It is great to be back after taking a quick one-week hiatus last week during Sandy. Being without power for several days is no fun but certainly pales in comparison to so many that have lost so much in the last week. Thoughts are with everyone still affected by the storm.
Recently on Technology Tuesday we reviewed Monoprice Earbuds and a HiFiMAN portable DAC. I thoroughly enjoy finding great audio products like these where you get a lot for your dollar. This week, we’ll take a look at another set of earphones that also offer quite a bit for the money.
RHA, like Phiaton that we did a review on several weeks ago, might be an audio company that you are unfamiliar with. Based in Glasgow, this UK company has only recently made a push into the United States with their professional grade products and cutting edge sound. Despite the hyper-competitive market segment of budget earphones and headphones filled with the likes of well known names like Sennheiser, Sony, Koss, Klipsh, Yamaha, Polk and scores of others, RHA is poised to make a name for themselves.
The MA-350 noise isolating earphones are lightweight, comfortable, striking in appearance and offer quite a gratifying listen for $39.95. Read on to learn more about these earphones and your chance to win a pair!
Overview RHA MA-350’s offer stunning sound with their unique trumpet horn shape and 10mm drivers. The $25-$75 earphone market is riddled with products of a dizzying array of quality and performance, but at $39.95, RHA has produced a true winner.
Sound I have really enjoyed listening to these over the last couple of weeks and have enjoyed them with all sorts of different music. The sound is incredibly even, crisp and balanced. A deep and impressive bass output is complemented by plenty of treble. Both the lows and the highs sound natural without any artificial sounding processing. Likewise, the vocals are crisp and in-your-face right up front. It is tough to get punch, clarity and bass all delivered so naturally in this price range without one of those items suffering. The MA-350’s do a great job at all of them. They perform particularly well when pushed to max volume which is another thing many earphones in this price range are unable to do.
Another thing that I absolutely love about these earphones is how quick they are able to “recover.” I’m sure there’s a fancy audio term for this but not sure what it is. What I mean is percussion and other sounds are sharp and able to quickly recover to prevent the notes from bleeding into each other. I used to think that the continued hum of a bass drum kick or vibrations from a cymbal smash were a good thing. Certainly they are if that is what the sound actually was on the recording. However, with more critical listening, I am definitely now really enjoying sounds like the MA-350’s can produce: clear, accurate and “as-recorded”.
The noise isolation is also extremely impressive. These are of course passive noise cancelling meaning they rely on the physical design rather than microphones and signal processing. Nevertheless, perhaps due to the trumpet shape and the the design of the tips, these are the best passive noise isolating earphones I’ve ever used. You many NOT want to use these biking or jogging: you are literally cut off from almost all outside sounds. Similarly, very little sound leakage occurs with these either.
Build & Design With aluminum construction and a nice woven fabric cable, these earphones feel very durable and look nice too. The ‘aerophonic design’ as RHA calls the trumpet shape is not only aesthetically pleasing but it allows a much larger driver (speaker) to fit without having to resort to side mounting which can be awkward and potentially uncomfortable. The normal airflow system used by trumpets is inverted: the earphone directs air from the widest part of the bell shape to the narrowest. This concentrates sound naturally and produces clear, natural sounds with deeper bass than typically possible.
When wearing the headphones, they are very unobtrusive looking with simple black buds featuring the RHA logo. Three sizes of silicone tips ensure a good fit. Despite the metal aluminum build, they are still extremely lightweight and stay positioned in the ear for long periods without any discomfort. I also particularly like the length of the braided cord at about 4′. The cable Y-splitter and gold plated stereo plug also seem durable and well built.
Keep in mind that these are straight earphones and do not include a microphone for calls or player controls on the cord. However, RHA has recently released the MA-450i’s. I have not listened to these but can only assume that they have the same outstanding sound quality. If you need a mic and controls, these may be the ones you want.
Other things to know:
- The MA-350’s come with a lengthy three-year manufacturer’s warranty
- A cloth travel pouch is included
- Frequency Range 16-22,000Hz
Bottom Line This is a fantastic pair of earphones that will be a massive upgrade to anything that came packaged with your portable media player or phone. They compete well with all the major audio brands in this price category and offer bright, defined, natural, well-balanced sound with a huge kick. Particularly impressive is the bass, noise isolation and accuracy of sound.
Interested in a pair of RHA MA-350’s for yourself? The good folks at RHA hooked me up with a pair to give away to you. Simply either Tweet a link to this article, stick it on your Google+ page, post to Facebook or pin to your Pinterest board. One entry per person so you only need to do one of those. Then leave a comment on this column so I know you have entered. We’ll close the contest Monday night and announce the random winner next week. Good luck as always!
Hidden Track Technology Tuesday
voice-mail: (781) 285-8696
Have an idea for an article?
Product, app, or web service you are passionate about? Feel free to get in touch with me.