RHA is a purely British company that sent me a sample of their MA350 noise isolating aluminium earphones to review. With a research and development team right here in the UK, this is a breath of fresh air after I recently did some research into music technology. Turns out that many companies (including Skullcandy and other companies that claim to be “indie”) get their products mass-produced by China and simply given a more distinctive casing or frame. I’m not against this practise per say but I don’t think that can compare to the individuality of a company that creates their own innovation in-house. I mean, these RHA in earphones look freakin’ glorious with their black and aluminium design. And even better that their entirely based in the UK, so let’s get on with a multi-angled review!
The silver and black design for these RHA earphones is totally amazing and the black cords are so much easier to untangle than their plastic equivalent. The join for them is also adjustable, allowing you to cut down on the loose cables.
Funnily enough, this simple piece of plastic has already proven to be insanely helpful. If you dislike getting your earphone cables caught in things (chairs, door handles, your own arms if you’re running or jogging) and suddenly ripped out of your ears then this simple design pretty much destroys the chances of that happening. Great if you’re forgetful or as clumsy as myself! These earphones also come with a high quality drawstring bag that is actually a good size for a small MP3 player such as the latest lines of iPod Nano’s or Shuffle. One point in the negative though is that if you’re storing your earphones inside this accessory within a dark bag, have fun trying to see it! That said, the fabric doesn’t stain easily, having survived the depths of my receipt-riddled backpack and clearly ensures a better survival rate for your music technology.
These MA250 in-ear headphones come with additional buds in smaller and larger sizes and I want to say right now that if you had the problem I did with losing the buds from your earphones: get this brand. I lost four earbuds with my old Skullcandys, often resorting to only wearing one ear or dig out the alternatives (that coincidentally were always too large or too small to fit my ears comfortably). These buds are seriously secured on, the only downside being that if you prefer to wear the alternative sizes, it’s really challenging to get the plastic buds off the receivers and then replace them with the new ones. I ended up using a small needle to help wedge the new sizes on but for someone who’s as active as I am it was a joy knowing that I wasn’t likely to be losing another bud ever again!
The noise isolating features of these RHA earphones is also to be noted. I had the volume on my buds at around the 3/4 mark and could only hear traffic from larger cars when standing directly next to the road. Even when the music itself is quite demure (a solo singer ect.) the noise isolation of their earphones is a great quality that cuts down on unwanted distractions. From someone who goes to the gym regularly, I was pleased to discover that even the loudest “in-house” work out pop is easily drowned out by these earphones even if I just wanted to listen to a talky podcast!
Quality of Sound
Okay, so I’ve gone over the design of these earphones from RHA but now I need to look at the important element: how do they do when it comes to music? These RHA headphones retail for about £30 and I feel this is very important when noting the quality of the sound they produced for me. I didn’t think it’d be fair to compare them to anything other than their competitors in the earbud market so I’ll be looking at them comparatively with my old £20 Skullcandy earphones and my £40 Marley earbuds. This allows for a £10 margin on either side and I can assess whether they are great value comparatively on either side.
Single Channel Music/ Television/ Podcasts
For music with only one dominant voice (i.e. a classical piano piece, solo singer ect.) these earphones are to be lauded. Every pitch and tone seems emphatic and rich in a way that I simply can’t find with my Skullcandys. The quality fo design is excellent and this is carried across all areas where there are clearly dominant voices or parts. The spoken word in particular is translated very clearly, including other nuances of speech such as quiet laugher, coughs and breaths that I’ve not noticed with other headphones so clearly. Not to suggest that this distracted from my enjoyment, I even sought out some live performances in my music selection and found the experience to be really realistic, almost uncanny valley in places. For these areas my RHA’s not only put my Skullcandy earbuds to shame but it also outshone the more expensive Marley earphones.
Multi Channel Performances/ Music/ Films
As a general rule, I found that the RHA earphones did quite well as an affordable piece of music technology when it came to deciphering multiple channels of music and different instruments. For the most part, rock music and other kinds of music that featured several instruments could all be distinguished, though not with as much clarity as the earphones had provided for a solo. An example of this would be for Linkin Park’s “What I’ve Done”, a rock song with a piano backing. I love using the piano as an excellent yardstick for music reproduction quality as it is very easy to drown out (especially by rock music’s good friend, the electric guitar). Throughout much of this Linkin Park song, there is a piano arpeggio playing as the bass and it is almost impossible to ear with most affordable earbuds, including my RHA’s. This isn’t a real disservice to these earbuds, as one of the few times I have heard the piano piece clearly has been on a full quality LP but it does show how the average music technology has pitfalls with multi channelled performances.
Also, as a lover of heavy metal, I had to note that when all instruments (including vocals) played at full pelt all at once (which happens pretty often in heavy metal) then the earphones tended to represent this is as a touch flat. The real strengths of these headphones lies in their amazing representation of singular vocalists or instruments, not several layered heavily over one another. This makes these a recommended buy for lovers of classical or soloists but perhaps not for metal-heads at least comparatively with my Marley headphones for £10 more. That said, they produced a far superior sound than my Skullcandy’s for £10 less.
It should be noted that I’ve only compared three brands and done so in a restrictive way but I feel that RHA are a great example of British engineering. Their numerous technological innovations have left me with an excellent pair of headphones that also look exceptionally cool in a very “grown up” kind of way. I would prefer some more selection to their headphone design to accommodate a greater range of personality, the only other option with these headphones is to pay a bit more for the MA450i, which features a volume control along the cord and higher specs, but I love the aluminium sheen that is both great looking and apparently a feature of their high quality design. That said, supporting a brand that functions entirely within the UK seems like a more potent demonstration of individuality and consideration rather than just having them spray painted purple in China!
Excellent value for money, these headphones have their strengths in small arrangements of instruments or solos. They produce a high quality but flatter sound for several instruments playing all at once on the same level as usually found within the heavy metal genre.