I reviewed a decent pair of RHA’s in-ear earphones a few days back, and having loved them (despite my hatred of in-ear sets usually) I couldn’t wait to take their big brother – the SA950i – for a spin. While the in-ear MA450i set were bright, and crystal clear, the on-ear SA950i is a much more bass heavy headphone. But, don’t take that as a bad thing.
Design-wise, I love them. It’s personal preference, but the set reminds me so much of a really old pair my dad used to use when he practiced drums in our out-building. They’re mostly black, with chrome trimmings here and there. The headband tapers, getting narrower towards the ends, is well-cushioned and is covered in a leather-like material. A quick sniff allays hopes that it’s genuine. The two cans are held on thin chrome sliders that make the set very adjustable. The on-ear parts are also well padded and covered in a similar lining to the head band, making it comfortable for the most part. But, as with many on-ear headphones, they have the tendency to get a little uncomfortable after any substantial time with them on.
The classy look is a tiny bit deceiving. As with the MA450i earphones, the company has skimped a tiny bit on materials for the sake of producing jaw-dropping sound. A compromise I’m more than willing to make. All-in-all, they’re nice to wear and are very light and compact. For convenience, RHA package it with a 1.5m detachable fabric covered 3.5mm jack to 3.5mm jack audio cable. Its “made for iPhone” status is intact thanks to an inline microphone/remote control. With it you can talk hands-free, play/pause tracks or adjust the volume.
On to the important part: sound. When I put them to my ears and started playing through my eclectic Spotify soundtrack, I was amazed. Stunned in fact. Considering this pair will only set you back $60 (or £49 in the UK), you get so much from them. In fact, if I’d paid $100 for these, I still wouldn’t feel like I’d been ripped off. The first thing you notice is the bass. It’s so clear. Granted it’s loud, but it’s not muddy and indistinct. In some tracks it was almost as if you could hear the bass drum’s skin pushing air in to your ears. They’re that clear.
Depending on what genre you listen to, you might find that the mid-range is out-muscled slightly, but not a lot. Generally, tonal variety is impressive. Lyrics and vocals are always clear, no matter the volume, or what the bass levels are like already inherent in the track.
To round it up: if you don’t want to spend more than $50-$60 on a pair of on-ear cans, don’t look any further than these. This sound quality and performance would easily cost you double if it was made by a well-known brand, and I’ve certainly spent a similar amount of money on earphones that were not even half as good as these. Very impressive indeed.
The SA950i just launched in the U.S. Apple Retail Stores yesterday for $59. UK dwellers, buy them for £49 direct from RHA online. If you regret the purchase, I’d be very surprised.