British audio company RHA has helped redefine what we should expect out of budget headphones and earphones. It’s not that the early RHA models we tested were perfect, but they were among the first pairs to be very low in price and still deliver quality sound performance. Now RHA no longer seems content making solely budget offerings—the RHA MA750i, at $129.95 (list), is the most expensive pair the company has manufactured to date. Can it compete in a field littered with great-sounding, well-designed options? In short, yes. Not only does the MA750i deliver powerful audio, but it’s well designed and comes with thoughtful accessories. Its boosted bass sound signature could probably use a bit more high-mid presence, but the MA750i is a solid contender in this price range nonetheless.
This headphone pair stands out visually because it doesn’t really follow any of the current earphone fads—there are no red accents here (à la Beats by Dr. Dre), nor is the cable coated in cloth. Its gray, rubber-coated cable is quite thick compared to typical earphones in this price range, and there’s some serious design thought here—from the weighted area near the earpieces which makes it easy to loop the cable up, over, and behind the ear for a secure fit, to the snazzy metallic connection points that are etched with the phrase “Designed by Reid Heath.” The earpieces themselves are made of stainless steel and feature the RHA logo etched into their outer panels.
The MA750i comes with an inline remote control and microphone for cell phone calls, with volume controls as well as playback controls, while it’s $120 sibling, the MA750, has no remote or mic.
A good-looking, zip-up protective case ships with the MA750i, but the real treat in the accessories department is the bevy of eartips included. You get six silicone, rounded tips in various sizes, as well as two flange-style silicone pairs and two memory foam pairs. That’s ten pairs—or about seven more than you get with a typical Bose in-ear pair.
On songs with intense sub-bass content, like the Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the MA750i delivers a substantial amount of thunder, and does not distort, even at top, unsafe listening levels. At more reasonable levels, the bass is still intense, though it relies very much upon achieving a secure in-canal fit—luckily, this is quite easy to do with the truckload of eartips you get. Lovers of big bass will enjoy the MA750i’s overall sound signature—it’s got a nice, round low-end, but it doesn’t overdo it, allowing the mids and highs to sculpt and define the mix.
On Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” his vocals can often sound a bit murky on a bass-boosted earphone pair, but with the MA750i, they receive enough high-mid presence to maintain their spot in the forefront of the mix. Some listeners, particularly purists who prefer a more flat response, may wish that things were a bit crisper in the high-mids.
On Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild,” the attack of the kick drum loop gets enough high-mid presence to slice through the mix—again, it could benefit from a smidge more treble edge, but it’s still a well-defined, clear sound. The sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat don’t get as much boost as they do on truly bass-heavy earphone pairs, but they still have plenty of presence and power, while vocals are delivered clearly and without any sibilance issues.
With classical tracks, like John Adams’ “The Chairman Dances,” the MA750i’s sound signature is at its best, imbuing the lower register strings with a rich presence without altering them too much. The natural crispness and brightness of the recordings allows the higher register strings and percussion to stand out on their own. More so than on any other genre, classical and instrumental tracks allow the MA750i to shine, with a lovely balance of rich lows and articulate high-mids and highs.
If you’re looking for a much bigger bass sound, consider the SOL Republic Amps HD In-Ear Headphones. It offers some serious low-end, but obviously you sacrifice the accuracy and balance of the mix. If you’re really looking for a flatter, more crisp and defined frequency response, the Moshi Keramo dials back the bass and focuses on the mids and highs. Our Editors’ Choice in this price range is the TDK EB950, which manages to bring a healthy dose of bass and blend it seamlessly with a well-defined treble presence. If these options are out of your budget, the $50 RHA MA450i has a brighter sound signature than the MA750i, and never distorts despite its low price. For $130, the RHA MA750i is a solid option—it’s not the absolute best pair we’ve heard, but it’s a strong contender that boosts its standing by providing such solid design and great accessories.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc