Recently The Pro Audio Web Blog was contacted by British Manufacturer RHA Audio to perform a review of their What-Hi five-star award winning headphones; the MA350's. Priced at £29.95 they are certainly affordable and definitely do not disappoint, but this is an exceptionally competitive price range, dominated by choice, and it is safe to say that the MA350's more than comfortably hold their ground.
Before The Pro Audio Web Blog performs any review of any output transducer device (earphones, headphones and speakers), we allow the product a minimum burn-in time of 40 hours. This is crucial under any circumstance, but the MA350's sonic performance has seemed to completely transformed during this process... In fact the MA350's become a beautiful swan. This is something that we shall move on to shortly, but first we will discuss the retail packaging and the wonders that it holds.
When the product arrives you will notice that the packaging is a little hard to get into but this is actually a good quality, it means that the product that you have paid for is safe and secure during transit. Within the package you are provided with a really nice RHA branded black velvet earphone protection bag, a pair of MA350's, and three sizes of silicone earbuds (S, M, L). However, there is a small problem with the earbud sizes that you are provided with... I have personally found that the smallest ear bud isn't actually small enough and this is a bit of a pain. Along with the earbud sizes it is also quite a difficult process to change the earbuds on the MA350's. Respectively this does inhibit the likelihood of the earbuds falling off and becoming lost, but changing the earbuds does take a couple of minutes of teasing so persistence is required.
As we move on to the build quality and overall design of the product we have nothing but praise to report. The driver housing is machined out of aircraft grade solid aluminium and feels sturdy and equipped for everyday use. In addition to this the driver housing features a natural 'aerophonic design' that funnels amplification and translation of audio produced by the large 10mm driver to the ear - essentially an introverted form of what happens naturally within a trumpets bell. For this price you would expect plastic, not hardwearing aluminium that can survive rough handling! The aesthetics of the driver housing is subjective but I personally find its shape and anodised finish pleasing and rather unobtrusive when placed in the ear. The nature of shape and design is important with inner earphones because some chunky earphones are difficult and fatiguing to wear but this is not at all a problem with the MA350's. Turning our attention to the fabric braided cable design we find that it is really attractive, functional and of premium quality. The length of cable, 1.2 meters, and is not too long if you are wearing it under clothes or using the earphones as an output from your mac or PC. Most important, fabric cable designs are quite rare in this price-range so it is a surprisingly good feature for the MA350's. Fabric cables, such as used within the MA350 design, are much better than rubber or silicone coated cables because they don't have a tendency to easily tangle or become attracted to clothes which puts a strain on the solder points. Having this feature might initially seem minor but this cable design genuinely will prologue the product so we hand a big thumbs up to RHA. Looking at the point in which the cable meets the gold plated jack the connection is solid but where the cable comes to meet the driver it isn't so secure so the product would benefit from having this point filled with a plastic cap. Even so the MA350's build quality is superb and RHA are so satisfied with it that they offer a staggering three year warranty - something other manufacturers are sceptical about introducing.
So what do the MA350's sound like? Surprising... I really am impressed that a standard priced consumer earphone can have such resolution and detailing. They don't sound flat or compressed and punch well above their weight. RHA claim that the mylar coated drivers have a frequency response of 16Hz - 22kHz which is, again, unheard of at this point of market. Having a range of audio which performs outside of the human range of hearing is a great feature because it means that the frequencies that you are hearing aren't strained or compressed, they are reproduced as faithfully as possible within the limitations of the driver or housing. The bass of these earphones is quite detailed and accurate, there isn't just a wash of bass. If you are making the move from iPod earphones then you will certainly notice a massive difference in the replication of bass - you actually hear it! In addition the treble is balanced but is a little bit harsh butI have found that as I come to the end of listening to an album my ears feel a little fatigued where the very top end of the MA350's sounds a little bit too present however, many people may also not be aware of this. Overall the quality of sound is really up there with headphones at double the price, the mid-range is present, and when listening to tracks there is very little added distortion. As with any inner earphone there is an element of passive noise rejection and the MA350's are not lacking. The MA350's allow your surroundings to be blocked off when you are listening to music and sufficiently dimmed when not playing music, so even if you are on a bus and want some peace and quiet then pop these beauties.
Overall the RHA M350's punch well above their weight, have an excellent build quality and sound absolutely superb. The Pro Audio Web Blog rates the RHA MA350's a 4/5!