Last time we gave you the full break-down on RHA's SA950i on-ear headphones and we were thoroughly impressed. Now we're back ears-on with RHA's MA450i in-ear headphones which we definitely have high standards for. Boasting both excellent build quality and superior sound at an affordable price, RHA is not out to drain your wallet but to satisfy the audiophile in you. Head on past the break as we put these earphones to the test and give you our full review.
Out of the box, the MA450i seem like any ordinary pair of earphones that you'd find at your local Best Buy. However, once you get the chance to fully take notice of the details, these earphones come with some superb features that you wouldn't find otherwise. Take the plethora of in-ear headphones to choose from for the perfect fit for example, there are six different pairs along with the set that already comes on the earpiece to choose your fit. Even at the gym or on a bike ride, these buds have yet to slip their way off of my ears.
For your carrying convenience, RHA includes a felt cloth carrying case with drawstrings that I found to attract way too much dust for my liking. But it works.
These in-ears, once comfortably sealed using the appropriate ear tips, provide nice noise isolation that keeps a lot of the background noise out. However, I found that sound always finds its way out, even at appropriate volumes.
RHA isn't known for its flashy gadgets as you can tell from the simple and plain black design with a few metallic highlights along the earpieces and inline control. These earphones won't be turning any heads anytime soon but still has a subtle visual appeal to keep things exciting.
The overall build quality is sturdy and despite its appearance, the earpieces and inline controls still feel strong enough to withstand daily abuse due to the fact that these earpieces are machined from aircraft grade aluminum. To keep them from scratching, a scratch resistant coating is applied which gives it the shiny glossy appearance. Personally, I would have enjoyed a matte finish which I find to be much more visually appealing and comfortable to the touch.
The inline controls provide a satisfying click and tactile feedback that I personally prefer. The ear tips are soft rubber that is extremely comfortable to wear once you've picked the appropriate size. To top things off, the entire 1.5m of cable is wrapped in braided cloth that not only keeps the cable protected but also less likely to come out of your backpack or pocket in a tangled mess. At the end is a gold plated 3.5mm connector.
Now for the main attraction, the sound quality. Inside of the earpieces are 10mm drivers pumping out audio that leaves many other earphones scratching their heads and asking what went wrong with them. At least that's what similarly priced pairs would say. In no way am I recommending these if you are the master hunter of top notch audio quality. But if you're the casual listener looking for an affordable pair of buds to take along your daily commute, these could be it. Even if you were to lose them or somehow completely destroy them, you'd only be out of less than $50.
Heavy bass slaps render most "economically friendly" buds to the point of just a cacophony of distortion and brain-numbing headaches. The MA450i however, will deliver clean and powerful low-frequency thumps that is overall very impressive considering the size of these things. Listening to bass heavy songs such as Swedish House Mafia, CAZZETTE, or Kanye West, the balance between the bass and the mids is clear to the point that neither try to fight each other for your attention, but still can be improved.
To make sure the deep bass don't clash with the highs and the mids, RHA made a sacrifice that you will find prevalent when you play more treble intensive songs or listen to your music at ear-bleeding levels in general. The highs begin to sound much too crisp and whiny for it to be enjoyable. Things become much better if you turn your music down a tad but where's the fun in that? (Just kidding, we don't really recommend listening to music at such high levels) Overall, the MA450i's can keep up as your daily pair of in-ears, but when you need some serious sound, you'd be best leaving these at home.
The MA450i have been my go-to pair ever since I got them, and have exceeded my expectations from the get-go. From my daily bike commute to sitting at home, these in-ear headphones have been more than adequate.
Yet it would be unreasonable for us to compare these sub $50 in-ear headphones against the higher grade and much more expensive competition, but we find it hard not to. For what these little things offer, both in quality and price, we wouldn't be doing it any justice if we were to compare them with cheap buds you find at the gas station either. Perhaps RHA has created what many of us have been looking for: the perfect median between quality and price. For that, they've done a spectacular job and deserve our recommendation. You can find your way to either RHA's site or the Apple Online Store to pick up a pair.