter Rider 1 and Assassin 2

Disclaimer: Both units were bought and paid full by fellow buddies and then shipped to me as a loaner for a quick spin. I don’t own these units and have not shared my impressions with Riku before this, despite our relationship. No incentives were given of any kind and what you are about to read are my own thoughts and opinions.
A giant thanks to @Tfaduh and @pylaczynski for sending these and for supporting me. Beers are on me!

Table of Contents

  1. Alter Rider 1
  2. Assassin 2
  3. Brand overview

Sources used: Topping E30 + L30
Foams used: Regular density foams/stock
Test playlist with some of the songs used: Tidal

Lancer 1 and Berserker 1 impressions for reference.
Ranking list (updated) for reference, under the earbuds tab.

Alter Rider 1

Price: $50
Driver: 32ohm 19-21 Black Dot Bio

Ruler flat.

The Alter Rider 1 (Rider) is as flat as you can get, if you ignore the sub-bass and higher frequencies roll-off, which are natural on any transducer, especially on buds. If you are any IEM guy, think of something in the lines of the Tin Hifi P1/P1 Plus as it was the first IEM that came into mind.

As a reviewer with natural human biases, ruler flat signatures are hard to criticize as they don’t trigger much emotions, but they also don’t do anything wrong to deserve any negative feedback. Admittedly, they will make you more fond of them as you keep listening, so don’t expect a one-trick-pony once you put them on your ears.

Actually, one-trick-pony is the opposite of the Rider – as it is a master of none allrounder. If we delve into the frequency range, the only thing I disliked was the sub-bass as it felt not only rolled-off but also undefined on lower volume levels (Hans Zimmer – Why So Serious? starting around 3:25m). Bear in mind that sub-bass roll-offs are usually the bread and butter of earbuds, despite that not being the house signature Rikubuds usually go for, which I have to commend the diversity.

Other than that, the frequency response it’s pretty flat with my nitpicks going towards the 1k hertz and above, where I’d like to see some more bite to the vocals and upper extensionThom Yorke’s voice on “Packtd Like Sardines In A Crushd Tin Box” feels a little too relaxed and meshed with the melody instead of coming slightly in front. Female vocals are a touch better but lack that last leg of bite on their fundamentals.

When looking into the technicalities of the Rider, there’s not much you can’t fault and I’ll describe it on almost all fields as above average. To my ears, the stage has better depth than width and comes out as having great timbre/decay. Again, just like the frequency response, it does nothing wrong so it is hard to pick on it, with my only warm luke feeling going towards macro dynamics, which is probably majorly correlated to its tuning.

To wrap it up, I think the Rider is a good pair of earbuds that will please anyone looking for neutrality and it is sensitive to the upper region, but with the sin of becoming too safe to a point of boredom. To me it isn’t as pleasing as let’s say its brother Lancer 1, both on clarity and frequency response other than the mid-range. This doesn’t go without saying that compared to most off-the-shelf-branded buds out there, it’s a clear step up and a solid choice, let alone for the asking price.

Personal ranking: A.

Assassin 2

Price: $75
Driver: 32ohm Fostex

Brain versus heart. Brain doesn’t let me love it but the heart says I should because they look stunning and I love its cable.

For the second series Riku went with an experimental shell, based on Qian39, and made by another DIYer Valbuds (shameless plug, Ascii/Valphonics on discords around you). This shell isn’t as comfortable for me as the other PK, MX500 or the Qian ones. After somes days I could get used to it, but I still can’t adjust the position as well as I wanted to, so keep that in mind and how it could affect my impressions.

The tonality is very midcentric and – as I never expected to say this in my life – maybe too much to a point it feels like an N-shape sometimes. Sub-bass is less rolled off than the Rider 1 and it has better mid-bass prominence and impact, but on an heavy mid-range song like LITTLE TEMPO – Little Journey the mids come out too prominent, blurring the mid-bass a bit and decreasing its tacticality. This seems to be also affecting my perception of the higher frequencies where the treble and upper-treble feel like falling into the background.

The slight tonal imbalance is clear on simple tracks like the Curse, where the overall clarity and dynamics drops off in favor of bringing the mids into your face. As far as other technicalities go, there’s nothing major to point out but good imaging, good decay and an intimate stage.

In sum, despite my tastes, the Assassin 2 doesn’t work for my preferences and library, and falls shorter than the Rider or the Lancer 1. Despite the tonality unbalanced to my ears, the technicalities are solid and for that I can’t fault it that much and still a better option than most branded options out there.

Personal ranking: B+.

Brand overview

After owning two buds and having heard two more, I have no doubts about still reccing the Lancer 1 as one of the best buds you can get for the price and probably somewhere above it. The W-shape tonality and good technicalities take the trophy home inside the line-up for my preferences and library.

The contender and basshead option will be the Berserker 1 thanks to its tight,fast, sub-bass focused L-shaped tuning. If you love some serious bass, you coming from the IEM category but want to try out buds, this is the one, especially at the given price.

As a future reference, the next earbud I would like to try from Rikubuds would be something on the warmer side of the spectrum.

Thanks for reading!

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