I've heard nothing but good things about RHA's MA-350 earphones from people who really do know what they're talking about when it comes to such things. But they're £29.95. Can they really be that good? I've gone ears on to find out!
I don't claim to be an 'audiophile' at all... my credentials as far as a reviewer go are that i've owned and used a lot of earphones and always try different ones whenever I can (including the frequently bundled in box junk)! My earphones of choice are currently a pair of Ultimate Ears Triple-Fi 10s which replaced a broken set of Ultimate Ears Super-Fi 5 Pros. The Triple-Fis are truly excellent - I love them to bits - but at over £200 for a pair you'd kind of hope so!
In the box
In the box you get the earphones, small, medium and large 'noise isolating' silicone tips, a small faux-velvet carry bag and a user's guide. Yes, a user's guide! It's not really though, basically it just says 'don't turn them up to loud or you'll break your ears'. :D
Design / construction
The MA-350s are machined from solid aluminium with an 'aerophonic shape inspired by a trumpet's bell' design. The back of the earphones are black with a prominent RHA logo and a rubber 'stalk' (embossed with L or R respectively) trails off the fabric woven cable. Cables for both ears are the same length with a sliding toggle to take up the slack. The cable length for each ear is such that you can wear the cable around the back of your neck fine. The cable terminates in a gold plated 3.5mm tip.
The quality feels very good indeed, having metal construction at this price point is pretty great. In impressive attention to detail, even the little grille is made of metal too. The design is pretty understated, which I think is a good thing. The cable is black, the headphones are black, only the tasteful 'RHA' logo tipping off onlookers to the fact that you do actually know your earphones! White cable / red cable / form over function fashionistas need not apply. ;)
The braided cable is designed to reduce cable tangling and prolong cable life. I quite like braided cables, so it's a thumbs up from me.
The MA-350s ship with 3 different sizes of silicone tips to help you find a comfortable fit. The 'medium' size worked best for me, which is inline with my experience with other earphones. I obviously have average size ears. On the inside at least. :P
The earphones are very comfortable to wear, the back of them is pretty thin meaning non strange pressures on your ears when wearing them. The flipside is they are a little bit susceptible to movement if you're chosen tip is a little on the small side. Provided you've chosen the right tip, the noise isolation is good.
So, to the real money question? What do they sound like? To decide, I ran them through a selection of different tunes, some with thumping bass, some with delicate trebles and lots with a full and complex midrange.
The verdict? Really rather good... certainly better than anything i've listened to up to now at this price point. Plugged into my phone they sounded good, plugged into something with a half decent amp of course they sounded fantastic. Generally speaking on cheaper earphones there are some tracks which can really expose their limitations. An example is how a lot of budget offerings (and my horrible iBeats) balk at Example's 'Changed the way you kiss me' when the bass kicks in, but i'm pleased to report no such issues with the MA-350s... the bass reproduction is excellent.
When listened to directly alongside my SuperFi 10s a tiny bit of excessive crispness on the highest trebles at the expense of some detail is evident, but not so much for me to consider it a negative in any way... it's more a reflection of the formers exceptional performance than any deficiency in the MA-350s. The comparison does really emphasise the overall quality of the sound - if I told you there was a £170 price difference you'd call me a liar.
Pricing and availability
The RHA MA-350s are priced at £29.95 at Amazon. An extra £10 buys you a set of MA450is, which include a remote and microphone for use with your phone. They also include 7 tips rather than three and are available in black and, yes, white for the Apple set. :D
At sub £30, the MA-350s are a steal. They're wonderfully designed and made (they feel like they will last!), understated and most importantly, sound fantastic. If you're looking for a great value replacement for those crappy in-box buds, these are what you need.
Have your say
Do you have have a set of RHA MA-350s? Do you agree / disagree with my findings? Post below!