GadgeTell Review: RHA MA450i In-Ear Earphones

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RHA MA450iWhen it comes to selecting a new set of headphones, I’m the sort of person who’s most interested in the complete package, which is to say that I want it all, more or less.

I’m not necessarily looking for skull-rattling bass or couture fashion, for instance, but that’s not to suggest that I want something that looks tacky and cheap, or that I’ll be satisfied with a tinny, sub-par sound. And yet at the same time, I’m fairly well-known among family and friends for being relatively frugal.

To wit: The last set of earphones I actually purchased were the Travelocity Stereo Handsfree 3.5mm Earbuds; I picked them up at my local CVS for $5.00. Naturally, they broke after a few months of semi-regular use, and have since been repurposed as a cat toy.

In all seriousness though, the financial aspect of RHA’s 450i is perhaps its most surprising feature, if only because these are such well-made workhorse headphones. A pair in either black or white will set you back just $50, and that is not a number I would have come up with if someone had asked me to test these out for a few minutes and then guess the price. Considering what other in-ear headphones with similar sound quality are going for today, I probably would have assumed these were listed somewhere within the $100 to $115 range.

RHA MA450iWhen I first popped these in for a preliminary sound test, I put them through the hip-hop wringer before moving onto other styles of music, and I’ll admit to being very pleasantly surprised. The bass tones were thumping and crisp, but they didn’t overpower any of the other aspects of the production. I’ve been using this set on an almost-daily basis for about two months now, and I can confidently say the exact same thing about nearly any other sound you might expect earphones to handle during an average day. And for what it’s worth, that also includes YouTube videos, streaming movies, and even phone calls. Speaking of which, it turns out the MA450i has a bit more to recommend it than just great sound quality and a very agreeable price.

The inline remote and microphone are both big selling features here, and RHA has designed them to work seamlessly with your iPod, iPhone or iPad. And here’s a neat trick: While the volume controls and song skipping features only work on Apple devices, both the call answering and the play/pause functions for music apply to Android devices as well. I’ve used the earphones on both an iPod and an Android smartphone, and I can attest to the fact that they handle both operating systems with equal aplomb.

What else? Quite a bit, in fact. Along with a handy little carrying pouch, a gold plated connection (3.5mm), a fabric braided Y-cable, and the fact that these are machined from solid aluminum and pack a 10mm driver, the MA450i comes with seven pairs of soft silicone ear tips, including a double flange pair.

These are marketed as being “noise isolating” earphones, and the silicone ear tips definitely hold up their end of the bargain in that regard. In fact, I’ve found that even with my music off, I can barely hear what the person standing right next to me is saying when the earphones are in. Clearly, that can either be good (in a noisy office, say) or bad (crossing a busy street), so that’s probably worth bearing in mind.

If I had one quibble with these earphones—and it’s a minor one—it’s the fact that the fabric braided cable doesn’t really seem to keep the cable itself from tangling. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m always fumbling with the little knots that seem to mysteriously appear in the cable overnight.

Still, that’s a very small price to pay for in-ear ‘phones you can wear for hours, literally, with almost no sense of discomfort. And probably because the audio reproduction is so beautifully thick and full—not unlike some of the much-higher-priced on-ear headphones I’ve tried over the past year or so—I definitely have found myself wearing these for very long stretches of time.

At the office, I’ve even found myself leaving them in after my music has stopped playing, if only because the noise-isolating quality can make for a nice mental change of pace. In fact, I still haven’t gotten around to removing the ear-tips this set shipped with, and trying out one of the seven other pairs, so I’m assuming the comfort level can only improve. (Aside from the double flange pair, by the way, you get two pairs each of small, medium and large tips.)

And if you’re somehow still not sure whether or not you should pick up a pair of these right away, consider this: All RHA products come with a “no quibbles” three-year parts and labor warranty. So you know these are well-constructed. So if they do happen to fall apart, you’re still covered.

What’s not to love?

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