Disclaimer: A sample box containing the RHA MA600i and MA750i was sent to both me and Lieven after being contacted by RHA. They have no affiliations to us.
Ok. Now that we’ve passed the “they wanted us to review them and we said ok”, I’ve got to start by saying the following… I’m not the guy for reviewing 130 USD in-ears, and definitely not the guy for 90 USD ones. It’s not about audiophile-snobbism, “Oh, he thinks he’s too good to review cheaper stuff”. Nahh… Simply my experience regarding this stuff is limited. Since I haven’t heard the competition you will not find me finishing this review with “these are the best headphones for 100 USD”. I haven’t heard newer/potentially interesting stuff like HiFiMAN RE-400 or Fostex’s latest TE-05. So why am I doing it? Well, for starters, I’m always going to be a prime crusader of “bang for the buck”. Expensive is not automatically good, even though the headphone trend seems to be deviating towards exactly that. And secondly, RHA phones, especially the big brother claim to have Hi-Fi-neutrality. Those two words put together, is a bit bold, so if the scotts want to play with the big boys, let them try, game on.
So you might be wondering. RH-who/what/where? RHA, short for Reid and Heath Acoustics, is a Scottish company founded 2011. The creator of a unique range of high specification audio products driven by passion and pride. Sure, that sounds good. But it doesn’t say too much either. Kind of generic so to speak. One thing that is very impressive is their immense growth spurt. I don’t know how they’ve succeeded to have 1 internet retailer (except for Apple Store) and 34 shops that sell their stuff. And that’s only in Sweden (!)… and in 2 years (!). They offer 4 or 7 (depending on wether an “i”-phone counts as unique or not) in-ear’s. MA350; MA450i and non-i; MA600i and non-i and last but not least MA750i and non-i. All phones are available from the 18th of November in the US and A.
As one might guess from the i these are headphones for the i-generation. Designing for Apple-compatibility helps them be a part of Apple Store, which might be a good dealer, especially if you want to reach the 50-150 USD-demography. Let’s face it. The probability is much lower for a devoted review-fanatic making an informed purchase of something cheaper, than something more expensive. Time is money. Although a 140 USD in-ear is a lot for some people, I get a feeling that a lot of people buy them on a whim. It’s not a 2000 USD DAC we’re talking about. Nonetheless, some of you guys maybe are looking for a more budget-minded headphone as a second rig for the gym, travel etc. Then at least the big brother is for you. But before we get ahead of ourselves. Let’s take a look at them.
Everything but the sound
B-e-a-utiful. Especially 750. Non-tangle silicone-soft cable. Lots of sturdy stainless steel, well-inforced entry in the shell, a beautiful splitter and plug, and last but not least a very sturdy remote. I wouldn’t have been surprised if they cost 299 USD. The smaller brother however… It’s plasticky wannabe-IE800-kevlar-cable, tangly and feels so much cheaper. It’s more like 50 USD. Maximum. So we have the beauty and the beast. What else. Well the supplied accessories are really dead on. 750 has a huge selection. If you don’t find a perfect fit. You’re ears need surgery. The 600 has a steady bunch too. Nice. Both cases are well done. However, I have preference for the 750’s. I can fit the latest gen iPod Touch and the earphones. It makes sense. Plus it feels much more luxurious. The smaller case, sure. A bit more pocket friendly, but not by much since it’s thicker. Ah, did I say the the 750’s are cable-over-the-ear? Yeah, much better for ergonomics.
So a recap. We have the stunning 750 with lots and lots of tips and a great case, and the 600 with fewer tips and a crappier case. This hasn’t started off that good for the mere difference of 40 USD. Let’s hope the sound difference ain’t as grand.
Ok, sorry I couldn’t resist. But you have to love bass to like these headphones. On the other hand, let’s return to my first conclusion… To whom are they targeted? Yeah… The Beats-generation. So, a first introduction to bass for youngsters that have heard music flowing through the built-in speakers in their laptop or white Apple earbuds. Let’s start with the small brother MA600i.
The MA600i starts with a somewhat thin sub-bass that goes into a neutral bass and finishes in a over-whelming midbass. It stays steady a bit into the midrange then we have a peak, a suck-out in “voices” going into another ringing peak and finally finishes off with highly rolled-off highs. Hah. I’m joking with you guys. What I want to say is that it doesn’t make any sense. It’s just up and down and here and there. In plain English it’s the following. 1) Extreme midbass bleeding into the midrange; 2) Double peaks in the upper midrange/lower highs with a suckout inbetween 3) Extreme rolled-off highs. The bigger brother won’t neccise as many words. Very-very good visceral sub-bass. Neutral bass. Still a bit thickness in the midbass and a milder bleed into the midrange. Mids then stay pretty straight but far from cold. Then we have a progressive roll-off in the highs. It is far from neutral, but not a rollercoaster ride like it’s sibling.
Sound stage & imaging
Once again MA600i goes first. Sound stage is 3 blobs/circles. We have a big circle in the middle. Voices and mid-range instruments are blurred together in the middle of it. Below this blur we have a very thick carpet of midbass. And above the blur sometimes there are some extra details. Then we have two smaller “panned” circles. One left and one right. Sometimes we get some weird-sounding cymbals/percussion from these extremes. Sometimes we resemble a producer trying to use the stereo effect. We got some panning, echoes, over-dubbed guitar. Sometimes. Well if the MA600i was 3 blobs. Then MA750i is a butterfly. Imagine one with its wings extended. We got a higher oval in the middle. Inside this oval we got some serious height. Impressive. On the sides we have a clear distinction of left up and left down (and a small suckout in left middle), and equally on the right side. This much more complex sound stage eases imaging. Instead of a blur we got distinct stereo panning. Suddenly you understand what the whole stereo thing is about. Thinking in the mind of a newly-introduced non-audiophile individual. The instruments have some air between them. It’s thick air, but still air.
Discussing pairings for the MA’s feels a bit overkill. Of course you can make them sound better. Especially 750. You can add some width, height and control. But just using them straight on with an iDevice is probably how 99% will use them. And in my opinion, it’s enough.
Positive: Cheap, good case, good selection of tips, good remote
Negative: Rollercoster-frequency. Guitars/bass/voices lack texture, constant bass blob, no air in the sound stage and almost all highs have a recessed saw-tooth-sounding feel.
Positive: This could be a 300USD headphone. Packaging, accessories, looks, feel. Awesome. The sound is good. These could be my reserve-headphones. Forgiving due to slow decay/thick sound (if you like it), impressive sub-bass (!). If you listen to modern music (dance, hip-hop, pop etc…) these are fun.
Negative: See above, not the final choice for detail/imaging, still too much midbass. If you’re on the analytical side and listen to acoustic, classical, jazz etc. I would consider something else.
SO… Bassy. Big difference in… well everything, between the siblings. Do not even consider buying the MA600i when you get four times more for just 40 bucks extra. Constructive criticism… RHA, impressive job. You guys/gals are heading in the right direction. Since this is the first endeavor with hi-fi earphones. If you ever make a MA800 or MA950 (which I hope you will), I have high expectations. Just don’t go overboard with the pricing, as so many before you. Pricing, ergonomics/esthetics are your strong suit.
Want to see some more pictures and read what Lieven has to say about these? Read it on the next page!