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Earbud Review: RHA MA350
Detail of RHA MA350 Earbuds
Let me start off with a little back story here: I stumbled across RHA headphones while searching for good, affordable earbuds to try. I've tried several pairs, from cheap $5 No-Name specials to more expensive brands, such as the Klipsch S4 and ThinkSound TS02, among others. Let me tell you, there is a tremendous difference in the sound between the $5 throw-aways and even a decent $20 pair of earbuds.
RHA is a UK company, based in Glasgow and offering a short but interesting line of headphones and earbuds, all at affordable prices. I contacted them and received a pair of their mid-level earbuds, the RHA MA350, for review.
The RHA MA350s arrived quickly, packaged in a nice, fairly easy to open package, made from recycled materials. They came with the usual 3 sets of different size eartips - small, medium and large - and also included a rather nice little black velour bag for storage. They are covered by RHA's 3 year warranty against defects, as are most of RHA's products, the sole exception being their entry-level earbuds, the MA150s, which are covered by a 12 month warranty.
RHA's earbuds feature a unique design, termed "aerophonic" wherein the body of the earbuds resembles sort of a reverse trumpet shape which is engineered to channel sound waves from the 10mm driver into the user's ear canal more smoothly and naturally than conventional earbud designs, producing a sound that is more balanced, cleaner and more natural to the listener. All RHA's earphones seem to feature this design, as well as similar specifications, which are as follows:
Drivers 10mm Mylar
Frequency range 16-22,000Hz
Rated/max power 3/10mW
Cable 1.2m Fabric braided
Connections 3.5mm Gold plated
The MA350s feature a very nice, machined aluminum housing for the body of the earbuds, a braided cloth-covered cord and a straight 3.5mm gold-plated connector (Their MA150s feature a 45 degree angled connector, all-plastic body and rubber cord). Left and right is marked by a very subtle raised "L" and "R" on the rubber wire strain relief on each earpiece.
My initial impressions of the MA350 included the overall high level of build quality. These really do look and feel like a high quality pair of earbuds, especially compared to the Klipsch S4, which I've always thought to be rather cheap-looking, especially for the price. Trying them on, they felt light and comfortable in the ear, with the medium size tips providing the best combination of fit, isolation and sound for me.
I hooked them up to my iPod and was immediately impressed with the detail and clarity of the sound. Bass frequencies were punchy, full and powerful without being dull or boomy, mid-range sounds such as vocals were balanced and natural and the higher notes were bright, clear and airy. With good balance and dynamic sound quality, they produced sound that was very pleasant to listen to for extended periods. I was repeatedly surprised by the clarity of the sound. I listen to a broad range of music, from rock to pop, jazz to blues to classical and the MA350s seemed to perform admirably across all genres. Most surprising to me was how often I noticed details I had missed even in songs which I'd heard many times before. The subtle sound of a guitar pick on a string, for example, or the sound of the hammers striking the piano strings. The soundstage was also impressive, particularly at this price range and instrument separation was very good, with each instrument coming through clearly, even in lush, complicated arrangements.
The braided cord seems to resist tangling and feels sturdy, but does transmit quite a bit of microphonics. This could perhaps be minimized by using a clip to hold the cable closer to the body so it doesn't bounce around so much, since it seems most of the noise comes from the cord striking your clothes as you move. This can get rather distracting during exercise, but is barely noticeable during moderate activity such as walking and is of course nonexistent when listening while sitting still. For that reason, these are probably not the best earbuds to use during your workout, but are very good for virtually all other purposes.
For anyone seeking a quality pair of earbuds at a budget price (the MA350s currently retail for around $40 on Amazon.com), these are highly recommended and tough to beat, with sound quality that compares favorably with other models at this price point, and may even give much higher-priced earbuds a run for their money.
Sample provided for review.
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© 2013 Daniel Petreikis